Senior Thesis: Negotiating With Narcos: Mexico’s Power Struggle for Citizen Security

Can a dialogue of peace even be established between the Mexican government and the country’s various cartel networks?



Mexico’s narcotraficantes have come a very long way from primarily trafficking cannabis and cultivating poppy fields to dominating the present-day, multi-billion dollar transnational trade of cocaine. The illicit and synthetically prepared derivate of the coca leaf that once enriched infamous Colombian cartels and terrorized the Andean region, has now caused the Mexican government to plunge into the deadliest conflict in contemporary Latin America: the war against drugs and narcotraficantes. As these cartel networks and government forces continue to both illegally collude and violently clash, the collateral damage has caused the death of over 85,000 people from 2006-2014, where “total murders rose 112 percent” (Reuters, April 1, 2016). In addition, Mexico’s National Statistics Institute, in 2014, reported that there were 22,732 homicides in the country since President Calderon’s inauguration in December of 2006. In addition, this violence contributed to the displacement of thousands in the absence of any other effective alternative to ensure citizen safety (Eline Gordts, April 1, 2016). What immediately becomes questioned is the Mexican government’s commitment towards dismantling various cartel structures and reducing the drug trade due to the historical and continuous clandestine relationship between certain political representatives and domestic drug trafficking organizations. An analysis of Mexico’s formation from a post-revolutionary state to one currently having its citizen security and legitimacy threatened is required to better understand how the government is at risk of allowing more of its autonomy become controlled by organized crime bribery.

The intra-state conflict that has developed between the Mexican government and the country’s various regional cartels has continuously crippled the ruling state for over twenty years. Ex-Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s declaration of war was made within his first two weeks in office in 2006 as Mexican commander-in-chief. Though promising militant counternarcotic policy, this only resulted in the large-scale captures and seizures that were accompanied by appalling homicide and disappearance rates as organized crime proliferated. Countless militarized offensives to topple Mexican cartel hierarchies are still being deployed by Mexican security forces and now with the help of North American intelligence agencies. This bilateral assistance continues in the absence of a dialogue between both social forces participating in this war because a national negotiation process between these two forces at war would be fatal to the legitimacy of the government and invigorate the power of certain narcolords. The reputation of the Mexican state would be harshly criticized for seeking to mediate violence with the very perpetrators of violence they are already accused of cooperating with clandestinely. In addition, this widespread violence is causing civil society to begin to seriously question the capacity of the Mexican state to ensure the safety of its people.

Due to high levels of presidential disapproval past and current presidents experience, facilitating a peace dialogue between the government and cartel networks would become instantly critiqued by Mexican citizens who perceive their own government to be complicit in organized crime. Mexican civil society is skeptical that a negotiation would reduce violence because they fear that it will unintentionally strengthen the power of certain drug traffickers. As some of these regional cartels continue expanding their operations and wielding greater territorial control, the civilian demand for an immediate reduction and ultimate termination of violence can no longer be institutionally neglected. What is being analyzed is how much more violence will it take for the government to recognize that its complicity in the drug trade is preventing dialogues of peace to appear feasible. Political corruption only dramatizes the issue of negotiating with non-state violent actors unwilling to sacrifice their illicit trade for safer communities.

The Mexican government’s narrative about this conflict fails to acknowledge the collusion that has existed between drug trafficking organizations, armed security forces, and government officials in the past. Mexican cartel networks have historically infiltrated the government and its counternarcotic forces and this has played a role in perpetuating horrifying levels of violence. During the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s, this clandestine relationship became public as high-profile official corruption cases and greater involvement from foreign intelligence services increased. From this period to the present, this political affair experienced critical changes as cartels collapsed into more rebellious splinter groups and as the Mexican government experienced more exterior pressure to end illicit pacts with well-established cartel networks.

The Mexican state, its various drug trafficking organizations, and its citizenry maintain contrasting demands that cannot be satisfied because they would clash with each other’s interests in power and resolutions. The Mexican government remains desperate for the social stability that will draw attention away from their authoritarian and repressive rule; various Mexican cartels desire cooperation from state officials and governmental non-interference in their drug trafficking; and most importantly, the Mexican people demand their right to citizen security, jeopardized by this intrastate conflict, be protected or allowed to be safeguarded by their non-state initiatives. Challenging these narco-networks, militantly, has produced an intolerable amount of collateral damage. This has proven the need for an alternative that does not threaten the security of its citizens who are already having their safety under siege by institutional inefficiency and organized crime’s impunity. Before Mexico became heavily monitored by its northern regional neighbor, the cooperation between drug trafficking organizations and elected government officials had facilitated lower levels of violence due to an illicit pact that would now destroy the bit of legitimacy the current Mexican presidential administration continues to preserve. The arrests of high-level profiled drug traffickers in Mexico has only increased levels of social violence and produced power vacuums that allow the creation of more splinter groups to challenge the government’s capability of suppressing sources of drug trafficking. The narco-political complex continues to unfold as a violent confrontation between these two opposing forces intensifies in the persistent absence of a non-violent mediation process that requires financial and political sacrifices. Moreover, it unravels before the state apparatus that rules in the authoritarian and corrupt manner incapable of reducing the murder rate in Mexico and without secretly communicating with organized crime.

In this thesis, I elucidate how the evolving relationship between the Mexican government and the cartels ended up expanding the power of the latter as the Mexican state and its institutional efforts to address the expansion of organized crime were losing credibility. In my analysis of this history and the current state of affairs, I argue that they key obstacles to the launching of the peace negotiations is the degree of institutional corruption prolonging drug trafficking operations and the different cartels that are being fractionalized into splinter groups. This analysis is determined to provide an explanation as to why peace talks are now seemingly impossible between this national government and drug trafficking organizations and describe how the political corruption harnessed by the long standing rule of the PRI and the twelve year rule of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) created the obstacles its weakening state capacity is unable to overcome.

