Friday 5 August 2011

Hit the Mexican Drug Cartels hard

The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing armed conflict taking place among rival drug cartels, who fight each other for regional control and they also fight Mexican government forces who seek to combat drug trafficking. Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for a few decades, they have become more powerful since the demise of Colombia's Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s.

Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market in the United States. Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States in which the bulk of the cartel’s customers live. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that the wholesale of illicit drug sale earnings ranges from $13.6 billion to $48.4 billion annually.

The birth of all Mexican drug cartels have been traced to former Mexican Judicial Federal Police agent Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo ('The Godfather'), who in the 1980s controlled all illegal drug trade in Mexico and the corridors across the Mexico-USA border. He started off by smuggling marijuana and opium into the U.S.A., and was the first Mexican drug capo to link up with Colombia's cocaine cartels in the 1980s. Through his connections, Félix Gallardo became the point man for the Medellin cartel, which was run by Pablo Escobar, now deceased.

There were no cartels at that time in Mexico. Félix Gallardo was the lord of Mexican drug lords. He oversaw all operations; there was just him, his cronies, and the politicians who sold him protection.

Alliances or agreements between drug cartels have been shown to be fragile, tense and temporary. Since February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas Cartel and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel‎‎; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel. Mexican drug cartels have increased their co-operation with U.S. street and prison gangs to expand their distribution networks within the U.S. Here are the main Mexican cartels.

Beltrán Leyva Cartel

The Beltrán Leyva brothers, who were formerly aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, became allies of Los Zetas Cartel in 2008. Since February 2010 they fight along Los Zetas against all other Mexican cartels. The South Pacific Cartel is a branch of the splintered Beltrán-Leyva Cartel.

La Familia Michoacana

This cartel is based in Michoacán. It was formerly allied to the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas Cartel, but has now split off and become an independent organization. In February 2010, La Familia forged an alliance with the Gulf Cartel against Los Zetas Cartel and Beltrán Leyva Cartel.

Gulf Cartel

This cartel is based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, has been one of Mexico's two dominant cartels in recent years. In the late 1990s, it hired a private mercenary army (enforcer group called Los Zetas Cartel), which in 2006 stepped up as a partner but, in February 2010, their partnership was dissolved and both groups engaged in widespread violence across several border cities of Tamaulipas state, turning several border towns into ghost towns.

Juárez Cartel

This cartel controls one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico. Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Ciudad Juárez. La Línea is a group of Mexican drug traffickers and corrupt Juárez and Chihuahua state police officers who work as the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel. Vicente Carrillo Fuentes heads the Juárez Cartel.

Los Negros

This cartel is the former armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel; it was formed to counter Los Zetas Cartel and government security forces. Los Negros now work with Edgar Valdez Villarreal's organization.

Sinaloa Cartel

This cartel began to contest the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the coveted southwest Texas corridor following the arrest of Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cárdenas in March 2003. The "Federation" was the result of a 2006 accord between several groups located in the Pacific state of Sinaloa. The cartel is led by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Mexico's most-wanted drug trafficker and whose estimated net worth of US$1 billion makes him the 701st richest man in the world, according to Forbes Magazine. In February 2010, new alliances were formed against Los Zetas Cartel and Beltran Leyva Cartel. As of May 2010, numerous reports by Mexican and US media claimed that Sinaloa had infiltrated the Mexican federal government and military, and colluded with it to destroy the other cartels. The Colima Cartel, Sonora Cartel and Milenio Cartel are now branches of the Sinaloa Cartel. Juan José Esparragoza Moreno is a Sinaloa Cartel drug lord. He is a former Mexican Federal Judicial Police officer.

Tijuana Cartel

This cartel of the Arellano-Félix family and the Tijuana Cartel, was once among Mexico's most powerful but has fallen on hard times, thanks to the arrests of several top capos. The cartel entered into a brief partnership with the Gulf Cartel. It has been the frequent target of Mexican military confrontations and might be breaking into smaller groups. The Oaxaca Cartel reportedly joined forces with the Tijuana Cartel in 2003.

