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Published:March 24th, 2009 11:45 EST
Mexico Issues $2 Million Reward For Cartel Ringleaders

Mexico Issues $2 Million Reward For Cartel Ringleaders

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Monday afternoon, the Mexican government issued a bounty of $2 million each, for information that might lead to apprehending 24 of the drug lords suspected of heading the drug cartels and affiliated organizations endangering Mexican and American lives and the government`s control.

The list released details, that soon circulated around the world, that the centralized drug syndicates have split into six smaller units due to the aggessive force applied by the joint efforts of the U.S. and Mexican governments. The two largest and strongest groups: the Gulf and Pacific cartels, each underwent substantial fissuring that formed these less powerful, but equally deadly groups resuming the bloody conflicts and drug transactions, the list authored by the Attorney General`s Office stated.

The bounty on the 24 top officials` still at large is $2 million American or 30 million pesos while the price on 13 of their recognized lieutenants` heads drops to $1 million American (15 million pesos).

Ricardo Najera, a representative for the Attorney General`s Office, said these sums are the largest that Mexico has ever agreed to offer for the capture of these and other similar high-profile criminals. Some of the men implicated on the list, notoriously Pacific cartel chiefs Joaquin Guzman and Ismael Zambada, are also the subject of a bounty issued by the U.S. government amounting to $5 million for information leading to their capture.

Najera said that these rewards serve as a further bonus to those informants that can help in any way in arresting the highest ranked members of the operating drug outfits. The spokesman said that the government, under President Felipe Calderon`s rule, hadn`t paid reward money for any of the organization members caught since Calderon was elected into office. Or have they needed to, as anonymous informers have come forward on their own conscience or otherwise. But with the escalating violence all across the country, further action was called for.

Stephen Meiners, a Latin America analyst for the U.S. intelligence agency Stratfor, speculated that most information turned in, will come from leaders from competing cartels who would be more than willing to get rid of a business rival. He went on to say: "So far that`s been enough incentive to phone in these tips. I kind of doubt that the people making these calls would want to come forward to claim reward money."

Andrew Selee, director of the Wilson Center`s Mexico Institute, said that this revised version of the most wanted list is the first of its kind to include members from all the drug cartels and groups. He deduced that perhaps incumbent government officials on both sides of the border have seen how only targeting one faction at a time, like many previous administrations had done in the past, is obviously the least logical approach to this crisis.

Selee said: "It tells you a little bit about Calderon`s thinking. He really sees this as something he wants to eradicate. He`s willing to take them all on as a unit."

This edict also provided some acumen into how the cartels were able to reorganize so efficiently, and outlined some tactics in dissolving the drug lords` networks. The Beltran Leyva and Carrillo Fuentes gangs were once under the influence of the Sinaloa cartel, but according to the recent publication, they`re now both regarded as separate organizations. La Familia, a syndicate operating out of central Mexico, is now an individual entity under the new list. Before it was under orders from the Gulf cartel.

Since Calderon became the president of Mexico, he`s inherited a ever-growing cost, including the human lives counted as the failures from the last office holder, and has asserted his authority in combating the problem in the last two years. And it`s ostensibly been paying off. The government affirms that Calderon`s ambitions in corraling drug forces is the cause behind the recent victories in the war against drugs. And as the gang leaders have been rounded up, internal strife between self-serving lieutenants has led to violence for cartel control. The U.S. government insists that a result of the groups` retaliation is Mexico`s loss of order in many of its territories, though Calderon`s spokespeople adamantly deny that accusation.

Basically, as the underlying intent of the list, Mexico is saying that Mexico is using everything in its power to curtail drug activity and to drive cartel leaders from hiding, as the expert on Mexico from the College of William & Mary in Virginia, George Grayson reasoned. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is preparing to visit the country in several days, as well as President Barack Obama, who is expected to tour the violence-crippled nation in a month. Grayson thinks this development hardly coincides with those dignitaries` impending visits.

According to Grayson: "(Mexican officials) have been quite defensive about all the talk about Mexico`s being a failed state and that the cartels are controlling more and more territory. I see this as an acceleration of Calderon`s policy but with one eye on the upcoming visit of the American leaders."


As recently as last week, two of the individuals also wanted by the Mexican government were apprehended: one on an anonymous tip from someone saying there were "armed men" at a specific location. The two were Vicente Zambada, the son of Ismael Zambada from the list, and a purported mastermind behind the plot to attack the U.S. consulate in Monterrey: Sigifredo Najera Talamantes, a notorious assassin for the Gulf cartel. Najera Talamantes was arrested on tips from information in the Mexican government.

Mexican violent crimes attributed to the cartels battling for territory rights and against government suppression have accounted for more than 9,000 deaths since President Felipe Calderon took over Mexico in December 2006. The U.S. government has taken a greater interest in seeing the cartels dismantled since their violence has begun to spread across the border into many southwestern American cities and towns.