Mexican Drug Cartel
Governments in Mexico and most of Latin America are being challenged by drug gangs and cartels. The constant insecurity brought about by this power struggle erodes the authority of the state and its sovereignty, giving drug gangs and cartels both political and economic power. The constant fights brought about by these criminal enterprises involves: drug gangs and cartels seeking to detach themselves from state authorities and conduct activities that essentially makes them 'primitive rebels' sustaining a struggle that is basically a 'criminal rebellion or insurgency'; the provision of useful social amenities; formation of narratives about power and rebellion; and gangs conducting themselves like modern social bandits to win support and power within their criminal enterprises and the geographical regions they control. They convey this message through violence and the way they do their businesses. The issue of Mexican drug cartels is of importance because these drug trafficking gangs have transformed into trans-national criminal enterprises that have moved beyond the borders of Mexico to the U.S. And other western nations and to West Africa and Asia (Bunker, 2013). This paper will look at current studies about this particular vice. This paper delves into the organization of Mexican drug cartels and has inputs from academic, law enforcement, military personnel and investigative reports.
Criminal Rebellion: The Violence and corruption
Mexican drug cartels have been traditionally viewed as criminal organizations and therefore to be dealt with by law enforcement agencies. However in recent years, these cartels have evolved beyond the structures of the traditional Italian Mafia model. Their operations are becoming more and more comparable to those of terrorist outfits and insurgencies when examined under the rules of war (Cordero, 2012). Occurrences in the last few years have repeatedly proven that Mexican citizens are living in a state of terror. These drug cartels have turned torture, extortion, murder, and kidnappings into daily occurrences in Mexico. When citizens are faced with the choice of cooperation or murder, then really there is no choice. This state of terror is not confined within the borders of Mexico; Americans too face these risks. Many experts have come to the conclusion that these drug cartels can be regarded as trans-national terrorist organizations (Cordero, 2012).
It is known that drug cartels use violence as an instrument in their business operations. Other tools deployed in their operations include coercion, torture, threats, and violence. However, it should be known that these criminal organizations actively prefer to avoid being detected, and would rather corrupt state authorities than engage with them in direct confrontations. According to Sabet (2009), drug cartels operate in a manner that he refers to as collusive corruption. As the present situation has proven, these organizations can directly challenge the government if their interests are at stake. When the interests of both the government and the criminal organizations are at loggerheads then criminal insurgency is one of the means these organizations use to confront the state. Criminal insurgency differs from traditional terrorism because the drug cartels' one and only aim is to gain economic and political power over territory. They seek to achieve this by undermining the state and establishing criminal enclaves that give them the power to operate. When criminal organizations acquire, control, or even disrupt important transport routes in the trans-national transport systems, the connections between this can have spillover effects (Flanigan, 2012).
The drug cartels not only seek to silence communities and rule them with impunity, they also particularly seek to control perceptions using what has been referred to as narco-propaganda. This plan involves the use of certain instruments including violent means such as murder, kidnappings, bombings, and informational means including use of banners, barricades, orchestrated protests, and folk songs praising the virtues of these cartels (Sullivan, 2012). Some researchers have even gone ahead to equate Mexican drug cartels to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. These researchers examined the operations of the cartels and compared them to how different governments define terrorism, and then compared these operations to Hezbollah and Hamas. They came to several conclusions. The first was that Mexican drug cartels are confined to specific geographical locations out of necessity, similar to Hezbollah and Hamas, yet different from the more networked and highly mobile terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida. Even though this is not the case in many criminal organizations, Mexican drug cartels seek to control specific geographical regions so...
Similar to these two Middle Eastern terrorist groups, Mexican drug cartels have deep and complicated links with the state in which they function (Flanigan, 2012).
