Documento creado: 1 de octubre de 2009
Air & Space Power Journal - Español  Tercer  Trimestre 2009

Police-Military Interaction in Mexico’s Drug War

By John P. Sullivan

Areas of cartels influences

Mexico is engaged in a complex drug war. This war is actually an interlocking series of networked “narco-“or "criminal insurgencies" waged by criminal syndicates and gangs, popularly known as cartels. This situation challenges state institutions and the rule of law as Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) seek to penetrate Mexico’s political institutions to further their lucrative drug black market. The situation has profound human and national security implications throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond. This article looks at the current situation in Mexico. It will briefly examine the cartels and related criminal enterprises (i.e., gangs and enforcer organizations), the nature of their assault on Mexico’s institutions, and the impact on Mexican police and Mexico’s military. Finally, it will suggest potential bi-lateral and multilateral approaches for building police and military capacity to counter the threat.

The State of the Conflict

Mexico’s drug wars are violent and persistent. In short, the major Mexican drug cartels—while actually not true cartels, these organizations seek to dominate or control the lucrative drug trade—and related criminal enterprises are waging a series of “wars” to control the “plazas” or corridors for transshipping drugs to the United States and elsewhere.1

In the process, they use extreme and symbolic violence, including attacks on their competitors, the police, military, and populace to further their cause.

The Mexican state began a crackdown on the cartels in December of 2006.2 Since that time, while the pace of violence has ebbed and flowed regionally, it has steadily risen nationally; the cartels are waging war and attempt to operate with impunity. The drug/cartel-related death toll resulting from this drug war has been dramatic. Consider these annual figures: 1,500 deaths in 2006; rising to 2,700 in 2007; spiking to 5,630 in 2008.3

The pace of murder and mayhem remains high. By mid-June 2009, drug-related killings in Mexico reached 3,002, a 76.5 per cent increase over the same period in 2008, according to a count in the daily El Universal. During the same time period last year, killings linked to organized crime had amounted to 1,701. However, deaths escalated at the end of the year, to bring the total for 2008 up to 6,290, more than double the figure for 2007.4 Despite a significant surge of police and military resources, the cartels remain an entrenched threat.

For example, NPR reports that after a two-month lull, drug-related killings are surging in Ciudad Juárez. In an effort to contain the drug violence, the Mexican army took over the city's police in April, deploying nearly 10,000 soldiers and federal police. But, "executions have resumed in broad daylight at a pace far higher than a year ago."5 On 22 June 2009, Mexico deployed 1,500 additional troops to Ciudad Juárez to stabilize the situation.6

As Stratfor has noted, Mexico’s drug war can be viewed as three concurrent conflicts. The first is the battle waged among the cartels for the “plazas.” The second is the battle between the cartels and Mexico’s government forces—the police and military who seek to restore order, disrupt criminal activity, and bring the gangsters to justice. The third war is the targeting of civilians in acts of symbolic violence and through fear and intimidation to coerce compliance and limit cooperation with the government. Not only are civilians collateral casualties, they are also deliberate victims.7 Collectively, these conflicts amount to a virtual “civil war” or “criminal insurgency.”8 While the political dimension of the attacks varies—and the conflict is certainly distinct from classic political insurgency—the result is instability and battles for “contested space” and increased cartel reach continue to rage.

Mexican DTOs are currently expanding their reach to Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador Belize, Argentina, West Africa, Canada, and the United States.9 In the words of César Gaviria, Colombia's former president, "The power of the drug cartels is leading to the criminalization of politics and the politicisation of crime."10

The Criminal Actors: cartels, gangs, enforcers

Cartels and their criminal soldiers seek dominance in the lucrative global narco-markets. These narco-conflicts are waged by cartels, gangs, paramilitary militias. The cartels fight at three levels: within their own enterprise for dominance; against other cartel alliances for market control; and against the security forces of the state (police and military) to fend off interference. Collectively this amounts to a virtual civil war fought by criminal netwarriors.11

