Posts Tagged Drug Cartels

Mexico: The Market Of Force

The purpose of this post is to present very clearly what the market of force is down in Mexico.  This is a country where millions of folks have risked life and limb to illegally cross over into the US to make a better life and earn more money. So with that said, the market of force is certainly a factor down in Mexico because jobs are so tight.  Not to mention the ‘plomo o plata‘ concept where the cartels use fear and intimidation to impose their will on the people.

These statistics also show why corruption is so bad.  The cartels are extremely intertwined with government, police, military, and society, and are expert at wielding their money to get what they want.  The may not have morality on their side, but they definitely have peer pressure and cash on their side. Meaning ‘if everyone else is doing it, to include my uncle and my cousins, then I might as well too–or get the wrath of the cartels’.  Who knows, but I do know that the cartels seem to have no problem with sicario recruitment. Especially if they can get these recruits addicted to drugs or threaten to kill their families.

So with that said, what I wanted to do is present the employment options for a hired gun down in Mexico. Or what I call the ‘Market of Force’.  As with most market of force analysis that I have seen in war zones, the side that pays the most, tends to have no problems with recruitment.

Worse yet, the one factoid that really stood out to me, was found in this quote:

However, instead of presenting himself as a victim of circumstances, the sicario describes his frustrations with powerlessness and his ambitions for a different path from the work-saturated lives of his parents. Despite being a bright student who earns scholarships and starts college, he begins to do drug runs at an early age. At 15, he meets the current head of the Juárez cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, and as a young man he decides to drop out of college and enter the police academy – under the sponsorship of the cartel.
The sicario describes police academies as training grounds for cartel operatives, where cadets on the cartel’s payroll would even go to special FBI-hosted training in the United States.
The penetration of drug organizations into government institutions goes even further, as the sicario describes his duties delivering money to state officials, using patrol cars to move drugs, the old pacts with local governments to not sell drugs within their cities, and the presence of top military officials at narco-parties. -From Borderland Beat’s Review of the book El Sicario

The cartels grab these kids when they are close to police academy age, and probably have no police record, and then they get them trained up in the methods of law enforcement, complements of the state. This particular sicario seems like he chose this more as a career move. This kind of thing happens with the military as well. Basically using state sponsored training in order to be proficient at defeating the state’s police or military, and most importantly, defeating competing cartels. Very smart. It also explains why the cartels are always stealing police uniforms or military uniforms, so they can conduct pseudo operations. This act also destroys the trust that the local populations have in their law enforcement or military units.

As to solutions?  The first step is always in the government. It must be purified of any cartel influence. The next step would be to purify law enforcement, and pay them an excellent salary. The military too.  Give them all the best training, the best salaries, and do everything you can to keep these groups funded and well led.  Mexico should definitely be front and center on the asset seizure game, and figure out ways of spreading the wealth amongst their police and military so that salaries are competitive with the sicarios. If not, they will continue to be negatively impacted by the market of force. You see the same thing happening in Afghanistan between government and the Taliban, you see the same thing in places like Iraq between the insurgency and the government, and you see the same thing in places like Somalia where fishermen and naval officers chose piracy because of the reward and poor economy. –Matt

As of 2010 entry level security guard salaries start at approximately $70 to $100 (840 pesos to 1200 pesos-rounded up) a week. People holding mid level positions can expect to make between $150 to $250 and high level security protection employees can expect salaries of $1000 to $2000 a month. –From eHow

The war has certainly exposed the weakness of Mexico’s criminal-justice institutions. Numbers are not the problem: with 366 officers per 100,000 people, Mexico is better supplied with police than the United States, Britain, Italy and France, among others. But it is badly organised and corrupt. Policemen earn an average of $350 a month, about the same as a builder’s labourer, meaning that wages are supplemented with bribes. Carlos Jáuregui, who was Nuevo León’s chief security official until March, reckons that more than half the officers in the state were being paid by organised crime. A policeman in Monterrey can be bought for about 5,000 pesos ($400) a fortnight, Mr Jáuregui reckons.
“Police are treated as second-class citizens,” says Ernesto López Portillo, head of Insyde, a Mexico City think-tank. They are kept that way by the constitution, which separates police officers from other public servants, meaning they do not qualify for the standard minimum wage and the 40-hour weekly work limit. Police forces are in theory overseen by internal investigation units, but their findings are secret and, in any case, Mr López Portillo estimates that fewer than 5% of forces have such a body. –From the Economist

