Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stronger Gangs?

Ricardo Ravelo has a recent piece in Proceso arguing that Calderón's policy has actually strengthened Mexico's largest groups. Here, I push back against that. Highlights:

Ravelo’s argument rests in large part on the alliances that have supposedly grouped the industry into two large federations. On one side stand Sinaloa and its allies: the Gulf Cartel, the Familia Michoacana, a collection of smaller gangs, and, reportedly, the Caballeros Templarios. The opposing bloc is led by the Zetas, and includes the Juarez Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel, and a pair of Beltran Leyva splinter groups.

But a federation of distinct groups operating over a large chunk of geography, with some degree of coordination, is quite different from a single group dominating the same swath of territory. (It’s also worth noting that Ravelo places several pairs of long-opposed gangs in the same federation, which makes his conclusions still more suspect.) Loose groupings like those described by Ravelo are held together by fragile alliances that are frequently broken, which is an important reason why organized crime groups today are less stable and more violent. A territorial expansion predicated on these alliances is not durable evidence for a strengthened group of big cartels.

Also, one of Ravelo's sources for this article was a Stratfor report. Ravelo, who at his is best comes across as one of the most connected reporters in Mexico, outsourcing his reporting to Stratfor is, well, interesting.

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