Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why Mexico's New President Won't Be Able to Stop Cartel Violence

Stratfor has offered an explanation of why there is little that the Mexican government can do to reduce drug cartel violence, even if stops all enforcement action against the cartels. It has to do with economics; specifically, markets, competition, and manufacturing. From the Stratfor article:


... Due to enforcement efforts by the U.S. government, the routes through the Caribbean have been largely curtailed, shifting the flow increasingly toward Mexico. At the same time, the Colombian and U.S. authorities have made considerable headway in their campaign to dismantle the largest of the Colombian cartels. This has resulted in the Mexican cartels becoming increasingly powerful. In fact, Mexican cartels have expanded their control over the global cocaine trade and now control a good deal of the cocaine trafficking to Europe and Australia.

While the Mexican cartels have always been involved in the smuggling of Marijuana to the United States, in recent years they have also increased their involvement in the manufacturing of methamphetamine and black-tar heroin for U.S. sale while increasing their involvement in the trafficking of prescription medications like oxycodone. While the cocaine market in the United States has declined slightly in recent years, use of these other drugs has increased, creating a lucrative profit pool for the Mexican cartels. Unlike cocaine, which the Mexicans have to buy from South American producers, the Mexican cartels can exact greater profit margins from the narcotics they produce themselves.

This change in drug routes and the type of drugs moved means that the smuggling routes through Mexico have become more lucrative then ever, and the increased value of these corridors has increased the competition to control them. This inter-cartel competition has translated into significant violence, not only in cities that directly border on the United States like Juarez or Nuevo Laredo but also in port cities like Veracruz and Acapulco and regional transportation hubs like Guadalajara and Monterrey.

... The nature of the Mexican cartels themselves has also changed. Gone are the days when a powerful individual such as Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo could preside over a single powerful organization like the Guadalajara cartel that could control most of the drug trafficking through Mexico and resolve disputes between subordinate trafficking organizations. The post-Guadalajara cartel climate in Mexico has been one of vicious competition between competing cartels -- competition that has become increasingly militarized as cartel groups recruited first former police officers and then former special operations soldiers into their enforcer units. Today's Mexican cartels commonly engage in armed confrontations with rival cartels and the government using military ordnance, such as automatic weapons, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.

It is also important to realize that government operations are not the main cause of violence in Mexico today. Rather, the primary cause of the death and mayhem in Mexico is cartel-on-cartel violence. ...

... One other way that the cartels have changed is that many of them are now allied with local street gangs and pay their gang allies with product -- meaning that street-level sales and drug abuse are increasing in Mexico. ... This increase in local distribution has brought with it a second tier of violence as street gangs fight over retail distribution turf in Mexican cities.

Finally, most of the cartels have branched out into other criminal endeavors, such as kidnapping, extortion, alien smuggling and cargo theft, in addition to narcotics smuggling. ... This change has been reflected in law enforcement acronyms. They are no longer referred to as DTOs -- drug trafficking organizations -- but rather TCOs -- transnational criminal organizations.

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