Friday, December 9, 2011

If there were not Chapo, we would have to invent him (with apologies to Wilde)

Following in the footsteps of Eduardo Gutiérrez Guerrero [1], I am going to state the obvious: to focus on arresting the leaders of TCOs rather than systematically dismantling the organization itself will only lead to the fracturing of the organization and increased violence as others try to fill the leadership void (the point proven by charts provided by Gutiérrez). If President Calderón were truly sincere about “combating” organized crime, rather than deploying soldiers in the streets he would focus the state’s resources in competent investigations of ALL those involved, seizing all assets, and tracking down the organizations, businessmen and politicians who collaborate with the narcos as anywhere from 40 to 60 billion dollars a year of illicit cash washes through Mexico each year (or half a trillion since Calderón declared war). With a pool of 7 million “ninis” (youths who neither work nor study and who have little hope to do so) from which to draw, organized criminal groups can easily afford a war of attrition. TCOs offer the ninis what the government cannot and the elites will not, who see them as nothing more than castoff proles or proletarians [2].

The Calderón administration trumpets Ciudad Juaréz as a success with its unenlightened strategy but, although the death rate has fallen, it is not as precipitous as claimed since the administration tends to fiddle with statistics. In this case it is by using data from the highest month of casualties (October 2010 with an average of 11 per day) to compare it to one of the lowest months (April 2011 with an average closer to 6 per day not the 4 stated by Alejandro Poire [3]) claiming a 60% drop when in fact within this time-frame it was closer to 30%--which is not insignificant, and part of a trend of declining deaths for 2011, but certainly not the 60% claimed by the glib Poire (at the time he served as the federal security spokesperson but is now serving as the Interior Minister, the second highest post next to that of President). Both October of 2010 and April of 2011 were anomalies [4], and a more honest accounting would use the average number of people killed in 2010 (which was 9 per day) and compare this with the first four months of 2011 (including April) which has an average of 7 per day, with January and February both surpassing 200 deaths each (January - 222 and February - 231) [5].  

But Ciudad Júarez is not the only city in Mexico experiencing hyper-violence as, under this strategy that has the top leaders of TCOs being killed or captured by the war-machine, violence has spread undeterred throughout the country, especially through the pacific states [6]. The latest example is Sinaloa where, for the last few months now, things have been percolating in and around the cities of Culiacán, Mazatlán and Los Mochis (see pie chart below):

Although the violence in Sinaloa has been off of the radar of the major media outlets the lid blew off last week on November 23 with a host of burned bodies, including police officers, turning up in Culiacán, 16 of them publicly charred in 2 burning vehicles as a brazen warning [7]. The Governor of the State, Mario López Valdez, immediately stated that this was between the narcos [8] but a quick answer like this seems a tad facile considering that 32 police commanders in Ahome were recently dismissed [9] and in Tijuana 15 million of Chapo’s money seized [10]. Thus, a different supposition of what is occurring is that Chapo is “cleaning house” for this egregious loss, rather than the imminent attack of the Zetas into Sinaloa territory (a tit-for-tat response to attacks upon the Zetas in Veracruz [11]). Granted, the reprisal theory does seem to be the case with the 20 bodies discovered in Guadalajara, Jalisco the next day [12]...but anybody with a marker and some cardboard can make a “narcomensaje”.

Be that as it may, Calderón´s rhetoric, of making headway against organized crime, does not seem to support the facts as the killers continue to kill en mass, with impunity. Force vs Force as a means to resolve domestic issues is not working, that is, using military weapons and tactics to combat social issues. Trying to address social conditions in terms of war-making and using the army as a domestic police service to combat crime cannot be successful in any sense. Crime and criminals are a result of social phenomena--there is no army to defeat, no leaders who once captured cannot be replaced (at best there is the fracturing of the organization into smaller pieces which will jockey, fight, and coordinate and adapt to continually fill the demands of a voracious drug market). What the war-making has done is make the illicit markets more efficient, the organizations more deadly and created a highly populated “assassin profession” employing thousands of young men (and even women and children). 

But, cheered on by the US, Mexico refuses to deter from its ill-trodden path and, despite the fact that the narcos now kill by the truckload, still refuses to change strategy...increasing army patrols of the streets has not prevented assassins from driving around with trucks loaded with dead bodies, dumping them on major thoroughfares and/or lighting them on fire. What is needed is not bullets but competent investigations, rule of law, and a working justice system. Instead of deploying soldiers, Calderón should be “deploying” forensic accountants and investigators, "boring" suits and ties, rather than "sexy" guns and bullets, if he truly wants to wage an effective campaign against organized crime and make the country safer.

Calderon has engaged in a 5 year social experiment, of using the army to combat social problems, rather than focusing on the policing system. The results are in and it is clearly evident that it is not effective. After five years, billions of dollars, international support and assistance, Mexico now suffers from a contagion that has spread from the border to its east and west coasts with police officers kidnapped and killed [13], police forces resigning or fleeing from the towns that they are supposed to protect and serve [14], of cities having to fire their police commanders because of corruption and ties to the narcos, and of executions all over the country that continues to rise each year including those who dare speak out [15].