Mexico’s drug cartels/DTOs are protean. While all are poly-drug operations (involved in many facets of the drug trade: methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine and heroin), they are constantly morphing, adapting, expanding and contracting. In short, the seven major cartels are fracturing, reconfiguring, and in a constant state of flux. This fluid state contributes to narco-violence within and among DTOs, as competing cartels and factions use violence to gain market share and fend off competitors, and is amplified by ever-shifting alliances to gain tactical and strategic advantage. The dynamic nature of cartel alliances is described by Hal Brands in his recent Strategic Studies Institute monograph:12

Because these alliances tend to be tenuous and impermanent, bloodshed occurs not simply between them, but within them as well. Smaller cartels shift allegiances frequently, band-wagoning with or balancing against the dominant coalition. In early 2008, for instance, the Milenio Cartel defected from the Federation to ally with the Gulf Cartel, touching off a new round of bloodshed. (These shifts occur so regularly that even Mexican government agencies have difficulty determining who is allied with whom at a given point.) Power struggles within a single cartel are also common, as the arrest or assassination of a cartel leader often fosters violent leadership disputes. As a result, drug-related violence in Mexico occurs on several different planes, resulting in a multi-dimensional conflict.

Currently, the major “cartels” or DTOs in Mexico are:13

Sinaloa Federation & Cartel

o Formerly included Beltran Leyva & Carillo Fuentes (Juarez) organizations

• Gulf Cartel

o Was strongest, now weakened, Zetas split

• Beltran Leyva organization

o Split from Sinaloa Federation/growing

• Arrellano Felix/Tijuana Cartel

o Once powerful, split into two, perhaps reforming

• Vicente Carillo Fuentes/Juarez Cartel

o Battling Sinaloa, allied with Beltran Leyva, may be ascendant

• Los Zetas

• La Familia Michoacana

o Split from Sinaloa cartel, now an emergent cartel

In addition to the drug trade, these DTOs and violent enforcers have moved into additional criminal enterprises: kidnapping, human trafficking, extortion, CD/video piracy, etc. This diversification, like the fragmentation and reconfiguration of Mexico’s organized criminal enterprises, may be the direct result of the flux and turmoil resulting from the drug wars and the Mexican state crackdown. As a recent CRS report noted, “The realignment of Mexico’s drug syndicates in 2008 and their violent turf battles appear to be the result of a splintering of the so-called Sinaloa federation of DTOs, the split in the Gulf cartel and the reemergence of DTOs once thought to be obsolete…What was once a bi-polar competition between the powerful Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa federation has been transformed,” resulting in significant violence—both inter-and intra-cartel.14

Two Examples: Los Zetas and La Familia Michoacana

Two major beneficiaries of this fracturing are Los Zetas and La Familia. I will briefly discuss these emerging actors. Los Zetas are a violent enforcer organization transitioning into a full-blown cartel. The Zetas were formed by a small group of former military counter-narcotics commandos (their leadership sprang from the elite Special Airborne Group—GAFEs).15 They were linked initially to the Gulf cartel, and currently serve as contractors for the Beltran Leyva organization. Increasingly they are morphing from enforcers to a complex, full-service criminal enterprise in their own right. They have links with the Kaibiles (a Guatemalan enforcer group also drawn from former special forces), as well as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), a transnational gang. Perhaps the most notable elements of Los Zetas are their transnational reach and “criminal branding.”

