Drug War 40

The global war as seen from the center of North America

An exchange about the NPR reports re: Mex gov favoring Sinaloa Cartel

The first message here is a response from NPR reporter John Burnett to a note from researcher James Creechan. The note from Creechan was distributed on the Frontera Listserv.

Estimadas Colegas,
We were very frustrated with Edgardo Buscaglia’s own figures of cartel arrests so we decided to create our own database. At the beginning of our investigation, I asked Edgardo the source of his cartel arrest statistics–he claims 941 out of 53,174 organized crime arrests in the past six years were people associated with the Sinaloans. He told me these figures were given to him by a source within the PGR and they include state arrests. We asked if we could speak to his source, if he had any documentary proof, or any way we could independently verify his numbers. He said there wasn’t. Basically, trust me.
That’s when we decided to analyze PGR news releases. As far as we can tell, that’s the only database in the country that has comprehensive arrests, prosecutions and sentencing of named cartel members for organized crime offenses.
Gobernacion said in February, and again Tuesday in response to our reports, that 72,000 “delincuentes” were arrested for drug offenses between Dec 1, 2006, to Feb. 4, 2010. We asked some trusted sources in Mexico City about this and they think the government’s 72,000 figure is phantasmagorical. If the number is accurate, they’re counting every dealer they arrested and possibly users, many of whom do not claim allegiance with any cartel.
We believe our database accurately reflects several observations:

* The Mexican government may be inflating the number of Sinalaons it arrests to counter criticism that it’s not going after them.
* It may be undercounting the number of Zetas arrested–which accounts for 44% of the total–to make the cartel war look more balanced.
* The number of arrests in Juarez–only 104 in two years–is striking given that there are so many federal forces there.

I invite your comments and questions. The dialogue on Molly’s group is always lively.

Best regards,
John Burnett

—–Original Message—–
From: frontera-list@googlegroups.com [mailto:frontera-list@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of molly
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2010 10:40 AM
To: Frontera LIst
Subject: [frontera-list] Sinaloa Cartel Seems Favored In Mexico’s Drug War–background

For questions on this, contact Jim Creechan directly. I will upload
the pdf file to the front page of the Frontera-List. For more
background, see the Narco-Mexico Blog: http://narcocartels.blogspot.com/

from James Creechan
date Thu, May 20, 2010 at 8:30 AM
subject Re: Is the Sinaloa Cartel Protected?

There have been a number of email exchanges about the latest NPR
report that the Sinaloa cartel has been “insulated” and/or protected.

I created a pdf file that has tracks references to this “protection
hypothesis”. This file (49 pages…large) has sequenced the news
references to this idea that Sinaloa has been protected.

Here’s a brief summary of the events and the growth of the story (as
pulled from my records):

1. The first reference to actual statistics (low arrests for
Sinaloa) appeared in the Economist in the second edition of the new
year (January 9, 2010). Edgardo Buscaglia is cited as the source of
information about low arrest rates.
2. On January 14, La Jornada publishes a report by Alfredo Mendez
that cites Buscaglia and addresses the hypothesis that there is a
negotiation in the background.
3. The AP picks up part of the story and publishes a report by Mark
Stevenson in late January (January 24)
4. In Sinaloa, Manuel Clouthier (son of El Maquio, the well
respected PAN candidate for President in the 1980’s) made a public
declaration that the Sinaloa cartel has been untouched in the drug-
wars. This announcement and proclamation will become the basis for
most of the reports about the “untouchability of the Sinaloa cartel”.
Clouthier’s declarations are widely reported and repeated.
1. The story was first published in Proceso 1637 (February
2. Reports from Noroeste.com and from Rio.Doce.com.mx are
also included here to show the impact of Clouthier in forwarding this
“Sinaloa is protected argument”
5. Esquire (Europe) publishes another long analysis based on
Buscaglia’s argument and makes reference to the statistics in March.
This Esquire article also contains many important insights by
Buscaglia about the nature of Organized Crime in Mexico- very few of
which have filtered into the mainstream press or into the policy and
academic circles examining crime.
6. The NPR story and it’s statistics are included here. Although
the numbers differ (significantly), the basic argument that Sinaloa is
relatively protected seems to be validated by the low numbers of
arrests – especially considering the estimates that the Sinaloa cartel
controls between 45-48% of all the drug trade in Mexico (according to
other statistics which are obviously rough estimates and subject to

Although there are many reasons to question the statistics presented
by NPR, and probably to question those originating with Buscaglia –
all of the other evidence and information does beg an answer to the
questions raised by Manuel Clouthier Carrillo – “How does the Sinaloa
(New Federation) avoid the level of scrutiny and intervention that
have hit the other cartels?”

Jim Creechan


Filed under: Analysis, News, opinion

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