Tuesday, February 14, 2012

El Coss and the Marines

Proceso has a new piece about the longtime capo who has emerged as the leader of the Gulf Cartel, which I've excerpted here. It's quite interesting in that it alleges systematic collusion by the marines and the army with Costilla Sánchez, but as with any Proceso article build on a single source's info, one wonders how reliable the story is. Highlights:
The 2010 split between the Gulf Cartel and their erstwhile armed wing, the Zetas, has triggered hundreds of killings in the northeastern states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, which the two groups previously ruled as, essentially, a single organization. The Zetas, whose expansion and violent tactics made them notorious even prior to the split, emerged with a larger share of the territory. They have since expanded, now operating in far-flung states like Jalisco, and have even popped up in Sinaloa.

In addition to fighting with the Zetas, the Gulf bosses have also been battling among themselves. As the Proceso article indicates, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias "El Coss," was piqued at having risen no higher than third-ranking member of the group following the arrest and extradition of former leader Osiel Cardenas in the 2000s. According to an anonymous source, Costilla Sanchez has since focused on setting his rivals up to be arrested or killed by government forces, allowing him to emerge as the overall leader of the group.

While the Gulf Cartel is a diminished force, it retains control of a number of significant border regions, most notably Reynosa and Matamoros, and continues to battle it out with the Zetas in other cities around the region, such as Monterrey and Tampico. Indeed, while its territory has been reduced, the Gulf's level of control in the areas that remain under its dominion seems to have hardened, despite the ongoing battle with the Zetas.

According to Proceso, this is due to the links between Costilla Sanchez and high-level elements in the military. The anonymous source whose account was the basis for the story says that, in exchange for millions of dollars, army and marine commanders essentially give Costilla Sanchez free rein to operate in Mexico’s northeastern region, and attack his enemies as needed. Under Costilla Sanchez, the Gulf Cartel’s previous ruling clique has been displaced, thanks in large part to military pressure. Most notable was former leader Ezequiel “Tony Tormenta” Cardenas, Osiel’s brother, who was killed in a shootout with marines in 2010.

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