October 30, 2011
Of the various drug cartels shooting up Mexico, two have come to dominate the scene. These two are the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas.
The Sinaloa Cartel is headed up by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is actually on the Forbes magazine billionaire list. This gang is based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa.
The Zetas are the former enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, recruited from GAFE (Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales) a Mexican army Special forces unit. Later the group split off to become its own cartel. They are based in the northeastern part of Mexico.
These two organizations are arch-enemies, and a lot of the mayhem is caused by their battles, as they fight over drug trafficking routes, in order to deliver their merchandise to their many customers north of the border.
Which group is worse? They’re both bad, but it appears that the Zetas are more ruthless and random in their killings, and are also involved in more illegal enterprises besides just the drug business. The Zetas have also killed family members of soldiers and policemen that they’ve already killed.
According to Samuel Logan, who runs the security consulting firm Southern Pulse, "I see the Sinaloa Federation and the Zetas as being the two polarizing forces in the Mexican criminal system ... and between the two, an array of other smaller groups aligned with one or the other, "
The major cartels seem to be currently aligned into two axes, with the Gulf Cartel aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, and the Juarez Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel and the Beltran-Leyva Cartel allied with the Zetas. Of course, all that could change. Alliances can be broken, and even the currently existing cartels could break up.
From the standpoint of the Mexican government, would it be better to have to deal with various drug cartels of about equal strength, or two major drug gangs with additional smaller groups?
What about the argument that the Mexican government should make some sort of deal or truce with the narcos? Such a proposal has been floated by none other than former Mexican president Vicente Fox. Such a truce would include a drug war cease-fire accompanied by an amnesty.
In the past, truces have been negotiated in other countries between governments and rebel groups. Would this be similar, and would it bring peace to Mexico?
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However, supposing such agreements could be negotiated, would the drug cartels themselves be able to enforce them? Would truces be honored by all the cartels in an alliance? Even a cartel can split up. The Gulf Cartel is currently undergoing a conflict between its Rojos and the Metros factions, and Stratfor predicts a possible violent breakup within six to eight months.
This is the violent world of the Mexican drug cartels, a dog-eat-dog world in which alliances and loyalties shift, and the truce of today might be broken tomorrow.
It’s a world in which for now, anyway, the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, arch-enemies, are the biggest gangs in the country.
© 2011 Allan Wall - All Rights Reserved
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Allan Wall recently returned to the U.S. after residing many years in Mexico.