The complete version of my senior thesis can be viewed with the following link (comments appreciated):


Why Central American Presidents Remain Silent Before Trump

Reunión de Trabajo de los Presidentes del Triangulo Norte de Ce

When Donald Trump began criminalizing and discriminating against citizens and immigrants from Mexico, millions of Mexicans mobilized to oppose this xenophobic electoral strategy. They awaited for their president to defend their dignity with honor.

Unfortunately, a series of disastrous events followed in Mexico before this occurred.

At the end of last August, the Mexican foreign ministry influenced the president in extending Trump an invitation to Mexico City. The intention behind this unpopular executive initiative was to establish a diplomatic dialogue about the future relationship between their neighboring countries. President Enrique Pena Nieto shamefully failed to provide any concrete solutions in regards to assisting anticipated deportees and quietly implied he would not be financially contributing to the construction of a Republican fantasized wall.

Five days after being inaugurated, President Donald Trump decreed the executive order titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements”. The order for the southwestern border reconstruction and militarization finally provoked Pena Nieto to break his silence and televise a national address to his fellow citizens. He declared his opposition to the threats this policy’s content makes to Mexicans within and outside of the United States. Even declaring Mexican consulates as “authentic defenders for migrants rights”.

However, in light of the growing hostility expressed between these two governments, what is being taken very lightly by Central American heads of states is the fact that Trump has also explicitly revealed the stereotypical notions he has of the Central American community within and outside of the states.

In TIME’s Person of the Year article, Trump comments on the reporting of a surge in local crime by foreign-born people by saying “They come from Central America… They’re killing and raping everybody out there. They’re illegal. And they are finished.” This prompted no immediate reaction from any Central American presidents, not even from those governing in what is labeled as the Northern Triangle.

The presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have casted a violent indifferent silence in response to what is being said about their own citizens fleeing from some of the most dangerous countries in the world. For example, last year El Salvador gained the unfortunate recognition of being the most deadly country outside of a war zone, with Honduras occupying this position in the previous years.

Migrants coming from these three countries are emigrating from their government’s brutal war on drugs and gangs, marginalization of rural communities, and ethnic discrimination. Despite their small comments to the media, Guatemala’s President Jimmy Morales, El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, and Honduras’ President Juan Orlando Hernández have not articulated a fierce rebuttal to the discriminatory comments being made by the president of the United States.

On one hand, for refusing to cooperate with Trump’s immigration policies regarding the physical appearance of the US-Mexico border, the Mexican president continues to be demonized. On the other hand, President Obama applauded the Mexican government’s commitment to suppressing Central American migration and Trump’s administration is expected to continue the support.

As for Venezuela, speaking out against Trump’s continuous aggression towards Mexico and Venezuela has resulted in President Nicolas Maduro having his vice president sanctioned by the Treasury Department for drug trafficking charges.

And yet, for the Central American presidents in the Northern Triangle, none have been verbally punished by Trump’s administration because none have had the courage to confront Donald Trump on his dehumanizing claims of the Central American community.

A reason for why they have yet to verbally denounce the new president of the United States is because they simply do not want any attention drawn to their means of governing regional unrest. This position in the new geopolitical relations will be established between Trump’s administration and the rest of the Americas by heads of states desiring for their allegations of corruption, unchecked anti-narcotic policies, and anti-gang practices to not concern the White House.

Let’s analyze what some of these three presidents have said in regards to this matter:

In Guatemala, President Morales’ statements of Trump have been revealed through a series of interviews, not a direct verbal denunciation. He claimed that his new North American counterpart is “committing a grave error” in speculating on the correlation between violence and Central American migrants. He recently apologized about joking in a New York Times interview where he claimed he would offer Trump cheap labor for the border reconstruction. And in January, his brother, Sammy Morales, was “accused of being involved in a fraud operation that siphoned off some $400,00 from the country’s Property Registry”, with his own son being a suspect. As someone who campaigned with a slogan “Not corrupt, not a thief,” this draws his commitment to institutional change into question.

In El Salvador, President Sanchez Ceren has pledged the will to defend the rights of Salvadorans living in the states but also sent a congratulatory letter to the president that criminalized his citizens nationality. Back in August, he stated that these four countries “have united efforts as a region to combat against transnational crime, there are compromises that we are going to begin and implement…in September”. Refusing to recognize these massive departures of Salvadorans as a refugee crisis easily allows counternarcotics measures to be prioritized over designing refugee resettlement and deportee relief programs. A couple of days ago, ElFaro reported that his vice president, Oscar Ortiz, has maintained commercial ties with Jose Adan Salazar Umana, alias Chepe Diablo, former leader of the Texis Cartel.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was recently received in Washington D.C. by Vice President Mike Pence and dozens of protesters against his environmental privatization and militarization of the state. In response to Trump’s comments on Central Americans, Orlando Hernandez has spoken in defense of migrant rights without proposing any immigration reforms. When the Honduran first lady, Ana Garcia de Hernandez, visited Texas to discuss the issue of unaccompanied minors almost three years ago, she recommended Honduran parents to save their money and not spend any on human smugglers known as “coyotes.” This is despicable, considering the elitist privileges she maintains in a country where the World Bank reported that in 2016 “more than 66 percent of the population live in poverty.”

The so-called “alliance for prosperity” these countries sought to create succeeded in only militarizing a grave humanitarian crisis without holding these presidents more accountable. Instead a coalition of human right repression has manifested through Mexico’s militarization of their border with Guatemala. The lack of migrant protection provided by these Latin American governments makes this journey extremely vulnerable to being intercepted by ruthless drug cartel members, corrupt immigration officers, and being forced into sexual labor.

By all means, the United States and Central America deserve to enjoy a positive diplomatic relationship. However, an aggressive defense of the Central Americans migrating or living illegally in the United States would not jeopardize international peace, but rather morally uphold the dignity of their struggles against oppression.

The Central American presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have yet to address their nations in regards to Trump’s criminalizing generalizations. I exclude the presidents of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama because they have not been meeting frequently with the Department of State and Homeland Security of the United States in regards to this humanitarian crisis. The exclusion of Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in meetings that pertain to Alliance for Prosperity emphasize just how much more congressional funds are located to the countries within the Northern Triangle.