Los Zetas Cartel

In 1999 the Gulf Cartel hired a group of corrupt former elite military soldiers now known as Los Zetas, who began operations as a private army for the cartel. The Zetas have been instrumental in the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the drug trade in much of Mexico and have fought to maintain the cartel’s influence in northern cities following the arrest of Osiel Cardenas. Los Zetas made a deal with ex-Sinaloa cartel commanders, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers and since February 2010 Los Zetas became rivals of their former employer/partner, the Gulf Cartel

And now, I will concentrate on one particular violent drug cartel to give you some idea of just how dangerous cartel members are.

La Línea

This cartel is a group of Mexican drug traffickers and corrupt Juárez and Chihuahua state police officers who work as the armed wing of the Juárez Cartel, which controls one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico. About 70% of the cocaine that reaches the United States flows through the El Paso–Juárez border. For more than three years, La Linea, (the line) as the Juárez drug cartel is known, has been in vicious war with the Sinaloa drug cartel for control of Juárez and other parts of Chihuahua for their lucrative drug routes into the United States.

La Línea is a ruthless gang that has been known to decapitate their rivals, mutilate their corpses and dispose of them in public to instill fear, not only in the minds of the general public, but also in the minds of local law enforcement and their rivals.

On January 30, 2010, about 12 gunmen (sicarios, Spanish for hitman) from La Línea attacked a high school birthday party with AK-47 assault rifles, killing 16 teenagers and wounding 14. Apparently, they thought that one of the students may have been an informant but they weren’t sure which one it was.

On July 16, 2010, La Linea set up a car bomb ambush in Ciudad Juárez which killed two soldiers, a police officer and a medic. Initially it was believed that C-4 explosives were used. Upon further investigation by authorities, with U.S. help, it was concluded that an industrial explosive named Tovex was used.

Mexican authorities believe that Juárez cartel lieutenant José Luis Fratello is the operative leader of La Línea. Another operative is Benjamin "Cachitas" Valerano; he is still active and believed to live and operate his drug cartel in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The cartel controls some of the main drug smuggling routes from Ciudad (City) Juarez into the United States.

José Antonio Acosta Hernández, 33, better known as "El Diego, was a top lieutenant of La Línea and was captured in a federal police operation on July 28, 2011. There was a $15 million peso ($1,275,000 USD) reward in Mexico and a $5 million USD in U.S.A. for information leading to his capture. He was a violent leader of the La Linea gang in Ciudad Juarez, the country’s most violent city which borders the US and which that city had more than 3,000 murders committed in 2010 alone.

Police in Mexico say that Hernández’s gang members work as hired killers for the Juarez cartel. He confessed to the police that he had personally ordered the murder of 1,500 people in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. He is also thought to have been behind the first known car bomb attack in Mexico’s drugs war, which killed four people last year. He is also suspected of masterminding the attack on a US consulate worker and her husband in that particular attack. US prosecutors also said they want to try him in the case of the 2010 killing of US consulate employee Lesley Enriquez, her American husband Arthur Redelfs and the husband of another consular worker, Jorge Alberto Salcedo. They were shot dead in their car after leaving a social event in the city. Ms Enriquez, 35, was four months pregnant when she died. The couple’s seven-month-old daughter survived the attack and was found crying in the back seat. Mr Salcedo was also killed in a near-simultaneous drive-by shooting as he drove away from the same event.

One thing you can be sure of is that if the Mexican authorities are willing to extradite Hernández to the United States, they can do so knowing that the killer will never be free to kill in Mexico or anywhere else again. The US has some extremely secure prisons that are absolutely escape-proof which cannot be said for Mexican prisons.

The head of Mexico’s federal police anti-drug unit Ramon Pequeno said Hernandez had also admitted to ordering the killing of 15 people, most of them teenagers, at a party in Ciudad Juarez last year.

The Mexican army has captured a man believed to be a close associate of a reputed leader in La Linea drug organization. Mexico's National Defense Secretariat said that soldiers captured Jose Guadalupe Rivas Gonzalez, alias "El Zucaritas," who was described as being the closest associate of Hernandez.

Acosta reputedly runs operations for La Linea in Chihuahua City and Juárez and has arguably become the most-wanted man in the state of Chihuahua.

The Mexican government has set up ‘wanted’ billboards in Chihuahua offering a reward of 15 million pesos (about $1.2 million) for information that leads to Acosta's capture. Acosta is also sought by the U.S. government for allegedly being involved in the killing of three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Juárez.

