Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Friday, May 7, 2010

La Plaza

Out of balance: Intelligence report breaks down Mexico narco war.

Los Angeles Times

Mexico's narco war is a "struggle for balance" among various large criminal organizations that control drug trafficking routes in certain regions of the country, and government efforts to decommission the cartels have made that balance "very elusive," says a recent private intelligence report on the security situation in Mexico.

The report, published online last month by the U.S.-based Stratfor intelligence firm, is open and free to the public, an unusual move in an industry where data are usually only available to clients. Stratfor analyst Scott Stewart describes in detail the make-up of the cartels' current geography and the rise of a new trafficking alliance he calls the New Federation.

"The laws of economics dictate that narcotics will continue to flow into the United States," the report says early on. Narco trafficking groups in Mexico have traditionally attempted to supply those narcotics as quietly as possible, like "businessmen." But when one organization is weakened, others attempt to wrest control of new territory, causing violence to erupt.

So who is fighting whom right now? And over which territories? It is a complicated trail to follow, but the report sheds light on the strategic conflict at play behind the daily headlines of carnage and bloodshed.

Many analysts trace the current narco warfare on efforts by the Sinaloa cartel early this decade to move into Juarez cartel territory, in Ciudad Juarez, and Arellano Felix cartel territory, in Tijuana.

The other strong trafficking group in Mexico, the Gulf cartel, has also battled the Sinaloa group for control of smuggling "plazas" along the U.S. border. Further complicating the picture, break-off groups like the Zetas (formerly under the Gulf cartel), and the Beltran Leyva organization and La Familia Michoacana (formed partly among former Sinaloa cartel agents) are seeking to secure their own smuggling territories.

Government strikes against major cartel figures result in temporary vacuums of power and can thus yield more violence.

"Indeed," the Stratfor report says, "the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels have joined forces with La Familia Michoacana to form a new super cartel called the New Federation and are now allies in the struggle against Los Zetas and the [Beltran Leyva Organization], which have teamed up with the Juarez cartel to fight against the New Federation."

In a short-term outlook, the report says, "perhaps the only hope for striking a balance and reducing the violence is that the New Federation is strong enough to kill off organizations like Los Zetas, the BLO and the Juarez cartel and assert calm through sheer force."

So where is the government and military in all of this? The Stratfor report discusses lingering suspicions that consecutive governments headed by the conservative National Action Party (PAN) have "helped" the Sinaloa cartel. The Times has also noted the allegations, which President Felipe Calderon vigorously denies.

"Of course, it is highly possible that the Sinaloa cartel is just a superior cartel and is better at using the authorities as a weapon against its adversaries. On the other hand, perhaps the increasingly desperate government has decided to use Sinaloa and the New Federation as a fulcrum to restore balance to the narcotics trade and reduce the violence across Mexico," the report says.

For anyone who has grown weary of constant reports of violence in Mexico and a soaring tally of victims, such assessments on the current narco war could hardly be reassuring. Still, many Mexicans would welcome an end to the violence -- no matter who makes it stop.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City


  1. this point, everyone just wants the violence to stop. Even individuals who don't live in these high risk border towns are affected indirectly. Some may have relatives and fear for their safety.

    I do not justify any of the cartels...but whatever happens, I just hope the bloodshed is kept between them, no more innocents killed, and who ever does come out on top, I hope all the wrong doings end as well (taxes for protection against themselves, kidnappings, murders, rapes, etc).


  2. Accurate, Very Accurate Report.

  3. 100% of the 22K+ people that have been killed are ultimate victims of the corrupt Mexican government.

    While everyone is running around blaming the drug traffickers let's not forget the root source of the situation. That source is the Mexican governments disastrously corrupt status qou. It has been the governments inability to provide a stable economic environment and secure country that has led the drug traffickers flourish in the first place.

    The Stratfor analysis is wrong in the fact that an assumption is made that the government wants to end the conflict. Most of Latin America is legitimate democracies. I would argue Mexico and Venezuela are the only two that are not.

    Circo Pan Y Agua, as my Mexican grandfather used to say. Keep the people busy and entertained and they won't even notice that the government/powerful are sucking the lifeblood out of the country.

  4. I'm starting to hear the old refrain, "It wasn't this way when the PRI was in power." I last heard this in Eastern Europe when the "business men" longed for the return of Communism, Unfortunately, a "deal" (acuerdo) will be made by EITHER party, PRI/PAN, the West Coast gets a monopoly, keep the noise (fighting) down, don't kill innocents or the police/Gringos, We'll pursue your rivals and give us a "cut". This is called "Chilangoquismo".

  5. @7:45 Not everyone wants the violence to stop; at least not on the side of those doing the weapon$s trafficking.

    @12:07 Accurate? Not everything!

    @3:08 Blaming the government for every ill is childish. Don't citizens have any responsibility at all?

    @3:24 That's what the PRI wants you to believe but it is a vile political bet on the part of PRI politicians to see the president fail so they can win the next elections at whatever the cost, even if everyone goes to hell. What kind of country are they hoping to rule in a couple of years? Think about all the implications!

  6. I think the comments here in BB are very insightful, they add or sometimes even guide the story in to a different direction.

  7. @7:04 I'm not blaming the government for every ill. Where in my post does it say I am blaming them for every ill?

    I simply stated that they are ultimately responsible for current economic and security situation in Mexico. The governments main role should be to provide security for its citizens and manage the economy in a responsible manner. They have failed miserably at both. Do you argue that they have done a good job?

    The security and economic conditions have lead to the flourishing of the drug cartels and have enabled the killing that is going on.

    The current solution to the conflict is not POLITICS or POLITICIANS as you seem to suggest by attacking the PRI. Every political party in Mexico is corrupt and that includes PAN,PRD, and PRI.

  8. I would argue that our nature is what is at the root of some of the destruction in our communities today.

    Think back a few years, when we could go 100 days over 100 degrees Ferenheit, consecutively in Northern Mexico and Southern US.

    In those times, the juvenile community would day take to the streets, not even to make a few elicit dollars. It was simply too hot to go out for anything more that the next meal.

    Today the weather is beautiful. The juvenile community, or at least the juvenile at heart, are comfortable enough to jog their creative minds. This is where the struggle begins.

    If these people were taught in the "hot" times to keep good wholesome routines, then in the cool times, like now they would be more likely to be creative down that route.

    For instance, if they were taught to attend daily mass, pray the Rosary, work, study, attend healthy social gatherings, then they would be doing more of the same.

    If these things are not taught, then they juveniles will do the things that are more likely to come to their heads, whatever that might be...

  9. "For instance, if they were taught to attend daily mass, pray the Rosary, work, study, attend healthy social gatherings, then they would be doing more of the same."

    This is an interesting comment. It's probably the biggest fallacy the Mexican people believe including my grandparents and my family in Mexico. Unfortunately, religion cannot provide and feed the millions in Mexico nor can it provide them medicine for their children.

    Fact is, Mexico is one of the biggest catholic countries in the world and look to were it has gotten the country.

  10. @7:35 Of course I wasn't arguing for the government but saying that it is "the root source" of the situation is a simplistic explanation. The drug cartels have flourished for many reasons, including the one you point out.
    Conscientious American citizens should realize that every time your sons and daughters "recreate" themselves (with what euphemistically are called recreational drugs) someone's life is getting destroyed; When you get high up here someone is being dragged down very low over there; your ecstasy is paid by someone's agony.
    You need to connect the dots before is too late (?) because the chickens are coming home to roost.


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