MEXICO CITY — Mexican
drug gangs once limited to the north are now cutting
a swath across the nation, leaving behind headless
rivals and helpless police as they take advantage of
a presidential election crisis to settle scores,
analysts and officials in the United States and
The historic level of
drug violence not only threatens Mexican judges and
politicians, who once were immune, but also American
tourists and U.S. investors, as the cartels move
into vacation corridors such as Acapulco-Zihuatanejo
on the Pacific Coast and Morelia-Uruapan in the
central state of Michoacan.
A Dallas businessman
recently pulled out of a $40 million project near
the Zihuatanejo resort.
"We didn't think this
was the right moment," said Carol Davenport, a
real estate agent from Arlington, Texas, now
working in Mexico, who represented the
businessman. "The dire situation didn't exactly
inspire investor confidence," she added, referring
to a rash of killings in the area.
The scale of the
lawlessness, its geographical reach, and the
apparent inability of the government to keep it in
check threaten Mexico's political stability, some
Javier Ibarrola, who
writes on the drug trade and the military for the
Milenio newspaper, said President Vicente Fox's
once-promising drug fight "is now just done in
speeches" as violence and narco-corruption spiral
out of control.
"I have never seen
anything like this, ever," Ibarrola said. "The
(narcos) have the field wide open to them."
insist they are confronting the drug cartels
head-on and point to the recent capture of one of
the most-wanted capos in Mexico and the
United States, reputed Tijuana cartel boss
Francisco Javier Arellano Felix. He was captured
by the U.S. Coast Guard, but Mexican officials
took part of the credit.
But some analysts say
an atmosphere of impunity in the nation is not
limited to the narcos.
Cartel turf wars
extend from Chihuahua to Cancun and have taken
1,500 lives so far this year. Fueling the
situation, analysts say, is the unresolved
presidential election, in which leftist leader
Andrés Manuel López Obrador has refused to accept
an apparent defeat. Mexico's Federal Electoral
Tribunal is expected to name ruling-party
candidate Felipe Calderón president-elect in
supporters have taken over the capital's streets
and plazas, disrupting traffic and commerce.
Seeking to avoid confrontation, the local and
federal governments have allowed demonstrators to
commit crimes ranging from obstructing traffic to
destroying government property without punishment.
The same is true in
the southern state of Oaxaca, where the center of
the capital city is controlled by striking
teachers and leftist organizations that may have
ties to guerrilla groups, according to some
Mexican and U.S. officials.
Mexican analysts say
that fears of a broader confrontation have kept
the government from moving against the
"The drug cartels are
taking control of cities, coasts and highways up
and down the nation, while the government and we
the people are passive spectators before the
images of the tortured and beheaded in the media,"
wrote Homero Aridjis, a political columnist. "And
with the post-election political drunkenness of
(López Obra-dor), with his marches, sit-ins and
threats, many of us are on the verge of a nervous
Fox has signaled that
a crackdown against demonstrators may be coming,
if the politicians behind them continue to resist
cartels dedicated both to moving narcotics to the
United States and selling them in Mexican cities
have moved into the apparent void. They are
suspected of killing a federal judge last week
near Mexico City, setting off a panic among the
judiciary, which is a traditional target for
bribes but almost never for bullets. Some want
"There are some real
worrisome signs because there's a power vacuum,"
said Ana Maria Salazar, an expert on national
security and former high-ranking Pentagon
official. "We still don't know who the next
president is, and that only makes the situation
Menendez, co-author of the new book, "From the
Maras to the Zetas: the Secrets of Drug
Trafficking from Colombia to Chicago," said
politicians who control 90 percent of the
country's police are more reluctant than ever to
take on the cartels.
"There are local and
state politicians whose intention is not to
participate in the drug fight either because they
are complicit, in some cases, or they are scared,
or because they simply don't want trouble,"
"If the state and
local governments don't get involved, the
situation is going to become very complicated …