Stemming the Violence in Mexico, but Breaking the Cartels

Editor’s Note: The following article appeared in the September 2010 issue of The CIP Report, a monthly publication of the Center for Infrastructure Protection and Homeland Security at the George Mason University School of Law.

Introduction: The Intensifying and Expanding Drug-Violence

Over the past several years, and especially, since President Felipe Calderón took over Mexico’s presidency in 2006, the drug-related violence in Mexico has been steadily and viciously escalating.

Destabilized by a series of government interdiction operations that captured a number of top-level drug traffickers in Mexico, the drug market there is out of control — having become far more violent than is typical of drug markets. The drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are battling each other over control of territory and drug trafficking routes and over networks of corruption, including corrupt law enforcement officials. Although Mexico’s law enforcement is deeply corrupt, from the low-level beat cops to high-level officials mandated to suppress organized crime, efforts by President Calderón to clean up law enforcement, replace compromised officials, and conduct a comprehensive police reform has generated further insecurity for the DTOs. The DTOs are also battling the state that has continued with interdiction of high-value targets — i.e., top level capos. In addition, the drug groups are splintering, as battles over dominance are also taking place within them, due to the young narcojuniores and lieutenants of the incapacitated capos needing to prove that they have enough strength to control the organization and stand up to outside groups. This competition in violence has been characterized by intense brutality, such as advertized beheadings, displaced corpses, and torture, even in routine hits. Although President Calderón called out the military to relieve the overwhelmed police, the nearly 50,000 soldiers on Mexico’s streets have not been able to prevent the violence from escalating dramatically every year.

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