A new video shows an interrogation of a man identified as Aldo Rivas Torres, who is believed to be a member of the criminal organization Los Zetas. The video is signed by The M’s.
The incident occurred in the municipality of Santiago Papasquiaro, located in Durango and it is believed that the video was recorded recently.
Four armed commandos dressed in military type uniforms point their weapons at the obvious distressed Rivas, while he details his work as a sicario where he confesses that he was receiving a monthly salary of about 15,000 and 20,000 pesos ($1,200 to $1,600 dollars).
He claims that he received direct orders from his brother Jesus Rivas Torres, who serves as an Captain in the Mexican Army, but is also involved with Los Zetas where he is the head of the organization in the village and receives a monthly salary of 500,000 pesos (about $40,000 dollars).-Borderland Beat

Most of the detainees wore military-style clothing, a woman of 16 years of age indicated that training had just started, that they had been sent to the training camp so they could learn how to fight in order to fight for a plaza soon. She also said that they were paid 8,000 pesos a month.- Borderland Beat

However, instead of presenting himself as a victim of circumstances, the sicario describes his frustrations with powerlessness and his ambitions for a different path from the work-saturated lives of his parents. Despite being a bright student who earns scholarships and starts college, he begins to do drug runs at an early age. At 15, he meets the current head of the Juárez cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, and as a young man he decides to drop out of college and enter the police academy – under the sponsorship of the cartel.
The sicario describes police academies as training grounds for cartel operatives, where cadets on the cartel’s payroll would even go to special FBI-hosted training in the United States.
The penetration of drug organizations into government institutions goes even further, as the sicario describes his duties delivering money to state officials, using patrol cars to move drugs, the old pacts with local governments to not sell drugs within their cities, and the presence of top military officials at narco-parties. -From Borderland Beat’s Review of the book El Sicario

The Army is under authority of the National Defense Secretariat or SEDENA. It has three components: a national headquarters, territorial commands, and independent units. The Minister of Defence commands the Army via a centralized command system and many general officers. The Army uses a modified continental staff system in its headquarters. The Mexican Air Force is a branch of the Mexican Army. As of 2009 starting salary for Mexican army recruits was $6,000 Mexian pesos, or about $500 US dollars per month, with an additional lifetime $10,000 peso monthly pension. -From Wikipedia

Colombian Sicarios
A more overt reference to Sicarii occurred in Colombia since the 1980s. Sicarios, professional hit men adept at assassinating, kidnapping, bombing, and theft, gradually became a class of their own in organized crime in Colombia. Described by Mark Bowden in his investigative work Killing Pablo, the sicarios played a key role in the wave of violence against police and authorities during the early 1990s campaign by the government to capture and extradite fugitive drug lord Pablo Escobar and other partners in the Medellin cocaine cartel. Unlike their ancient namesake, sicarios have never had an ideological underpinning. Perhaps the only cause that they were attributed to was the opposition to extradition of Colombian criminals. Though Escobar employed sicarios to eliminate his enemies, these assassins were active more as independent individuals or gangs than loyal followers of a leader, and there were plenty of sicarios willing to serve the rival Cali cartel. Nevertheless, many died in combat against police forces, indicating that they were not all inclined to bend to the wind. Indeed, long before Escobar’s time, Colombia in particular had a long legacy of professional kidnappers (secuestradores) and murderers, whom he emulated.
In Spanish the word ‘sicario’ is used to refer to both killers who have specific targets and underling hitmen. In Italian, it means “hired killer, hired assassin, cutthroat”.-From Wikipedia

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Industry Talk: STRATFOR–Protective Intelligence Lessons From An Ambush In Mexico

This is a fantastic post from STRATFOR, and I wanted to get it out there to the readership. Of course this post is in accordance with their republication policy, with two links at the beginning and at the end of this excellent article. Thanks to David for giving me the heads up about the article as well.

