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MEXICAN AUTHORITIES ARREST MAJOR LEADER OF LOS ZETAS

Mexico’s ‘new’ drug war

President Peña Nieto’s strategy is a lot like his predecessor’s. For obvious reasons.

MEXICAN AUTHORITIES ARREST MAJOR LEADER OF LOS ZETAS

By Ricardo Ainslie
July 26, 2013

Last week, Mexican authorities arrested Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the leader of the Zetas, Mexico’s deadliest and most feared drug cartel. In Mexico, the news was met with relief, although there is also apprehension that his arrest will lead to a convulsion of violence; historically, taking out cartel kingpins has meant power struggles within organized crime groups, schisms that leave many dead in their wake.

Treviño Morales, known as Z-40, was apprehended — along with a bodyguard and a third man, reported to be the cartel’s accountant — without a shot being fired as he traveled along a back road near Nuevo Laredo and the U.S. border.

For observers of the Mexican drug war, his arrest provides an unanticipated window into how President Enrique Peña Nieto will address his nation’s entrenched organized crime problem.

From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Peña Nieto, who assumed office in December 2012, vowed a different approach to the drug war from that of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. Calderon’s frontal assault, though initially popular, very soon became the object of criticism as violence soared. Last summer, the electorate handed Peña Nieto a decisive victory over Calderon’s party, the PAN. Having suffered about 70,000 deaths (a conservative estimate) over the course of Calderon’s presidency, the country was exhausted by the violence, anxious for change.

Calderon pursued a kingpin strategy: Drawing from American counterinsurgency tactics developed in Iraq, his administration declared war on a list of 37 most-wanted cartel operatives. In contrast, many Mexicans believed Peña Nieto would negotiate a peace agreement with the cartels, allowing them free rein in exchange for ending the violence. In addition, Peña Nieto signaled that he might be reevaluating Mexico’s close cooperation with American law enforcement in the drug war.

The arrest of Z-40 would seem to prove those notions wrong. Within days, the national director of Calderon’s party accused Peña Nieto of disingenuously building expectations of a new approach when, for all practical purposes, he was continuing Calderon’s tactics. Indeed, the arrest had all the familiar hallmarks: Treviño Morales’ moves were tracked in real time by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement drone, while American intelligence monitored his communications and shared what was learned with Mexican authorities.

Pragmatism may be one explanation for Peña Nieto’s decision not to jettison the kingpin strategy altogether. His administration simply could not ignore that Mexico’s drug cartels are criminal organizations that not only operate an international drug trade but also commit brutal acts against ordinary Mexican citizens on a daily basis, including kidnapping, human trafficking and extortion — on a massive level — of individuals and businesses. The Zetas, in particular, are infamous for having a “diversified business plan” when it comes to criminal activity.

For Peña Nieto — and Mexicans tired of the violence created by the government crackdown — it is one thing to entertain a live-and-let-live strategy toward the cartels when their primary activities are understood to revolve around servicing the high demand for drugs in the U.S. However, that strategy is no solution if Mexicans continue to be victimized in the absence of government protection in their communities.

It is also likely that Peña Nieto was presented with a politically awkward choice vis-a-vis the United States. The Mexican president apparently faced incontrovertible evidence from U.S. sources indicating that the head of Mexico’s most feared cartel was, literally, in their sights. To have not acted on that intelligence would have certainly raised speculation that the Peña Nieto government was protecting Z-40, which wouldn’t have played well at home or helped in negotiating a new relationship with Washington.

Still, it would be a mistake for Peña Nieto to simply pick up where Calderon left off. The previous administration overemphasized a militarized law enforcement strategy, only belatedly looking at the social conditions that helped create a culture that allowed the cartels to thrive (lessons important in tamping down cartel violence in Colombia and Brazil).

That said, the kingpin strategy is not going to go away. There is no sign that the U.S. will end its intelligence work in Mexico, with or without overt cooperation from Mexican authorities, and the U.S. will undoubtedly continue to exert pressure on those officials to act on that intelligence. But so will everyday Mexicans, with their sometimes conflicting needs for peace and protection. In Mexico’s budding if imperfect democracy, the latter pressures can no longer be ignored.