Mexico’s unpopular president took months to establish an affirmative defense before the administration’s oversimplified border agenda. It may not have an international impact, but standing up to this level of bigotry prevents these Central American identities from being easily devalued. Central American presidents can no longer afford any time to allow this new administration get away with vilifying migrants. 

Berta Caceres: An Eternal Spring of Resistance


“Berta no murio, se multiplicó” is persistently shouted in unison throughout manifestations of transnational solidarity with the family of Berta Isabel Caceres Flores. One year ago today, four male assailants broke into the home of this revolutionary indigenous leader and murdered her in an attempt to subdue mobilizations against the Honduran government’s resource extraction projects that threaten the livelihood of indigenous communities.

The government sought to silence this womxn’s ability to galvanize national and global resistance and consciousness by means of state-sponsored violence — without anticipating the eternal spring of resistance her spirit would forever embody.

Over the past year, the number of suspects grew from an initial four to a current eight, from private company security guards to upper echelons of the national army, and from the security apparatus to the federal government. A couple of days ago, The Guardian revealed  that a chief of army intelligence and another officer trained at the School of Americas participated in the planning of this Lenca leader’s murder. This conclusion signifies how entrenched the discrimination against indigenous communities is in the Honduran government that was instructed to provide her with the protection she deserved. Berta was the “beneficiary of precautionary measures” granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights after years of being violently harassed and threatened by state and multinational company officials and President Juan Orlando Hernandez did nothing to prevent this tragedy.

Berta, as an indigenous womxn, represented one of the fiercest challenges to the neoliberal governments of ex-President Porfirio Lobo Sosa and current President Juan Orlando Hernandez and their agenda to override indigenous claims to ancestral land across Honduras. The trajectory of these men into executive power is a result of overthrowing the constitutionally elected president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009, who among many things, decreed the redistribution of unused land  owned by large landowners to landless families. Threatening the massive land holdings of the national Honduran elite is one of the reasons why Zelaya was ousted by a military coup and why the campesino resistance against the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Rio Gualcarque, located in Berta’s native state, continues to be severely repressed.

Berta Caceres’ consistent denunciations of Honduras’ neo-colonial governance put her life in the extreme danger she had been willing to risk, considering her unconditional love and passion in defending the rights of indigenous communities and sacred land. She contributed much to the organized mobilizations that took place following the coup in the Lower Aguan Valley where local cooperatives of farmers violently clashed for land control under the jurisdiction of Miguel Facusse’ industrial monopoly of African-palm oil. However, it was her tireless leadership in mobilizing local and international opposition to Desarrollo Energetico SA’s (DESA) intention to privatize a Lenca sacred river that would decide her unfortunate fate.

The co-founder of the Consejo Cívico de Organizaciones Populares e Indígenas de Honduras (COPINH) anticipated this injustice knowing how united capitalism, racism, and patriarchy in Honduras are in the fight against indigenous resistance. Despite the devastation her death brought to her hometown of La Esperanza, Honduras, hope for sound justice continues to manifest in the thousands organizing before the Honduran presidential house and Honduran consulates and embassies around the world. Gang and drug-related murders are not the only cause for homicide violence in Honduras when it remains one of the most violent countries for environmental activists.

The military’s involvement in the murdering of indigenous activists like Berta Caceres and the indifference from the national government must be held accountable by actual institutional forces willing to reveal the impunity that has obstructed justice for her family, community, and international allies. Before the United Nations in March, Bertha Zuniga Caceres demanded that the Honduran state take immediate action in asking the Inter American Human Rights Commission to create a team of expert independent investigators that would initiate a transparent investigation into her mother’s assassination. The institutional persecution Berta faced throughout her years as an indigenous organizer against neoliberal development projects represents the Honduran government’s normalization in threatening the rights of indigenous communities, especially womxn leading environmental campaigns for the sustainability of the country’s ecosystem and future.

Individual land titling is a colonial tool of natural resource domination that continues being practiced today by the national elite and multinational companies profiting off the displacement of rural and indigenous communities. Collective land claims are life-threatening when rural communities are deprived of direct political participation and discriminated against for not abiding by the neoliberal doctrine of agricultural development. Berta Caceres defied this and continues to do so as her spirit manifests into the eternal resistance demonstrated in the mobilizations led by the Garifuna, Lenca, and her courageous children.

There is so much more to say about Berta Caceres and the evil nature of the current government in power that prides itself as a savior for the country being excessively militarized. From her name appearing to a military hit list to members of COPINH being continuously intimidated and murdered, the time, Berta warned the global community, to defend this planet’s life ran out by the time she gave her Goldman Environmental Prize. She stated “We must shake our conscience of rapacious capitalism, racism and patriarchy that will only ensure our self-destruction”.

As ancestral guardians of the rivers that flow throughout Honduras, the spring in which her life was taken has transformed it into a season of resistance that is not simply year-round, but eternal. Today, one year after her death, thousands will honor the legacy of Berta Caceres and the intersectional transformations she fought for relentlessly.

Berta has already returned — she is now the ancestor watering the blossoming of the many more Berta’s determined to fight for the life and this sacred earth.








The Re-election Dilemma in Honduras


Presidential re-elections in Central America tend to prolong administrative reforms which conceal aspirations for absolute power. Three months ago, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández declared his candidacy for re-election, provoking a constitutional crisis similar in some aspects to the one that produced the coup d’etat on June 28, 2009. The illegality of this re-election reflects the political hypocrisy of the national elite and the Supreme Court who once campaigned this electoral reform as a political way for ex-president Manuel Zelaya to continue pursuing his Socialist reforms.

The current Honduran president has not been overthrown, but is clearly announcing his intention to consolidate electoral power.

