Fighting Organized Crime: Go After Weaklings instead of Kingpins

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  • #334

    Pamela Starr
    Keymaster

    In a new provocative essay, “Despite its Siren Song, High-Value Targeting Doesn’t Fit All”, Vanda Felbab-Brown argues that a strategy of going after kingpins and other high-value targets may not always be the best strategy for fighting organized crime, and it is particularly mal-suited to the Mexican setting.

    Drawing on analyses of the Colombian and Afghan experiences, Felbab-Brown applies the resulting policy lessons to the Mexican case. She argues that when Felipe Calderon took office 1 December 2006, Mexican drug-trafficking organizations threatened public safety and directly challenged the authority of the state. In this context, the government logically focused on reducing the DTOs power, impunity and brazenness, but the strategy employed was fatally flawed. The Calderon Administration adopted the Colombian strategy, including its emphasis on high-value targeting, without modifying it significantly to fit Mexico’s distinct context – characterized by multiple, competing DTOs and limited law enforcement capabilities. When combined with a lack of prioritization and operational clarity, this decision unintentionally produced a great escalation rather than a reduction in crime-related violence.

    Felbab-Brown concludes that a more effective strategy for Mexico would be to focus on middle-layer operatives and the weaker crime organizations with the objective of increasing vertical integration and consolidation in the drug market. Experience in Mexico and elsewhere has shown that market consolidation tends to reduce violence among DTOs. This would create breathing space for Mexico’s law enforcement agencies in which they could focus sharply on building the capabilities required to ultimately control organized crime in the country. Felbab-Brown recognizes that for this strategy to succeed the government would have to be willing and able to take advantage of the opportunity created by the reduction in violence to invest heavily in its policing, judicial, and penal systems as well as job creation, and there is no guarantee that this will happen. But Felbab-Brown sees this approach as Mexico’s best option.

    Do you agree? Should the Mexican government focus its law enforcement efforts on the country’s smaller and weaker DTOs with the objective of reestablishing a bipolar drug market? Is this feasible operationally? Is it feasible politically? Would the United States support such a strategy?

    • This topic was modified 3 years, 11 months ago by  Pamela Starr.
    • This topic was modified 3 years, 10 months ago by  usmexnet.
    #486

    Raul Benitez-Manaut
    Participant

    El paper de Vanda Felbab-Brown sugiere que los Objetivos de Alto Impacto (HVT) son en todos los casos de guerras asimétricas la clave de las estrategias implementadas por los gobiernos, sea para contraterrorismo, contrainsurgencia y en la lucha contra el crimen organizado. Se mencionan casos exitosos de aplicación de la estrategia HVT en Colombia y Perú (golpes exitosos a los carteles de Medellín, Calí y la captura de Abimael Guzmán). Sin embargo, en ninguna parte del documento, al hacer referencia a la HVT, se menciona que es parte vital de los programas de cooperación de Estados Unidos. Por ejemplo, no se menciona que la captura de Pablo Escobar fue diseñada e implementada por un “bloque de búsqueda”, donde oficiales de inteligencia de Estados Unidos fueron la clave. Tampoco se mencionó el rol de la inteligencia de Estados Unidos en el campamento de las FARC en La Angostura en territorio de Ecuador.

    En el caso de México es donde la estrategia HVT fracasa, por sus efectos colaterales, tanto en las organizaciones criminales, como la forma de afectar a la población civil. A diferencia de Colombia, la búsqueda de los HVT fue y es a través de entregar inteligencia a las autoridades militares o de policía. No se menciona en el documento que esto se realizó a través de la Iniciativa Mérida. No se menciona la falta de flexibilidad de las autoridades mexicanas y de los “asesores” de Estados Unidos, para cambiar la estrategia HVT a pesar de la evidente crisis de derechos humanos e imagen del país, por el ascenso vertiginoso de los homicidios y consecuencias en la sociedad civil. Esto no se menciona como consecuencia de la aplicación de la estrategia HVT y la Iniciativa Mérida en el documento.

    Un comentario sobre la metodología de análisis de las comparaciones. En muchos documentos escritos en los Think Tanks de Estados Unidos, se insinúan conceptos como estados Fallidos, insurgencias criminales, etc. Se emplea la comparación para sostener los argumentos. Las comparaciones con Afganistán, Irán o Colombia son muy comunes. Buscan encontrar elementos similares, pero en realidades muy diferentes. Por ello, las comparaciones llegan a conclusiones erróneas o han sugerido “lecciones aprendidas” en otros casos para ser aplicadas a México. En México en los últimos dos años, se han realizado muchas “sugerencias” de tomar las lecciones aprendidas de Colombia. En México no hay FARC, el crimen organizado es muy distinto (en Colombia es productor y exportador de cocaína, en México es importador y exportador, por lo que la actividad no es en el campo, sino en puertos, carreteras y ciudades de frontera), y no se toma en cuenta el rol de la frontera y el consumo en Estados Unidos. Tampoco se incluye el tema del tráfico de armas y lavado de dinero que afecta mucho más a México que a los otros países. En la reformulación de la estrategia mexicana en el nuevo gobierno, sobre buscar formas de prevención y reducción de la violencia, se debe complementar la continuidad de seguir con HVT, pero con acciones gubernamentales incluso no militares: de justicia, inteligencia, policiacas, y hasta sociales. Esto no se menciona en el paper.

    #521

    Nathan Jones
    Participant

    My analysis of the Arellano Felix Organization (Tijuana Cartel) and kingpin strikes found that kidnap rates and homicides generally surged when important lieutenants were removed through death, capture, or arrest. Interestingly high level capo removals did not until leadership succession was exhausted.

    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12117-012-9185-x#page-1

    “Abstract

    Kingpin strategies— the targeting of the top-levels of terrorist or drug trafficking organization hierarchies— has become a centerpiece of US and Mexican efforts to combat drug trafficking. This study addresses the unintended consequences of these strategies by assessing the impact of the arrest or deaths of Arellano Felix Organization leaders on kidnap and homicide levels from the late 1990’s to 2011. Based on the study, the arrest of important AFO “lieutenants” increased kidnap rates. Arrests or the deaths of organization “kingpins” did not result in increased homicides or kidnappings, if respected successors were ready to fill leadership vacuums. When leadership succession was in question, the arrest of “kingpins” did result in internecine conflict and thus increased homicide and kidnapping rates. Following internecine conflict, kidnap and homicide rates dropped, but not to pre-conflict levels. This is likely attributable to the use of kidnapping and homicide as a dispute resolution mechanism in the growing Tijuana consumer drug market.”

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