Mexico Seems To Favor Sinaloa Cartel In Drug War Mexico's struggle with the deadly drug trade is in focus in Washington as President Felipe Calderon visits. But the fight may be rigged, according to an NPR News investigation, including an analysis of cartel arrests and interviews with current and former law enforcement officials. Elements of federal forces appear to favor the Sinaloa cartel.

Mexico Seems To Favor Sinaloa Cartel In Drug War

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NPR's John Burnett reports.


JOHN BURNETT: Here in Mexico City, people say it's an open secret that their government's vaunted war against the drug cartels is a rigged fight. Standing in the colonial heart of downtown Mexico City with me is a young man.

BURNETT: (Speaking Spanish)

BURNETT: He says the Mexican government is protecting one of the drug cartels. And he should know, he spent five years working as a federal police officer in Mexico City and left the force recently.

BURNETT: (Speaking Spanish)

BURNETT: Manuel Clouthier, congressman from Sinaloa and a member of the president's own party, is deeply frustrated by his country's drug war.

NORRIS: I believe that much of the problem of not combating a certain cartel in a certain state has much to do with corruption and lack of will.

BURNETT: We showed it to Congressman Michael McCaul. He's a Republican from Texas and a former federal prosecutor who sits on the Homeland Security Committee.

NORRIS: But I think that you've identified an issue of concern. And that is, why is the Sinaloa doing so much better than the others and why has the Sinaloa cartel been the one that has escaped a lot of the prosecutions compared to the other cartel members?

BURNETT: The growing criticism in Mexico that President Calderon is selectively fighting the cartels prompted him to speak out at a press conference in February.

P: (Through translator) These accusations are totally unfounded, false. In most cases it reflects a misunderstanding of the facts, the result of other interests. I want to be clear.

BURNETT: NPR's analysis is supported by a Mexican law professor and organized crime expert, Edgardo Buscaglia. He teaches at ITAM, a Mexico City university, and at Columbia University in New York. Buscaglia has done his own analysis of arrests for the various cartels.

P: If you look at the main organized crime group in Mexico, that is the Sinaloa confederation, it has been left relatively untouched.

BURNETT: The United States is giving $1.3 billion in military and justice aid to Calderon to help him defeat the cartels.

A: But does the Sinaloans' reputation for well-placed bribes help keep them out of jail? Jorge Carrasco covers organized crime for the respected Mexican newsmagazine Proceso, which recently put Chapo on the cover with the headline "The Untouchable."

NORRIS: (Through translator) A cartel cannot flourish at their level without civil and military protection at the highest levels.

BURNETT: Again, Congressman Michael McCaul.

NORRIS: Has the Sinaloa infiltrated the Mexican government? Absolutely. Have they infiltrated the Mexican military? Absolutely. Calderon's got a very difficult job of trying to root out corruption within his own ranks.

BURNETT: Again, law professor and organized crime analyst Edgardo Buscaglia.

P: The Sinaloa has been clearly the winner of all that competition among organized crime groups. And as a result of that, they have gained more economic power, they have been able to corrupt more, corrupt with more frequency and corrupt with more scope. And now you see that Sinaloa is the most powerful criminal group not just in Mexico, all over Latin America.

BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News.

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