Rusting barrel of nuclear waste on sea bed.
The security threats posed by Los Zetas/La Compania are in another realm now. Since May we’ve noted several times that the cartel is operating in 47 countries and that it has connections in Italy, specifically the Calabrian mafia known as Ndrangheta. Over the past week this relationship has come into sharper focus, rendering a picture with some pronounced, unsettling features
On Thursday Sep 17 DEA officials in Canada, Italy and Mexico announced the arrests of 175 members of the Zetas/La Compania connected to Ndrangheta. In 2008, the Italian Antimafia Commission called Ndhrangeta “the most powerful mafia in the world” with an estimated annual revenue of 40b Euros–which translates to 3.5% of Italy’s GDP. 80% of the cocaine in European markets comes in through Gioia Taura, Italy’s largest seaport which is controlled by Ndrangheta. As a footnote, DOJ National Drug Intelligence Center 2009 report says Ndrangheta is involved in drug trafficking in 19 US states–likely in collusion with Zetas/La Compania.
(For those unfamiliar with this mafie, try the Ndrangheta entry at Wikipedia–though it’s in need of updating.)
Only a few days earlier stories on Ndrangheta’s nuclear waste dumping hit the news. See Telegraph(UK) story here. But it wasn’t really “news”– an even more telling item can be found from two years ago at The Guardian UK.
The fact that Zetas/La Compania have been in business with a major transnational criminal organization dealing in nuclear waste on this scale has likely set certain heads of hair on fire in Washington. The game has been way beyond Mexico for some time. It just hasn’t registered with the US media. Perhaps that will change with this latest, but don’t count on it. The best, most thorough (and most high risk) reporting on all this is by Mexican and Italian reporters who aren’t being translated into English.
Two veteran Italian antimafia prosecutors–Nicola Gratteri and Antonio Ingroia– have been sounding alarms about the cooperative between Los Zetas/La Compania and the Ndrangheta for more than a year.
Gratteri has just released an updated edition of his book on the Ndhrangeta–Fratelli di Sangue (Blood Brothers) published by Mondiadori and is out on the circuit doing interviews. Here today at El Universal and at more length on Ndrangheta with Kate Holman at The Tribune (UK)
Gratteri’s research shows that Zetas and Ndrangheta have been working together for more than two years. “They needed the European market and the Ndrangheta needed the cocaine, so they went into business.”
Besides the wholesale blow market, the Calabrians opened other business avenues in Europe for Zetas/La Compania including money laundering, real estate and human trafficking.
Ingroia was in Mexico City this week meeting with the PGR and other officials where he is seeking to establish a new the Italian-Mexican think tank–Instituto Nacional de Administración Pública–a transnational center for legal, social and public administration studies. Ingroia has been investigating and prosecuting the Italian mafias since 1990.
In an interview with Columba Vertiz de la Fuente at Proceso on Friday, Ingroia took a dim view of Calderon’s militarized narcoguerra, saying flat-out that it was a “bad strategy.”
“You cannot stop the cartels with the army, ” said Ingroia. “You only use the army in emergency situations. You use them to defend and protect high risk targets.” He went on to predict a further escalation in Mexico drug war violence, adding that the Mexican cartels are far more “ruthless and bloody” than their counterparts in Italy. Ingroia observed that organized crime is so integrated into the Mexican economy that it cannot be entirely eleminated.
I expect that last comment will only bring a yawn to most Mexicans who have been watching scores of federal, state and municipal officials parading in front of judges over the past month–most of them accused of being on the Zetas/La Compania payroll.