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

Monday, June 6, 2011

The other anti-crime strategy

(The Zetas are an exceptional case in terms of Mexican cartels, as this organization has played a central role in the growth and geographical spread of violence. It is not clear if this is due to a deliberate process of fragmentation into small cells. Los Zetas are one of the most powerful organizations in the country, second in importance to the Sinaloa Cartel, as measured by their involvement in the drug market. On the other hand, Los Zetas are known for their proclivity to violence and have demonstrated the ability to participate in a variety of crimes. Finally, Los Zetas are noted for their pervasiveness; Zeta cells have participated in virtually all the "wars" between drug trafficking organizations, and also try to control criminal activities in a large number of entities….. Perhaps some of these cells are independent or are criminal gangs, known as “Zeta Piratas" who pose as Zetas to profit from their violent reputation. However, we should not rule out the possibility that Los Zetas have developed a unique operating model among the Mexican cartels that allows them to unfold geographically at high speed without disturbing its internal cohesion./excerpt from La raíz de la violencia: Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez)

La otra estrategia contra el crimen
El Informador/Denise Maerker

Questioning the federal government’s current strategy against organized crime is viewed in some quarters, including the government itself and also by many Mexicans, as the equivalent of treason.

Many consider this opposition as a confession of siding with the drug cartels. At the slightest criticism they angrily ask: Then what do you propose? Negotiate with the “narcos”?

The truth is that no one proposes that. Yes there are and always have been other strategies. In the current issue of the magazine Nexos, Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez, a public policy consultant, rigorously examines the anti-crime strategy the Calderon administration has followed and its impact, and proposes an alternative strategy.

(La raíz de la violencia, Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez)

Guerrero explains that the government has opted for a strategy that was intended to dismantle drug cartels, attacking everyone everywhere without establishing any priority or plan and punishing as many criminals as possible. This strategy is called punitive.

The result has been a fragmentation of criminal organizations. In 2006 there were six drug cartels and five recognized local criminal organizations. In 2010 a total of 114 regional cartels and local criminal organizations were committing crimes (52 and 62, respectively).

This fragmentation corresponds to what Guerrero calls a geographical spread of violence. In 2007, 53 municipalities averaged one homicide or more (killings linked to organized crime) per month. In 2010 there were 200 municipalities in which this benchmark figure was met.

According to the author what we are seeing is an increasing number of local criminal organizations without the size nor the means to smuggle drugs into the United States that engage in crimes of which any Mexican citizen can fall victim to at any moment in time.

Between 2007 and 2010 bank robbery grew by 90%, extortion saw an increase of 100%, car theft with violence (carjackings) grew by 108% and kidnappings increased by 188%.

President Calderón’s strategy has resulted in the detention or elimination of more high-profile drug traffickers than ever before. However, the result of this success has been a wave of violence of which there is no end in sight. The reason is that the dismantling of cartels occurred in a context in which local authorities were not prepared to deal with the criminal actions of these smaller violent and uncontrolled groups.

The other possible strategy is what Eduardo Guerrero calls the deterrent strategy. The goal is not to dismantle cartels and pursue everyone, everywhere, but to reduce violence and drug trafficking through targeted arrests based on the behavior of criminal organizations. That is, the more violence exhibited by a group, the more forceful response from the government.

The objective is for criminal groups to change their behavior on the basis that  the more violent will be hardest hit.

Guerrero notes that this is the model America follows. He cites the reaction of the United States government after the assassination of one of its ICE agents in Mexico in 2011.

A week after the murder the DEA spearheaded a national sweep (Operation Hallen Hero) that three days and in 150 cities led to the arrests of 676 individuals linked to Mexican cartels. The next time Mexican cartels will think twice before killing another U.S. agent.

Calderon is not going to change his strategy, he has no time left or intellectual openness to listen to those who ask him to stop this spiral of violence. The decision on which path to take will be in the hands of the next president and on voters in the 2012 election.

Excerpts from La raíz de la violencia, Eduardo Guerrero Gutiérrez:

After four and a half years of war against organized crime and more than 40 thousand dead, violence continues to escalate. The federal government, with support from U.S. intelligence, has arrested or killed prominent capos, which divides the cartels and often promotes the emergence of new, smaller criminal organizations. With this, the federal government achieves its goal of "dismantling" the cartels. But the fragmentation of larger organizations has expanded the violence into new municipalities. Along with growing violence, crimes such as extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking, drug dealing, carjackings and bank robberies have also expanded.

The main consequence of the geographical spread of violence is that the fight against organized crime will become primarily a problem of states and municipalities. The armed forces and federal police are not able to deploy and perform public safety activities throughout the territory. This can be seen in joint operations, becoming less effective. The relative success of the first operations has not been duplicated because both human resources and capacity of the federal forces are limited, and because more often now they face small and very elusive criminal cells that are well coordinated, with high firepower and rooted in the municipalities in which they operate.