As journalist Samuel Logan has observed, Los Zetas has grown from its original 31 members, aligned with the Gulf cartel, into a separate entity with its own operations. The Zetas are believed to have a well-developed intelligence capability, possess links with local and state politicians, and interact with transnational gangs like MS-13, El Paso’s Barrio Azteca and the Texas Syndicate. In addition to a core organization, it appears the Zetas may have become a “brand name” where a variety of groups—not only the original core organization—utilize the name to strike fear and further their goals.16

The Zetas, a paramilitary band, directly target police and military forces in pursuit of their objectives. Zeta attacks are notable for their complex planning and precision execution. They are alleged to have used cell-phone signatures of their opponents to facilitate targeting, and employ swarming tactics.17 Notable attacks on the military include the December 2008 capture and execution of eight Mexican Army officers and other ranks in Guerrero, and the February 2009 assassination of retired Brigadier General Mauro Enrique Tello Quinones two days after he was retained to develop a counter-drug force for Cancun.18 Los Zetas, like other narco-criminals, seek to demonstrate that no one is beyond their reach. Hence their use of symbolic violence (kidnapping, torture, etc.); their brutal, often barbaric attacks against military personnel are designed to intimidate and coerce the civilian population.

The connotations of the “Zeta” brand are images of “castrations, decapitations, and immersion in vats of lye.”19 This imagery is useful when the criminals seek to extort funds and raise “street taxes.” Finally, the Zetas use extreme violence to sustain their ability to act with impunity; this serves as a disincentive to report their criminal activities to the police or military.20 A desired consequence of this violence is friction between the military, police, and elected officials.

The Zetas are not the only paramilitary, enforcer entity operating in the conflict. All cartels/DTOs employ their own “private armies.” The Sinaloa cartel formed Los Pelones from military and police deserters as well as the “Fuerzas Especiales de Arturo (FEDA)” which includes gang members from the US and Mexico.21 Los Negros, formerly affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel, formed the foundation of the Beltran Leyva organization.

La Familia (Michoacana) is an emerging criminal power. This organization “burst into the limelight on September 6, 2006, when 20 masked desperados stormed into scruffy Sol y Sombra night spot in Uruapan, Michoacan, fired shots into the air, ran up to the second floor from where they tossed five human heads onto the black and white dance floor.”22 While it appears La Familia may have started as a vigilante organization, they have transitioned into a full-scale criminal enterprise operating in the states of Mexico, Guerrero, and Queretaro, as well as Michoacan. Their goals appear to go beyond criminal enterprise to include seizing—or at least manipulating—political power. They intimidate foes, terrorize the population, and seek to inhibit government action. They use propaganda and information operations to spread their message. This includes media ads, internet communications, and carefully placed banners. All of this is reinforced by intimidation, corruption and co-option of police officials.

Like all Mexican DTOs, La Familia is in a constant state of flux and consists of factions. At least three of these have been identified. These are Los Historicos who have links to Los Zetas; Los Extorsionistas, who focus on extortion and Los Cobradores de Duedas (i.e., “Debt Collectors”) allied to the Mileno and Sinaloa cartels and specializing in meth trafficking.23 Such intra-cartel diversity demonstrates the complexity of identifying and documenting cartel relationships and alliances. La Familia, frequently described as having cult-like attributes, is one of the most active in political competition with the state.

As recent reports attest, La Famila is “undermining the electoral system and day-to-day governance of [Michoacan], pushing an agenda that goes beyond the usual money-only interests of drug cartels.”24 The group has contaminated normal political processes, corrupting mayors and killing those who don’t submit, to extend its control and reach. Also known by the initials “FM” (Familia Michoacana), the group is believed to have compromised 83 of Michoacan’s 113 municipalities. It has reportedly established footholds in the United States. These include drug operations in 20-30 municipalities—including Los Angeles.

Other actors in the drug wars include a range of gangs, from street gangs, to maras, and transnational gangs. While street gangs generally focus either on turf or controlling retail drug markets, some gangs have developed transnational connectivity and reach. These gangs (notably Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13) serve as adjuncts to cartel or DTO activity. They may serve as enforcers, assist in moving people (human trafficking), arms, and goods, or they may partner in a range of ad hoc criminal enterprises.25

Weapons and Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs)

In addition to beheadings, dismemberment, murders and abductions, Mexican DTOs and criminal gangs are using a variety of small arms and infantry-like techniques to go beyond “routine” criminal attacks.

