MS-13 Expansion and Hierarchy

I recently read an article (the link to which is provided below) which reported on a relatively recent work by Douglas Farah and Pamela Phillips Lum. The work addressed Central American gangs and transnational criminal organizations. The author of the article, Howard Koplowitz, stated that the MS-13 gang has been attempting to spread its influence into many countries such as Chile, Peru, Argentina, and Spain. The article claims that the gang is purposefully utilizing deportation to spread its existence. The article claims that MS-13 members, when arrested, falsely declare a specific country to be that member’s country of origin. The United States judicial system, having limited evidence to verify this information, often deports those individuals to the specified country. According to the article, the deported gang member starts up his own clique.” Apparently, these MS-13 operatives are “also given a stipend as compensation.”

This article is extremely interesting as it reveals some of the operations of the MS-13 gang. Specifically, this article deals with expansion efforts of the gang. It is very surprising and ingenious that the gang purposefully utilizes deportation to give certain members a free ride to other countries. Furthermore, it is compelling that these members are paid for such services. What is very interesting about this article is the fact that, if this evidence is accurate, than it reveals some of the hierarchical elements of the MS-13 gang. With purposeful and coordinated deportations of members to other countries with the intent to extend gang influence, and a paid service for such deportation operations, the hierarchically aspect of MS-13 is revealed to be much more sophisticated than many had believed. An existence of coordinated deportation and expansion operations hints at the existence of a central command group that heads the MS-13 gangs. This information further helps classify MS-13 as an organized crime group, although the purpose and mission of the gang still differentiates it from many other criminal organizations such as cartels.


Gang control of the media

In an article which I just recently read, (the link to which is attached at the bottom of the blog) the author describes a situation related to a gang’s attempt to control the media. The author of the article reported on a case where a young female doctor from Tamaulipas was murdered by a gang. The young woman was murdered because she had been contributing news stories to an organization known as Valor por Tamaulipas. This organization is “a citizen media platform that allows users to file anonymous reports on violence, particularly incidents concerning organized crime and the drug trade.” The article went on to describe that the Valor por Tamaulipas organization has been threatened by gangs since its creation in 2012. These threats have some times caused the organization to cease its activities for a time. The article claims that, due to gang violence against the press, there exists “information vacuums” in public security issues. Social media and groups such as Valor por Tamaulipas are citizen driven media sources that attempt to fill the information vacuum. However, these mediums, organizations, and individuals have become “prime targets for drug organizations.”

This article is very interesting as it illustrates many topics related to media and drug organizations. The concept of “information vacuums” is intriguing, indicating a general lack of information and knowledge among the citizens. This is due to criminal organizations’ violent actions and threats against the traditional media. As discussed in class, the gangs attempt to control the media and thus limit information, and therefore power, of the citizens. Furthermore, gangs attempt to control media to obtain the means to create their own perceived reality of situations. However, these information vacuums are quickly filled by social media and anonymous information groups such as Valor por Tamaulipas. While it is true that the gangs quickly attempt to control or eliminate these new forms of media and information sources/discussions, it is compelling that media and accurate information follows a balloon effect as well. Perhaps, no matter how organized crime changes or grows or adapts, the media will as well in order to always provide accurate information revealing the crimes of the organized crime groups and exposing them to the public.

An additional aspect of the article that was interesting is that it mentioned how a lack of freedom of expression protection from the Mexican state contributed to the creation of information vacuums. Obviously, the Tamaulipas area is, at least in some ways, a brown area. Furthermore, the state is not providing some essential roles of security and protection of rights as it ought. What makes this so interesting is that the people have attempted to provide this role themselves, by utilizing social media and anonymous news organizations. Whereas earlier in class we discussed gangs creating parallel states by providing social roles, here the people are in position to provide themselves those roles. If the people can find some way to prevent or limit gang violence against these information organizations, then perhaps they will start to create institutions and roles that could develop into a citizen run parallel state.

Drug Lord arrest as a demonstration of government competence?

