June 13, 2014
06/10/14 Insight Crime
A new report from a leading think tank makes the case that the challenges in the drug war facing Mexico are not the same as those in Colombia, and seeks to outline a new paradigm to serve as a replacement.
The new report titled Mexico Is Not Colombia: Alternative Historical Analogies for Responding to the Challenge of Violent Drug-Trafficking Organizations was published by RAND earlier this month. The main point made by authors Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke and Chad C. Serena is clearly indicated in the title.
As the authors point out, the differences separating Mexico and Colombia are myriad and hugely influential: “[In Colombia], the circumstances and the threat differed from contemporary Mexico in several important ways: the nature of the perpetrators, territory, geography, targets, and tactics; the character of the violence; and the state’s ability to respond.” More specifically, Mexico has long had a stronger state that exercises greater control over the national territory than did Colombia in its worst moments; Mexico’s gangs are far less aggressive toward state actors and the general public; and Mexican organizations don’t have the vast sanctuary of the insurgent-controlled jungles.
April 15, 2014
Star Tribune, 4/15/14
Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pressing Mexican law enforcement authorities to acknowledge responsibility for spiking numbers of heroin and sex-trafficking incidents that increasingly are ravaging neighborhoods and families across the United States — including Minnesota.
In a series of meetings in Mexico City, Klobuchar is joining North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain, in urging the Mexican government to intensify its work on both sex trafficking and the illegal movement of heroin into the United States.
“One of the things we can acknowledge when we’re meeting with them is that we have our own issues on this,” said Klobuchar in an interview from Mexico. “We’re not just telling them, ‘Do this or do that.’ We are saying we have our own issues.”
The domestic heroin crisis is escalating rapidly, particularly in the Midwest. Hospital emergency department visits for heroin in the Twin Cities nearly tripled from 2004 to 2011. The number of heroin deaths in the metro area has tripled since 2011, to 63 last year.
April 7, 2014
The Washington Post, 4/6/14
The surge of cheap heroin spreading in $4 hits across rural America can be traced back to the remote valleys of the northern Sierra Madre. With the wholesale price of marijuana falling — driven in part by decriminalization in sections of the United States — Mexican drug farmers are turning away from cannabis and filling their fields with opium poppies.
Mexican heroin is flooding north as U.S. authorities trying to contain an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse have tightened controls on synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and OxyContin. As the pills become more costly and difficult to obtain, Mexican trafficking organizations have found new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, Va., and Brattleboro, Vt., where, until recently, needle use for narcotics was rare or unknown.
Farmers in the storied “Golden Triangle” region of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which has produced the country’s most notorious gangsters and biggest marijuana harvests, say they are no longer planting the crop. Its wholesale price has collapsed in the past five years, from $100 per kilogram to less than $25.
March 31, 2014
USA Today, 3/30/14
Last year, across the Southwest, the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection and other law-enforcement agencies intercepted more than 3.5 million pounds of marijuana — nearly a fifth of an ounce for every person in the United States. But in the Rio Grande Valley, for every load they capture, 10 slip through, local officials estimate. Federal law-enforcement officials agreed.
The loads get through because the drug cartels closely monitor the Border Patrol and other law-enforcement agencies. The cartels study their tactics and strategies, and adapt quickly. They use that knowledge and the corrupting influence of money to win the daily cat-and-mouse games that define drug smuggling across the Rio Grande. Encounters between agents and drug smugglers are frequent but rarely lethal. When cornered, drug runners are likely to abandon the loads of marijuana and escape back across the river.
Nationwide, nearly every drug-smuggling case in which Border Patrol agents did report responding with force over a 29-month period involved marijuana, The Arizona Republic found. Force can include using firearms, physical force, less-lethal weapons and devices to stop vehicles, like tire spike-strips.
March 26, 2014
NY Times, 3/25/14
The United States calls Hugo Cuéllar Hurtado a longtime trafficker of the cocaine coming from South America, working with one of the men believed to command Mexico’s biggest drug cartel now that its leader, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, has been captured.
But while Mr. Guzmán — known as El Chapo, or Shorty — spent 13 years on the run, sometimes even escaping through underground tunnels dug under bathrooms, Mr. Cuéllar walks freely around Guadalajara, attending luncheons and chatting up diplomats. He says he even won a government grant for an ostrich farm he runs here.
“Let them come and investigate me,” he said leisurely over a breakfast of ostrich steaks and sausages at his 57-acre ranch, which the Treasury Department just designated a money-laundering pit for Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel. “I have nothing to hide.”
March 24, 2014
Fox News Latino, 3/23/14
The massacre of seven men near the Mexico-Arizona border came in a previously quiet area increasingly used as a drug-trafficking corridor, and a U.S. expert said Friday the attack in the newly valuable territory could be the work of rivals of the once-dominant Sinaloa cartel trying to exploit the arrest of the gang’s leader.
Analysts have expected rival cartels to try to move in on Sinaloa territory in response to the Feb. 22 capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the apparent death in December of one of his top lieutenants in a shootout with federal police.
The ambush-style attack this week happened in a rural area near Sonoyta, Mexico, close to the U.S. border crossing at Lukeville, Arizona. The crossing is frequently used by U.S. travelers to reach the Gulf of California beach town of Puerto Penasco.