2008: The governments Cartel War began
in late December 2006. At the two year point the pessimists point to scores of
murders committed each week and the discovery of new arms caches near the
US-Mexico border. President Calderon seems more determined than ever to
continue the war. He thinks it's a war that was already on, and all he did was
commit the Mexican government to winning it. For several reasons, Calderon has
given the Mexican Army a primary role in the war. One is that the Mexican
military is a national organization that for the most part enjoys the trust of
the Mexican people. That isn't the case with the Mexican police and judiciary.
Another reason is the weapons used by the cartel's gunmen. Rocket-propelled
grenades, automatic rifles, and light machine guns gave the gunmen a firepower
edge. The cartels had stockpiled a lot
of weapons and ammo. The government recently reported that in the period from December 1, 2006 to
October 30, 2008, military and police forces have seized 25,657 guns. The
figure includes "13,807 assault and other rifles." The security forces also
found 1,642 grenades and 2.4 million rounds of ammunition.
2008: The bloodbath in Tijuana continues. Government officials reported that
fourteen people were killed in "gang violence" over the three day period from
November 15 through November 17. An assault rifle was used in one shootout
between gunmen. Between January 1 and mid-November, over 650 people have been
murdered in Baja California. Local officials in Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua state,
across the border from El Paso) estimate that over 1300 people have been
murdered in their city and its immediate environs. The national total is "over
4000." That may be a low figure. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal
estimates the national figure is over 4,500. And remember – that figure is a
2008: Kidnappings in Mexico continue to increase. The government estimates that
65 kidnappings occur each month. This is an increase of almost ten percent over
2007. One media group says that "at least three people a day" are
kidnapped?which would mean 90 a month.
2008: President Felipe Calderon knows he has a soul mate in Colombia's
president, Alvaro Uribe. Recently Calderon and Uribe met to discuss their war
on drug cartels. Colombia went through a decade of violent internal conflict,
with daily murders and crime committed by both criminals and guerrilla groups.
Since Uribe began a national counter-attack in 2002, the situation has
improved, but it has been a tough fight. Uribe told Calderon that Colombia's
monetary reward program for information leading to the arrest and prosecution
of drug lords had proved to be a key to improving police intelligence.
government approved a $260 billion budget. The budget will have a "30 percent
increase in security spending" to fight the Cartel War.
2008: Federal police arrested a senior member of the Gulf drug cartel, Jaime
Gonzalez. The police trapped Gonzalez in the city of Reynosa (on the US-Texas
border). The police said a group of cartel gunmen tried to attack a military
convoy. Gonzalez is a member of the Gulf cartel's paramilitary organization,
the Zetas. Also found in the town was the "largest weapons cache" in recent
history. The police seized approximately 280 assault rifles, 130 other weapon,
287 grenades, six heavy machine guns, an anti-tank weapon (rocket launcher of
some type) and 500,000 rounds of ammunition.
2008: A recent US State Department study (covering July 1, 2005 to June 30th,
2008) reported that more ordinary US citizens were killed in Mexico during that
period than in any foreign country. Deaths in Mexico accounted for 29 percent of Americans killed abroad (a
total of 637).
2008: The interior minister and a dozen other people were killed when the
minister's Learjet crashed in Mexico City. Nine people were on board the
aircraft. At least four more people were killed when the plane hit the Mexico
City neighborhood. Another 40 people
were injured. Juan Camilo Mourino was a political ally and close adviser of
President Calderon and played a key role in directing The Cartel War.
2008: Police arrested Antonio Galarza, a senior leader in the Gulf drug cartel.
The arrest took place in Monterrey.
Federal police commissioner, Victor Gerardo Garay, resigned after one of his
more senior aides was accused of working for a drug cartel. The aide allegedly
provided the Sinaloa cartel protection from police interference, specifically
in the transshipment of drugs through Mexico City's major airport.
2008: The Chamber of Deputies overwhelmingly passed a series of constitutional
reforms that will make it easier for foreigners to invest in Mexico's oil
industry. President Calderon had made investment reform a major economic goal.
Mexico is particularly interested in investors who will help finance more
off-shore drilling. The Cartel War also has an economic angle. The violence is
jeopardizing investment in Mexico. The Finance Ministry estimates that the "deteriorating security" situation in Mexico reduces the gross
domestic product about one percent annually. Mexico's 2007 GDP was around $850 billion.
prosecutors have charged an Interpol agent working in the US embassy in Mexico
City with providing the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel with "information about
anti-narcotics operations." (The Beltran-Leyva cartel is a "spin off"
operation" from the Sinaloa cartel.) The government also recently charged five
government security officials (two members of the Attorney General's office and
three senior policemen) with warning drug cartels about impending anti-drug
operations. This is bad news and also
good news. Corrupt officials have been selling information to the cartels
–that's bad-- but they are also getting caught. Why? Senior security officials
believe they are getting better information. Recent military-led operations in
northern Mexico have "put pressure on the cartels." A pay-off is that locals
feel secure enough to provide intelligence officers with quality intelligence.
Intelligence then slowly "tracks back." Sometimes the info leads nowhere.
Sometimes it leads to corrupt senior officials. That may or may not have
happened in this specific instance, but that is the process.