China v US energy consumption

China’s energy use has more than doubled over the last decade to overtake the United States as the word’s biggest user, according to preliminary data from the International Energy Agency. As the data from the IEA shows, China has gone … Continue reading

China’s energy use has more than doubled over the last decade to overtake the United States as the word’s biggest user, according to preliminary data from the International Energy Agency.

As the data from the IEA shows, China has gone from using 1,107 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2000, to 2,131 Mtoe in 2008 and is estimated to have consumed 2,265 Mtoe in 2009.

Meanwhile, US energy consumption was only marginally higher in 2008 (at 2,281 Mtoe) than it was in 2000 (2,270 Mtoe), and will actually be shown to have fallen last year (to 2,169 Mtoe).

As Jonathan Watts writes is his news story from Beijing, this is a major turning point. The US has been the world’s biggest energy user since records began.

Energy use and carbon emissions in developed countries approximately leveled off over the past 35 years, where developed countries are defined as Europe, the U.S., the former Soviet Union, Japan, Canada, and Australia. The leveling of emissions from developed countries is in part a result of outsourcing of manufacturing to developing countries.

International trade affects global air pollution and transport by redistributing emissions related to production of goods and services and by potentially altering the total amount of global emissions. Here we analyze the trade influences by combining an economic-emission analysis on China’s bilateral trade and atmospheric chemical transport modeling. Our focused analysis on US air quality shows that Chinese air pollution related to production for exports contributes, at a maximum on a daily basis, 12–24% of sulfate pollution over the western United States. The US outsourcing of manufacturing to China might have reduced air quality in the western United States with an improvement in the east, due to the combined effects of changes in emissions and atmospheric transport.

The world’s richest countries are increasingly outsourcing their carbon pollution to China and other rising economies, according to a draft UN report.

Outsourcing of emissions comes in the form of electronic devices such as smartphones, cheap clothes and other goods manufactured in China and other rising economies but consumed in the US and Europe.

A draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by the Guardian, says emissions of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases warming the planet grew twice as fast in the first decade of the 21st century as they did during the previous three decades.

Much of that rise was due to the burning of coal, the report says. And much of that coal was used to power factories in China and other rising economies that produce goods for US and European consumers, the draft adds.

Keywords: input–output analysis, emission control, international collaboration

a mountain cannot have two tigers

Published on Mar 26, 2015 Public Lecture by Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb and Adjunct Associate Professor John Lee. The belief that China will soon become the dominant power in Asia is based on assumptions that its continued and rapid economic … Continue reading

Published on Mar 26, 2015
Public Lecture by Emeritus Professor Paul Dibb and Adjunct Associate Professor John Lee.

The belief that China will soon become the dominant power in Asia is based on assumptions that its continued and rapid economic rise, and its emergence as a regional peer of America’s in military terms is all but assured. Such a belief underpins arguments that a fundamental strategic reorganisation of Asia is inevitable, and that it will be necessary and perhaps even desirable to concede to China significant ‘strategic space’. Dependent largely on linear extrapolations about the future, such arguments ignore the implications of China’s economic, social and national fragilities, its lack of major friends or allies in the region as well as the considerable military deficiencies and challenges faced by the People’s Liberation Army. With the Defence White Paper due for release in 2015, the government should bear in mind that planning for an era of Chinese dominance in the region—or even its emergence as an American strategic peer in Asia—would be premature if not improbable. Australia should not design its defence force for war with China, but it should be able to counter Chinese coercion and contribute to Allied military operations if necessary.

Paul Dibb is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies in the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, Coral Bell schol of Asia-Pacific Affairs, ANU. He was head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre from 1991 to 2004. Before that he held the positions of deputy secretary for Defence, director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation and head of the National Assessments Staff. He studied the former Soviet Union for over 20 years both as a senior intelligence officer and academic. He advised ASIO on certain Soviet activities. His book The Soviet Union–the Incomplete Superpower was published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies , London in 1986, reprinted 1987 and second edition 1988.

John Lee is an Australian academic working on international economic and security affairs with a focus on the Asia-Pacific. Lee is an adjunct associate professor at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, a Michael Hintze Fellow at the Centre for International Security Studies, University of Sydney and a senior scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. Lee is a board member of the Institute for Regional Security.

Published on Oct 16, 2015
Is China’s ascendancy a threat to the U.S.? China’s rise as an economic and military power, coupled with its aggression in the South China Sea, have led some to call for a major rebalance of U.S. policy and strategy. Can China be trusted to act as a responsible global stakeholder? And will they be a long-term ally, or adversary?

Published on May 27, 2015
Sure China has the largest standing army in the world, with 2.3 million people, a military budget of 120 billion dollars, and experimental spider tanks. But it turns out that China’s People’s Liberation Army might not be as powerful as you think.

Published on Jul 29, 2015
Japan is pushing forward a controversial set of bills that China is saying will allow Japan to wage war on China. That would break the Potsdam Declaration and change Japan’s constitution, the one the United States made Japan sign after World War 2 banning Japan from having a military .

Solastalgia

Australas Psychiatry. 2007;15 Suppl 1:S95-8. Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change. Albrecht G1, Sartore GM, Connor L, Higginbotham N, Freeman S, Kelly B, Stain H, Tonna A, Pollard G. Author information Abstract OBJECTIVE: Solastalgia is a new concept developed … Continue reading

Australas Psychiatry. 2007;15 Suppl 1:S95-8.

Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Solastalgia is a new concept developed to give greater meaning and clarity to environmentally induced distress. As opposed to nostalgia–the melancholia or homesickness experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home–solastalgia is the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment. The paper will focus on two contexts where collaborative research teams have found solastalgia to be evident: the experiences of persistent drought in rural NSW and the impact of large-scale open-cut coal mining on individuals in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW. In both cases, people exposed to environmental change experienced negative affect that is exacerbated by a sense of powerlessness or lack of control over the unfolding change process.

METHODS:

Qualitative (interviews and focus groups) and quantitative (community-based surveys) research has been conducted on the lived experience of drought and mining, and the findings relevant to solastalgia are presented.

RESULTS:

The authors are exploring the potential uses and applications of the concept of solastalgia for understanding the psychological impact of the increasing incidence of environmental change worldwide.

CONCLUSIONS:

Worldwide, there is an increase in ecosystem distress syndromes matched by a corresponding increase in human distress syndromes. The specific role played by global-scale environmental challenges to ‘sense of place’ and identity will be explored in the future development of the concept of solastalgia.

PMID:
18027145

The Guardians Tale

Published on Oct 19, 2013 Check out this fantastic CGI animated short film by the talented team at Studio Steve! On a lonely alien planet shrouded in mystery, an ominous beast guards a powerful treasure. One day he receives an … Continue reading

Published on Oct 19, 2013
Check out this fantastic CGI animated short film by the talented team at Studio Steve!
On a lonely alien planet shrouded in mystery, an ominous beast guards a powerful treasure. One day he receives an unexpected guest – A seemingly innocent girl crash lands on his world. The two will forge an unusual friendship, and teach one another that looks can indeed be deceiving.

A film by Studio Steve.
Co-Directed by Gordy Higgins, Ryan Zujic and Christoffer Klungerbo. Narrated by Adam Behr. Music and sound by Martin Alternes and Stian Obehi Ihasee.

Website: http://www.theguardianstale.com
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/theguardianstale

Our graduate film from Queensland College of Art’s BA of Animation, 2012.
Category
Film & Animation

Israel and the European Union

By Crispian Balmer27 October 2013JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and the European Union will drift apart if they cannot compromise on new EU guidelines covering Jewish settlement on occupied land that could damage research and trade ties, Israeli’s deputy…

By Crispian Balmer
27 October 2013

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel and the European Union will drift apart if they cannot compromise on new EU guidelines covering Jewish settlement on occupied land that could damage research and trade ties, Israeli’s deputy foreign minister said.

The two sides must overcome the dispute – focused on territory that Palestinians want for a state – before the end of November, when a multi-million dollar EU research program called Horizon 2020 is due to be finalized.

If there is no deal, Israel risks missing out on generous funding for its scientists. By the same token, Europe will lose Israeli-know how, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said.

“If we fail to resolve this problem, the future direction will be a kind of separation between Israel and the European Union,” Elkin told Reuters in an interview.

“We are the start-up nation. It would be a big mistake for Europe to lose its relations with Israel,” he said.

A senior EU official visited Israel this week, promising that the 28-nation bloc wanted to work closely with Israel and its burgeoning hi-tech economy, but all efforts so far to bridge their differences have failed.

Despite Israel’s intimate diplomatic and military ties with the United States, its biggest economic partner by far is the European Union, which accounted for almost third of all exports and imports into the Jewish state last month.

Despite deep historical links, relations between Israel and Europe have grown more bumpy in recent years, with the EU increasingly vocal in its criticism of Jewish settlements, saying they imperil the chances of peace with the Palestinians.

Matters came to a head in July, when the EU’s Executive Commission announced it would bar financial assistance to any Israeli organization operating in the West Bank from 2014.

The move finally put some teeth into EU opposition to settlements built on territory Israel seized in a 1967 war and which are now home to more than 500,000 Israelis. Palestinians want the land for part of a future independent state.

FURY

When the guidelines were unveiled, Israel furiously accused EU bureaucrats of lying about the scope of the measures. Surprised by the angry response, EU officials said Israel had failed to grasp European frustration over settlement expansion.

“This had been in the pipeline for months. The problem was that the Israelis did not originally understand the (bureaucratic) language, so felt exposed,” said a senior European diplomat in Jerusalem, who declined to be named.

Israel has since toned down the criticism, but Elkin said the EU move was aimed at imposing new borders on Israel via trade sanctions rather than through on-going negotiations with the Palestinians. He also said that it meant the Europeans could dictate where Israeli money went in any joint ventures.

“As it stands, we cannot sign Horizon 2020. It would force us to discriminate (against) our own institutions,” said the pro-settler Elkin, who, unlike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, does not believe the Palestinians should have their own state.

Although it carries much less weight in the region than the United States, Europe has nonetheless managed to precipitate important diplomatic moves that were later followed by others.

In 1980, it recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) when both Washington and Israel still considered it to be a terrorist group. It also pushed for an independent Palestine before the United States adopted the same position.

The EU has said it will not change the new guidelines, but is looking at ways for a flexible implementation of the rules.

“No progress has yet been made on reaching a common understanding,” said an official involved in the talks.

The European Commissioner for Industry, Antonio Tajani, brought a delegation of more than 60 EU businessmen to Israel this week and sought to play down the dispute.

“There are problems, of course. But the message is, we want to work with Israel,” he told Reuters in Tel Aviv.

Senior EU diplomat Pierre Vimont is due to visit Israel before the end of the month to discuss the impasse.

“The Europeans tell us not to worry, but of course we worry, we are Jewish,” said an Israeli official involved in the discussions. “We want clear commitments on how this will be implemented, and we want it in writing.”

(Additional reporting by Adrian Croft, Justyna Pawlak and Luke Baker in Brussels, editing by Mark Heinrich)


Published on Sep 20, 2013

The European diplomats, who were trying to deliver emergency aid to the residents of a demolished Palestinian village, were manhandled by Israeli troops and their truck was seized by the IDF. READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/riib3s

irreversible climate change

Capitalism and the Destruction of Life on Earth

Sunday, 10 November 2013 00:00  
By Richard Smith, Truthout | Opinion

When, on May 10, 2013, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world – not only among climate scientists.


Planet Tahrir: The Coming Mass Demonstrations against Climate Change (Klare)

Posted on 11/18/2013 by Juan Cole


Michael T. Klare writes at Tomdispatch.com:

A week after the most powerful “super typhoon” ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing thousands in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating “airpocalypse,” suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware! Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels. If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an extension of the carbon age and ever increasing reliance on “unconventional” fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble. In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.

None of us can predict the future, but when it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment. Take a look and you will see that the assorted environmental protests that have long bedeviled politicians are gaining in strength and support. With an awareness of climate change growing and as intensifying floods, fires, droughts, and storms become an inescapable feature of daily life across the planet, more people are joining environmental groups and engaging in increasingly bold protest actions. Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.

In fact, it is possible to imagine such a green energy revolution erupting in one part of the world and spreading like wildfire to others. Because climate change is going to inflict increasingly severe harm on human populations, the impulse to rebel is only likely to gain in strength across the planet. While circumstances may vary, the ultimate goal of these uprisings will be to terminate the reign of fossil fuels while emphasizing investment in and reliance upon renewable forms of energy. And a success in any one location is bound to invite imitation in others.

A wave of serial eruptions of this sort would not be without precedent. In the early years of twentieth-first century, for example, one government after another in disparate parts of the former Soviet Union was swept away in what were called the “color revolutions” — populist upheavals against old-style authoritarian regimes. These included the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia (2003), the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine (2004), and the “Pink” or “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan (2005). In 2011, a similar wave of protests erupted in North Africa, culminating in what we call the Arab Spring.

Like these earlier upheavals, a “green revolution” is unlikely to arise from a highly structured political campaign with clearly identified leaders. In all likelihood, it will erupt spontaneously, after a cascade of climate-change induced disasters provokes an outpouring of public fury. Once ignited, however, it will undoubtedly ratchet up the pressure for governments to seek broad-ranging, systemic transformations of their energy and climate policies. In this sense, any such upheaval — whatever form it takes — will prove “revolutionary” by seeking policy shifts of such magnitude as to challenge the survival of incumbent governments or force them to enact measures with transformative implications.

Foreshadowings of such a process can already be found around the globe. Take the mass environmental protests that erupted in Turkey this June. Though sparked by a far smaller concern than planetary devastation via climate change, for a time they actually posed a significant threat to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his governing party. Although his forces eventually succeeded in crushing the protests — leaving four dead, 8,000 injured, and 11 blinded by tear-gas canisters — his reputation as a moderate Islamist was badly damaged by the episode.

Like so many surprising upheavals on this planet, the Turkish uprising had the most modest of beginnings: on May 27th, a handful of environmental activists blocked bulldozers sent by the government to level Gezi Park, a tiny oasis of greenery in the heart of Istanbul, and prepare the way for the construction of an upscale mall. The government responded to this small-scale, non-violent action by sending in riot police and clearing the area, a move that enraged many Turks and prompted tens of thousands of them to occupy nearby Taksim Square. This move, in turn, led to an even more brutal police crackdown and then to huge demonstrations in Istanbul and around the country. In the end, mass protests erupted in 70 cities, the largest display of anti-government sentiment since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002.

This was, in the most literal sense possible, a “green” revolution, ignited by the government’s assault on the last piece of greenery in central Istanbul. But once the police intervened in full strength, it became a wide-ranging rebuke to Erdogan’s authoritarian impulses and his drive to remake the city as a neo-Ottoman showplace — replete with fancy malls and high-priced condominiums — while eliminating poor neighborhoods and freewheeling public spaces like Taksim Square. “It’s all about superiority, and ruling over the people like sultans,” declared one protestor. It’s not just about the trees in Gezi Park, said another: “We are here to stand up against those who are trying to make a profit from our land.”

The Ningbo Rebellion

The same trajectory of events — a small-scale environmental protest evolving into a full-scale challenge to governmental authority — can be seen in other mass protests of recent years.

Take a Chinese example: in October 2012, students and middle class people joined with poor farmers to protest the construction of an $8.8 billion petrochemical facility in Ningbo, a city of 3.4 million people south of Shanghai. In a country where environmental pollution has reached nearly unprecedented levels, these protests were touched off by fears that the plant, to be built by the state-owned energy company Sinopec with local government support, would produce paraxylene, a toxic substance used in plastics, paints, and cleaning solvents.

Here, too, the initial spark that led to the protests was small-scale. On October 22nd, some 200 farmers obstructed a road near the district government’s office in an attempt to block the plant’s construction. After the police were called in to clear the blockade, students from nearby Ningbo University joined the protests. Using social media, the protestors quickly enlisted support from middle-class residents of the city who converged in their thousands on downtown Ningbo. When riot police moved in to break up the crowds, the protestors fought back, attacking police cars and throwing bricks and water bottles. While the police eventually gained the upper hand after several days of pitched battles, the Chinese government concluded that mass action of this sort, occurring in the heart of a major city and featuring an alliance of students, farmers, and young professionals, was too great a threat. After five days of fighting, the government gave in, announcing the cancellation of the petrochemical project.

The Ningbo demonstrations were hardly the first such upheavals to erupt in China. They did, however, highlight a growing governmental vulnerability to mass environmental protest. For decades, the reigning Chinese Communist Party has justified its monopolistic hold on power by citing its success in generating rapid economic growth. But that growth means the use of ever more fossil fuels and petrochemicals, which, in turn, means increased carbon emissions and disastrous atmospheric pollution, including one “airpocalypse” after another.

Until recently, most Chinese seemed to accept such conditions as the inevitable consequences of growth, but it seems that tolerance of environmental degradation is rapidly diminishing. As a result, the party finds itself in a terrible bind: it can slow development as a step toward cleaning up the environment, incurring a risk of growing economic discontent, or it can continue its growth-at-all-costs policy, and find itself embroiled in a firestorm of Ningbo-style environmental protests.

This dilemma — the environment versus the economy — has proven to be at the heart of similar mass eruptions elsewhere on the planet.

