Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Mexican tourism office has started a new advertising campaign to promote
tourism from Canada. It’s frightening to think that many of the destinations
promoted are in the middle up in one of the worst waves of violence Mexico has
ever known.

There’s almost no news about Mexico in Canadian newspapers or electronic media.
Even the CBC has not covered the horrific events from the past few months.

Here’s a short overview.

  • There are 3 “super-cartels” and a number of smaller criminal associations. Two of the biggest cartels are involved in bloody war of attrition. The other gangs and groups are
    “used by the two bigger cartels” to complete various tasks AND/OR the lesser groups hope to ally with one or sometimes both of the bigger sides.
  • The most powerful drug cartels in Mexico (at least a 30 billion dollar per year enterprise) have been “readjusting” since August or September 2004. That’s when one of the most notorious drug lords escalated things by arranging the assassination of the youngest brother of a powerful ally AND simultaneously making a move to control the multilane
    crossings at Laredo. That border crossing, expanded to handle NAFTA traffic reaches 80% of the American drug market in the mideast and east.
  • The most powerful cartel/association has been called the Federation by American intelligence sources. It is an alliance of leaders born in the state of Sinaloa and led by Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, & Juan Jose“El Azul” Esparragoza: for many years it also developed powerful alliances with the Carrillo Fuente family that
    controlled Juarez (El Paso), and a ruthless group of hitmen (sicarios) assembled by the Beltran Leyva brothers.
    • The Federation is engaged in a bloody battle with the two next-largest
      cartels: The association  located in the west (Tijuana) is directed by another family from Sinaloa — the
      Arrellano-Felix clan. The roots of this “turf war” go back to
      at least the 1990’s and the break-up of the Guadalajara cartel, and has
      elements of a family blood-feud between the members of the Federation.
      The roots of the quarrel lay in “turf” battles for control  of the American Pacific Coast (California) market. The Arrellano-Felix family refused to “share” turf with the young “Shorty” Guzman after a top-level council meeting in Acapulco had “divided” up the country upon the orders of Miguel Angel “El Padrino” Felix Gallardo. Eventually, the Federation — led by Shorty Guzman— struck back at the Tijuana based
      Arrellano-Felix brothers by invading the turf and the feud has been
      simmering since then.

    • The
      biggest wars that the Federation currently has are with the Gulf Cartel.
      It is primarily located in the northeast (Matamoros-Brownsville), and it
      became very strong at the end of the 1990’s under the direction of a man
      called “Killer of Friends-MataAmigos” —Osiel Cardenas-Guillen. The
      Federation, following the initiative of Shorty Guzman decided to move in
      on the turf on either side of Laredo/Nuevo Laredo border region (more
      than 8,000 trucks pass through here each day). It started a bloody “turf
      war” with Cardenas-Guillen, and he responded by recruiting at least 30
      army deserters from an elite Mexican Anti-Terrorism task force. This
      group, now led by “El Lazca” Lazcano and Eduardo “El Cos” Costilla
      Sanchez began a war that escalated in degrees of brutality and bloodshed.
      The Sinaloa based Federation responded by creating its own paramilitary
      force headed by Alfredo “El Mochomo” (
      ferocious ant
      ) Beltran-Leyva: El Mochomo recruited, trained and
      equipped at least two different gangs of killers counteract the
      Zetas— including one called “los pelones” - t
      ranslated close to the idea of skinheads. The initial
      battleground was Laredo and Nuevo Laredo — many of the hitmen were
      American born. In fact, Osiel Cardenas Guillen was eventually arrested in
      a high profile capture and extraditited to the US because a case can be
      made that he is American.

  • A number of smaller violent
    organizations have come into play in the current bloodshed. Some are
    looking for work with either of the larger cartels (primarily as
    assassins). The Gulf cartel started this “recruitment trend” by seeking
    out the Mexican army deserters (GAFES) trained in counter-terrorism
    techniques (at the school of the Americas) and who had access to powerful
    weaponry. What they didn’t have, Osiel Cardenas Guillen had obtained for
    them from the US and from Europe. There is evidence that an elite force of
    military from Guatemala—
    have also been recruited and are fighting along side the
    Zetas. Other cartels, primarily the Federation, formed counter-defensive
    “mercenary armies” and heavily recruited from among the heavily tatooed
    Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and other street gangs in the south. Some
    “independent” gangs emerged such as “La Familia” and these appear to be
    aligning with the Gulf-Zetas— but this isn’t clear. La Familia has
    also migrated to some cities in central Mexico and have begun their own
    recruiting campaign; there are suggestions that they sense a power vacuum
    and are hoping to take over. In a way, this group seems to play a role
    much like the Hell’s Angels.

