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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Colombia Is No Model for Mexico's Drug War

Far from breaking morale, the tactic of taking out the heads of trafficking groups gives junior thugs a shot at becoming the kingpin--if only briefly.

When Washington ramped up its anti-drug efforts through Plan Colombia, more than 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States came through Colombia. A decade later, we get about 97 percent of our cocaine via Colombia.

Amazingly, officials are hailing the program's "success" and want Mexico to learn from Colombia's experience. While Plan Colombia may have helped make that country safer from guerrilla attacks, it has failed as a drug control strategy. Adapting that program in Mexico won't staunch that country's bloodbath and isn't likely to produce better results.

Washington's response to Mexico's increasingly violent drug trafficking problem has emphasized disrupting criminal organizations by breaking them up into smaller fragments. Yet there's no evidence that this strategy of "fracturing" the traffickers ever worked in Colombia, where we've already tried it for two decades.

Sure, we helped break up the vicious Medellín Cartel and its successor, the Cali Cartel. But the law of unintended consequences had the last word. Far from ending Colombia's cocaine trade, we merely removed the two big monopolies and "democratized" that lucrative economic space for hundreds of smaller micro-cartels. We can't even count these new organizations, much less infiltrate and disrupt them. These crackdowns may please politicians in the short term, but they're counterproductive in the long run.

In Mexico, President Felipe Calderón launched his ill-conceived, all-out drug war in late 2006. Since he considered the police forces too corrupt, he fought the traffickers with the army. Its attacks prevented the traffickers from settling turf wars, creating a perpetual imbalance. By weakening one group, the Mexican army created a vacuum that rival traffickers fought to take over.

This process of "rinse, lather, repeat" has cost some 35,000 Mexican lives. And it isn't working. Cocaine seizures have plummeted (Mexican authorities stopped 9.4 tons in 2010, compared to 48 tons in 2007). Only in Charlie Sheen's mind could this be considered "winning."

Left alone, Mexico's rival drug kingpins would likely settle their turf war much sooner and return to a "Pax Narcotica," where the half-dozen criminal gangs could get back to business. Their fight would be violent, but much shorter than the current endless quagmire. Then they would carve out their respective trafficking routes and go back to making huge amounts of money.

Fighting drug traffickers isn't the same as fighting guerrilla insurgencies. Fracturing guerrilla groups can help break morale and encourage individual fighters to desert or surrender. Fracturing trafficking groups merely creates job opportunities for aspiring drug dealers who continue their bloody turf war indefinitely.

Moreover, the process of breaking down the large traffickers merely lowers the barriers to entry for new criminal entities seeking to expand their market share. Far from breaking morale, the tactic of taking out the heads of trafficking groups gives junior thugs a shot at becoming the kingpin--if only briefly. Unfortunately, there seems to be an inexhaustible reservoir of Mexican criminals who prefer a short life as a king to longevity as a peasant.

Our practice of repeatedly beating the hornet's nest ensures that the hornets will never settle down. Our politicians see Mexico in flames, and their knee-jerk response is to throw water on the fire by increasing military aid.

But the Mexican fire more resembles a grease fire, because it is driven by the economics of drug prohibition. The criminals are fighting over the right to traffic what are essentially minimally processed agricultural commodities (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc.) that should cost pennies per dose. Prohibition gives these substances an unintended, astronomical price support. Throwing conventional "water" on this "grease fire" is disastrous. We have tactics without a strategy because there's no endgame in this unwinnable war.

President Barack Obama recently admitted that drug legalization was a valid subject for debate even though he didn't support it himself. That was the most daring admission made by any sitting U.S. president on this subject. If he's serious, we should stoke this debate before another 35,000 lives are needlessly lost. There are many alternatives in the spectrum between prohibition and total free market legalization. We need to stop talking in terms of black and white.



  1. "Only in Charlie Sheen's mind could this be considered "winning."

    Good one...So legalizing dope is the cure to stopping people from getting high? And that would dismantle the Cartels? This problem is so complex, I don't think a crystal ball would do any good in finding the "right" strategy! One thing is for sure the assholes that started this mess have to go. (Lazca, 40, Chapo, Mayo, Carillo, R-1, Metro 3 etc.) To say that would only cause more drama is an understatement. It would but the "bullies" need to learn a lesson. Its just like the bully in school that gets his ass kicked for the first time and comes to school the next day with his head down. The bully thinks twice before acting up again...These cartels have gotten used to running things. They have become ADDICTS too. Addicts to money, power, and BLOOD. If drugs were legalized these Cartels would really come down on the weak. Extortion and kidnappings would reach an all time high. Just something to think about before legalizing becomes an option...They should give them a beating till they stop branding the trade and the rest will run and hide like the cowards they truly are. Take as much money as you can and watch the bitch come right out of them...

    Para Un Mexico Unido Sin Carteles

  2. Forgot to mention:

    La Familia Michoacaca is a good example of the good results of going after the leaders of the cartels. They are not the same after losing their "spiritual leader" (Nazario Moreno Gonzalez). They call themselves Templars/LFM now? This group along with the Beltran Leyva's and Zetas have suffered major blows to high ranking leaders. I don't think they are even considered cartels anymore. The word GANGS better suits this group of scumbags.


  3. @ 777.

    I think you missed the point of the article.
    The list of bad guys you gave, l40 chapo etc did not exist 20 years ago, they were smallfry. And killing them will do absolutely nothing to stop the flow of and profits from illigal drugs.
    Government intervention leads to more violence but never less drugs or profit.

    The rest will run and hide?, sorry but that is just not backed up by any evidence at all...ever.

    The very moment any one of them is give a "beating" a dozen others are fighting eachother and the state to get their hands on the money flow.

