Two weeks ago, the White House singled out Los Zetas as one of four criminal groups around the world that pose a threat to “the stability of international political and economic systems. . .” This was a major designation that gives the U.S. government more latitude in seizing property and imposing sanctions.
But here’s the question: Why Los Zetas? Why not the Sinaloa Cartel, which is widely believed to be bigger and with greater international reach? Just this week, Colombia announced the capture of a woman who is an alleged major money launderer for Sinaloa. And Proceso magazine has detailed Sinaloa’s extensive activities in Argentina. One researcher, Edgardo Buscaglia, has even suggested Sinaloa’s reach extends to Afghanistan.
Moreover, while Sinaloa has a reputation as less overtly brutal than Los Zetas, the reality is that the cartel’s move into Ciudad Juarez on the Texas border is what unleashed a bloodbath there against the Juarez Cartel that has left in excess of 8,000 deaths since 2006.
Yet to read a transcript of the comments offered July 25 in Washington, Los Zetas is not only the real threat to Mexico but also a threat to international order. There’s no mention of Sinaloa.
Under Secretary of the Treasury David Cohen noted that Los Zetas had already been designated a drug kingpin organization and described the group as “an extremely violent transnational criminal organization based in Mexico. Los Zetas transports large amounts of illegal narcotics through Mexico into the United States and is responsible for numerous murders, both in Mexico and in the United States, including members of U.S. law enforcement.”
Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan attributed great power to Los Zetas and the other three groups to disrupt global financial order: “Transnational crime threatens the world economy. The sophistication and business savvy of these criminals permit them to enter markets and undermine legitimate competition and market integrity, which can damage and distort financial systems and legitimate competitiveness.”
Couldn’t the same thing be said of Sinaloa?
A good critique of these issues was aired here on the website of Insight Crime, a must-read to keep abreast of crime issues Colombia northward. Analyst Patrick Corcoran breaks down motivations over why Washington might have selected Los Zetas, chiefly because the Felipe Calderon administration has named the group its own No. 1 priority and may consider it the most predatory and expansionist of the nation’s crime groups.
But given widespread allegations that authorities in Mexico _ and in the U.S. _ are soft on Sinaloa, it is high time authorities on both sides of the border spell out the justification for omitting Sinaloa from this recent designation. Even Sinaloa's own members, like Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of alleged kingpin Mayo Zambada, are offering details about a cozy relationship with U.S. agents.