Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bye, bye La Barbie

So, the Texan (La Barbie) has been captured - alive. I'll leave the analysis and speculation to the newspapers, but I just want to point out two quick things:

1) Yet another former Chapo crony goes down, while Chapo remains free. Clearly, breaking away from the big boss is a bad business move. You lose his protection, and perhaps even risk his betrayal. Who knows how they got La Barbie (who tipped them off, etc) but it's clear that staying close to Chapo is the way to go. How long that will last, no one knows.

2) Yesterday, more than 3,000 federal police were removed from the force because of corruption/incompetence. Federal police were also responsible for catching La Barbie. In articles about Mexico, one always reads about "Mexico's notoriously corrupt police." This latest capture proves that although there are many corrupt cops in Mexico, there are also some hardworking, honest and determined ones. Let's not forget that and tarnish the whole force with the same brush.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Underreported story of the day...

Alfonso Gutiérrez Loera, a cousin of El Chapo's who was captured in 2008, has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for organized crime and weapons-related offenses.

It's another blow to Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel, yet this doesn't fit in with the media's current agenda of hyping alleged collusion between the government and the Sinaloa organization, so few media outlets are even reporting it. To be sure, the Sinaloa cartel is hardly going to collapse because the authorities catch one of Chapo's punk cousins, but it is a blow nonetheless, as he is yet another Guzman family member to be sentenced, and family means everything in the Sinaloa drug trade.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Photos of Ciudad Juarez

A Mexico-based photographer friend, Keith Dannemiller, passed on some of his photos from Ciudad Juarez. The link is in the title of the post, the photo essay documents one family's struggle to find some semblance of normalcy in the drug-ravaged city, check them out when you get a chance – very vivid, powerful material.

PS - apparently the featured essay on Keith's site has changed, and now documents a mass Quinceanera in Juarez and the day-to-day life of one of the participants. Sorry about the mistake, still definitely worth checking it out. You can find some of Keith's other photo essays under the Porfolio link on his site.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ah, the rational rhetoric of the Catholic Church establishment

In keeping with its criticisms of everything progressive, the Catholic Church in Mexico continues to astound. Today, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard and his left-wing, pro-gay marriage and abortion government, saying that "he and his government have created laws that are destructive to the family, that do more damage than drug trafficking."

A little perspective, folks, that's all I ask for.

Nacho coronel rumour-mongering

Did Nacho Coronel really die or did the government fake his death to give the impression it's going after the Sinaloa cartel? Did Chapo Guzman give up Nacho Coronel to save his own skin? Did Nacho Coronel even exist?

These are some of the rumours swirling around Mexico and online since the killing of Nacho Coronel on July 29. Many people simply don't believe the government when it says it's killed a capo. I'm not sure why: there is plenty of evidence that the Calderon administration has arrested and killed top guys – why not Nacho Coronel too? Sure, his funeral was pretty low-key and kept under wraps (as would be expected; after all, even though he was a criminal, his family wasn't, and even criminals are entitled to a private funeral, even in Mexico) and his body was not displayed for all to see (fair enough really; even dead narcos are entitled to not have their bodies paraded in front of the media). So yes, I believe he is indeed dead, and that this is not some government plot to pretend they're going after Sinaloa.

Second, did Chapo give him up? According to Sinaloans in the know, Chapo, El Mayo and Nacho Coronel met just two weeks before his death. Chapo, it's said, told Nacho Coronel that he should be expanding his territory, or sphere of influence, into Michoacan and Colima (the former being La Familia turf, the latter being a relatively narco-free state thought to basically be under Chapo's sway). It's possible that Chapo was leading Nacho Coronel into a trap, but it's unlikely – business is business, there would have been easier ways to get him out of the way. In addition, Nacho Coronel is the uncle of Chapo's wife (at least reputedly) and a key player in Durango. Giving Nacho Coronel up and losing a big ally in Durango at a time when Los Zetas and La Linea are still fighting their way into Durango and Sinaloa would seem an absurd move for Chapo to make. So I doubt he made it.

What is quite possible is the rumour that the authorities betrayed an unspoken agreement with Nacho Coronel. They had to know he was regularly in Zapopan, and where exactly his homes were, just like they know where Chapo and El Mayo's homes are in Culiacan and other major cities. So, there must have been some sort of co-existence agreement between Nacho Coronel and the local authorities. And they may well have sold him out.

Again, I doubt Chapo had anything to do with it. If he did, that would be the second time in two years – he reputedly gave up Mochomo back in early 2008. I can't imagine Chapo would maintain his rep as a fearsome leader or savvy boss if he kept selling out his cronies – who would trust him, from the lower ranks to the higher-ups? And if Chapo kept turning people in to save his own skin, wouldn't it stand to reason that at some point, he'd be the only one left, and the authorities would turn on him too? Unless, of course, the whole plan is mapped out – which I doubt, considering the authorities have not proven capable of looking five inches in front of their eyes so far in the drug war.

Chapo's too smart – his longevity in the business has proved that – to end up alone and betrayed.

As for whether Nacho Coronel existed or not, there is more evidence that he was a real person than indicating otherwise. However, a lot of the history that's coming out about him has to be looked at with a degree of skepticism. El Blog Del Narco has some old photos of him supposedly in prison in 1993, but they look very photoshopped to me, at least at a glance. (BTW, contrary to some news reports following the AP story on Blogdelnarco, it is not a blog run by narcos. It's run by a student, as AP reports, and some alleged narcos have posted on it. It's a good site though, check it out.)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A different view of Ciudad Juarez

I just wrote a piece for FDI magazine in the UK, which in 2007 named Ciudad Juarez a North American City of the Future. The piece, based on interviews and research of the business sector, offers a really different view of what's going on there. Of course people are dying, and the rest of those left alive are scared, but business appears to be trucking along...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Canelas confusion

For about a week, the web site of the local government in Canelas, Durango, has been down. It appears to have been hacked. I was wondering more about this when I saw the news that Nacho Coronel had been killed. Coronel was born in Canelas. Wonder what's going on there right now.

PS - In response to some rumours that Chapo turned Nacho Coronel in, i think it's highly unlikely. Chapo, after all, married the guy's niece. (pic of Emma the beauty queen above courtesy of Canelas government officials)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nacho's position

Most media outlets have been reporting that Nacho Coronel was No. 3 in the Sinaloa cartel. I beg to differ: Chapo, El Mayo, and El Azul are 1,2 and 3. Nacho is No. 4, by my reckoning and that of everyone else who knows anything about the drug trade. Someone's being forgotten in this mix, and my guess is it's El Azul.

Latest unsubstantiated prediction: Chapo and El Mayo are going to fall sometime before the end of the year, and El Azul will become the capo of capos, taking charge of everything under the sun.