Now, the question many are asking is if this is a war, should Calderón not be held accountable? [16].

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings
Website: WM Consulting

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[1] Gutiérrez Guerrero, Eduardo (2011, June 01) La raíz de la violencia. Nexos. Retrieved June 06, 2011 from

[2] Malvido, Adriana (2011, December 07) Peña Nieto, redes sociales y ciudadanía. Milenio. Retrieved December 07 2011 from

[3] Borderland Beat (2011, May 20) Juarez Homicide rate drops 60% in 6 months, says Federal Security Spokesman. Borderland Beat. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[4] Sosa, Luz del Carmen (2011, May 01) En abril, menor cifra de homicidios en 14 meses. El Diario. Retrieved December 07, 2011 from

[5] ibid.

[6] Diego Valle Jones maps out the homicides for 2011, until August, and we can see that the Culican area is a hot spot

[7] Cabrera, Javier (2011, November 24) 26 muertos en Sinaloa; 16 fueron calcinados: La masacre, por disputa del territorio entre grupos antagónicos: Malova. El Universal. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[8] Debate (2011, November 25) Malova: Se disputan Sinaloa tres cirteles: Son el grupo criminal del Pacífico, los Beltrán Leyva y los Carrillo; familiares de las víctimas de los hechos del miércoles identifican a 10 de los 16 cuerpos. Debate. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[9] Noreste (2011, November 15)  Noreste. Detienen a todos los jefes policíacos de Ahome:
32 mandos fueron citados a una reunión para afinar detalles de operativos donde fueron sorprendidos con su detención. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[10] Noreste (2011, November 23) Incautan a "El Chapo" 15 millones de dólares: Es el segundo aseguramiento más grande de efectivo en lo que va del sexenio; el anterior fueron 26 millones de dólares asegurados en Culiacán. Noreste. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[11] Vanguardia (2011, September 21) Blindan Veracruz tras aparición de 35 cuerpos. Vanguardia. Retrieved December 07, 2011 from

[12] Zamarroni, Ulises (2011, November 24) Hallan al menos 20 cadáveres en Guadalajara: Los cuerpos fueron localizados en tres camionetas abandonadas en la Glorieta de los Arcos del Milenio. El Universal. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[13] CNN México (2011, November 21) Ocho personas, entre ellos tres policías, son secuestrados en Sinaloa: Cinco civiles y tres policías locales fueron secuestrados por hombres armados en el municipio de Angostura. CNN México. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[14] El Universal. (2011, November 25) Ejército rescata a 14 policías de emboscada en Michoacán: De acuerdo con la PGJE, los elementos municipales fueron rescatados cuando presuntamente iban a ser secuestrados en un paraje de Carácuaro; los sacan de la zona junto con sus familias. El Universal. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

[15] Beyliss, Marcelo (2011, November 29) Matan en Sonora a padre de joven desaparecido. El Universal. Retrieved November 29, 2011 from

[16] BBC (25 November 2011) Mexico activists seek ICC investigation of drugs war. BBC. Retrieved November 25, 2011 from

Monday, December 5, 2011

New York Times: Active Duty Cops Face Difficulties Joining LEAP

Over the weekend, the New York Times published a story on the emerging debate within law enforcement about whether we need to end the "war on drugs," and the fact that some officers who support legalization are facing problems on the job.

Stationed in Deming, N.M., [Bryan] Gonzalez was in his green-and-white Border Patrol vehicle just a few feet from the international boundary when he pulled up next to a fellow agent to chat about the frustrations of the job. If marijuana were legalized, Mr. Gonzalez acknowledges saying, the drug-related violence across the border in Mexico would cease. He then brought up an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition that favors ending the war on drugs.

Those remarks, along with others expressing sympathy for illegal immigrants from Mexico, were passed along to the Border Patrol headquarters in Washington. After an investigation, a termination letter arrived that said Mr. Gonzalez held “personal views that were contrary to core characteristics of Border Patrol Agents, which are patriotism, dedication and esprit de corps.”


In Arizona, Joe Miller, a probation officer in Mohave County, near the California border, filed suit last month in Federal District Court after he was dismissed for adding his name to a letter by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which is based in Medford, Mass., and known as LEAP, expressing support for the decriminalization of marijuana.


“No one wants to be fired and have to fight for their job in court,” said Neill Franklin, a retired police officer who is LEAP’s executive director. “So most officers are reluctant to sign on board. But we do have some brave souls.”


In the case of Mr. Gonzalez, the fired Border Patrol agent, he had not joined LEAP but had expressed sympathy with the group’s cause. “It didn’t make sense to me why marijuana is illegal,” he said. “To see that thousands of people are dying, some of whom I know, makes you want to look for a change.”

“I don’t want to work at a place that says I can’t think,” said Mr. Gonzalez, who grew up in El Paso, just across the border from Ciudad Juárez, which has experienced some of the worst bloodshed in Mexico.

Mr. Franklin, the LEAP official, said it was natural that those on the front lines of enforcing drug laws would have strong views on them, either way. It was the death of a colleague at the hands of a drug dealer in 2000 that prompted Mr. Franklin, a veteran officer, to begin questioning the nation’s drug policies. 

The full story is online here.
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