These include reports of assault weapons and grenades as tools of the “multi-sided narco-insurgency.”26 This range of weaponry is chronicled in a Los Angeles Times report: “Traffickers have escalated their arms race, acquiring military-grade weapons, including hand grenades, grenade launchers, armor-piercing munitions and antitank rockets with firepower far beyond the assault rifles and pistols that have dominated their arsenals.”27

These weapons include .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifles, M203 40-millimeter grenade launchers, light anti-tank weapons (LAWs), and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).28 These weapons go far beyond the usual cartel armaments, and demonstrate that smuggled American guns, which certainly fuel the violence,29 are only a part of the problem.

Cartels are also embracing traditional infantry squad tactics to engage in pitched gun battles with Mexican army patrols.30 This, along with their diverse weaponry, allows them to select among a range of tactical options ranging from assassinations and drive-by shootings, to grenade and combined arms assaults. Their overall tactical techniques, tactics, and procedures remain the same: attack the government and then disengage.

The Impact: Violence and its Political Consequences

Clearly the on-going drug war has profound impacts within Mexico, the United States and indeed throughout the Western Hemisphere. These impacts are political, economic, and for the police and military, operational.

First, consider the “local impact.” According to Southern Pulse, between 60-65% of Mexican municipalities have been influenced by organized crime and narco-trafficking groups. Drug cartels have infiltrated over 1,500 Mexican cities, and use them as the base for kidnappings, extortions, and vehicle thefts.31 This penetration has resulted in a situation where some localities are arguably existing in a de facto state of “dual” or “parallel” sovereignty.32

Southern Pulse reports the existence of 980 “zones of impunity” throughout Mexico wherein organized crime has more control than the Mexican state.33 This demonstrates the contested nature of maintaining effective control in the face of concerted drug violence and cartel incursions into the political arena. Clearly the existence of “lawless zones” and “contested spaces” does not necessarily translate into the existence of a “failed state,” although it certainly signals a challenge to the state and its monopoly on violence.34 Aguayo concluded that by all measures the Mexican state was not a failed state, but that the situation in some municipalities, zones, and institutions was less clear since the narcos often have effective control of those areas.

This situation is seen in the case of the previously discussed La Familia Michoacana:35

• The cult-like La Familia Michoacana has contaminated city halls across one state, federal officials say. It sometimes decides who runs and who doesn't, who lives and who dies.

• La Familia Michoacana is undermining the electoral system and day-to-day governance of this south-central state, pushing an agenda that goes beyond the usual money-only interests of drug cartels.

The Impact on the Police and Military

Next, consider the impact on the police and military. Policing in Mexico is complex. First of all, Mexico is a Federal state (31 states, 1 federal district). As a result there are Municipal, State and Federal police. These are divided into preventive police and judicial or investigative police. The various state police work for Attorneys General (procuraduria generales) while the Federal police are currently undergoing a transition.

In an effort to reform the Federal police, it is envisioned that the existing forces will be reconfigured and assume new responsibilities. Mexico’s federal police is currently composed of two separate federal forces: the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI) and the Policía Federal Preventiva (PFP). Operationally, both forces report to the Ministry of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública-SSP); on administrative issues the AFI is linked to the Attorney General’s office (Procuraduria General de la Republica-PGR). These two police forces are slated to merge into one single branch under the SSP, clarifying their roles. It is envisioned that this will streamline capabilities and enhance operational effectiveness.36

Rather than concentrate on organizational configuration, I will focus on the tactical and operational impacts on Mexico’s police. Police at all levels in Mexico are challenged by corruption, poor training, ineffectiveness, potential and actual co-option by cartels, and an onslaught of cartel violence. On-going reform is underway. Individual police are frequent targets of cartel and gang attacks.