    Taking down a whole cartel will only change the names of the people selling the drugs, that is the problem.
    And also, you say is it better to give these criminal psychopaths unlimited wealth and corruping power in the illigal drug market because they might do other bad stuff if their gravy train is taken away?
    That argument is totaly illogical.

    Great article btw, nice to see the truth printed every now and again.

  4. legalize all drugs in USA

    keep fighting them in Mexico

    the ones with all the money to pay for the fight will realize there money is going down quickly and no amount of extortion will make it grow.

    they stop paying for the fight

    the "Soldier's" will go work for Columbians

    and the junkies will die fighting Mexican Army

    ~~~El Swankador~~~

  5. Legalization is not the answer. Where do you want to fight this battle? On the streets, or in the homes and schools? Make it legal and then tell kids not to do it. Yeah right! It doesn't work for alcohol and it won't work for drugs that are 100 times worse. Don't kid yourself. Mexico's greatest problem is corruption not it's drug battle.

  6. @4:40

    I said this before I gave my opinion maybe you missed it: "This problem is so complex, I don't think a crystal ball would do any good in finding the "right" strategy!"

    But yeah everyone is entitled to an opinion right? I think 9:43 said it best.

    "Don't kid yourself. Mexico's greatest problem is corruption not it's drug battle."

    These Narco elite (Lazca, 40, Chapo, Mayo, Carillo, R-1, Metro 3 etc.) are the ones that have sufficient funds to corrupt high ranking officials. Breaking them down to smaller groups is a START not the whole damn solution. Police forces are easily corrupted by the big name cartels because of money and fear. If you can break them down to a point where even the public looks at them as they would a neighborhood gang then not only do they shrink in size but the "fear" is reduced also. By shrinking the fear maybe just maybe these municipales, federales, and judges would respect their job for a change and not the NARCOS...


  7. ... say something long enough and you'll talk yourself into believing a lie?...There's no real answer to these deliema the world is faced with...Getting high is here to stay, and only a HIGHER POWER can come and take care of the situation we are faCED with..People have lost touch with reality (drug dealer, drug users) and the ones that are aware of the (evil), seem to feel impotent to make a difference to the situation were faced with today..

    The end of humanity seems like the only real HOPE OF ending these deliema....When you look real closely at what THE END REALLY MEANS, it doesn't look like a bad idea.....

    ....we are outnumbered by too many EVIL PEOPLE in high positions, and low positions, and the only real answer is TO CALL UPON GOD TO END ALL OF THESE ATROCITIES....

  8. Having FAITH becomes a KNOWING that the GOOD will prevail...

  9. @ 777
    Breaking them down into smaller groups is not the answer, the article stated that clearly.

    Your answer it to just let the killing continue and hope that the police will win, even after 30+ years of a world wide "war on drugs"and trillions of dollars spent with no end in sight.

    Mexicos big problem is obviously corruption, but even if that changes the drugs will still flow and tens of millions of american and europeans (plus the rest of the worlds drug users) will keep getting high.
    I have no problem with making dangerous drugs illigal, but as long as alcohol and tobbaco are legal it is a nonsense for governments to tell us they are protecting us from ourselves, when they dont give a flying one.

    All this kill em all attitude is nothing but destructive, and leads to more violence.

    The war on drugs is a unwinnable war, there are zero positives from over 30 years of battle but hundreds of thousands if not millions worldwide dead and millions of people in prison.

    I will amend that, it has been positive for the people who live in small communities near large prisons due to the fact the counties can add the inmates as residents but dont have to spend any money on them.

    Apart from that and making rich people richer there has been no positives.

    People will keep needlessly dying.

  10. Well the plan is to fight the cartels until evolution kicks in and the smarter criminals are able to ellude capture, that would mean they would work under the radar of police and political presence. Small groups that don't trust each other but fear the rule of law sufficiently to not wage 'wars' against each other. Basically beating them into submission.

    It's not the criminal element that's the problem it's the organized criminal element that poses political and societal dangers. In the case of columbia drug production was militarized into FARC and is largely resistant to being destroyed. The difference is that unlike the criminal organizations of cartels, FARC is a psuedo political rebel organization and as such the rampant violence, crime and corruption is much less of a problem. The FARC has got a reputation to protect after all.

    Unfortunately Mexico hasn't got a FARC and it will take decades to bring the cartels under control, I'm not sure if it's even possible. Notice that the U.S had the prohibition which toughened up it's police forces for facing the emergence of cocaine, but they stopped prohibition. Mexico didn't have such a 'training period' for it's police force, so this thing will take alot of time, Mexico is also unlike the U.S dirt poor. This fight will last decades and will be continued by the next generation, it eventually can be won but at what cost? Mexico will need to become practically a police state to fight this level of threat.

    Decriminalizing marijuana, ecstasy and other safe drugs and treating heroin as a medical problem will greatly speed up this process. But overall the fight will still go on.

  11. Legalization will allow ANYONE to grow their own, which means there will be NO criminals selling it. Anyone with a brain can figure this out on their own. When it is illegal or "decriminalized", criminals will still be involved because it has massive value. Once everything is legal, the value drops dramatically, which means everyone can grow it in their backyards if they so choose. Wakeup people, these things will be used whether they are illegal or not. So why waste money putting people in jail over things they will use anyways. So dumb.

  12. Taking down a whole cartel will only change the names of the people selling the drugs, that is the problem.
    And also, you say is it better to give these criminal psychopaths unlimited wealth and corruping power in the illigal drug market because they might do other bad stuff if their gravy train is taken away?


Comments are moderated, refer to policy for more information.
Envía fotos, vídeos, notas, enlaces o información
Todo 100% Anónimo;