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Only 2 major cartels have survived Mexico's 8-year-long drug war

After more than eight years of widespread violence spanning two Mexican presidential administrations, the country's drug war has led to the consolidation of just two remaining major cartels and the splintering and degradation of the country's other drug trafficking organizations, Fox News Latino reports citing Mexico's Attorney General's Office.

Throughout the drug war, which began in December of 2006 when the recently elected Mexican president Felipe Calderon deployed federal troops to Michoacan to fight the state's once-powerful drug cartel, Mexico has pursued a "kingpin strategy" of targeting the gangs' high-level leadership. This approach has produced a series of major arrests. But it's also led to the violent fragmentation of cartels that were once relatively unified and stable.

Now, Mexico has a swarm of smaller regional drug traffickers, with just two big cartels left.

Only the Sinaloa Cartel and the recently established Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel (CJNG) are still "operating and functioning" within Mexico according to an interview with Tomas Zeron, the director of the Criminal Investigation Agency in Mexico's Attorney General's Office, in the Mexican newspaper Proceso that was translated by Fox.

The other cartels throughout the country have splintered into smaller competing gangs or have been swallowed up by the Sinaloa and the CJNG.

The Sinaloa Cartel is the single largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in the Western hemisphere. It's flourished during the drug war due to its non-hierarchical organization structure -- the cartel is more like a confederacy of groups that are connected through blood, marriage, and regional relationships. Decisions are ultimately made through board-of-directors-type mechanisms and not by a single leader.

This operational flexibility has allowed the Sinaloa to continue to thrive despite several setbacks including the arrest of Chapo Guzman, the group's central architect.

The CJNG, meanwhile, splintered away from the Sinaloa in 2010. It's experienced a meteoric rise ever since.

According to Insight Crime, the CJNG rose to power since 2010 thanks to a convergence of factors. The group's origins within the Sinaloa offered them business connections and practical knowledge of Mexico's illicit drug market. And the relative stability of Jalisco state enabled the group to expand and consolidate without having to engage in costly turf battles to establish initial control. The relative weakness of cartels in neighboring states also allowed the CJNG to expand outwards without much resistance.

The CJNG has proven willing to directly attack the Mexican military and police, sometimes in broad daylight. In April, the group killed 15 elite police officers in an ambush outside of the western city of Guadalajara in one of the drug war's deadliest single incidents for the Mexican government.

The kingpin strategy has led to a number of highly touted arrests which have decapitated the other Mexican cartels. But this strategy has largely led to an increase in unrest and violence throughout Mexico.

At least 60,000 people are estimated to have been killed between 2006 and 2012 as a result of the drug war as cartels, vigilante groups, and the Mexican army and police have battled one another.

The overwhelming majority of these deaths haven't been adequately investigated by the Mexican authorities, contributing to an atmosphere of lawlessness in many parts of the country. The UN Human Rights Council estimates that only 1-2% of homicides committed between 2006 and 2012 were investigated to conviction. Approximately 70% 0f these crimes were in some way drug related.

This violence is closely linked to the overall breakdown of order throughout Mexico and the proliferation of smaller gangs out of the ruins of much larger former cartels. The new gangs have started to compete with each other for turf, while the Sinaloa and the CJNG have tried to take advantage of the larger chaos to spread and solidify their hold on profitable stretches of territory.

"These are cells that are trying to seek power for survival, and that's why right now we are seeing the homicides among them," Zeron told Proceso.

[Source: By Jeremy Bender, Business Insider, NY, 16Jun15]

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Human Rights in Mexico
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