Friday, March 2, 2012

New Pieces

On the problems with comparing between Chapo and Osama, here:
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, bin Laden was much more central to his movement than Guzman is to his industry. Radical Islamic fundamentalism didn’t begin and end with bin Laden, but his charisma and personal devotion to the cause rallied thousands of others to join him. While the academic research on the decapitation of terrorist groups is not clear-cut, the evidence suggests that killing bin Laden is far more likely to limit al Qaida’s ability to attack the US than killing Guzman would be to limit Mexican gangsters’ ability to traffic drugs.

Indeed, in Guzman’s case, it’s unlikely that killing him alone would radically alter the power even of his Sinaloa Cartel, which is also directed by other prestigious figures -- Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada and Juan Jose "El Azul" Esparragoza -- in addition to Guzman. And more to the point, killing or arresting Guzman would have an even smaller impact on the industry as a whole, as other gangs would inevitably race in to absorb the reduced market share of a weakened Sinaloa Cartel. Put another way, capos, even the most powerful ones, are merely cogs in a much larger machine. If one cog is removed, another can, and inevitably will, replace it. The machine, driven by an insatiable demand for recreational drugs, grinds on with whatever parts are available.

And on the dark side, according to Proceso, of accusations that the improvements in Juárez, here:
Julian Leyzaola, the controversial municipal police chief who has emerged as the foremost protagonist of the government’s anti-crime efforts, has been charged with introducing a number of unsavory ingredients to the mixture in Juarez. Principal among the complaints are a lack of respect for human rights, with municipal officers accused of carrying out extrajudicial executions and the chief himself fingered as a participant in jailhouse beatings.

The article also details accusations that the municipal police have begun to arrest to vast numbers of locals -- up to 10,000 per month -- on minor charges such as failing to carry their proper identification. The goal, according to critics, is for the officers to mete out fines and thereby increase the department’s income.

A couple of further points on that Proceso piece: I have a hard time believing that Leyzaola actually participated in the jailhouse beating of wealthy female hotelier. He may be morally capable of such a thing, but someone so reckless and stupid would presumably have a hard time getting to where he's gotten. Though maybe power has just gone to his head.

Also, while parts of it read like the standard Proceso litany of abuses by the government (which is, I hasten add, a necessary genre, just not one that lends itself to original writing), the piece is really pretty interesting in its exploration of how he built up self-respect among the local police. You don't read about public security from the police officer's perspective in Mexico very often, so it's an illuminating read from that standpoint, too.

Finally, Tim Johnson notes that the number of murders dropped to 82 in February, the lowest figure in three years, and less than a quarter the highest monthly number I am familiar with.

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