Thursday, November 24, 2011

Los Zetas rule Durango and Zacatecas states, says gutsy Mexican archbishop

What makes this story a story is the complete lack of any intelligent response by state government officials.

Héctor González Martínez is a very brave Roman Catholic archbishop in the Mexican state of Durango. He captured a bit of notoriety in 2009 when he casually announced that the most wanted man in the world, Sinaloa cartel boss El Chapo Guzmán, lived in the area. "Sure, he lives not far from here, everybody knows so," said Martínez. No one in local officialdom responded.

Now the archbishop reports that his state of Durango, and neighboring Zacatecas, are completely under the thumb of the much feared Los Zetas. "When I've said Mass in Zacatecas, they're everywhere, openly patrolling the streets in their SUVs. Everything is very peaceful, and nobody raises a hand to stop them," said the Catholic prelate.

How did a high ranking state official in Durango respond? "These matters are very difficult; I prefer to avoid (saying anything that might cause) problems. We have (security) plans in place, but right now I don't have any reports (of violence)." If that's not drawn directly from a press secretary's script book, I don't know what is.

It's one more piece of proof that returning the drug war to the hands of local authorities is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Too many officials are either terrified of drug traffickers -- who can blame them? -- or are themselves on the narco payroll. Only a firm national response at the federal level has any chance of success, and even that will takes years more -- as it has, for example, in Colombia. If any of the presidential candidates who have openly called for "returning the Mexican army to its quarters" has his way and actually does so in 2013, many areas of Mexico will easily rival Mogadishu (Somalia) for insecurity.

Los Angeles Times just doesn't get it:

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