Mexico: The Army Goes To War With The Drug Lords


December27, 2006: Army and police operation in western Mexico led to the arrest of members of the Gulf drug cartel and Sinaloa cartel as well as members of the Valencia cartel. The Gulf cartel arrests were made in Veracruz (on the east coast of Mexico). Apparently, members of the Gulf cartel's associated gang, the Zetas, had also been arrested. The Zetas operate as a "private army" and have been involved in numerous murders along the Texas-Mexico border. The Mexican government is sending a political message. The Calderon government will challenge the drug cartels. Though there has been no rhetorical or media indication that the Mexican government has chosen to treat the cartels as "insurgents," the focus on the gangs' "combat power" certainly suggests the Mexican government has taken that tact in operational terms.

December 23, 2006: The government approved at $205 billion budget. Moreover, the budget is supposedly a balanced budget. During the presidential campaign, President Felipe Calderon promised he would work for fiscal and budgetary responsibility.

December 22, 2006: The government reported its security forces had seized seven tons of marijuana. The marijuana was on board vans ready for shipment (presumably north to the U.S.). The raid caught the vans on a ranch north of Guadalajara, Mexico. This indicates the anti-drug operation that began in Michoacan state has been expanded into other regions of Mexico.

December 21, 2006: The Army arrested ten alleged drug traffickers in Michoacan state.

December 17, 2006: The Army announced a major drug bust operation in western Mexico. The army arrested Elias Valencia, head of the Valencia drug cartel. (Elias Valencia took control of the gang when his father, Armando, was arrested in 2003.) The Army and various police organizations began a large-scale counter-drug operation in Michoacan state on December 11. The operation included a large "sweep" of Michoacan by troops supported by armored vehicles. Police had been ambushed in southwestern Michoacan and it looks like the armored vehicles were a response to the road ambushes. The state has been the scene of fighting between the Gulf Cartel (out of Matamoros) and the Valencia cartel. The two cartels had been shooting at one another and committing "execution style" gangland slayings. The army reported one firefight on December 13 near what was described as a "marihuana plantation." One drug gang member was killed in that incident and a second man was arrested. Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, promised he would take action against the drug gangs. It looks like action includes the Mexican Army deployed as a police force but also conducting operations that look more than a bit like counter-insurgency operations.




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