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The strongest drug cartel wins

by Claudia Isabel Rittel

In brief

Not all groups are hit alike: Suspected members of a mexican drug cartel after being taken in custody in May

Not all groups are hit alike: Suspected members of a mexican drug cartel after being taken in custody in May

Mexican authorities apparently do not fight all mafia gangs with equal determination. This was the conclusion of a large scale investigation by National Public Radio (NPR), a US-based radio network.

NPR data show that the Mexican state attorney registered more than 2,600 arrests of gang members since December 2006. The majority, 44 %, belong to the Zeta cartel. Meanwhile the other cartels – La Familia, Tijuana, Beltran-Leyva and Sinaloa – only have 12 to 15 % of the arrests. However, the Sinaloa cartel is by far the largest network in Mexico, and its leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán is currently the world’s most wanted drug lord.

“The analysis showed that the Mexican government crackdown has not hit the Sinaloans as hard as it has other cartels”, claim NPR authors John Burnett and Marisa Peñaloza. They suggest there is a reason for the inequalities, arguing that Sinaloa, thanks to its growing power, can afford more and higher bribes than the other cartels. According to NPR, all cartels buy civil servants’ loyalties through bribes and blackmail, and some 400 officers were arrested for collaboration with mafia gangs in the last three and a half years. NPR refers to Howard Campbell, an anthropologist at the University of Texas, who says the data does not mean that Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón personally negotiated protection with Guzmán: “But people below him may have, and the outcome may be about the same”.

Miguel Badillo, the editor of the investigative magazine Controlínea also assumes that the government is in favour of the Sinaloa cartel. He told the German radio station Deutschlandfunk that the administration of Calderón’s predecessor Vincente Fox did not prosecute Sinaloa with full force either. He said the Calderón administration has stuck to that approach, neither arresting drug lords nor confiscating weapons, drugs or money. According to Badillos, top-level officials are linked to the Sinaloa cartel and some of them are close to Calderón.

The US administration supports Mexico’s “war on drugs” with $ 1.4 billion. Since Calderón took office in March 2006, the drug war has claimed the lives of nearly 24 000 people. US President Barack Obama announced that his support would continue when Calderón came to Washington in May. First, however, the US will send troops to the border to make sure that illegal immigrants don’t make it into the country. (cir)