Mexican Cartels Become a Global Threat

Mexican Cartels Become a Global Threat

By Dialogo
October 01, 2010

Why aren't the drugs known as ICE, CRYSTAL or METHAMPHETAMINES sold in Central America given that they are supposed to be very profitable too, like crack or rocks, my question is why haven't the cartels allowed these drugs to spread through Central America....

Mexican drug cartels are expanding their operations in the Western
Hemisphere, Europe and Africa. As these violent cartels begin to secure their own
drug sources and form alliances with foreign criminal groups in addition to
trafficking, they are bringing crime to new areas and threatening public
Mexican cartels have facilitated the flow of drugs from Colombian cartels to
consumers in the U.S. for decades, but in recent years, they have modified their
business practices to include drug operations oversight as well.
Meetings between Mexican and Colombian cartels in the early ’90s led to the
Colombian cartels’ collective decision to leave the majority of drug trafficking to
the Mexican cartels, according to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. The Colombian
cartels made this strategic decision due to the intense pressure from successful
Colombian and U.S. military interdiction operations, which apprehended many
Colombian cartel kingpins and intercepted numerous drug movements in the region. By
focusing on drug production, the Colombians could avoid capture and retain their
Jay Bergman, Andean regional director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration, or DEA, explained in a 2009 interview with the website that the Mexican cartels have “filled the vacuum” left by the
Colombians and assumed cocaine distribution in the region. DEA Section Chief for
Mexico and Central America Michael Sanders discussed this development in an
interview with Diálogo. “The Mexican cartels are operating throughout Central
America — from Guatemala all the way through Panama.”
Most recently, the Mexican cartels have used the momentum gained in Central
America to broaden their global presence. To gain control over operations, Mexican
cartels have begun to place operatives throughout the Americas targeting vulnerable
regions where the rule of law is weak.

Cartels entrenched in Central America
Mexican cartels have established operations within the Northern Triangle of
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. This area
provides refuge from the Mexican government’s counter-narcotics efforts and is home
to desperately poor farmers who benefit from growing illegal crops. The Mexican
cartels use these remote areas in the region to maintain and expand their illicit
Former Miami Herald Latin America correspondent Steven Dudley, now
co-director of InSight, a Washington- and Bogotá-based project that monitors
organized crime in Latin America, told Diálogo that Guatemala and Honduras are the
main countries affected. Dudley explained the increased use of both countries by
drug traffickers is due to their location along drug smuggling routes from Colombia
to the U.S. He also explained that the concentrated effort of Mexican law
enforcement within the country’s borders has led rivaling cartels to seek territory
in neighboring countries.
The DEA’s Sanders told Diálogo that Mexican cartels are rooted in Central
America, and a DEA spokesman added that the cartels “have gone into some of these
places and set up command and control structures. They are actually taking receipt
of the drugs in those countries, and then being responsible for further
transportation up through Mexico.”
Central America is proving to be fertile ground for illicit business. The
U.S. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars estimates that 250 tons of
cocaine was trafficked through Guatemala in 2009 and about 200 metric tons of
cocaine went through Honduras the same year. Although Central America has long been
recognized as a drug corridor, now the Mexican cartels have become more established
there. After his capture by the Mexican Federal Police in August 2010, cartel
kingpin Edgar Valdez Villarreal, aka “La Barbie,” spoke of his “offices” in Panama,
“investments” in Colombia, and his “business” of transporting cocaine from Panama to
Mexico. Valdez bragged about his established contacts and transportation routes
throughout Central America. The DEA spokesman, during an interview with Diálogo,
said that Mexican cartels “actually have members working for the organization in
these spots that are responsible for receiving, stockpiling, protecting and then
further shipping the drugs out of Central America and into Mexico.”
Stockpiles of supplies provide additional evidence of the cartels in the
area. A military operation in 2009 discovered a Mexican cartel training camp within
Guatemalan territory. In the cache were 500 grenades and thousands of bullets,
Guatemalan authorities said. Another arsenal discovered near Guatemala City
contained 3,800 bullets and 560 grenades, according to USA Today.
A key factor in facilitating drug imports and distribution is the presence of
established local drug trafficking groups. As the Mexican cartels expand their
business model and territory, they are also reevaluating partnerships with their
Colombian counterparts and forging new affiliations with criminal and terrorist
networks in the area, analyst Steven Dudley explained. The cartels use these
associates to sell or transport drugs for them or to carry out violent acts on their
behalf. Most prominent are the associations that Mexican cartels have within Central
America. Moreover, Dudley spoke of the potential for the Mexican cartels to use
gangs for their benefit. Local gangs’ “main role is maybe some protection services
for depots or for some as hit men or what they call ‘sicarios’ or as enforcers to
extort money or things of that sort,” Dudley explained. The DEA spokesman said the
gangs’ involvement is more likely at the “retail” level of selling drugs for the
cartels rather than a partnership.

