Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Interview with Mexico Drug War expert Sylvia Longmire

reposted from

Interview with Mexico Drug War expert Sylvia Longmire

After reading an especially disturbing news piece on drug related decapitations in Acapulco, Mexico, we here at decided it was time to talk to an expert about the violence in Mexico, the Drug Cartels, how that affects us here in the US, and what we can possibly do to help the situation.  So we contacted Sylvia Longmire of Longmire Consulting and the writer of the blog Mexico’s Drug War, an informative and revealing blog which we highly recommend for those wanting to learn more.

Question: First, could you please briefly explain who you are and what you do?
Sylvia Longmire: I’m a former Air Force officer and Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and also a former senior border security analyst for the State of California. I’m currently a consultant, freelance writer, and author on Mexico’s drug war.
Q: For readers with little or knowledge of what is going on down in Mexico, could you lay out some of the basics of the situation?
SL: Right now, Mexican drug trafficking organizations, or DTOs, are the number one source for illegal drugs consumed by Americans. Because illegal drugs command such high prices on the black market, manufacturing and distributing these drugs to American consumers is a highly profitable business. Currently, there are seven major DTOs in Mexico fighting each other and the Mexican government for control of the drug smuggling routes that DTOs use to move drugs from their source to American consumers across the southwest border. The fighting between DTOs and with Mexican government forces has resulting in escalating violence since President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006. The violence includes beheadings, public hangings of corpses, mutilation and torture, mass killings, grenade attacks, and shootings in public places with high-powered weapons.
Cartel influence in mex 2010
Q: You call the situation in Acapulco the most complex situation
right now.  Why is it so complex?
SL: The situation in Acapulco is complex because there is more than one DTO fighting for control of that drug smuggling area, and those DTOs are themselves going through organizational changes. One of them, the Cartel Pacifico del Sur, split off from another major DTO, the Sinaloa Federation, a few years ago, and just recently split in half itself. The name is even new, as it used to be known as the Beltrán Leyva Organization, and also goes by two other names – “El H” and “La Empresa.” Keeping track of who’s doing the smuggling and who’s killing whom gets very complicated when so many DTO players are involved in just one corridor.
Q: How much effect do the cartels in Mexico have for us north of the border?  How much effect do we have on them?
SL: DTOs operating in Mexico have a huge presence here in the United States, but most of us don’t know it. They’re actually active in more than 270 U.S. cities, and hundreds more small communities and towns. They use local gangs across the country to distribute drugs for them, and Mexican DTOs even grow marijuana in U.S. National Parks and National Forests. As a result of their proximity in Mexico and their infiltration of our communities, they have become America’s biggest supplier of illegal drugs. Because they’re so in tune with our drug market, Mexican DTOs are impacted by – and usually respond well to – changes in consumer demand. Cocaine demand has steadily gone down over the past several years, but demand for high-potency marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine has gone up. DTOs have made adjustments to their production and cocaine imports from South America to account for these changes.
drug money and arms in Mexico Drug Cartel Wars in Mexico: Worse in 2009
Q: Some have expressed the opinion that legalizing drugs (most specifically marijuana) in the US would end the drug war in Mexico.  In your opinion, would this course of action work?  What do you think would be the most effective legislation despite public opinion?  Finally, what do you think is the most likely legislation, if any?
SL: I think legalization of marijuana would make a financial difference in DTO profits, but would not end the drug war. DTOs are making a lot of money from the production, distribution and sale of other illegal drugs, as well as from kidnapping and extortion operations. They could also ostensibly go into the legal marijuana business, although the profits would be smaller. Just like organized crime groups in the U.S. didn’t go out of business after Prohibition ended, DTOs will still be around if marijuana were ever legalized. As far as legislation and policy goes, I think most of the pro-gun-lobby-backed legislation that limits what the ATF can do needs to be repealed so we can attack the southbound weapons trafficking problem head-on, starting with the Tiahrt Amendment. I think more resources – specifically money and trained people – need to go to border agencies like the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the ATF, etc. But before those resources are distributed, the Department of Homeland Security needs to take a realistic look at what and where the need are. I think DHS management in Washington is too far removed from the border, and doesn’t fully comprehend the challenges along the border and what it takes to meet them head on. I also think both the U.S. and Mexican governments need to stop treating the Mexican DTOs like criminals and start regarding them as hybrid organizations, a cross between organized crime, insurgency, and terrorist groups.
US-Mexico border fence, Tijuana: Photo by Nathan Gibbs (CC)
Q: Is there anything specific you think readers need to know regarding the cartels which we have not covered?
SL: Readers need to know that the drug war south of the border affects everyone in the U.S., no matter where we live. DTOs use our highways to transport drugs to every U.S. state. They grow illegal drugs on our taxpayer-funded public lands, and they kidnap and kill people on U.S. soil. Worse yet, they use violent American street gangs to sell illegal drugs to our kids, our brothers and sisters, cousins, parents, coworkers, and friends. All of us have to pay attention to what’s going on if we’re ever going to successfully work with the Mexican government to stop it.
Thank you Sylvia for the eye opening interview.  For more information, please visit her blog.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Miexico- an overview of who's fighting whom, and where