After Fukushima

Two of the largest protests of this sort were sparked by the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants on March 11, 2011, after a massive tsunami struck northern Japan. In both of these actions — the first in Germany, the second in Japan — the future of nuclear power and the survival of governments were placed in doubt.

The biggest protests occurred in Germany. On March 26th, 15 days after the Fukushima explosions, an estimated 250,000 people participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations across the country — 100,000 in Berlin, and up to 40,000 each in Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne. “Today’s demonstrations are just the prelude to a new, strong, anti-nuclear movement,” declared Jochen Stay, a protest leader. “We’re not going to let up until the plants are finally mothballed.”

At issue was the fate of Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants. Although touted as an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear power is seen by most Germans as a dangerous and unwelcome energy option. Several months prior to Fukushima, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Germany would keep its 17 operating reactors until 2040, allowing a smooth transition from the country’s historic reliance on coal to renewable energy for generating electricity. Immediately after Fukushima, she ordered a temporary shutdown of Germany’s seven oldest reactors for safety inspections but refused to close the others, provoking an outpouring of protest.

Witnessing the scale of the demonstrations, and after suffering an electoral defeat in the key state of Baden-Württemberg, Merkel evidently came to the conclusion that clinging to her position would be the equivalent of political suicide. On May 30th, she announced that the seven reactors undergoing inspections would be closed permanently and the remaining 10 would be phased out by 2022, almost 20 years earlier than in her original plan.

By all accounts, the decision to phase out nuclear power almost two decades early will have significant repercussions for the German economy. Shutting down the reactors and replacing them with wind and solar energy will cost an estimated $735 billion and take several decades, producing soaring electricity bills and periodic energy shortages. However, such is the strength of anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany that Merkel felt she had no choice but to close the reactors anyway.

The anti-nuclear protests in Japan occurred considerably later, but were no less momentous. On July 16, 2012, 16 months after the Fukushima disaster, an estimated 170,000 people assembled in Tokyo to protest a government plan to restart the country’s nuclear reactors, idled after the disaster. This was not only Japan’s largest antinuclear demonstration in many years, but the largest of any sort to occur in recent memory.

For the government, the July 16th action was particularly significant. Prior to Fukushima, most Japanese had embraced the country’s growing reliance on nuclear power, putting their trust in the government to ensure its safety. After Fukushima and the disastrous attempts of the reactors’ owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), to deal with the situation, public support for nuclear power plummeted. As it became increasingly evident that the government had mishandled the crisis, people lost faith in its ability to exercise effective control over the nuclear industry. Repeated promises that nuclear reactors could be made safe lost all credibility when it became known that government officials had long collaborated with TEPCO executives in covering up safety concerns at Fukushima and, once the meltdowns occurred, in concealing information about the true scale of the disaster and its medical implications.

The July 16th protest and others like it should be seen as a public vote against the government’s energy policy and oversight capabilities. “Japanese have not spoken out against the national government,” said one protestor, a 29-year-old homemaker who brought her one-year-old son. “Now, we have to speak out, or the government will endanger us all.”

Skepticism about the government, rare for twenty-first-century Japan, has proved a major obstacle to its desire to restart the country’s 50 idled reactors. While most Japanese oppose nuclear power, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains determined to get the rectors running again in order to reduce Japan’s heavy reliance on imported energy and promote economic growth. “I think it is impossible to promise zero [nuclear power plants] at this stage,” he declared this October. “From the government’s standpoint, [nuclear plants] are extremely important for a stable energy supply and economic activities.”

Despite such sentiments, Abe is finding it extremely difficult to garner support for his plans, and it is doubtful that significant numbers of those reactors will be coming online anytime soon.

The Explosions Ahead

What these episodes tell us is that people around the world are becoming ever more concerned about energy policy as it affects their lives and are prepared — often on short notice — to engage in mass protests. At the same time, governments globally, with rare exceptions, are deeply wedded to existing energy policies. These almost invariably turn them into targets, no matter what the original spark for mass opposition. As the results of climate change become ever more disruptive, government officials will find themselves repeatedly choosing between long-held energy plans and the possibility of losing their grip on power.

Because few governments are as yet prepared to launch the sorts of efforts that might even begin to effectively address the peril of climate change, they will increasingly be seen as obstacles to essential action and so as entities that need to be removed. In short, climate rebellion — spontaneous protests that may at any moment evolve into unquenchable mass movements — is on the horizon. Faced with such rebellions, recalcitrant governments will respond with some combination of accommodation to popular demands and harsh repression.

Many governments will be at risk from such developments, but the Chinese leadership appears to be especially vulnerable. The ruling party has staked its future viability on an endless carbon-fueled growth agenda that is steadily destroying the country’s environment. It has already faced half-a-dozen environmental upheavals like the one in Ningbo, and has responded to them by agreeing to protestors’ demands or by employing brute force. The question is: How long can this go on?

Environmental conditions are bound to worsen, especially as China continues to rely on coal for home heating and electrical power, and yet there is no indication that the ruling Communist Party is prepared to take the radical steps required to significantly reduce domestic coal consumption. This translates into the possibility of mass protests erupting at any time and on a potentially unprecedented scale. And these, in turn, could bring the Party’s very survival into question — a scenario guaranteed to produce immense anxiety among the country’s top leaders.

And what about the United States? At this point, it would be ludicrous to say that, as a result of popular disturbances, the nation’s political leadership is at any risk of being swept away or even forced to take serious steps to scale back reliance on fossil fuels. There are, however, certainly signs of a growing nationwide campaign against aspects of fossil fuel reliance, including vigorous protests against hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

For environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben, all this adds up to an incipient mass movement against the continued consumption of fossil fuels. “In the last few years,” he has written, this movement “has blocked the construction of dozens of coal-fired power plants, fought the oil industry to a draw on the Keystone pipeline, convinced a wide swath of American institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel stocks, and challenged practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas.” It may not have achieved the success of the drive for gay marriage, he observed, but it “continues to grow quickly, and it’s starting to claim some victories.”

If it’s still too early to gauge the future of this anti-carbon movement, it does seem, at least, to be gaining momentum. In the 2013 elections, for example, three cities in energy-rich Colorado — Boulder, Fort Collins, and Lafayette — voted to ban or place moratoriums on fracking within their boundaries, while protests against Keystone XL and similar projects are on the rise.

Nobody can say that a green energy revolution is a sure thing, but who can deny that energy-oriented environmental protests in the U.S. and elsewhere have the potential to expand into something far greater? Like China, the United States will experience genuine damage from climate change and its unwavering commitment to fossil fuels in the years ahead. Americans are not, for the most part, passive people. Expect them, like the Chinese, to respond to these perils with increased ire and a determination to alter government policy.

So don’t be surprised if that green energy revolution erupts in your neighborhood as part of humanity’s response to the greatest danger we’ve ever faced. If governments won’t take the lead on an imperiled planet, someone will.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and conflict studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story.

Copyright 2013 Michael T. Klare

——

Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com


By Babs McHugh

Friday, 28/12/2012

The ocean temperature off the west coast of Australia has risen by five degrees and it’s killing off large numbers of valuable seafood stocks.

The marine heatwave that started a year ago is an extreme event that took scientists by surprise, and is causing pain for commercial fishers during the peak summer period.

Dr Rick Fletcher of the Fisheries Department of Western Australia says the increase in temperature came about by a confluence of factors.

“About two years ago we had an event where the Leeuwin current, which flows down the west coast of Western Australia, which brings hot water from the tropics, was flowing quite strongly.

“That was coinciding with some very hot air temperatures and very calm conditions, so that allowed the water temperature to increase substantially, up to five degrees hotter in some areas.”

Although warming of ocean waters does occur, Dr Fletcher says the increase is the most extreme ever recorded off the WA coast.

The oceans have been warming up on both the western and eastern seaboard, but that’s been more long term.

“On the east coast there’s been a general increase in the water temperatures over the last 20 to 30 years, the same as the west coast, but not an extreme event like the rapid increase of five per cent like we’re seeing off the coast of WA.”

The impact has been devastating on several marine species.

“Abalone in the north part of the west coast, up near Kalbarri, we had over a 90 per cent mortality which happened immediately.

“But what we’ve seen is some other species have been affected over a longer period of time, we’ve had a much lower level of scallop recruitment in Shark Bay and the Abrolhos Islands (key commercial fishing areas)

“We’ve also had much low recruitment of crabs in shark bay, and that’s to both adults and juveniles.

“Some of the effects have taken a little longer to occur.”

“The number of crayfish – correctly known as the Western Rock lobster – weren’t as affected as others species by the marine heatwave, but the general warming we’ve had over the last five to 10 years has definitely resulted in lower numbers.”


Not only is the world not moving to green energy fast enough to avoid very severe future effects of climate change, its nations are still massively subsidizing the poisonous hydrocarbons that are dooming our great-grandchildren– to the tune of $58 billion a year. The US subsidies to Big Oil and Big Coal are $13 billion a year. At least, lets stop encouraging bad behavior.

AP (link above) points out that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that getting rid of the subsidies for fossil fuels would lower emission by some 10 percent by 2050! Plus, abolishing the subsidies would raise government revenue, helping reduce deficits. Here is a painless way to deal with 1/10th of the problem!

It is among the silliest things in public policy, but wealthy countries are actually giving some foreign aid to poor countries to help them deal with the effects of climate change largely caused by the rich countries. But they’re only offering around $11 bn a year for this purpose while they go on giving Big Oil, Big Gas and Big Coal $58 bn in subsidies! If the rich countries would reduce their emissions, the developing countries wouldn’t need as much aid to deal with the problems caused by climate change!


Although history has often revealed itself to be cyclical, this is one cirsumstance humanity should hope to never repeat. A new paper presented last week at the Geological Society of America uncovered why plants and animals did not quickly recover from the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history.

The era passed 250 million years ago, but the culprit was a familiar offender: global warming.

The environmental impact of rising temperatures stagnated species recovery for 5 million years.

The Early Triassic period was marked by a surge in global volcanic activity. The era, now called the “Great Dying” offers cautionary clues as to how climate change might impact life today, said Ohio State University PhD candidate Alexa Sedlacek, lead author of the paper.

Matthew Saltzman, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State and Sedlacek’s academic advisor offered his perspective: ”The lesson is, life doesn’t just snap back. We’ve long known from the fossil record that there was a long period with very little recovery right after the Great Dying. It’s as if life had a 5-million-year hangover. Now we know why.”

Sedimentary rock that formed on a tropical ocean floor 250 million years ago, were among the samples Sedlacek and Saltzman analyzed. After the volcanic eruptions of the Great Dying, chemicals they found in the rock confirm that massive amounts of the Earth’s surface were being weathered away by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The planet’s climate was chemically altered for millions of years after and the ocean remained highly acidic.

“People are understandably interested in the Great Dying because 90 percent of marine species went extinct,” Sedlacek said. “But the recovery from that event is equally important, because the survivors determined what kind of life we have on Earth today.”

Chemical elements in samples of limestone were gathered from northern Iran, which was a tropical ocean during the Early Triassic period, 252 to 248 million years ago.

”If you want to know what’s going to happen in the future, looking at the past provides an important perspective,” said Saltzman. “Global warming has happened before, and in some cases the consequences were severe.”

Source:
Sedlacek, A. Saltzman, M. Algeo, TJ. Horace, M. Richoz, S. Brandner, R. & Foland, K. (2012). Coupled C and SR Isotope Stratigraphy of the Early Triassic of Zal, Iran: A Record of Increased Weathering GSA 2012 Annual Meeting & Exposition


The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record 390.9 parts per million (ppm) in 2011, according to a report released Tuesday by the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO). That’s a 40 percent increase over levels in 1750, before humans began burning fossil fuels in earnest.

Although CO2 is still the most significant long-lived greenhouse gas, levels of other heat-trapping gases have also climbed to record levels, according to the report. Methane, for example hit 1813 parts per billion (ppb) in 2011, and nitrous oxide rose to 324.2 ppb. All told, the amount of excess heat prevented from escaping into outer space was 30 percent higher in 2011 than it was as recently as 1990.


The Science is clear; We should waste no more time on that debate. I have seen with my own eyes, from the Arctic to Antarctica, from the Andes to Asia, the melting glaciers, the encroaching deserts, the gathering impacts on urban and rural areas alike. But instead of seeing this as a prohibitively costly burden, let us look at the opportunities – the immense opportunities of building a job-rich green economy

Ban-Kin Moon
UN Secretary General
to students at Yale

A World Bank-commissioned report says the world is headed for a 4.0 degree Celsius rise in world temperatures by the end of the century – compared to pre-industrial levels – unless it took on a renewed commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Lack of ambitious action on climate change threatens to put prosperity out of reach of millions and roll back decades of development,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at its unveiling. The report says that even if all current climate change reduction promises are fulfilled there is a 20 percent chance that the four degree rise would still occur.

November 18, 2012 Like summer’s satellite image of the melting Greenland ice sheet, a new report suggests time may be running out to temper the rising risks of climate change.

Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided,” (pdf) (eBook version) warns we’re on track for a 4°C warmer world marked by extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.

Moreover, adverse effects of a warming climate are “tilted against many of the world’s poorest regions” and likely to undermine development efforts and global development goals, says the study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, on behalf of the World Bank. The report, urges “further mitigation action as the best insurance against an uncertain future.”

“A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.”

The report, reviewed by some of the world’s top scientists, is being released ahead of the next comprehensive studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013/14, and follows the Bank’s own Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change in 2008 and the World Development Report on climate change in 2010. “Turn Down the Heat” combines a synthesis of recent scientific literature with new analysis of likely impacts and risks, focusing on developing countries. It chronicles already observed climate change and impacts, such as heat waves and other extreme events, and offers projections for the 21st century for droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, food, water, ecosystems and human health.

The report says today’s climate could warm from the current global mean temperature of 0.8°C above pre-industrial levels, to as high as 4°C by 2100, even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges.
“This report reinforces the reality that today’s climate volatility affects everything we do,” said Rachel Kyte, the Bank’s Vice President for Sustainable Development. “We will redouble our efforts to build adaptive capacity and resilience, as well as find solutions to the climate challenge.”

The World Bank doubled lending for climate change adaptation last year and plans to step up efforts to support countries’ initiatives to mitigate carbon emissions and promote inclusive green growth and climate-smart development. Among other measures, the Bank administers the $7.2 billion Climate Investment Funds now operating in 48 countries and leveraging an additional $43 billion in clean investment and climate resilience.


While scientific research continues to indicate the frequency of megastorms and hurricanes like Sandy are on the rise as a result of climate change and global warming, politicians from both sides of the aisle have been loathe to discuss the issue in recent years. On the presidential campaign trail, it’s been virtually ignored by both President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Global warming skeptics on the Republican side have pushed many candidates to disagree with the notion that climate change is occurring or that humans have contributed to it. Democrats, who tried and failed to pass so-called cap-and-trade legislation aimed at reducing the carbon emissions thought to cause global warming, have seen no electoral benefit in bringing up the issue, particularly in the face of the floundering economy.


By Joel Huberman

When I’m out walking, I frequently notice that birds in front of me respond unintelligently to my advance. Instead of flying to the side or flying behind me, they fly a bit further ahead, with the inevitable result that within a few seconds I’m once more alarmingly close to them. Instead of learning from their first mistake, they again fly on ahead, repeating the same behavior over and over again.

We human beings sometimes behave as stupidly as birds. We sense an approaching danger, but we don’t respond effectively. We try to take the familiar way out, even if it doesn’t prove effective. And we do it over and over again.

Fortunately, unlike birds, we have a powerful tool, science, that can show us effective escape routes.

Science is now pointing to an alarmingly close danger – global climate disruption – that has the potential to make the Earth as hot as in the age of dinosaurs, when warm-blooded mammals larger than rats did not survive.

Science is clear and unambiguous regarding the cause of this problem: human emissions of greenhouse gases as a consequence of burning fossil fuels. These gases make our Earth heat up, just like a greenhouse. And just as greenhouse heat can become unpleasant, a hotter planet can – indeed, will, if we don’t do something about – produce an environment unfit for human beings and for most other life.

How can we avoid this approaching catastrophe? Stop burning fossil fuels.

“But,” I hear you saying, “we can’t do that. Our economy and way of life depend on fossil fuels.” Fortunately, science and human inventiveness have already provided a solution – energy from renewable resources – solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass and biogas.

In deciding whether to permit hydrofracking (a process for recovering natural gas from difficult locations) in New York State, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said, “Let’s make the decision on the facts. Let the science dictate the conclusion.” The facts and the science are clear: to avoid catastrophic climate disruption, we must stop burning fossil fuels. Whether hydrofracking can be conducted safely and responsibly is not relevant; natural gas is a fossil fuel, and it should be left in the ground.

Fortunately, leaving fossil fuels in the ground need not create an energy shortage. Feed-in-tariffs (fair prices for renewable energy fed into the grid) have been demonstrated worldwide to stimulate rapid development of renewable energy and large new business investments and robust job growth. Thus, feed-in-tariffs could cure our economic as well as our climate problems.

The science is clear. Let’s hope Cuomo and other decision-makers will follow the guidelines of science to avoid climate disruption, instead of repeating the mistakes of the past over and over again in bird-brained fashion.

Joel Huberman is a retired scientist and a member of the Energy Committee of the Niagara Group of the Sierra Club.


