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  1. source
    The most wanted men in Mexico are tumbling. Will crime follow suit?

    IN MARCH 2009 the Mexican government published a list of 37 men believed to be running drug gangs. The alleged bandits were named and rewards of up to 30m pesos ($2m) each were offered for their capture. The government’s normally stodgy official gazette listed the villains by their nicknames: Monkey, Beardy, Taliban and so on. It was a risky decision: the list could have become an embarrassment if its members had remained free.

    But most have not. Three and a half years on, security forces have arrested 16 of them and killed seven. Two more have been murdered by rivals. That leaves just 12 at large—though among them is the leader of the Sinaloa “cartel”, Joaquín Guzmán (known as El Chapoor “Shorty”), who is the most wanted of all.

    On October 7th the marines killed the latest target, Heriberto “The Executioner” Lazcano, who was allegedly head of the Zetas, one of Mexico’s two most powerful mobs. In an embarrassing twist, government officials thought they had merely dispatched a common criminal until a group of gunmen—presumably fellow Zetas—entered the funeral home where the body was kept and drove off with it in a hearse. Conspiracy theorists now wonder if Mr Lazcano faked his own death and is living out his days under a parasol in Cancún. Fingerprints and photos of the corpse suggest otherwise.

    Snatched bodies aside, the downing of so many drug lords is a success for Felipe Calderón, whose presidency will end on December 1st. The Gulf “cartel”, one of the region’s oldest and most powerful mafias, has been virtually wiped out. (Its boss, Jorge Costilla, was arrested last month.) The Beltrán Leyva organisation, once so formidable that it infiltrated the attorney-general’s office, is all but gone. The Zetas have been hurt by a series of arrests this year. Even Sinaloa, the strongest and canniest group, has lost important members.

    What is it good for?

    Despite it all, the murder rate is nearly twice as high as it was when Mr Calderón took office six years ago. In some cases the capture of kingpins has led to feuds among their deputies, fuelling the violence. Mr Calderón admits that the fall of Mr Lazcano might not immediately calm things down, though he says he expects a “period of stabilisation” to follow a “readjustment of the criminal organisations”.

    But when? It is nearly three years since the killing of Arturo Beltrán Leyva, and his old fiefs of Guerrero and Morelos now see 60% and 180% more murders than they did when he was alive. “It is precisely because there has not been an authority to replace that hegemony,” Mr Calderón says. “If a cartel is weakened and made vulnerable, as the Beltrán Leyvas were, but there is no authority to assume the roles of leadership and enforcement, clearly that prolongs the situation.” The blame, he implies, lies with state and local governments. “I would like nothing more than to be mayor of Acapulco [in Guerrero] as well…but the truth is that there is a local government and there is a governor of Guerrero, who between them have 5,000 police, and the desirable thing is that those police work. And while that doesn’t happen, well, evidently a process of instability will continue.”

    A national vetting scheme has weeded out some of the worst police. But so far ten of the 31 states (including Guerrero) have not evaluated even half their forces. The federal police, by no means completely clean, enjoy greater public confidence: 55% think they do a decent job, versus 42% for state police and 36% for local police. Enrique Peña Nieto, the president-elect, has promised to swell the federal police’s ranks by drafting in 40,000 soldiers.

    Some individual captures do seem to have helped. José Antonio Acosta, who has admitted to planning hundreds of killings for the Juárez gang in Chihuahua, was arrested in 2011. So far this year murders in the state have fallen by about a third. The removal of bloodthirsty lieutenants such as Mr Acosta may be less destabilising than the falls of capos. “If you’re taking out the middle layer, the risk of succession fights might be diminished,” says Alejandro Hope of IMCO, a think-tank. The recent captures of various mid-ranking Zetas, such as “El Lucky” and “the Squirrel”, might limit the infighting following the death of their leader.

    Mexico’s national murder rate has fallen by 8% this year, the first decline since drug-related violence took off in 2008. Mr Peña, who vowed to lead a “government that keeps its promises” during his campaign, says he aims to reduce it by half during his six-year tenure. (He will take last year’s rate as the base, giving him a small head start.) That is an ambitious goal. But as the dwindling most-wanted list shows, unlikely targets can sometimes be hit.

    October 18th 2012 | MEXICO CITY |
    The Economist


  1. runnerupbeautyqueen
    If the history of Mexican cartels shows us anything it's that as soon as one falls another rises. Cartel members join for the money and as long as there is money to be made they will keep joining.

    The focus needs to turn from capturing the cartels people to capturing the cartels profits. Lives mean nothing to them.
  2. trdofbeingtrd
    Here is an interesting question (to me anyways) and I would love it RUBQ if you gave your answer to it, as well as anyone else.

    If drugs were to become legal, period, it both the United States and in Mexico, what would that do to all of these cartels, what would that do to the every day murder status, and if people were allowed to make drugs (if they got a license showing they can do it without blowing people up) and those drugs could be sold legally.......would it in the end help or hurt the situation.
  3. runnerupbeautyqueen
    Unless everything becomes legal there will always be a black market for something and as long as there is a black market there will be criminal enterprise. If the cartels were suddenly unable to profit from illegal drugs I imagine they would likely just shift their focus. Guns, murder for hire, kidnapping, extortion, the cartels already profit from these activities. Look at the Zeta's - because they have been unable to secure major drug smuggling routes (or at least not to the degree as the Sinaloa or the other 2 major cartels) they have been forced to diversify and go the kidnapping, extortion, and pirated software/movies route. If drugs became legal the cartels would not suddenly become legitimate corporations. The cartels aren't selling drugs to make a political statement or because they believe in the cause. If drugs were legalized they wouldn't run out and get a business license for their meth labs or suddenly open up friendly neighborhood drug stores. They don't care about drugs or drug users or even the members of their own gang. The cartels are not a drug smuggling organization, they are a criminal organization. If they are forced to up the ante in other criminal markets I think we would see the kidnapping and murder rate soar as they are forced to make up the difference when their drug profits inevitably dry up. I don't see the cartel leaders throwing up their hands and saying "oh well, at least we had a nice run while it lasted. Let's all go get real jobs now - I hear Pedro's Taco Shop is hiring dishwashers."
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