Ricardo Ainslie, a native of Mexico City, is the author of “The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War.” He is a psychoanalyst and a professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin.

Source: latimes.com

zetas

Analysis: Zetas cartel feud augurs more blood, fear in Mexico

The most brutal drug cartel in Mexico appears to be rupturing with its hit men turning their guns on each other in a twist to the country’s turf wars that threatens a new wave of bloodshed and chaos.

The killing of Zetas by Zetas, including the massacre of 14 suspected gang members on the outskirts of the central city of San Luis Potosi last month, springs from an internal feud between the cartel’s supreme commander and his deputy, Mexican investigators say.

As much as the Mexican government and rival gangs may welcome discord in the Zetas’ ranks, an explosion of violence ordered by its notoriously bloodthirsty leaders could be a major headache for President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto.

He takes office on December 1 and has vowed to quickly reduce the number of beheadings and mass executions seen over the past six years. But if the Zetas cartel were to break in two, it could unleash havoc as its 10,000-plus gunmen fight for control of local trafficking networks and smuggling routes.

“It’s a real problem. It’s like if the HIV virus mutates. Then you have to find two vaccines,” said a Mexican military officer who has been battling the Zetas across the country.

Some officials tout the split as evidence of the success security forces have had in cracking down on the Zetas, from stings on their U.S. assets to assaults by Mexican marines on their urban safe houses and guerrilla-style camps.

The in-fighting has been a boon for security forces as Zetas operatives inform on their former colleagues.

And another beneficiary of the chaos is Mexico’s most-wanted man, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, boss of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel that has been mired in a costly fight for control against Zetas across much of the country.

The ruthless Zetas have perpetrated some of the most sickening acts of Mexico’s drug war and continued to expand even as rival gangs joined forces against them.

Interrogations of captured Zetas show that the split stems from disputes over shares of the cartel’s criminal spoils, according to Mexican military officers and investigators.

In June, hundreds of FBI agents across the United States raided a vast horse-breeding business that they alleged belonged to the Zetas’ second-in-command, Miguel Trevino. Jose Trevino, a brother of the Zetas leader, was among those arrested.

The stables received more than $1 million a month from Mexico and had more than 300 stallions, according to the FBI. One of the horses was called Number One Cartel.

“The news made other Zetas angry about how much money Trevino was taking. And with these people, anger can quickly turn to violence,” the military officer told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Rivalry between Trevino and the cartel’s supreme boss, Heriberto Lazcano, has been brewing for several years as the cartel expanded far across Mexico and into Central America.

GROWING VIOLENCE

The eruption of violence helped make August the second bloodiest month since outgoing President Felipe Calderon took office in late 2006 and launched a campaign against the cartels, according to a tally compiled by newspaper Milenio. It estimated 1,341 people were killed in gang-related brutality in August.

When Zetas fight Zetas, the results are likely to be particularly gory. The cartel, which was founded by 14 army defectors in 1998, often uses military grade weaponry and is accused of the worst atrocities in Mexico’s drug war.

In May, Zetas were alleged to be behind the killing of 49 people, whose bodies had their heads, arms and feet chopped off and were dumped near the city of Monterrey.

The gang has also been blamed for the murders of hundreds of people whose bodies ended up dumped in mass graves, the massacre of 72 foreign migrant workers headed to the United States, and an arson attack on a casino in Monterrey that claimed 52 lives.

Source: courant.com

Blanco

Assassins On Motorcycles Gun Down Griselda Blanco “The Godmother”

Griselda Blanco was believed to have ordered dozens of vicious drug-related slayings in the 1970s and 80s, and was convicted of the murder of a 2-year-old in Miami.

Griselda Blanco, the drug kingpin known for her blood-soaked style of street vengeance during Miami’s “cocaine cowboys” era of the ’70s and ’80s, was shot to death in Medellin by a motorcycle-riding assassin Monday.

