Can’t we just get along? A truce in Mexico

Time Magazine reports A Cease-Fire in Mexico’s Drug War?
But not really.

U.S. and Mexican officials confirm that Mexico’s major rival drug-trafficking organizations, the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels, “may be trying to negotiate a truce” and come to some agreement over control of territory, says a knowledgeable U.S. official.

That’s a little different. I read “cease fire in Mexico’s drug war” and figured that the government and the cartels had come to an agreement. But no, this is a cease-fire in the turf war, not the drug war. Big difference.

The two mafias could be coming to the table for two key reasons. First, “the violence has drawn too much attention and has really begun to hurt [their drug-trafficking] business,” says Steven Robertson, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

It’s actually probably hurt the actual players more than the business, but yes, it makes sense that while turf violence protects black market interests, once it reaches a certain level, it’s no longer productive (of course, in legalized business, violence wouldn’t be productive at all).

And second, Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s popular but oft-questioned strategy of throwing the military at the cartels Ö some 25,000 soldiers have been deployed to violence-ravaged states like Michoacan this year Ö “is starting to pay dividends,” insists a high-ranking Mexican official.

Rolling on the floor, laughing. Love the way they throw that in to try to get some credit, but particularly love the fact that it is attributed to a “high-ranking Mexican official.” That’s right — announcing that a massive government program is having any effect can only be done anonymously (perhaps because they’re afraid of being killed? — which kind of ruins the effect of declaring victory)
Of course, the government efforts have been abysmal, adding to the violence and the human rights violations, and potentially the corruption (and then swelling the ranks of militaristic cartel members).

But both countries, rightly, remain as skeptical as they are optimistic. That’s because Mexico’s narco-terror isn’t just about the Sinaloa-Gulf feud. It’s also a struggle between opposing mind-sets in each cartel: the more pragmatic businessmen, who are worried that all the blood has begun to hamper the efficiency of their cocaine distribution “plazas” in Mexico and along the U.S. border; and the more violent enforcers, who tend to see trafficking competition as a zero-sum game. The latter have enjoyed the upper hand ever since Mexico’s traditional cartel structures began to disintegrate about five years ago and gangs like the Zetas Ö former army special forces soldiers who today are the Gulf cartel’s dominant faction Ö filled the vacuum. As a result, the success or failure of any cartel negotiation is likely to rest on which priority prevails Ö commerce or conquest.

That’s an interesting analysis. Keep in mind that the U.S. spent most of its energies trying to break up the “pragmatic businessmen,” while actually helping to train some of the “violent enforcers.” That’s right, the U.S. Army trained a lot of the members of Los Zetas at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia to combat the cartels. They then ended up going into business for themselves.

And even if the cartels do come to an agreement that might reduce the violence, it won’t reduce the trafficking. That’s because the U.S. still has not done enough to reduce its voracious demand for cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines, and because Mexico has yet to really confront one of the main causes of the country’s narco-chaos: underpaid and under-trained cops who are easily bought by the cartels and, in many states and cities, have simply become part of the cartel fabric (and as a result are often the victims of cartel assassinations).

The U.S. or Mexico have also not had any luck repealing the law of gravity.
The main cause of narco-chaos is that drugs are in the black market. Period.

In the meantime, Mexicans hope the cease-fire reports hold true Ö as does Washington, which stands to see border headaches like illegal immigration worsen if the violence continues to spiral.

Yeah, that’s good policy. Just hope that the drug traffickers can get along. Because the U.S. and Mexico don’t have anything else they’re doing that’ll work any better.

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