Both Hezbollah and Hamas have political branches and hold elected positions; thus they are part of their respective governments, which provides them with significant control over their government's operations. On the contrary, drug cartels' dealings with the Mexican government are basically in the form of entrenched corruption and at times violence. Still these strategies enable the Mexican drug cartels to impose an adequate amount of influence over the government that professionals have cautioned as 'state capture'. Sullivan and Elkus (2010) have gone further to assert that Mexico is increasing becoming a criminal-state that is mostly run by drug cartels/narco-gangs. Despite the differences between Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Mexican drug cartels and the states in which they operate, the power and control exerted by the Mexican cartels is more comparable to these two organizations than to secretive terrorist groups like al-Qaida (Flanigan, 2012).
There are many different political, legal and academic definitions of terrorism. For the objectives of this particular examination, this paper will point out how government agencies and global organizations define terrorism. Nevertheless, within the numerous definitions given some similar ideas emerge. In fact all definitions except one assert the perpetrator's aim of generating a situation of fear and terror within the society. Other similar ideas shared among most of the definitions include the aim of influencing state actions, ideological motivations, and targeting of civilians or government officials as part of strategy. All of these notions have been discussed highlighting how the features of the Mexican cartels compare to these themes and contrasting these features to those of Hezbollah and Hamas (Flanigan, 2012).
The frequent theme among all these definitions of terrorism is a group's aim of creating a situation of fear or intimidation through its activities. The notion that terrorism is a theater is well-known among many; Cohen (2009) goes ahead to note that terrorism is a show performed for viewers, a majority of whom live far from where these violent acts are staged. This highlights how Hezbollah or Hamas can effectively create a situation of terror or intimidation in the communities in which they operate. The strategy of targeting civilians was noted as one of the themes among the descriptions and definitions of terrorism because it is specifically useful in creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. For instance, both Hezbollah and Hamas occasionally launch rockets into Israel which at times cause civilian casualties, although these groups usually claim such occurrences as accidental. The possibility that a mis-targeted rocket can drop on one's home or their children's school is a strong generator of fear and works as a successful tactic of getting publicity about a group's political or ideological cause (Flanigan, 2012).
According to Hazen (2011) despite the fact that criminal organizations have the capability to utilize violence, it is however not the most important tool in their operations, because less violence is often best for their activities and also violence is expensive, cutting profitability. A recent study reports that criminal organizations that utilize terrorist-type violence are in danger of losing public backing, which is crucial for maintaining the wide network of politicians, judges, policemen, businessmen and bankers who protect them. Still, it has been seen in Mexico how extreme violence has generated an atmosphere of terror and intimidation within the nation, to the point that in December 2010 the state cautioned their citizens in the United States who were coming back for Christmas holidays to only do so during the day and in groups. These days Mexican drug cartel violence involves gruesome acts of violence in the public, in contrast to the quick assassinations of rivals in clandestine operations in the past (Flanigan, 2012).
Scholars input on the topic
The most common recurrent theme in academic debates on Mexican drug cartels is the danger that they pose to independent states. For instance, homicides that are linked to drug violence have increased in recent years in Mexico, emphasizing the above occurrence at a small scale, asserts a study article done on violence, institutionalized corruption and organized crime by Viridiana Riosas (cited by Bunker, 2013). The study draws upon credible data from the Mexican government's National Security Council (CSN) coupled with her remembrance of banners (narco-messages) which were written by the drug trafficking groups to communicate among themselves. She makes a crucial addition to this data by giving a case study that shows…
Bunker, R.J. (2013). Introduction: the Mexican cartels -- organized crime vs. criminal insurgency. Trends in Organized Crime, 16(2), 129-137.
Campbell, H. (2009). Drug war zone: Frontline dispatches from the streets of El Paso and Juarez. University of Texas Press.
Cohen, Y. (2009). Hamas in combat: the military performance of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement. Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Cordero, C.F. (2012). Breaking the Mexican Cartels: A Key Homeland Security Challenge for the Next Four Years. University of Missouri-Kansas City Law Review, 81, 289-312.
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