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lakeheron

Why the drug war affects even us

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Borderlandbeat has again posted a very informative and pertinent article. It pinpoints just why ordinary citizens, even ex-pats, cannot count on police protection under certain circumstances (such as when I sought such protection when threatened with death and when rocks were thrown at us).

http://www.borderlan...crime.html#more

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From Stratfor;

Mexico: The Arrest of La Barbie

August 30, 2010

The Mexican Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) confirmed that members of the Federal Police detained former Beltran Leyva Organization top enforcer, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. Several Mexican media outlets have reported that the operation that netted Valdez Villarreal took place outside of Toluca, Mexico state, while others have reported that the operation actually took place near the Morelos and Guerrero state borders. Federal Police had reportedly launched an operation to capture Valdez Villarreal on Aug. 9 at a luxury condominium complex in the Bosque de Las Lomas neighborhood of Mexico City but missed him by a few hours, indicating that the Mexican government was close to capturing him for some time before his arrest. The arrest of such high-profile and public figure in the Mexican drug-trafficking scene is a huge success for the Mexican government on both a tactical and public relations level.

Valdez Villarreal has been locked in heated battle with his former colleague, Hector “El H” Beltran Leyva, for control over the territory once occupied by the Beltran Leyva Organization under now-deceased leader Arturo Beltran Leyva. Hector has since gone on to form Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS) and has been waging war against the former BLO elements loyal to Valdez Villarreal. The arrest of Valdez Villarreal is a tremendous blow to the leadership of his faction of the BLO, and it is unclear at this point who if anyone will take the place of Valdez Villarreal. Additionally, the detention of Valdez Villarreal also will provide Mexican authorities with a treasure trove of timely, actionable tactical intelligence about his organization’s operations, which could lead to more arrests in the near future. Furthermore, should Valdez Villarreal choose to cooperate with Mexican authorities, he could provide an enormous amount of information about rival organizations as well.

The arrest of Valdez Villarreal also comes at a time when President Felipe Calderon’s war against the cartels has been drawing some negative attention due to the high levels of violence and a recent, ominous escalation in tactics over the past week with increased use of improvised explosive devices. Valdez Villarreal was well known for his ruthlessness and brutality in dealing with his rivals, and his arrest will be a public relations coup for the Mexican government even though it will do little to quell the violence in places like Juarez and Monterrey.

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Arresting La Barbie will make absolutely no difference to anyone,except maybe Mrs. La Barbie. There are undoubtedly many qualified candidates ready willing and able to step into his shoes,and may already have done so.

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Of course it affects everyone, on both sides of the border. Large portions of U.S. cities are unlivable and dangerous to visit even during the day, as is true in Mexico, particularly along the border. The U.S. Consul has now evacuated consular dependents from Monterrey altogether. This situation is going to reach a breaking point soon IMO. Either some kind of truce/hands off deal will be cut or the country might end up under martial law. It is clear that Calderone's well intentioned but disastrous war on drugs is a failure and change of some sort will have to happen.

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It is clear that Calderone's well intentioned but disastrous war on drugs is a failure and change of some sort will have to happen.

I agree. For the last 30 years, US politicians have declared a war on drugs and in that 30 year period, drug use has increased in the US exponentially. Not to mention crime. I've read that most crime in the US is drug related, including all the robberies and burglaries (and murders) committed by the junkies wanting cash for their fixes. It's out of control, to say the least. Unless drugs are legalized in the US (dream on) and thereby eliminating the need for a criminal underground, there will be more bloodshed on both sides of the border. Personally, I think the only immediate solution is to declare a military state in Mexico and send in US troops, and go to war with the cartels on their turf. There is far too much corruption in Mexico to rely on their military to solve this without US intervention. (Lakeheron's post at the top of this thread makes that point.) I think close to 30,000 drug-related deaths in Mexico since 2006 also speaks for itself. Obviously Mexico's military have not been able to take on the cartels successfully. Legalization of drugs is the best option on both sides of the border, but will take much longer.

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So you legalize drugs. Do you think the cartels will disappear? Of course they won't. They'll just use other ways to raise money, and you've already read about their kidnappings, and other operations.

