Author Topic: Mexico  (Read 369902 times)


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GPF: Zapatistas extend authority in Chiapas
« Reply #603 on: August 21, 2019, 12:25:35 PM »
Competing for control in Mexico. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a Mexican militia that controls large swaths of territory in Chiapas state, claimed that it extended its authority to 11 more zones in Chiapas, giving it a total of 43 areas of control. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador responded cautiously, saying the expansion was welcome so long as it was not violent. Domestic security is still a challenge for Mexico, as self-defense groups like the Zapatistas have created obstacles to restoring order in certain parts of the country. Chiapas is also a key part of the route for migrants heading north from Guatemala, and maintaining control of the area is critical to controlling the flow of migrants.


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Stratfor: Nuevo Laredo
« Reply #608 on: September 09, 2019, 10:34:24 AM »

    Violence between the Cartel del Noreste and state police has been surging in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas state over the past two weeks.
    In response to these losses, CDN has threatened those that do business with security forces, prompting many gasoline stations to refuse to sell fuel to the authorities.
    Given running gunbattles involving automatic weapons and grenades, attacks on security forces and threats against businesses, those with interests in Nuevo Laredo should be on heightened alert until the wave of brutality subsides.

Editor's Note: ­This security-focused assessment is one of many such analyses found at Stratfor Threat Lens, a unique protective intelligence product designed with corporate security leaders in mind. Threat Lens enables industry professionals and organizations to anticipate, identify, measure and mitigate emerging threats to people, assets and intellectual property the world over. Threat Lens is the only unified solution that analyzes and forecasts security risk from a holistic perspective, bringing all the most relevant global insights into a single, interactive threat dashboard.

Violence between the Cartel del Noreste (CDN) and state police has been surging in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas state over the past two weeks. The incidents began Aug. 22, when officers with the Center for Analysis, Information and Studies of Tamaulipas (CAIET) erected a pop-up checkpoint just outside Nuevo Laredo on Federal Highway 2, which leads to Piedras Negras up the Rio Grande in Coahuila state. A convoy of heavily armed CDN gunmen with the cartel's "Tropa del Infierno" (Spanish for "Soldiers of Hell") enforcer unit attacked the checkpoint and wounded two police officers. They attacked the officers again as they took their wounded to the hospital, injuring a third officer.

The Big Picture

Since 2013, Mexico's cartels began a long process of balkanization, or splintering. Many organizations, such as the Gulf cartel, imploded and fragmented into several smaller, often competing factions. One of the three main clusters of smaller groups we track by geography centers on Tamaulipas state.

See Security Challenges in Latin America

On Aug. 23, Tropa del Infierno gunmen attacked the Santa Teresa Hotel in Nuevo Laredo, where CAIET officers were staying, killing one officer and wounding two others. On Aug. 27, 11 members of the enforcer unit were killed — four in an attack on a police station and seven in an attempted ambush on a CAIET patrol. On Aug. 28, family members of the CDN gunmen protested outside the Santa Teresa Hotel and threatened to burn vehicles in the parking lot. This incident shows the CDN's deep roots in the Nuevo Laredo community.

On Aug. 31, CAIET arrested four members of the CDN Tropa 202 enforcer unit in Ciudad Mier after a running gunbattle. Several others escaped into the countryside. On Sept. 2, four CDN gunmen were detained at a roadblock on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo, and on Sept. 5, eight members of the Tropa del Infierno were killed in a firefight with CAIET officers; the dead included three female gunmen.

With the running gunbattles, those with interests in Nuevo Laredo should be on heightened alert until this wave of brutality subsides.


In response to these losses, CDN has openly threatened businesses that support the CAIET and the military in Nuevo Laredo. It specifically warned gasoline stations that sell fuel to security forces. According to media company Televisa, stations have refused to sell fuel to the authorities since Sept. 2. Televisa broadcast a conversation between a Tamaulipas state official and a gas station owner in which the owner refused to sell fuel even if additional security was provided for his station. This has forced the authorities to ship in fuel.

The CDN is a remnant of the Los Zetas cartel that is led by Juan Gerardo Trevino Chavez, also known as El Huevo; he is a member of the Trevino smuggling clan, which has a long history in Nuevo Laredo — and in the Los Zetas cartel. His uncles, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, aka Z-40, and Omar Trevino Morales, aka Z-42, were both former leaders of Los Zetas. The Trevinos are old-school Nuevo Laredo smugglers and criminals with deep ties to the community.

