War in Tamaulipas–The Petro Threat

This war raging through Tamaulipas must have the nervous attention of oil & gas interests on both sides of the border by now as it encompasses the Burgos Basin and major Pemex resources and activity which account for 25% of Mexico’s annual energy production.

In October Pemex reached a production record of 1.6bn cf/d of gas in the Burgos Basin in , a volume it maintained until the end of the year. It plans to invest heavily to maintain and increase gas production from the area, with the aim of reaching 1.8bn cf/d in 2011.–Petroleum Economist

Recent Items to Consider

  • Feb 18– The Attorney-General for Special Investigation into Organized Crime (SIEDO) reports that military units seized more than 4 tons of marijuana at installations of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. The discovery was made after Pemex security alerted officials that armed men were removing  Pemex employees  from a  fuel supply station. In response a Mexican Naval helicopter was dispatched to the scene but retreated after receiving heavy weapons fire from the ground. When military units arrived on the ground they found the weed loaded on  trucks abandoned at the site.
  • Feb 19–A  PEMEX trailer carrying 18 tons of explosives is  stolen,  hijacked on its way from Torreon, Coahula to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, according to the Attorney General’s office in Tamaulipas. The truck was found abandoned with the driver missing. Federal police and military units were placed on alert and began searching for the missing trailer and its cargo– Seismic Booster Pentolite, a TNT PETN mixture used as a “seismic booster.”  The next day Federal Police located the trailers with the explosives  left alongside a highway in Tamaulipas. No one was apprehended. (La Cronica de Hoy)
  • Feb 27— Pemex reports the discovery of three major taps into their pipelines in Tamualipas–two were 12″ in diameter and another illegal duct measuring  24 “.
  • Feb 28 – Sempra Pipelines & Storage, a unit of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), today announced that it will acquire the Mexican pipeline and gas infrastructure assets of El Paso Corp. (NYSE: EP) for $300 million. The acquisition involves El Paso’s wholly owned natural gas pipeline and compression assets in the Mexican border state of Sonora. The transaction also includes El Paso’s 50-percent interest in a joint venture with PEMEX, the Mexican state-owned oil company. The joint venture operates two natural gas pipelines and a propane system in northern Mexico. The joint venture with PEMEX owns and operates: the 23-mile, 24-inch Samalayuca natural gas pipeline and Gloria a Dios compressor station in Chihuahua that supply natural gas from the U.S. to various Mexican power plants; the 70-mile, 36-inch San Fernando natural gas pipeline in the state of Tamaulipas; and the 114-mile, 12-inch pipeline that transports liquid propane from the Burgos production area to a delivery facility near the city of Monterrey.–(Oil and Gas Online)
  • March 1-Pemex reports that at 8:16 pm they received an anonymous phone call on the Central Emergency 066, threatening to explode a bomb in the premises of the refinery “Francisco I. Madero”. Operational staff vacated the building and security was tightened at all entrances to the refinery. Navy special forces of Mexico, Intelligence of the 15th Infantry Battalion and staff of Physical Security of Petroleos Mexicanos, searched the facilities and found no device. (Hoy Tamaulipas)

Tamualipas is home base for Los Zetas which has effectively penetrated PEMEX security and middle management in that state and in Veracruz, most notably the $46 m theft of condensate in 2007 that was later sold to Texas energy brokers. For new readers, see extensive NGT posts on all that beginning in July  herehereherehere...hereherehere..and here .

There is suspicion floating that the hijacking of the explosives served as both a warning and means to extort ransom from PEMEX for their return. No one has been arrested.

Two Videos and Breaking News from the Narcoguerra Frontera Norte

Two videos from the war raging along the border in Northeast Mexico- mainly Tamaulipas-where a three-way death match between Los Zetas and “Nueva Federación” consisting of a faction of Cartel de Golfo (CDG) , sicarios from  Chapo Guzman’s Sinaloa franchise and the evangelical mob out of Michoacan, La Familia and the Mexican Navy’s special forces continues without let up–W

The first– an album of the carnage in Reynosa  set to a corrido on the CDG/Zetas war  (Graphic Content)……

The second–a six-minute drive through the deserted streets of Carmago, Tamaulipas where all activity is at a halt–virtually no pedestrians, no kids playing, shops closed, broken traffic lights, scores of shell casings scattered along the roadside..the young woman who made the video, apparently with her cell, says all this was the aftermath of a six-hour gun battle…


Just as I was about to post these,this came in from the San Antiono Express News

The U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo Tuesday reported an “ongoing gun battle” in the area of a main boulevard and the city zoo.

