July Dogs

Category: Organized Crime

NarcoGuerra Times-Obama’s Rebranded War

USMPiLAaC

On May 28, President Obama’s “drug czar” Gil Kerlikowske had an exchange with the National Journal..in which the former Seattle police chief said,

“We should stop comparing this to a war and be much smarter about how we are dealing with it–and in a much more comprehensive way. I’ve ended the war on drugs.

…Reducing the demand in the country is absolutely critical if we are not only to improve our own safety and security but also that in other countries”

Sounds promising. But it’s just rebranding. Happy horseshit for the hopeful.  The proof is in the pudding–and the pudding in Washington is always colored green.

According to the White House National Drug Control Strategy FY 2010 Budget Summary billions more  will be spent on “supply reduction” than “demand reduction.”

In 2010 nearly twice as much federal funding will go the “war” that Kelikowske says is “over” than to drug treatment and prevention programs–$9.9 billion for the cops and military, $5.167  for the demand side.

That’s a 2.7% bump for military and law enforcement, a 0.8% reduction for Obama’s  much touted prevention/treatment course.

And that’s just part of the Big Picture.

There are many many billions more heading into various counternarc0tics, counternarcoterrorist programs squirreled away within  DOD, State, Homeland Security, DOJ.  I am still wading through budgets and reports and can’t begin to pull a full expenditure together. One thread that runs steady through them all is the Pentagon.

From what I’ve seen thus far–despite the unease the Obama administration may have with the word—it’s definitely a war.

And its expanding.

More to follow.

* Map circa 1999.

NarcoGuerra Times- “Parallel State” Update

 bandera de los zetas

“I would say Mexico is a state with a parallel power in its drug cartels. It’s not a narco state yet; we still have a government. But they have true power, beginning with the right to tax (protection money).  I would say we are in great danger (of becoming a narco state.)”–Victor Clark Alfaro, narcotraficante expert at San Diego State University, June 3 2009 

Alfaro was speaking to Linda Diebel, reporter at the Toronto Star. She has a commendable piece out today–one that cuts through the bullshit bodycounting and fear-thumping generalizations the major US media coughs up on a daily basis.  Read Diebel’s piece here.  Note the happy horsehit the Mexican ambassador to Canada shovels out at the end of the article….like doing deep kneebends in the void.

Two weeks ago I posted on the parallel state model that Alfaro refers to–new readers can find that here.  For further reading I suggest venturing to  Ivan Briscoe’s The Proliferation of the Parallel State.  

Based on a close study of Pakistan and Guatemala, as well as a number of other cases ranging from Fujimori’s Peru to contemporary Guinea-Bissau, this Working Paper sets out to define the novel concept of the “parallel state”. It explains the emergence of these states in contexts where democracy and open markets have recently been installed, and analyses the ways in which political leaders and the public connect with entrenched criminal groups.

Briscoe’s  timely analysis can be downloaded as a pdf (English or Spanish) at FRIDE,  Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior 

 

* That’s Los Zetas bandera at top

NarcoGuerra Times: The Faith-Based Cartel

La Familia corpse

The drug cartel La Familia Michoacana is, as one Mexican intelligence analyst put it, “unique.”

From all available information so far, it appears that La Familia has developed into a faith-based right-wing populist social movement emanating from and orchestrated by an organization that happens to be a well-armed, well-financed violent criminal enterprise.

La Familia has branched out from the production and transport of drugs, diversifying into counterfeiting, extortion, kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution and car dealerships. They’ve gone so far beyond bribery that people in Michoacan are paying mony to La Familia in lieu of taxes to the government. According to the recent Mexican federal police report on La Familia, there are 9,000 members of the La Familia “sect.”

The federales are now viewing La Familia as more of a guerrilla group than a straight-foward drug cartel. Unlike other cartels, La Familia goes beyond the production and distribution of marijuana, meth, cocaine and heroin and into the political realm. The report goes on to say that La Familia has “created  a cult-like mystique and developed pseudo-evangelical recruitment techniques that are unique in Mexico.” 

Federal intelligence officers in Mexico described La Familia leader, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno–El Mas Loco (The Crazy One)–as a “religious zealot” who totes around his self-published book of “aphorisms” based on the Bible and writings of US evangelical author and former Focus on The Family writer, John Eldredge. In the searches and arrests targeting La Familia across Michoacan, the one common denominator federal forces found, along with assault rifles, grenades and drugs, were copies of Eldredge’s Wild At Heart. (Salvaje de Corazon).

La Familia is strongly pro-family (and all that that implies) and requires its members to abstain from alcohol and drugs. There is an indoctrination program all La Familia recruits must go through that inculcates ” personal values, ethical and morlal principles consistent with the purposes of the organization.”  Last year La Familia brought in  two motivational speakers to lecture its members. The group is hierarchic and maintains a strict top-down emotional control of its members.

