July Dogs

Tag: Felipe Calderon

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: More on The Faith-Based Cartel

jesus with gun

“La Familia doesn’t kill for money, doesn’t kill women, doesn’t kill innocent people. It only kills those who deserve to die. Everyone should know this: Divine justice.”–message left with five severed heads on the dance floor of the Sol y Sombra nightclub in Uruapan, Michoacan, September 6, 2006.

A week ago today–May 27–a Mexican army squad was patrolling along the Michoacan side of the Rio Jeronimo across from the state of Guerrero. They rumbled into Riva Paldo, a little town about 300 klicks west of Mexico City, and rolled up on a black Nissan Xterra parked on a side street.

Inside the SUV, the soldiers found thirteen rifles, eleven pistols, four fragmentation grenades, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, scales and nine copies of bestselling Christian author John Eldredge’s Savaje de Corazon, (Wild at Heart). According the army report, the books were signed “El Mas Loco”–The Craziest One– AKA, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno, La Familia’s evangelizing jefe whose self-published La Familia handbook is packed with Eldredge quotes. A particular favorite is this dashing call to arms:

Todo hombre desea tener una batalla que pelar, un aventura que vivir una bella rescatar.

Every man wants a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beautiful rescue.

La Familia’s bulk-buying and give-aways of Eldredge’s book doesn’t seem to jibe with George W. Grayson’s take on the the cartel’s religious bent. In his detailed overview published in February–La Familia: Another Deadly Mexican Syndicate–Grayson links La Familia to an decades-old apocalyptic traditionalist Catholic town in the Michoucan sierras:

La Familia’s current leaders, Bible-toting fanatics Moreno Gonzalez and Mendez Vargas, may have direct or indirect ties with devotees of the New Jerusalem movement.

Mexico Religious Cult

Grayson didn’t mention La Familia’s connection to the Muscular Christian prosyletizer Eldredge, likely because nobody had wind of that outside of Michoacan and the Mexican federal intelligence agencies until last week. Even though Moreno flogs a Protestant evangelical’s book, that doesn’t preclude La Familia from recruiting in New Jerusalem…

…a theocracy where soccer balls are illegal, John F. Kennedy is a saint, freedom of religion doesn’t exist and the end of the world is just around the corner. It is the largest and longest surviving of a string of traditionalist Catholic colonies that have sprung up around the world.

More on New Jerusalem from The Arizona Republic’s Chris Hawley.

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.

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–Cartels as Parallel State?

lafamilia

 

“Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.

Armed groups linked to Mexico’s drug cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000. So far this year, according to press tallies, more than 2,300 people have died.”

 

This requisite wire service boilerplate tagged to every story that runs in the US media doesn’t get near to what is going on south of the Rio Grande/Bravo.

After two-years of  war on the drug cartels–including the military occupation of Ciudad Juarez,– Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s mano dura campaign  has little to show for all the blood and money spilled.

Last weekend an on-the-ground  report from Michoacan  came in that  threw a sobering splash of cold water on Calderon’s claims of success in his narcoguerra.  Fourteen Michoacan journalists interviewed for this report  concurred that the cartel, La Familia Michoacana  controlled at least 85% of the state.  Some said the narcos had full reign. The cartels have agreements with local, state and federal authorities to conduct business–growing marijuana or poppies, transporting and wholesaling the commodities, running prostitution and extortion rackets or whatever other cash-generating enterprise they come up with. 

In Michocan, as elsewhere in Mexico, the cartels muscle regular payoffs from businesses and city and state offcials– essentially taxing the government.  They also kill journalists that displease them or refuse to do their PR work.

But there’s another development  that takes these new  narcos to another, more interesting level where they are functioning  behind populist  ideology and in the case of La Familia, with Bible-based overtones. They refer to their assassinations and beheadings as “divine justice”.  Professor George Grayson provided a detailed backgrounder on them in February at the Foreign PolicyResearch Institute. 

Though a well-respected expert on Mexico who is frequently quoted in the media, Grayson sits on the board of the hardline anti-immigration group, Center for Immigration Studies and thus veers to the alarmist when it comes to the actual threat the cartels pose to the US.  He is an ardent supporter for the militarization of the US/Mexico border.  Last month Grayson said  “I’m with those who think that Mexico poses a much greater threat in the next few years than does Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan combined. And I’m an optimist. I think they (soldiers) are going to be needed soon.”

Which leads to the question: are the Mexican narco cartels functioning as a Parallel State? 

While  “parallel state ” is not  in wide circulation beyond  military, security and intel circles, we will be hearing  it more frequently as narco-fueled events continue to deteriorate in Mexico, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Historian Robert Paxton is credited with coining the term  to describe “a collection of organizations or institutions that are state-like in their organization, management and structure, though they are not officially part of the legitimate state or government. They serve primarily to promote the prevailing political and social ideology of the state.”

For more on this check out Plazas for Profit: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency an analysis by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus  in the April edition of  Small Wars Journal.

As for all the hyper-ventilating regards the cartel invasion of your neighborhood … check this from Tucson.

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