19 of the 32 states are below the minimum requirement of police presence established by the UN. From 2009 to 2010 only Guerrero, Chihuahua, Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo significantly increased the number of state and municipal police. Of particular concern are the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Veracruz that are highly vulnerable to the presence of violent organized crime organizations as their police forces maintain a relatively high deficit of manpower.

Is there any way out? In this article I have suggested ways to modify criminal behavior through the use of deterrence strategy instead of the punitive measures that have been followed so far. The changes in strategy would be:

1. Government action based on priorities to concentrate resources and capabilities

2. Federal authorities substantially strengthen intelligence capabilities and actively promote the strengthening of these same capabilities among states and municipalities that require them urgently.

3. Authorities identifiy "deterrent levers" capable of changing criminal behavior to reduce the harm to society. Among these are maximizing the effect of every blow delivered by imposing rapid prosecutions to minimize the time between the violation of the law and application of sanctions .

4. Sequential deployment of integrated police teams (and even the military
in some cases) to maintain "deterrent interventions" in various parts of
the country based on local challenges and the behavior of criminal


  1. It's always easy to sit on the sideline and analyze the situation. It's must tougher when the pressure is on the decision maker.

  2. I agree with June 6, 2011 1:16 AM

    If the President was to agree with hitting the one that creates the most violent problems dont you think rival cartels would make hits just to blame the rival cartel. Its been done be4 by the CDG against the Zetas and vice versa. Its all gonna end in 2012 anyways and i dont mean by the new mexican president...

  3. Effective strong local law enforcment is what would do the best, BUT HOW DO YOU DO IT. It will take many years for Mexicans to develop honest law enforcment. We need the Mexicans to watch old US western movies about sheriffs who cleaned up towns, somehow the long history of corrupt selfserving opportunistic local law for sale MUST end for Mexico to stabalize and prosper. All responsible people who live ,travel or do business in Mexico would Dance with joy. But there again HOW DO YOU GRT IT DONE??

  4. Its not going to end in 2012 no matter what goes down. Doesnt matter who you elect for president. Doesnt matter what deals you try to make. Doesnt even matter if you legalize drugs (i know some people find that hard to believe). The cartels are here to make money, rape, pillage, steal, whatever they have to do, and thats what they are going to do, until they are for the most part eliminated.


  6. @June 6, 2011 9:02 AM


  7. Start with the Z's. Confiscate all their "private property" which was probably stolen and hit the cells hard. Make them your first "sweep" Maybe that'll take the load off Tamaulipas, NL and Veracruz. Hit southern border too

  8. As Charles Bowden wrote in Murder City "The only way to end the violence is to let organized crime be the government."

  9. Is he a caricature of the Anglo machista type or what?


    Reminds me of the male machista star at Arroyo Negro Hacienda in the Mexican TV hit, 'Te Sigo Amando'. Hollywood should do the same like they did with the Colombian telenovela Betty Fea and run this Mexican series in English at Trailer Park Black in 'We Keep Loving Him!'

    DFL, you are that good, Bro!

    'DFL said...

    BB, te sigo amando!

  10. I kind of like a transmogrification of Kinky Friedman's "Five Generals" idea he pitched to solidify the Texas-Mexico border. It sounded like a joke "So you get five Mexican Generals (jurisdictions) to supervise the border, and hold million dollars pay for each one in a bank account, and for every illegal that gets through and discovered, withdraw five thousand dollars from his account...", but on the other hand...something that nutty just might work.

  11. At last, a really good article about other ideas on how to turn the tide in this lack of direction war. Put the responsibility back on the cartel bosses and the plaza bosses. If you cannot stop the kidnapping and violence, we will sent the whole army to stop you. Quit spreading the army all over Mexico in no win situations. Tell all cartels to stop the crime and abuse. If you fail to lead your cartel in this manner, bye bye. Send all 40,000 troops to stop it. Calderon's pride will not allow him to do this. His pride will cause more severe failure.

  12. Problem is that Criminals have for many,many years infiltrated every level of enforcment you name it,Gangsters are still calling the shots all up and down the border. A systematic clensing of all public servants in Mexico is being attempted but it will take 20 years,think of the thousands of people with some piss ant position in Mexico that has allowed them to extort a living from anybody that crosses theit path. Today, virtually every level of Mexican govt. is compromized by people looking for money,bribes,extortion, to many are still for sale,which is why change is resisted,these "Public servants" do not want to loose their NICH,it is a way of life which must change.

  13. Terrible strategy. It's tantamount to saying, "Keep a low profile and we will let you do you crimes in peace." That is the SAME thing that led to all of this in the first place. FIRST, you need to create opportunity. The companies there need to step up to the plate and pay a decent wage. At least $5 hour. US and other foreign companies are getting a free ride and free labor. (OK, they pay $7- to $10 per day.) Who could live on that? We need a few trendsetters to ante up. They will still get cheap labor, and at the same time, provide a decent life for their employees. A federal min. wage should be set. Cartels should be eliminated in rapid fashion before they can recruit replacements. It is all for nothing though if your only career prospects are working a taco stand for 10 hours a day. Pay people for the work they do. and your whole society will rise.


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