Mexico's bloody drug war can be traced to seven cartel-related conflicts, the Mexican government recently reported.
And a Texas-born drug kingpin recently arrested in Mexico, Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, said Juárez was the flash point for the fighting.
The government report, titled "Information on the Criminal Phenomenon in Mexico," says 80 percent of the drug-related homicides (22,701 out of 28,353 ) took place in 162 communities, Juárez among the highest.
The biggest number of drug-related deaths involves Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman Loera's battles against four other drug-trafficking organizations.
As of July 30, the Guzman and Carrillo Fuentes cartels had waged the bloodiest battle in Mexico, with 8,236 dead between the two groups.
Guzman's cartel is also fighting the Beltran-Leyva, Gulf cartel-Zetas and Arellano Felix cartels, in attacks and counterattacks that killed an additional 10,861 people.
"Currently, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Baja California are the states where the most homicides linked to organized crime are concentrated," the report said.
Since January, Juárez has had 2,006 homicides that authorities said are connected to the cartel wars.
The report also said the federal government early on identified serious problems that led to weakened police and judicial systems, which created the conditions for organized crime to grow.
Police were poorly paid and equipped and lacked effective coordination, and some were threatened or bought off by criminals, the report said.
Unprofessional or ineffective prosecutors and courts and obsolete laws were other factors.
"These multiple deficiencies caused some law enforcement and justice institutions, particularly at the local level, to opt for explicit or (implicit) arrangements with criminals," the report said.
On the day that Valdez was captured, Mexican Federal Security Ministry Commissioner Facundo Rosas announced that the federal agency had fired 3,200 officers (10 percent of the force) for failure to perform their duties. He did not accuse the fired officers of having links to organized crime.
Rosas said an additional 1,020 officers would be investigated for failure to complete their confidence exams.
Federal law officers have become frequent targets for gunmen in Juárez, as well as for complaints from residents and fellow officers.
Since January, more than 90 police officers have been killed in Juárez; a third of them were municipal police, and the rest were federal and state officers.
Spikes in violence seemed to occur whenever a ranking drug lord or a relative was captured or killed, the report said.
Such events included the 2008 arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva (brother of Arturo Beltran Leyva), and the murder that year of Guzman's son, Edgar Guzman, a former Juárez resident.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón began the crackdown against the drug cartels in his home state of Michoacan, an area the report said was ideal for growing marijuana and opium poppies. Michoacan also provided a key trafficking route between the Pacific coast and 12 Mexican states, including Chihuahua.
The report gave statistics for the seizures of drugs, weapons, vehicles and money and for the arrests of alleged drug-traffickers.
According to the report, Calderón had a better record in the first four years of his administration than his predecessors Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo had in their first four years in office.
For example, since Calderón took office, 115,604 suspects were detained between December 2006 and July 31 compared with 58,818 under Fox and 64,187 under Zedillo.
One of the biggest arrests made recently involves Valdez, a U.S.-born alleged drug trafficker who is said to know the top leaders in the drug trade in Mexico.
Last Sunday a judge in Mexico ordered that Valdez held for 40 days pending an investigation into organized crime and other possible charges, The Associated Press reported.
Valdez revealed many things after his recent capture that pulled back the veil from the activities of Mexico's warring drug cartels.
Valdez alleged that Guzman was responsible for the spiraling violence in Juárez. He said Guzman broke a pact the cartels had forged in 2007 in Cuernavaca, Morelos, by killing Carrillo Fuentes cartel operatives in Juárez.
Guzman, Juan Jose "Azul" Esparragoza, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, Ismael Mayo Zambada and Arturo Beltran Leyva were among those who were at the gathering. Two of them are dead now. The Mexican navy killed Beltran in a shootout Dec. 16 in Cuernavaca, and police shot Coronel to death on July 29 in Guadalajara.
In a videotaped interview with officials, Valdez said the leaders at the 2007 summit wanted to end the bloodshed and to agree on how to divide certain drug-trafficking regions among themselves. But problems began soon after the meeting.
Valdez said Guzman insisted on certain conditions. One of them was for the Carrillo Fuentes cartel to get rid of Juan Pablo Ledezma. Ledezma, alias "J.L." and Eduardo Ledezma, allegedly is Carrillo's operations chief in Chihuahua state.
"It all started because of Juárez," Valdez said. "(Guzman) did not want "J.L.," who handled everything for Vicente Carrillo. Supposedly, they had agreed that (Guzman's people) would pass through Juárez, and then they started to fight because they gave each other dirty looks - they just started to fight, because that's the way it is."
Valdez said the Beltran Leyva cartel, which he used to work with, is not at war with the Carrillo Fuentes cartel because they agreed to not attack each other.
Mexican federal officers detained Valdez on Aug. 30 in a small town near Mexico City, along with six others, including Jorge V. Landa Coronado, 28, also of Laredo, Texas. Mexican authorities accused Valdez of dealing up to a ton of cocaine per month and of running a major drug-trafficking operation that extended to several states.
Officials also alleged that Valdez created a school in Honduras to train hit men. He is also wanted in the United States on drug-related charges.
Before he was detained, Valdez said, he was creating his own drug organization. He said he had drug-related investments in Colombia, moved cocaine through Panama, and transported currency from drug proceeds in tractor-trailers.
He also spoke with contempt about the Zetas, former enforcers of the Gulf cartel that broke away.
"Well, they (Zetas) are a danger because they have no respect," Valdez said. "The truth is they are dirty. For me, not even their mother wants them."
Valdez also said he paid about $900,000 to have a movie made about himself, according to a government transcript of his statement. He did not disclose the film's name or producer.
Movies and telenovelas featuring drug traffickers, such as Telemundo's "El Cartel," have become popular fare. A new Luis Estrada film, "El Infierno," which satirizes Mexican drug-traffickers debuts this week.
Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6140.
The Mexican government linked 28,353 homicides in Mexico to the drug cartel wars. Of those, it said 22,701 homicides occurred in regions with the heaviest fighting as follows:
# Guzman Loera cartel v. Carrillo Fuentes cartel: 8,236 (36%)
# Guzman Loera cartel v. Beltran Leyva cartel: 5,864 (26%)
# Guzman Loera cartel v. Gulf cartel/Zetas: 3,199 (14%)
# Guzman Loera cartel v. Arrellano Felix cartel: 1,798 (8%)
# Familia cartel v. Gulf cartel/Zetas: 1,744 (8%)
# Gulf cartel v. Zetas: 1,328 (6%)
# Familia cartel v. Beltran Leyva cartel: 56 (0.2%)
# Unknown: 476 (1.8%)
Source: Mexican government; December 2007 to July 2010.
by Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
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