Aug 8, 2011

Whack-a-mole Drug War: Mexico Should Cut Hype Over Drug Gang Arrests

From 'InSight Crime'

Mexico Should Cut Hype Over Drug Gang Arrests: "Mexico’s decision to focus on combating the Zetas, the country's most brutal drug gang, has begun to deliver results, with the Defense Ministry announcing a series of heavy blows against the organization -- but the government should be careful not to oversell its successes.

According to the ministry, an operation dubbed “Lince Norte” (Northern Wildcat), delivered some flashy results: authorities confiscated 1,300 firearms, roughly half a million dollars in cash, and more than 3.5 tons of drugs. In addition, the ministry said that 30 Zeta gunmen were killed in confrontations with the government, and 12 kidnap victims were rescued. ...

The successes, such as they are, of Lince Norte are part of a newly announced government strategy of prioritizing the fight against the Zetas. As the Dallas Morning News reported in July, “The Mexican government is refocusing its drug-war strategy to take down the Zetas paramilitary cartel, a significant shift in approach that is likely to be met with increased violence...”

This shift in Mexican policy comes alongside a focus on the Zetas in the most recent U.S. organized crime strategy, also released last month by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. While the strategy does little to radically alter the tools the U.S. government has at its disposal, the fact that the Zetas are the only Mexican drug gang it mentions by name demonstrates that the group is at squarely in the middle of the Obama administration’s radar screen as well.

Whether this recent Mexican operation has any lasting impact on the Zetas remains to be seen, but the triumphant press release celebrating the operation counts against the government’s credibility to a certain degree, because the men paraded before the cameras as vital parts of the Zetas command structure are not well known figures. Describing the arrest of Quintanilla as a major blow against organized crime simply makes people distrust the government’s pronouncements.

Likewise, the U.S. government often exaggerates the effect of its anti-drug sweeps. One example is the Justice Department's breathless description of thousands of arrests in "Project Delirium" earlier this month, which they hailed as a "surgical strike" against the Mexican Familia Michoacana drug gang."

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