So, when they come to your door, and ask for "protection money," and the person who shows up is in a police uniform, exactly what do you intend doing? Will you try to make extortion legal too?

By the way. for your information. Demanding protection money is a common method of extortion in major cities. Gangs practice it all the time, with impunity, because there's nobody specific to arrest. And if you don't pay, they throw a hand grenade in your home, or place of business, to show they mean business. If you don't cooperate then, you die.

Now put it in perspective with the cartel wars in Mexico. Let's assume two cartels are vying for the territory where you live. Both show up at your door, and demand payment, and they threaten to destroy your property or kill you if you give to the other cartel.

Please. Tell me what you do now.

This "legalization" of drugs is such an easy catch-all answer without a thought about what it entails or will cause.

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I agree. For the last 30 years, US politicians have declared a war on drugs and in that 30 year period, drug use has increased in the US exponentially. Not to mention crime. I've read that most crime in the US is drug related, including all the robberies and burglaries (and murders) committed by the junkies wanting cash for their fixes. It's out of control, to say the least. Unless drugs are legalized in the US (dream on) and thereby eliminating the need for a criminal underground, there will be more bloodshed on both sides of the border. Personally, I think the only immediate solution is to declare a military state in Mexico and send in US troops, and go to war with the cartels on their turf. There is far too much corruption in Mexico to rely on their military to solve this without US intervention. (Lakeheron's post at the top of this thread makes that point.) I think close to 30,000 drug-related deaths in Mexico since 2006 also speaks for itself. Obviously Mexico's military have not been able to take on the cartels successfully. Legalization of drugs is the best option on both sides of the border, but will take much longer.

What you're read is incorrect, some folks are theives as a profession. The US declared a "war" on drugs 30 year ago but has used only words to fight it. You can't fight money and guns with words. You want a real war on drugs? Well you've got one in Mexico, they're using guns and you don't like it because people are dying. What did you expect from a war? Many more will die but I believe that the government will win in the end.

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"...but I believe that the government will win in the end. . ."

Do you really, Atlas! I sure hope you're right, there is now a very small part of me that agrees. I used to think it was not possible. I hope you're right. So much has to change for that to happen tho. . .

Mexican Trailrunner

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Legalization (decriminalization) isn't an easy concept and will not necessarily stop the violence / crime / cartels. Mexico still is a strategic point / staging ground for drug shipments globally so you would need worldwide decriminalization of sorts and the bad guys will just switch to more lucrative contraband.

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If you roll over for them on drugs, they'll know you haven't got the guts to fight them. They'll win, because they know they have already won.

Of course, if people prefer being weak, and insignificant, and are willing to let some punk push them around, and abuse them, that's fine.

In my case, that's never going to happen. I've been a member of the thin blue line, and the very thought that people would roll over like is being advocated is akin to cowardice.

We all have to choose whether we're going to be counted, or not be counted. I chose my direction a long time ago.

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Yes. I've been there quite a few times. I understand the problem. I also know what happens when people give in to organized crime, and that's what happened in Mexico. Too many have given up, and when someone steps forward within the Mexican community to fight against it, they end up eliminated.

When you have Mexicans who have the guts to cause a road block, and you have others who are willing to fight the corruption, you have to consider their needs, and you have to show your support by getting our home governments on board with helping them. The US, and Canada, need to help the Mexicans fight the cartels both in the US, and on Mexican soil.

I look at the 200 police that revolted on the border, and forced the arrest of their leaders, because they were corrupt. I look at the road block by truckers, and I think about how the people elected a government that seems to have the will to fight corruption and the cartels, and I have to say that we cannot sell them short.

I certainly don't advocate having ex-pats walking down the street carrying signs to show support. That would be suicide. But I do advocate making sure that everything that an ex-pat does doesn't show they will accept the cartel as their dictator, or be an easy target. I suggest people do everything they can to make sure they can't become targets, and that our government considers their actions as being terrorism, so we do more than we presently are, to help Mexico rid itself of this problem.

