Silber Meza Rio Doce December 10, 2012
Pena Nieto will go against the Zetas-Beltran-Carrillo alliance; Chapo will be the one who benefits.
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
Researcher Luis Astorga asserts that the problems in governance that these groups create are what keeps them in the cross hairs.
Mexico City.-- The first thing one sees when you go into Luis Astorga's cubicle is a geographic map of Colombia and a cartoon that emphasizes his glasses and the abundance of nose on his face.
In UNAM's Institute of Social Research (Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales) work space is minimal. From that place, Astorga states that the die is cast for the Zetas-Beltran Leyva-Carrillo Fuentes alliance: in the upcoming six year term, they will take the hardest blows from the Mexican and the United States governments.
"An organization that operates with a mafioso-paramilitary logic is potentially more dangerous than another that may be more powerful in economic terms, but that doesn't operate under those rules."
-- Can you put a name to these organizations?
-- The organizations that have a more clearly mafioso-paramilitary profile are these alliances between Zets-Beltran Leyva-Carrillo.
A desk, a personal computer and a pair of chairs for visitors barely fit in his office. In front of him are two bookshelves where his best known books stand out: El Siglo de las Drogas (The Drugs Century), Drogas Sin Fronteras (Drugs Without Frontiers) and Mitologia del Narcotraficante en Mexico (The Mythology of the Drug Trafficker in Mexico).
Astorga explains that they, the Zetas-Beltran Leyva-Carrillo, are the ones who create more problems for governing the country and have become a threat for the United States. Another factor against them is that they have touched the political elite, as in the murder of the son of the former national president of the PRI and ex-governor of Coahuila, Humberto Moreira.
The Zetas' border violence includes Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.
"One very clear indicator is the security policy that Obama announced last year. Which are the global organizations that the Unites States government points to as being a high priority for attacking? It doesn't mention Chapo (Guzman), it mentions the Zetas," he points out, in a barely domesticated Sinaloa accent.
"For anybody who reads the political messages from the United States, that is very clear: they have them in their sights. And it will be a priority (for them) whether the Mexican government, this one or the next, likes it or not."
But the benefit that Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel obtain will not be based on a policy of government protection, he makes clear, but as a result of the strategy.
"(The Mexican government) doesn't even have the ability to coordinate its security institutions, how are they going to coordinate the security institutions to protect one group over another! That doesn't make sense", he says with an ironic smile.
Agreement or confrontation
The subject of drug trafficking is full of myths, and Luis Astorga has dedicated a good part of his scientific research to debunking them. One of those (myths) has to do with agreements between politicians and drug traffickers.
The PhD., with a doctorate in the Sociology of Development from the Sorbonne University in Paris, says that during the PRI era, drug trafficking was subordinated to the political power.
"Anybody who went against the rules of the authoritarian game knew he had three options: get out of the business, go to jail or die," he says.
With the transition [from PRI to PAN], the model changed; criminals have learned to create relationships with local powers from different political parties: power is distributed. Also, they are not domesticated like before. The State no longer has total control over them and it faces a new challenge.
"The political power is the one that now has three options: do nothing and let the criminal organizations dominate the political, negotiate agreements with the criminals for economic gain...or the third option, that the Mexican political class will assume that it is part of the State, its responsibilities, because they have positions of power."
-- Is there a possibility that the PRI will negotiate with the narco so the violence will go down?
-- That comes from the false idea that there has never been any negotiation. In the transition era, what we have seen is that those three options have been in operation in the country, what we don't know is to what extent one predominates over the other, but that doesn't mean here have been no arrangements".
Drug trafficking, Astorga underlines, cannot be understood without the political system; that is why you have to know both and observe their interrelationship.
Pena Nieto has a strong opportunity to decrease violence if he manages to discipline the PRI municipal mayors and governors. PRI officials not only govern a large part of the Mexican territory, they are also in the most violent places, he explains.
"It would be to his advantage to discipline his own governors and mayors and make an example (of them) to show he is serious. And if he is serious, some governors, mayors and local business leaders will have to go if the law requires it."
There have always been agreements between politicians and drug traffickers, Astorga reiterates, what is not yet known is which strategy Pena will devote more effort to: to the State-organized crime confrontation or to agreements with (organized crime).
March of the military
In (public) discourse, one hears very clearly that the military should be taken off the streets and towns of Mexico, however, this is impossible, given the condition that Mexico is in, says the Sinaloa native.