reposted from Search Mexico's Drug War
I was recently reading a story in the L.A. Times by Daniel Hernandez about the 31 deaths and 15 decapitations in Acapulco in the last week, and how three different cartels were battling for control of the city. I honestly thought it was only two, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw some of the unfamiliar details Hernandez quoted from a story in Mexico's Proceso magazine. I quickly familiarized myself with what was going on (and I've since found clearer sources than the Proceso story), and thought I'd take the opportunity to provide my readers with a very brief overview of which cartels are fighting each other and where.

Let's start with the most complex situation (in my opinion) right now, and that's Acapulco. Over the last couple of years, the Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO) under the local command of Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez
Villareal had been fighting with La Familia Michoacana (LFM) for control of drug deliveries into and trafficking out of the resort city. That got completely messed up with La Barbie's arrest and the death of Arturo Beltrán Leyva. Hector Beltrán Leyva, who took over the BLO after Arturo's death, wanted to distance himself from La Barbie (who was breaking off anyway), so he renamed his faction of the old BLO to the Cartel Pacífico del Sur (CPS), or South Pacific Cartel - also known as "El H" or "La Empresa." In April of last year, graffiti started showing up all over the state of Guerrero with the initials "CPS," and La Barbie's breakaway faction was bearing the brunt of many CPS-initiated murders of hitmen in the area.

Now, the 15 headless corpses that were recently found in Acapulco reportedly had a note attached implying that the Sinaloa Federation's Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera ordered the killings. So here's where it gets ugly. According to Stratfor's Scott Stewart, the CPS has aligned itself with Los Zetas (and old friend of the BLO) against the Federation and LFM. I always thought Acapulco was a BLO/LFM problem, and to an extent I was right; the old BLO is just under the new name of CPS, and La Barbie's faction seems to no longer be a player. But now it looks like El Chapo may be stoking the fire in Guerrero, and that doesn't bode well for residents or tourists in the city.

Moving to Tijuana, things are actually relatively quiet there - for now. Although the AFO emerged victorious after breakaway faction leader Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental was arrested, AFO leader Fernando "El Ingeniero" Sanchez Arellano seems to have entered into an agreement of sorts with the Federation (El Teo's employer after he defected) to move drugs through Tijuana. This explains the relative calm in the city, but we'll see how long that lasts.
Of course, the hottest spot in Mexico has been Ciudad Juárez for a few years now, but the way cartel dynamics are changing there, it may not last the next couple of years. The Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (VCFO) have been fighting for control of this most lucrative corridor, although the VCFO has been backed into a corner there recently, and most of the drugs being moved through Juárez belong to the Federation. Some of the local politicians say the majority of the violence stems from gangs fighting for control of the local drug trade, but I don't buy into that.

Moving east into Tamaulipas, the shrinking Gulf cartel (or CDG, for Cartel del Golfo) are fighting with their former enforcers, Los Zetas, for control of routes along the east Texas border and transshipment cities like
Monterrey. The border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros have been hit particularly hard by fights between these two DTOs, and the wealthy enclave of Monterrey is still reeling from the bloody transformation of their city.

There are other hot spots scattered throughout Mexico where the DTOs are fighting each other, so the violence is not just limited to these areas. You'll hear bad news out of places like Michoacán, Morelia, San Luís Potosí, Durango, and others. This is just meant to give you a general idea of who is fighting where and over what.
For more information Search Mexico's Drug War
 Cartel influence in mex 2010