As was suggested by one poster. It's going to take a lot of time, and it's not going to be a cheap war against them, but in the end, the people can win. To get there, they need changes in their government's infrastructure, and they need industry that creates jobs, so people have an alternative except poverty or joining the cartels, to support their families.

When there's abject poverty, it's easy for criminal elements to control communities, and eventually they grow in numbers, and get stronger.

Imagine drugs being legalized, and the cartel deciding that the ex-pat community around Lake Chapala was good for a couple million dollars a year, or more, in "protection money," and there's nobody there who will really protect you. Especially after I've heard that you can't even trust the cops beyond little issues.

Who do you call then? It would be too late to complain to the State Department.

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That's a few, but it obviously doesn't represent the majority of people in law enforcement, does it?

I'd be willing to bet I can run a string of people past everyone that believes almost anything, because that's their personal perspective.

Despite the fact that some people believe it, that doesn't make it fact. It makes it opinion, and I'm quite certain the vast majority of people don't want to consider the idea of creating a society of people who can do drugs legally, that they get to support with their welfare programs, because they're no longer able to function in a work environment.

People see the tip of the iceberg, and think that by cutting off the top, they've solved the problem. There's still that big mass of ice below the surface, and that's what causes the damage, not that which you see above the water-line. You just remove one source of income from them, so they find other ways to operate.

Ask yourself this. Did the mobsters disappear after prohibition was repealed? Obviously they just changed their focus, and made money from other illegal sources. It's not going to eliminate them. Count on it.

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I see on Borderland Beat this morning that the army snuffed a bunch of suspected Zetas in Nuevo Leon yesterday. Go Army! :)

At least 27 people were killed Thursday in a clash between members of the Mexican Army and an armed group that occurred in the state of Nuevo León, several miles from the Texas border.

According to preliminary reports, no bodies have been identified, and it is alledged that the dead gunmen belonged to the Los Zetas criminal organization.

Three soldiers were reported injured in the clash and an undertermined number of kidnap victims were freed. More than 25 weapons and multiple grenades and 23 vehicles were reported seized.

The clash took place several miles east of the town of General Treviño, on the road that connects this town with Ciudad Mier, in an area near the border with the state of Tamaulipas, the sources added. There was some confusion among news sources on whether the battle occurred in Nuevo Leon or Tamaulipas.

http://www.borderlandbeat.com/

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I see on Borderland Beat this morning that the army snuffed a bunch of suspected Zetas in Nuevo Leon yesterday. Go Army! :)

Great. One corrupt gang "snuffed" members of another corrupt gang. Do you seriously believe that this is a war of "good guys" vs "bad guys"? Please. Mexico is not going to commit economic suicide by killing a forty billion dollar (some say this figure is conservative), source of revenue.

"Across Mexico, the continuing ability of traffickers to topple governments like Tancitaro’s [a town in central Mexico], intimidate police and keep drug shipments flowing is raising doubts about the Mexican government’s 3-year-old, U.S.-backed war on the drug cartels.

Far from eliminating the gangs, the battle has exposed criminal networks more ingrained than most Americans could imagine: Hidden economies that employ up to one-fifth of the people in some Mexican states. Business empires that include holdings as everyday as gyms and a day-care center." (from American Renaissance, Feb 2007).

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No, but I think some sort of "balance of terror" will have to be reached in order to convince both sides to cut some kind of deal so all of this killing stops. Right now, the narcos think they can kill anyone they want, when they want without reprisal. Maybe if enough of them are on the receiving end of same, cooler heads will prevail and an accomodation will be reached.

Mexico simply doesn't have the governmental strength to be a major player in the U.S. drug war IMO. And they wouldn't accept the level of U.S. intrusion that Columbia did. So where does that leave them? You tell us.

The army isn't entirely corrupt by a long shot. I'm amazed at the courage of those who are not. I sure couldn't see myself in their shoes. This is life and death for them.

What good does it do to put the narcos in a Mexican jail? How many of them basically walked out in Reynosa a couple of days ago. Eighty or so?

So you tell us, how do you get the shooting to stop? Legalizing drugs in Mexico wouldn't help that and they haven't the sense to do so in the U.S. So now what?