When this ambush originally happened, Borderland Beat put it out there and that is where I heard about it.  It is a shocking incident, because it brings up a lot of  points on the realities of the war south of the border. This was not some gang shooting a couple rounds at a rival gang in a drive by–this was a complex attack, complete with military grade weapons and a well planned and disciplined execution. This ambush was also between two drug cartels, and this ambush resulted in the decimation of the target, which happened to be the Los Zetas cartel. (the irony is that the Zetas were the guys that came from Mexican SF forces)

What this article below emphasizes is that size or weaponry is not everything in the world of convoy or psd operations. The Zetas had plenty of guns, plenty of manpower, and even armored vehicles. They lost this fight, because the attacking force knew their routes and were able to prepare an effective ambush. The Zetas also had poor immediate action drills or plans to deal with this kind of thing. Although a well executed ambush is pretty effective, no matter what IA you have.  The lesson here is how important the ‘advance’ or route planning and reconnaissance  is to the protective detail, convoy operation, or any movements through enemy territory. The Zetas got caught with their pants down in this deal, and paid a heavy price….

It also emphasized the importance of OPSEC and PERSEC.  Obviously the attacking force was able to find out when and where this Zetas movement was going to commence. The Zetas felt they had plenty of manpower and firepower to deal with any threats, and probably did not care too much about OPSEC or PERSEC.  The Zetas in this case, remind me of Poncho Villa in the Battle of Celaya, where intelligent strategy and tactics by General Alvaro Obregon defeated the frontal assault and idiotic bravado of Villa.

The other thing I wanted to add to this article that wasn’t mentioned, was the use of drugs by these combatants. After following these fights down there for awhile, I have actually come across some video that showed combatants of a cartel using cocaine before a raid. (at minute .53 in this video) This was a common act with insurgents in Iraq or even in Afghanistan, and using drugs to enhance performance or steady the nerves before an attack, is a factor to keep in mind. This simple act of using drugs, actually makes a combatant tougher to kill and more erratic or unpredictable to fight. But it also impacts their decision making, which is a huge detriment. It might explain why the Zetas were so careless in this scenario.

Stuff to think about, and for those of you operating down in Mexico, I wish you well.  You have a tough job in a very intense and complex operational environment. I also wanted to point out another source for information that has grabbed my attention. The guys at Small Wars Journal have been posting a series called the Mexican Cartel Tactical Note, by Dr. Robert Bunker and I highly recommend reading and commenting there if you can. Know your enemy…. –Matt

 

 

Protective Intelligence Lessons from an Ambush in Mexico
Jun 2 2011
By Scott Stewart
On the afternoon of May 27, a convoy transporting a large number of heavily armed gunmen was  ambushed on Mexican Highway 15 near Ruiz, Nayarit state, on Mexico’s Pacific coast. When authorities responded they found 28 dead gunmen and another four wounded, one of whom would later die, bringing the death toll to 29. This is a significant number of dead for one incident, even in Mexico.
According to Nayarit state Attorney General Oscar Herrera Lopez, the gunmen ambushed were members of Los Zetas, a Mexican drug cartel. Herrera noted that most of the victims were from Mexico’s Gulf coast, but there were also some Guatemalans mixed into the group, including one of the wounded survivors. While Los Zetas are predominately based on the Gulf coast, they have been working to provide armed support to allied groups, such as the Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), a faction of the former Beltran Leyva Organization that is currently battling the Sinaloa Federation and other cartels for control of the lucrative smuggling routes along the Pacific coast. In much the same way, Sinaloa is working with the Gulf cartel to go after Los Zetas in Mexico’s northeast while protecting and expanding its home turf. If the victims in the Ruiz ambush were Zetas, then the Sinaloa Federation was likely the organization that planned and executed this very successful ambush.

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Law Enforcement: Know Your Enemy–The Uniforms And Insignias Of The Drug Cartels In Mexico

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Bounties: US Offers $5 Million In Killing Of ICE Agent, Mexico Offers 10 Million Pesos

The Mexican government offered up a reward of 10 million Pesos for this deal as well, and obviously the case is going cold and they need some information to catch these guys. Hopefully this bounty will do the trick. –Matt

U.S. offers $5 million in killing of ICE agent
Two ambushed along highway, likely by a Mexican drug cartel
By Jerry Seper
March 30, 2011
The Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security announced Wednesday a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the Mexican gunmen who shot and killed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and wounded his partner, Victor Avila Jr. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mexico: Drug Cartels Cripple Pemex Operations In Basin

     This sucks for Mexico and Pemex, but until they do the things necessary to properly secure these pipelines, then they will continue to lose their so called ‘backbone of the nation’. If Pemex cannot trust local Mexican security companies, then hire globally. There are plenty of companies around the world who are providing security to oil companies operating in places like Iraq. Mexico is at war with these cartels and it would make sense to deploy military or contract security with experience in war zones to secure this vital national asset.