James Lovelock says Global Warming is now at point of no return. Other top climate scientists are more hopeful but say we only have less than 10 years before it’s irreversible and time is running out.

Bush Administrations been accused of asking top climate scientists at NASA to STOP speaking out about the climate crisis and of altering scientific journals reporting on the phenomenon.

We all need to speak up NOW or the Human Race will join the MILLIONS of other Species that will be extinct by 2050 from Global Warming.

www.climatecrisis.net
www.greatemergence.blogspot.com

The world is on the brink of irreversible climate change, according to a report released on Wednesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA). Called the World Energy Outlook 2011, the analysis is the most thorough ever produced on the effects of releasing fossil fuels into the atmosphere. According to the research, in five years global warming will hit a point of no return after which it will be impossible to reverse the process.

The report warns that the global economy is building a raft of energy-inefficient factories and power stations that will pump carbon into the air for decades to come. And without a rapid change to this infrastructure within the next five years, the climate will continue to heat up, regardless of what measures are taken to combat it.

“We are going in the wrong direction in terms of climate change,” Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, told the Associated Press ahead of the report’s official release.

Scientist believe that the globe must stay below 2C of warming, with emissions not exceeding 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide.

“After 2017, we will lose the chance to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius,” said Birol.
The planet is already dangerously close to the carbon emissions limit (80%), which will be past within five years if current trends continue.

The report said that current reduction plans would lead to an increase of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius, which would prove “catastrophic”.

Recent figures released by the US Department Of Energy suggest that the level of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere has reached record levels.

Capitalism and the Destruction of Life on Earth

Sunday, 10 November 2013 00:00  
By Richard Smith, Truthout | Opinion

When, on May 10, 2013, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world – not only among climate scientists.


Planet Tahrir: The Coming Mass Demonstrations against Climate Change (Klare)

Posted on 11/18/2013 by Juan Cole


Michael T. Klare writes at Tomdispatch.com:

A week after the most powerful “super typhoon” ever recorded pummeled the Philippines, killing thousands in a single province, and three weeks after the northern Chinese city of Harbin suffered a devastating “airpocalypse,” suffocating the city with coal-plant pollution, government leaders beware! Although individual events like these cannot be attributed with absolute certainty to increased fossil fuel use and climate change, they are the type of disasters that, scientists tell us, will become a pervasive part of life on a planet being transformed by the massive consumption of carbon-based fuels. If, as is now the case, governments across the planet back an extension of the carbon age and ever increasing reliance on “unconventional” fossil fuels like tar sands and shale gas, we should all expect trouble. In fact, we should expect mass upheavals leading to a green energy revolution.

None of us can predict the future, but when it comes to a mass rebellion against the perpetrators of global destruction, we can see a glimmer of the coming upheaval in events of the present moment. Take a look and you will see that the assorted environmental protests that have long bedeviled politicians are gaining in strength and support. With an awareness of climate change growing and as intensifying floods, fires, droughts, and storms become an inescapable feature of daily life across the planet, more people are joining environmental groups and engaging in increasingly bold protest actions. Sooner or later, government leaders are likely to face multiple eruptions of mass public anger and may, in the end, be forced to make radical adjustments in energy policy or risk being swept aside.

In fact, it is possible to imagine such a green energy revolution erupting in one part of the world and spreading like wildfire to others. Because climate change is going to inflict increasingly severe harm on human populations, the impulse to rebel is only likely to gain in strength across the planet. While circumstances may vary, the ultimate goal of these uprisings will be to terminate the reign of fossil fuels while emphasizing investment in and reliance upon renewable forms of energy. And a success in any one location is bound to invite imitation in others.

A wave of serial eruptions of this sort would not be without precedent. In the early years of twentieth-first century, for example, one government after another in disparate parts of the former Soviet Union was swept away in what were called the “color revolutions” — populist upheavals against old-style authoritarian regimes. These included the “Rose Revolution” in Georgia (2003), the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine (2004), and the “Pink” or “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan (2005). In 2011, a similar wave of protests erupted in North Africa, culminating in what we call the Arab Spring.

Like these earlier upheavals, a “green revolution” is unlikely to arise from a highly structured political campaign with clearly identified leaders. In all likelihood, it will erupt spontaneously, after a cascade of climate-change induced disasters provokes an outpouring of public fury. Once ignited, however, it will undoubtedly ratchet up the pressure for governments to seek broad-ranging, systemic transformations of their energy and climate policies. In this sense, any such upheaval — whatever form it takes — will prove “revolutionary” by seeking policy shifts of such magnitude as to challenge the survival of incumbent governments or force them to enact measures with transformative implications.

Foreshadowings of such a process can already be found around the globe. Take the mass environmental protests that erupted in Turkey this June. Though sparked by a far smaller concern than planetary devastation via climate change, for a time they actually posed a significant threat to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his governing party. Although his forces eventually succeeded in crushing the protests — leaving four dead, 8,000 injured, and 11 blinded by tear-gas canisters — his reputation as a moderate Islamist was badly damaged by the episode.

Like so many surprising upheavals on this planet, the Turkish uprising had the most modest of beginnings: on May 27th, a handful of environmental activists blocked bulldozers sent by the government to level Gezi Park, a tiny oasis of greenery in the heart of Istanbul, and prepare the way for the construction of an upscale mall. The government responded to this small-scale, non-violent action by sending in riot police and clearing the area, a move that enraged many Turks and prompted tens of thousands of them to occupy nearby Taksim Square. This move, in turn, led to an even more brutal police crackdown and then to huge demonstrations in Istanbul and around the country. In the end, mass protests erupted in 70 cities, the largest display of anti-government sentiment since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power in 2002.

This was, in the most literal sense possible, a “green” revolution, ignited by the government’s assault on the last piece of greenery in central Istanbul. But once the police intervened in full strength, it became a wide-ranging rebuke to Erdogan’s authoritarian impulses and his drive to remake the city as a neo-Ottoman showplace — replete with fancy malls and high-priced condominiums — while eliminating poor neighborhoods and freewheeling public spaces like Taksim Square. “It’s all about superiority, and ruling over the people like sultans,” declared one protestor. It’s not just about the trees in Gezi Park, said another: “We are here to stand up against those who are trying to make a profit from our land.”

The Ningbo Rebellion

The same trajectory of events — a small-scale environmental protest evolving into a full-scale challenge to governmental authority — can be seen in other mass protests of recent years.

Take a Chinese example: in October 2012, students and middle class people joined with poor farmers to protest the construction of an $8.8 billion petrochemical facility in Ningbo, a city of 3.4 million people south of Shanghai. In a country where environmental pollution has reached nearly unprecedented levels, these protests were touched off by fears that the plant, to be built by the state-owned energy company Sinopec with local government support, would produce paraxylene, a toxic substance used in plastics, paints, and cleaning solvents.

Here, too, the initial spark that led to the protests was small-scale. On October 22nd, some 200 farmers obstructed a road near the district government’s office in an attempt to block the plant’s construction. After the police were called in to clear the blockade, students from nearby Ningbo University joined the protests. Using social media, the protestors quickly enlisted support from middle-class residents of the city who converged in their thousands on downtown Ningbo. When riot police moved in to break up the crowds, the protestors fought back, attacking police cars and throwing bricks and water bottles. While the police eventually gained the upper hand after several days of pitched battles, the Chinese government concluded that mass action of this sort, occurring in the heart of a major city and featuring an alliance of students, farmers, and young professionals, was too great a threat. After five days of fighting, the government gave in, announcing the cancellation of the petrochemical project.

The Ningbo demonstrations were hardly the first such upheavals to erupt in China. They did, however, highlight a growing governmental vulnerability to mass environmental protest. For decades, the reigning Chinese Communist Party has justified its monopolistic hold on power by citing its success in generating rapid economic growth. But that growth means the use of ever more fossil fuels and petrochemicals, which, in turn, means increased carbon emissions and disastrous atmospheric pollution, including one “airpocalypse” after another.

Until recently, most Chinese seemed to accept such conditions as the inevitable consequences of growth, but it seems that tolerance of environmental degradation is rapidly diminishing. As a result, the party finds itself in a terrible bind: it can slow development as a step toward cleaning up the environment, incurring a risk of growing economic discontent, or it can continue its growth-at-all-costs policy, and find itself embroiled in a firestorm of Ningbo-style environmental protests.

This dilemma — the environment versus the economy — has proven to be at the heart of similar mass eruptions elsewhere on the planet.

After Fukushima

Two of the largest protests of this sort were sparked by the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants on March 11, 2011, after a massive tsunami struck northern Japan. In both of these actions — the first in Germany, the second in Japan — the future of nuclear power and the survival of governments were placed in doubt.

The biggest protests occurred in Germany. On March 26th, 15 days after the Fukushima explosions, an estimated 250,000 people participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations across the country — 100,000 in Berlin, and up to 40,000 each in Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne. “Today’s demonstrations are just the prelude to a new, strong, anti-nuclear movement,” declared Jochen Stay, a protest leader. “We’re not going to let up until the plants are finally mothballed.”

At issue was the fate of Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants. Although touted as an attractive alternative to fossil fuels, nuclear power is seen by most Germans as a dangerous and unwelcome energy option. Several months prior to Fukushima, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Germany would keep its 17 operating reactors until 2040, allowing a smooth transition from the country’s historic reliance on coal to renewable energy for generating electricity. Immediately after Fukushima, she ordered a temporary shutdown of Germany’s seven oldest reactors for safety inspections but refused to close the others, provoking an outpouring of protest.

Witnessing the scale of the demonstrations, and after suffering an electoral defeat in the key state of Baden-Württemberg, Merkel evidently came to the conclusion that clinging to her position would be the equivalent of political suicide. On May 30th, she announced that the seven reactors undergoing inspections would be closed permanently and the remaining 10 would be phased out by 2022, almost 20 years earlier than in her original plan.

By all accounts, the decision to phase out nuclear power almost two decades early will have significant repercussions for the German economy. Shutting down the reactors and replacing them with wind and solar energy will cost an estimated $735 billion and take several decades, producing soaring electricity bills and periodic energy shortages. However, such is the strength of anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany that Merkel felt she had no choice but to close the reactors anyway.

The anti-nuclear protests in Japan occurred considerably later, but were no less momentous. On July 16, 2012, 16 months after the Fukushima disaster, an estimated 170,000 people assembled in Tokyo to protest a government plan to restart the country’s nuclear reactors, idled after the disaster. This was not only Japan’s largest antinuclear demonstration in many years, but the largest of any sort to occur in recent memory.

For the government, the July 16th action was particularly significant. Prior to Fukushima, most Japanese had embraced the country’s growing reliance on nuclear power, putting their trust in the government to ensure its safety. After Fukushima and the disastrous attempts of the reactors’ owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), to deal with the situation, public support for nuclear power plummeted. As it became increasingly evident that the government had mishandled the crisis, people lost faith in its ability to exercise effective control over the nuclear industry. Repeated promises that nuclear reactors could be made safe lost all credibility when it became known that government officials had long collaborated with TEPCO executives in covering up safety concerns at Fukushima and, once the meltdowns occurred, in concealing information about the true scale of the disaster and its medical implications.

The July 16th protest and others like it should be seen as a public vote against the government’s energy policy and oversight capabilities. “Japanese have not spoken out against the national government,” said one protestor, a 29-year-old homemaker who brought her one-year-old son. “Now, we have to speak out, or the government will endanger us all.”

Skepticism about the government, rare for twenty-first-century Japan, has proved a major obstacle to its desire to restart the country’s 50 idled reactors. While most Japanese oppose nuclear power, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains determined to get the rectors running again in order to reduce Japan’s heavy reliance on imported energy and promote economic growth. “I think it is impossible to promise zero [nuclear power plants] at this stage,” he declared this October. “From the government’s standpoint, [nuclear plants] are extremely important for a stable energy supply and economic activities.”

Despite such sentiments, Abe is finding it extremely difficult to garner support for his plans, and it is doubtful that significant numbers of those reactors will be coming online anytime soon.

The Explosions Ahead

What these episodes tell us is that people around the world are becoming ever more concerned about energy policy as it affects their lives and are prepared — often on short notice — to engage in mass protests. At the same time, governments globally, with rare exceptions, are deeply wedded to existing energy policies. These almost invariably turn them into targets, no matter what the original spark for mass opposition. As the results of climate change become ever more disruptive, government officials will find themselves repeatedly choosing between long-held energy plans and the possibility of losing their grip on power.

Because few governments are as yet prepared to launch the sorts of efforts that might even begin to effectively address the peril of climate change, they will increasingly be seen as obstacles to essential action and so as entities that need to be removed. In short, climate rebellion — spontaneous protests that may at any moment evolve into unquenchable mass movements — is on the horizon. Faced with such rebellions, recalcitrant governments will respond with some combination of accommodation to popular demands and harsh repression.

Many governments will be at risk from such developments, but the Chinese leadership appears to be especially vulnerable. The ruling party has staked its future viability on an endless carbon-fueled growth agenda that is steadily destroying the country’s environment. It has already faced half-a-dozen environmental upheavals like the one in Ningbo, and has responded to them by agreeing to protestors’ demands or by employing brute force. The question is: How long can this go on?

Environmental conditions are bound to worsen, especially as China continues to rely on coal for home heating and electrical power, and yet there is no indication that the ruling Communist Party is prepared to take the radical steps required to significantly reduce domestic coal consumption. This translates into the possibility of mass protests erupting at any time and on a potentially unprecedented scale. And these, in turn, could bring the Party’s very survival into question — a scenario guaranteed to produce immense anxiety among the country’s top leaders.

And what about the United States? At this point, it would be ludicrous to say that, as a result of popular disturbances, the nation’s political leadership is at any risk of being swept away or even forced to take serious steps to scale back reliance on fossil fuels. There are, however, certainly signs of a growing nationwide campaign against aspects of fossil fuel reliance, including vigorous protests against hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

For environmental activist and writer Bill McKibben, all this adds up to an incipient mass movement against the continued consumption of fossil fuels. “In the last few years,” he has written, this movement “has blocked the construction of dozens of coal-fired power plants, fought the oil industry to a draw on the Keystone pipeline, convinced a wide swath of American institutions to divest themselves of their fossil fuel stocks, and challenged practices like mountaintop-removal coal mining and fracking for natural gas.” It may not have achieved the success of the drive for gay marriage, he observed, but it “continues to grow quickly, and it’s starting to claim some victories.”

If it’s still too early to gauge the future of this anti-carbon movement, it does seem, at least, to be gaining momentum. In the 2013 elections, for example, three cities in energy-rich Colorado — Boulder, Fort Collins, and Lafayette — voted to ban or place moratoriums on fracking within their boundaries, while protests against Keystone XL and similar projects are on the rise.

Nobody can say that a green energy revolution is a sure thing, but who can deny that energy-oriented environmental protests in the U.S. and elsewhere have the potential to expand into something far greater? Like China, the United States will experience genuine damage from climate change and its unwavering commitment to fossil fuels in the years ahead. Americans are not, for the most part, passive people. Expect them, like the Chinese, to respond to these perils with increased ire and a determination to alter government policy.

So don’t be surprised if that green energy revolution erupts in your neighborhood as part of humanity’s response to the greatest danger we’ve ever faced. If governments won’t take the lead on an imperiled planet, someone will.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and conflict studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story.

Copyright 2013 Michael T. Klare

——

Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com


By Babs McHugh

Friday, 28/12/2012

The ocean temperature off the west coast of Australia has risen by five degrees and it’s killing off large numbers of valuable seafood stocks.

The marine heatwave that started a year ago is an extreme event that took scientists by surprise, and is causing pain for commercial fishers during the peak summer period.

Dr Rick Fletcher of the Fisheries Department of Western Australia says the increase in temperature came about by a confluence of factors.

Continuar leyendo “irreversible climate change”

Mexican Drug War

Nov 22nd 2012, 16:34 by Economist.com

Mexican states compared with entire countries’ body counts, murder rates and populations

MEXICO’S murder rate has doubled over the past five years, to nearly 19 per 100,000 people per year. But what does that really mean? To give an idea of how safe or dangerous the country’s various states are, we have compared their crime statistics with those of whole countries. Visitors can relax in Yucatán, the safest state, which has about the same murder rate as Finland. Tlaxcala, not far from Mexico City, is about as safe as the United States. At the other end of the spectrum Chihuahua, the most violent state, has a murder rate equivalent to El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the world. Another way of looking at the data is to compare the gross totals. The state of San Luis Potosí, for instance, has seen as many murders in the past year as all of Spain, despite having a population of just 2.6m.


BY NICHOLAS CASEY

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, fresh off his weekend election victory, said Tuesday he plans to continue President Felipe Calderón’s fight against the country’s drug gangs, but outlined a long-term strategy to place more of the battle in the hands of civilians rather than the military.

In a wide-ranging interview in the capital, Mr. Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, praised much of Mr. Calderón’s strategy against organized crime, including the creation of a federal police force and growing cooperation with the U.S.


President Barack Obama telephoned Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto to congratulate him on his victory in last weekend’s elections, the White House said in a statement Monday. While the release listed several topics that the two men discussed, it made no explicit mention of the two countries’ fitful efforts to combat ultra-violent drug cartels.

