For some Scope and Background check out The Cocaine Pipeline to Europe.
The idyllic Pacific coast town of Acapulco in Mexico’s Guerrero state once welcomed Hollywood stars and honeymooners, but the city has suffered a wave of bloody violence in recent years, as cartels and criminal groups battle for control.
Since 2012, Acapulco, which has been called “Guerrero’s Iraq,” has been the most violent city in Mexico, and among the most violent cities in the world, with homicide rates above 100 per 100,000 people each year.
These numbers are down from violent peaks reached in 2012 — the city had about 100 homicides a month that year — but the intensity of the bloodshed stands out, and appears to be closely linked to the fragmentation of Mexico’s criminal organizations.
“Violence in the southwest coastal area is the result of the some of the shifting cartel dynamics that we’ve seen among the major players … dating back four or five years … when we saw the takedown of the major figures of the Beltran Leyva Organization,” David Shirk, professor at the University of Sand Diego, told Business Insider.
The Beltran Leyva Organization, or BLO, partnered with “El Chapo” Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel and controlled parts of central and southwestern Mexico. In the late 2000s, the BLO started fighting with the Sinaloa cartel and faced increased pressure from the Mexican government.
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Anti-drug agents are usually extremely cautious about spilling the beans on their secret world, which lies somewhere between espionage, police work and battlefield.
But here’s a rare inside look, offered by a veteran of the drug war. Mike Vigil, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of international operations, served more than three decades in the agency, including 18 years abroad, and more time than any other DEA agent in Mexico.
Now an independent consultant who still advises Mexican security forces, Vigil has detailed his work in a new memoir called “Deal.”
Vigil’s known as the agent who best infiltrated Mexico’s and Colombia’s violent cartels. And he lives to tell the tales.
He has many thrilling ones: pretending to be a trafficker and setting up cocaine deals; working to take down corrupt soldiers and police; watching a drug lord offer him $3 million for his freedom, and smiling as he turned it down.
But, no doubt, the DEA is a controversial operator. The US government has spent billions to break up narco networks in Latin America and elsewhere, only to see millions of Americans still abusing drugs. Some of the agency’s tactics, at times backed by elite military operatives, have also come under criticism.
And times have changed since Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in 1971. US citizens in many states are even voting to legalize pot. On this issue, Vigil is a defender of the DEA’s official, prohibitionist line about marijuana being a highly addictive gateway drug — claims that are increasingly disputed.
Still, whatever the debate, agents like Vigil have some of the sharpest inside knowledge of drug cartels wreaking havoc on the Americas.
In a recent interview, GlobalPost asked Vigil to dish on some crime family secrets and to explain why he still backs the drug war. Excerpts follow.
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