Oct 12, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Oct. 7-13, 2011

This week continues with the debate on whether it is possible to distinquish "lesser evil" from "greater evil" cartels, to consider a strategy of leaving the "lesser evil" alone while going after the "greater".  This relates to the emerging narrative that the drug war is boiling down to a confrontation between the "lesser evil" Sinaloa cartel and the "greater evil" Zetas.

Drug war news also includes: more on the struggle of teachers in Acapulco to obtain security from the state of Guerrero, how virtually unlimited ammunition shipments from the U.S. supply the cartels, how the strategy of extraditing cartel leaders to the U.S. for trial and imprisonment may actually feed cartel violence, how the cartels have expanded into previously quiet Belize and how the new Mexico federal police -- touted to be the answer to corrupt state and local police -- are losing recruits almost as fast as they are hired. 

Finally, we present two commentaries on the alleged 'Iran-Zetas plot' that has received so much media attention this week. The Americas Program commentary finds the allegations contradictory and weak, and warns that they serve to strengthen a growing redefinition of cartels as "terrorists" among hawks in Washington, while InSight Crime pokes holes in the logic and the details of the plot itself.

On the immigration front, an internal report from Immigration and Customs Enforcement paints a picture of neglect and abuse of detainees inside the nation's immigration detention system, which is run primarily by private contractors and local governments.

Drug War

The Myth of a 'Good Guy' Drug Cartel in Mexico

InSight Crime: Oct. 7, "The use of coy vigilante messages ("I killed them to protect you") is a fixture in the Mexican cartel conflicts. Some groups -- notably the big Sinaloa Cartel (but less so the rapacious Zetas) -- seek to curry public favor by claiming that hits on rivals are done to safeguard the citizenry. In analyst jargon, the Sinaloa Cartel has long presented itself as being only a "transactional" drug smuggling corporation (i.e., seeking only to smuggle drugs through Mexico and not prey directly on Mexican citizens), while the Zetas, using naked force, make no bones about being a "territorial" cartel (claiming ownership of everyone and everything on Zeta turf, and mercilessly exacting tribute).

When put that way, the best option for Mexico might seem clear: Leave the good-guy smugglers alone to clean up the bad-guy predators, in hopes of an imperfect peace."
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Thousands of teachers protest crime in Acapulco
Fox News Latino: Oct. 7, " Nearly 5,000 teachers took to the streets of the Mexican Pacific resort city of Acapulco to demand that officials provide protection for them in the wake of threats from criminal organizations. The teachers, who belong to Guerrero state's CETEG education union, have stayed away from their classrooms since August due to fears that criminals running protection rackets might harm them for failing to pay.

Hundreds of schools reopened Monday after army troops set up checkpoints near the buildings, but CETEG said many remain closed. ... The march Wednesday snaked its way from the Glorieta de Diana Cazadora to the main plaza, where a meeting took place."
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Smuggled U.S. ammo feeds drug wars
USATODAY.com: Oct. 9, "In Mexico, ammunition is strictly regulated and possession of even a single illegal round can lead to prison. But there is nonetheless a steady supply of bullets. Almost all of it comes from the north. Hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition are purchased each year from online retailers, big-box stores and at gun shows in Arizona and other Southwest border states, then are smuggled across the border.

"It's all coming from the U.S.," said Jose Wall, senior trafficking agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix. "I can't remember where I've seen ammunition from anywhere but the U.S.""

Legal treatment may be worse than drug cartel plague
San Antonio Express-News: Oct. 9, "Shipping Mexican cartel leaders to U.S. judges might score immediate hits and headlines. But it might make affairs more dangerous in the long run, as the leaderless organizations splinter into violent offshoots competing over more fragmented turf. And there is some question whether extradition really is bringing the two nations closer to a successful end of their multibillion-dollar shared struggle."

Cartels find new drug haven in Belize
GlobalPost: Oct. 11, "On Sept. 15, U.S. President Barack Obama added Belize to the so-called “black list” of countries considered major drug-producing states or transit nations for narcotics, a recognition that Belize is a growing entry point to Mexico for the billion-dollar cocaine pipeline that runs from South America to U.S. consumers."

Mexican Federal Cops Quitting Nearly as Fast as They Join
InSight Crime: Oct. 11, "Data from Mexico's Federal Institute for Access to Public Information (IFAI) says that in the past four years, eight out of every 10 federal police officers left the force. Reasons range from retirement to injury to death. However, the largest number of inactive officers voluntarily resigned.

El Universal reports that out of the 8,327 officers who passed their entrance exams between 2007 and 2010, over 6,000 of them have since become inactive. A little over 400 were killed, while 5,890 quit. The number of officers who quit between 2007 and 2009 tripled, rising from 662 to 2,170."

The Cockamamie Iran-Mexico Terrorist Plot 
Americas MexicoBlog: Oct. 13, "On close examination, the plot thins. It turns out that the Zeta connection never was a connection with the Zetas, but a direct connection between the bumbling Iranian car salesman supposedly masterminding the multiple terrorist attacks and a DEA informant.

The Zetas have no record of engaging in international terrorist activities or anything having to do with geopolitics. The reasons they would divert attention from their efforts to increase their share of a multi-million dollar drug trade for a $1.5 million-dollar international hit man job are more than unclear. Why they'd be interested in bombing Israeli embassies utterly defies explanation according to what we know of cartel activities. Risking a major challenge to the U.S. government is also not high on their list of priorities."

'Iran-Zetas Plot' Reveals Sketchy Knowledge of Mexican Underworld
InSight Crime: Oct. 13, "The alleged Iranian plot to pay the Zetas drug gang to murder a Washington ambassador sounds like the idea of someone who has little knowledge and even less contact with criminal groups in Mexico.

The story would be almost comical, if it did not threaten to destabilize the Middle East. It is filled with holes, beginning with the Iranian spies who, if the U.S. is to be believed, did not do their homework about undercover operations or the Zetas or Mexico or drug trafficking or criminal groups, or indeed much of anything."


ICE paints bleak picture of detention system
Houston Chronicle: Oct. 10, "ICE officials say they have taken unprecedented steps to improve detainee care, including creating an aggressive inspection and monitoring system designed to hold accountable the private contractors and local governments that run detention facilities.

However, more than 1,000 pages of internal reports from ICE's Office of Detention Oversight, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, paint an often bleak picture of the inside of the nation's immigration detention system, with detainees in some facilities lacking access to quality medical care or even clean underwear."

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