Obama “reiterated his commitment to working in partnership with Mexico, and looks forward to advancing common goals, including promoting democracy, economic prosperity, and security in the region and around the globe, in the coming years,” according to the White House statement.

Peña Nieto’s victory brought the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governed Mexico for decades, back to power. He has pledged to overhaul his country’s energy, labor and tax systems, Reuters reported..

“The two leaders reaffirmed the close bilateral partnership the United States and Mexico enjoy based on mutual respect, shared responsibility, and the deep connections between our people,” according to the statement. Obama also “congratulated the Mexican people who have once again demonstrated their commitment to democratic values through a free, fair, and transparent election process.”

Peña Nieto won Sunday’s election with 38 percent of the vote, according to early returns. That gave him a lead of roughly 7 percentage points over his nearest rival, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,  according to the Associated Press.

Obama has faced sharp Republican criticism over the government’s Fast and Furious operation, which aimed to track the flow of firearms from American gun sellers, through straw buyers, into the hands of the cartels. The Republican-led House of Representatives voted last week to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over Justice Department documents tied to the operation.


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican opposition candidate Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign team claimed victory in the country’s presidential election on Sunday after exit polls showed him winning by a comfortable margin.

Pena Nieto, 45, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), led by between 8 and 11 percentage points in exit polls published by three of Mexico’s main television networks after voting ended on Sunday night.
Shortly afterward his campaign manager, Luis Videgaray, declared victory.

“It is a resounding triumph,” Videgaray told Milenio television, adding that he was hopeful the PRI would have a majority in the Senate and possibly in the lower house of Congress, too.

The PRI, which governed Mexico for 71 years until losing power in 2000, has staged a comeback behind the handsome Pena Nieto, who has pledged to open state-owned oil monopoly Pemex to foreign investors, raise tax revenue and liberalize the labor market.

The exit polls showed him winning around 40 percent of the vote. Leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was in second place with Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, trailing in third.

“I recognize that the trend up to this point is not in my favor,” said Vazquez Mota, whose campaign was dragged down by a brutal war with drug cartels and the government’s patchy economic record.
Preliminary official results were due in the next few hours.

“It’s time for the PRI to return. They’re the only ones who know how to govern,” said Candelaria Puc, 70, as she voted in the beach resort of Cancun. “The PRI is tough, but they won’t let the drug violence get out of control.”

Others feared a return to the worst years of PRI rule and put Pena Nieto’s big lead down to his cozy relationship with Televisa, Mexico’s top broadcaster.

“It’s the same party as ever and the people who vote for him (Pena Nieto) believe they are going to live happily ever after like in the soap operas,” Humberto Parra, a systems engineer, said as he went to vote in Mexico City.

By the time it lost to the PAN in 2000, the PRI had a reputation for widespread corruption, electoral fraud and authoritarianism.

The PRI was in disarray by 2006, when its presidential candidate came in a distant third, but it has rebounded since then and Pena Nieto gave it a new face.

He is promising to restore security to cities and towns ravaged by the drug war and also plans to reform Pemex, a proposal once considered political suicide.

Mexicans are fiercely protective of Pemex, but the PRI, which nationalized oil production in 1938, could be the one party able to liberalize the energy industry.

The PRI laid the foundations of the modern state with a nimble blend of politics and patronage that allowed it to appeal to labor unions and captains of industry at the same time.
Mexicans eventually tired of heavy-handedness that stifled dissent, rewarded loyalists and allowed widespread corruption.

(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Ana Isabel Martinez, Pablo Garibian; Editing by Dave Graham and Kieran Murray and Christopher Wilson)


Mexico’s Next President Won’t Slow The Drug War

By Robert Beckhusen

At this point, there’s little doubt who is likely to win Mexico’s presidential election on Sunday. That would be Enrique Peña Nieto, who polls show leading with double-digits over his rival candidates. He’s also calling for a (subtle) shift in the fight against the cartels: don’t bother as much with stopping drugs and taking down drug lords, but focus on stopping violence and kidnapping. But as far as big changes go, don’t expect much if Peña Nieto wins, at least not soon.

First, the little things. Last week, Pieña Nieto recruited Colombian General Oscar Naranjo — a veteran of the war against the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar — as his top security adviser. Peña Nieto wants to boost Mexico’s Federal Police, and he’s for creating a new national paramilitary police force to fight the cartels.  His campaign has also been “highly solicitous” of the United States, notes Patrick Corcoran ofInSight, an organized crime monitoring group. This could mean a bigger U.S. role. Naranjo is also reportedly close to U.S. officials.
This is while the cartels still exercise draconian rule over cities throughout many parts of the country, especially along the border. Ciudad Juárez, which came to define Mexico’s drug violence when viewed from outside the country, has seen a drop in murders to 2007 levels, Corcoran adds. But other cities, like Nuevo Laredo, experienced lower and lower levels of violence only for gangland killings to spark anew. The cartels have also spread to new areas.
“If you noticed, none of the presidential candidates broke openly with [outgoing President Felipe Calderón’s] strategy — the farthest they went was to criticize the level of violence,” César Martinez Espinosa, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas and a specialist in Mexican national security issues, writes in an e-mail. ”This is because they recognized that a majority of people (outside of Mexico City) approves Calderón’s fight against the cartels (some polls have tracked that), especially the participation of the military in it and because they might not have that much room to maneuver once they are in power.”
Reducing violence by legalizing drugs? Not likely in the least. A darker suggestion floated as a possibility in press reports is some kind of deal with the cartels, but Pieña Nieto has ruled out negotiating a truce.
The reason why a truce is brought up: Peña Nieto’s political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (or PRI), formerly maintained uninterrupted single-party rule for most of the 20th century. But when it lost power 12 years ago, it also lost a patronage system between regional party bosses and the cartels. This system meant drugs were allowed to flow relatively freely, provided physical disputes between the cartels didn’t get out of hand. But losing a (note: corrupt) system of checks and balances, beef between cartels escalated.
Nor is it likely that such a deal could be made today. In some states that maintained PRI rule, these networks were maintained but still failed to stop the surge in violence. Some of the state-level politicians with ties to the cartels are now being purged. In any case, the PRI will be governing a different Mexico: one in which corruption is still a major problem, but in which a single party is not able to maintain control over the entire governing apparatus. Another problem is that today’s cartels are smaller, a lot more numerous and increasingly decentralized. With so many cartels operating in Mexico today, who do you cut a deal with?
“Should he win, Peña Nieto will surely seek some cosmetic changes, and he may push the philosophy underlying Mexico’s crime strategy in a new direction. But the obstacles to a different approach are enormous; as a result, for better or worse, the shifts are likely to be marginal,” notes Corcoran.
Another option is to eliminate some local police forces and “consolidate them into stronger state forces,” says Martinez. Elsewhere, the new president will have to keep up economic growth and push reforms through the courts and a chaotic, badly-run prison system. But for the time being, and for whoever wins, the war with the cartels will continue.


Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (born April 4, 1957)[2] is a fugitive Mexican drug lord who heads the world’s largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel,[5] an organization named after the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa where it was initially formed. Known as “El Chapo Guzmán” (“Shorty Guzmán“) for his 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) stature, he became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel, and is now considered “The most powerful drug trafficker in the world,” by the United States Department of the Treasury.[6][7]
Guzmán Loera has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful people in the world every year since 2009; ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively.[8][9] He was also listed by Forbes as the 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011.[10][11] Forbes also calls him the “biggest druglord of all time”,[12] and the DEA strongly believes he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him “the godfather of the drug world.”[13]
Guzman Loera’s Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States,[1] and has distribution cells throughout the U.S.[1] The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine,marijuana, and heroin. The U.S. offers a $5 million USD reward for information leading to his capture. The Mexican government offers a reward of 30 million pesos for such information.


Cocaine Incorporated

 
 
By PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE

Published: June 15, 2012
One afternoon last August, at a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a former beauty queen named Emma Coronel gave birth to a pair of heiresses. The twins, who were delivered at 3:50 and 3:51, respectively, stand to inherit some share of a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth a billion dollars. Coronel’s husband, who was not present for the birth, is a legendary tycoon who overcame a penurious rural childhood to establish a wildly successful multinational business. If Coronel elected to leave the entry for “Father” on the birth certificates blank, it was not because of any dispute over patrimony. More likely, she was just skittish about the fact that her husband, Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. But his bride is a U.S. citizen with no charges against her. So authorities could only watch as she bundled up her daughters and slipped back across the border to introduce them to their dad.
How the Sinaloa Cartel Smuggles Drugs Across Borders