“The U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo advises all U.S. citizens to shelter in place and take precautions until the fighting subsides,” said a message posted Tuesday on the consulate’s Web site.

The reported gunfire follows a weekend lull after a week of violence attributed to Mexican drug gangs fighting for control of transport roots through the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon opposite the Texas border.

Reports of an explosion in Reynosa, Mexico, briefly shut down a U.S.-Mexico bridge there Tuesday but were apparently unfounded.

Even the bears and monkeys are under the gun..More to follow…


From this evening’s news broadcast KRVG Channel 5 in Rio Grande Valley, Texas ..If they’re sources are correct on the number of Zeta reinforcements heading to Nuevo Laredo this war could shut down the border..the body count of 23 cited by the Mexican army is lowball– according to my sources..at least 30 were killed..liely more as  the Zetas and CDG commandos have been carrying off their dead and wounded..

WESLACO (TX)- CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned the Zetas are out of Reynosa tonight.

They’ve moved about 150 miles west to Nuevo Laredo. Our intelligence sources tell us the group wants to take over the city and make it their base of operations.

The U.S. Consulate General’s office has already confirmed a gunbattle in Nuevo Laredo. It’s happening near Boulevard Colosio and the city’s zoo. The consulate general’s office is telling all U.S. citizens to take shelter until the fighting stops.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned the Zetas are already calling in reinforcements. We’re told 700 Zetas from around Mexico are joining the 500 already brought to the area last week.

The Gulf Cartel also called in reinforcements last week. CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned they joined forces with two rival cartels, La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Our sources tell us the Sinaloa Cartel and LFM have a deep hatred of the Zetas. They could also benefit by getting a cut of the Valley’s drug smuggling business.

It was a rough week for the border. CHANNEL 5 NEWS was following an explosion of shootouts and grenade attacks in northern Tamualipas.

Violence was reported in border cities like Valle Hermoso, Reynosa, Guerrero, Miguel Aleman, Ciudad Mier, and Valadeces. According to the Mexican military and CHANNEL 5 NEWS sources, last week’s violence left at least 23 people dead.

Our sources tell us it was triggered when a Gulf Cartel member murdered a Zeta leader on January 18. The Zetas demanded the Gulf Cartel hand over the killer.

When that didn’t happen, the Zetas kidnapped 16 Gulf Cartel members in Miguel Aleman. We’re told that led to the shootouts up and down the border.

Link to video on KRVG website here

Blowback Still Blows–Zetas, Kaibiles and MS-13

On Nov 25 Salvadoran federal police intelligence reported that no fewer than 40 gang members from several countries in Central America  were  recently trained at a Zetas training camp alongside Laguna  El Tigre  in Guatemala across the border from Tabasco. A dozen were members of Mara Salvatrucha  (MS 13) cliques from  several municipalities in El Salvador–a new wrinkle as most Maras working for the Zetas have been from southern Mexico and Guatemala.

According to these police sources the young gangsters were being skilled in light weapons tactics by former Kaibiles, the notorious Guatemalan special forces counterpart to the Mexican GAFE which produced the original Los Zetas cadre.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering the longterm alliance between rogue Kaibiles and the Zetas, one that dates back to the late 90s when they were being schooled together in advanced special operations skills at Ft Bragg, Ft Huachuca and Ft Benning. See June posting-Blowback from Bragg.

Since being arrested  in July 2006 three mid-level Zetas–“Mateo”, “Rafael” and “Karen”–have been secreted  in the witness protection program of the  Procuraduria General de La Republica (PGR) (the  Mexican Attorney General’s office) .  Over the past three years the three have provided  lengthy insiders’ reports on the Zetas La Compania.. “Comandente Mateo” was a member of Los Tangos, the Gulf cartel security and assassination squad.

A transcript is available as  open source courtesy reporter Jose Reyes at Contralinea .. LINK-in Spanish.
Some highlights:
“In September 2001 Osiel Cardenas (head of Cartel del Golfo) issued a directive ordering a whole group of sicarios–assassins–to Monterrey to get better military training “, said  Rafael. “There were over fifty of us.  The course instructors were Daniel Pérez Rojas, el Cachetes ; Héctor Robles Duarte, el Caballo ; and Isidro López Arias, el Colchón . The course lasted two months. After that we were Los Zetas and started doing bigger operations.” 

