[Editor's Note: There is no Mexico Drug War Update this week. It will be back next week.]
With the prohibition-related bloodshed in Mexico continuing apace, Mexican drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- are engaged not only in brutal conflict but also in shifting alliances. According to reports from Mother Jones and Al Jazeera, three rival cartels have joined forces in a battle to the death with the Zetas, the former soldiers turned Gulf cartel hit-men who eventually turned on their own employers.
Citing sources from the Mexican police and the DEA, Al Jazeera reported that the Gulf, La Familia, and Sinaloa cartels had formed an alliance to fight the Zetas in the border state of Tamaulipas, across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville and McAllen, Texas. Mother Jones reported that the alliance is known as the New Federation and has put out YouTube videos threatening the Zetas.
In one video directed to the Mexican public, the New Federation said: "Without the 'Z' you will live without fear... If you are a Zeta, run because the MONSTER is coming... the new alliance has raised its weapons to fuck the Zetas because they have undermined the drug trafficking business with their kidnappings, extortions, etc. To sum it up, they don't give a shit about the freedom and tranquility of the Mexican people."
"It's an issue of a common enemy," Will Glaspy, the head of the DEA's office in McAllen, told Al Jazeera. "The Zetas have been trying to wage war on everybody for a while," he said. "It's been well-documented that the Gulf cartel has formed alliances with the Sinaloa cartel and La Familia to wage war against the Zetas."
The Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has also been busy in Ciudad Juarez, where the Associated Press reported last Friday that the cartel had defeated the Juarez cartel in a bloody battle to control the lucrative "franchise" for smuggling drugs across the river into El Paso and beyond. The AP cited US intelligence sources and the FBI.
That sounded about right to Mexican Federal Police Chief Facundo Rosas, who said that while Mexican authorities are still working to confirm the US assessment, "These are valid theories. If you control the city, you control the drugs. And it appears to be Chapo."
"The onslaught against the Juarez cartel has been very brutal, not only by the Chapo Guzman cartel but also the military," said Tony Payan, an expert on the Juarez drug war at the University of Texas-El Paso. "I don't think by any means the Juarez cartel is done, but it's a shadow of its former self."
If true, a Sinaloa cartel victory in Ciudad Juarez could augur a decline in violence there. Some 5,000 people have been killed in the city since Guzman's gang moved in on Ciudad Juarez in 2008. Now, with the Sinaloa cartel in control of smuggling into and out of the city, the violence may be limited to local gang turf wars over retail drug sales in the city.
According to Payan, much of the recent violence in Juarez has been Guzman's men finishing off Juarez cartel "stragglers" who continued to deal drugs on city streets. The retail level violence has pitted Juarez cartel-aligned street gangs the Aztecas and La Linea against gangs affiliated with Guzman, including the Mexicles and the Killer Clowns.
"The killings, they are mostly small retail people," Payan said. "I think they are Aztecas, falling like flies all over the city."
And so it goes with Mexico's prohibition-related violence. Since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in late 2006, deploying up to 50,000 military troops, several key cartel figures have been killed or arrested, but the cartels themselves always reconstitute, and the drug trade continues. Meanwhile, the death toll continues to climb, past 19,000 by the Chronicle's count, but now past 22,000 according to a Mexican government report released this week.