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Known as El Chapo for his short, stocky frame, Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave. When Pablo Escobar was Chapo’s age, he had been dead for more than a decade. In fact, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chapo sells more drugs today than Escobar did at the height of his career. To some extent, this success is easily explained: as Hillary Clinton acknowledged several years ago, America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” is what drives the clandestine industry. It’s no accident that the world’s biggest supplier of narcotics and the world’s biggest consumer of narcotics just happen to be neighbors. “Poor Mexico,” its former president Porfirio Díaz is said to have remarked. “So far from God and so close to the United States.”
The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well.
Estimating the precise scale of Chapo’s empire is tricky, however. Statistics on underground economies are inherently speculative: cartels don’t make annual disclosures, and no auditor examines their books. Instead, we’re left with back-of-the-envelope extrapolations based on conjectural data, much of it supplied by government agencies that may have bureaucratic incentives to overplay the problem.
So in a spirit of empirical humility, we shouldn’t accept as gospel the estimate, from the Justice Department, that Colombian and Mexican cartels reap $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year. (That range alone should give you pause.) Still, even if you take the lowest available numbers, Sinaloa emerges as a titanic player in the global black market. In the sober reckoning of the RAND Corporation, for instance, the gross revenue that all Mexican cartels derive from exporting drugs to the United States amounts to only $6.6 billion. By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.
The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn’t merely survive the recession — it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.
“Chapo always talks about the drug business, wherever he is,” one erstwhile confidant told a jury several years ago, describing a driven, even obsessive entrepreneur with a proclivity for micromanagement. From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. — doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.
The state of Sinaloa, from which the cartel derives its name, lies wedged between the Sierra Madre Occidental and Mexico’s west coast. Sun-blasted and remote, Sinaloa is the Sicily of Mexico, both cradle and refuge of violent men, and the ancestral land of many of the country’s most notorious traffickers. Chapo was born in a village called La Tuna, in the foothills of the Sierra, in 1957. His formal education ended in third grade, and as an adult, he has reportedly struggled to read and write, prevailing upon a ghostwriter, at one point, to compose letters to his mistress. Little is known about Chapo’s early years, but by the 1980s, he joined the Guadalajara cartel, which was run by a former policeman known as El Padrino — the Godfather.
For decades, Mexican smugglers had exported homegrown marijuana and heroin to the United States. But as the Colombian cocaine boom gathered momentum in the 1980s and U.S. law enforcement began patrolling the Caribbean, the Colombians went in search of an alternate route to the United States and discovered one in Mexico. Initially, Mexican traffickers, like a pudgy 25-year-old airplane pilot named Miguel Angel Martínez, acted as independent contractors who were paid a fee by the Colombians to move their cargo. In 1986, the Guadalajara cartel dispatched Martínez to the Colombian port of Barranquilla, in the hope that someone might commission him to fly drugs up to Mexico. But Martínez couldn’t find any takers and ended up languishing in Colombia for months, worrying that he had blown his big opportunity with the cartel. Eventually, he caught a commercial flight back to Mexico, and shortly thereafter, he was summoned to a meeting with Chapo, who was by then an underboss in the cartel. “You were very well behaved in Colombia,” Chapo told him, according to subsequent testimony. He seemed impressed by Martínez’s patience in waiting for an assignment.
Having passed this test, Martínez started working for Chapo as a kind of air traffic controller, negotiating directly with the Cali and Medellín cartels, then guiding their cocaine flights from South America to secret runways in barren stretches of Mexico. Martínez knew U.S. agents were monitoring his radio communications, so rather than say a word, he would whistle — a signal to the pilots that they were cleared for takeoff.
With the decline of the Caribbean route, the Colombians started paying Mexican smugglers not in cash but in cocaine. More than any other factor, it was this transition that realigned the power dynamics along the narcotics supply chain in the Americas, because it allowed the Mexicans to stop serving as logistical middlemen and invest in their own drugs instead. In 1986, Martínez couldn’t land a gig as a lowly courier in Barranquilla. Not five years later, he was marshaling hundreds of flights laden with cocaine for Chapo. “Sometimes we would get five planes a night,” he remembered. “Sometimes 16.” Now it was the Colombians who went hat in hand to Chapo, looking not to hire him to move their product but to sell it to him outright. They would tip Martínez $25,000 just to get an audience with the man.
The young pilot became a gatekeeper to the ascendant kingpin, fielding his phone calls and accompanying him on foreign trips. There’s a vaudevillian goofiness to nicknames in Mexico, and the stout Martínez was known in the cartel as El Gordo. He and Chapo — Fatty and Shorty — made quite a pair. “Japan, Hong Kong, India, all of Europe,” Martínez recalled in testimony. Chapo owned a fleet of Learjets, and together, they saw “the whole world.” They both used cocaine as well, a habit that Chapo would eventually give up. When a lawyer inquired, years later, whether he had been Chapo’s right-hand man, Martínez replied that he might have been, but that Guzmán had five left hands and five right hands. “He’s an octopus, Chapo Guzmán,” he said. For his efforts, Martínez was paid a million dollars a year, in a single annual installment: “In cash, in a suitcase, each December.” When Martínez’s son was born, Chapo asked to serve as godfather.
In 1989, Chapo’s mentor, El Padrino, was captured by Mexican authorities, and the remaining members of the Guadalajara cartel assembled in Acapulco to determine which smuggling route each capo would inherit. According to Ioan Grillo’s book, “El Narco,” the meeting was ostensibly a gathering of friends. But the shards of El Padrino’s organization would become the basis for the Tijuana, Juárez and Sinaloa cartels, and these onetime colleagues would soon become antagonists in a cycle of bloody turf wars that continues to this day.
“Drug cartel,” it turns out, is a whopper of a misnomer; neither the Mexicans nor the Colombians ever colluded to fix prices or supply. “I wish they were cartels,” Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador in Washington, told me. “If they were, they wouldn’t be fighting and driving up the violence.”
At first, Chapo’s organization controlled a single smuggling route, through western Mexico into Arizona. But by 1990, it was moving three tons of cocaine each month over the border, and from there, to Los Angeles. The Sinaloa has always distinguished itself by the eclectic means it uses to transport drugs. Working with Colombian suppliers, cartel operatives moved cocaine into Mexico in small private aircraft and in baggage smuggled on commercial flights and eventually on their own 747s, which they could load with as much as 13 tons of cocaine. They used container ships and fishing vessels and go-fast boats and submarines — crude semi-submersibles at first, then fully submersible subs, conceived by engineers and constructed under the canopy of the Amazon, then floated downriver in pieces and assembled at the coastline. These vessels can cost more than a million dollars, but to the smugglers, they are effectively disposable. In the event of an interception by the Coast Guard, someone onboard pulls a lever that floods the interior so that the evidence sinks; only the crew is left bobbing in the water, waiting to be picked up by the authorities.
Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business, but the cartel subsidizes these investments with a ready source of easy income: marijuana. Cannabis is often described as the “cash crop” of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But it’s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. So marijuana tends to cross the border far from official ports of entry. The cartel makes sandbag bridges to ford the Colorado River and sends buggies loaded with weed bouncing over the Imperial Sand Dunes into California. Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”
Improvisation is a trafficker’s greatest asset, and in recent years, Sinaloa has devised an even more efficient solution to the perennial challenge of getting marijuana across the border. Grow it here. Several years ago, a hunter was trekking through the remote North Woods of Wisconsin when he stumbled upon a vast irrigated grow site, tended by a dozen Mexican farmers armed with AK-47’s. According to the D.E.A., it was a Sinaloa pot farm, established on U.S. National Forest land to supply the market in Chicago.
Heroin is easier to smuggle but difficult to produce, and as detailed in court documents, Chapo is particularly proud of his organization’s work with the drug. He personally negotiates shipments to the United States and stands by its quality, which is normally 94 percent pure. “The value-to-weight ratio of heroin is better than any other drug,” says Alejandro Hope, who until recently was a senior officer at Cisen, Mexico’s equivalent to the C.I.A.
But the future of the business may be methamphetamine. During the 1990s, when the market for meth exploded in the United States, new regulations made it more difficult to manufacture large quantities of the drug in this country. This presented an opportunity that the Sinaloa quickly exploited. According to Anabel Hernández, author of “Los Señores del Narco,” a book about the cartel, it was one of Chapo’s deputies, a trafficker named Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel, who first spotted the massive potential of methamphetamine. “Nacho was like Steve Jobs,” Hernández told me. “He saw the future.”
Here was a drug that was ragingly addictive and could be produced cheaply and smuggled with relative ease. When they first started manufacturing meth, the Sinaloa would provide free samples to their existing wholesale clients in the Midwest. “They’d send five hundred pounds of marijuana, and secreted in that would be two kilos of meth,” Jack Riley, the D.E.A.’s special agent in charge of the Chicago office, told me. “They’d give it away for free. They wanted the market.” As demand grew, the cartel constructed superlabs, capable of churning out industrial volumes of meth. Container ships from India and China unloaded precursor chemicals — largely ephedrine — in the Pacific ports Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo. To grasp the scale of production, consider the volume of some recent precursor seizures at these ports: 22 tons in October 2009; 88 tons in May 2010; 252 tons last December. When Mexico banned the importation of ephedrine, the cartel adapted, tweaking its recipe to use unregulated precursors. Recently they have started outsourcing production to new labs in Guatemala.
But Chapo’s greatest contribution to the evolving tradecraft of drug trafficking was one of those innovations that seem so logical in hindsight it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before: a tunnel. In the late 1980s, Chapo hired an architect to design an underground passageway from Mexico to the United States. What appeared to be a water faucet outside the home of a cartel attorney in the border town of Agua Prieta was in fact a secret lever that, when twisted, activated a hydraulic system that opened a hidden trapdoor underneath a pool table inside the house. The passage ran more than 200 feet, directly beneath the fortifications along the border, and emerged inside a warehouse the cartel owned in Douglas, Ariz. Chapo pronounced it “cool.”
When this new route was complete, Chapo instructed Martínez to call the Colombians. “Tell them to send all the drugs they can,” he said. As the deliveries multiplied, Sinaloa acquired a reputation for the miraculous speed with which it could push inventory across the border. “Before the planes were arriving back in Colombia on the return, the cocaine was already in Los Angeles,” Martínez marveled.
Eventually the tunnel was discovered, so Chapo shifted tactics once again, this time by going into the chili-pepper business. He opened a cannery in Guadalajara and began producing thousands of cans stamped “Comadre Jalapeños,” stuffing them with cocaine, then vacuum-sealing them and shipping them to Mexican-owned grocery stores in California. He sent drugs in the refrigeration units of tractor-trailers, in custom-made cavities in the bodies of cars and in truckloads of fish (which inspectors at a sweltering checkpoint might not want to detain for long). He sent drugs across the border on freight trains, to cartel warehouses in Los Angeles and Chicago, where rail spurs let the cars roll directly inside to unload. He sent drugs via FedEx.
But that tunnel into Douglas remains Chapo’s masterpiece, an emblem of his creative ingenuity. Twenty years on, the cartels are still burrowing under the border — more than a hundred tunnels have been discovered in the years since Chapo’s first. They are often ventilated and air-conditioned, and some feature trolley lines stretching up to a half-mile to accommodate the tonnage in transit.
You might suppose that a certain recklessness would be a prerequisite for anyone contemplating a career in the drug trade. But in reality, blue-chip traffickers tend to fixate, with neurotic intensity, on the concept of risk. “The goal of these folks is not to sell drugs,” Tony Placido, who was the top intelligence official at the D.E.A. until he retired last year, told me. “It’s to earn a spendable profit and live to enjoy it.” So the smart narcos are preoccupied with what Peter Reuter and Mark Kleiman once referred to, in a classic essay on the drug business, as “the marginal imprisonment risk.” In 2010, Chapo’s old friend Ismael (El Mayo) Zambada, the No. 2 man in the Sinaloa cartel, granted an interview to the Mexican magazine Proceso. Now in his 60s and a grandfather, El Mayo has been in the drug business for nearly half a century and has amassed a fortune. But you can’t buy peace of mind. “I’m terrified they’ll incarcerate me,” he acknowledged. “I’m full of fear. Always.”
There’s a reason coke and heroin cost so much more on the street than at the farm gate: you’re not paying for the drugs; you’re compensating everyone along the distribution chain for the risks they assumed in getting them to you. Smugglers often negotiate, in actuarial detail, about who will be held liable in the event of lost inventory. After a bust, arrested traffickers have been known to demand a receipt from authorities, so that they can prove the loss was not because of their own negligence (which would mean they might have to pay for it) or their own thievery (which would mean they might have to die). Some Colombian cartels have actually offered insurance policies on narcotics, as a safeguard against loss or seizure.
To prevent catastrophic losses, cartels tend to distribute their risk as much as possible. Before sending a 100-kilo shipment across the border, traffickers might disaggregate it into five carloads of 20 kilos each. Chapo and his associates further reduce their personal exposure by going in together on shipments, so each of those smaller carloads might hold 10 kilos belonging to Chapo and 10 belonging to Mayo Zambada. The Sinaloa is occasionally called the Federation because senior figures and their subsidiaries operate semiautonomously while still employing a common smuggling apparatus.
The organizational structure of the cartel also seems fashioned to protect the leadership. No one knows how many people work for Sinaloa, and the range of estimates is comically broad. Malcolm Beith, the author of a recent book about Chapo, posits that at any given moment, the drug lord may have 150,000 people working for him. John Bailey, a Georgetown professor who has studied the cartel, says that the number of actual employees could be as low as 150. The way to account for this disparity is to distinguish between salaried employees and subcontractors. A labor force of thousands may be required to plow all that contraband up the continent, but a lot of the work can be delegated to independent contractors, people the Mexican political scientist and security consultant Eduardo Guerrero describes as working “for the cartel but outside it.”
Even those who do work directly for the cartel are limited to carefully compartmentalized roles. At a recent trial, a regional cartel lieutenant, José Esparza, testified about his experience working for the Sinaloa along the border. On one occasion, he attended a meeting outside Culiacán with many of the cartel’s top leaders. But there was no sign of Chapo. Once the discussion concluded, an emissary left the group and approached a Hummer that was parked in the distance and surrounded by men with bulletproof vests and machine guns, to report on the proceedings. Chapo never stepped out of the vehicle.
It’s not just the federales that the narcos fear; it’s also one another. The brutal opportunism of the underworld economy means that most partnerships are temporary, and treachery abounds. For decades, Chapo worked closely with his childhood friend Arturo Beltrán Leyva, a fearsome trafficker who ran a profitable subsidiary of Sinaloa. But in 2008, the two men split, then went to war, and Beltrán Leyva’s assassins were later blamed for murdering one of Chapo’s sons. To reduce the likelihood of clashes like these, the cartel has revived an unlikely custom: the ancient art of dynastic marriage. Chapo’s organization is occasionally referred to as an alianza de sangre (“alliance of blood”), because so many of its prominent members are cousins by marriage or brothers-in-law. Emma Coronel, who gave birth to Chapo’s twins, is the niece of Nacho Coronel, the Steve Jobs of meth (who died in a shootout with the Mexican Army in 2010). All of this intermarriage, one U.S. official in Mexico suggested to me, functions as “a hedge against distrust.” An associate may be less likely to cheat you, or to murder you, if there’ll be hell to pay with his wife. It’s a cynical strategy, certainly, but in a vocation where one of Chapo’s rivals went by the nickname Mata Amigos, or “Friend Killer,” it may also be quite sound.
The surest way to stay out of trouble in the drug business is to dole out bribes, and promiscuously. Drug cartels don’t pay corporate taxes, but a colossus like Sinaloa makes regular payments to the federal, state and municipal authorities that may well rival the effective tax rate in Mexico. When the D.E.A. conducted an internal survey of its top 50 operatives and informants several years ago and asked them to name the most important factor for running a drug business, they replied, overwhelmingly, corruption. At a trial in 2010, a former police official from Juárez, Jesús Fierro Méndez, acknowledged that he had worked for Sinaloa. “Did the drug cartels have the police on the payroll?” an attorney asked.
“All of it,” Fierro Méndez replied.
The cartel bribes mayors and prosecutors and governors, state police and federal police, the army, the navy and a host of senior officials at the national level. After an arrest for drug trafficking in the 1990s, Chapo was sentenced to 20 years and shipped to Puente Grande, a fortified prison in Jalisco that was Mexico’s answer to a supermax. But during the five years he spent there, Chapo enjoyed prerogatives that make the prison sequence in “Goodfellas” look positively austere. With most of the facility on his payroll, he is said to have ordered his meals from a menu, conducted business by cellphone and orchestrated periodic visits by prostitutes, who would arrive aboard a prison truck driven by a guard. I spoke with one drug producer who negotiated a joint venture deal with Chapo while he was behind bars. Eventually, as the story goes, Chapo was smuggled out in a laundry cart. According to Martínez’s testimony, he paid more than $3 million to secure his release. Today, Chapo is a free man, Puente Grande’s warden only recently completed a jail sentence for letting him go and Mexicans call the prison Puerta Grande — the Big Door.
The tacit but unwavering tolerance that Mexican authorities have shown for the drug trade over the years has muddled the boundaries between outlaws and officials. When Miguel Angel Martínez was working for Chapo, he says, “everyone” in the organization had military and police identification. Daylight killings are sometimes carried out by men dressed in police uniforms, and it is not always clear, after the fact, whether the perpetrators were thugs masquerading as policemen or actual policemen providing paid assistance to the thugs. On those occasions when the government scores a big arrest, meanwhile, police and military officials pose for photos at the valedictory news conference brandishing assault weapons, their faces shrouded in ski masks, to shield their identities. In the trippy semiotics of the drug war, the cops dress like bandits, and the bandits dress like cops.
When you tally it all up, bribery may be the single largest line item on a cartel’s balance sheet. In 2008, President Felipe Calderón’s own drug czar, Noe Ramirez, was charged with accepting $450,000 each month. Presumably, such gargantuan bribes to senior officials cascade down, securing the allegiance of their subordinates. “You have to recruit the high commands, so they can issue the information to lower ranks and order whatever they want,” the corrupt cop, Fierro Méndez, testified. But in key jurisdictions, the cartel most likely makes payments up and down the chain of command. In a 2010 speech, Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s secretary of public security, speculated that together, the cartels spend more than a billion dollars each year just to bribe the municipal police.
It’s not only officials who must be bribed, either. There are also the “falcons,” an army of civilian lookouts who might receive $100 a month just to keep their eyes open and make a phone call if they notice an uptick in border inspections or a convoy of police. “There are cities in Mexico where virtually every cabdriver is on the payroll,” Michael Braun, formerly of the D.E.A., said. “They have eyes and ears everywhere.”
And then there are the Americans. Guards at the U.S. border have been known to wave a car through their checkpoints for a few thousand dollars, and since 2004, there have been 138 convictions or indictments in corruption investigations involving members of the United States Customs and Border Protection. Paradoxically, one explanation for this state of affairs is the rapid expansion of border forces following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. In their hurry to fortify the U.S.-Mexico boundary with uniformed personnel, it seems, officials may have made allowances on background checks and screenings. In some instances, job offers have been extended to the immediate relatives of known traffickers.
When corruption fails, there is always violence. During the 12 years that he worked for the cartel, Martínez claims that he did not carry a gun. But Sinaloa has risen to pre-eminence as much through savagery as through savvy. “In illegal markets, the natural tendency is toward monopoly, so they fight each other,” Antonio Mazzitelli, an official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico City, told me. “How do they fight: Go to court? Offer better prices? No. They use violence.” The primal horror of Mexico’s murder epidemic makes it difficult, perhaps even distasteful, to construe the cartel’s butchery as a rational advancement of coherent business aims. But the reality is that in a multibillion-dollar industry in which there is no recourse to legally enforceable contracts, some degree of violence may be inevitable.
“It’s like geopolitics,” Tony Placido said. “You need to use violence frequently enough that the threat is believable. But overuse it, and it’s bad for business.”
The most gratuitous practitioners of violence right now would be the Zetas, a rampaging league of sociopaths with a notable devotion to physical cruelty. The Zetas are a new kind of cartel, in that they came somewhat late to the actual business of smuggling drugs. They started out as bodyguards for the Gulf Cartel before going into business for themselves, and they specialize in messaging through bloodshed. It’s the Zetas who are charged with dumping 49 mutilated bodies by the side of a highway near Monterrey last month. Sinaloa is responsible for a great deal of carnage as well, but its approach to killing has traditionally been more discreet. Whereas a Sinaloa subsidiary allied with a Tijuana farmer known as the Stewmaker, who dissolved hundreds of bodies in barrels of lye, the Zetas have pioneered a multimedia approach to violence, touting their killings on YouTube. One strategic choice facing any cartel is deciding when to intimidate the civilian population and when to cultivate it. Sinaloa can be exceedingly brutal, but the cartel is more pragmatic than the Zetas in its deployment of violence. It may simply be, as one Obama administration official suggested, that the Sinaloa leadership is “more conscious of their brand.”
It’s a curious rivalry between these two organizations, because their business models are really very different. The Zetas have diversified beyond drugs to extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, blossoming into what officials call a “polycriminal organization.” Sinaloa, by contrast, has mostly tended to stick to its core competence of trafficking. According to one captured cartel member, Chapo specifically instructed his subordinates not to dabble in protection rackets and insisted that Sinaloa territory remain “calm” and “controlled.”
“Sinaloa does not do extortion directly,” Eduardo Guerrero said. “It’s so risky, and the profits are so small. They want the big business — and the big business is in the United States.”
Just how active the cartel is north of the border is a divisive question. According to the Department of Justice, by 2009, Mexican-based criminal organizations were operating in “more than a thousand U.S. cities.” When you consider the huge jump in the price of narcotics between bulk importation and retail sales, it might seem that Chapo would want to expand into street-level distribution. In 2005, the D.E.A. began intercepting large shipments of cocaine in which each kilo brick was heat-sealed in a distinctive Mylar foil. They spotted the foil in Los Angeles first, then in Oklahoma, Chicago, Atlanta and New Jersey. “This was Sinaloa coke,” Michael Wardrop, who led two of the agency’s most ambitious operations against the domestic networks of the cartel, told me. As the telltale wrapping popped up across the country, Wardrop and his colleagues marveled at the sheer expanse of Sinaloa’s market. “It was like watching a virus in a Petri dish,” he said. “It was constantly growing.”
Wardrop’s investigations netted more than a thousand arrests. But some observers question the extent to which the perpetrators in these cases were actually working for the cartel. “If you’re telling me there’s a straight chain of command back to El Chapo in Sinaloa — come on, that’s absurd,” the Mexican ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, protested. Often, the gatekeepers and logistics men that the D.E.A. arrested were indeed connected to handlers in Mexico. But this was more true of high-level importers dealing in kilos than run-of-the-mill retailers pushing grams. When The Associated Press tracked down Otis Rich, a Baltimore dealer who was ensnared in one of the operations, he answered the obvious question with a telling reply: “Sina-who?”
“The fully integrated model would indeed maximize profits,” John Bailey observes in a coming book about the cartels, but “it also maximizes risk of exposure.” A big reason for the markup at the retail level is that the sales force is so exposed — out on the corner, a magnet for undercover cops, obliged to negotiate with a needy, unpredictable clientele. When you adjust for all that added risk, the windfall starts to seem less alluring. Like a liquor wholesaler who opts not to open a bar, Chapo appears to have decided that the profits associated with retail sales just aren’t worth the hassle.
What Sinaloa does do inside this country is ferry drugs along highways to regional distribution hubs, where they are turned over to trusted wholesalers, like the Flores twins of Chicago. Pedro and Margarito Flores grew up in a Mexican-American enclave of the city during the 1990s. Their father and an older brother had moved drugs for Sinaloa, and by the time the twins were in their 20s, they had gone into business as distributors, purchasing cocaine and heroin directly from Mexican cartels, then selling to dealers throughout the United States. Chicago, home of the Mercantile Exchange, has always been a hub from which legitimate goods fan out across the country, and it’s no different for black-market commodities. Chapo has used the city as a clearinghouse since the early 1990s; he once described it as his “home port.”
In 2005, the Flores twins were flown to a mountaintop compound in Sinaloa to meet with Chapo Guzmán. The kingpin is an intimidating interlocutor; one criminal who has negotiated with him face to face told me that Chapo tends to dominate a conversation, asking a lot of questions and compensating for his short stature by bouncing on the balls of his feet. But the meeting went well, and before long, the brothers were distributing around two tons of Sinaloa product each month. As preferred customers, they often took Chapo’s drugs without putting any money down, then paid the cartel only after they sold the product. This might seem unlikely, given the pervasive distrust in the underworld, but the narcotics trade is based on a robust and surprisingly reliable system of credit. In a sense, a cartel like Sinaloa has no choice but to offer a financing option, because few wholesale buyers have the liquidity to pay cash upfront for a ton of cocaine. “They have to offer lines of credit,” Wardrop told me, “no different from Walmart or Sears.”
This credit system, known as “fronting,” rests on an ironclad assumption that in the American marketplace, even an idiot salesman should have no trouble selling drugs. One convicted Sinaloa trafficker told me that it often took him more time to count the money he collected from his customers than it did to actually move the product. It may also help that the penalty for defaulting could involve dismemberment.
As wholesale buyers, the Flores brothers occupied a crucial bottleneck between the cartel and its consumers. They grew so indispensable, in fact, that after taking delivery of a shipment of drugs, they could retroactively bargain down the price. One day in 2008, Pedro Flores telephoned Guzmán in Mexico to ask for a discount on heroin.
“What did we agree on?” Chapo asked him, according to a government transcript of the call.
They had negotiated a price of $55,000 per kilo, Flores explained. But if Chapo would consider lowering that to $50,000, the twins could pay immediately.
“That price is fine,” Chapo agreed, without argument. Then he added something significant: “Do you have a way to bring that money over here?”
For the Sinaloa cartel, pushing product north into the United States is only half the logistical equation. The drug trade is a cash business — you can’t buy kilos with your credit card. So while politicians tend to focus on cartels primarily as importers of drugs, the narcos also devote an enormous amount of energy to the export of money. Cash is collected in small denominations from individual buyers and then bundled in great stacks of broken-in bills that are used to pay wholesalers, like the Flores brothers. These bills are counted, hidden in the same vehicle compartments that were used to smuggle drugs in the opposite direction and then sent to stash houses in Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. From there, they move across the border into Mexico.
What happens to the money when it gets there? The cartel employs professional money launderers who specialize in drug proceeds, and according to Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent who infiltrated the Colombian cartels, the fee for fully scrubbing and banking illicit proceeds may run Sinaloa more than 15 cents on the dollar. But a great deal of the cartel’s money remains in cash. In the early 1990s, a Sinaloa accountant sent planeloads of U.S. currency to Mexico City in suitcases holding $1 million each. When Miguel Angel Martínez worked for Chapo, the kingpin would test his loyalty, adding an extra $200,000 to one of the suitcases to see if Martínez would pocket it. “Eight suitcases, compadre, so that is $8 million,” he would say. (Martínez never fell for the trick.) A sizable share of the cash is devoted to paying bribes, and some is sent to Colombia to purchase more product, because drugs offer a strong return on investment. “Where would you put your money?” the former Cisen officer Alejandro Hope asked me with a chuckle. “T-bills? Real estate? I would put a large portion of my portfolio in cocaine.”
Even so, the business generates such volumes of currency that there is only so much you can launder or reinvest, which means that money can start to pile up around the house. The most that Martínez ever saw at one time was $30 million, which just sat there, having accumulated in his living room. In 2007, Mexican authorities raided the home of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is believed to have supplied meth-precursor chemicals to the cartel, and discovered $206 million, the largest cash seizure in history. And that was the money Zhenli held onto — he was an inveterate gambler, who once blew so much cash in Las Vegas that one of the casinos presented him, in consolation, with a Rolls-Royce. “How much money do you have to lose in the casino for them to give you a Rolls-Royce?” Tony Placido, the D.E.A. intelligence official, asked. (The astonishing answer, in Zhenli’s case, is $72 million at a single casino in a single year.) Placido also pointed out that, as a precursor guy, Zhenli was on the low end of the value chain for meth. It makes you wonder about the net worth of the guy who runs the whole show.
In 2008, the Flores twins were indicted in Chicago and began secretly cooperating with law enforcement. The following year, one of their Sinaloa contacts — a debonair young trafficker named Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, or Vicentillo — was arrested in Mexico and later extradited to Chicago. He will be the highest-ranking member of the cartel ever to face trial in the United States, and his favorite wholesale customers will be the star witnesses against him. In a surprise twist, Vicentillo (who is the son of Chapo’s partner, Mayo Zambada) has argued that he can’t be prosecuted — because even as he worked for Sinaloa, he was also a secret informant for the D.E.A.
There has been speculation in Mexico that the Calderón regime favors Sinaloa over the unhinged Zetas and has made a devil’s pact to lay off the cartel. It might be impossible to eradicate all the cartels in Mexico, this theory goes, so the government has picked a favorite in the conflict in the hope that when the smoke clears, a Sinaloa monopoly might usher in a sort of pax narcotica. A 2010 National Public Radio investigation of Mexican arrest statistics found that Sinaloa had suffered conspicuously fewer arrests than had its peers, though this could simply be evidence of triage on the government’s part rather than p