Military officials said in a statement that a cartel member called Rivas was armed with an AK-47 and had about 10 pounds of marijuana when he was captured by soldiers in Chihuahua City. He has been handed over to federal organized crime investigators. Rivas' nickname, "Zucaritas," is the Spanish name for Frosted Flakes.

Last week, Mexican federal police captured another reputed high-ranking member of La Linea. Marco Antonio Guzmán Zúñiga, also known as "El Dos" and ‘El Brad Pitt’ was arrested n Chihuahua City. Police officials described Guzmán as a cartel lieutenant who served as Acosta's right-hand man.

Police said Fernando Contreras Meraz, also known as El Dorado, chief of the Chihuahua area on behalf of La Linea drug cartel, coordinated and supervised the first Ciudad Juarez car bomb in July 2010. As I said earlier, it was the first bomb attack of its kind in Mexico's drug war. The explosion tore through a major intersection in Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso, Texas, damaging nearby buildings and sending flames into the air. The cell phone-detonated car bomb killed four people in that large Mexican city of 1,458,000. When I travelled though it in 1969, it was much smaller then.

Meraz is also the person who coordinated and carried out the attack with explosive material on July 15, 2010 in the neighbourhood of Ex Hipodromo in Ciudad Juarez, against federal policemen.

Regional security chief for the federal police, Luis Cardenas Palomino said that Investigations suggest that Contreras Meraz coordinated and supervised the events, where a car with explosives was left on the avenue on September 16 against federal policemen. He was ordered to carry out the attack by Hernandez, who was second in the structure of La Linea under the orders of Juan Pablo Ledezma, also known as El JL.

They set up an elaborate trap in which a wounded man dressed as a city police officer was dumped on the street as bait. The assailants then called emergency services to lure federal police to the scene and then detonated the bomb as they arrived. The army said C4 plastic explosive was used in the attack, which killed a policeman, a doctor, a rescue worker and an unidentified man.

Contreras Meraz admitted that he detonated the bomb with a phone call, police said. Following the detonation he traveled to Chihuahua City to avoid authorities, where he took over criminal activities for La Linea.

According to information provided by federal police intelligence, the arrested man is also linked to the logistical implementation in drugs trafficking, homicides, extortion, attacks, forged pay checks and the placing of banners in Delicias and Aldama from the before mentioned city.

Another 13 people were also arrested together with Contreras Meraz.

Drugs, weapons and communication equipment were also seized from the men. Federal police said La Linea, the armed wing of the powerful Juarez cartel and "Los Aztecas" were responsible for the attack and Mexico's Security Ministry said it was retaliation for the arrest of a Juarez cartel member.

Two rival drug gangs—the local Juarez cartel and the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin ‘Shorty" Guzman’ have been fighting an all-out war in Ciudad Juarez for control of the drug trade that has killed nearly 6,000 people there in the past 3 1/2 years.

A March 2009 article noted there had been a mass exodus of people who could afford to leave the city due to the ongoing violence from the Mexican Drug War. A study by the city's university found that 116,000 houses have been abandoned and 230,000 people have left, no doubt because of the drug cartel violence. An article in The Guardian in September 2010 said of Ciudad Juarez –About 10,670 businesses; 40% of the total had been closed.

The problem facing the people of Mexico is that many police and army personnel are involved with the cartels, either directly as members or indirectly as informants who also supply the cartels with information. Further, even corrupt politicians turn a blind eye to the crimes of the drug cartels.

There is a war going on in Mexico and it is costing that country billions of dollars in lost tourism. Over 30,000 people have been killed as a direct result of the work of the cartels. The cartels should be declared as terrorist organizations and its members as terrorists.

There is only one way to stop these terror gangs and their gang members. Those who are captured and convicted for any crime of violence directly or indirectly, should be sent to prison for the rest of their natural lives and while in prison, they should be denied visits from family members or friends and made to work at hard labour until they are at least sixty years of age. If they refuse to work at hard labour, send them to solitary confinement with meager rations until they choose working at hard labour as an alternative form of punishment. The kind of hard labour I have in mind is shoveling cow manure into wheel barrows and moving it from one end of a prison yard to another, back and forth, day after day, year after year.

Is that unfair? No doubt it is but you know what they say about love and war.

No comments: