Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Blows to "El Chapo" are exaggerated

Some of the key operators within the command structure of the Sinaloa Cartel detained or killed during the Felipe Calderon administration

Ponen en duda golpes al Chapo
REFORMA/Benito Jiménez

Specialists say detentions may encumber cartel operations but not its leadership

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera may still sit on his throne but his kingdom has been dismantled if we are to believe Mexico's federal government.

To date during the Felipe Calderón administration federal authorities have detained at least 12 key lieutenants and operators belonging to "El Chapo" Guzman's organization.

During the detainee's media presentations military and federal police spokespersons have repeated the catchphrase that the operation significantly handicaps the command structure and operational capacity of the Sinaloa Cartel.

However, experts in security matters and criminal justice policy are not buying the government line.

Pedro Peñaloza, criminologist and professor in the Faculty of Law in UNAM, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Ghaleb Krame, a national security specialist and academic with the Mexico City campus of Alliant International University, agree that the Sinaloa Cartel functions like a corporation where management is disposable and vacant positions are filled.

"In Mexico criminal organizations are not taken apart, only the top is lopped off. This is a profound conceptual difference; when you only remove those at the top it favors other factions that will occupy the vacuum and continue the business and the structure continues functioning. The detained are simply phased out," states Peñaloza.

"The phrase that is repeated constantly, that 'X' financial operator belonging to 'Y' cartel was arrested, is meaningless. The operational structures used by criminal organizations are very robust and they function just like a successful corporation."

Ghaleb Krame considers that high level arrests do affect Sinaloa Cartel operations but they leave its top leadership untouched. The specialist emphasizes that to profoundly disrupt the cartel the government must capture "El Chapo", and not just his subordinates.

"As long as 'El Chapo' continues operating the Sinaloa cartel will be a coercive force. They've detained many of his operators, true, but there will always be people willing to take their place, just like any business."

"For the phrase 'is significantly affected' to have any real context they must capture 'El Chapo', only then will there be any serious interruption." adds Krame.

Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, "El Inge", is presented to the media by SEDENA after his capture on December, 2011. "Con esta acción lograda por el personal militar, se afecta la estructura de liderazgo y la capacidad operativa del CARTEL DEL PACÍFICO." (With this action won by military personnel, the command structure and operational capacity of the Sinaloa Cartel has been compromised.)

The federal government emphasizes that Sinaloa Cartel operations have been significantly affected with the capture since 2007 of Jesús Reynaldo Zambada García, "El Rey Zambada"; Vicente Zambada Niebla, "El Vicentillo"; Eduardo Teodoro García Simental, "El Teo"; Manuel Fernández Valencia, "La Puerca"; José Manuel García Simental, "El Chiquilín"; Ovidio Limón Sánchez and Felipe Cabrera Sarabia; and the deaths of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, "Nacho Coronel", one of the cartel's top leaders, and Luis Alberto Cabrera Sarabia, "El Arqui".

This contrasts sharply with the fact that between 2010 and 2011 "El Chapo" Guzman rose 5 spots on the Forbes World's Most Powerful People list, from #60 to #55.

(Carlos Slim Helu, Mexico's billionaire telecommunications magnate, appeared on the 23rd spot both years. President Felipe Calderon did not appear on either.)