Conflict between the CDN and government forces isn't a new phenomenon. In the summer of 2018, violence between the two sides also surged after the ambush and assassination of the director of a prison in Nuevo Laredo. With the running gunbattles involving automatic weapons and grenades, attacks on security forces and threats against businesses, those with interests in Nuevo Laredo should be on heightened alert until this wave of brutality subsides.


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Stratfor: The Case for a Counter Insurgency Approach to Mexico's Cartel Wars
« Reply #609 on: October 02, 2019, 12:21:14 AM »
on security
The Case for a Counterinsurgency Approach to Mexico's Cartel Wars
Scott Stewart
Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
9 MINS READOct 1, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
Favio Gomez, brother of Servando Gomez, also known as
(MANUEL VELASQUEZ/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Favio Gomez, brother of Servando Gomez, also known as "La Tuta," is transported in Mexico City on Feb. 27, 2015, after his capture. Counterinsurgency tactics, rather than counterterrorism measures, might bring Mexico more success in battling its cartels.

    Mexico has not designated its cartels as terrorist organizations, but it uses many counterterrorism tools and tactics to fight them.
    Such an approach has weakened many cartels, causing several to implode, but it has done little to enhance the government's legitimacy or address the issues that foster the rise of such groups.
    Because cartels have grown strong due to corruption, incompetent governance, economic malaise, impunity and the absence of the rule of law, Mexico might require a holistic counterinsurgency approach that goes beyond military means to remedy the underlying issues that facilitate such criminality.


Just last week, I was chatting with someone on Twitter who stated his belief that Mexican drug cartels should be classified as "terrorists" because of their actions. It's an idea, however, that I have long opposed: Cartels' gratuitous violence notwithstanding, their actions do not really fit the definition of terrorism, which many broadly define as political violence directed toward civilians. To my mind, Mexican cartels have simply not yet emulated Colombia's Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel sicarios and engaged in political violence.

The Big Picture

Geographic proximity to the United States has been both a blessing and a curse for Mexico. Easy access to the giant U.S. market and free trade agreements have fostered more manufacturing activity, jobs and foreign investment in the country. At the same time, Mexico's proximity to illicit U.S. markets has resulted in the rapid growth of extremely violent criminal enterprises. Crime and violence are taking a huge toll on citizens and placing heavy fetters on the Mexican economy. There are many profound factors underlying the rise of the powerful organized crime groups, which are responsible for the majority of Mexico's violence. But until Mexico can address these issues, its government will be unable to kill its way out of this situation, causing the people and the economy to suffer.

See The Importance of Mexico

Still, it dawned on me that — definitions aside — the Mexican government and its U.S. ally have pursued the "war" on cartels using many of the same tools that we normally associate with the "global war on terror." Mexican special operations forces routinely raid hideouts to capture or kill cartel leaders, as well as employ sophisticated intelligence tools to track or hack cartel communications devices and networks. In one February 2017 incident, Mexican marines poured fire from a helicopter armed with a minigun into a house in Tepic, Nayarit, killing a Beltran Leyva Organization leader and 11 of his henchmen. Widely circulated videos of the incident resembled something one would expect to see in an operation targeting the Islamic State rather than an anti-crime operation in the capital of a Mexican state. 

I certainly don't fault the Mexican military for using military force against the cartels. Since the 1990s, the cartels have employed former soldiers armed with military-grade weapons in their enforcer units. But as we've seen in recent years, the military-based counterterrorism approach to combatting the cartels is not working. The government has captured or killed a long list of cartel leaders but failed to curb cartel violence. Indeed, 2019 is on track to be the most violent year ever in Mexico. Clearly, the Mexican government can't capture or kill its way out of its cartel problem. Instead, the road to solving the country's profound problems might lie along a different, more holistic, tack: a counterinsurgency model. Thinking of the cartels as criminal insurgents provides a valid blueprint for understanding the problem — as well as a road map for addressing it. 
Mexico's Cartels Stage an Insurgency

The idea that Mexican cartels are criminal insurgents is not a revelation. In fact, Stratfor contributor John P. Sullivan and Robert J. Bunker published an anthology in 2012 on the topic of Mexico's criminal insurgency for Small Wars Journal. As it is, the U.S. military defines insurgency as "the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region," in its counterinsurgency doctrinal document, Joint Publication 3-24. And while Mexican cartels may not be seeking to establish an alternative government like a typical political insurgency, they are seeking to nullify or challenge the political control of territory to further their criminal operations.