“Following the arrest of Osiel Cardenas (head of Cartel del Golfo) in March 2003, there were many problems within the organization, said  Mateo. “Its leaders, like Eduardo Costilla and Gregorio Sauceda, they became disoriented and wanted to hide, so Z-3–Heriberto Lazcano took command and calmed everything down.”   



Comandente Karen added that “by June of that year (2003), we were receiving training from the Kaibiles in the town of Valle Hermoso. What we learned from the Kaibiles we took back home and used it to teach the rest of  our people. “

The Kaibiles  are a prized employee pool for private military and security contractors. Their most recent controversial appearances have been in Iraq and the Congo. Their notoriously ruthless reputation dates back to their days  as  CIA-backed death squads.

What is important here is the year this took place–2003–which predates what has been reported about Kaibiles involvement with Zetas. Conventional take has been that Zetas allied with some rogue Kaibiles  in Guatemala over the past year–if the above statements are true (and in this instance, I believe they are) not only has the Zetas/Kaibiles partnership been underway for over six years but the Kaibiles  have been operating with Zetas in Mexico since that time.

This is  adds a whole other dimension to the Zetas portrait. It was enough to know that the Zetas core leadership out of GAFE was trained at Ft Bragg, Ft Benning and Ft Huachuca and that the Zetas had made partnerships with some kaibiles in Guatemala–but to learn that the Zetas set up in-country training bases staffed by  elite Guatemalan soldiers in 2003 must have been more than disconcerting for counternarcotics agencies on both sides of the border.

How such information was obtained from the three Zetas is speculative. A variety of means are available for authorities:  deal-cutting, competitor snitch-out or, with the proper training, more stringent “enhanced” measures…

Zetas to Houston– It Ain’t Coke, It’s OIL

hwytankers z

The gringo shoe dropped this afternoon in the Zetas Pemex petro scandal–US Department of Justice announced their first conviction of an American oil executive involved in  the three-year “milking” of Pemex pipelines by Los Zetas in cooperation with Pemex managers and security personnel.

Donald Schroeder, president of Houston-based Trammo Petroleum, is scheduled to be sentenced in December after pleading guilty in May.

In a $2 million scheme, Herrera said, Schroeder purchased stolen Mexican oil that had been brought across the border in trucks and barges and sold it to various U.S. refineries, which she did not identify. Trammo’s tiny firm profited about $150,000 in the scheme, she said.

AP story here.

Richard at The Mex Files thought I was stretching when I tagged the Zetas on this  May 25 at July Dogs and later here , here and here

NarcoGuerra Times tries to tie the thefts to “los Zetas” (but then, every scandal in Mexico that can’t be blamed on “la Familia” is laid at their feet by the present administration) although, at most, they are subcontractors to the security contractors.

but I think he’s going to have to reconsider that now.

In–as the TV news readers say–related news, this intriguing items:

On  Sunday Rageunel Villanueva, celebrity lawyer for drug cartels, was blown away  in a hail of fire from three AR-15s while shopping  with her daughter in a busy Monterrey flea market two blocks from federal police headquarters. Villanueva’s latest clients were Zetas related–some  who were arrested in May in the Pemex Zetas oil theft operation and another who is facing charges stemming from raid on a Zetas counterfeit CD/DVD/software factory.  Until last Sunday, the 54 year old attorney had escaped assassination in four attempts over the past 11 years. Villanueva’s clients included a federal prosecutor tied to the Juarez cartel. Given her long history as an defense attorney for drug traffickers, it is not certain at this point that her murder Sunday was directly related to the Zetas operations, however there hasn’t been an attempt on her life since 2001. The timing of Villanueva’s murder is further  intriguing given  that Villanueva just recently delivered the manuscript of  her memoirs to her publisher.

The day before Villareall was gunned down in Monterrey, federal police in Guanajuato rolled up on an abandoned  Zetas safe house in Salamanca, one day after the federal prosecutor’s  offices in Irapauto and Silao were hit by coordinated AK-47 and grenade attacks. Carlos Zampara,  federal prosecutor in Guanajuato, said that the assaults  that left two dead were conducted by units of  Los Zetas linked to pipeline thefts in the state.  Zampara believes the the attacks were in retaliation for the deaths of 11 Zetas in a gun battle with federal police in Apaseo el Grande, Guanajuato.

