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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Q&A: Mexico's Drug-Related violence

Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his crackdown on the drug cartels in December 2006.

Since then, many thousands of people have been killed.

Source: BBC News

What is the scale of the violence?

National Intelligence chief Guillermo Valdes said on 2 August that more than 28,000 people had died in drug-related violence since 2006.

The figure was a big jump on the previous estimates of almost 25,000 released by the attorney general's office in July.

Government officials have repeatedly said that the figures need to be seen in context; they suggest that the vast majority of the killings involve people connected with the drugs trade or law enforcement officers.

Where are the worst-hit areas?

Mexico's northern border towns are experiencing the worst of the violence. Ciudad Juarez (just across from El Paso in Texas) is the city suffering the most. There are also high levels of violence in Michoacan and Guerrero states. However, Mexico is a large country, and there are still many areas where the serious crime rate is unexceptional.

The overall murder rate is lower than several other countries in the region, including El Salvador and Honduras: 11.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, against 51.8 and 60.9 respectively.

Does the discovery of mass graves suggest the violence is increasing?

Mass graves have been turning up increasingly frequently - some containing dozens of bodies. Beheadings and bodies hung from bridges point to a rise in gruesome attacks.

The Mexican government argues that the violence shows that the gangs are turning on one another - reflecting the success of government policies. However, some observers argue that the cartels have become so powerful that, in effect, they control some parts of the country - the violence is evidence of their gang law.

President Felipe Calderon has deployed troops. Is this strategy working?

More than 50,000 troops and federal police are actively involved in Mexico's so-called war on drugs. The Mexican government says record amounts of drugs have been seized, and senior cartel leaders jailed or killed in operations.

But another consequence has been an explosion of violence, as the drug cartels fight both the army and each other. There are also concerns about the military's lack of accountability.

How serious is corruption within the police?

Very. One reason why the government has deployed the army so extensively is that it feels the police cannot be trusted. Drug cartels with massive resources at their disposal have repeatedly managed to infiltrate the underpaid police, from the grassroots level to the very top. Efforts are under way to rebuild the entire structure of the Mexican police force, but the process is expected to take years.

How much support is there for the government's policy?

Most Mexicans support the strong line but the increasing violence has prompted calls for a rethink. Mr Calderon, while stressing he is against legalising drugs, has said he would be open to a debate on the issue.

Who are Mexico's powerful cartels?

The cartels control the trafficking of drugs from South America to the US, a business that is worth an estimated $13bn (£9bn) a year. Their power grew as the US stepped up anti-narcotics operations in the Caribbean and Florida. A US state department report estimated that as much as 90% of all cocaine consumed in the US comes via Mexico.

There are roughly seven main gangs. Alliances between them have been seen to shift as they vie for control of trafficking routes.

To what extent is violence spilling over the US-Mexico border?

Most of the violence remains firmly on the Mexican side of the border, but there is some evidence of increasingly violent attacks on US border patrol agents by drug traffickers. There has also been a reported rise in drug-related shootings and kidnappings in some US cities and towns, especially in the south-west.

A US Congress report in 2008 drew on evidence from intelligence sources suggesting that Mexican cartels had forged closer links with established drug gangs inside the US.

A May 2010 report from the US National Drug Intelligence Center said that Mexican drug trafficking organisations "continue to represent the single greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States".

What has been the US response to the drug trafficking and violence?

In March 2009, the US government announced that it would step up efforts to disrupt the illegal flow of weapons and drug profits from the US to Mexico - a key demand of the Mexican government.

The US has joined Mexico, Central American nations, Haiti and the Dominican Republic form part of the Merida Initiative - a $400m scheme to assist Mexico's efforts to take on the drugs trade, by helping to provide equipment and training to support law enforcement operations


  1. I think that map is highly over estimating the Zeta's power and control, esp. in the Gulf area. I don't claim to know more then the next informed person, but I think the Zeta's have minimal control in Tampulias, and are gradually being pushed further south, and into the US, without a plaza to call their own.