Think of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, only with more money and firepower and you get the idea.

 La Familia presents serious implications for the July 5 state and elections and not just in Michoacan. The federal intelligence report warns that   La Familia “represents a serious risk to penetrate political, social and religious structures in Michoacán and increasingly in other states of the country as Guanajuato, Mexico and the State of Jalisco.”

More to follow from La Familia writings, messages and banderas.

From Focus On The Family to La Familia Michoacana

La Familia Michoacana was all over the news out of Mexico last week. In President Calderon’s home state of Michoacan,  federales carted off  ten  mayors and twenty other local officials who were allegedly under the control of La Familia, an ambitious cartel often described as a “pseudo-evangelical cult.”  (See my earlier post on them as parallel state  here.)

image001

 

On Saturday an internal intelligence report on La Familia from the Mexican justice department surfaced in Milenio, bringing the news that the faith-based cartel grounds its indoctrination program on the writings of macho Christian author and veteran Focus On The Family senior fellow John Eldredge, who  now heads Ransomed Hearts Ministries in Colorado Springs.

There are four separate references to Eldredge in  the Mexican  intelligence memo on La Familia. The cartel has conducted a three-year  recruitment and PR campaign across Michoacan featuring thousands of billboards and banderas carrying their evangelical message and warnings.  La Familia is known for tagging its executions and other mayhem as “la divina  justica”–divine justice.

The report says La Familia leader, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno aka El Loco o More Chayo (“The Craziest”) has made Eldredge’s books salvaje de corazonrequired reading for La Familia and has paid rural teachers and National Development Education members to circulate the Colorado-based evangelical’s writings throughout the Michoacan countryside. 

 

 

 

 

Eldredge pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  According to his bio:

John was a member of the staff at Focus on the Family for 12 years. Most recently he served as Senior Fellow for Christian Worldview Studies at the Focus on the Family Institute—a one-semester program for college students located at the Focus campus in Colorado Springs. There he began showing a new generation of Christians what writers like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and George MacDonald knew so well: “Christianity is not an invitation to become a moral person. It is not a program for getting us in line or for reforming society. At its core, Christianity begins with an invitation to desire.”

At FOTF, Eldredge led Dobson’s anti-gay crusade.  Here is Rev. Mel White’s account of a May 1994 meeting in Colorado in a letter White sent to Dobson:

John Eldredge, the first, key-note speaker. “The gay agenda, ” he claimed quite falsely, has all the elements of that which is truly evil. It is deceptive at every turn…It deceives those who are drawn into it, who embrace it. It presents an extraordinary deceptive face to the public at large.”

John was one of the three delegates to that conference from Focus on the Family. …Mr. Eldredge made his goals for gays and lesbians completely clear: “..to roll back the militant gay agenda wherever it manifests itself…whether in domestic partnership ordinances…school curriculum issues…pursuit of minority status…marriage and adoption privileges, so on and so forth.”

 Eldrege has been repeatedly taken to task by Christian critics on theological grounds, including  his mixing of “neo-pagan”  philosphy with the Gospel and aggressive of ‘Muscular Christianity”. Here and here. 

This from Christian blogger Tim Challies :

John Eldredge became a major player in the evangelical world with the release of The Sacred Romance which he co-authored with Brent Curtis (who has since died). Following The Sacred Romance he wrote Wild at Heart, Waking The Dead, The Journey of Desire and more recently, Epic. I have read all of these except for Waking The Dead and The Journey of Desire. Eldredge’s books are targeted primarily at men and his writings have great appeal for men, many of whom feel that society has forced them to be like Mr. Rogers – harmless and just a little effeminate. Eldredge encourages men to be real men – to head to the wilderness and be the rugged warriors we all want to be if we look deep inside ourselves. Eldredge continually writes about William Wallace of Braveheart or Maximus, the main character in Gladiator – real manly men.”

 Handiwork left on a nightclub dance floor by Eldredge’s “real manly” Christian acolytes..it doesn’t get more Mel Gibson  than this :

 More details to follow.

Narcocorridos: Prime Time TV, plus… a Cartoon!

I share the view that AMC’s meth-framed series,  Breaking Bad is the most innovative, relevant, subversive, best directed, acted and filmed drama to hit  televison since the departure of  The Wire. If you haven’t seen it, I’m not taking the time to file a synopsis of the past two seasons–go here.

Last month Breaking Bad opened an episode with a music video featuring a narcocorrido specifically written for the show by Los Cuartes de Sinaloa that references one of the main characters, a strung-out dealer in Albuquerque who goes by the slyly apt street moniker–Heisenberg.

The title Negro y Azul refers to the blue-colored supermeth crafted by Breaking Bad’s protagonist,the beleagured Walter–a high school chemistry teacher heading for the grave via terminal cancer who decides to provide for his wife and cerebral palsy-stricken son by cooking high-quality crank and by default, a major norteno narco.