Consider the impact of coordinated attacks against police. In one recent attack, seven police officers were assassinated and three others injured in about an hour's time (Monday night, 27 April 2009) in coordinated, near-simultaneous shootings throughout the border town of Tijuana. After the first four killings outside a convenience store, police scanners hummed with "narcocorridos" or drug ballads broadcast by the killers.37

In addition to deliberate targeting of police, police are challenged by corruption in their ranks. For example, in Nuevo León, the state attorney general alleges that co-opted cops are battling the state; some Nuevo León police have kidnapped and killed soldiers on behalf of drug traffickers. Essentially, networks of corrupt police—both municipal and state—are working to protect organized crime organizations. Mexican authorities assert that the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels are fighting for control of Nuevo León—a key plaza for cross-border transshipment and a burgeoning local drug market.38

The inability of police to effectively counter the drug violence has led to the use of military and federal law enforcement forces. “As civilian law enforcement agencies in Mexico struggle to rebuild amid internal corruption and heavily armed gangs, the military has stepped in as never before.”39 Essentially President Felipe Calderón has deployed nearly 50 percent of Mexico’s combat ready troops to counter drug cartels. This extraordinary deployment is an emergency measure intended to stabilize the situation while local, state, and federal police undergo reform and build new, transparent capacity.40

In Juárez police-military interaction has resulted in a new relationship, where both fight a “culture of corruption.” Mexico City's The News reports: "Since March 16, the military has been in control of policing operations in Ciudad Juárez. The soldiers have been sent to both train the local police and to conduct law enforcement in this city of 1.2 million where 1,600 people fell victim to homicide last year and more than 500 have fallen so far in 2009. More than 100 police officers died in the city last year; hundreds more were threatened. The soldiers patrol around with the police force now, and to all extents and purposes, are their partners."41

Yet, in Juárez, recent reports assert that a military surge has left many in the city feeling no safer. “Three months into a military surge aimed at restoring peace to this gangster-choked border city [Ciudad Juárez], soldiers are being blamed for the deaths of as many as four men, the disappearances of eight others and the torture of still scores more.”42

Accusations of military misconduct, extrajudicial executions, and extreme violence by military enforcers cloud the anti-cartel surge. In response, defense and national police officials deny that their forces have been involved in the deaths, disappearances or torture of innocent civilians. “[T]he accounts of those who say they have been abused by soldiers are convincingly similar: Many say they are picked up by patrolling troops, blindfolded and driven to remote locations where they say they were beaten with fists, rifles and boards.”43

The militarization of Mexican policing has been criticized by civil society and human rights organizations.44 For example, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) has noted that while Mexico’s drug violence highlights the limits of police effectiveness in the face of endemic violence and corruption, reform is needed.45 In the interim period while reform is initiated and taking hold, joint police-military patrols, with the military as the dominant force, became a necessary stopgap. WOLA observed that the “military and police are not interchangeable entities. Military forces are trained for combat situations, with force used to vanquish an enemy. Police are a civilian corps, trained to address threats to public security using the least amount of force possible, to investigate crime and identify those responsible, and to arrest criminals with the cooperation of the people.”46

The extreme situation in Mexico—essentially a conflict situation—demanded military action to restore the conditions where civil policing could effectively function. Nevertheless, at times the differences in police and military skill sets have led to problematic situations. For example, WOLA reports that in June 2007 soldiers in Sinaloa opened fire on a car that failed to stop at a checkpoint, killing a woman and three children.47 Notable in this light are reports by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). The CNDH reports that alleged human rights violations by Mexican security forces have surged as a result of drug enforcement activity. In 2008, CNDH logged over 1,200 complaints of human rights abuses by the military.48

An April 2009 Human Right Watch report recounts allegations of serious violations, including “egregious crimes” such as disappearances, killings, tortures, and rape. The HRW Report is entitled Uniform Impunity: Mexico's Misuse of Military Justice to Prosecute Abuses in Counternarcotics and Public Security Operations. The report details 17 cases involving military abuses against more than 70 victims, including several cases from 2007 and 2008. To date, not one of the military investigations into these crimes has led to a conviction for even a single soldier on human rights violations.49 The only civilian investigation into any of these cases led to the conviction of four soldiers. Effective government action to investigate and correct such action is essential to maintaining long-term credibility of the military.