In the unoccupied Zetas’ safe house authorities found 23 rifles, 15 handguns, 16 grenades, 10 gas maks and 5,600 rounds of ammunition.
More interesting–79 tactical shirts–some with police insignias, others with Zetas emblems reading “United Zetas” accompanied by the Zetas shield patch with acronym-FECG–Fuerzas especiales del cartel del Golfo–(Special Forces of The Gulf Cartel).
Also found abandoned at the site were 2 armored SUVs and a tanker ruck that was used in the Pemex pipeline thefts–just one of more than 300 that rolled for the Zetas.
This saga still has some miles to go.
I imagine there are  a number of boys in Texas talking to their lawyers right now.

How Los Zetas Milked Pemex

Milking Cows

US media is paying zero attention to this major story. Perhaps because it’s not as luridly eyecatching as bad drugs, big guns and severed heads.

Regardless, the Pemex scandal coupled with the one at Procampo is bleeding the Calderon administration of what little life force remains in its veins after  a  failed three-year war against the narco cartels and its resultant “collateral damage” to a hapless Mexican citizenry, plus a major flu epidemic and a cratered economy.

Corruption in Mexican governance is not news. but the Zetas/Pemex enterprise went into a whole other dimension.

Sources in SEDENA (Secretaria de la Defnsa Nacional) intelligence revealed that computers seized in the raids at Pemex security last week show that from 2007 to June 2009 Los Zetas’ milking of Pemex pipelines was massive. Investigators discovered the Zetas had 557 clandestine outlets along the Pemex pipelines from which they siphoned fuel and oil. The cartels’ operations extended across Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Estado de Mexico, Nuevo Leon and further south to Oaxaca and Tabasco.

The stolen fuel–sold at 4 pesos per liter–was transported to outlets in tanker trucks with 15,000 and 45,000 liter capacities, yielding $4,500 and $13,500 per load. No fewer than 329 trucks were used in the operation.

According to records retreived from impounded Pemex computers, the amount of stolen fuel fuel increased every year since 2006, yielding millions of dollars–most of which was laundered into bank accounts in the US and France.

Thirty-eight Pemex officials and employees have been arrested thus far–20 of these have said they were “working for Los Zetas.”

The Zetas located the Pemex fuel ducts with computer data from Pemex officials, who also provided the cartel with  intelligence on Mexican military and Pemex security operations. To go along with that lucrative information, the Pemex insiders furnished the Zetas with Pemex uniforms, official vehicles and identification documents.

“The Zetas’ road was paved by corruption at Pemex–from the management level to security officers, ” said one SEDENA investigator.

The question now: how high and wide does the Zetas’ road run in Mexico?

En espanol from Benito Jimenez , Agencia Reforma

Zetas Pemex Scandal–Career Opportunities

SY-COLEMANBetween July and mid-September 2007, Pemex pipelines in Veracruz were struck by a series of bombings that were first attributed to Ejército Popular Revolucionario–the EPR (Popular Revolutionary Army)– a Marxist-labled guerrilla faction that rose up during the 90s in the state of Guerrero. EPR was the real deal, gaining notoriety by killing a score of Mexican police, bombing banks in the DF and participating in the 2001 insurgency in Oaxaca. The September 2007 pipeline bombings in Veracruz resulted in a $200 million dollar loss, causing a 60% drop in Mexican steel production and a stall-out in auto production.

While EPR was happy to publicly claim these bombings, Mexican investigators couldn’t come up with anything tangible to confirm this–and EPR hasn’t been heard from since. Twenty-one of their leadership cadre have gone “missing” since Calderon came to power and are effectively moribund.

(For more on EPR and related guerrilla activities in Mexico, check out John Ross’s latest  The Guerrilla Option)

At the same time these bombs were breaching the Veracruz pipelines, Calderon was throwing more than half the Mexican army into his narcoguerra, thus sharply reducing the number of military personnel who secured Pemex pipelines and infrastructure. Not a problem though for Calderon and Pemex because they were already tooling down the privatization highway.

In July 2007 they tapped SY Coleman–a subsidiary of  the giant US Defense Department contractor L3 Communications–to provide security for Pemex and CFE, the state controlled electricity monopoly.

On August 9, 2007,  SY Coleman, placed a recruitment ad on its website seeking military personnel with international experience to work with Mexican security in protecting Pemex infrastructure in Veracruz, the state with the highest incidence of oil and diesel theft.