Insurgents thrive in insecure areas that lack capable, credible governance. There are historical, geographic and political factors that have challenged Mexico City's ability to govern and control parts of the country. Indeed, banditry, smuggling and other criminal activity have historically plagued ungoverned places such as the sparsely populated deserts and mountains of the country's north.

In some ways, it is only when it comes to end goals that the Islamic State and Mexican cartels differ: Whereas the jihadist group wants to control territory for political power, cartels wish to do so for profit.

Geography and terrain are important factors that enable an insurgency, and it is no coincidence that most successful insurgencies take advantage of rough terrain, such as mountains and deserts, to wage their operations. But even more important than the physical terrain is the human terrain, as insurgents who enjoy the support of the population tend to thrive, relying on locals for shelter, material support, recruits and even intelligence. Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong noted that favorable human terrain allows a guerrilla fighter "to move among the people as a fish moves in the sea," and leftist and jihadist theorists alike have stressed the need to obtain local backing in their insurgencies. The cartels use a complicated combination of largesse and fear to ensure the population stays on their side. Indeed, Mexico's Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera did not become a revered and respected cultural icon by mistake, but rather as the result of a carefully cultivated campaign. In the end, mere popular support couldn't protect Guzman from the massive international effort to capture him, but it certainly complicated authorities' efforts to locate him, allowing the cartel boss to remain freer for much longer than he would have otherwise.

In places like Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State has conducted operations to destabilize areas in which it wants to operate by conducting targeted assassinations and engaging in efforts to influence or sway local leaders to its side. By offering "plata o plomo" (silver or lead), Mexican cartels operate in much the same way, seeking to tip the local population to their side, maintain their favorable standing or, at the very least, obtain locals' fearful acquiescence by demonstrating the government's powerlessness. In some ways, it is only when it comes to end goals that the Islamic State and Mexican cartels differ: Whereas the jihadist group wants to control territory for political power, cartels wish to do so for profit. 

Taking a Holistic Approach

As history has repeatedly demonstrated — including recent history in the war against jihadism — counterinsurgency is difficult. This is especially so when locals view the forces conducting the counterinsurgency as outsiders. For insular communities in the Mexican mountains, federal troops are nearly as foreign as U.S. troops in Afghanistan. At its heart, counterinsurgency is really more an art than a science, meaning it requires a great deal of foresight, patience and cultural understanding. Unlike the current counterterrorism approach, a counterinsurgency approach would go beyond mere military force to utilize all the tools of the national, state and local governments, including their political, economic, educational, health, legal and developmental resources. Getting all of Mexico's conflicting political parties and state and local governments on board would present a challenge, but perhaps only measures that erode cartels' support base will cut such enterprises down to size. 

As I have noted in the past, there is little difference in the geographic factors that influence the north and south banks of the Rio Grande. The vast majority of the drugs that flow north out of Tamaulipas pass through the Texas Rio Grande Valley, while most of the money that flows south ends up back in Tamaulipas. Indeed, the same criminal cartels that operate in Tamaulipas also operate in Texas, but there are worlds of difference in terms of how these groups operate depending on whether they're on the U.S. or Mexican side of the line. As has become abundantly clear, they are far more aggressive and violent in Mexico than they are in the United States. It all goes to show that corruption, incompetent governance, economic malaise, impunity and the absence of the rule of law have allowed cartels to thrive and engage in wanton violence in Mexico. In essence, these are the same factors that have permitted groups such as the Islamic State West African Province to spread in Nigeria, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin in northern Mali and other insurgent groups elsewhere.

This graph shows murder rates by year in Mexico.

Mexican governments have repeatedly tried to address the cartel problem through an institutional approach, focusing merely on reforming corrupt police agencies. The government of current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is taking a similar path, creating a new Mexican National Guard and reviving the Secretariat of Public Security that his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, abolished. These new institutions, however, have done little to reduce the violence wracking Mexico because they are not holistic and cannot address the underlying issues facilitating the criminal insurgencies. Lopez Obrador the candidate noted that corruption was the No. 1 problem facing Mexico, but Lopez Obrador the president has succeeded in doing very little about the issue.

