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MEXICO CITY — Despite the arrest, extradition and now conviction of narco-lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, his Sinaloa cartel marches on — and the proof is in huge, multi-drug shipments detected on the border in recent weeks.
The border city of Juarez has been racked by violent drug-related crime, making it one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico's war on drugs.
According to figures released on January 11 by the Mexican government, 12,903 people were killed in drug-related violence in the first nine months of 2011. The money was seized from alleged members of the Guzman Loera drug cartel during a raid in the border town of Tijuana, Mexico.
“It’s still a major, major force in the Mexican criminal underworld,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said.
The cartel still controls a worldwide web of contacts that can move Colombian cocaine to Cameroon and Mexican meth cooks to Malaysia.
There’s also a world of professionals such as architects, jewelers and even musical groups, who provide entertainment and launder money.
Perhaps most important, Sinaloa continues to control what’s referred to as the “last mile” in the United States, using its wholesale distribution network to get drugs into the hands of local gangs and street dealers.
“We haven’t arrested capos, because that is not our main function,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Jan. “The government’s main function is to guarantee public safety, and the strategy is no longer to carry out raids to capture capos.” He added, “Officially there isn’t a war anymore.” Some in Mexico believe that authorities and even U. officials prefer the continued reign of a relatively stable, old-school boss like Zambada, rather than the confusion and bloodshed that might break out if he were gone. He has never been captured or pursued as much” as Guzman, said author Jose Reveles, who writes about the cartels.
The cartel is best understood as “more of a federation of different clans than as a corporate-like structure,” Hope said.
Although they aren’t always in the American public eye, drug interdiction programs that go after international trafficking can promise much greater payoffs than street-level enforcement at home. The demands of American drug interdiction can strain the law enforcement and military resources of countries that aren’t always willing or eager to support our drugs-and-prohibition habit.
Stop the drugs before they ever reach the United States, and there will be fewer drug dealers on American streets. Standing up to the United States isn’t easy, either, and even America’s friends can’t necessarily persuade it to change policies.