US exaggerate impact of Mexican cartels within its territory – expert
Today marks the National Day of Action Against Border Militarization. Over 7 million US citizens are living in border communities from San Diego, California to Brownsville and Texas. Events are planned across the US to mark the date. The issue of border militarization has come into prominence following the arrest of the head of Los Zetas criminal syndicate in Mexico on Monday. There have been tensions between Mexico and US over its plans to boost security at its southern border. VoR talked to Eduardo Mills – Director of Investigations, Southern Pulse – Networked Intelligence firm, in Washington DC.
What are major problems faced by people residing in border communities in US and Mexico?
To be honest, the problem certainly is much larger on the Mexican side than it is on the US side. Although on the US side there has been in recent times hits carried out by cartels, they tend to be very localized, very specific whereas on the Mexican side more massive hits were carried out by cartels. So, there is disparity already. I think on the US side the issue has been compounded by the immigration question of the US which is in a sense blown out of proportions the actual impact of cartels within the US territory and adding to that of course is the question of drug trafficking. That is the bread and butter of the cartels and that certainly has an impact but it doesn’t have an impact on an everyday life on the US side.
Does the Border Network for Human Rights cooperate with US and Mexican intelligence to fight drug trafficking across the border?
Absolutely. There is wide range of organizations that cooperate, including both governments cooperating with each other. I think after the election last year and when the president took office in December, there was a question of how much more they were going to be cooperating and how it would affect the human rights and the effectiveness of the strategy. And if anything I think for the last 9 months everybody has the same question in mind because there hadn’t been any capture of big cartel heads. But I think last night we saw that there is evidence to say that that type of relationships are continued and that there is still cooperation between the governments and agencies that might help.
There has been a lot of speculation as to what the result of capturing of the boss of Los Zetas would be. On the one hand people say that we will see less trafficking now, but on the other hand there is obviously other groups that are going to be fighting for the position that Los Zetas occupied or perhaps within the Los Zetas cartel there will be people who will try to assume that same position or there could be a lot of brood-shed and things could be worse actually. What do you think is going to happen?
That is what the most people are worried about. If anything, I personally have cautious optimism. If you look at 2012 when the former leader of Los Zetas was captured, there were groups within that structure that sprung out of their own groups for example which were commanded by a man who was arrested before and Miguel Trevino was unable to bring in the same level cohesiveness that the group has had in 2012. So, looking into 2013 we can expect the same sort of thing where if anybody who takes over command, it certainly is not going to be the same group anymore. Unlike other cartels they are not tied by the community or family bonds, in many ways they are recruiting very young people and training them militarily and that is really the only thing that is holding them together. And so if you lose the leader, there is very little loyalty between different cells, between different groups throughout the country, there is very little reason for them to stay within that official structure. What we are likely to see are splits of Los Zetas but we are unlikely to see a single hierarchy.
Is that going to mean more or less violence in the border areas?
Specifically for Los Zetas they mostly control their biggest structure Nuevo Laredo, which is the crown jewel of trafficking in the US-Mexican border. So there will be probably a fight for control of that local plaza. In terms of how it affects other areas of the border, we are unlikely to see a change, for example the western part of the US-Mexican border is mostly controlled by Nuevo Laredo cartel and Los Zetas would not be in the position to challenge any of that territory. So, we are likely to see a slight increase of violence in the eastern border. To what extent that is likely, that question is very difficult to answer because it falls upon who is going to control the local cells. People forget that there is going to be a spike in violence in the area around the borders. There is a possibility on increased violence but it is in no means certain.