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Mexico’s presidential election is over, and the early results reveal that the winner is Enrique Pena Nieto, the leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years until 2000. Pena Nieto received 38 percent of the vote, while his closest challenger, Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, had 31 percent.
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For many in and out of Mexico, this is a disturbing result; the Institutional Revolutionary Party was well known for its connections to the drug cartels. Besides being widely accused of stealing the 1988 presidential election, they are viewed with distrust by those who hoped the cartels’ vicious hold on Mexico, which has led to the loss of 50,000 lives since 2006, when Felipe Calderon was elected, could be thwarted. Calderon had unsuccessfully tried to fight the cartels with the military.
Obrador refused to hear the fat lady sing, and would not concede, stating:
“We have to represent them as they deserve to be represented, the citizens that have confided in us. We will not, in any way, act in an irresponsible way, we will have all of the information. And when it is the right time, we will inform the people of Mexico about the result of this election.”
Pena Nieto may well be corrupt; he is no innocent. During his first marriage he had numerous affairs and fathered two children out of wedlock. Despite his party’s reputation, he promised he would not be in bed with the cartels:
“The fight against crime will continue with a new strategy to reduce violence and protect the lives of Mexicans. Let it be clear, with organized crime there will be no pacts or truce.”
But there were skeptics; Barry Carr, an expert on Mexico from Australia’s Latrobe University, said many Mexicans voted for Pena Nieto because they thought his closeness to the cartels would enable him to strike a deal with them:
“I think that we may see, not publicly, but I think we may see an attempt – and I think this is what a lot of Mexicans want – and that we may see the scale of the killings reduced. In other words there may be an implicit deal being done under which there will be less emphasis on pursuing militarily or by police the drug cartels, and there will be an attempt to persuade the drug cartels to reduce the level of killing both of themselves and of other individuals.”
There is no single drug cartel in Mexico; there are many, with various spheres of influence:
- La Familla Michoacana, which was placed on the Kingpin Designation Act list by the U.S. government in April 2009. In May 2009, The Los Angeles Times reported that La Familia was deeply involved in the political machine of Michoacan. According to mayors in the region, no party has been free of its influence or interference. Failure by a recruit of La Familla to live by the rules means they are executed.
- Los Zetas: The original members of Los Zetas came from the Special Forces Airmobile Group, and were thought to be the most highly trained soldiers in the Mexican army. They are trained in surveillance and countersurveillance, urban warfare tactics, hostage rescue, prison escape, and the use of assault weapons and explosives. In August 2010, they massacred 72 migrants from Central America who were on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. In February 2011, Los Zetas shot two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents near San Luís Potosí, seriously injuring one and killing the other. In March 2010, Mexican authorities found mass graves containing over 200 bodies of innocent Mexican citizens who were taken from buses and executed for refusing to join the group or pay ransom.
- The Arellano Felix/Fernando Sanchez Organization, which operates in Baja California. They smuggle multi-ton quantities of cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine into the United States, and has a reputation for extreme violence.
- The Cartel del Pacifico Sur became very powerful in 2009, but lost one of their top bosses in a raid by the Mexican navy in December 2009. They are still doing business, though.
- The Gulf cartel is from Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, and smuggles cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine into the US. They are different from the other cartels because they do not have one power center. In the late 1990’s, Osiel Cardenas Guillen became the undisputed leader of the Gulf cartel. Cardenas Guillen was jailed in 2003, but continued to run the cartel from a Mexican prison until he was extradited to the US in 2007. Then three cartel lieutenants took charge of operations so it became more spread out. Cardenal Guillen’s arrest triggered a series of events that mark the cartels to this day. After he was arrested, the Sinaloa Federation began to move into Gulf territory. Cardenas Guillen then hired a group of former Mexican army commandos known as Los Zetas, who later split with the Gulf cartel and became what they are today. Because Los Zetas has become so powerful, the Gulf Cartel eventually allied with the Sinaloa Federation and La Familia Michoacana.
- The Juarez cartel, AKA The Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, controls billions of dollars of illegal drug shipments entering the US from Mexico.
- The Sinaloa foundation, AKA the Pacific cartel or Golden Triangle Alliance, is the force responsible for the smuggling of Colombian cocaine, Mexican marijuana and methamphetamine, and Mexican and Southeast Asian heroin into the US. By the mid-1990s, it was equivalent to the Colombian Medellin cartel at the height of its power. The foundation has been fighting the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO) for control of Tijuana plaza for 20 years. since the early 1990s. The killings in northern Baja has been because of this feud.
It’s clear that the cartels have a government of their own which has no interest in being stymied, whatever the cost. More than 50,000 people have died just south of our border. But the violence will inevitably spread northward. Meanwhile the federal government prevents states like Arizona from protecting themselves. At what point will the rest of America wake up to the imminent threat?