Friday, June 22, 2012

Mexican drug cartels will likely morph into "super gangs," says U.S. security firm

Dire prognosis for Mexico's next government, with violence threatening Guadalajara

Mérida, Yucatán -
An American consulting firm which advises businesses and governments on security challenges predicts that Mexico's powerful drug cartels will evolve into a much larger number of superpandillas, or super gangs, within a few years.

A summary of a comprehensive analysis prepared by Southern Pulse (SP) was reported here yesterday (June 21) by the peninsula's largest newspaper, Diario de Yucatán.

Southern Pulse used the example of Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific coast as its case study. It analyzed unfolding narco violence in Guerrero state in recent years, and concluded that even though the Sinaloa Cartel of "El Chapo" Guzmán remains the predominant local operator, cartels like Los Zetas and Cártel del Golfo have been able to gain a foothold by forging alliances with regional super gangs.

According to the Diario's redaction of the SP report, by 2014 Mexico will have 20 or more super gangs operating throughout the country, precipitating even greater violence. Hot zones of gang activity will include Acapulco, deadly Ciudad Juárez on the Texas border (still regarded by some in the U.S. government as the most dangerous city in the world), Guadalajara and Monterrey. Although the latter has long been an epicenter of narcotics trafficking and cartel violence, the inclusion of Guadalajara will no doubt surprise many. With two recent exceptions (see posts below), the city often called the cultural center of Mexico has been spared the worst horrors of the country's 66 month old drug war.

SP claims that Mexico's drug cartels are already in "constant communication" with street gangs, which are involved in many enterprises beyond narcotics sales, giving the cartels an opportunity to diversify. U.S. officials have reported that American street gangs often work with or under the direction of Mexican cartels. U.S. general delivers qualified drug war report to Senate Armed Services; Cartel use of child drug mules rising. There's a "very thin line" between the drug cartels and gangs on both sides of the border, according to the Diario's assessment of the Southern Pulse report.

The report noted that modern super gangs are efficiently "armed" not only with weapons, but with computers and networking tools such as Twitter accounts and other virtually instantaneous communication techniques. Southern Pulse says Mexican gangs often are aided by benign local police forces which have been bought off, infiltrated or corrupted.

Southern Pulse predicts that given the expanding drug war violence which the incoming administration will face ("a public security challenge that neither the Mexican government nor many international businesses are prepared to confront"), the next president will not significantly alter the military-centered strategy implemented by outgoing president Felipe Calderón in December 2006. I've written the same thing on this page frequently, while many U.S. news sources continue to insist that the National Security Strategy of the current PAN administration will be jettisoned in favor of some other approach: New York Times got Mexican presidential candidates' drug war strategies wrong.

The "super gang" theory, Yucatán peninsula style
Although no identified gangs are yet operating in Mérida, right next door in Quintana Roo state the powerful and extremely aggressive Los Pelones are wreaking havoc with public security, especially in Cancún and Playa del Carmen. Use the MGRR search engine for many stories on the group, or read this: Los Pelones killer arrested in Cancún also may have been hit man for Los Matazetas.

The rapid rise of Los Pelones along Mexico's Caribbean coast, an area known worldwide as the Riviera Maya, is evidence which empirically supports the Southern Pulse prognosis. Los Pelones, although still a very small organization and no more than a one state player, has taken on Los Zetas, a national (If not international) drug cartel with a well deserved reputation for brutality. Quintana Roo's experience mirrors that of Guerrero state (Acapulco) in recent years. SP's mega-gang hypothesis would seem to be rational and demonstrable, based upon an analogous situation unfolding in Q.R.

July 15 - Political power is ultimate goal of Mexican drug cartels, says U.S. expert
Oct. 23 - Mexican analysts agree: smaller gangs replacing drug cartels will be difficult to track, fight

Mexicans support Calderón's National Security Strategy
The Southern Pulse analysis appeared in the same week that the U.S. based Pew Research Center reported a survey which found that eight out of 10 Mexicans support the use of armed forces against the drug cartels. Since the day he took office that has been the cornerstone of president Calderón's organized crime strategy, and it's undoubtedly the one policy for which his administration will be forever remembered. But tempering that high approval rate was another survey result revealing that only 47% believe the drug war, which has cost about 55,000 lives, has produced significant results.

Other interesting Pew results: 30% of respondents said Mexico has lost ground in the drug war; 17% are opposed to the use of military forces against domestic criminals; and 33% would support the use of U.S. troops against the cartels, within Mexican national territory. With respect to U.S.-Mexico drug war cooperation, 75% support programs like the Mérida Initiative, a 2008 training, intelligence sharing and military hardware transfer agreement with a $1.5 billion price tag (approved and still being funded by Congress). As his term enters its last five months, Felipe Calderón has a 58% popularity rating, two percent more than the man who is most likely to be elected his successor on July 1 - Enrique Peña Nieto.

Jan. 16 - To sell their merchandise north of the border, Mexican drug cartels contract out the labor to an estimated 33,000 street gangs in the U.S., which at times form rather unlikely alliances. An article in today's edition of El Informador reports an estimated 1.4 million gang members in the United States work directly with Mexican narco bosses, and contains an interesting graphic of the leading cartels. It concludes: "If the Mexican cartels are the heart which ships the products to the U.S., the local gangs are the arteries which distribute them. Cartels dominate organized crime in the U.S. through gangs."

Guadalajara violence
Narco terror in metropolitan Guadalajara
Narco terror strikes Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city, in Jalisco state

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