 

In an interview at the show’s blog, Los Cuates de Sinaloa’s Gabriel Berrelza explained the corridistas’ role: 

“We don’t encourage crime. There are a lot of corridos that have a message, warning the public about the harm that drugs can do. What we do is report the news. Drug traffickers are everywhere and we’re just giving people information about who’s on top, what they’re doing, the trouble they get into. It’s the nightly news set to music.”

It’s also sometimes a surreal goof.

Check this Ralph Bakshi-influenced cartoon set to  Jesus Palma’s “Corrido de Los Ovnis (UFOs)”  featuring a cerveza-soaked contrabandista, his pneumatically-breasted blonde moza and a pair of  little green space aliens who make a trip in their saucer to Sinaloa and go crazy for the coke.

Hilarity and  a new market ensue.

 To understand where all this is coming from, I emphatically recommend obtaining Elijah Wald’s 2001 Narcocorrido

Narcocorrido cover

An Old School roots music historian, Wald took off from Boston in the late 90s with his guitar strapped across his back and hitchiked his way across northern Meico– through Sinaloa, Michoacan, Culiacan, the Baja–interviewing the major bandas and corridistas along his hejira. It’s an outstanding piece of journalism.

Much has happened in the eight years since Wald’s book was published–especially since Calderon launched his military campaign. The narcoguerra wasn’t nearly as bloody and chaotic back then as it today.  But Wald’s book still holds up as the best English-language account of the music, the musicians and the culture that spawned them.  To learn more on the narcocorridos (and his other books) hit  his web site.

 

NarcoGuerra Times– Beyond Mexico

“The U.S. Mexico relationship is increasingly being designed as a security issue. The bilateral relationship is becoming militarized. The people who define this crucial relationship to both countries are increasingly in the Pentagon and the military.”  Laura Carlsen, the American Policy Programme at the Centre for International Policy.

 

In covering  Mexico’s drug war, it appears that most of the  US media has split its time between counting found heads around Ciudad Juarez and honking alarms about the cartel invasion of American suburbs.

But the Mexican cartels, especially the Los Zetas/Golfo consortium, have been busy beyond Mexico’s border to the south– dropping bodies and heads, building transhipment networks, buying cops and bureaucrats, recruiting from the military, from off the streets and in the countryside. 

 Mexican cartels now have their mitts in coca field production in Peru. 

Peruvian claims of Mexican cartels expanding echo those by officials in other Latin American countries, from Honduras to Argentina, where Mexican gangs have supplanted once-powerful Colombian cartels as kings of the illicit-drug underworld.

Peru’s top anti-narcotics official, General Miguel Hidalgo, said 32 suspected Mexican cartel members were arrested in Peru during the past two years, compared with “almost no one” during the previous comparable period. Four arrests occurred in September when police seized 2.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden in rubber ship bumpers that were about to be sent to Mexico from Lima’s port district.

Mexican cartels have established a criminal presence in other Peruvian ports to facilitate the transport of cocaine, said the top anti-drugs prosecutor, Sonia Medina. The northern port city of Paita near Piura is considered especially corrupt.

Several Mexicans were arrested and tried with 20 others in connection with the 2006 assassination of judge Hernan Saturno, who was bringing a drugs case against members of the Juarez drug cartel. Judge Saturno’s killing is one of 16 cases since 2006 in which Mexican sicarios, or assassins, are thought to have been involved. Ms Medina said paid Mexican killers are operating in Peru as enforcers for their bosses back home.

That Mexican drug lords are sending emissaries is no surprise to General Hidalgo. Peru and the US estimate that 80 per cent of all Peruvian cocaine – about one-third of world production – is shipped north via Mexico.

They essentially control traffic from  the ‘boutique’ cocaine outlets in Colombia. They control the shipping routes across the Gulf and along the Pacific coast from Peru, Colombia and the Venezuelan coast. Their coke and weapons truck  through Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala .DROGA-2-600

While operating in the US, they are careful to keep the violence indoors and off the streets–unlike their Colombian counterparts  in Miami  in the late Seventies. Unlikely we will see the running gun battles that took place  back in that day when Miami was referred to as Dodge City.

I’ve covered organized crime, drug smuggling, terrorists and murder for many years and haven’t seen anything quite like these Mexican cartels–especially Los Zetas. While some obvious comparisons can be made with the  Mafia/Cosa Nostra in the USA, we’re in another realm with these folks. For those who care to take some time reading, here are two interesting, and important, analyses that portend a broader war and the increased militarization of the war on drugs.  