Policing post-conflict situations is notoriously difficult for military forces. The military establishes the conditions for order, them generally seeks to transition social control to civil police or transitional gendarmerie forces.50 The situation is even more complex in a state of on-going high intensity criminal violence such as that found in a “criminal insurgency” or drug war. Police and the military are equally challenged by brigands and gangsters who operate with near impunity. This is compounded by the challenge of operating within a fearful community, compromised by corrupt officials and a plethora of security leaks. To effectively operate in this environment, both the police and military services need to develop and employ new skills at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

This involves tactical approaches for both entities. The ability to quickly discriminate between friendly forces and adversaries, and the ability to separate the public from the effects of active engagements is an essential element of this response. To be effective, counter-cartel operations need to be able to rapidly adjust or calibrate between low intensity, community patrols to high intensity combat. These skills need to be complemented by effective investigations, intelligence, and from individual to small group action. Such activity can be termed “full spectrum policing.” Effective full spectrum policing depends upon an understanding and engagement of the operational level of maneuver—or operational art. This skill set is generally lacking among civil police, but is essential for countering extreme threats such as insurgency, terrorism, and drug/gang violence.51

Conclusion: Expanding Cartel Reach and Potential Solutions

Mexican DTOs are the new criminal powerhouse. They dominate the drug trade throughout the Americas and have become the dominant organized crime threat within the United States.52 In addition, they are also pushing south in Central and South America. In Guatemala alone Los Zetas are believed to operate in eight of that nation’s 22 departments. In addition, Mexican cartels are reported to operate in or have links to organized crime groups in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Paraguay.53

Crime, lawlessness, corruption, and gangs are a serious concern in Mexico and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere. A number of policy options are possible to address this situation. Clearly, security sector reform can help rebuild and reform Mexican law enforcement and police capacity.54 Within that need, there is the potential to bridge the gaps between local, state and federal security agencies in Mexico, and then to build effective links to law enforcement agencies in neighboring nations. This requires a containment and eradication of corruption, enhanced technology, and building trust with the community and among professional organs.

Direct support to Mexico from the United States government has taken the form of the Mérida Initiative which seeks to fight criminal enterprises and disrupt drug-trafficking (including precursor chemicals), weapons trafficking, illicit financial activities, and human trafficking. Much of the activity here is federal-to-federal. Increased state and metropolitan police capacity building could benefit from sub-national state-to-state interaction through forums leveraging the connectivity of the Border Governors:“The Border Governors Conference/Conferencia de Gobernadores Fronterizos is an ideal forum for building cross-border security cooperation. Comprising the governors and their staff from all 10 (four U.S., six Mexican) border states, it meets annually to address cross-border issues, including border security. Genuine cross-border police cooperation is a natural extension of their work.”55

In addition to capacity building, information-sharing is an essential ingredient of building effective police and bridging police and military capacity to address cartel challenges. Understanding the adversary is always a critical component in building an effective response. In this drug conflict, intelligence “co-production” and sharing needs to become a priority. This must include cooperation among the police, the military, and intelligence intelligence agencies (e.g., CISEN: Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad Nacional) both within Mexico and throughout the Western Hemisphere. Networked capabilities with transnational reach are needed.

This should be complemented by police, judicial, and political capacity building and implementation of “full spectrum policing” capabilities built upon transparency, respect for human rights, and public trust. A sound understanding of operational art will be needed to go beyond the tactical and forge effective responses across multiple frontiers and incidents. This understanding is present in the military, but needs to be developed within the police services. Finally, efforts to shift the onus of security and crime control to the police must remain a priority throughout the hemisphere.


