Drug Cartels Get More Sophisticated

January 3rd, 2012 at 2:23 pm | 17 Comments |

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The violence in Mexico related to drug trafficking has continued over the past year, even though it hasn’t been in the headlines in the US in recent months. While in some cases there has been a lull in the violence, such as in Ciudad Mier, a small border town that was largely abandoned because of drug cartel violence and is now recovering from the destruction it had suffered, the carnage still continues.

For example, the entire police force of the city of Veracruz was recently fired because of infiltration by the Zetas drug gang. Also, reports of discoveries of mass graves still come in on a regular basis. Fortunately, spillover violence into the United States has largely not occurred at the level many have feared.

Some recent news is disconcerting, however. According to an article by Michael Weissenstein from the Associated Press, It appears that Mexico’s drug cartels have been building their own sophisticated communications infrastructure, to aid with both command-and-control operations and early warnings about police or military interventions.

This gives the cartels a better communications base than simply relying on cellular phones or other social networking technologies. As the Weissenstein article states:

The network allowed Zetas operatives to conduct encrypted conversations without depending on the official cellphone network, which is relatively easy for authorities to tap into, and in many cases does not reach deep into the Mexican countryside. “They’re doing what any sensible military unit would do,” said Robert Killebrew, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has studied the Mexican drug cartels for the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank. “They’re branching out into as many forms of communications as possible.”

Such increased sophistication perhaps should come as no surprise, particularly in the case of the Zetas cartel, whose founders were members of the Mexican military and its elite special forces. But it does increase the challenges faced by the Mexican government in its struggle with the cartels. Further, there are reports about Mexican ranches being purchased or seized by cartel members near the US border (note – I am referring to seizure of ranches in Mexico, not to the largely unfounded rumors of such activity in the US) and such ranches can provide an obvious land network for advanced communications equipment.

The drug war in Mexico is far from over and the cartels are still spending resources to increase their footprint, particularly in Northern Mexico. The United States and Mexico will be conducting Presidential elections in 2012 and this issue is one that the leadership of both nations will need to face in the coming years.

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17 Comments so far ↓

  • LFC

    Police corruption has been legendary in Mexico for decades. (I personally know three people who have been shaken down by Mexican police.) The military is no better and perhaps worse. And all the while the cartels become more powerful, wealthier, and the wars are getting local monopolies nicely settled into place.

    So at what point do we simply declare Mexico a failed narco-state?

    • chephren

      At what point do you simply declare the failure of the American narco-state?

      Legalize drugs, tax their production and sale, and end the pointless and costly imprisonment of citizens whose only “crime” is possession.

      This will, in turn, end the power of the Mexican cartels and the bloody drug war along the border.

  • Graychin

    The “sophisticated” cartel communications system wouldn’t need to be any more complex than ham radio repeaters, digitally encrypted, perhaps using frequency-hopping spread spectrum invented in the 1930s. Smart, but not rocket science.

    It isn’t a supply problem. Crush one supplier, and two will pop up to take his place. It’s a demand problem. America supplies the demand. Someone will emerge to fill it.

    Let’s begin by creating a legal supply chain for marijuana. That will put a big dent into the cartels’ business. Once we see how that works out, maybe we will consider changing some of the rest of our failed “war on drugs” policies.

  • paul_gs

    On the one hand, there is an obesity problem in North America and most posters on another thread at Frum Forum advocate government solving the problem, as though government regulations will magically cause millions of folks to start spontaneoulsy shedding pounds. Yet on the far more hazardous issue of drugs, many of the same folks want government to legalize all drugs for any adult to purchase.

    Salt bad. Cocaine good?

    How does one square the circle on that?

    • chephren

      You conveniently ignore the fact that the US government pays massive subsidies to food producers – especially growers of corn, the feedstock for calorific junk foods and America’s favorite cheap sweetener of a vast range of processed foods, high-fructose corn syrup.

    • balconesfault

      Have to say that I avoided that thread. But I suspect that nobody was calling for salt or corn syrup to be outright criminalized, were they?

      Frankly, I’d be good with legalization paired with significant taxes (which would probably still leave drugs cheaper than they are today), and with the tax moneys to be pumped into avoidance, education, rehabilitation, product enforcement, etc.

    • Graychin

      Like baconesfault said, no one was called for high fructose corn syrup to be criminalized, possession being made a felony. Government subsidies to corn growers enable that poison.

      What the government COULD do about obesity (a thread I also avoided) is to mandate that consumers be given good information about food. But let butter remain legal.

      Too much of the information that the government gives us about drugs is unscientific propaganda from the War on Drugs. Particularly about marijuana.