"It's not a matter of taste, but, rather, the capability of the Mexican State," he advises, in a voice that contains both serenity and sadness.
He declares that there is not a single city mayor who believes that he can go it alone with only the police officers who work for him. Institutional weakness still predominates. You can't do it with the weak signals that Pena Nieto has sent, we know he's going to reorganize the security system, but one cannot see any great changes in the short term.
If the National Police (Gendarmeria Nacional) project goes forward, patterned after the French model, explains Astorga, it would be the military itself who would make up that agency. The military forces would be deployed to rural areas and the Federal Police to the cities.
"The problem is not the military forces, but the nonexistent internal and external checks and balances."
These changes will show results if a grand political agreement is reached and a State policy is chosen, to include the Federal government (la Federacion), the states, the municipalities and the Legislative Branch. Even then, he warns, the results will not be seen quickly, much less a 50% reduction in homicides and kidnappings, as Pena Nieto promised.
"It's like the fifteen minutes it was going to take (Vicente) Fox to fix the Zapatista problem. The tendency for politicians to promise the impossible is already in their DNA. One shouldn't take them seriously and it will be easy to criticize him because he will not be ale to accomplish it," he declares.
Luis Astorga is one of the first academics to have collaborated on creating legal initiatives to legalize mariguana.
With the approval of recreational use of the weed in Colorado and Washington, the debate reignited in Mexico. Although this is a positive indicator for legalization of this drug in the United States, in our country and in the whole world, the effects of the application of the new law are yet to be known, because they will begin to take effect in a year and a half or more. What's most interesting is that the debate in Mexico reopened.
Another place that will set the agenda is Uruguay, a country that is debating legalizing it. This would be the first nation to do this.
"It doesn't make much sense to combat mariguana if it's going to be legal over there, in the United States," he argues.
The laundering machine won't stop
Despite efforts by Mexico to promote a law against money laundering, it will be very complicated to stop it, declares Astorga. No country, not even Italy, has been able to dismantle the financial structures of organized crime groups.
"If even in the United States they don't know how (to do this), with all the laws and controls they have, how can we think that a law against money laundering will be more effective in one or two (presidential) terms than has been possible in the United States," he criticizes with a hint of desperation.
Neither is the U.S. "black list" [Kingpin Statute] of much help because the majority of businesses it addresses are small scale (businesses), he states, and when it involves a medium or large scale enterprise, as is the case with the Santa Monica dairy, which belongs to the family of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, new contradictions arise.
"Just think how many people it employs, so what is going to be your priority: whether it's linked with some member of a criminal organization, or whether you have an impressive number of employees and it is providing relatively stable jobs for many families. That's just one of many examples. A beauty salon that employs five people is not the same as a business that employs hundreds."
[Added to article] Maps of Influence and Background Information
The Beltran-Leyva organization's network stretches over a large portion of Mexico, from the Pacific Coast into the northeastern regions. The group was a part of the Sinaloa cartel until 2008. After becoming independent, it grew in power, assisted by a sophisticated intelligence network and an active relationship with the powerful Los Zetas to broaden the control of territory. But on Dec.16, 2009, their leader, Arturo "Jefe de Jefes" Beltran-Leyva, was killed in a gunfight with Mexican troops. His brother Carlos was arrested soon after Arturo's death. A rift over control of the group has formed between the remaining brother, Hector, and another powerful leader within the organization, Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, since then Valdez has been captured.
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Los Zetas is one of the most powerful and violent cartels in Mexico. Started by a group of former military commandos and led by the now deceased Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano, and Miguel Trevino "Z40", Los Zetas gained a reputation as ruthless enforcers and forged relationships with other cartels. It formed an alliance with the Beltran-Leyva organization, in part to fight their common enemy, the Sinaloa cartel, and also to extend their presence into Central America. They now find themselves in a violent struggle with the New Federation, a recent faction consisting of the Gulf, La Familia and Sinaloa cartels.
The Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization, or Juarez cartel, is headquartered in Ciudad Juarez. The area is considered one of the most coveted trafficking routes in the Americas. The cartel's enforcement arm is a gang called La Linea. The group was founded by Vicente's brother, Amado, who died in 1997 while undergoing plastic surgery. The cartel's influence has dropped because of the arrest in 2009 of its financier, Vicente Carrillo Leyva, and its ongoing battle with the Sinaloa cartel over control of the Juarez region. The continuing conflict made Juarez the most violent city in Mexico and has given it one of the highest murder rates in the world.