1. John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, “Plazas for Profit: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency,” Small Wars Journal, 26 April 2009 at .

2. The crackdowns started with Fox, but the significant nature of the intensification by Calderon makes it effectively a separate campaign.

3. Figures from El Universal, as cited in June S. Beittel, Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence, Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, CRS Report R40582, 27 May 2009. P.10.

4. This year (2009), the most violent state is Chihuahua. In Chihuahua, there have been 1,198 killings so far this year, 40 per cent of the country’s total. Next in line were the states of Durango, Sinaloa, Guerrero, Baja California and Michoacán. The country average is as high as 17 killings per day. See "Mexico's drug war reaches new heights: 3,000 dead since January," Monsters & Critics, 18 June 2009 at .

5. Jason Beaubien, "After Short Respite, Drug Killings Surge In Juarez," All Things Considered, NPR, 06 June 2009 at .

6.“Mexico deploys 1,500 extra troops to Ciudad Juárez,” Dallas Morning News, 22 June 2009 at .

7. Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, “Mexico The Third War,” Stratfor, 18 February 2009 at .

8. See John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, “Red Teaming Criminal Insurgency,” Red Team Journal, 30 January 2009 at .

9. Footnote: Several sources point to the expanding reach of Mexican DTOs. See for example, Carlos Macias, "Drug Cartels Move Beyond Borders," Americas Society/Council of the Americas, 19 December 2008 at; Samuel Logan, "Mexican cartels dominate the Americas," International Relations and Security Network (ISN), ETH Zurich, 27 October 2008 at; "Gang Violence in Canada linked to Mexico's drug wars," The Canadian Press, 03 March 2009 at; and Patrick J. McDonnell, "Argentina caught in Mexican Meth trade, Los Angeles Times, 13 October 2008 at

10. Rory Carroll, Sibylla Brodzinsky, and Andrés Schipani, “Spreading fear: how the new cartels deliver chaos to four continents,” The Guardian, 09 March 2009 at .

11. John P. Sullivan, “Criminal Netwarriors in Mexico’s Drug Wars,” GroupIntel, 22 December 2008 at’s-drug-wars/ .

12. Hal Brands, Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and U.S. Counterdrug Policy, Carlisle Barracks: Strategic Studies Institute, May 2009, p. 7.
13. See June S. Beittel, Mexico’s Drug-Related Violence, pp. 3-6.

14. Ibid, p. 11.

15. George Grayson, “Los Zetas: the Ruthless Army Spawned by a Mexican Drug Cartel,” E-note, FPRI, May 2008 at .

16. Samuel Logan, “Los Zetas: Evolution of a Criminal Organization, ISN, ETH Zurich, 11 March 2009 at .

17. Hal Brands, Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and U.S. Counterdrug Policy, p.9.

18. George Grayson, “Los Zetas and other Mexican cartels Target Military Personnel. E-note, FPRI, March 2009 at .

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid,

21. Hal Brands, Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and U.S. Counterdrug Policy, p.8.

22. George Grayson, “La Familia: Another Deadly Mexican Syndicate,” E-note, FPRI, February 2009 at

23. Ibid.

24. Tracy Wilkinson, “Mexico drug traffickers corrupt politics,” Los Angeles Times, 31 May 2009 at,0,3065365,full.story.

25. Francis Maertens and Amado Phillip de Andrés, “David Against Goliath: Can Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean effectively fight drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism? (Comment), Madrid: FRIDE: Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior, February 2009.

26. Hal Brands, Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and U.S. Counterdrug Policy, p. 4.

27. Ken Ellingwood and Tracy Wilkinson, "Drug cartels' new weaponry means war," Los Angeles Times, 13 March 2009 at,0,229992.story.

