2/16/16 New York Times
Pope Francis’ visit to the violence-plagued Mexican state of Michoacán brought new attention to the government’s decade-long effort to break up drug cartels by targeting their leaders. The recent recapture of “El Chapo” — Joaquín Guzmán Loera, perhaps the most notorious cartel king — has been the signature achievement of the strategy, but it has also had other consequences.
A Spike in Violence
Felipe Calderón began the “decapitation” strategy when he became president of Mexico in 2006, and violence shot upward soon after. The tumult was widely viewed as evidence of disruption: a signal that more deadly and unpredictable gangs were competing to fill a vacuum. Kidnapping and extortion became more frequent as smaller gangs looked for profits.