čtvrtek 13. ledna 2011

Cracking down cartels in Mexico: the origins of a four years war

By Luis Reyes**

On December 1st, 2006, Felipe Calderón was sworn in the middle of thunderous boos from sympathizers of the defeated leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, at the Chamber of Deputies. After the polemic victory of less than 1 % between the former and the later – as ruled by the Federal Electoral Tribunal – there was the perception among a considerable sector of public opinion and even in the media that the court decision reflected a legal but not legitimate election.
Ironically, eighteen years earlier a similar situation was faced by Carlos Salinas de Gortari when a social movement opposed to the officialist Party-State system crystallized as an electoral proposal in the person of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. However, in spite of the newly democratic efforts led by the opposition the final result was a hardly credible victory of Salinas with 50 % of total votes. The new president emanated from the system faced a lack of legitimacy encouraged by the awakening of democracy among society, and therefore needed urgently to recover it in a country where the regime’s power was eroding.
A feasible solution was to put in jail the powerful PEMEX-oiler’s union mythical leader, Joaquín Hernández Galicia, whose image was unreliable for many Mexicans and the presidential action attempted to be seen as a way of democratic change that would fight institutional corruption. In addition, the executive got rid of a character with whom he had serious disagreements in the past.
Unlike what happened before during Salinas’ administration, Calderón had no one to hit without dirtying his own image or his party. The only possible characters to be “sacrificed”, as considered by many analysts, were the sons of Martha Sahagún – former first lady – for being suspicious of illicit enrichment during Vicente Fox administration, their stepfather. At the end, there was a possible solution for discredit brought to presidential image by killing two birds with one stone. He would comply with campaign promises of firm hand against delinquency while sharing part of the prestige enjoyed by the armed forces as one of the most trustable institutions in Mexico. After all, the crusade seemed to worth it.
Another negative outcome to consider is the tactical nature of alliances among cartels depending on the balance of forces. Also, it must be accepted the fact that vertical command in criminal organizations allows certain discipline of their gun-shooters. With each strong attack the federal government achieves over a certain cartel’s head, an atomization comes after, dividing the former big or medium-size organization into smaller cells that will rivalize against each other to control a place or get a greater market share; besides, it will make it harder to the armed forces to target and fight many groups, leaving them in a dilemma of choosing priorities with limited human resources.However, the strategy has suffered from its original sin – comments apart – considering there was not a full detailed scheme of current and future implications when the war against organized crime was launched. The reference to “organized” is important since the battle among government and cartels cannot be understood only in terms of drug trafficking as other illicit activities are part of the shares criminal bands receive. Kidnapping, slave trade, forced prostitution, piracy, and infant pornography are within the top illegal sources of profits.
Going back to the necessary detailed plan already pointed out, it is important to mention key variables for which specific actions should be included in the strategy before launching it. If the initial idea was to hit the criminal structure, then, discussion could be focused on finances and money laundering, poverty as a source of crime, in-depth institutional corruption, and historical experience in similar countries. In addition, there could be a wider prospective vision of the possible outcomes from fighting cartels, in particular taking into consideration previous experience, such as the typical cockroach effect that takes place when armed forces arrive to a city or state. It usually happens that criminal bands flee to neighbor states or nearby cities resulting in the cleaning of one place at the expense of contaminating others with the arrival of drug dealers running away from militarized regions.
Thus, after four years of domestic combat between criminals and federal security forces and more than 30,000 deaths – according to official figures – on both bands the situation has come to a critical moment that requires rethinking the approach of the crackdown strategy. The indispensable cooperation from the governments of states and Federal District falls in the same direction, which implies affecting interests of regional officials linked to drug trafficking and other profitable crimes. This may be the hottest factor that federal government tries to avoid, but it is crucial to dismantle the corruption network within institutions.
What authorities forget – or would like to at this point – is that previous popular support is sine qua non condition before launching a crusade against a criminal apparatus that has penetrated so deeply in society. It was a mistake to think that a campaign against drug trafficking would give legitimacy, when legitimacy itself was necessary in advance to have chances of success in the battle. Ironically, the idea that was supposed to erase the polemic left by 2006 election has become a source of popular discontent against the crusader.
It is the intention from now on to discuss the issue, addressing it from multiple perspectives and pointing out key variables, thus contributing to a more holistic understanding of the different elements that shape the so called narco* phenomenon. The aim is to delve into the subject in future deliveries.

*In Mexico it is usual to hear the word narco, which comes from Narcotics. Therefore, it is related to every activity or character involved in drug trafficking or narcotráfico as it is usually called by Mexicans.
For recent information in regards to the balance of war against cartels please read:

** Deliberación digital Magazine. Editorial board member.
Internationalist and candidate for Master in Economics and Public Policy at Technological Institute and Higher Education of Monterrey.

1) Felipe Calderón and Secretary of Defense, General Guillermo Galván (http://www.internationalist.org/mexicomilitarizacion0903.html)
2) http://www.tercerainformacion.es/spip.php?article12949
3) http://www.arietecaborca.com/wp-content/uploads/cache/9966_NpAdvSinglePhoto.jpg

1 komentář:

Hubert Smekal řekl(a)...

Tento článek vznikl díky spolupráci s mexickým blogem www.deliberacion.org. Každý měsíc by měli mexičtí autoři přispět jedním textem. Téma můžete výrazně ovlivnit i vy, stačí, když mi napíšete na mail (hubert.smekal@gmail.com), co byste si rádi z Mexika přečetli.