Friday, July 30, 2010

Kingpin Strategy

Apropos of Nacho Coronel's death, one of the suggestions of the recent Foreign Affairs article on Colombian lessons for Mexico was to adopt a so-called kingpin strategy. The complete article isn't online and I don't have it in front of me, but the gist was that Mexico needs to focus more on the kingpins and less on their networks, because running a multi-national smuggling organization isn't so easy, and once the boss goes down, he's not so easy to replace.

I thought this was the most mistaken portion of an otherwise pretty sharp article (although I still think there are significant problems with using Colombia as a model for Mexico). In Mexico, at least, the death or arrest of kingpins has typically been accompanied by a quick surge of killings and the relatively quick resurrection of the party's normal operations. Such was the case with the death of Amado Carrillo, the arrest of Juan García, and many other examples. When organizations have faded (the Valencias in Michoacán, the Arellano Félix brothers in Tijuana), it's not been because of one single arrest, but sustained pressure (and not just from the government, but from competitors, too). Mexico most certainly needs to have a far greater capacity to track down the most notorious capos, but that also has to be coupled with a broader strategy to attack the organizations' lower levels of operation.


boz said...

It would be a bad analysis in Colombia too. The kingpin strategy produced temporary successes, but ended up creating micro-cartels that were harder to focus on and pushing the drug trafficking to different patterns.

Taking out leadership to create disruption only works if you have a plan for what to do when the market is disrupted to consolidate the gains made. Otherwise, as you say, new guys and groups just drop in to replace the old ones.

pc said...

I suspected that it didn't really hold up for Colombia as well. I don't know about Cali, but weren't the Pepes killing lower level guys a huge part of bringing Escobar's organization down?