Iva Ventura/Excelsior El Diario (3-28-13)
|FARC Negotiating Team|
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
Distrito Federal -- The tentacles of Joaquin El Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel are extending into the south of the continent due to the vacuum being left by the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces (FARC: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), who are having peace conversations with the government of Juan Manuel Santos (below left).
The arrival of Mexican drug traffickers in that region puts at risk the security of the entire continent because their power is growing with the alliances they are finalizing with local criminal organizations in exchange for weapons or money.
According to Inter American Dialogue, the Mexican criminal organization is already operating in that South American country. For United States experts, the problem is alarming and governments, including that country, will have to join forces to confront a continental problem.
Douglas Fraser, retired general and former commander of the Southern Command of the United States, said that Mexican drug cartels, like the Sinaloa Cartel, have developed ties with Colombian criminal networks, like the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN: Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional), for several years.
He believes that the agreements will hold even if the Santos government negotiates peace with the FARC. "The Colombian government has demonstrated a capability to confront criminal networks effectively and its efforts will continue. For example, they have reduced cocaine production by more than 50% in the last five years, and imprisoned or extradited hundreds of criminals, but that battle is not only in Colombia.
"Criminal networks operate throughout the Americas, including the United States, which is why the hemispheric battle against them has to improve; the battle against transnational criminal networks is an inter-American problem, and a growing global problem."
John Arquilla, with the Rand Corporation, said that all the governments in the hemisphere have to increase the collective understanding of these criminal networks, to develop and improve the exchange of information, and to improve coordination of intelligence among them.
"The governments will not resolve this problem by themselves. All of us, the citizens, need to work within our societies to drastically reduce the demand for illegal substances. We have to be part of the solution," he asserts. Jack Devine and Amanda Mattingly, president and director, respectively, of the Arkin Group for Latin America, said that if it is true that the Sinaloa Cartel is buying into the Colombian drug traffic, that is worrisome.
"It's another example of how drug cartels are transnational criminal organizations who are not limited by borders... President Enrique Pena Nieto will not get a ceasefire on the issue of security, as he should have expected. "The possibility that the self defense groups (in Mexico) could be taken over by cartels or that they would infiltrate the forces of law enforcement constitutes a threat of war...
"It is clear that the United States must continue to support Mexico and Colombia. The U.S. should do more... but they need to keep working with our partners in the hemisphere to decrease the supply of drugs through police training, equipment, shared intelligence and economic development," they stated.
For Oliver Wack, Colombian risk control analyst, the increasing participation of Mexican cartels is accelerating the problem.
"On the part of the guerrilla, one can observe a growing fragmentation of the group and the gradual growth of local structures that operate independently of the central command. If the FARC were to demobilize after a peace accord, the mid-level commanders who refuse to demobilize would come forward. They would rearm themselves to maintain control of illegal enterprises."
With time, he explains, those successor groups of the FARC would be susceptible of being absorbed by large criminal organizations like the Bacrim (criminal groups, successors of paramilitary groups and now engaged in drug trafficking.) He explained that the country has seen a decrease of Bacrim from 21 to 10 since 2008, but the (the Rastrojos and the Urabenos) are becoming the principal actors.
"The Mexican cartels' strategy of expanding their presence in Colombia will probably end up incorporating these two groups, leading to a resurgence of violence, because they will work with the Mexicans, tempted by the flow of cash (and perhaps weapons), intensifying the battle for territories and routes."