Nov 22nd 2012, 16:34 by Economist.com

Mexican states compared with entire countries’ body counts, murder rates and populations

MEXICO’S murder rate has doubled over the past five years, to nearly 19 per 100,000 people per year. But what does that really mean? To give an idea of how safe or dangerous the country’s various states are, we have compared their crime statistics with those of whole countries. Visitors can relax in Yucatán, the safest state, which has about the same murder rate as Finland. Tlaxcala, not far from Mexico City, is about as safe as the United States. At the other end of the spectrum Chihuahua, the most violent state, has a murder rate equivalent to El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the world. Another way of looking at the data is to compare the gross totals. The state of San Luis Potosí, for instance, has seen as many murders in the past year as all of Spain, despite having a population of just 2.6m.


BY NICHOLAS CASEY

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, fresh off his weekend election victory, said Tuesday he plans to continue President Felipe Calderón’s fight against the country’s drug gangs, but outlined a long-term strategy to place more of the battle in the hands of civilians rather than the military.

In a wide-ranging interview in the capital, Mr. Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, praised much of Mr. Calderón’s strategy against organized crime, including the creation of a federal police force and growing cooperation with the U.S.


President Barack Obama telephoned Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto to congratulate him on his victory in last weekend’s elections, the White House said in a statement Monday. While the release listed several topics that the two men discussed, it made no explicit mention of the two countries’ fitful efforts to combat ultra-violent drug cartels.

Obama “reiterated his commitment to working in partnership with Mexico, and looks forward to advancing common goals, including promoting democracy, economic prosperity, and security in the region and around the globe, in the coming years,” according to the White House statement.

Peña Nieto’s victory brought the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governed Mexico for decades, back to power. He has pledged to overhaul his country’s energy, labor and tax systems, Reuters reported..

“The two leaders reaffirmed the close bilateral partnership the United States and Mexico enjoy based on mutual respect, shared responsibility, and the deep connections between our people,” according to the statement. Obama also “congratulated the Mexican people who have once again demonstrated their commitment to democratic values through a free, fair, and transparent election process.”

Peña Nieto won Sunday’s election with 38 percent of the vote, according to early returns. That gave him a lead of roughly 7 percentage points over his nearest rival, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,  according to the Associated Press.

Obama has faced sharp Republican criticism over the government’s Fast and Furious operation, which aimed to track the flow of firearms from American gun sellers, through straw buyers, into the hands of the cartels. The Republican-led House of Representatives voted last week to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over Justice Department documents tied to the operation.


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican opposition candidate Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign team claimed victory in the country’s presidential election on Sunday after exit polls showed him winning by a comfortable margin.

Pena Nieto, 45, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), led by between 8 and 11 percentage points in exit polls published by three of Mexico’s main television networks after voting ended on Sunday night.
Shortly afterward his campaign manager, Luis Videgaray, declared victory.

“It is a resounding triumph,” Videgaray told Milenio television, adding that he was hopeful the PRI would have a majority in the Senate and possibly in the lower house of Congress, too.

The PRI, which governed Mexico for 71 years until losing power in 2000, has staged a comeback behind the handsome Pena Nieto, who has pledged to open state-owned oil monopoly Pemex to foreign investors, raise tax revenue and liberalize the labor market.

The exit polls showed him winning around 40 percent of the vote. Leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was in second place with Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, trailing in third.

“I recognize that the trend up to this point is not in my favor,” said Vazquez Mota, whose campaign was dragged down by a brutal war with drug cartels and the government’s patchy economic record.
Preliminary official results were due in the next few hours.

“It’s time for the PRI to return. They’re the only ones who know how to govern,” said Candelaria Puc, 70, as she voted in the beach resort of Cancun. “The PRI is tough, but they won’t let the drug violence get out of control.”

Others feared a return to the worst years of PRI rule and put Pena Nieto’s big lead down to his cozy relationship with Televisa, Mexico’s top broadcaster.

“It’s the same party as ever and the people who vote for him (Pena Nieto) believe they are going to live happily ever after like in the soap operas,” Humberto Parra, a systems engineer, said as he went to vote in Mexico City.

By the time it lost to the PAN in 2000, the PRI had a reputation for widespread corruption, electoral fraud and authoritarianism.

The PRI was in disarray by 2006, when its presidential candidate came in a distant third, but it has rebounded since then and Pena Nieto gave it a new face.

He is promising to restore security to cities and towns ravaged by the drug war and also plans to reform Pemex, a proposal once considered political suicide.

Mexicans are fiercely protective of Pemex, but the PRI, which nationalized oil production in 1938, could be the one party able to liberalize the energy industry.

The PRI laid the foundations of the modern state with a nimble blend of politics and patronage that allowed it to appeal to labor unions and captains of industry at the same time.
Mexicans eventually tired of heavy-handedness that stifled dissent, rewarded loyalists and allowed widespread corruption.

(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Ana Isabel Martinez, Pablo Garibian; Editing by Dave Graham and Kieran Murray and Christopher Wilson)


Mexico’s Next President Won’t Slow The Drug War

By Robert Beckhusen

At this point, there’s little doubt who is likely to win Mexico’s presidential election on Sunday. That would be Enrique Peña Nieto, who polls show leading with double-digits over his rival candidates. He’s also calling for a (subtle) shift in the fight against the cartels: don’t bother as much with stopping drugs and taking down drug lords, but focus on stopping violence and kidnapping. But as far as big changes go, don’t expect much if Peña Nieto wins, at least not soon.

First, the little things. Last week, Pieña Nieto recruited Colombian General Oscar Naranjo — a veteran of the war against the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar — as his top security adviser. Peña Nieto wants to boost Mexico’s Federal Police, and he’s for creating a new national paramilitary police force to fight the cartels.  His campaign has also been “highly solicitous” of the United States, notes Patrick Corcoran ofInSight, an organized crime monitoring group. This could mean a bigger U.S. role. Naranjo is also reportedly close to U.S. officials.
This is while the cartels still exercise draconian rule over cities throughout many parts of the country, especially along the border. Ciudad Juárez, which came to define Mexico’s drug violence when viewed from outside the country, has seen a drop in murders to 2007 levels, Corcoran adds. But other cities, like Nuevo Laredo, experienced lower and lower levels of violence only for gangland killings to spark anew. The cartels have also spread to new areas.
“If you noticed, none of the presidential candidates broke openly with [outgoing President Felipe Calderón’s] strategy — the farthest they went was to criticize the level of violence,” César Martinez Espinosa, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas and a specialist in Mexican national security issues, writes in an e-mail. ”This is because they recognized that a majority of people (outside of Mexico City) approves Calderón’s fight against the cartels (some polls have tracked that), especially the participation of the military in it and because they might not have that much room to maneuver once they are in power.”
Reducing violence by legalizing drugs? Not likely in the least. A darker suggestion floated as a possibility in press reports is some kind of deal with the cartels, but Pieña Nieto has ruled out negotiating a truce.
The reason why a truce is brought up: Peña Nieto’s political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (or PRI), formerly maintained uninterrupted single-party rule for most of the 20th century. But when it lost power 12 years ago, it also lost a patronage system between regional party bosses and the cartels. This system meant drugs were allowed to flow relatively freely, provided physical disputes between the cartels didn’t get out of hand. But losing a (note: corrupt) system of checks and balances, beef between cartels escalated.
Nor is it likely that such a deal could be made today. In some states that maintained PRI rule, these networks were maintained but still failed to stop the surge in violence. Some of the state-level politicians with ties to the cartels are now being purged. In any case, the PRI will be governing a different Mexico: one in which corruption is still a major problem, but in which a single party is not able to maintain control over the entire governing apparatus. Another problem is that today’s cartels are smaller, a lot more numerous and increasingly decentralized. With so many cartels operating in Mexico today, who do you cut a deal with?
“Should he win, Peña Nieto will surely seek some cosmetic changes, and he may push the philosophy underlying Mexico’s crime strategy in a new direction. But the obstacles to a different approach are enormous; as a result, for better or worse, the shifts are likely to be marginal,” notes Corcoran.
Another option is to eliminate some local police forces and “consolidate them into stronger state forces,” says Martinez. Elsewhere, the new president will have to keep up economic growth and push reforms through the courts and a chaotic, badly-run prison system. But for the time being, and for whoever wins, the war with the cartels will continue.


Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (born April 4, 1957)[2] is a fugitive Mexican drug lord who heads the world’s largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel,[5] an organization named after the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa where it was initially formed. Known as “El Chapo Guzmán” (“Shorty Guzmán“) for his 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) stature, he became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel, and is now considered “The most powerful drug trafficker in the world,” by the United States Department of the Treasury.[6][7]
Guzmán Loera has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful people in the world every year since 2009; ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively.[8][9] He was also listed by Forbes as the 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011.[10][11] Forbes also calls him the “biggest druglord of all time”,[12] and the DEA strongly believes he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him “the godfather of the drug world.”[13]
Guzman Loera’s Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States,[1] and has distribution cells throughout the U.S.[1] The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine,marijuana, and heroin. The U.S. offers a $5 million USD reward for information leading to his capture. The Mexican government offers a reward of 30 million pesos for such information.


Cocaine Incorporated

One afternoon last August, at a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a former beauty queen named Emma Coronel gave birth to a pair of heiresses. The twins, who were delivered at 3:50 and 3:51, respectively, stand to inherit some share of a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth a billion dollars. Coronel’s husband, who was not present for the birth, is a legendary tycoon who overcame a penurious rural childhood to establish a wildly successful multinational business. If Coronel elected to leave the entry for “Father” on the birth certificates blank, it was not because of any dispute over patrimony. More likely, she was just skittish about the fact that her husband, Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. But his bride is a U.S. citizen with no charges against her. So authorities could only watch as she bundled up her daughters and slipped back across the border to introduce them to their dad.
How the Sinaloa Cartel Smuggles Drugs Across Borders

