Review – Mexican Cartel Essays and Notes

Police take a suspected drug trafficker off a helicopter

Police take a suspected drug trafficker off a helicopter in Hermosillo in the state of Sonora, Mexico. Photo: Knight Foundation/flickr.

Mexican Cartel Essays and Notes is a collection of twenty-three Small Wars Journal (SWJ) articles supplemented by operational and tactical notes covering a variety of cartel-related subjects. With a preface by Major General (ret) Robert Scales and foreword by Texas Agricultural Commissioner Todd Staples, this volume, edited by Robert J. Bunker, collates much of the extant material and analysis available on the Mexican drug cartels published in the El Centro section of the SWJ between 27 May 2011 and 30 November 2012. Mexican Cartel Essays and Notes follows an initial anthology, Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency (May 2012). It paints a consolidated picture of the effects cartels have on governments and social constructs. The influence of cartels on all aspects of Mexican life, and their ever-expanding influence on life in the Border States and deeper into the U.S. is frightening when viewed in context and within a single volume.
Dr. Bunker’s innovative approach and selected content reflect deep concern with the growing threat posed by cartels in light of the U.S.’s failure to provide secure borders for its citizens and states. Through the volume’s consolidation of the works of thirty-two contributing authors, the perspectives and analyses of the cartel problem therein are wide ranging, covering various issues such as diversified income streams, cartel conflicts with U.S. law enforcement, human trafficking, and government corruption. Fundamental to such an approach is the desire to produce a centralized source of information that can be utilized by multiple stakeholders: policy makers to inform decision making; academics to draw on for future research; and educators to inculcate the long-standing Mexican cartel problem into discussions on the realities of transnational crime, human and narcotics trafficking, and the spread of violence and corruption across international boundaries. » More

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Three Strikes Against the Drug War

Drugs

Drugs, Colombia, 2010. Photo: Galería de ► Bee, like bees! <3/flickr.

MEXICO CITY – The last two months have witnessed more far-reaching changes on the drug-policy scene in Latin America and the United States than in all previous decades combined. Three fundamental shifts have occurred, each of which would be important on its own; taken together, they may be a game-changer that finally ends the hemisphere’s failed war on drugs.

First and foremost were the referenda on marijuana legalization in the US states of Colorado and Washington on November 6. For the first time, voters in the country that is the world’s largest consumer of illicit drugs in general, and marijuana in particular, approved propositions legalizing possession, production, and distribution of cannabis – and by relatively broad margins.

While a similar initiative failed in Oregon, and Proposition 19 (which called for limited legalization of cannabis) was defeated in California in 2010 (by seven percentage points), the outcome in Colorado and Washington sent a powerful message to the rest of the US. The results have not only created a conflict between US federal law and state legislation, but also signal a shift in attitudes not dissimilar to that concerning same-sex marriage. » More

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Mexico, USA: Who Will Pay the Price for Wal-Mart’s Corruption?

President Calderon with Walmart CEO

President Calderon (right) met with Walmart CEO Michael T. Duke in Cartagena, Colombia in April 2012 and his office issued a statement and this photo.

There have been better times to be associated with Wal-Mart. In 2011, for example, it was named in the top 10 most transparent corporations in Mexico [ES]. Yet one of the world’s largest corporations is taking a hit after evidence surfaced that their Mexican subsidiary paid US$24 million in bribes to Mexican officials between 2002 and 2005. According to an investigation by the New York Times, Wal-Mart has kept this information quiet since 2005, when a former employee in Mexico blew the whistle. Taking every opportunity to call out bad practices at the company, Wal-Mart reform advocacy and employee groups jumped on the scandal, calling on Wal-Mart’s CEO to resign in an online petition started by Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart (Our Wal-Mart) on Change.org. » More

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Winds of Change Reaching Mexico’s Drug Policy?

Image: courtesy of Bulls Press

The ISN’s Editorial Plan coverage of increased global interdependence provides an opportunity to take a look at the Mexican drug cartels and their security threat beyond the country’s borders. Only last month, Mexican marines arrested five suspected members of Los Zetas, one of the two most powerful and dangerous cartels that dominate the Mexican drug war. However, enthusiasm about this remains dampened since success in capturing or killing high-ranked drug traffickers hasn’t had any effect on the level of violence in the country.

When President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, he announced an aggressive military–led strategy against the drug cartels, totally in line with the American declared “war on drugs”. The extensive use of military forces to support the weak police system has however caused a rise in the number of reported human rights violations committed by the army and led to an increasingly violent war, which has resulted in an estimated 45,000 of deaths since 2006.

Many Mexicans have come to believe that Calderon has lost the fight against the cartels. The consequences of this are tremendous for the Mexican society and state. But as we now, transnational organized crime has also broader effects across countries. The United State particularly suffers from the increased power of the drug cartels in Mexico. A weakened Mexican state facilitates not only the flow of drugs, but also of weapons, money and illegal immigrants, which makes it more difficult for the US to control the border. » More

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Mexico: The Absurd Theater of War

The Peace Gun

The Peace Gun, photo: Gary Denness/flickr

In warfare the term “theater” is used for the specific area where war is taking place. In Mexico “theater of the absurd” could be used for the strange and incongruous aspects that the drug war has introduced in people’s lives.

At the beginning of January 2011 the Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research published its yearly assessment and rated Mexico as one of the world’s six most violent nations. Judging by the conflict barometer’s criteria, Mexico is indeed a country at war. In 2010 the situation worsened considerably: There were more than 12,000 drug-related killings and Monterrey, Mexico’s wealthiest city, also succumbed to the drug war.

But does the conflict level in Mexico feel like the one reported in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq or Sudan? It actually does not. It is as if the war is a game of hide-and-seek with the country’s citizens. It is going on “behind” open eyes: Constantly present – in low-income neighborhoods, suburbs or on highways leading North – yet when one turns round, there are only traces to be seen. The effects of this latent violence are bitter and its psychological consequences profound. » More

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