“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.