Violence in Mexico Blamed on Drug Cartel Rivalries

From Reuters

Turf wars among drug gangs whose leaders were imprisoned in a crackdown are responsible for a wave of violence in northern Mexico, the country’s new attorney general said Friday.

Atty. Gen. Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said Mexico’s success in putting drug lords behind bars had prompted a bloody scramble for control of the international trade, with some leaders issuing commands from their prison cells.

“Some of the leaders of the big, known cartels are operating behind bars, and that in large part creates the climate of conflict,” he said.

The latest wave of killings has rocked Sinaloa state on Mexico’s north Pacific coast, home to the cartel of drug baron Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who escaped from prison in 2001. Guzman is fighting to control smuggling along the border, Cabeza said.

“They are struggling to control cities like Culiacan using executions,” Cabeza told reporters, referring to Sinaloa’s capital. “We have the cartels that we all know. But these are breaking apart, forming subgroups. There are fights within the same cartel.”


About 500 people have died in gang shootings across Mexico this year -- many slain execution-style, with their hands tied behind their backs. Nine were killed this week in Sinaloa alone.

“It is violence between drug traffickers, for the most part,” Cabeza said. “But it is hurting society. There is a sense of insecurity.”

A federal agent died Thursday in a shootout with two men believed to be members of the Zetas, soldiers turned cartel enforcers in Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas. The Zetas are believed to work for jailed kingpin Osiel Cardenas.

Cabeza, formerly a legal advisor to President Vicente Fox, took over as attorney general this month, replacing Rafael Macedo de la Concha, who was forced out over charges against Mexico City’s populist mayor.

With little experience in law enforcement, Cabeza is seen by some as a weak field general in the war on drugs, and the transition has occurred just as the violence has escalated.

Macedo was applauded by Washington for being tough on drugs and was responsible for jailing drug bosses such as Benjamin Arellano Felix and Cardenas.

Mexico is a major transport site for cocaine from Colombia to the United States and also produces heroin and marijuana.