To be successful, a counterinsurgency campaign must weaken the insurgent forces while building the government's legitimacy. Mexico's counterterrorism approach against the cartels has weakened many of the groups, causing several to implode, but it has done little to stem corruption or enhance the government's legitimacy. This, in turn, has allowed criminals to take advantage of the vacuum of authority and governance.

Joint Publication 3-24 notes that "the [host nation] government generally needs some level of legitimacy among the population to retain the confidence of the populace and an acknowledgment of governing power." The Mexican government has not been able to build legitimacy in the eyes of the population, which has very little confidence in central authorities' ability to govern. Until Mexico City can begin to make progress on the ground in governing, battling corruption, ending impunity and winning the trust and confidence of the local population, cartels will continue to thrive — no matter how many criminal leaders the military kills or how many new security institutions the state drafts into the fight.   


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« Last Edit: October 19, 2019, 07:26:16 AM by Crafty_Dog »


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WSJ on Culiacan
« Reply #614 on: October 19, 2019, 09:00:01 PM »

Mexican Cartel Rules City After Gunbattle
Operation to free Ovidio Guzmán was unprecedented in scope and sophistication
A policeman walks past a burnt vehicle after heavily armed gunmen waged a battle against Mexican security forces in Culiacán. Photo: Alfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
By David Luhnow,
José de Cordoba and
Santiago Pérez
Updated Oct. 18, 2019 7:04 pm ET

MEXICO CITY—A son of the infamous Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is captured. Cartel gunmen respond with a vicious attack on soldiers and civilians across a major Mexican city, leaving at least eight people dead and 16 wounded. The government gives in and releases the son, a top figure in the cartel.

One of the most violent and harrowing days in Mexico’s long fight against drug cartels unfolded late Thursday as members of the Sinaloa cartel wreaked havoc across Culiacán, a modern, middle-class city of around 800,000 residents, in response to what appeared to be a botched attempt to arrest Ovidio Guzmán.

Heavily-armed gunmen riding in convoys engaged in more than 70 separate firefights with Mexican security forces, set fires to vehicles, shot at government offices and engineered a jailbreak that freed 55 prisoners, with six recaptured, officials said. By nightfall, it was clear that the cartel was in charge of the city.

Mexican cartels have a history of blocking streets with burned-out cars to protect their bosses and of going on rampages when their leaders are captured by authorities. But Thursday’s events were unprecedented in their scope and sophistication, showing that the Sinaloa cartel is alive and well despite the absence of its legendary leader, who is now serving a life prison sentence.

The incident stunned many in Mexico and raised pressure on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to make headway against the country’s relentless cartel-fueled violence. On Friday, he defended the decision to release the younger Mr. Guzmán.

“The situation became very difficult. Many citizens were at risk,” the president said at his daily news conference. “I agreed with that.”

Cartel gunmen had also kidnapped eight army soldiers and an officer, said Mexico’s Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval. They were released after the drug lord was freed.

Schools remained closed in Culiacán on Friday, as did many businesses.

Mr. Guzmán, who is only in his late 20s, has emerged as a top figure in the cartel along with his brothers Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo following the arrest and extradition of their father in 2017.

The incident was the third major gun battle of the week. On Monday, at least 13 state police in Michoacán state were massacred by suspected gunmen from the country’s powerful Jalisco cartel. A day later, one soldier and 14 alleged cartel gunmen died in a shootout in southern Guerrero state.

The violence, along with widespread extortion of businesses by organized crime, is one factor in Mexico’s economic stagnation. The economy has failed to grow so far this year. A survey by Mexico’s central bank found that violence and political uncertainty are the top two obstacles to economic growth cited by economists.

The administration’s backing down to the cartel’s offensive was sharply criticized by many ordinary Mexicans and security analysts, who challenged Mr. López Obrador’s policy of using force only as a last resort in an attempt to pacify one of the world’s most violent nations. He has called the policy “hugs, not bullets,” promising to focus on attacking poverty rather than cartels.

Murders in Mexico are on pace for a record-high 37,000 this year, according to the country’s national statistics agency. The U.S., which has nearly three times Mexico’s population, has about 15,000 murders a year, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Security analysts said the Culiacán incident was a public-relations disaster for the government, which looked weak in the face of cartel firepower.