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Known as El Chapo for his short, stocky frame, Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave. When Pablo Escobar was Chapo’s age, he had been dead for more than a decade. In fact, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chapo sells more drugs today than Escobar did at the height of his career. To some extent, this success is easily explained: as Hillary Clinton acknowledged several years ago, America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” is what drives the clandestine industry. It’s no accident that the world’s biggest supplier of narcotics and the world’s biggest consumer of narcotics just happen to be neighbors. “Poor Mexico,” its former president Porfirio Díaz is said to have remarked. “So far from God and so close to the United States.”
The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well.
Estimating the precise scale of Chapo’s empire is tricky, however. Statistics on underground economies are inherently speculative: cartels don’t make annual disclosures, and no auditor examines their books. Instead, we’re left with back-of-the-envelope extrapolations based on conjectural data, much of it supplied by government agencies that may have bureaucratic incentives to overplay the problem.
So in a spirit of empirical humility, we shouldn’t accept as gospel the estimate, from the Justice Department, that Colombian and Mexican cartels reap $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year. (That range alone should give you pause.) Still, even if you take the lowest available numbers, Sinaloa emerges as a titanic player in the global black market. In the sober reckoning of the RAND Corporation, for instance, the gross revenue that all Mexican cartels derive from exporting drugs to the United States amounts to only $6.6 billion. By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.
The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn’t merely survive the recession — it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.
“Chapo always talks about the drug business, wherever he is,” one erstwhile confidant told a jury several years ago, describing a driven, even obsessive entrepreneur with a proclivity for micromanagement. From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. — doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.
The state of Sinaloa, from which the cartel derives its name, lies wedged between the Sierra Madre Occidental and Mexico’s west coast. Sun-blasted and remote, Sinaloa is the Sicily of Mexico, both cradle and refuge of violent men, and the ancestral land of many of the country’s most notorious traffickers. Chapo was born in a village called La Tuna, in the foothills of the Sierra, in 1957. His formal education ended in third grade, and as an adult, he has reportedly struggled to read and write, prevailing upon a ghostwriter, at one point, to compose letters to his mistress. Little is known about Chapo’s early years, but by the 1980s, he joined the Guadalajara cartel, which was run by a former policeman known as El Padrino — the Godfather.
For decades, Mexican smugglers had exported homegrown marijuana and heroin to the United States. But as the Colombian cocaine boom gathered momentum in the 1980s and U.S. law enforcement began patrolling the Caribbean, the Colombians went in search of an alternate route to the United States and discovered one in Mexico. Initially, Mexican traffickers, like a pudgy 25-year-old airplane pilot named Miguel Angel Martínez, acted as independent contractors who were paid a fee by the Colombians to move their cargo. In 1986, the Guadalajara cartel dispatched Martínez to the Colombian port of Barranquilla, in the hope that someone might commission him to fly drugs up to Mexico. But Martínez couldn’t find any takers and ended up languishing in Colombia for months, worrying that he had blown his big opportunity with the cartel. Eventually, he caught a commercial flight back to Mexico, and shortly thereafter, he was summoned to a meeting with Chapo, who was by then an underboss in the cartel. “You were very well behaved in Colombia,” Chapo told him, according to subsequent testimony. He seemed impressed by Martínez’s patience in waiting for an assignment.
Having passed this test, Martínez started working for Chapo as a kind of air traffic controller, negotiating directly with the Cali and Medellín cartels, then guiding their cocaine flights from South America to secret runways in barren stretches of Mexico. Martínez knew U.S. agents were monitoring his radio communications, so rather than say a word, he would whistle — a signal to the pilots that they were cleared for takeoff.
With the decline of the Caribbean route, the Colombians started paying Mexican smugglers not in cash but in cocaine. More than any other factor, it was this transition that realigned the power dynamics along the narcotics supply chain in the Americas, because it allowed the Mexicans to stop serving as logistical middlemen and invest in their own drugs instead. In 1986, Martínez couldn’t land a gig as a lowly courier in Barranquilla. Not five years later, he was marshaling hundreds of flights laden with cocaine for Chapo. “Sometimes we would get five planes a night,” he remembered. “Sometimes 16.” Now it was the Colombians who went hat in hand to Chapo, looking not to hire him to move their product but to sell it to him outright. They would tip Martínez $25,000 just to get an audience with the man.
The young pilot became a gatekeeper to the ascendant kingpin, fielding his phone calls and accompanying him on foreign trips. There’s a vaudevillian goofiness to nicknames in Mexico, and the stout Martínez was known in the cartel as El Gordo. He and Chapo — Fatty and Shorty — made quite a pair. “Japan, Hong Kong, India, all of Europe,” Martínez recalled in testimony. Chapo owned a fleet of Learjets, and together, they saw “the whole world.” They both used cocaine as well, a habit that Chapo would eventually give up. When a lawyer inquired, years later, whether he had been Chapo’s right-hand man, Martínez replied that he might have been, but that Guzmán had five left hands and five right hands. “He’s an octopus, Chapo Guzmán,” he said. For his efforts, Martínez was paid a million dollars a year, in a single annual installment: “In cash, in a suitcase, each December.” When Martínez’s son was born, Chapo asked to serve as godfather.
In 1989, Chapo’s mentor, El Padrino, was captured by Mexican authorities, and the remaining members of the Guadalajara cartel assembled in Acapulco to determine which smuggling route each capo would inherit. According to Ioan Grillo’s book, “El Narco,” the meeting was ostensibly a gathering of friends. But the shards of El Padrino’s organization would become the basis for the Tijuana, Juárez and Sinaloa cartels, and these onetime colleagues would soon become antagonists in a cycle of bloody turf wars that continues to this day.
“Drug cartel,” it turns out, is a whopper of a misnomer; neither the Mexicans nor the Colombians ever colluded to fix prices or supply. “I wish they were cartels,” Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador in Washington, told me. “If they were, they wouldn’t be fighting and driving up the violence.”
At first, Chapo’s organization controlled a single smuggling route, through western Mexico into Arizona. But by 1990, it was moving three tons of cocaine each month over the border, and from there, to Los Angeles. The Sinaloa has always distinguished itself by the eclectic means it uses to transport drugs. Working with Colombian suppliers, cartel operatives moved cocaine into Mexico in small private aircraft and in baggage smuggled on commercial flights and eventually on their own 747s, which they could load with as much as 13 tons of cocaine. They used container ships and fishing vessels and go-fast boats and submarines — crude semi-submersibles at first, then fully submersible subs, conceived by engineers and constructed under the canopy of the Amazon, then floated downriver in pieces and assembled at the coastline. These vessels can cost more than a million dollars, but to the smugglers, they are effectively disposable. In the event of an interception by the Coast Guard, someone onboard pulls a lever that floods the interior so that the evidence sinks; only the crew is left bobbing in the water, waiting to be picked up by the authorities.
Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business, but the cartel subsidizes these investments with a ready source of easy income: marijuana. Cannabis is often described as the “cash crop” of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But it’s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. So marijuana tends to cross the border far from official ports of entry. The cartel makes sandbag bridges to ford the Colorado River and sends buggies loaded with weed bouncing over the Imperial Sand Dunes into California. Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”
Improvisation is a trafficker’s greatest asset, and in recent years, Sinaloa has devised an even more efficient solution to the perennial challenge of getting marijuana across the border. Grow it here. Several years ago, a hunter was trekking through the remote North Woods of Wisconsin when he stumbled upon a vast irrigated grow site, tended by a dozen Mexican farmers armed with AK-47’s. According to the D.E.A., it was a Sinaloa pot farm, established on U.S. National Forest land to supply the market in Chicago.
Heroin is easier to smuggle but difficult to produce, and as detailed in court documents, Chapo is particularly proud of his organization’s work with the drug. He personally negotiates shipments to the United States and stands by its quality, which is normally 94 percent pure. “The value-to-weight ratio of heroin is better than any other drug,” says Alejandro Hope, who until recently was a senior officer at Cisen, Mexico’s equivalent to the C.I.A.
But the future of the business may be methamphetamine. During the 1990s, when the market for meth exploded in the United States, new regulations made it more difficult to manufacture large quantities of the drug in this country. This presented an opportunity that the Sinaloa quickly exploited. According to Anabel Hernández, author of “Los Señores del Narco,” a book about the cartel, it was one of Chapo’s deputies, a trafficker named Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel, who first spotted the massive potential of methamphetamine. “Nacho was like Steve Jobs,” Hernández told me. “He saw the future.”
Here was a drug that was ragingly addictive and could be produced cheaply and smuggled with relative ease. When they first started manufacturing meth, the Sinaloa would provide free samples to their existing wholesale clients in the Midwest. “They’d send five hundred pounds of marijuana, and secreted in that would be two kilos of meth,” Jack Riley, the D.E.A.’s special agent in charge of the Chicago office, told me. “They’d give it away for free. They wanted the market.” As demand grew, the cartel constructed superlabs, capable of churning out industrial volumes of meth. Container ships from India and China unloaded precursor chemicals — largely ephedrine — in the Pacific ports Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo. To grasp the scale of production, consider the volume of some recent precursor seizures at these ports: 22 tons in October 2009; 88 tons in May 2010; 252 tons last December. When Mexico banned the importation of ephedrine, the cartel adapted, tweaking its recipe to use unregulated precursors. Recently they have started outsourcing production to new labs in Guatemala.
But Chapo’s greatest contribution to the evolving tradecraft of drug trafficking was one of those innovations that seem so logical in hindsight it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before: a tunnel. In the late 1980s, Chapo hired an architect to design an underground passageway from Mexico to the United States. What appeared to be a water faucet outside the home of a cartel attorney in the border town of Agua Prieta was in fact a secret lever that, when twisted, activated a hydraulic system that opened a hidden trapdoor underneath a pool table inside the house. The passage ran more than 200 feet, directly beneath the fortifications along the border, and emerged inside a warehouse the cartel owned in Douglas, Ariz. Chapo pronounced it “cool.”
When this new route was complete, Chapo instructed Martínez to call the Colombians. “Tell them to send all the drugs they can,” he said. As the deliveries multiplied, Sinaloa acquired a reputation for the miraculous speed with which it could push inventory across the border. “Before the planes were arriving back in Colombia on the return, the cocaine was already in Los Angeles,” Martínez marveled.
Eventually the tunnel was discovered, so Chapo shifted tactics once again, this time by going into the chili-pepper business. He opened a cannery in Guadalajara and began producing thousands of cans stamped “Comadre Jalapeños,” stuffing them with cocaine, then vacuum-sealing them and shipping them to Mexican-owned grocery stores in California. He sent drugs in the refrigeration units of tractor-trailers, in custom-made cavities in the bodies of cars and in truckloads of fish (which inspectors at a sweltering checkpoint might not want to detain for long). He sent drugs across the border on freight trains, to cartel warehouses in Los Angeles and Chicago, where rail spurs let the cars roll directly inside to unload. He sent drugs via FedEx.
But that tunnel into Douglas remains Chapo’s masterpiece, an emblem of his creative ingenuity. Twenty years on, the cartels are still burrowing under the border — more than a hundred tunnels have been discovered in the years since Chapo’s first. They are often ventilated and air-conditioned, and some feature trolley lines stretching up to a half-mile to accommodate the tonnage in transit.
You might suppose that a certain recklessness would be a prerequisite for anyone contemplating a career in the drug trade. But in reality, blue-chip traffickers tend to fixate, with neurotic intensity, on the concept of risk. “The goal of these folks is not to sell drugs,” Tony Placido, who was the top intelligence official at the D.E.A. until he retired last year, told me. “It’s to earn a spendable profit and live to enjoy it.” So the smart narcos are preoccupied with what Peter Reuter and Mark Kleiman once referred to, in a classic essay on the drug business, as “the marginal imprisonment risk.” In 2010, Chapo’s old friend Ismael (El Mayo) Zambada, the No. 2 man in the Sinaloa cartel, granted an interview to the Mexican magazine Proceso. Now in his 60s and a grandfather, El Mayo has been in the drug business for nearly half a century and has amassed a fortune. But you can’t buy peace of mind. “I’m terrified they’ll incarcerate me,” he acknowledged. “I’m full of fear. Always.”
There’s a reason coke and heroin cost so much more on the street than at the farm gate: you’re not paying for the drugs; you’re compensating everyone along the distribution chain for the risks they assumed in getting them to you. Smugglers often negotiate, in actuarial detail, about who will be held liable in the event of lost inventory. After a bust, arrested traffickers have been known to demand a receipt from authorities, so that they can prove the loss was not because of their own negligence (which would mean they might have to pay for it) or their own thievery (which would mean they might have to die). Some Colombian cartels have actually offered insurance policies on narcotics, as a safeguard against loss or seizure.
To prevent catastrophic losses, cartels tend to distribute their risk as much as possible. Before sending a 100-kilo shipment across the border, traffickers might disaggregate it into five carloads of 20 kilos each. Chapo and his associates further reduce their personal exposure by going in together on shipments, so each of those smaller carloads might hold 10 kilos belonging to Chapo and 10 belonging to Mayo Zambada. The Sinaloa is occasionally called the Federation because senior figures and their subsidiaries operate semiautonomously while still employing a common smuggling apparatus.
The organizational structure of the cartel also seems fashioned to protect the leadership. No one knows how many people work for Sinaloa, and the range of estimates is comically broad. Malcolm Beith, the author of a recent book about Chapo, posits that at any given moment, the drug lord may have 150,000 people working for him. John Bailey, a Georgetown professor who has studied the cartel, says that the number of actual employees could be as low as 150. The way to account for this disparity is to distinguish between salaried employees and subcontractors. A labor force of thousands may be required to plow all that contraband up the continent, but a lot of the work can be delegated to independent contractors, people the Mexican political scientist and security consultant Eduardo Guerrero describes as working “for the cartel but outside it.”
Even those who do work directly for the cartel are limited to carefully compartmentalized roles. At a recent trial, a regional cartel lieutenant, José Esparza, testified about his experience working for the Sinaloa along the border. On one occasion, he attended a meeting outside Culiacán with many of the cartel’s top leaders. But there was no sign of Chapo. Once the discussion concluded, an emissary left the group and approached a Hummer that was parked in the distance and surrounded by men with bulletproof vests and machine guns, to report on the proceedings. Chapo never stepped out of the vehicle.
It’s not just the federales that the narcos fear; it’s also one another. The brutal opportunism of the underworld economy means that most partnerships are temporary, and treachery abounds. For decades, Chapo worked closely with his childhood friend Arturo Beltrán Leyva, a fearsome trafficker who ran a profitable subsidiary of Sinaloa. But in 2008, the two men split, then went to war, and Beltrán Leyva’s assassins were later blamed for murdering one of Chapo’s sons. To reduce the likelihood of clashes like these, the cartel has revived an unlikely custom: the ancient art of dynastic marriage. Chapo’s organization is occasionally referred to as an alianza de sangre (“alliance of blood”), because so many of its prominent members are cousins by marriage or brothers-in-law. Emma Coronel, who gave birth to Chapo’s twins, is the niece of Nacho Coronel, the Steve Jobs of meth (who died in a shootout with the Mexican Army in 2010). All of this intermarriage, one U.S. official in Mexico suggested to me, functions as “a hedge against distrust.” An associate may be less likely to cheat you, or to murder you, if there’ll be hell to pay with his wife. It’s a cynical strategy, certainly, but in a vocation where one of Chapo’s rivals went by the nickname Mata Amigos, or “Friend Killer,” it may also be quite sound.
The surest way to stay out of trouble in the drug business is to dole out bribes, and promiscuously. Drug cartels don’t pay corporate taxes, but a colossus like Sinaloa makes regular payments to the federal, state and municipal authorities that may well rival the effective tax rate in Mexico. When the D.E.A. conducted an internal survey of its top 50 operatives and informants several years ago and asked them to name the most important factor for running a drug business, they replied, overwhelmingly, corruption. At a trial in 2010, a former police official from Juárez, Jesús Fierro Méndez, acknowledged that he had worked for Sinaloa. “Did the drug cartels have the police on the payroll?” an attorney asked.
“All of it,” Fierro Méndez replied.
The cartel bribes mayors and prosecutors and governors, state police and federal police, the army, the navy and a host of senior officials at the national level. After an arrest for drug trafficking in the 1990s, Chapo was sentenced to 20 years and shipped to Puente Grande, a fortified prison in Jalisco that was Mexico’s answer to a supermax. But during the five years he spent there, Chapo enjoyed prerogatives that make the prison sequence in “Goodfellas” look positively austere. With most of the facility on his payroll, he is said to have ordered his meals from a menu, conducted business by cellphone and orchestrated periodic visits by prostitutes, who would arrive aboard a prison truck driven by a guard. I spoke with one drug producer who negotiated a joint venture deal with Chapo while he was behind bars. Eventually, as the story goes, Chapo was smuggled out in a laundry cart. According to Martínez’s testimony, he paid more than $3 million to secure his release. Today, Chapo is a free man, Puente Grande’s warden only recently completed a jail sentence for letting him go and Mexicans call the prison Puerta Grande — the Big Door.
The tacit but unwavering tolerance that Mexican authorities have shown for the drug trade over the years has muddled the boundaries between outlaws and officials. When Miguel Angel Martínez was working for Chapo, he says, “everyone” in the organization had military and police identification. Daylight killings are sometimes carried out by men dressed in police uniforms, and it is not always clear, after the fact, whether the perpetrators were thugs masquerading as policemen or actual policemen providing paid assistance to the thugs. On those occasions when the government scores a big arrest, meanwhile, police and military officials pose for photos at the valedictory news conference brandishing assault weapons, their faces shrouded in ski masks, to shield their identities. In the trippy semiotics of the drug war, the cops dress like bandits, and the bandits dress like cops.
When you tally it all up, bribery may be the single largest line item on a cartel’s balance sheet. In 2008, President Felipe Calderón’s own drug czar, Noe Ramirez, was charged with accepting $450,000 each month. Presumably, such gargantuan bribes to senior officials cascade down, securing the allegiance of their subordinates. “You have to recruit the high commands, so they can issue the information to lower ranks and order whatever they want,” the corrupt cop, Fierro Méndez, testified. But in key jurisdictions, the cartel most likely makes payments up and down the chain of command. In a 2010 speech, Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s secretary of public security, speculated that together, the cartels spend more than a billion dollars each year just to bribe the municipal police.
It’s not only officials who must be bribed, either. There are also the “falcons,” an army of civilian lookouts who might receive $100 a month just to keep their eyes open and make a phone call if they notice an uptick in border inspections or a convoy of police. “There are cities in Mexico where virtually every cabdriver is on the payroll,” Michael Braun, formerly of the D.E.A., said. “They have eyes and ears everywhere.”
And then there are the Americans. Guards at the U.S. border have been known to wave a car through their checkpoints for a few thousand dollars, and since 2004, there have been 138 convictions or indictments in corruption investigations involving members of the United States Customs and Border Protection. Paradoxically, one explanation for this state of affairs is the rapid expansion of border forces following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. In their hurry to fortify the U.S.-Mexico boundary with uniformed personnel, it seems, officials may have made allowances on background checks and screenings. In some instances, job offers have been extended to the immediate relatives of known traffickers.
When corruption fails, there is always violence. During the 12 years that he worked for the cartel, Martínez claims that he did not carry a gun. But Sinaloa has risen to pre-eminence as much through savagery as through savvy. “In illegal markets, the natural tendency is toward monopoly, so they fight each other,” Antonio Mazzitelli, an official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico City, told me. “How do they fight: Go to court? Offer better prices? No. They use violence.” The primal horror of Mexico’s murder epidemic makes it difficult, perhaps even distasteful, to construe the cartel’s butchery as a rational advancement of coherent business aims. But the reality is that in a multibillion-dollar industry in which there is no recourse to legally enforceable contracts, some degree of violence may be inevitable.
“It’s like geopolitics,” Tony Placido said. “You need to use violence frequently enough that the threat is believable. But overuse it, and it’s bad for business.”
The most gratuitous practitioners of violence right now would be the Zetas, a rampaging league of sociopaths with a notable devotion to physical cruelty. The Zetas are a new kind of cartel, in that they came somewhat late to the actual business of smuggling drugs. They started out as bodyguards for the Gulf Cartel before going into business for themselves, and they specialize in messaging through bloodshed. It’s the Zetas who are charged with dumping 49 mutilated bodies by the side of a highway near Monterrey last month. Sinaloa is responsible for a great deal of carnage as well, but its approach to killing has traditionally been more discreet. Whereas a Sinaloa subsidiary allied with a Tijuana farmer known as the Stewmaker, who dissolved hundreds of bodies in barrels of lye, the Zetas have pioneered a multimedia approach to violence, touting their killings on YouTube. One strategic choice facing any cartel is deciding when to intimidate the civilian population and when to cultivate it. Sinaloa can be exceedingly brutal, but the cartel is more pragmatic than the Zetas in its deployment of violence. It may simply be, as one Obama administration official suggested, that the Sinaloa leadership is “more conscious of their brand.”
It’s a curious rivalry between these two organizations, because their business models are really very different. The Zetas have diversified beyond drugs to extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, blossoming into what officials call a “polycriminal organization.” Sinaloa, by contrast, has mostly tended to stick to its core competence of trafficking. According to one captured cartel member, Chapo specifically instructed his subordinates not to dabble in protection rackets and insisted that Sinaloa territory remain “calm” and “controlled.”
“Sinaloa does not do extortion directly,” Eduardo Guerrero said. “It’s so risky, and the profits are so small. They want the big business — and the big business is in the United States.”
Just how active the cartel is north of the border is a divisive question. According to the Department of Justice, by 2009, Mexican-based criminal organizations were operating in “more than a thousand U.S. cities.” When you consider the huge jump in the price of narcotics between bulk importation and retail sales, it might seem that Chapo would want to expand into street-level distribution. In 2005, the D.E.A. began intercepting large shipments of cocaine in which each kilo brick was heat-sealed in a distinctive Mylar foil. They spotted the foil in Los Angeles first, then in Oklahoma, Chicago, Atlanta and New Jersey. “This was Sinaloa coke,” Michael Wardrop, who led two of the agency’s most ambitious operations against the domestic networks of the cartel, told me. As the telltale wrapping popped up across the country, Wardrop and his colleagues marveled at the sheer expanse of Sinaloa’s market. “It was like watching a virus in a Petri dish,” he said. “It was constantly growing.”
Wardrop’s investigations netted more than a thousand arrests. But some observers question the extent to which the perpetrators in these cases were actually working for the cartel. “If you’re telling me there’s a straight chain of command back to El Chapo in Sinaloa — come on, that’s absurd,” the Mexican ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, protested. Often, the gatekeepers and logistics men that the D.E.A. arrested were indeed connected to handlers in Mexico. But this was more true of high-level importers dealing in kilos than run-of-the-mill retailers pushing grams. When The Associated Press tracked down Otis Rich, a Baltimore dealer who was ensnared in one of the operations, he answered the obvious question with a telling reply: “Sina-who?”
“The fully integrated model would indeed maximize profits,” John Bailey observes in a coming book about the cartels, but “it also maximizes risk of exposure.” A big reason for the markup at the retail level is that the sales force is so exposed — out on the corner, a magnet for undercover cops, obliged to negotiate with a needy, unpredictable clientele. When you adjust for all that added risk, the windfall starts to seem less alluring. Like a liquor wholesaler who opts not to open a bar, Chapo appears to have decided that the profits associated with retail sales just aren’t worth the hassle.
What Sinaloa does do inside this country is ferry drugs along highways to regional distribution hubs, where they are turned over to trusted wholesalers, like the Flores twins of Chicago. Pedro and Margarito Flores grew up in a Mexican-American enclave of the city during the 1990s. Their father and an older brother had moved drugs for Sinaloa, and by the time the twins were in their 20s, they had gone into business as distributors, purchasing cocaine and heroin directly from Mexican cartels, then selling to dealers throughout the United States. Chicago, home of the Mercantile Exchange, has always been a hub from which legitimate goods fan out across the country, and it’s no different for black-market commodities. Chapo has used the city as a clearinghouse since the early 1990s; he once described it as his “home port.”
In 2005, the Flores twins were flown to a mountaintop compound in Sinaloa to meet with Chapo Guzmán. The kingpin is an intimidating interlocutor; one criminal who has negotiated with him face to face told me that Chapo tends to dominate a conversation, asking a lot of questions and compensating for his short stature by bouncing on the balls of his feet. But the meeting went well, and before long, the brothers were distributing around two tons of Sinaloa product each month. As preferred customers, they often took Chapo’s drugs without putting any money down, then paid the cartel only after they sold the product. This might seem unlikely, given the pervasive distrust in the underworld, but the narcotics trade is based on a robust and surprisingly reliable system of credit. In a sense, a cartel like Sinaloa has no choice but to offer a financing option, because few wholesale buyers have the liquidity to pay cash upfront for a ton of cocaine. “They have to offer lines of credit,” Wardrop told me, “no different from Walmart or Sears.”
This credit system, known as “fronting,” rests on an ironclad assumption that in the American marketplace, even an idiot salesman should have no trouble selling drugs. One convicted Sinaloa trafficker told me that it often took him more time to count the money he collected from his customers than it did to actually move the product. It may also help that the penalty for defaulting could involve dismemberment.
As wholesale buyers, the Flores brothers occupied a crucial bottleneck between the cartel and its consumers. They grew so indispensable, in fact, that after taking delivery of a shipment of drugs, they could retroactively bargain down the price. One day in 2008, Pedro Flores telephoned Guzmán in Mexico to ask for a discount on heroin.
“What did we agree on?” Chapo asked him, according to a government transcript of the call.
They had negotiated a price of $55,000 per kilo, Flores explained. But if Chapo would consider lowering that to $50,000, the twins could pay immediately.
“That price is fine,” Chapo agreed, without argument. Then he added something significant: “Do you have a way to bring that money over here?”
For the Sinaloa cartel, pushing product north into the United States is only half the logistical equation. The drug trade is a cash business — you can’t buy kilos with your credit card. So while politicians tend to focus on cartels primarily as importers of drugs, the narcos also devote an enormous amount of energy to the export of money. Cash is collected in small denominations from individual buyers and then bundled in great stacks of broken-in bills that are used to pay wholesalers, like the Flores brothers. These bills are counted, hidden in the same vehicle compartments that were used to smuggle drugs in the opposite direction and then sent to stash houses in Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. From there, they move across the border into Mexico.
What happens to the money when it gets there? The cartel employs professional money launderers who specialize in drug proceeds, and according to Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent who infiltrated the Colombian cartels, the fee for fully scrubbing and banking illicit proceeds may run Sinaloa more than 15 cents on the dollar. But a great deal of the cartel’s money remains in cash. In the early 1990s, a Sinaloa accountant sent planeloads of U.S. currency to Mexico City in suitcases holding $1 million each. When Miguel Angel Martínez worked for Chapo, the kingpin would test his loyalty, adding an extra $200,000 to one of the suitcases to see if Martínez would pocket it. “Eight suitcases, compadre, so that is $8 million,” he would say. (Martínez never fell for the trick.) A sizable share of the cash is devoted to paying bribes, and some is sent to Colombia to purchase more product, because drugs offer a strong return on investment. “Where would you put your money?” the former Cisen officer Alejandro Hope asked me with a chuckle. “T-bills? Real estate? I would put a large portion of my portfolio in cocaine.”
Even so, the business generates such volumes of currency that there is only so much you can launder or reinvest, which means that money can start to pile up around the house. The most that Martínez ever saw at one time was $30 million, which just sat there, having accumulated in his living room. In 2007, Mexican authorities raided the home of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is believed to have supplied meth-precursor chemicals to the cartel, and discovered $206 million, the largest cash seizure in history. And that was the money Zhenli held onto — he was an inveterate gambler, who once blew so much cash in Las Vegas that one of the casinos presented him, in consolation, with a Rolls-Royce. “How much money do you have to lose in the casino for them to give you a Rolls-Royce?” Tony Placido, the D.E.A. intelligence official, asked. (The astonishing answer, in Zhenli’s case, is $72 million at a single casino in a single year.) Placido also pointed out that, as a precursor guy, Zhenli was on the low end of the value chain for meth. It makes you wonder about the net worth of the guy who runs the whole show.
In 2008, the Flores twins were indicted in Chicago and began secretly cooperating with law enforcement. The following year, one of their Sinaloa contacts — a debonair young trafficker named Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, or Vicentillo — was arrested in Mexico and later extradited to Chicago. He will be the highest-ranking member of the cartel ever to face trial in the United States, and his favorite wholesale customers will be the star witnesses against him. In a surprise twist, Vicentillo (who is the son of Chapo’s partner, Mayo Zambada) has argued that he can’t be prosecuted — because even as he worked for Sinaloa, he was also a secret informant for the D.E.A.
There has been speculation in Mexico that the Calderón regime favors Sinaloa over the unhinged Zetas and has made a devil’s pact to lay off the cartel. It might be impossible to eradicate all the cartels in Mexico, this theory goes, so the government has picked a favorite in the conflict in the hope that when the smoke clears, a Sinaloa monopoly might usher in a sort of pax narcotica. A 2010 National Public Radio investigation of Mexican arrest statistics found that Sinaloa had suffered conspicuously fewer arrests than had its peers, though this could simply be evidence of triage on the government’s part rather than proof of a conspiracy. Calderón vehemently denies any charges of favoritism, and his administration has arrested or killed several of Chapo’s key deputies in the last few years. (My repeated requests for interviews with relevant officials in Mexico were denied.)
The suggestion that the D.E.A. might have made a deal with a high-ranking Sinaloa figure is new, however. In the past, Chapo has occasionally authorized employees to provide information to American law enforcement. Fierro Méndez, the Juárez cop, described a system in which junior traffickers would walk into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and announce their willingness to become informers — then feed the Americans intelligence about rival cartels, thereby using law enforcement to eliminate their competitors. U.S. officials allow that there were discussions between the D.E.A. and Vicentillo, but they deny that any quid pro quo was in place.
The trial, which is scheduled for October, should shed significant light on Sinaloa’s logistical apparatus — provided the witnesses can stay alive until then. Recently, a career criminal named Saul Rodriguez testified that Vicentillo solicited his help at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where they were both being held, in an effort to have the Flores twins assassinated. Authorities have expressed concern that the cartel might undertake a daring jailbreak to get Vicentillo out. They have also voiced the opposite worry — that Vicentillo will himself be killed. A request by the trafficker’s attorneys that he be permitted to exercise outdoors raised concerns from prison officials, because the only open space at the prison is a fenced-in recreation area on top of the building, where Vicentillo could be picked off by a sniper. (He has since been moved to a more secure facility.)
It might seem far-fetched that the cartel would try to assassinate one of its own, the son of Mayo Zambada, no less. But Sinaloa guards its secrets ruthlessly. After Chapo’s friend Miguel Angel Martínez was arrested in 1998, four men came to kill him in prison, stabbing him repeatedly. In that assault, and another that followed, he sustained more than a dozen stab wounds, which punctured his lungs, pancreas and intestines. After the second attack, he was moved to another facility and kept in a segregated unit. This time, an assassin managed to get as far as the gate outside Martínez’s cell and chucked two grenades at the bars. Locked in with nowhere to run, Martínez could only cower by the toilet to shield himself from the blast. The roof caved in, and he barely survived. Asked later who it was that tried to have him killed, Martínez said that it was his compadre, Chapo Guzmán. “Because of what I knew,” he explained. (Today he is living in witness protection in the United States.)
Between the coming trial and the increased political drumbeat on both sides of the border for his capture, Chapo may be more embattled today than at any time in his career. In February, he escaped a raid by Mexican authorities in the resort area of Los Cabos. President Calderón’s party is trailing in the polls, and some have theorized that the only way it might manage to retain power after next month’s presidential election would be if Chapo is killed or captured. U.S. authorities, meanwhile, are uncertain about who might succeed Calderón — Vice President Joe Biden met with all of the leading candidates on a visit to Mexico in March — and whether that successor will have any appetite to continue battling the cartels. With so many dead and so little progress, the Mexican populace has grown war-weary. Several U.S. officials told me that the critical window for capturing Chapo is between now and when Calderón leaves office.
In addition to the threat of capture, there is the threat of competition. By some estimates, the Zetas now control more Mexican territory than Chapo does, even if they don’t move nearly as many drugs. Zeta gunmen have made bloody incursions on Chapo’s turf, going so far as to penetrate the previously inviolable stronghold of his own home state, Sinaloa. In 2008, Chapo’s lover, Zulema Hernández, was discovered dead in the trunk of a car, her body carved with the letter “Z.” “It’s like the evolution of the dinosaurs, and the coming of the T. Rex,” Antonio Mazzitelli told me. “The T. Rex is the Zetas.”
Chapo and his colleagues were never peaceful types; in the last few years, they have waged vicious wars of acquisition to seize the lucrative smuggling routes through Juárez and Tijuana. But to fend off the Zetas, Sinaloa is resorting to new levels of barbarism. In March, the cartel dumped a collection of dismembered bodies in Zeta territory and posted a series of open letters on the walls around them, deriding the Zetas as “a bunch of drunks and car-washers.” Each message was signed, “Sincerely, El Chapo.”
One thing Chapo has always done is innovate. Even as he engages in violent brinkmanship along the border, the cartel is expanding to new markets in Europe, where a kilo of cocaine can sell for three times what it does in the U.S., and in Australia, where authorities believe that Chapo is now a major cocaine supplier. There are also indications that the cartel is exploring opportunities in Southeast Asia, China and Japan — places Chapo and Martínez first visited as younger men. And Chapo’s great comparative advantage still lies along that fraught boundary between Mexico and the United States. Even if the kingpin is killed or captured, one of his associates will quite likely take his place, and the smuggling infrastructure that Chapo created will endure, channeling the product, reaping the profits and feeding, with barely a blip in service, the enduring demand on this side of the border — what the historian Héctor Aguilar Camín once referred to as “the insatiable North American nose.”
Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a fellow at the Century Foundation. From 2010 to 2011, he was a policy adviser in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Editor: Greg Veis