      • chephren

        I’m not suggesting HFCS or salt or butter or any other food should be banned. I don’t know of anyone who advocates an outright ban.

        I’m just saying – this should be obvious – that much of the obesity problem arises from chemically altered, unhealthy foods derived from crops that receive massive taxpayer subsidies. Some of these crops are turned into chemically-altered, unhealthy foods (fizzy sodas, fast food, snack food, corn-fed beef, canned & packaged convenience foods, etc).

        Yes, arguably people do eat this stuff of their own free will – but actually it’s more because subsidies make them dirt-cheap, healthy alternatives often aren’t available and many consumers are ignorant when it comes to the basics of healthy nutrition.

        Your children may exercise free will when they pick a sugary breakfast cereal off the grocer’s shelf, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice. If food is to be subsidized, why shouldn’t subsidies favour healthier food?

        If you want to want to characterize the pro-drug legalization position as hypocritical because some people who advocate this also want the government to improve access to healthy foods, your argument doesn’t fly. Recreational drugs are not a necessity of life. Food certainly is. Criminalization of drugs and government’s engagement in securing a safe and healthy food supply are completely unrelated to each other.

        The federal government has actively monitored the quality of the food supply for more than 100 years, for good reason. The Pure Food Laws came into being because American food processors and meatpackers routinely sold contaminated, diseased food that killed people.

        If government sensibly ended the drug ban and the failed, absurdly expensive War on Drugs – as it sensibly ended the failed, absurdly expensive prohibition of alcohol – would you advocate that it also stop inspecting food?

        I think not.

        • paul_gs

          If food is to be subsidized, why shouldn’t subsidies favour healthier food?

          It already is. That is one reason healthy food is so affordable.

          If you want to want to characterize the pro-drug legalization position as hypocritical because some people who advocate this also want the government to improve access to healthy foods, your argument doesn’t fly. Recreational drugs are not a necessity of life.

          Why legalize drugs with no redeeming social value? You never answer that question.

          Criminalization of drugs and government’s engagement in securing a safe and healthy food supply are completely unrelated to each other.

          What is unrelated is any coherent logic when progressives address the two issue. Regarding food, you don’t think we should be able to freely choose what we eat. Regarding drugs, you think we should be able to obtain whatever dangerous substances we want.

          How does one square that circle?

          The federal government has actively monitored the quality of the food supply for more than 100 years, for good reason. The Pure Food Laws came into being because American food processors and meatpackers routinely sold contaminated, diseased food that killed people.

          How does that relate to salt content? Or fast foods? Protection from one does not justify government controlling peoples’ eating habits in total.

          If government sensibly ended the drug ban and the failed, absurdly expensive War on Drugs . . .

          Hard drugs are deadly and have no redeeming social value. And you want government to end that war and declare one on salt instead??

  • armstp

    Something like 1 to 3 million people in Mexico are either directly or indirectly employed by the drug industry. It is far too big a part of the Mexican economy to simply go away.

    I suggest Americans need to look at themselves regarding Mexico’s drug “war”. If I was a Mexican I would be a little pissed at America for bringing this war to Mexico. It is Americas demand for drugs that has caused all the violence and corruption in Mexico.

    • Bebe99

      True that the drug trade is too much a part of Mexico’s economy to just go away. Similarly drug addiction and drug policing in the US are also too big to just go away. The US does need to accept responsibility for our part in allowing the situation in Mexico to escalate by continuing failed policies because it is simply easier than changing them. there is no perfect, or even good, solution. There is only regulated legalization. We need a plan for transition. Make drugs legal, require a permit or prescription for consuming them, make using without a permit a crime, require periodic counselling for drug treatment options a necessary part of continued use. And most important make sure the process is unpleasant enough that only true addicts would want to go through it. By controlling drugs the gov could make drug use seem the sad, pathetic and weak habit that it really is. It may not work perfectly, but it would at least break the cartels.

    • paul_gs

      ==”If I was a Mexican I would be a little pissed at America for bringing this war to Mexico. It is Americas demand for drugs that has caused all the violence and corruption in Mexico.”==

      I swear progressives make no sense of all.

      Yeah, the violence has nothing at all to do with Mexicans shooting Mexicans. Illicit drug use is common around the world, it is not unique to the USA. But the violence associated with the drug trade is unique to Central America. Nowhere else in the world is it that high.

  • TJ Parker

    Where’s Gus Fring when you need him …

  • Houndentenor

    We are losing the war on drugs. At some point we have to admit that what we have been doing is not working.

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