Oct 28, 2011

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: October 21-27, 2011

Drug War news in Mexico focused this week on several debates about strategy. 
  • The first regards the presence of US agents in Mexico and DEA use of Mexican informants to infiltrate the cartels.
  • The second is whether or not Mexico's shifting its armed forces from crop eradication--their traditional task--to attacking cartels in urban warfare has led to an increase in marijuana and opium production. 
  • The third regards research showing that concentrating military and police in areas of violence results in the cartel battles moving to new territory. 
Also, research sponsored by the Department of Defense and published by the Rand Corporation gives us a look into how the Department of Defense is evaluating whether the drug war in Mexico meets criteria for being an insurgency.

Violence against Mexican women received attention with the bestowing of a human rights award on the journalist and women's rights activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro.

Regarding Mexican politics, there is a close look at the dynamics of the resurgence of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the rise of its likely presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.

On the immigration front, two stories portray some of the impact of Alabama's crackdown law: U.S. citizens don't want to do the hard work of field hands and a Jewish deli owner gets hate mail and boycott threats because he defends immigrants who have legal status. And, finally, a report on the decades-long waiting times required for potential immigrants to obtain visas to the U.S.

Drug War 

U.S. Infiltrating Criminal Groups Across Mexico 
NYTimes.com: Oct. 24, "American law enforcement agencies have significantly built up networks of Mexican informants that have allowed them to secretly infiltrate some of that country’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations, according to security officials on both sides of the border.

As the United States has opened new law enforcement and intelligence outposts across Mexico in recent years, Washington’s networks of informants have grown there as well, current and former officials said. They have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle." read more

Mexico’s drug war bypassing marijuana and opium growers 
The Washington Post: Oct. 21, " The Mexican government is allowing domestic marijuana and opium poppy production to climb to record levels, as soldiers who once cut and burned illegal crops here in the vast Sierra Madre mountains are being redeployed to cities to wage urban warfare against criminal gangs.

Since President Felipe Calderon ordered his troops into the streets in late 2006, the acreage dedicated to marijuana farming has nearly doubled in Mexico, according to technical reports by the U.S. government and United Nations, data provided by the Mexican military, and interviews with law enforcement agents and growers. The acreage devoted to opium poppies has also soared, according to the U.S. State Department, making Mexico the second-leading heroin producer in the world, after Afghanistan." read more

Questioning Washington Post's Theory that Distracted Army Equals More Drugs
InSight Crime: Oct. 26, "The Washington Post argues that Mexico's policy of deploying the military to address violence and insecurity has taken the focus off efforts to eradicate illegal marijuana and poppy cultivation, but the criticism is based on flawed premises.

Mexico’s share of the U.S. drug supply market has been growing for years, long before any major troop redeployment by President Calderon, meaning that the country’s eradication policy only partially explains supply market trends. There are a number of other factors that affect drug supply in Mexico, not the least of which is demand for drugs." read more

Release of Mexico Government Homicide Data Reveals "Cockroach Effect" 
InSight Crime: Oct. 24, "Mexico’s federal government has published its statistics regarding homicides in 2011, allowing for a glimpse at the changing state of public security within the nation ... One of the states with the sharpest spikes in murders was Guerrero (and) leading the trend in Guerrero is Acapulco. ... Another region where the violence has spiked is Nuevo Leon. ... The current violence is largely centered around the Monterrey metro area. ... But while the news is bad in the regions mentioned above, other areas have experienced a significant lessening of violence. The foremost is Juarez,... in Chihuahua.

... Taken together, the picture is one of a nation growing slightly more violent, with the violence growing significantly more dispersed. ... This dynamic has long been predicted by the so-called cockroach effect, which holds that the government cracking down in one region will, at best, lead to the criminal actors scurrying to other locales. ... which means that nationwide impact of flooding a specific area with law enforcement could be negative, even with a positive local impact. read more

The Challenge of Violent Drug-Trafficking Organizations
Rand Corporation: Oct. 26, "... this monograph offers an assessment of the contemporary security situation in Mexico through the lens of existing RAND research on related issues. Specifically, we considered three strands of existing research: work on urban instability and unrest, the historical study of insurgency, and research on defense-sector reform.

The Urban Flashpoints Scorecard Shows That Mexican Border Cities Are Highly Vulnerable to Continued Unrest. The Counterinsurgency Scorecard Places Mexico Between Historical Winners and Losers and Reveals That Contemporary Mexico Is Not Unlike the First Phase of Several Historical Insurgencies. The Defense Sector Assessment Rating Tool Indicates That the Ability to Control Corruption Is Perceived as Weak, as Are Mexico’s Policing Capabilities. " read more

Violence Against Women 

Mexican Women Reject Normalisation of Gender Violence 
IPS ipsnews.net: Oct. 24, "Ninety percent of the non-governmental organisations in Mexico are founded and run by women, says journalist and women's rights activist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, making them primary targets of violence, including spillover from Mexico's escalating drug wars. Cacho was recently in New York, where she was awarded the Civil Courage award from the Train Foundation

Human rights abuses and violence against women are widespread in Mexico, perpetrated by all actors in society, including the military and police. Nine out of 10 women in Mexico who suffer human rights violations do not report it to the authorities, and those who (do) report them are generally met with suspicion, apathy and disrespect.  read more

Mexico Politics

The Rise of Enrique Peña Nieto and Return of the PRI 
Center for Strategic and International Studies: Oct. 25, "The rise of Peña Nieto and the return of the PRI as Mexico’s dominant political party cannot be studied in isolation from each other. Both are important factors in defining the shape of the 2012 election campaign." read more


After Alabama Immigration Law, Few Americans Want Immigrants' Work
Huffington Post: Oct. 21, "Potato farmer Keith Smith saw most of his immigrant workers leave after Alabama's tough immigration law took effect, so he hired Americans. It hasn't worked out: Most show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch or by midafternoon. Some quit after a single day." read more

Alabama Deli Owner Defends Documented Latinos, Receives Boycott Threats 
Huffington Post: Oct. 21, "When Alabama's sweeping new immigration law went into effect last month, Birmingham businessman Steve Dubrinsky, owner of  Max's Delicatessen, realized he had a serious problem. ... He employs several Latino workers, all of whom.... provided the necessary documentation when he hired them, so he had no reason to believe they're in Alabama illegally.

And yet several of them have told Dubrinsky to start looking for replacements. ... they either have undocumented relatives who they must leave with, or they simply no longer feel comfortable as Latinos in Alabama. ... Dubrinksy was so concerned ... that he spoke to the Birmingham News ... last week.

Suddenly, Dubrinsky had much greater problems. The morning the article ran, Dubrinsky ... turned on local talk radio, only to discover that the discussion topic was Dubrinsky himself. The host and his guests were trying to decide whether or not they should boycott the deli. ... The article had been shared on an anti-immigrant website, and Dubrinsky was soon bombarded with vitriolic hate email." read more

Immigrants find legal paths to U.S. long, difficult 
USATODAY.com: Oct. 24, "Few visa categories, high expenses and processing times that can stretch decades put several obstacles along the legal road to immigration. ... According to the monthly Visa Bulletin published by the U.S. State Department, F4 visa applications filed in the Philippines before Aug. 22, 1988, are now being processed. If the family is from Mexico, the wait time is 15 years." read more

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