“Lopez Obrador was confident his call for peace and love—and not going after narcos—would lower violence,” said Raúl Benitez, an analyst at the Autonomous University of Mexico. Instead, he said the president has given free rein to gangs. “It shows the peace-and-love strategy is not working.”

Adding to the sense of impunity, a lawyer representing the Guzmán family held a press conference in Mexico City on Friday to thank Mr. López Obrador for freeing Mr. Guzmán.

“The calculus the president made was that a single Mexican life is worth more than all the violence that was, as they say in music, reaching a crescendo,” attorney Juan Pablo Badillo said, adding that “we have no idea what would have happened” if the drug lord hadn’t been released.

Mr. Sandoval said Friday that a unit of Mexico’s National Guard had located Ovidio Guzmán, but acted hastily and arrived at a safe house without a warrant. While they were waiting for it, cartel gunmen allegedly opened fire. Security forces captured Mr. Guzmán, officials said, but then found themselves surrounded by cartel gunmen who arrived as backup.

Within minutes of Mr. Guzmán’s capture, hundreds of cartel gunmen sprang into action. Convoys of SUVs and pickups filled the city streets. Gunmen wore bulletproof vests and toted assault rifles, and at least two had machine guns, including an intimidating Browning M2 set up on the back of a light truck, according to security experts who analyzed video footage of the events.

Gunmen also began firing on army barracks where the family members of soldiers lived, Mr. Sandoval said. One unconfirmed report said gang members had hijacked loaded fuel trucks and parked them near the barracks, threatening to blow them up.

“The criminal organization’s ability to call on its members and power of response was underestimated,” said Mr. Sandoval.
Mexican soldiers patrol near the government palace in Culiacán on Friday. Photo: alfredo estrella/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Mobsters sprayed bullets in front of key government buildings and gas stations, torching cars and sending plumes of smoke over the Culiacán skyline. It gave the impression of a civil war, sparking panic among the population, said Eduardo Guerrero, a former top Mexican security official.

Between 100 and 150 gunmen surrounded the area near the house where Mr. Guzmán was hiding out, outnumbering some 70 to 80 troops. Another 150 or 200 cartel members were deployed in various parts of the city to create havoc, Mr. Guerrero estimates.

Another armed commando staged a parallel raid, taking advantage of the chaos spreading across Culiacán to free more than 50 cartel members from a nearby prison. Security guards offered no resistance.

“They were more powerful and showed tactical supremacy. The government didn’t expect a reaction in such scale,” said Guillermo Valdés, Mexico’s former intelligence chief. “As soon as some 300 hit men came out, there was no capacity to counter them.”

Mexico’s powerful drug cartels are likely to take note of the Sinaloa cartel’s use of military power and tactics in freeing Mr. Guzmán, and emulate it, said Mike Vigil, a former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who has also served in Mexico.

“Releasing Ovidio sends a vivid message to criminal cartels that if a group’s leader is captured, all you have to do is go into a town, commit wholesale violence, and the government will release him,” he said.
Residents were forced to flee for cover as armed gunmen and federal police clashed on the streets of Culiacán Thursday. Photo: str/EPA/Shutterstock

Mr. López Obrador campaigned on ending Mexico’s drug war. Since 2006, as cartels gained increasing power, successive presidents have used the armed forces to kill or capture cartel leaders and break up powerful gangs.

The strategy reduced the clout of the largest cartels, but it also led to growing criminal violence as cartels splintered into rival gangs and fought each other for control of drug-trafficking routes and territory. Hundreds of thousands have died in the carnage.

Mr. López Obrador said his government would no longer focus on capturing cartel leaders but work on alleviating poverty. “What happened yesterday was lamentable, but in no way does it mean our strategy has failed,” he told reporters during his morning news conference.

The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has worked on alleviating poverty in order to prevent young people from joining gangs. Photo: daniel ricardez/EPA/Shutterstock

The president is also relying on the force of his personality to tamp down crime, calling on gang members to think of their mothers.

“We’re calling on criminals to tone it down, that we all start to behave better. To hell with criminals. Fuchi, guacala,” he said, using colloquial terms that mean “gross, yuck.”

Thursday, as word of the battles in Culiacán spread on social media, the phrase #Fuchi/guacala was trending on Twitter.

—Anthony Harrup and Robbie Whelan contributed to this article.

Write to David Luhnow at, José de Cordoba at and Santiago Pérez at