Honduras is suffering from a re-election dilemma as the current Honduran president is now advocating for the same electoral measure he denounced when he was the president of the National Assembly and when the coup d’etat took place. When Manuel Zelaya began conversations about running for a second presidential term, he proposed presenting a referendum that would ask voting constituencies if they would vote to enact a constitutional assembly that would be dedicated towards revising and reforming the 1982 Constitution. This sparked outrage among the country’s wealthy and military elite because Zelaya’s social programs and intentions to keep power away from conservative opposition threatened their interests and order. However, when Juan Manuel Hernández declared his re-election bid, the same forces of the national elite welcomed what will most likely allow them to continue profiting off of national disparities; where over 60% of the population lives below the poverty line and indigenous representation in government is unsurprisingly low.

The difference between Zelaya and Hernández’s re-election proposals is that the latter first gained control of the Supreme Court, Public Ministry, Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and the Institute of Information Access during his presidency, allowing him to threaten the checks and balances of the Honduran government. The Constitutional Court of the Supreme Court  approved Juan Orlando Hernández’s enlistment as a presidential candidate in the upcoming election without the consent of a citizen majority. This division is validated by the clear conflicting context detailed in this WikiLeak Diplomatic Dispatch. In this confidential message, the Embassy in Tegucigalpa advised Washington that Manuel Zelaya had not broken the law because he had not forcibly extended his presidential term and did not formally resign. The Honduran military had no authority to remove Zelaya from the country and the same armed forces are now remaining loyal to the current Honduran president.

The Honduran Constitution of 1982 states that the President “may be removed only on the basis of death, resignation or incapacitation,” not by the means of a conspired plot. The fact that the Supreme Court is the only legislative authority that may decide if a Honduran head of state is “incapacitated” is alarming, considering their allegiance to Juan Orlando Hernández. The right for this judicial process to take place within a constitutional court was repressed by the intent of the Honduran elite to ensure the country’s neoliberalism pathway would not be disturbed. Manuel Zelaya was overthrown and exiled to Costa Rica in his pajamas while Juan Orlando Hernández’s re-election aspirations were welcomed by the National Party supporters unable to understand how repressive this man has to potential to become.

The determination to serve a second presidential term is not in the interest of all Honduran peoples, contrary to the president’s proclaimed assumptions. A little less than two months ago, Juan Orlando Hernández broke the silence surrounding this electoral candidacy dilemma by claiming it represents the country’s judicial values and that Honduran citizens have the power to decide the country’s fate. Unfortunately, his statements obscured the reality of a government persecuting and repressing opposition to his governance. Berta Cáceres, a Lenca indigenous environmental activist who coordinated the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations in Honduras, was assassinated on March 2nd, 2016 and no governmental sympathy was expressed by the administration she frequently denounced. The assassination of this indigenous leader reflects not only the murderous form of repression environmental activists encounter when opposing land privatization, but also the life-threatening hostility common citizens may encounter if they begin to mobilize against a president approved by the country’s armed forces.

In his article “Despotism Threatens Honduras,” Joaquín Mejía, Honduran human rights expert, argues that Juan Orlando Hernández’s authoritarian pursuits threaten the functionality and the essence of democracy. He adds that what is concerning is not necessarily his re-election bid, but that only more than four million people have the faculty and right to approve it. More than just electoral reforms, what is required is for the civil society disapproving of this constitutional modification to organize and unify the grievances they have the democratic right to express in the absence of governmental abuse. Honduras is in dire need of a transparent democratic model of governance; one that is responsive to citizen’s concerns and prioritizes the consent of the constituency that validates presidential legitimacy.

Although the presidential election is not until 2018, electoral campaigns will begin mobilizing in a couple of months and what remains in question is what electoral force will contest Juan Orlando Hernández. The leftist opposition is composed of political parties such as the Social and Democratic Innovation Party, Anti-Corruption Party, and Liberty and Refoundation Party, the last being coordinated by the overthrown president’s wife. They have unified their denunciation of the National Party’s desire to maintain power. Honduran citizens will continue to mobilize and the international community must be prepared to support and legitimize their opposition against the president who has refused to allow the creation of an independent anti-corruption commission.

Re-election aspirations instigated the very constitutional crisis that resulted in the coup d’etat that left Honduran democracy in ruins more than seven years ago. And today, Juan Orlando Hernández’s thirst for governmental control is instigating a growing national resistance that will challenge the dictatorial intentions of these constitutional reforms.

Juan Orlando Hernández just might become another president identified within the poetic verses of Jacobo Cárcamo’s poem “Tirania en Honduras”.


*I apologize for not being able to find the photographer who photographed this picture.




The Extradition of El Chapo Has No Value of Justice



As the world prepared to witness Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Mexican government decided that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, a commanding official of the Sinaloa Federation, would be extradited to the United States. Though more breaking news about this extradition is bound to overwhelm the media approaching his upcoming court date, videos of Mexicans protesting the gasolinazo are still being livestreamed as one of the country’s most notorious narcolords awaits to fulfill the narco fear invested in the saying: “preferimos una tumba en (Latin American country) a una cárcel en los Estados Unidos”.

The timing of El Chapo’s extradition coincided not only with the Mexican president’s severe loss of legitimacy, but also with the inauguration of the president who has criminalized and threatened Mexico’s national dignity. Arrested a little over a year ago, the fate of this narcolord was intended to be dependent on the timing of decisions made by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration because his actions had been fueling the social discontent discrediting Peña Nieto’s authority. The Mexican president who shamelessly invited the then Republican presidential candidate that demoralized his nation’s citizens is now desperate for any example of justice he can manipulate, with the intention of polishing his image in the midst of national chaos and bilateral hostility.

