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The ‘Cockroach Effect’: Narco-Violence Spreads in Mexico

La Opinión, News Report, Gardenia Mendoza Aguilar, Translated by Elena Shore Posted: May 20, 2007

Traducción al español

Editor’s Note: In what is known as the “cockroach effect,” the deployment of federal troops to Mexico’s drug trafficking hot spots are only pushing organized crime into other areas of the country.

MEXICO CITY — On Wednesday morning, seven policemen and two businessmen from the city of Cananea in the state of Sonora, in northeast Mexico, were abducted -- kidnapped without ransom -- by an armed group of some 100 people. Four of the policemen were killed, two were beaten and the rest remain missing.

On Tuesday, the Attorney General of the Mexican state of Coahuila launched an investigation following the kidnapping of the director of the state’s kidnapping and organized crime investigation unit, Enrique Ruiz Arévalo. Ruiz was abducted by four armed men at a restaurant where he was having dinner in the state capital Saltillo.

National newspaper Milenio reported Wednesday that a severed human head was found near the military barracks in the Mexican state of Veracruz, one day after the army arrived in the state. The message attached read: “We are going to continue, even if federal forces are here,” and included a postscript that said: "Peña Nieto" (Grandson Peña).

According to the newspaper, the message was left hours after four bodyguards of the governor of the state of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, were massacred by a group of hired assassins on May 10. The note calls into question earlier reports that the hit men had gotten the wrong target.

Last year, an estimated 2,000 people died in drug trafficking related incidents, and more than 700 people have died so far this year, according local press reports. The National Commission of Human Rights estimates that this year’s deaths have reached nearly 1,000.

The Mexican states with the most drug trafficking, according to the Attorney General, are Guerrero, Durango, Sinaloa, Michoacán, Baja California, Chihuahua, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas.

Until the assassination of Mexican governor Enrique Peña Nieto’s bodyguards, the federal government had not considered Veracruz as a drug trafficking hot spot – even when the government of Veracruz asked the Secretary of State on three occasions to send federal troops in January, February, and May because of the presence of cells of the Gulf cartel.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón has deployed federal troops to several states known as drug trafficking hot spots. As a result, organized crime has moved to less closely watched areas, in what is known as the “cockroach effect." Mexico state is one of the areas affected by this new geographic drug trafficking strategy.

The state of Mexico, which is governed by Peña Nieto and neighbors the Federal District (D.F.), had not previously been a target of violence, with one exception. Several murders took place in the state to settle scores between drug traffickers who had moved from Mexico City’s Tepito district to the surrounding suburbs after the intervention in the capital.

In August, 2006, four people linked to the homicide of a drug dealer were found burned and tortured in the city of Ecatepec in Mexico state. The genitals and fingers of the three men were cut off and placed in their mouths. The woman was hanged. The grusome murder became the scandal of the year.

Another state affected by the “cockroach effect” is Aguascalientes, previously known as the country's most economically competitive state. The World Bank once named it “Mexico’s Asian Tiger,” comparing it to China for its capacity to attract foreign investments.

However, in past months, Aguascalientes has made headlines in international media for another reason: four policemen were killed there. Governor Luis Armando Melgar was forced to recognize that “there are elements that have been involved in criminal activity.”

For his part, the governor of Nayarit, Ney González, said he was on alert for the possible migration of drug traffickers from Sinaloa. Although “we haven’t seen too much of it,” he said, “we will be watching the borders.”

Meanwhile, the governor of Morelos, Marco Antonio Adame, said that in order to avoid criminals coming from the state of Guerrero, he has implemented a special operation called Hands Working for Your Safety, that involves authorities and townspeople along the state’s border.

“It’s better to prevent it,” he said.


Related Stories:

Journalist’s Car Sabotaged After ‘Narco-Message’

Drug Traffickers Send Death Threat Via YouTube

Mexican Journalist Risks Life to Expose Child Sex Rings

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