28. Ibid.

29. Josh Meyer, “Gun flow south is a crisis for two nations,” Los Angeles Times, 17 June 2009 at,0,4097841.story.

30. Ibid.

31. Southern Pulse/Networked Intelligence, May 2009.

32. See Ivan Briscoe, The Proliferation of the ‘Parallel State, Madrid: FRIDE: Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior, 13 October 2008 for a discussion of parallel states.

33. Southern Pulse/Networked Intelligence, June 2009.

34.For a discussion of the ramifications of narco-challenges to the state see Sergio Aguayo Quezada, “Mexico a state of failure,” openDemocracy, 17 February 2009 at ; United States Joint Forces Command, Joint Operating Environment 2008, 04 December 2008 at .

35. Tracy Wilkinson, “Mexico drug traffickers corrupt politics,” Los Angeles Times.

36. Shannon K. O’Neil, “Calderon’s Turn at Police Reform,” LatIntelligence, 21 November 2008 at’s-turn-at-police-reform/.

37. "Attacks kill 7 Mexican police in Tijuana," Associated Press, 28 April 2009.

38. "State attorney general says cops are working with cartels," The News (Mexico City), 11 June 2009 at .

39. Sandra Dibble, “Mexican military on drug war’s front lines,” San Diego Union-Tribune, 01 February 2009 at

40. Steve Fainaru and William Booth, “As Mexico Battles cartels, The Army Becomes the Law,” Washington Post, 02 April 2009 at

41. Malcolm Beith, "In new relationship, they fight `culture of corruption´," The News (Mexico City), 24 May 2009.

42. Dudley Althaus, "Mexico Border Violence: Military surge has many in Juarez feeling no safer," Houston Chronicle (front page), 13 June 2009.

43. Ibid.

44. See for example, Miguel Agustin Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, Human Rights Under Seige: Public Security and Criminal Justice in Mexico, September 2008.

45. Maureen Meyer and Roger Atwood, “Reforming the Ranks: Drug-Related Violence and the Need for Police Reform in Mexico,” Washington Office on Latin America, 29 June 2007.

46. Ibid.

47. Ibid.

48. Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, (Mexico), “Informe de Actividades del 1 de enero al 31 de diciembre de 2008,’ Mexico, 2009, p. 36.

49. Human Rights Watch, Uniform Impunity: Mexico's Misuse of Military Justice to Prosecute Abuses in Counternarcotics and Public Security Operations, 29 April 2009. At

50. See Alice Hills, Policing Post-Conflict Cities, London: Zed Books, 2009 for a detailed discussion of the complexities of restoring and maintaining order in post-conflict settings.

51. Adam Elkus and I have been working on developing a concept for operational art in policing. See John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, “Preventing Another Mumbai: Building a Police Operational Art,” CTC Sentinel, Vol, 2, Issue 6, June 2009. WE first introduced the concept of “full spectrum policing” in John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus “Postcard from Mumbai: Modern Urban Siege,” Small Wars Journal, 18 February 2009.

52. Sam Quinones and Richard A. Serrano, “Mexico drug wars spill across the border,” Los Angeles Times, 16 November 2008 at,0,2498090.story.

53.Sam Logan, “Mexican cartels dominate the Americas,” ISN, ETH Zurich, 27 October 2008 at>id=93111&lng=en.

54. See for example, “What Are U.S. Policy Options for Dealing with Security in Mexico? Research Brief, Santa Monica: RAND, RB-9444-RC (2009).

55. John P. Sullivan, “Outside View: Mexico’s criminal Insurgency, UPI, 18 December 2008 at


John P. Sullivan is a lieutenant with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, where he serves as Analysis & Support Lieutenant in the Emergency Operations Bureau. His research focus includes terrorism, emerging threats, conflict, and intelligence studies. He holds a B.A. in government from the College of William and Mary, and an M.A. in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis from the New School for Social Research. He is co-editor of Countering Terrorism and WMD: Creating a Global Counter-Terrorism Network (Routledge, 2006) and a member of the California Gang Investigators Association.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force

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