     Either lose that money to thieves, or spend that money to defend your property and livelihood. That is my thought on the matter.

     One other point that comes to mind about this troubling issue. If the drug cartels could do this to Pemex and Mexico, then why couldn’t they do this to oil platforms/drilling rigs? Especially the US owned rigs, because eventually the cartels are going to want to send a message to the US. Our money is helping to fuel Mexico’s war against the cartels, and we are naive to think that our actions will not invite any retaliation. Imagine a dozen BP style disasters? All I know is that if oil companies have not posted security on each rig, then we are giving an open invitation to terrorists and criminals to do all sorts of terrible things. –Matt

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Mexican drug cartels cripple Pemex operations in basin

September 06, 2010

By Tracy Wilkinson

The meandering network of pipes, wells and tankers belonging to the gigantic state oil company Pemex have long been an easy target of crooks and drug traffickers who siphon off natural gas, gasoline and even crude, robbing the Mexican treasury of hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Now the cartels have taken sabotage to a new level: They’ve hobbled key operations in parts of the Burgos Basin, home to Mexico’s biggest natural gas fields.

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Law Enforcement: I.C.E. Takes Down ‘Super Cartel’, Responsible For Almost Half The Cocaine In The U.S.

     The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE), estimated the cartel, named El Dorado, made $5 billion profit from their trade over the past few years.

     Agents involved in Operation Pacific Rim alleged on Friday that the gang trafficked cocaine to every continent except Antarctica, with drugs bound for Europe and Britain smuggled through Spain.

     They believe the gang were responsible for almost half of the cocaine on American streets, or more than 912 tonnes with an estimated street value of more than $24 billion.

*****

     This is stunning news, and I am floored that this is not getting the attention it deserves.  I know the whole McChrystal thing or the Gulf spill is hogging all the news right now, but this is some news of actual success in that other war we are fighting in.  This bust is like taking down the Walmart of cartels. We will see what players step up to fill that gap, but still, this is huge.

     That is the other part of this that is intriguing, and that is the second and third order effects from something like this.  Often when you kill the big dog, the dogs in the pack fight for the new position. They also kill off any traces of the old dog, just to establish pure dominance and the new command.  It is a brutal fight and there will always be an alpha dog that comes up from that process. So how ICE is able to take advantage of this chaos within the drug market will be interesting to watch. Stand by for some battles over that territory.

    I also think that the money taken in these raids should be going towards a bounty system, along with funding the law enforcement agencies involved. We should see way more money being offered in the reward programs, and the wanted list should also include way more people. It is also important to note that ICE does have a ‘prize‘ system in place within the the law enforcement realm.

    With the current arrangement at ICE, there is an incentive attached to the process of taking down these cartels.  ICE has a deal called the Asset Forfeiture/Equitable Sharing program. It is a way to reward police agencies that cooperate with ICE in their operations, and they basically get to ‘split the prize’. That can be a lot of money to split, and just look at the numbers in the quote up top! If this program was opened up to include ‘licensed’ and bonded companies or individuals, they too could take part in that prize system and this would dramatically expand the program.

     We already have the Rewards For Justice Program, yet only law enforcement agencies get to claim prizes after captures? I say open it up to private industry and lets get this business of eradicating drug cartels started. And believe me, there are plenty of drug cartels, terrorists, and pirates for militaries, police departments and private industry to go after.-Matt

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ICE takes down billion-dollar Colombian drug trafficking organization

June 18, 2010

DTO finances its illicit empire by sending cocaine all over the globe

In Operation Pacific Rim, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), working closely with the Colombian National Police and Mexican authorities, took down a major drug trafficking organization — an industrial and transportation empire with a profit margin in the billions. The drug kingpins operating out of Colombia wrestled with a vexing problem — they made so much money from illegal narcotics trafficking that they couldn’t launder it all.

In fact, tracking the cold hard cash is one of the specialties of ICE’s investigative directorate, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI is the largest investigative agency within the Department of Homeland Security. HSI agents working with ICE Attaché offices in Bogota and elsewhere brought this giant among drug organizations to its knees. HSI began Operation Pacific Rim in September 2009 after scoring a previous victory in an investigation where they seized $41 million in Colombia and Mexico. This is often the case in federal law enforcement, with one case that tips investigators off to an even bigger fish to fry.

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