Cartels and Jihadists: Misconceptions and Provocative Suggestions

INSIGHT CRIME — In this analysis of the similarities between Islamic terrorist groups and Mexican cartels, David Martínez-Amador explores how the strategy to confront the former has influenced that of the latter.

During the six-year presidency of Felipe Calderón, Mexican intelligence agencies underwent a leverage process unprecedented in Mexico-United States bilateral relations. The hope (and hope it was) was to finally build an atmosphere allowing for the sharing of data without the usual distrust. Ultimately it happened, but under the guidelines proposed by the United States. Although it was frustrating, it brought about a homogenization in the strategy against drug trafficking. And this was serious.

What do I mean?

In concrete terms, I mean the United States applied in Mexico the same methods, procedures, and tactics it uses to address the Middle East: the strategy known as “Suppression of High Value Targets.” The US military seeks to nullify the heads of terrorist organizations, similar to the strategy in Mexico of decapitating cartel leadership. By the end of Calderon’s six-year administration, this strategy resulted in 25 out of 37 criminals being “taken out of circulation” (nine killed and 16 detained). It is this strategy, originally designed for the volatile situation in the Middle East, which we should thank for the mutation of large cartels into highly volatile micro-organizations.

This article was originally published by Plaza Pública. It was translated, edited for clarity, and reprinted with permission, but it does not necessarily reflect the views of InSight Crime. See Spanish original here

In the design of the “suppression of high value target” strategy, the US attempted to frame the Mexican insecurity phenomenon into pre-existing parameters in which it did not fit. One of these references was the dynamic used for the al-Qaeda organization. As expected, using these references in a rigid and literal way led to the overlooking of differences that resulted in devastating effects.

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