Reports of New Criminal Groups in Mexico May Challenge Current Policy

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A recent investigation by Mexico City’s Attorney General may shed light on the effect of assassinating cartel leaders, a strategy that American officials often describe as “HVT (high value target) takedowns.”

According to the Mexican daily La Cronica de Hoy, the Attorney General of the Mexico City stated that the recent capture or killing of certain organized crime bosses may have resulted in their subordinates creating new organizations seeking to establish market dominance.  The article cites as evidence the emergence of two new criminal groups, known as “La Oficina” and “La Mano con Ojos,” which have begun leaving threatening messages to authorities in the Mexico City area.

Mexico City’s Attorney General will meet with the National Attorney General later this week to share information on these two groups and determine their level of sophistication.  Although the National Attorney General’s office has no information on “La Oficina,” they reportedly have a file on “La Mano con Ojos,” which they believe is responsible for a beheading last week in the Tlalpan area of Mexico City.

The emergence of such new organizations coincides with outcry from civil society organizations, who argue that the HVT takedown approach to cartels simply molds them into smaller and more agile groups.  A recent report by the Congressional Research Service noted a growing body of criticism arguing that the current policy, far from eliminating the cartels, transforms them from more professional, hierarchical organizations with clear chains of command to organizations where the more violent, unsophisticated elements compete to fill frequently-occurring power vacuums.

According to President Calderon’s security spokesman Alejandro Poiré, however, these newer organizations are unstable and short-lived.  In a recent press statement, Poiré told El Milenio that about half of the 37 most dangerous criminal leaders of Mexico have been captured or killed. “This represents a severe and irreparable damage to the structures of operations of all organized crime organizations,” Poiré said. “In an historic feat, we have done more than half of the task at hand. During the last year in particular we made rapid progress.” 

As reports surface of new criminal organizations such as “La Mano con Ojos,” however, it remains to be seen if Poiré’s words will ring true.  If these new organizations pose a serious threat to citizen security in the country in the coming months, then it will almost certainly mean an electoral defeat for President Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN) in the upcoming 2012 elections.

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