In January 2008, Max G. Manwaring, professor of military strategy at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, weighed in on the security threat that these new narcos and other criminal organizations pose to an increasingly unstable Latin America, comparing  the cartels to a Fortune 500 company 

These more horizontally organized criminal entities are among those evolving from the generalized pyramid structure into a flat, transnational organization that communicates and makes decisions instantaneously via cell phone and the Internet.  In this context, gangs and their TCO (Transnational CriminalOrganization) allies in Mexico, as in other countries, share many of the characteristics of a multinational Fortune 500 company. Thus, the phenomenon is an organization striving to make money, expand its markets, and move as freely as possible in the politicaljurisdictions within and between which they work. By performing its business tasks with super efficiency and for maximum profit, the general organization employs its chief executive officers and boards of directors, councils, system of internal justice, public affairs officers, negotiators, and franchised project managers. And, of course, this company has a security division, though somewhat more ruthless than one of a bona fide Fortune 500 corporation.

The 66-page report in pdf can be downloaded at the  Strategic Studies Institute.  While there I recommend downloading Manwaring’s latest mongraph published last week : State Supported and State Associated Gangs: Credible “Midwifes of New Social Orders”  .

 Like insurgencies and other unconventional asymmetric irregular wars, there is no simple or universal model upon which to base a response to the gang phenomenon (gangs and their various possible allies or supporters). Gangs come in different types, with different motives, and with different modes of action. Examples discussed include Venezuela’s institutionalized “popular militias,” Colombia’s devolving paramilitary criminal or warrior bands (bandas criminales), and al-Qaeda’s loosely organized networks of propaganda-agitator gangs operating in Spain and elsewhere in Western Europe. The motives and actions of these diverse groups are further complicated by their evershifting alliances with insurgents, transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), drug cartels, warlords, governments that want to maintain a plausible denial of aggressive action, and any other state or nonstate actor that might require the services of a mercenary gang organization or surrogate.

Lessons derived from these cases demonstrate how gangs might fit into a holistic effort to compel radical political-social change, and illustrate how traditional political-military objectives may be achieved indirectly, rather than directly. These lessons are significant beyond their own domestic political context in that they are harbingers of many of the “wars among the people” that have emerged out of the Cold War, and are taking us kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

They may be too wonky for popular ingestion, but  are very important as guides to where this narcoguerra is likely heading.  

 

NarcoGuerra Times- Los Zetas Raise their Game

May hasn’t been festive for Mexican President Felipe Calderon. With a miserable economic forecast, a nationwide influenza outbreak and an increasingly abusive  military war on drug cartels, its been a bad month since he met with President Obama in Mexico City in April.

Despite weekly televised perp walks of captured cartel “kingpins” featuring pallets of confiscated cash, coke, weed and weapons–Los Zetas, the Special Forces of the narco trade, keeps bringing it.

On May 15 Los Zetas operators hit the prison in Zacatecas and, with the compliance of scores of prison guards, sprang 53 inmates–including seventeen midlevel Zetas. The smoothly executed operation was captured on surveillance cameras. I like this one from The Guardian because there’s no news reader twaddle to distract.

Note the orderly insertion by the black-clad Zeta team and the speed with which they moved the inmates down the corridors and out of the prison.

Imagine this happening at a prison in the United States.

You can’t–because the correction officers here are paid well enough. That’s not the case in Mexico–not for the prisons, not for the federal and state police, not for the army–not even for Calderon’s own cabinet.

The Zetas aren’t limiting their business to illegaladdictive substances like meth and coke–they also have oil for sale.

Last week the Mexican attorney general’s office–the Procuraduria General de la Republica–said that for the past two years Los Zetas was tapping some 80,000 gallons of diesel a week from Pemex lines in Veracruz and then selling the fuel to 70 distributors in central Mexico through a company called AutoExpress Especializados Teoloyucan (AETSA).

Interesting footnote to this:

After taking office in 2006, Calderon, an ardent privatizer in the Bush mold, had Pemex contract SY Coleman in Arlington, Virginia to provide security for the pipelines and fields in Veracruz. Since then the Zetas have been draining the lines with impunity. According to Pemex, illegal extraction of fuel tripled between 2006 and 2008, going from 136 incidents in 2006 to 396 three years later.

Coleman, a subsidiary of big dog defense contractor L3 Communications, was headed by Rumsfeld crony Jay Garner until he took a leave-of-absence in 2003 to run the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq. The Texas-based tech provider L3 also happens to have the contract for the high-tech fence going up along the US/Mexican border.

Given L3′s track record with the pipelines in Veracruz–I don’t expect their super-surveillance barrier is causing the Zetas and other cartels to lose sleep.

[I am putting together a detailed page on Los Zetas, including their core training at Ft Bragg, Ft Benning and Ft Huachuca, their recruitment of the kaibiles, Guatemalan special forces, and their expansion south into Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica. This is drawn from work I've been doing over the past six months for an old friend at an intel/analysis shop in NYC. I hope to have some of it up later this week--]

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