And The Beat Goes On

Drug Policy — POSTED BY Amanda Feilding on November 9, 2009 at 10:49 am

“A Big Arrest Could Revive the Medellin Drug War” - Time Magazine reports on a typical example of how removing one Latin-American drug-lord, only results in an increase in violence as others fight to fill his place, without having any impact on the prevalence of drugs in either producer or consumer nation:

The capture of one of Colombia’s most wanted drug lords — who had, according to the police, been hiding in the country’s northwestern jungle “like a dog” under a shelter of palm fronds — has led to major rejoicing in the country’s war on drugs. Daniel Rendon Herrera, alias “Don Mario,” allegedly headed a vast narcotrafficking operation, run largely out of the country’s northwest, that caused a surge in drug violence in the nearby city of Medellin. The activities of his drug empire were allegedly responsible for 3,000 deaths in the last 18 months alone.

many expect the capture of “Don Mario” may do little to stem the drug trade nor the violence it brings — and may in fact trigger a surge in bloodshed

Nevertheless, despite the victory celebrations, many expect the capture of “Don Mario” may do little to stem the drug trade nor the violence it brings — and may in fact trigger a surge in bloodshed. “When a capo comes down there is a fight to substitute him,” says Francisco Thoumi, an expert and author of several books on the political economy of the drug trade. Says Adam Isaacson, a Colombia analyst at the Washington-based Center for International Policy: “Don Mario had important control over cocaine production and drug trafficking routes, and now they’re all up for grabs.” (See pictures from the narco underworld in Medellin and beyond.)

The cocaine baron had been a major figure in one of the paramilitary groups that began demobilizing after a 2003 accord with the government of President Alvaro Uribe. Those groups had been accused of a variety of crimes, including torture, land-theft and massacre But Don Mario refused to go through with the demobilization agreement, became a fugitive and continued running his drug-trafficking operation. Now Medellin is bracing for the struggle to determine his successor. What follows will be business as usual. “One capo goes down, another takes his place,” says an ex-intelligence official.

In an irony lost on corpses, analysts say, the arrest of drug leaders often only leads to more violence.

Experts expect Don Mario’s arrest to lead to violence between gangs in the hillsides ringing Medellin. An ex-intelligence official also predicts deadly infighting in the capo’s traditional bastions of power, such as the regions of Cordoba, Uraba and Choco. “We will see a war,” says the former official. “There are more than 1,000 men guarding a whole lot of money.”

Once one of the cocaine trafficking capitals of the world, Medellin experienced a rare few years of respite and calm after 2003, when thousands of narco-financed paramilitary groups started putting down their arms in exchange for amnesty or reduced sentences. At the same time, however, many observers attribute the reduced levels of violence to the control that another drug lord and paramilitary leader, Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, alias “Don Berna,” held over the city, suppressing uprisings from other drug gangs. But in May 2008, Don Berna was arrested and extradited to the U.S. and Don Mario sought control over the monopoly held by his rival, ushering in a new wave of violence. Homicide rates in Medellin rose by 32% in 2008, according to the mayor’s office.

In an irony lost on corpses, analysts say, the arrest of drug leaders often only leads to more violence. When narcotrafficker Wilber Verela, alias “Jabon,” was murdered in Venezuela in 2008, seven allegedly related deaths followed the next week in Bogota, intelligence sources said. And after the April 1 arrest of Fabio Edison Gomez, alias “Rinon,” the leader of Medellin’s main crime organization, 33 people were killed in a week, according to the city’s police. The renewed upsurge in violence led to the government dispatching some 500 soldiers and 6,800 police to poor neighborhoods in the city. But major crackdowns do not seem to hamper the drug trade. In the last few years, several high-profile drug lords have been arrested and extradited to the United States. However, Isaacson notes, “the cocaine continues to flow.”

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1891819,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-sidebar#ixzz0WMRcEq3g

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