Narcoterrorism in the Andes
Control of drug sources and the profits that come with them enticed the
cartels to move into Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. “Mexican traffickers have turned up
in many Colombian cities and are working to get cash in the hands of peasants to
boost coca production,” Colombian police director Gen. Óscar Naranjo told The
Associated Press. The cartels have become more connected to the drug sources and the
criminal organizations currently controlling them. Acquiring the raw materials for
drug production would allow the cartels to cut the middlemen out of the drug
trafficking chain. Several media reports, including one from the Bolivian La Razón
newspaper, indicate that Mexican cartels are also negotiating their relationships
with terrorist networks that currently control the drug sources, including the
Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia, or FARC; the Shining Path in Peru; and
Bolivian narcotrafficking organizations made up of family groups. “There is
increasing evidence that [Mexican cartels] are going all the way to the source, and
this has great financial benefit for them if they can reach the sources, and one of
the sources is the FARC guerrillas,” Dudley said of the Mexican cartels’ presence in
South America. The DEA’s Bergman, in an interview with Bloomberg News, spoke about
how the Mexican cartels’ alliances with the FARC bring profit for both organizations
and a newfound danger for the region. The Mexican government has to confront
wealthier drug cartels while Colombia’s government must battle a better armed
guerrilla force. “It would cut out the traditional drug trafficker middleman and
increase the amount of money the FARC would be able to earn per kilogram — profit
that would be spent on bullets and armament to perpetuate the insurgency,” Bergman
Associations in the Andean region are not limited to terrorist networks. The
Mexican cartels also employ smaller criminal organizations to transport and sell
drugs. In 2009, there were several instances in which Mexican nationals were
arrested on drug trafficking charges in Peru. The same year, Peruvian police
discovered a cocaine processing lab in Lima under the control of a Mexican drug
cartel. Bolivian authorities say that clans in their country are carrying out
illicit activities for the Mexican cartels, according to Bolivian newspaper La
Razón. Mexican cartels’ reach can be seen all the way south to Buenos Aires, where
in 2010 a container of apples with smuggled cocaine bound for Spain was found with
the trademark logo of a Mexican cartel. Argentina’s police also seized a
methamphetamine lab with links to a Mexican cartel in 2009, arresting nine Mexican
nationals. These instances point to Mexican cartels’ involvement at the source sites
and inception of the drug production process.
Central American Regional Security Initiative - CARSI programs include:

Regional Maritime Interdiction Assistance provides training, equipment and
Border Inspection program supports contraband detection.
Transnational Anti-Gang Program combats gangs.
Regional Firearms Advisor Program focuses on reducing firearms
ILEA Regional Training Program provides training of law enforcement
personnel and prosecutors.
Source: U.S. Department of State