Blanco, 69, spent nearly two decades behind bars in the United States for drug trafficking and three murders, including the 1982 slaying of a 2-year-old boy in Miami.

Called the “Godmother of Cocaine,” she was deported in 2004 to Colombia, where she maintained a low profile.

Colombia’s national police confirmed her slaying late Monday. According to Colombian press reports, two gunmen on motorcycles pulled up to Blanco as she walked out of a butcher shop in Medellin, her hometown. One man pumped two bullets into her head, according to El Colombiano newspaper. It was the sort of death many had predicted for her: Blanco has been credited with inventing the idea of the “motorcycle assassin” who rode by victims and sprayed them with bullets.

“It’s surprising to all of us that she had not been killed sooner because she made a lot of enemies,” former Miami homicide detective Nelson Andreu, who investigated her, said late Monday. “When you kill so many and hurt so many people like she did, it’s only a matter of time before they find you and try to even the score.”

The former kingpin was with a pregnant daughter-in-law, who was uninjured. According to El Colombiano, the woman told police that Blanco was no longer involved in organized crime and that she was hoping to live off the sales of several properties she owned.

Blanco came to epitomize the “cocaine cowboy” bloodshed of the 1980s, when rival drug dealers brazenly ambushed rivals in public.

Raised in the slums of Medellin, she began her criminal career as a pickpocket, eventually commanding an empire that reportedly shipped 3,400 pounds of cocaine per month, by boat and plane. She was considered a Colombian pioneer in drug smuggling to the United States, a precursor to the larger cartels that dominated in the 1980s. She even had a Medellin lingerie shop custom design bras and girdles with special pockets to hold cocaine, a tool used by her drug mules flying to Miami.

She ran the organization with her three of her four sons, two of whom were later assassinated in Colombia.

Blanco was known for her flamboyant lifestyle — one of her sons was named Michael Corleone, an homage to The Godfather movies. Three of her husbands also died in drug-related violence.

But it was her nasty temper and penchant for unyielding violence that drew the attention of law enforcement and the public.

Investigators linked her to the daytime 1979 submachine gun attack at Dadeland Mall that shocked Miami. Detectives conservatively estimated that she was behind about 40 homicides.

She was only convicted of three murders.

Two of them: Blanco arranged the slayings drug dealers Alfredo and Grizel Lorenzo in their South Miami house, as their three children watched television in another room. They had failed to pay $250,000 for five kilos of cocaine that Blanco had allegedly delivered to them.

She was also convicted of ordering a shooting that resulted in the death of 2-year-old Johnny Castro, shot twice in the head as he drove in a car with his father, Jesus “Chucho” Castro. Blanco was targeting Jesus Castro, a former enforcer for Blanco’s organization.

Detectives learned the intimate details of the hit from Jorge Ayala, the charismatic hitman who later testified against Blanco. He told police that Blanco wanted Castro killed because he kicked her son in the buttocks.

“At first she was real mad ’cause we missed the father,” Ayala told police. “But when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even.”

She had been arrested in 1985 in a cocaine trafficking case in New York. Ultimately, she served 13 years in federal custody before she was handed over to Florida authorities.

Blanco seemed destined for Florida’s Death Row — but the prosecution’s murders case was dealt a severe blow.

The reason: Ayala — the case’s chief witness — engaged in phone sex with secretaries from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. After an investigation, three secretaries were fired and a veteran prosecutor resigned.

Special prosecutors from Orlando took over the case, and Blanco cut a plea deal in 1998.

Blanco was sentenced to three concurrent 20-year sentences, of which she had to serve only about one-third because of guidelines in effect at the time of the murders. Even on her return to Colombia, she was believed to have held onto immense wealth.

In recent years, younger Miamians were introduced to Blanco via two “Cocaine Cowboys” documentaries made by filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman.

“This is classic live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword,” Corben said Monday. “Or in this case, live-by-the-motorcycle-assassin, die-by-the-motorcycle assassin.”

Source:www.miamiherald.com