Three weeks ago marked a year since Mexico’s manhunt for Joaquin Guzman Loera, notoriously known as “El Chapo,” ended with his third capture whose operation drew applause, but also fierce criticism. For countries suffering from merciless drug wars, the arrest, extradition, and even murder of a high-profile drug trafficker is a way for governments to earn the restoration of civil trust from their afflicted constituencies. When Pablo Escobar Gaviria was killed in December of 1993, Colombian President Cesar Gaviria was able to recover some citizen support he lost due to his management of the narco-crisis. While national security officials were waiting for the outcome of this judicial process, the value of this extradition was diminishing because this act had not immediately taken place after El Chapo’s third capture. For many afflicted by this man’s regional control, El Chapo’s presence in a North American cell had long been awaited. Although this specific extradition was an attempt to sway and appeal to the new US presidential administration, it will most likely only be utilized by Trump to boast the superiority he feels towards his southern neighbor since it has not been enough to replace his demand for border construction recompensation.

Confining El Chapo to a cell in the border-city of Ciudad Juarez has only encouraged rival factions to challenge his control of profitable drug trafficking routes, clashing with the rise of another regional cartel. With his extradition, there is the possibility that other cartels may be more motivated to assault and weaken the Sinaloa Cartel, inciting more violence and prolonging the war on drugs.

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s announcement of El Chapo’s second arrest in February, 2014 sought to make the statement that it is the PRI and not the PAN, the political party that declared Mexico’s war on drugs, that will produce greater results with less blood spilled. However, the narcolord’s astonishing second escape from his prison in July of 2015 caused President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration to be heavily scrutinized for the shocking corruption that permitted the construction of the tunnel directly connected to El Chapo’s cell. Announcing the third arrest of the Sinaloan capo and will to oversee his extradition, unfortunately, became another sensational meme that mocked the presentation of diluted justice.

The start of the new year in Mexico consisted of Mexicans taking over gas stations and challenging the governmental order that oversaw its elected officials approve a salary raise for legislators. As Enrique Pena Nieto is being heavily pressured to resign, what must be anticipated is how the current administration is intending to value the extradition of the infamous drug lord now unable to govern or escape within Mexico. What must also be considered is how the current attempt to destabilize the hierarchy of El Chapo’s cartel is either intentionally or unintentionally strengthening the rise of another violent and dangerous cartel: Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG).

At the end of September of this past year, the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense, which manages the country’s Army and Air Forces, essentially declared a war on the Sinaloa Cartel as a means of avenging five soldiers who were murdered in Culiacán, Sinaloa. The arrest and transfer of a ranked member was intercepted by members of this cartel and they proved themselves capable of challenging military presence. Although a more determined offensive has been pledged by the government, they are either knowingly or unconsciously also assisting the territorial interests of the CJNG, whose intentions are not to promote citizen security, but to eliminate the cartel that is currently struggling to maintain its most profitable drug routes. The formation of this unintended alliance is assaulting the Sinaloa Cartel and is a direct consequence of the Mexican government boasting their incarceration of the man who has severely tarnished the international reputation of Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. Consequently, the deadly trade-off of this militarized strategy is the weakening of only one of many cartels that aspire to control arguably the most crucial transshipment point in the geography of the global drug trade.

The Mexican government has not yet publicized more details since this breaking news was communicated through the Foreign Ministry. Many Mexicans will applaud and others may continue to question its purpose, but what cannot be overlooked is how the destabilization of the Sinaloa Cartel has fueled a violent clash. Drug trafficking organizations, as cynical as it may sound, produce a social order distinguished by the code of conduct each cartel values. Community order caused by fear of disturbing narco oversight is different in each regional occupation, especially for those neighboring the United States-Mexican border. Tijuana ended the year of 2016 with 136 more homicide cases than the previous as the CJNG voiced themselves through narcomantas, written announcements, hung throughout the city. According to the DEA’s latest mapping of cartel territorial control, they acknowledge the presence of the CJNG in San Ysidro and Tijuana which is definitely correlated with the surging violence. The debate on whether it is best to combat one or multiple cartels at a time will continue, but one thing for certain is that the moment El Chapo arrived to his North American cell, shockwaves were felt in Mexican drug trafficking hierarchies.

The extradition of El Chapo has no value of justice. Since his third capture, the Mexican government continued to lose support in the midst of financial scandals, denials of truth findings, and journalist assassinations as this incarceration proved incapable of reducing drug-related homicides and advancing citizen security. This depressing parallel brings into question how the Mexican government will continue combating drug trafficking organizations without advancing the regional power of others and most importantly, when they will gain the judicial capacity to bring narcolords to justice within their own borders.
El Chapo had been accustomed to living large behind bars, often transforming his prison into a base of operations where commands were still given and luxurious lifestyles were consumed. Stripped of this impunity, Joaquin Guzman Loera has not only fallen as a drug-trafficking legend, but has also risen as the political time bomb whose detonation the Mexican government should fear. When extradited narcos arrive onto North American soil, it is inevitable that officials from the government and DEA will interrogate them for the information they have on the drug trade, bribed government officials, and narco fronts operating throughout the world. The absence of profound justice prevents this extradition from being a worthy distraction from the social uprisings challenging the legitimacy of Enrique Peña Nieto’s governance. And if this Sinaloan-born Mexican citizen decides to detail how his federation corrupted political and social institutions for over two decades, it is possible that this testified evidence could convict current government officials.

El Chapo’s Son Has Been Found, So Where Are the 43 Normalistas?

Photo: Credit/AFP

Mexico and the world were stunned to discover that a son of one of the country’s most notorious drug lords, El Chapo Guzman, was kidnapped in a restaurant located in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. The incident that occurred a week ago instantly became a dreadful international headline for millions of Mexicans because it has the potential to result in deadly repercussions. However, a crucial question arises: If it took one week for his son to be released, how has it been almost two years since the parents of the missing 43 students last saw their sons?

In the midst of anticipating surges in drug-related violence and the instigation of an intensified territorial conflict between cartels, this state’s response in dedicating security personnel to look for Jesus Alfredo Guzman reflects a disgraceful indifference of the national government: armed rescue expeditions are formed to prioritize looking for the lives of kidnapped narcotraficantes, not for the thousands of average citizens who have been disappeared and neglected.

