This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Welcoming 2008

In the first week of the new year, there are a number of items that are worth our collective attention but too little space here to cover all of them. We'll make our way through them slowly, perhaps elucidating more on the blog, while reserving the more interesting points for this weekly newsletter.

Today I'll focus on what seems to be some of the more interesting issues at hand but want to begin with a quick mention of a radio show called Focus 580 with an NPR station out of Illinois. The host and I talked about the US and Mexico, the drug trade, and who supplies versus who demands. You can find it here about halfway down on the left.

The US Dept. of Justice has finally made public its position that Mexico has become the number one supplier of methamphetamine to the United States. It's about five years behind the ball with that one. Known as "ice" or simply "meth" this drug is probably the most damaging in terms of public health costs and the most addictive, next to heroine, in terms of how many heavy users it creates. The fact that Mexico has been for years the number one supplier is again testimony to how organized Mexican narco traffickers are when it comes to managing their US distribution networks - so much so that they managed to identify a new trend in drug demand inside the US and take over the supply chain, one that was once solely inside the US and mostly in California.

Another interesting revelation, as some members of the Southern Pulse network have mentioned, is the nature of Mexican drug traffickers and how it is changing. The Tijuana Cartel, as we have pointed out in the past, has become more of a black market financial institution as it's muscle and strong-arm presence within Mexican drug trafficking has diminished. The question is whether or not the TJ Cartel will give up their control of that border crossing into the United States. Might they "lease" it to the highest bidder?

Both the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels have long been involved in politics on a local level, pressuring specific candidates to get out of the race, killing others who have won, and on a more popular level, sponsoring marches against the "military occupation" of certain towns and small villages in northern Mexico. We're researching this trend in preparation for a forthcoming report on Drug Trafficking in Mexico, our third. We will let you know when it is ready, hopefully by the end of the month.

Is it true that Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom will take orders from organized crime? This is an answer we will try to find over the duration of his first hundred days in office, to kick off soon. Elsewhere in Central America, ten people have died in the past 24 hours in El Salvador, most of them when gunmen separated themselves from a crowd watching a soccer game when they began shooting, apparently at random. What will it take to subdue the violence there? We think part of the problem is US deportation policies and a lack of information sharing between the US and its Central American colleagues.

Finally, how will South America take shape in 2008? Will Brazilian president Lula re-assert his regional leadership as Chavez begins to look toward cleaning his own house? Already we've seen Lula working to bring Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru closer. And it's clear Brazil and Colombia are friendly. Argentina is up in the air. Could it be that President Cristina allows Venezuela to buy her support as her husband did?

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