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This is getting a little too close for comfort. From Borderland beat today...more on their website.

Jalisco State police and Tonala municipal police arrested five people, including an ex marine and an ex soldier, and siezed four kilos of C-4 plastic explosives, a weapons arsenal, and tactical equipment as a result of an operation that began with the discovery of an VBIED located one block away from the municipal police headquarters in the city of Tonala, a suburb in the Guadalajara metropolitan area minutes before noon this Thursday.

A few minutes before 12 noon on Thursday, police in Tonala responded to an anonymous warning that a motorcycle rigged with explosives had been abandoned outside of a gasoline station at the corner of Tonalteca and Constitution Avenue, right in center of town and one block from the police headquarters.

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No, but I think some sort of "balance of terror" will have to be reached in order to convince both sides to cut some kind of deal so all of this killing stops. Right now, the narcos think they can kill anyone they want, when they want without reprisal. Maybe if enough of them are on the receiving end of same, cooler heads will prevail and an accomodation will be reached.

Mexico simply doesn't have the governmental strength to be a major player in the U.S. drug war IMO. And they wouldn't accept the level of U.S. intrusion that Columbia did. So where does that leave them? You tell us.

The army isn't entirely corrupt by a long shot. I'm amazed at the courage of those who are not. I sure couldn't see myself in their shoes. This is life and death for them.

What good does it do to put the narcos in a Mexican jail? How many of them basically walked out in Reynosa a couple of days ago. Eighty or so?

So you tell us, how do you get the shooting to stop? Legalizing drugs in Mexico wouldn't help that and they haven't the sense to do so in the U.S. So now what?

I think that you are hopelessly naive about the current situation in Mexico. So what if more than a few recruits in the army are not corrupt. To ignore the fact that the Mexican military is, and has been, totally corrupt for some time now, is to ignore the facts on the ground. Can you tell me how many of the estimated 24,000 deaths in "Calderón's War" have been members of the army? Here's a stat for 2009.

"With over 8,000 Mexicans killed in 2009 alone, the army reported losses of thirty-five that year." (The Nation, Aug 2010)

Do you honestly believe that the other 7,965 victims were all associated with the cartels? Here's another fact:

"On June 21, Cronica, another Mexico City paper, presented a National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) study that examined more than 5,000 complaints filed by Mexican citizens against the army. Besides incidents of rape, murder, torture, kidnapping and robbery, the report described scenes like the following: "June 1, 2007, in the community of La Joya de los Martinez, Sinaloa de Leyva: Members of the Army were camped at the edge of the highway, drinking alcoholic beverages. Two of them were inebriated and probably under the influence of some drug. They opened fire against a truck that drove along the road carrying eight members of the Esparza Galaviz family. One adult and two minors died...The soldiers arranged sacks of decomposing marijuana on the vehicle that had been attacked and killed one of their own soldiers, whose body was arranged at the crime scene to indicate that the civilian drivers had been the aggressors and had killed the soldier." (ibid)

That's 5,000 complaints filed. How many tens of thousands of others were never filed?

And when you reference "Columbia"(sic) and the US intervention - what is the street price, inflation adjusted, today of cocaine in the US, as opposed to the 80's, when the US first intervened in Colombia?

"Beginning in 1989 with the “Andean Strategy,” U.S. funds, equipment, logistical support, and personnel from the DEA, the CIA, and other agencies have played a leading role in counternarcotics operations in Colombia. U.S.-assisted operations resulted in the killing of Pablo Escobar in 1993 and the jailing of the heads of the Cali Cartel in 1994. However, the breakup of the two largest cartels did not lead to a long-term decline in Colombian drug trafficking. These drug syndicates have since been replaced by smaller, more vertically integrated trafficking organizations whose nimble, independent traffickers are much more difficult to detect and infiltrate. These traffickers employ new and constantly changing shipping routes through Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean for moving cocaine and, increasingly, heroin." (Foreign Policy Magazine, Nov 1999).

"Anti-drug agents arrested and charged dozens of members of the powerful Colombian cartel, including two alleged major kingpins, after a series of raids across South America. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), estimated the cartel, named El Dorado, made $5 billion (£3.37bn) profit from their trade over the past few years." (Telegraph UK, June 2010)

You ask for solutions. For a start, get the facts.

