New study provides context to the tsunami of drug-related violence in Mexico

(©iStockphoto/MikeyLPT)

EL PASO – The Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has created a resource that provides background information on the major criminal groups battling for control of territory and lucrative drug trafficking routes in Mexico.

Casualties have escalated to more than 30,000 people killed in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon began to crackdown on cartels. More than 50 U.S. citizens were killed in Ciudad Juarez in the past two years.

“Given the extreme violence in Mexico, the United States in particular is looking at ways to support Mexican efforts against organized crimes,” said Eric L. Olson, author of A Profile of Mexico’s Major Organized Crime Groups and senior associate at The Mexico Institute.

Olson said that President Barack Obama favors U.S. support of anti-drug Mexican efforts and that the U.S. has acknowledged partial responsibility for the situation in Mexico because of U.S. consumption of illicit drugs.

“We thought it was useful to provide a brief explanation of the phenomenon who’s involved what we can do about the problem itself so that policy makers and the American public have a better understanding of what the U.S. might do,” Olson said.

The context itself offers basic structural information about the criminal organizations operating in Mexico. University of Texas at El Paso Professor of Sociology and Anthropology Howard Campbell said, “It’s a very complicated scenario, there are seven basic cartels in Mexico each of which has internal divisions so often times you have groups within one cartel fighting against others within the same group.”

Campbell, who is very familiar with the drug violence in Mexico, said it is difficult to understand what is going on between the cartels but has agreed the context offers a broader outlook of how each drug trafficking organizations operate.

“Each cartel has certain alliances within the Mexican police system, and the political system,” Campbell said. “There are also ways in which those relationships can break out and cause conflict and fighting.”

The guide’s current analysis since this past February said the year 2010 rapidly changed alliances between organized crime groups that ultimately contributed to making the year the most violent yet.

Olson said the situation in Mexico related to organized crimes is very confusing and people make assumptions about what is going on. “It’s an incredibly confusing problem since the organized crime groups are changing and evolving. We were looking to create a simpler, unified, centralized place where scholars, researchers, press, policy makers could get information.”

The context analysis also offers the evolution of organized criminal groups as far back as the 1980s and which organization evolved into the first large-scale drug trafficking organization headed by Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo. The group was known as the Felix Gallardo organization, which was later known as the Guadalajara organized crime group.

The data analysis then continues to provide information about the drug trafficking organizations. It provides evolving information of each drug cartel in Mexico. “It’s amazing how the context gives brief information about the drug cartels in Mexico,” Andres Rodriguez, a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso studying political science. “We are taken deeper to see what is causing all the violence.”

Olson said with the help of government sources, secondary sources, and former members of organized crime groups who are now in U.S. prisons, the Mexico Institute was able to get more first hand accounts over the drug war. “We were trying to do more analysis of the information and more historical context,” Olson said.

Olson also said it took them around three months to gather the information, edit and rewrite it. He said he sees this as an evolving project where they will provide monthly updates as the situation evolves in Mexico.

“We established a background in the broader context but it is not a static situation, it is constantly changing and evolving so we want to provide some updated analysis from time to time to see how things are changing,” Olson said.

Campbell made clear that it is unknown to see where the future will stand with the drug trafficking organizations and believes the Mexican Presidential election of 2012 will create conflict and violence. “All the cartels have been trying to maintain their power of establishing relationships with incoming politicians,” Campbell said. “So all of this rearrangement of power that occurs with the election of a new president will lead up to violent conflicts.”

Olson and Campbell agree that this is a major issue for both the United States and Mexico. Both said President Obama has not given Mexico enough attention to the violence occurring.

“The challenge is that there is a lot we don’t know so this is part of our ongoing to getting a more accurate picture of this phenomenon that is affecting both the United States and Mexico,” Olson said.

You can download the resource clicking here.

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3 Comments

  • malcolm kyle says:

    When we eventually manage to put the horrors of this toxic moronothon behind us, we’ll need to engage in some very deep and honest soul-searching as to what we want to be as a nation. Many of our freedoms have been severely circumscribed or lost altogether, our economy has been trashed and our international reputation for being “free and fair” has been dragged through a putrid sewer by vicious narrow-minded drug warrior zealots who are ignorant of abstract concepts such as truth, justice and decency. We’ll need to make sure that such a catastrophe is never ever repeated. This may mean that public hearings or tribunals will be held where those who have been the instigators and cheerleaders of this abomination will have to answer for their serious crimes against our once prosperous and proud nation.

    Each day you remain silent, you help to destroy the Constitution, fill the prisons with our children, and empower terrorists and criminals worldwide while wasting hundreds of billions of your own tax dollars. Prohibition bears many strong and startling similarities to Torquemada­’s inquisition­, it’s supporters are servants of tyranny and hate. If you’re aware of but not enraged by it’s shear waste and cruel atrocities then both your heart and soul must surely be dead.

    Prohibition engendered black market profits are obscenely huge. Remove this and you remove the ability to bribe or threaten any government official or even whole governments. The argument that legalized regulation won’t severely cripple organized crime is truly bizarre. Of course, the bad guys won’t just disappear, but if you severely diminish their income, you also severely diminish their power. The proceeds from theft, extortion, pirated goods etc. are a drop in the ocean compared to what can be earned by selling prohibited/unregulated drugs in a black market estimated to be worth 400,000 million dollars. Without the lure and power of so much easy capital, it’s also very unlikely that new criminal enterprises will ever fill the void left by those you successfully disrupt or entirely eradicate.

    Millions of fearless North Africans have recently shown us that recognizing oppression also carries the weight of responsibility to act upon and oppose that oppression. Prohibition is a vicious anti-constitutional assault on ALL American citizens by a criminally insane and dysfunctional government, which left unchallenged will end with the destruction of the entire nation.

    “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
    – Abraham Lincoln, November 12, 1864

    “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness] it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government…”
    - The Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

    It really sucks when big pharma and fascist corporations hijack your republic!

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