Fred Burton: Coup likely to provoke fresh wave of violence

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The Independent Online

This is another major blow for the Beltran Leyva organisation. It is one of a half-dozen powerful criminal enterprises that control the drug-supply stream from Latin America, through Mexico and into the lucrative North American market.

Usually when these kinds of kingpins have been taken out, it is because they have been ratted on by others who have inside information. Edgar Valdez Villarreal, or "La Barbie", was close to Arturo Beltran Leyva, one of the founders of the cartel, who was killed by security forces in December last year. That points to poor operational security, and the authorities clearly have good intelligence on this cartel.

Beltran Leyva has been disintegrating – though only time will tell how this will play out. With Valdez's arrest, there is an opening that needs to be filled. It may be that competitors will see this as a vulnerability, and it will lead to a rise in violence. It's part of a natural evolution that will decide which of the cartels survive.

For these organisations, it's all about market share. There are ebbs and flows between and within various cartels. The organisations are looking for control of geographic areas. When they take control, they direct all the facets of what goes on there, including elected officials and police officers. The question is, how high up does it go? Police officers and mayors have been killed for not taking bribes.

The arrest is good for President Felipe Calderon. His government needed success on the back of the killing of 72 migrants last week. Valdez was from Texas and this gives Mr Calderon the opportunity to say that this isn't just Mexico's problem, and to spin it positively.

But it's nothing more than that. This is just one individual, albeit one who has this aura about him because of where he's from. The reality is that the government of Mexico is fighting a multi-front war against a host of different cartels. However, let's not lose sight of the fact that this is a $25bn to $40bn (£16bn to £26bn) industry with hard cash flowing from North America into Mexico. These drug cartels are not going to slow down and the two most powerful ones are very much alive.

Fred Burton is vice-president of intelligence for Stratfor, a Texas-based security analysis firm, and a former US intelligence agent

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