  2. I disagree, I live in Matamoros and the Zetas control the surrounding region, including many plazas. Evidence of this is all over the news in the area, well when reported.

  3. I live in Southern California, so this is something you would know a lot better then me. I thought that their control had been ceded in many of the Tampulias plazas and towns, but maybe I've been buying into the CDG PR too much. I'd like to think the Zeta's are losing the war, but maybe I am wrong/wishful thinking. But, with so many against them, how can they go on?

  4. The Fedration got hit hard by the military, so now the CDG is fighting by themselves. The Zetas did get moved south the early part of the year, but not past Monterrey. Los Zetas are more transient than most cartels and are spread out thin all along the gulf coast. They are devoting a big source of effort to maintain Tamaulipas, Coahila and Nuevo Leon. What has made them successful is the ruthless way they operate.

    All the roadbloacks and the assasinations like that of Cavazos and Cantu are the works of Los Zetas, they have balls and plenty of influence left. This Massacre in San Fernando is another example of their grip with fear attitude.

    Getting soft gets you killed in Mexico, that is what happened to Nacho.

    This is from one of the comments here in BB, probably from a sicario in Sinaloa:

    "Sometime the more brutal and the ones who can spread the most fear are usually the ones on the top of their game, ruling through fear and intimidation. Weakness has no place in the life of a Mexican cartel capo.

    MM from Sinaloa"

  5. By the way, talking about the CDG, nice write up of the Gulf Cartel, sends it home!

    When will all this end?

  6. When did the Federacion get hit hard this year? Besides, the death of Nacho, was was supposed to be operating more or less on his own. So, does the CDG have more territory in Tampulias then Zetas, which is kind of what I was asking in my first post, or do they Zeta's have smaller territories, but more of them, and CDG bigger cities, but less?

    I think their actions are more and more desperate, and through the sheer brutality and ruthlessness they display will hold on to their territory for a little while, but long term, they are going to be finished. They remind me of a bigger scale version of El Teo in Tijuana, ruthless, near psychopathic display of violence and torture against El Inge, had a lot of people convinced he would take TJ, but he lost the people, and the police started to hit him hard, when he went after them, and now look at him and his crew.

    Keep posting, the inside stuff from people in Tampulias, and other areas of conflict is partly what makes these boards so informative.

  7. sometimes brutality can backfire,no olvides the guys doing the killing are human after all, and sometimes guys like this rebel

  8. I'm surprised BBC did not include Sinaloa as one of the worst hit areas. Violence is way up there this year.

  9. That map seems to overrepresent the Zeta's organizational girth.

    Control of rural areas does not translate into economic influence. So, who cares who controls Abasolo, Miguel Hidalgo, La Carreta, Soto la Marina, La Pesca, El Realito and the like?

    If we could see a graphical representation of the economic influence of these two groups, that map would definitely be different.

    The Gulf holds the border along the RGV; it is the oxygen that gives any of these organizations life. The Zetas tend to have only a "guerrilla" hold the communication corridors in the more rural communities between the major metros. The Zeta is left to fight a more labor intensive and coercive fight; their control over these rural communities is tentative (the only way to get some cash, food, etc is to fuck with the locals).

    The 72 bodies in San Fernando is evidence of el Golfo's stranglehold of the Zetas oxygen. The migrants are getting warehoused with no way of finishing the journey. It suggests no different for anything else trying to get through the Golfo portions of the Frontera Chica.

    Everything is going to be decided in the fight over Monterrey and Laredo. It is the Zeta's last gasp at life.

    May they meet their death, quickly.

  10. The problem is the Zetas take control of plazas which surround other cartel plazas..

    Look at Nuevo Leon..smack in the middle of the the corridors leading to Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Saltillo, etc.

    To get the drugs into the U.S. and to a secure CDG, or other cartel plaza, it has to fist cross Z territory.

    This is common tactic in many states.

  11. Colima should be included as disputed territory. There has been a HUGE spike in violence seemingly due to the plaza of the Port of Manzanillo being up for grabs.

  12. this is an old post i remember it from a long time..and yes the gulf cartel controls most of tamaulipas buts zetas are still there


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