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Let's see, the Mexican army has something like 130,000 soldiers and you cite a handful of incidences to brand the entire organization. Also, your kill statistics are way off, 2009 was more like 21,000 murdered,no? And it seems generally agreed that many if not most were druggies killing druggies.

Compared to the country's police, particularly at the municipal level, it would seem to me that the military is the better bet at this point which is probably why Calderon is attempting to get control of the situation using the army and navy while attempting to beef up the police and shift control to the state level. What is your alternative?

I think you would have benefitted from attending the recent Multiva presentation on this problem, given by someone who I suspect is a great deal more expert on the topic than either of us. While acknowledging the depth of the problems, it was also shown that they are not universal and that many parts of the country, including Jalisco, are not nearly as bad as the border regions, where only a fraction of the country's population live.

My reference to Columbia had nothing to do with the price of drugs on the street, it had to do with the FACT that as a result of the strong leadership of Uribe AND the U.S. intervention, the political and security situation there is much improved. However, the U.S. had "boots on the ground" in Columbia and I believe most are agreed that Mexico would not agree to this for historic reasons. So another way to improve things will have to be found.

BTW, it was pointed out in the meeting that Columbia was a different situation in that the narco trade was heavily linked to the communist insurgency there. There seems to be no similar linkage in Mexico.

Also, you may want to consider the impact of declining use of cocaine in the U.S. and the impact it has on the street price and also the violence. The UN recented noted:

The United Nations’ “World Drug Report 2010” reveals that cocaine consumption in America has “fallen significantly” in recent years and claims that a prime reason for the brutal Mexican drug cartel violence is that the traffickers are fighting over an ever-shrinking market.

A lot of interesting information on both supply and demand here:

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/68430

It is contended that, although the demand in the U.S. has dropped "significantly" the supply has also dropped and the street purity is decreased, in effect raising the street price substantially as well. So the drug "war" seems to be having an impact and if all this is true it might explain why the narcos have been busy expanding into extortion and kidnapping.

BTW, if it wasn't Calderon who greatly stepped up the attempt to control the cartels, just who was it and why does that greatly stepped up effort date from shortly after he was elected? In 2008 before this business really got rolling, the murder rate in Mexico was less than half that of Brazil and comparable to much of the U.S.

Sorry, you haven't made the case for condemning the entire army nor have you offered any solutions. I suggested that some sort of accomodation might be possible if the authorities are able to start "neutralizing" the narcos in sufficient numbers to get their attention. It isn't much of a solution but it is based on the apparent reality that Mexico simply isn't strong enough to decisively defeat the narcos.

It would be an "Italian" solution similar to that country's co-existence with the Mafia.

This idea wasn't floated at the Multiva meeting but the speaker agreed that the country's law enforcement and legal institutions don't appear capable at this time of delivering a win. So where does that leave things?

I also believe that if the U.S. AND Mexico got really serious about border control it would help control the criminality in northern Mexico. Neither are serious about it IMO and Mexico seems to feel entitled to special treatment when it comes to undocumented entering of the U.S. Admittedly, they come by this attitude logically after 50 years of "wink and a nod" immigration enforcement in the U.S. I am suggesting that the benefits of being able to export surplus labor to the U.S. have become outweighed by the criminal problem on the border.

So what is your better idea? Or are you just writing the country off? I could suggest that you are hopelessly negative but this board has requested that we refrain from personal comments and stick to discussing the topic.

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This just in from Borderland Beat and Drudge:

Mexican marines captured Sergio Villarreal Barragan in the city of Puebla, east of Mexico City, a presumed leader of the embattled Beltran Leyva cartel who appears on a list of the country's most-wanted fugitives, in a raid.

The navy said Mr Villarreal was arrested "without a shot being fired" following an intelligence operation. The alleged capo known as "El Grande" did not put up any resistance when he was arrested along with two accomplices, a navy official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy. Authorities also recovered weapons and armed vehicles in the operation.

http://www.borderlandbeat.com/

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