It’s been a big week for reporting on Mexican drug cartels in The New York Times, where reporters on two stories kept themselves safe by replacing direct danger with lots of hard work.

On Tuesday, Ginger Thompson broke the story of Zetas cartel leaders allegedly laundering money through a massive U.S.-based horse-racing operation. Then on Friday, a lengthy Times Magazine feature by Patrick Radden Keefe went live, exploring the structure, business, and leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, which dominates the drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Keefe, author of Snakehead, told The Atlantic Wire on Friday that he’d started reporting his piece in January, using U.S. court documents and trial transcripts to track down three people involved with the Sinaloa cartel, who would speak as sources: A pilot, a drug manufacturer, and a mid-level trafficker. “In a bunch of these cases the people were either doing prison time or had gotten out of prison, so I started tracking people down. A lot of them don’t want to talk. It’s kind of a low-yield form of reporting.”
But through it, Keefe has put together a fascinating profile of an organization that rivals in scale the corporate giants of our time: “By most estimates, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.” And we meet the Sinaloas’ infamous leader, Chapo, who sounds like a cross between CEO and Bond villain: “From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S.”
Keefe opted not to go to Sinaloa itself, the seat of the cartel’s massive operation. He knew he wasn’t going to meet Chapo, so what would he achieve? “There was a cost-benefit analysis. Looking at the reporting from people who have gone to Sinaloa, generally what people come back with — and this is gringo reporters who go up there and ask around — they come back with color. You can describe Culiacon, the capital there … And you might get some guy sitting in front of a restaurant saying ‘we do not speak of the Choppo.’ ” But you’re not going to get an interview with the man himself. “I decided against that for a number of reasons, primarily that a lot of journalists have been killed in mexico, most of them Mexican journalists.” On Thursday, reporter Baez Chino was found dead in Veracruz  the country’s 81st journalist killed since 2000.
So Keefe opted for a week in Mexico City, speaking with academics who follow the drug trade, and lots of time leafing through court documents. Eventually, he found a record of a 2006 trial in Arizona, at which Chapo’s right-hand man, Miguel Angel Martínez, had testified. He tracked down the court reporter, who sent him a copy of the transcript. Amazingly, it had been untouched by reporters. “People have been writing about Chapo for years and years and they’ve poured over his biography,” Keefe said. But here was a document that had never made it into the hands of a journalist or biographer. It included revelations such as Chapo’s own use of cocaine, and what Keefe called “trival details,” like the fact that he had his own private zoo in Guadalajara that contained tigers and bears. “It was gobsmacking for me to get my hands on this transcript, which has been out in the world and available if you’d found it, since 2006. And to realize nobody had found it.”
Thompson, meanwhile, was reporting a much more sensitive story. As she explains in her report, she found out about the Zetas cartel’s alleged involvement in U.S. horse racing in December 2011, and in the course of her reporting discovered that the U.S. Department of Justice was also investigating Zetas leader Miguel Ángel Treviño and his ranch-owning brother, José Treviño, which led to arrests this week. “The Times learned of the government’s investigation last month and agreed to hold back this article until Tuesday morning’s arrests,” she wrote. But she worked on the story for a lot longer than a month, so how did she keep herself and her sources safe? She hid behind her own reporting, she told PRI’s The World:
“I was never threatened. I think a lot of the reason for that is that I didn’t make it known that I was looking specifically at Jose Trevino. I did a lot of reporting that made it appear I was looking at something other than him directly. It was complicated and it took us a lot longer to finish this story because of that. But, yes, we thought about safety at every turn and not just for my safety but really for the safety of the people who spoke to me which is why so many people in my story are unidentified. It was mostly for the sake of their safety.”
Thanks to the two reports’ legwork, we know a lot more about the cartel situation on both sides of the border on Friday than we did on Monday.

Source-Atlantic Wire


Mexican Drug Cartels

Police arrested 52 suspected employees of the notoriously violent Los Zetas drug cartel in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, officials said Wednesday.

The detainees include two municipal police officers and two ex-cops, state Attorney General Adrian de la Garza told a press conference here.

He said those four individuals are believed to be the leaders of a Zetas cell.

The 39 men, eight women and five minors were arrested over a four-day period in the towns of Linares, Allende, Galeana, Iturbide and Montemorelos.

The five underage suspects are accused of acting as lookouts to alert the Zetas to movements of the security forces, the attorney general said.

Police seized assault rifles and torture devices during the raids, state government security spokesman Jorge Domene said.

Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, and other states in northern Mexico, have been battered in recent years as the upstart Zetas battle the more-established drug cartels for control of territory and smuggling routes.

To earn extra cash, some cartel “sicarios” (hit men) engage in kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery.

Conflict among rival cartels and between criminals and the Mexican security forces have claimed more than 50,000 lives since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against organized crime.