Pubdate: Thu, 26 Jun 2003
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2003 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Ricardo Sandoval, The Dallas Morning News


Fewer Departments Intended to Ease Fight Against Trafficking

MEXICO CITY - Despite a string of successes in the war on drugs,
Mexican authorities face new threats from traffickers - threats that
have spurred the nation's top law enforcement official into
overhauling his vast agency.

Rafael Macedo de la Concha, Mexico's attorney general, on Wednesday
detailed a restructuring of his ministry, a legion of agents and
police once believed to be overwhelmingly corrupt. Under Mr. Macedo de
la Concha, the agency - known as the PGR in its Spanish acronym - has
begun to right itself.

He is streamlining two dozen divisions of the PGR into nine leaner
sections that feature beefed-up intelligence units, anti-corruption
and anti-terrorism squads, and a new victims' rights unit.

The move was prompted by a need to hasten the agency's turnaround amid
a constant reorganization of drug cartels and a drumbeat of firings
and expulsions of federal drug agents on corruption charges.

"These last months have been full, full of problems ... and obviously,
we are looking for solutions to what the people say are our biggest
problems," Mr. Macedo de la Concha told reporters Wednesday.

In the 30 months since he took a leave from his job as Mexican army
general and chief prosecutor to become the nation's attorney general,
Mr. Macedo de la Concha has orchestrated the crippling of the Arellano
Felix drug organization of Tijuana and Osiel Cardenas' Matamoros-based
Gulf Cartel. He's also fired or suspended 2,600 federal agents and

But for every action in the war on drugs, there is a reaction. In
recent months Mexican traffickers have become more violent, killing
dozens of people, including police and soldiers. Colombian cocaine and
heroin producers have become more directly involved in Mexican
trafficking. In the absence of high-profile drug lords, many smaller
"capos" have begun shooting it out with the established cartels for
control of a Mexican drug production and shipping enterprise worth
billions of dollars annually.

Even the once-lauded work of the Mexican military against traffickers
has been tainted with the emergence of at least 30 army deserters as
hit men and guards for drug lords in northern Mexico.

Despite successes against some cartels, narco-trafficking analysts
fear there are years of struggle ahead for Mexico's police corps.

"The work has been good so far, and this group of chief prosecutors
has shown more will than others to take real action against drugs and
corruption," said Jorge Chabat, an international affairs specialist
with the Center for Economic Research in Mexico City.

Each day, Mr. Chabat said, new threats emerge, such as the resurgent
presence of Colombian cartel lieutenants among Mexican

Jose Luis Santiago Vasconselos, chief of the PGR's organized crime
task force, said: "The holes we've created recently in the leadership
of Mexican cartels has brought them here in greater numbers to seek
out new contacts among emerging traffickers, to guarantee that they're
being paid, and to get their money back to Colombia."

At least three major cartel leaders remain free. Joaquin "El Chapo"
Guzman escaped a maximum security prison and is believed to have
recouped control of his cartel in western Mexico. Vicente Carrillo
Fuentes is the reputed leader of the thriving Juarez Cartel. Ismael
Zambada, the western Mexico trafficker, is suspected of ordering the
killing of Ramon Arellano Felix, the leader of the Tijuana Cartel.

And, while big Mexican cartels have been hurt by police and military
action, "the major groups are still active, still intact," said a U.S.
official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They have not
fragmented, even though many others are coming up to challenge their
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake