Paramilitaries in Mexico's drug war
- Killers against killers
From Mexico City reports Klaus Ehringfeld
They have succeeded where the state has failed: More and more paramilitary groups mix in the Mexican drug by fighting against the cartels. Politics grant permission - or even contract them.
Who wants to keep an overview of Mexico's drug war? Almost on a monthly basis are appearing new micro cartels or killer commandos, groups that call themselves "New People" or "Knights Templar".
No longer just the seven powerful Mafia gangs battle for spots and routes for their drugs, the drug war has in some places become a vast urban trench warfare of many smaller gangs. Increasingly, the civilian population is caught between the fronts: Threatened teachers in Acapulco, extorted bartenders in Monterrey, journalists murdered in Mexico City, kidnappings almost everywhere. Now the violence has arrived in the port city of Veracruz . There, dozens of corpses of executed since the end of September, were found.
The newly formed groups are spin-offs of the major cartels. Some become self-employed if their leader gets caught.
"We are the armed wing of the People"
Most of these new units only become known to media and people, when again a corpse is found with a note attached, confessing that "they" have done it. But so far none is so offensive and so unusual as occurred a month ago in the state of Vera Cruz: the "Mata Zetas," the self-proclaimed enemies of the feared "Zeta cartel."
In a bizarre video the "Mata Zetas claim responsibility for the killing of 35 people in September at Vera Cruz. The victims allegedly were members of the feared "Zeta"cartel.
Five masked men dressed in black sitting at a table can be seen in the five-minute video. The spokesman, a corpulent man, says: "We do not kidnap, we do not extort, we are the armed wing of the People".
The "Mata Zetas" describe themselves as "anonymous warriors" and "proud Mexicans." "Our only opponent are the Zetas. We respect the security forces."
Above all, this is the proof for Edgardo Buscaglia that the "Mata Zetas" is a classic paramilitary group.
"In their view, they support the overwhelmed state and its security forces in the fight against certain criminal gangs," says the expert on organized crime.
Paramilitaries are a well known phenomenon in Mexico. They were already active in the seventies in the state of Guerrero and in the nineties in Chiapas . There they fought against leftist rebel movements. The groups were composed of military or ex-military men who were hired by businessman and landlords.
The state is consumed at all levels by corruption
A total of 167 paramilitary groups are counted by Buscaglia and his team from the International Law and Economic Development Centre, present in eleven of the 32 Mexican states. "This is not a final number, we suspect that in 17 states are these mercenary groups," says the director of the Center. That would be half the Mexican territory.
Before the Mexican President Calderon declared war to the cartels in late 2006, there were only a dozen of these murder gangs.But the rapid rise of the killer commandos is no surprise to the experts: "The weak state and the failed fight against organized crime are the reason for their increase." Although the government has sent tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police in the fight against the mafia associations, resulting not in less violence, but more.
The state is weak because he has been "eaten away" by corruption at all levels, says the lawyer Buscaglia. And so the spiral of death spins faster and faster: 50,000 people died in five years in Mexico's drug war. The fight of the president against the cartels is out of control.
Elections are coming soon - so no efforts should be spared to fight crime
This weakness is used by the paramilitary groups. As mercenaries they offer their "services" to clean up certain territories from rival groups, Buscaglia said. Clients are entrepreneurs who have had enough of extortion and corrupt policemen, but also among the clients are regional or local governments. Sometimes there are even criminal organizations that rely on the help of the "paras".
In the more fiercely disputed states, the cartel tried to use the paramilitary groups to strengthen their dominant position. "Therefore violent crimes decreases because once again the mafia has the upper hand ," says the expert Buscaglia.
The government is trying by every means to lower the violent crime rate. One should not forget that in less than a year a new President is elected in Mexico. "President Calderón has to show results until the elections in July 2012, if he wants to avoid a devastating defeat for his party.If he succeeds to expell the "Zetas" from Veracruz with the help of the paramilitaries, an important goal would be reached.
The coastal state has been in the hand of the the most brutal and bloodthirsty cartel "Zetas" for years.
Veracruz is one of the most strategically important states of Mexico: Situated on the Gulf Coast, it has as a major Atlantic port with an excellent infrastructure, bordered to the south of Chiapas, Guatemala and the state of Tamaulipas to the north, a U.S. border state. Who has the power in Vera Cruz, controls the transport routes across Mexico.
In short and medium terms, Buscaglia fears that the violence in Mexico will continue to rise. "There is evidence of mercenary troops in Chiapas, which are probably intend to fight the" Zetas on the border with Guatemala."
There is no lack of recruits for the paramilitaries. Mexico is a bazaar for illegal security services. "There are Russian, Ukrainian and Chinese mercenaries," the expert says pessimistic. "Nothing is easier than to recruit 20 men for some dirty work."
Comment:Translation from german news article
Original Source: "Paramilitärs in Mexikos Drogenkrieg
- Mit Killern gegen Killer", by Klaus Ehringfeld, Spiegel Online