Friday, July 30, 2010

Nacho Coronel

So by now everyone knows that Nacho Coronel, the Ice King or King of Crystal, is dead. The army killed him in Zapopan, a well-to-do suburb of Guadalajara. This is huge news on several fronts:

a) The Sinaloa cartel is clearly not being protected by the federal government. Seriously, those accusations really seem so unfounded to me. Sons, brothers and nephews of Chapo and El Mayo have been arrested, killed and on some occasions extradited. Since the arrest of Vicente Zambada Niebla, every single man to take his place near the top of the hierarchy has been nabbed. This leaves Chapo and the other top dogs (El Mayo and El Azul) more isolated than ever, because they need to recruit new people to fill top posts constantly. People they don't necessarily trust. Their whole system of operating has to adapt each time a big gun is caught.

b) Nacho Coronel was in Guadalajara. What is now the Sinaloa cartel used to basically be the Guadalajara cartel, when El Padrino Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo was in charge in the 80s. (He was from Sinaloa but moved operations to Guadalajara when the heat was on in Sinaloa after the murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena). Is the Sinaloa cartel returning to Guadalajara? Do they feel safer there than in Sinaloa, for some reason? A few months ago, there was a reported Chapo sighting in Zapopan – the very suburb Nacho Coronel was killed. Several other top Sinaloa lieutenants have been caught in Zapopan in the past year, too. Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, offers anonymity not found in the small towns of the Sierra – if Chapo for some reason is questioning the loyalty of the Sinaloan people right now, Guadalajara would be the place for him to go.

c) Of course, now that the authorities have got Nacho Coronel there, Chapo'd be a fool to stay. So where to now? I'd put money on the authorities catching him in Nayarit – where he's long had a protective network – if I had some money to bet.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The Mexican cartels have moved up two spots in a ranking system pretty much akin to FIFA's global soccer rankings – ie, meaningless. Only the Russian and Chinese mafias outrank the Mexicans, according to the Centro Internacional de Desarollo Legal y Economico, headed by Edgardo Buscaglia.

While the ranking itself means very little, the data and research Buscgalia presents is very interesting and relevant. In the last four years, Mexican cartels have significantly increased their presence in the US, Canada, the EU and Asia, particularly in the form of property purchases (to launder money). This we knew, but it always hits home when you see it in writing from an expert like Buscaglia, who also works with the UN.

Also, India has apparently become the primary supplier of meth precursors to Mexican cartels, overtaking China for the top spot.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

drug numbers

I'm in a numbers mood today, so thought I'd throw some out. Since December 2006, the Mexican army has seized:

1,654,839 kilos of marijuana

24,720 kilos of cocaine

111,337,589 US dollars

Incredible. But more incredible is the realization that the street price of these drugs in the US has not gone down significantly (or at all) in the same period of time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ah, the Internet

In honor of the Internet, with which I am rapidly becoming more disillusioned, I thought I'd just point out that one particular story circulating about Chapo is absolutely not true. Of course, there are tons of these, but this particular one is absurd. It claims that Chapo thanked US lawmakers for keeping drugs illegal, because it has boosted his business. (Link in title of post.)

This is a spoof, written originally by a Huffington Post satirist. Please people, take things with a grain of salt. I really don't want to receive another email from a supposedly intelligent reporter/editor asking me if I have investigated this story. It is a joke. I wish HuffPost would make that more clear on their site, but as they don't, it's up to us normal folk to use our little brains to figure out what's real and what's not.

I guess I miss journalistic institutions, where facts are checked, reporters/editors are fair and balanced, fabrication is frowned upon and rumours dismissed as such.

PS - The HuffPost piece is quite amusing though.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Guessing game

It's been a while since I last posted, apologies. In part, this is because I've been on vacation. But in part, it's also been because I've been pausing for what my former rugby coach used to call a moment of Socratic thought. I've mainly been thinking: what the hell do I know?

I've just written a book about the drug war, and I confess that I am just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of insight. I know what I know but I know very little. But what worries me is that everyone else seems to be in the same place.

I recently had a conversation with a DEA agent in Mexico who ended said conversation by saying: "Eh, what do I know?"

I had another conversation with a foreign correspondent in which he said the same thing. "Eh, what do I know?"

We all know that little is known for sure in Mexico, but it's hardly reassuring when a former anti-organized crime prosecutor tells you that if three people tell you the rumour, you can assume it to be true and investigate. "But, eh, what do I know?" he added.

I was also told by a reporter acquaintance that an FBI source of his had tried to pass off a Rio Doce article as "intel," prompting me to think the FBI guy goes home every night and tells his wife: "Eh, what do I know?"

Here's what we know for sure: nobody seems to know anything.
And I wish I knew more.

Friday, July 16, 2010

car bomb in Juarez

Everyone is reporting on the car bomb in Ciudad Juarez, and how it adds a new dimension to the war on drugs. Actually, car bombs (i believe multiple) were detonated in Sinaloa in 2008. So it's not really a new dimension, more of an ugly new twist.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A bit more punditry

Apologies for lack of recent posts, am still floored by the hit man interview from Reuters and am also on vacation. But still managed to offer some opinions on Arizona's profiling law here (link's also in title of post):