Within this intolerable amount of disappearances lies the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa that has drawn the current Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, under intense international scrutiny. Though these events took place in two different states, the Attorney General of the state of Jalisco expressed a level of commitment and concern that was not expressed by his counterpart in the state of Guerrero or in the national government. Moreover, the children of narcos and the missing normalistas all victims of a drug war the Mexican government continues losing.

The missing normalistas, students of rural teaching colleges, were instantly criminalized and became associated with the drug trade by conservative media outlets with the intention of reducing the significance their lives truly represent. Tanais Padilla, a Mexican historian on the escuelas normales, argues that these type of students have and continue suffering a history of having their popular education and means of addressing their grievances criminalized. Yes, Mexican security personnel were deployed to investigate clandestine pits in the outskirts of many municipalities, but with the intention of covering up the role the state executed in this tragic event.

When one of this drug kingpin’s sons was found to have been abducted, domestic media emphasized his criminal background, but failed to prevent themselves from appearing more concerned about his whereabouts than the truth the Mexican government is preventing the families of the missing students from justly receiving.

The reason for why “Alfredillo” Guzman was taken hostage from a reunion of friends and relatives continues being subject to debate. Being the son of the former most wanted narco lord, Alredillo is an easy target and a profitable subject of extortion.

Anabel Hernandez, an investigative expert on Mexican national security and drug war, recently told CNN en español that she has been in contact with a member of the Guzman family who confirmed that the kidnappers asked for large sums of money for the release of some of thosse friends and relatives that were also kindapped. Her televised analysis speculated that this could have been orchestrated by the collusion of various rivaling cartels, such as the family’s cousins known as the Beltran Leyva, and the merciless Cartel de Jalisco Nuevo Generación. This is credible considering the fact that El Chapo’s mother’s ranch was also assaulted back in June and is theorized to have been a result of this menacing collaboration. A series of events intending to either take control of lucrative drug routes or wipe out a lineage that operates the domination of the Sinaloa Federation is coming to light.

This abduction cannot be justified: no one deserves to be violently seized in the manner that Alfredillo Guzman experienced. What is disturbing about his release, though, is the very fact the government cooperated in looking for someone wanted for facilitating drug smuggling operations, but not for the students who were eager to teach the most marginalized students in Mexico’s countryside. Although 111 people have been detained on suspicion of participating in the disappearance of the normalistas, their parents, like millions of mexican citizens and global allies, know that it was the state who orchestrated this horror.

The worst has yet to come. As rivals of the Sinaloan cartel seek to conquer their plazas and greater stakes in the territorial control of the golden triangle, these incidents are more likely to occur. What does this mean for Mexico? Violence will be susceptible to dramatic increases and in manifesting in various forms. What does this mean for the resilient mothers and fathers of the Ayotzinapa students? Unfortunately that the passing time will allow these alarming headlines to overshadow the need to continue mobilizing in solidarity with the demand to allow these 43 young men become the teachers they are meant to be for their community.

Ivanito escaped, Alfredillo is now free, but there are definitely high levels of resentment towards those who sought to extort one of the strongest cartel families in Mexico’s history. The former Mexican attorney general resigned, the military and police of Iguala continue enjoying impunity, but there are 43 normalistas who desire informing the world of how complicit the state was in permitting the horrendous acts committed upon their liberties.

Specific state governments in Mexico have proven they prefer to deploy state forces to look for the people responsible for the kidnapping of organized crime participants instead of admitting their responsibility in ordering the silencing of these student’s radical mobility. The world must continue organizing every 26th of the month. The Mexican government must be held accountable for working towards delivering justice to narco aristocracies and not valuing the lives of the disappeared.

Christopher Lopez plans to continue expanding on this argument in the near future. For any concerns, comments, or collaborations, email: lopezone23@berkeley.edu.

Rodrigo Duterte: Learn from the Failures of Mexico’s Drug War

Photo: Malacañang/PPD

Presidential candidates in countries torn by drug production and trafficking win executive power by campaigning their commitment towards tackling organized crime and extracting corruption from institutions of governance. On June 30, 2016, Rodrigo Duterte, a former lawyer and mayor, was inaugurated as the sixteenth president of the Philippines, where a war on drugs has just been explicitly declared.

The world should be concerned.

The rhetoric Duterte utilized to detail his iron fist approach towards drug consumers, dealers, and producers is reminiscent of the militarized objectives former Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced before his country, ten days after his inauguration in 2006. Duterte is truly at risk of dragging the Philippines into the devastating fate of Mexico, where its citizens have had to bear the state-sponsored violence that has only perpetuated uncontrollable drug-related chaos.

Since Duterte’s inauguration, 564 killings have taken place across the Philippines. The international media is being flooded with pictures depicting the extrajudicial killings of Filipino citizens who are convicted of being complicit in the trafficking and consumption of unidentifiable drugs. Scrolling down the Inquirer.net’s “The Kill List,” countless of those murdered are labeled as “unidentified drug suspect” followed by a number signifying its accumulation. As of August 8th, 2016 midday, there were 118.

Duterte’s presidential rhetoric has decreed the indiscriminate killings that require an urgent and persistent international condemnation. The new president is now presiding over these islands with the ability to have anyone suspected of affiliation with drugs, dead.

Certainly, the nature of the drug production and smuggling problem is different in Mexico and the Philippines respectively. Yet, the result of a state-led war on drugs would not differ by much. Mexico has been suffering from a war the government declared on domestic cartel networks. In ten years, the Mexican government has failed to prevent more than 100,000 homicides, 25,000 disappearances, and an international reputation for renouncing the human rights of its citizens. In addition, Mexico experiences the trafficking and production of a wider variety of drugs that are destined for North American and European markets. Unfortunately, after billions of dollars invested into this ongoing war, the Mexican state continues to struggle in eradicating the very organized crime plaguing its institutional credibility and effectiveness. Narcotraficantes have been captured and murdered, but has been experiencing a rise in the cultivation of opium.