Included in the Coleman security package were former military pilots tasked to set up air surveillance, utilizing helicopters, planes and UAVs. We are not talking about a security guard supplement. This was wide spectrum, echoing SY ColemanCEO Jay Garner’s privatization extravaganza during his stint as “viceroy” in Iraq.

See Los Zetas Raise Their Game from May 25.

Consider this possible scenario:

In July 2007 SY Coleman signs on with Mexican government to provide security for Pemex and CFE in Veracruz.

The following month SY Coleman features the recruitment advert on its website seeking Spanish-speaking military personnel to service their contract in Mexico.

Is is possible the Zetas may have seen this?

Given their penetration of federal agencies and their military contacts, they likely knew it was coming before the ad hit the Internet.

Would the Zetas then send some of their vets to apply for these positions?

The likelihood is quite high.

While Richard Grabman at The Mex Files is skeptical of the Zetas’ pervasiveness, strength and capabilities–especially their military experience–the Zetas have a performance record that can’t be ignored.

The Zetas are not merely brutal–they are creative, forward-leaning free marketeers who run the dark markets from Texas south along the Gulf through Veracruz to Honduras. The SY Coleman/Pemex package presented an penetration opportunity they hardly could ignore.

On the other hand, I can imagine Grabman saying (and not without reason):

“But how do we know it was the Zetas who ran the Pemex oil and diesel theft enterprisese? Couldn’t it be that ZETAS is just the convenient brand name for the same-old institutional corruption endemic to Mexico?”

At this point in the unravelling, all one can say is: No se, no se.

Zetas Now Harvesting and Marketing Kidneys

Human rights commissioner in Tabasco, Jesús Manuel Argáez de los Santos tells Tabasco Hoy that Los Zetas is removing kidneys from migrants from Honduras and Guatemala snared by the cartel’s human trafficking operations. The story comes on the heels of arrests in New Jersey for a similar enterprise involving Israelis and a US rabbi.

Argaez de los Santos said that that the Zetas human trafficking operations includes sexual exploitation and the harvesting and blackmarket sale of organs.  Migrants travelling north from Guatemala and Honduras are kidnapped by the Zetas as they cross into Tabasco. Of the 20,000 such kidnappings a year in Mexico,  a quarter of these occur in Tabasco.

While 55% of human trafficking operations in the country are  in Tabasco, Veracruz and Chiapas, there are also significant related activities to the north in Tamaulipas,  home territory for  Zetas/ Golfo Inc.

Municipalities with the highest incidents of kidnappings of migrants:

Balancán, Tabasco
Tenosique, Tabasco
Villahermosa, Tabasco

Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz
Ixhuatlán del sureste, Veracruz
Sayula de Alemán, Veracruz
Nanchital de Lázaro Cárdenas, Veracruz

Tapachula, Chiapas
Comitán, Chiapas

Zetas are using the Internet to lure these migrants with bogus employment and migration offerings. The websites target potential victims–especially the young– by offering jobs and means to migrate north. When they cross into Tabasco or Veracruz, they are kidnapped and held at rancheros in rural areas where they can either come up with the money or be sent into prostitution, forced labor camps or lose a kidney.

Mexico ranks third worldwide in such human trafficking operations, behind Thailand and Russia. According to the human rights commissioner, trafficking in humans is not a crime recognized in Mexico’s penal code.


As an apt footnote to this, time to again recommend director Cary Fukunaga’s extraordinary  film, Sin Nombre .

Los Linces–New Special Forces Hitmen

gafeMore Blowback from Bragg.

First, the Zetas, now, the Lynx. Another group of  former Mexican Special Forces are in the narcoguerra–this time working for Carrillo Fuentes’ La Linnea organization in the battle for Chihuahua and the Juarez corridor. Their sole function is to kill.

Their eliminated targets have included state officials, mayors, police chiefs, mid-level drug dealers–narcomenudistas–and enemies such as members of  the Sinaloa cartel.

Francisco Gomez reporting this morning for El Universal reveals that 80 ex-GAFE  formed a company of sicarios and put their considerable military skills up for hire. Recruited from army units in Sinaloa, Veracruz and south of Mexico City, the Lynx function as autonomous cells–or A-teams–numbering five.