I recently read an article (the link for the article I have attached below) in which the author describes how the Mexican government has captured Juarez Cartel boss Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. According to the article, the Mexican state captured him while he and a bodyguard where enacting a “discreet operation.” The arrest was nonviolent and occurred when Fuentes, attempting to use a fake driver’s license to pass a check point in the northern city of Torreon, was identified by the authorities at the check point. Fuentes, who is one of Mexico’s most wanted criminals, admitted to his identity and was arrested.

What is interesting about the article is that it goes on to refer to the recent murdering of students by cartel organizations in Mexico. The article states that the Mexican government has been ordering local police forces to lay down their arms. Apparently, the Mexican government has started using federal, rather than local, forces to police areas and investigate crimes. The article states that thirty four people, including twenty four local police officers, have been detained in an investigation concerning a mass grave of unidentified bodies.

This article is compelling because it implies that the local police forces, and possibly even government officials, are corrupted by crime and operate with criminal organizations or tolerate gruesome crimes committed by these organizations. This is highlighted in how the article discusses the recent killing of students. Furthermore, the article highlights the fact that the people are aware of the local governments’ inefficiency and incompetence. While the Mexican state surely attempts to arrest its most wanted criminals regardless of current issues in the state, it does not seem a mere coincidence that this arrest, along with a few other recent arrests of crime lords, has occurred after the murder of protesting students by drug cartels. It can be argued that the Mexican government, in an attempt to regain some trust among the people, have mobilized federal forces, temporarily suspended local police, and spent a lot of time and resources attempting to arrest high profile leaders of the drug cartel. While it is obvious that the arrest of these individuals will not result in the end of those organized crime groups, the actions by the Mexican state indicate that it is possibly acting in a public manner to display that the government is powerful and capable of defending its citizens and taking down cartels. Whether the state is attempting to solve the roots of the violence and corruption or not is not clear, but it appears that the state is utilizing its resources and efforts in a public manner in order to demonstrate government competence, and thus create a public image of effective governance.

Mexican state interaction with drug organization

In a recent article I read (the link to which is provided at the bottom of this post) the author illustrated a complex chronology of activities between the U.S. state (including CIA and DEA), the Mexican state (including police force, Army, and Marines), and drug cartels (primarily the Beltran Leyvas gang and the gangs arch kingpin Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman). The article essentially went through four years of activity between these groups; the highlights of the article are as follows. The Mexican Army is plagued with corruption and refused to work with U.S. intelligence officers to take down a major drug lord. The Mexican police force is also corrupted and fired upon U.S. CIA officers. The two mentioned gangs have intense competition and this results in extreme amounts of violence. The Mexican Marines worked with U.S. intelligence officers to shoot down a major drug lord, Arturo Beltran Leyva. Mexican soldiers arrested Hector Beltran Leyva, the leader of the Beltran Leyva gang after Arturo Beltran Leyva’s death. Hector who was one of the U.S.’ most wanted men in the area.

This article is very interesting and relates to many of the topics we have covered in class so far. For one thing, the article dealt specifically with a Mexican drug cartel. Additionally, the article highlighted the fact that there is unstated, yet blatant, corruption of state, police force, and Army by organized crime organizations. The article also illustrated the fact that there is intense competition among drug organizations and that such competition leads to intense violence, which is further intensified by acts of revenge against the state and by an ongoing confrontation between criminal organizations and the state. Furthermore, the article illustrated that criminal organizations often sustain themselves over a long period of time by replacing lost leaders with new ones, thus complicating the concept of eliminating the organization by removing its leadership.

Additionally, the article related to a concept we are currently discussing in class, that of U.S. intervention/assistance to Mexico in the “war on drugs.” In the article, U.S. provided intelligence, opportunities, agents, funds, and training to Mexico. However, the Mexican Army and police force backfired on the U.S. or refused to work with the U.S. This illustrates that perhaps the Mexican state does not want U.S. involvement or aid. On the other hand, the Mexican Marines did utilize U.S. aid and intelligence and, through this, were able to take down a major drug lord, illustrating the fact that the U.S. and Mexico can have very effective results against drug organizations when they work together. It is very interesting to note that the U.S. did not intervene in this operation, but rather simply offered aid and assisted/improved Mexican efforts. This fact is very significant as it maintains Mexico’s sovereignty of affairs in Mexico.