The Philippine Islands, on the other hand, also sees marijuana and cocaine smuggled throughout the country. However, it is shabu, degraded crystal meth that is the most popular illicit drug taken in the Philippines, present in over ninety percent of the capital’s neighborhoods alone. The law-and-order rhetoric expressed in his inauguration speech deliberately aroused the public fear that would not challenge his methods of eliminating illegal drugs. After officially receiving executive power, Duterte began accusing top security enforcement officials of participating in the country’s drug smuggling operations. Arrest warrants and calls for brutal enforcement of the anti-narcotic laws issued by the president has horrified sections of the population that engage in drug use and desire to protect family members from being killed.

The fear of this state-sponsored violence has prompted 114,833 people to turn themselves in since Duterte declared war on the organized crime that operates in his country. This has not happened and could not happen in Mexico where no president in the country’s history has behaved explicitly punitive and bloodthirsty. How intimidating must the Mexican government be to force Los Zetas to surrender themselves? If so many drug users and traffickers are being arrested, will the Philippines see an overall decrease in the amounts of drugs being consumed and smuggled? As in Mexico’s case, the captures of narcolords and the seizures of tons has only strengthened the entrepreneurial desire to invest in other drugs and methods profiting off this illegal trade.

A striking difference between the attitudes of Duterte and Calderon is the uncensored impunity the former has granted to the law enforcements agencies he now oversees. Mexican presidents like Calderon and Enrique Pena Nieto have denounced the operations of domestic cartels, but never issued the ultimatum informing suspected drug users and pushers that they turn themselves in or become hunted down with no mercy. Operativo Conjunto Michoacan was the operation in which hundreds of security forces were deployed by the former Mexican president to the state where La Familia Michoacana was reigning with terror. Dozens of elected official in this state were arrested over the course of time, yet Michoacan remains one of the most dangerous states in all of the country. As Duterte continues to identify those of institutional relation with the drug trade, his administration needs to anticipate how much violence will result from arrest warrants and the staged killings leaving corpses with written messages written by the state.

Whereas certain Mexican cartels have retaliated by killing police officers and elected officials in response to institutional uncooperativeness, Filipino narcos have not waged a war against Duterte’s regime. Though it has not been two months since inauguration, this is a potential force of opposition his security forces can encounter. Narcotraficantes bribe for their impunity and become enraged when it becomes threatened and betrayed.

In Mexico, war on drug policies have been succeeded and continued by over four presidencies. It may be too soon to begin comparing both countries since the former Filipino president, Benigno Aquino III, did not take this stance against drugs. However, lessons can be drawn from Mexico’s struggle to establish citizen security and persistent victories against their clashes with different organized crime networks. The great amount of Mexicans that were in favor of militarizing the state against cocaine and heroin traffickers now regret validating a anti-narcotic policy inconsiderate of the collateral damage it has wreaked upon civil society.

As the Filipino people begin to embrace a new regime, the neighborhoods afflicted with high rates of drug dealing and consumption are being terrorized in the name of the national security that does not prioritize the welfare of these communities. Enrique Pena Nieto’s war on drug policies were not issued to protect the poorest citizens living near drug cultivation sites, but rather rearrange the destination of this trade’s profit. Duterte’s actions must be questioned on the grounds of corruption or possibly suspecting the favoring of a particular drug network. In her book Mexico en llamas: el Legado de Calderon (Mexico in Flames: the Legacy of Calderon), Anabel Hernandez proves how this president’s political party operated in favor of the Sinaloa Cartel as its territorial enemies were being arrested at a far greater rate than those of this Northern Triangle Federation. Duterte should seriously consider reading this book and take notes on its repercussions.

But most importantly, Rodrigo Duterte needs to analyze the impact that Mexico’s ten-year war with drugs has had on its citizens and recognize that an iron fist approach agitates the accused and massacres the innocent. If he is dedicating time to televise to the nation of how the Sinaloa Cartel operates within his borders, this Mexican cartel’s particular history with its national government should be understood.

Corruption advances when corruption is vilified in the midst of a drug war.

The Open Vein of Honduras

The coup d’etat that removed democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya from power in 2009 signified the prolongation of the containment policy the United States deployed during the Cold War. Reports on the deposed president being kidnapped by the Honduran army and then flown out of the country in his pajamas sent shockwaves throughout the portion of the western hemisphere that continues to suffer the repercussions caused by foreign financial and military interventions. Within hours, Honduras was taken hostage by the national conservative powers determined to impose a transitional government that would not tolerate its citizens gaining the greater constitutional powers the overthrown head of state was attempting to prepare and deliver. 

On June 28, 2009, Honduras had its open vein drastically and painfully widened by the neocolonial interests of the Honduran capitalist elite and Washington Consensus. This politically motivated coup assured Hondurans that their sovereignty remained subject to the neoliberalist projects the United States, multinational companies, and right-wing Latin American governments are attempting to consolidate throughout the region. This violation of Honduran constitutional governance and its denunciations from the United Nations and Organization of American States assured the region that neoliberal hegemony will not tolerate anti-imperialism nor sovereignty.

But, in order to understand this Honduran golpe de estado, Honduras’ historical place in the Cold War and anti-Communist global crusade must be understood because of the relationship it had already been developing with the United States. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Honduras’ presidential successions were interrupted by transnational companies, such as the United Fruit Company, whose accumulated economic power typically influenced the outcome. However, this was also a period where North American troops would easily be deployed to patrol the streets of Latin America, such as in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua. Uncle Sam’s heavily armed soldiers invaded Honduras in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, and 1924. In 2009, the interests of the United States took form of the Honduran military fatigue and the country’s economic elite that fulfilled their unconstitutional deeds.

