Saturday, October 20, 2012

U.S. State Dept. says Mexico is "witnessing the end of drug trafficking" - but with a worrisome shift to Caribbean

MGRR News Analysis and Opinion -
Drug runners are feeling the pressure, but robbery, assault and street crime increase sharply

*Updated Apr. 16, 2013*
Guadalajara -
In an article last year about Mexico's 70 month old drug war, MGRR wrote:

"The massive deployment of federal forces and the cutting off of the heads of criminal organizations by Felipe Calderón's offensive, which began in December 2006, explain record levels of violence during his administration. The greatly increased aggressiveness of the government in going after the cartels has been the catalyst behind the skyrocketing number of homicides. Violence has fed more violence as the government seeks to eradicate a drug trafficking industry which was ignored for decades by previous administrations, and which had reached the point of threatening the existence of the state. Most of the killings, especially the mass executions and public body dumpings which often follow, are of violent criminals and by violent criminals. When innocents are attacked, it's a clear example of criminals venting their rage against an environment which is no longer within their exclusive control. Crime with impunity, the historic norm in Mexico, is no longer the order of the day, and terrorism for the sheer sake of terrorism is the last hurrah of the perpetrators." Calderón drug war strategy has been the right one (Dec. 30, 2011).

In an interview this week in Bogotá, U.S. Ass't. Secretary of State William Brownfield told the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo virtually the same thing.

Brownfield, who heads the U.S. Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, argued that organized crime violence in Mexico is strong anecdotal evidence that traffickers are "on the verge of collapse, due to relentless pressure by authorities. The cartels are being decapitated, and their operational capacities greatly reduced. We saw the same thing in Colombia in the late 80s and the early 90s, when cartels here felt the pressure, and their response was violence - but at the time we didn't recognize what was happening. What we're now seeing in Mexico, in my opinion, is the beginning of the end."

Naysayers and others disposed to peddle enormously exaggerated claims of human rights violations by Mexico's armed forces will of course chalk those comments up to predictable propaganda by the State Dept. But in two reports this year, the first in February and the second last month, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Control (UNDOC) concurred that president Felipe Calderón's drug war, as some call it, has delivered a real punch to traffickers and organized crime groups. The empirical evidence is that they're increasingly transferring their operations south (see links below).

"The instability within these organizations, and between them, has augmented the violence, but it's undeniable that they're much weaker today than before the Mexican security strategy was launched," UNDOC wrote in September.

Brownfield told the paper that Latin American drug conflicts have a circular history. After government victories in Colombia two or three decades ago, the narcotics trafficking industry migrated northward to Mexico. But the Calderón National Security Strategy - implemented in December 2006, 10 days after the outgoing president took office - has pushed the industry out the back door, into neighboring Guatemala and Honduras and other Central American nations.

Moreover, contended the secretary, traffickers are constantly reassessing operations and strategic vulnerabilities, while searching for drug routes less exposed to pressure. He told the paper that the Caribbean rim is certain to become a new hot spot of cartel activity.

"They have two options: Pacific sea routes, which don't work very well, or a return to the Caribbean, where they were in the 80s."

In Brownfield's view, the Dominican Republic is a prime target. "It's a victim of geography; if it was in the middle of the Pacific there wouldn't be any problem. But it's in the middle of the Caribbean, and for that reason we're going to see a lot more trafficking there."

Of equal if not greater interest to many in the U.S. will be Brownfield's candid acknowledgment that drug traffickers are also reestablishing themselves on American soil (U.S. general delivers a qualified drug war report to Senate Armed Services Committee).

Oct. 21 - An excellent collateral report, very much worth reading, appears today in several Mexican press services. It says that at the same time narcotics traffickers are feeling the effect's of Calderón's aggressive militarization strategy, forcing them to move drug running and manufacturing operations to new locations, common crime is greatly on the rise throughout Mexico. Two plausible explanations are offered. First, organized crime is focusing on other revenue raising techniques - diversifying, you might say - to help finance the huge built-in costs of operating far-flung narcotics empires. Second, security forces are so busy going after cartel operatives that they have fewer resources to devote to ordinary street crime such as robbery and extortion. The article suggests that increasing impatience with the drug war here is largely because the average Jose on the street is most likely to be affected by common crime. Areas like Morelia in Michoacán state, once very popular with foreign tourists and residents, have been particularly hard hit by the delincuencia callejera, as it's called.

Apr. 16, 2013 - The Dominican Republic has become the principal Caribbean departure point for U.S. bound narcotics.

Sept. 29 - Los Zetas are "dominant force" in Central America and have foothold in Belize, says U.N.
Sept. 27 - On Mexico's southern border is the most violent zone on the planet, says U.N.
Feb. 28 - More evidence Mexican drug war strategy is working, as violence shifts southward

May 17 - Struggle against drug cartels and organized crime will be his legacy, Felipe Calderón says

Will Enrique Peña Nieto stay the course?
Peña Nieto's Colombian drug war consultant has clear marching orders from new prez: make a deal
"Don't throw us back," Calderón urges Peña Nieto, while hinting that U.S. may have to legalize drugs
Peña Nieto transition team confirms: Mexican army will remain on the streets
Mexican voters got suckered on drug war
Peña Nieto's Manifesto makes New York Times
New York Times got Mexican presidential candidates' drug war strategies wrong

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the encouraging report. I hope the trend continues with the new president.