Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Violence in Mexico and Juarez; Part II:  The National Perspective

A major change in drug trafficking patterns in Mexico is the partial fragmentation of five or six major enterprises a decade ago—Juarez, Gulf, Sinaloa, Tijuana, Oaxaca, Colima—down to dozens of gangs (some say as many as 200) participating in the marketplace after the decapitation of some of the leadership in strong cartels during the latter part of the Calderon and early Pena Nieto administrations.  This is what happened in Colombia after the collapse of the Pablo Escobar empire in the late 1980s.  Cocaine production and marketing continued there, with some of the functions of the industry taken over by willing FARC or ELN Marxist guerrillas or local and regional gangs, some of them paramilitary gangs formed initially to fight the guerrilla groups.  The result was the dispersion of violence especially along the major trade routes over which rival gangs competed.

In Mexico the relative ease of production of crystal methamphetamine, combined with its increased global demand, also contributed to the rise of small operators, and also to the spread of violence, as larger operators, with greater resources, have reacted by trying to place small-scale entrepreneurs under their control or eliminate this competition altogether.  The states most affected by this violence have been Mexico, Jalisco, Colima, Chihuahua, Michoacan, Sinaloa, and Veracruz.

Large scale cartels are still around.  Today the most powerful cartel in Mexico is the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), controlling trafficking in much of the Bajio (parts of Jalisco, Queretaro, Guanajuato, and Aguascalientes),  Colima, both Bajas, Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo, Veracruz, Nuevo Leon, and Nayarit.  It also has a strong presence in Puebla, Mexico, and San Luis Potosi.  In late March of this year Edgar Veytia, attorney general of Nayarit, was arrested as he attempted to enter the US in San Diego, where he grew up and owned a home he bought for over half a million dollars in 2013.  He is now in jail in Brooklyn, having pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking charges.  He has long been suspected of using his position to facilitate the activities of the CJNG as it reached northward, displacing many elements of the Sinaloa cartel as it was battered down by law enforcement agencies in the past few years.

Javier Duarte, ex-governor of Veracruz, is currently a fugitive, wanted for corruption.  Tomas Yarrington, ex-governor of Tamaulipas, was arrested in Italy a few week ago, five years after fleeing the country.  Elections are scheduled in the states of Mexico, Nayarit, and Coahuila on June 4 of this year, all states that have come under the control of the CJNG.

The Sinaloa cartel is also still around, but it has been severely weakened by internal division and by competition from the Beltran Leyva organization and their gunmen, the Mazatlecos.  The Caballeros Templarios, composed of the remnants of the La Familia organization, still operates in parts of Michoacan.  And in Tamaulipas the Velazquez network still operates along the Eastern Coast of Mexico, but is weakened by internal strife.  The fragmentation of drug trafficking in Mexico is likely to continue into the for-seeable future.  It remains to be seen whether official corruption will become a major priority in the 2018 election season.

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