  • The main prize at stake in
    the current wave of violence and bloody dispute are the control shipping
    routes into the lucrative US drug market, especially those at Laredo. But
    the battle has also moved to other parts of Mexico where drugs are
    “collected” and “produced”. Another part of the turf war focuses on
    “manufactured” drugs such as crystal meth, ecstasy etc. After the US
    cracked down on crystal meth labs in the US, and the drug lords in Mexico
    formed alliances with other groups such as the Amezcua Contreras family
    who had been producing them in central Mexico. But after the US closed
    down many labs with its borders, the level of production in Mexico jumped
    geometrically. The States of Michoacan, Guerrero, Vera Cruz, Yucatan and
    Coahuila are particularly vulnerable because they are both centres of
    synthetic drug production AND important cross-roads for the transit of
    cocaine through Mexico. Mexico is the principle “trampoline” for Colombian
    cocaine, and as much as 90% of all cocaine in the US has passed through
    Mexico moved by the cartels in Mexico.  And shipments of precursor
    drugs from China (and supplied by the Triads) have made the manufacture of
    drugs relatively easy and profitable — and made several states
    important battleground in the drug war (Michoacan and Guerrero in

  • President Felipe Calderon responded
    to an increase in violence by deploying the army to fight the drug wars
    (the army can only be used to “eradicate” crops according to the Mexican
    Constitution). This use of the army is recognized by most people as a
    major miscalculation and unleashed an even bloodier reaction from the
    cartels. Calderon also appointed army-generals to manage “homeland
    security” and lead the attorney-general office. These men relied on only a
    military strategy for fighting the battle against drugs, and the result
    was a bloody increase in violence. For instance, the federal forces made a
    high publicity arrest in Culiacan of Alfredo “El Mochomo”
     Beltran-Leyva. Prior to his arrest, he walked about the streets with
    impunity and was an untouchable. After the arrest, his older brother,
    Arturo Beltran Leyva claimed that El Mochomo had been set up and was a
    “chivo expiatorio/sacrificial lamb”. In particular, he blamed Shorty
    Guzman for “offering up his brother” in return for immunity and freedom to
    carry on untouched. Beltran-Leyva made a public and bloody break with his
    former allies in the Federation by killing 9 policemen in one day—
    all of whom he believed were involved the “conspiracy to protect” Guzman.
    Then Arturo arranged to kill the number 3 man (Edgar Millan) in the Federal
    Justice department by executing him in his home, and also contracted with
    a criminal gang in Mexico city to plant a bomb in the Justice Department
    headquarters (the bomb exploded prematurely in downtown Mexico city). The
    Beltran-Leyvas have since formed an alliance (of sorts) with the
    paramilitary Zetas and have been executing their mutual enemies; their
    trade-mark is “beheading”. The Federation has beena fighting back and has
    recruited a new generation of hitmen and has supplied them with heavy armaments—
    far more powerful than anything that the Mexican army or local police
    possess. Most of these armaments are smuggled from the US.

  • A number of smaller, but very
    dangerous gangs have made attempts to ally themselves with one and
    sometimes both of the major cartels  (i.e. With either/or the
    Federation or the Gulf). The two most notorious gangs are the Mara
    Salvatrucha in the south of Mexico (and with Los Angeles ties) and another
    gang called “La Famila” in the centre of the country. These gangs are the
    street-thugs and low level operatives. The most violent gang at the moment
    seem to be “La Familia” who have apparently sensed an opportunity to move
    into some of the larger cities and establish their presence. All of these
    gangs, La Familia, Los Zetas, Los Pelones are actively recruiting young
    and unemployed men for the wars. There is some evidence that recruitment
    in “mercenary magazines” is taking place.

  • On a different level, there
    is also some evidence that the cartels in Mexico are strengthening their
    international connections to other mafias. Today, the DEA announced the
    arrest of 175 men who were working closely with the Sicilian N’Drangheta (
    Shorty Guzman has worked with Chinese triads (a man named Ye Gong was
    connected to him and was arrested in the US), and Guzman has apparently
    developed strong connections to synthetic drug manufacturers in Argentina;
    last month, three high profile businessmen with shady backgrounds and
    links to Guzman were murdered; they have also been connected to the
    President and former president (the Kirschners)

These stories and events are not reported are relatively unknown outside of a
few border areas in the US (El Paso, Laredo). And there are clear indications
that things will get worse before they get better. At the end of August, 12
decapitated bodies were discovered in the Yucatan (and the gruesome videos
posted to On Monday night the 15th, during the traditional Mexican
Independence “
grito”, fragment
grenades were tossed into the festive. Seven innocent people were killed and at
least 130 seriously injured. That happened in Morelia, Michoacan, the home-town
of President Calderon and the first State where he sent the army to control
drug crime. The grenade incident has been linked to narco-traffic. It’s alleged
that La Familia carried out the act — although this is still
unconfirmed— and La Familia members are blaming the Zetas.

The attached document is a time-line analysis from El Universal (Sept. 18) that
describes the patterns of escalating violence.

Atentados en

Los narcos tope
otro límite

Explosions in

the narcos break
another barrier

Alejandro Jiménez

September 18, 2008

La saña en las ejecuciones perpetradas por
grupos de narcotraficantes es ascendente y no parece tener límite.

The brutality of executions by
narcotrafickers is rising and appears to have no limits.

