Stratfor Latin America Analyst Reggie Thompson and Vice President of Tactical Analysis Scott Stewart discuss the continued balkanization of the Mexican Cartels in 2017.
Mexico's Cartels Will Continue to Splinter in 2017
February 2, 2017
Editor's Note: This analysis is an excerpt of the annual cartel forecast produced by Stratfor's Threat Lens team, available in its entirety to Threat Lens subscribers.
By Scott Stewart
Stratfor has tracked Mexico's drug cartels for over a decade. For most of that time, our annual forecasts focused on the fortunes and prospects of each trafficking organization. But as Mexican organized crime groups have gradually fractured and fallen apart — a process we refer to as balkanization — we have had to refine the way we think about them. The cartels are no longer a handful of large groups carving out territory across Mexico, but a collection of many different smaller, regionally based networks. So, rather than exploring the outlook of every individual faction, we now take them as loose gatherings centered on certain core areas of operation: Tamaulipas, Tierra Caliente and Sinaloa...
A Year in Review
...Violence stemming from organized crime was also much higher last year than we expected. At the time, we believed that because no nationwide cartel wars raged, and many smaller clashes had moved beyond Mexico's major cities, the anticipated human toll would drop. But this also proved untrue: Last year's homicide rates in Mexico were 10 percent higher than 2015's, making it the country's deadliest year since 2012. We failed to foresee that the balkanization process would produce more flashpoints across Mexico, including in major cities such as Juarez, Acapulco, Tijuana and Veracruz. As a result, murder rates jumped in the states of Michoacan, Sinaloa, Veracruz, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Colima and Chihuahua.
At the end of the day, the smaller groups that emerged from the bigger cartels' infighting were less stable, less predictable and more willing to fight tooth and nail to keep what little territory they had. Without a central leadership structure directing these groups' activities behind the scenes, Mexican authorities will have a tough time combating them. Though there are still a few ringleaders to target and capture — the government's favored strategy for tackling organized crime — Mexico City will have little choice in the year ahead but to pick off Mexico's many different groups and gangs one by one...
"Mexican Cartels in 2017: Continued Fragmentation is republished with permission of Stratfor."