Monday, August 19, 2013

Gulf Cartel Leader Captured (with Zetas Update)

The Associated Press reports that the Mexican army captured Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, one of the contenders to lead the Gulf Cartel, in northeast Mexico near the Texas border Saturday. Although there are no details on the operation yet, or possible U.S. support, Ramirez is wanted on federal drug charges and the State Department had offered a $5 million reward for Ramirez's capture.
Gulf Cartel leader Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, captured Saturday near the Texas border.
There has been no analysis yet (at least that I've seen) regarding how his capture will affect the Gulf Cartel. The drug empire has been weakened significantly over the past decade due to the 2003 capture of its former boss, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, and the defection and increasingly brutal competition with their former security wing, the Zetas. The cartel's previous top boss, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, was arrested last September.

Incidentally, at Foreign, Dwight Dyer and Daniel Sachs provide a good analysis of the strategic consequences of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales' capture last month. Although the Zetas have traditionally relied upon a decentralized organizational structure (think more starfish than spider) that appears to negate a counter-strategy of leadership decapitation, the lack of a clear leader might also result in intra-gang competition. Like al-Qa'ida and its devolution into various affiliates, this prevents them from acting in a coordinated and strategic fashion (especially given that all of the Zetas' original leaders have been killed or captured), but means this instability may lead to increased violence at the local level. Dyer and Sachs argue that although "the arrest of Trevino may prove a devastating blow for the Zetas in Mexico," they are threatening to expand into parts of Central America that are not as well organized to fight them as are Mexican forces near the U.S. border.

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