En menos de siete años, se pasó de
ejecuciones callejeras a plena luz del día —lo que parecía
inconcebible— a la costumbre de ver cadáveres encobijados; de ahí, se
pasó a las videoejecuciones y a las decapitaciones. El lunes se llegó ya al
atentado con granadas contra personas inocentes en una reunión pública y

In less than seven years, they’ve gone from
murdering people in broad daylight — something inconceivable at that
time — to routinely of dumping bodies wrapped in blankets; and from they’ve
moved on to video-executions and decapitations. And on Monday they exploded grenades
among a large crowd of innocent people.

Su fin era intimidar a grupos rivales,
atemorizar a la población civil y mandar mensajes de su poderío a los tres
niveles de gobierno.

The intent was to intimidate rival groups,
terrorize civil society and send a message of narco power to the three levels
of government.

La tendencia comenzó a finales de la década
de los 90, con ejecuciones callejeras de mandos policiales en el norte del
país, que escandalizaron a la opinión pública.

The trend began at the end of 1990’s, when
street executions of police in the north of the country scandalized public

Después siguieron los múltiples casos de
personas encajueladas en autos. Se siguió con el encobijamiento de cadáveres.
Las víctimas eran, por lo general, miembros de cárteles rivales.

Afterwards they followed up by executing
several people and leaving them in car trunks. Dumping “shrouded” bodies came
next. Victims, for the most part, were rival cartel members.

En 2001, la suma de ejecuciones ligadas al
crimen organizado fue de mil 800. Para 2004, el número ascendió a mil 304.
Fue entonces que la violencia y saña se volvieron imparables.

In 2001, the number of executions linked to
organized crime were3 1,800. By 2004, the number had risen to 1,304 (sic). It
was then that the violence and brutality became unstoppable.

El 1 de diciembre de 2005, la delincuencia
cruzó sus propios límites de violencia mediante las videoejecuciones. Ese
día, el periódico The Dallas Morning News difundió en su portal un video, en
el que se veía la ejecución de cuatro integrantes de Los Zetas, torturados y
asesinados ante las cámaras.

By December 1, 2005, crime exceeded its own
boundaries of violence with the video-executions. That day, the Dallas
Morning News published a video on its website showing the execution of 4
members of Los Zetas, tortured and assassinated in front of cameras.

En 2006 se rompió otra marca: aparecieron
las cabezas de dos policías municipales clavadas frente a la representación
de la Secretaría de Finanzas.

In 2006 the broke another barrier: the
heads of 2 municipal police nailed in front of an office of the Secretary of

Puesto el ejemplo de las decapitaciones, La
Familia de Michoacán arrojó cinco cabezas dentro de un bar de Uruapan, en
septiembre de 2006. Desde entonces no han dejado de aparecer cuerpos

It unleashed more decapitations, “The Family of Michoacan” rolled 5 heads
into a bar in Uruapan in September 2006. Since then, there’s been no end to
the appearance of mutilated bodies.

El peor de los videos fue uno llamado “Haz
patria, mata a un zeta”, difundido en YouTube durante los primeros días de
abril de 2007, en el que se ve la decapitación, con un alambre, de otro
presunto integrante de Los Zetas.

The worst of the videos was one called
“Save the country, kill a zeta”, uploaded to YouTube during the first days of
April 2007. It showed the decapitation with barbed wire of an alleged member
of Los Zetas.

En 2008 se han rebasado nuevos límites. El
16 de agosto, en Chihuahua, un comando del cártel de Juárez acribilló a 14
personas — entre ellas un bebé—. Sin más, entraron a masacrar a
todos los presentes en un bautizo.

In 2008 they had sunk to new lows. On the
th of August, in Chihuahua, a leader of the Juarez Cartel gunned
down 14 people — including a baby. Even worse, they invaded and killed
them all during a baptism.

El 28 de agosto fueron hallados una docena
de cuerpos decapitados en Yucatán.

On the 28th of August, a dozen
decapitated heads were found in the Yucatan.

El viernes pasado fueron halladas en La
Marquesa los cadáveres de 24 personas.

Last Friday, the remains of 24 people were
discovered in La Marquesa.

El lunes pasado, dos granadas de
fragmentación fueron arrojadas en Morelia, durante la ceremonia del grito de
Independencia, con saldo de siete personas muertas y 132 de heridos. Ya no
sólo se atentó contra elementos de bandas rivales, sino contra la población
civil. Rompieron un límite más.

And last Monday, 2 fragmenting grenades
were tossed in Morelia during the Independence Day “Call to Freedom” and
seven people were left dead and 132 wouned. Now, they’re not only blowing up
members of rival bands, but they’re attacking ordinary people. They’ve broken
another barrier.

En lo que va del año se han registrado 3
mil 227 ejecuciones, cuando aún faltan tres meses y medio para que termine

So far this year there have been 3, 227
executions recorded, and there are still 3 ½ months left in the year.

© Queda expresamente
prohibida la republicación o redistribución, parcial o total, de todos los
contenidos de EL UNIVERSAL