West Africa and Europe
South America also provides access to Europe and West Africa for cartels
trying to evade U.S. surveillance of the Caribbean and U.S.–Mexico border. The
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2009 report states that corruption and a
lack of stabil- ity in West Africa make it an ideal hub for trans-shipment to
Europe, where drugs fetch two times the U.S. price. The U.N.’s International
Narcotics Control Board, or INCB, has found that Mexican trafficking organizations
have been involved in traffick- ing to most African and Middle Eastern countries.
With greater proximity to a lucrative target market in Europe, where demand
is rising, the cartels have begun to establish a footprint. Eduardo Buscaglia,
scholar at Mexico’s Autonomous Institute of Technology in Mexico City, ascribes the
focus on Europe to the value of the euro and the emerging governance in states newly
incorporated into the European Union, according to Mexican newspaper El
The Mexican cartels are finding worldwide allies for their operations. The
INCB reports Mexican cartels are recruiting Central American and Caribbean gang
members to sell and distribute drugs in Europe, primarily Spain. In Italy, Mexican
cartels have set up connections with crime families as was detected in the 2008
multinational law enforcement operation Project Reckoning, which targeted Mexican
cartel operations with Italian counterparts. The operation resulted in the arrest of
507 individuals and the seizure of approximately $60 million, the DEA
In May 2010, the British newspaper The Observer reported that Mexican cartels
were meeting with Liverpool gangsters about cocaine shipments departing from
Venezuela’s ports destined for England. Even drug seizures as far as Australia and
Japan have been connected to Mexican cartels’ operations, according to the U.N. As
cartel connections grow, so too has the threat of violence.

Threat to public safety
Violence is the trademark of the Mexican cartels’ operating model. Within
Mexico, cartel violence includes beheadings, mass killings and murders of government
authorities, among other terror-inducing tactics. This unprecedented violence along
with the cartels’ attempts to bribe public officials makes the threat of the
cartels’ operations a great danger to citizens.
Mexican cartels are exporting their brazen tactics to the new territories
where they are operating. For example, the murder rates of Guatemala, El Salvador
and Honduras combined are roughly double the murder rates of Mexico, according to a
2010 Woodrow Wilson center report. In 2010, Central America became witness to a new
level of violence that includes a series of beheadings credited to the Mexican
cartels in Guatemala as well as 35 bodies found in plastic bags over a six-month
span in El Salvador.
Compounding this menace, the cartels’ association with local criminals in
Central America increases the threat to public safety. The 2009 assassination of
Honduran Director of Counternarcotics Operations, Gen. Julián Arístides Gonzáles,
has been attributed by authorities to Mexican cartel orders carried out by a
Honduran drug trafficker.

Partnerships against the threat
Mexico’s own woeful experience is a prime example of the spread of drug
violence, and Central America is not far behind. Mexico’s government continues to
fight against the cartels within its borders and is partnering with other nations. A
2009 Mexico-Colombia agreement will result in the training of more than 11,000
Mexican Federal Police agents by the Colombian National Police in operations
targeting kidnapping and narcotics trafficking. Similarly, the multi-year Mérida
Initiative is a partnership with the United States that provides training, technical
advice and funding to partner nations such as Mexico in combating transnational
criminal organizations. Regionally, the Central American Regional Security
Initiative, or CARSI, was created in 2010 to strengthen and integrate security in
Central America. CARSI initiatives are supported by the U.S. government, the
Organization of American States, the Central American Integration System and
The present regional issues brought on by the Mexican cartels’ operations are
quickly becoming a global danger. Partner nations across the globe are responding to
the Mexican cartels fiercely by combining forces and using their armies to tackle
the growing transnational threat.

Sources: Stratfor, Rand Corporation, The Associated Press, Jane’s
Information Group

Colombia’s Success Factors
Sustainability is vital in antidrug efforts. Colombia ensured its Armed
Forces were steadfast in their pursuit of antidrug efforts by procuring the needed
equipment and training, securing continued funding and earning public support
through transparency.

Through Plan Colombia, a partnership with the U.S., the government
equipped and trained security forces.
The tax system was reformed, drawing from the most affluent to finance
national security.
Government accountability was reformed by making annual military spending
reports publicly available, allowing a civilian Ministry of Defense to have
oversight of the Armed Forces and increasing the number of qualified government
personnel. Source: The Polson Institute for Global