Contrary to popular belief, Mexico winning cartel war
The Mexican government, finally, is gaining the upper hand in a drug war that has turned much of the border region and parts of interior Mexico into war zones. President Felipe Calderón’s campaign against the cartels is now three-and-a-half years old and the death toll is nearing 40,000. After a series of visits to Ciudad Juarez, the war’s epicenter, and interviews with federal law enforcement and intelligence officials in Mexico City, I see convincing evidence that the government has dramatically weakened the drug cartels, an essential step if the country is to restore peace.
The strategy of “disarticulating” the cartels has been largely successful. The command-and-control structure of the cartels has been decimated and the cartels are severely fractured. Twenty-one of the 37 individuals on Mexico’s most wanted list have either been apprehended or killed. Of the five original cartels, two of them, the Juarez Cartel and the Tijuana Cartel, are mere shadows of their once powerful selves. The Gulf Cartel has split into two warring factions. Last week, Mexican federal police captured Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas (better known as El Chango, or The Monkey), the leader of La Familia, one of the country’s most powerful criminal gangs.