Translated by Borderland Beat reporter un vato)
Y El Chapo?
Mexico, D.F. (Proceso). 7-16-2012. Today we have a stained election and a country in a waiting mode. Today there are election results that the left wants to question and the Electoral Tribunal will have to legitimize. Today, we have a "virtually" elected president and a portion of the population that sees his victory as an imposition. But day after tomorrow, when the post-electoral dust settles, Mexico will awake with the decades-old problems that the state has been dragging, with the political paralysis that the new Executive will have to overcome; the central challenge of how to reduce violence and deal with crime and combat the narcotics traffickers will still be there.
Few places reflect this as well as Guadalajara. A disputed city. A city that several groups are fighting to control. A place that cartels are dead set on fighting over. A microcosm masterfully portrayed in William Finnegan's New Yorker article titled, "The Kingpins: the Fight for Guadalajara". Where, two days before the International Book Fair, 26 bodies were left under Los Arcos del Milenio. With signs of torture, with "narcomantas" (banners with messages) signed by the Zetas, all signs that it was a challenge to the dominance of the Sinaloa Cartel. "We're in Jalisco and we're not leaving," announced Los Zetas. "This is proof that we have penetrated even as far as the kitchen," they said. They have arrived to dispute control of the market, they told us with their atrocity.
In Mexico-- Finnegan points out-- it's frequently impossible to know who's behind something: a massacre, a candidacy, a murder, the capture of a crime boss, the "uncovering" of acts of corruption in high places. The truth tends to be too difficult, or too fluid, or too complex to define, or it remains in the hands of the person charged with its manipulation. This explains how a city in the hands of an international crime organization, which is what the Sinaloa Cartel is, continues to be a refuge for fine literature and legitimate economic viability. Both descriptions are accurate and both realities are being threatened by the Zetas. Guadalajara-- like many other areas in the country-- is a territory under siege.
Guadalajara provides evidence of the cost of a strategy that instead of reducing violence, has contributed to exacerbate it. The murder in 2010 of Ignacio Coronel, the King of Crystal, brought with it the end of the precarious peace that had characterized the city. The Zetas have tried to fill the vacuum by allying themselves aggressively with local groups dissatisfied with the Sinaloa Cartel. The growing number of dead bodies has become the way to send messages. If a corpse lacks a finger, that means that he fingered someone; if the legs are missing, it means he switched gangs; if his tongue is missing, it's because he said something he was not supposed to; if a hand is missing, he was a thief.
Today, the PRI returns to power, pushed in great measure by the (special) interests it benefited. But it returns to a context (sic) in which there are no longer just a few cartels with which to make pacts or negotiate with. The Calderon strategy of capturing crime bosses has led to fragmentation, to dispersion, to the rise of smaller and more violent factions. And one can't say that there's a unified government that pursues criminals consistently and forcefully. The low intensity civil war that afflicts the country is taking place among factions with changing loyalties, in towns and cities with interwoven histories. As Finnegan underlines, the "government" has innumerable faces-- starting with more than 200,000 police officers-- and its mechanisms for controlling corruption are too weak. The "narcobillions" permeate every community, every official, every commander. In practice, many at the local level aren't trying to deal with crime, but, rather, they are trying to position themselves in the lead.
Guadalajara's worst problems aren't related to the explosive growth in the production of methamphetamine, but to inter-gang violence, robbery, growing addiction and the recruitment of young people,. Faced with that, the police are too corrupt to be able to take action. The Army is too distant from the local reality to be able to counterattack. There are few arrests and few convictions. Safety at the local level has deteriorated since the Zetas came. And, like a local policeman said, "Things have to change or we'll end up like Afghanistan. The new president must change things."
It's not exactly clear how he's going to do this. The simple fact that El Chapo Guzman remains free after so many years reveals a shift in the balance of power between the State and organized crime. Under the PRI, crime groups prospered, but, at the end of the day, the federal government dictated the terms of their coexistence. There were lines of command that the cartels did not dare cross. Today, they do it with impunity. Nobody in Mexico thinks that the government is in control of the situation, and the street blockages by the narcos a few months ago in Guadalajara suggest clearly that it is not.
According to recent estimates, El Chapo employs-- directly or indirectly-- 150,000 people. His influence, including his popularity, have grown. Under the PAN, he has become a multimillionaire who appeared in Forbes magazine two years in a row, and his capture would probably have no effect on the buoyant drug market. What's even worse, the power of organized crime in Mexico has taken hostage a great portion of the country's territory, including its principal cities. It terrorizes the rest with a show of violence that is stunning. The Zetas are active in 17, and the Sinaloa Cartel in 16, of the 32 states. That's the reality that Enrique Pena Nieto must deal with. Today, tomorrow and the day after.