As the Cold War’s ideological standoff continued to polarize and partition the rest of the world, Honduras was being transformed into a military base of counterrevolutionary operations throughout the late seventies and eighties. Honduras did not experience the civil war its regional neighbors Guatemala and El Salvador had suffered and this factor is what pressured this Central American country to provide the training grounds for military elements assigned to silence anti-Communism and opposition against the United States. The Colossus of the North needed Honduras as a key geopolitical ally in order to traffick military aid to the military government of El Salvador and the Contras in Nicaragua. In return, Honduras’ government received not only economic aid, but had their own internal repression disregarded by a country that sought to exemplify respect for human rights. For example, history often forgets to highlight the cruelty of General Gustavo Alvarez Martinez, a graduate from the School of Americas, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Honduran Armed Forces during the eighties. The Battalion 316 was composed of 25 anti-Communist assassins that and designed by Alvarez Martinez to interrogate, torture, and murder leftist and socialist citizens like it was being executed in Argentina and Chile. The people of Honduras will always remember the estimated 184 that were disappeared or assassinated at the hands of this institutional impunity.

As the country experienced a transition back into civilian government, presidents would no longer be military generals but technocrats eager to solidify economic relations with North American capital and international globalization. Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras’ shores in 1998 and was devastating. It not only killed and displaced thousands and set the economy back decades, but also ruined goals of national development. In 2001, Ricardo Maduro Joest is elected to power and becomes notable for signing the country onto the extension of NAFTA, the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), subjugating Honduras to the volatility and unaccountability of regional free markets. As all of this was occurring, Honduras was slowly restoring its democracy while criminal violence was beginning to rise.

The presidential elections of 2006 proved to be one of the closest and most intense races in its short history of democratic elections. Manuel Zelaya’s Liberal Party, defeated Porfirio Lobo Sosa’s National Party, having campaigned among the poorer and rural classes of Honduras, emphasizing his intention to fight against growing organized crime, like his electoral counterparts. However, what infuriated his opposition and elements of his own conservative party was the international relations he sought to establish. Zelaya, a former manager of the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise and Minister of Investment for a previous administration, shocked the region when he restored relations with Cuba and sought regional cooperation with Latin America’s 21st Century Fidel Castro, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias. It was these international acts, along with his minimum wage increase, reforestation projects, and attempts to expropriate land that provoked the United States to monitor in a Cold War style.

As political polarization was intensifying, the disorder in the streets was being taken advantage of not only by the maras, but also by the conservative elite of the country. What made this situation unbearable, was Zelaya’s intention to propose a referendum that was going to ask the country if the government could hold a constituent national assembly that will approve and design a new political constitution. The conservative elite of the country felt threatened by constitutional measures that would enhance the power of the common Honduran people because it was this very political inequality that protected their positions in society. There is a reason why Miguel Facusse, arguably one of the richest Hondurans, was in conversation with elements of Washington and became an outspoken supporter of the golpista president, Roberto Micheletti. Honduras’ private media was quick to compare this constitutional referendum to those proposed and pursued by President Chavez with the sole intention to defame and depict Manuel Zelaya as an aspiring totalitarian that sought to convert Honduras into a Bolivarian state.

During the Cold War, the United States and cooperative military leaders and anti-Communists from Latin America justified their repression of the left and anti-imperialist to prevent another Fidel Castro from taking governmental power. More than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Roberto Micheletti, the Honduran armed forces and national elite sought to justify this coup d’etat by claiming to have prevented the rise of another Hugo Chavez in Latin America. Thousands of Honduran citizens came out onto to the streets not to simply challenge illegal state order, but in search of the democracy they were slowly reconstructing. Citizens of Honduras marched towards the presidential palace not to simply address their grievances against political instability, but in order to risk their lives finding out who to hold accountable for jeopardizing the democratic governance they wanted developed for their future generations. And yet, the United States became the first country to recognize this not as a golpe de estado, but as a functioning government ready to cooperate with Washington. The FMLN would win the presidential election for the first time this same year as Daniel Ortega’s FSLN was in power. There was no way the United States’ imperialistic agenda would thrive with another Chavista supporter in Central America.

The removal of Manuel Zelaya from power was the political earthquake that deteriorated Honduras into the position it is in today. Since 2009, gang violence has proliferated, peaking in 2013 when San Pedro Sula became renowned as the most dangerous city in the world. The National Party has not prevented Honduras from being recognized as the country, not engaged in war, with the most homicides per inhabitants, reaching above 90 in 2012. With the recent assassination of Berta Caceres, President Juan Orlando Hernandez has also assured the world of his incapability of providing citizen security to the indigenous and women threatened by transnational companies of natural resource extraction. Berta’s murder has captured the international community’s attention and represents the agony of thousands of Hondurans who want an anti-corruption commission to be created without the national government and to hold it accountable for its deadly impunity. Lobo’s and Hernandez’s National Party claimed they would be the party to lower gang violence and develop Honduras, but not without militarizing the country with unaccountable military forces receiving financial aid form the United States. The exodus of Honduran children, single mothers, and those fleeing gang violence and political persecution should be assuring the United States of the need to end military aid, strengthen and monitor human right conditionalities on their international relations with Honduras, and understand that Hondurans are refugees fleeing from a murderous government and senseless gang members.

As a citizen of the United States, but son of a Honduran migrant who has not yet visited Honduras, I can only echo what I have read through books and heard from family members about the current conditions in Honduras. I am privileged in being able to address the United States government and public about how devastating this country’s continous military aid is to my father’s country because so many of my fellow Hondurans either do not make it here or are still in pursuit of arriving to the very empire that approved of their country’s political collapse.
In his introduction to Open Veins of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano says “Latin America is the region of open veins. Everything, from the discovery until our times, has always been transmuted into European – or later the United States – capital, and as such has accumulated in distant centers of power”. The United States’ United Fruit Company allowed it to exert political influence at the beginning of the twentieth century. About 100 years later, the United States maintained this imperialistic power and deployed it by financing particular military elements and through the support gained by the national elite that remains in true control of Honduras. Its veins continue being attended and cared to by the Lenca resisting privatization projects, the university students defending public education, and the Honduran people desiring the restoration of their constitutional government and sovereignty. The way in which this country has been ruled since the coup should serve to prove that the Cold War has not ended in Central America.

*I apologize for not being able to name the photographer who took this picture.