According to Martin Valenzuela Hugo Rivera, a narco arrested in December 2008, the Lynx’s  function is solely to kill people. They routinely change cars, each with their own driver. The cells base in private homes in subdivisions Rivera said he was in one of these and saw a stockplie of body armor, helmets, rifles–including Barrett .50s– submachine guns, grenades and ammunition.

Loz Linces utilize their own private communications tech that is not shared with the rest of La Linnea–only the top command. Another narco told authorities, “They are handled differently than us.”

It’s interesting that the Lynx ex-GAFE were recruited out of Veracruz, where the Mata Zetas splashed up earlier this month. See here.

Given the appearance, demeanor, weapons and interrogation techniques  in their video, there is a strong suspicion that these Veracruz Mata Zetas are Los Linces’  litter-mates.

Updates here later.

Lost In Translation–Calderon’s Narcoguerra/Bush’s War on Terror


Like a subtitled remake of a disaster movie, Felipe Calderon’s “Narcoguerra” looks more and more like George W.  Bush’s “War on Terror”–especially as Bush and company waged it in Iraq. Calderon seems to share the former US president’s self-righteous stubborn pursuit of failed policies regardless of outcome. As evidence, Calderon’s “surge” of troops and weapons into Michoacan following La Familia’s extravaganza of violence and murder over the past week. See this morning’s La Jornada, or Reuters in English.

With Calderon steaming ahead with his new “surge” this weekend,  it might be good to revisit the simialrities.

The two of them–Bush and Calderon–plunged into their respective, self-proclaimed “wars” with eyes wide shut.

Similarities? Here are a few.

  • A full-bore military occupation that kills maims and alienates the noncombatant civilian population.
  • Abrogation of civil rights in pursuit of “security.”
  • Systemic human rights abuses and torture.
  • Failure to recognize, acknowledge and address social, cultural and economic realities of the communities.
  • Failure to heed reasonable intelligence.
  • Creation of insurgencies where there were none that leads to further destabilization.
  • Hemorrhaging of taxpayers’ money and resources.
  • Unmonitored “outsourcing” that ignores corruption and fraud and sends windfall profits to private contractors.

I’m not breaking revelations here.

In March Luis Hernandez Navarro made the comparison in La Jornada with “Calderon’s Bush-Style Militarization of Mexican Politics“.  (Original in Spanish here.)

Navarro was followed by former Mexico foreign minister Jorge Castaneda, now at the New America Foundation, who weighed in on this at  Slate in April.

Both pieces seemed on the mark, but Patrick Corcoran in Torreon–who consistently seems sympathetic to Calderon’s efforts…herehere— took sharp exception to any such analogy in an op-ed piece at Mexidata.

But there’s still room for one more: Calderon is a lame duck faith-based president facing a congress now controlled by the opposition party and a  populace very very weary from his war, just like Bush in 2006. And despite that, like Bush in 2006, Calderon continues to flog the bloody blind donkeydown the highway

It is what it is.

A Narcoinsurgency Sampler

The startling coordinated attacks on federal police and the army by La Familia yesterday in Michoacan and Guerrero will bring the term “narco-insurgency” to the lips of various pundits and mavens before the week is out.

Here is a sampler to get up to speed:

Nearly eight years ago, Dr Steven Metz described two emerging forms of insurgency.
The first was commercial insurgency, which poses threats to security and stability without
necessarily attempting to seize the power of the state. Commercial insurgency is essentially
“powerful criminal organizations with a political veneer and the ability to threaten national
security instead of just law and order.”20 The obvious manifestation is narcoinsurgency, primarily
in Latin America and Asia, but commercial insurgency has also appeared in Africa, primarily
regarding gems and precious metals. Commercial insurgencies can often be transnational and are
differentiated from traditional organized crime by their political aspects. In some cases, these
insurgencies are marriages of necessity due to the loss of funding and external support caused by
the end of the Cold War.

Sixteen years ago, in The Future of Insurgency , Dr. Steven Metz wrote:

The quickest and easiest path to material possessions and the satisfaction they appear to bring is crime. And, since the discontented of the Third World feel little attachment to thedominant system of values in their societies anyway, moral restraints on criminal activity are limited. In situations of perceived deprivation and frustration–and again this holds for American inner cities as well as the Third World–the possession of wealth and power is more important than the techniques used to acquire them. In this psychological context, commercial insurgency is essentially widespread and sustained criminal activity with a proto-political dimension that challenges the security of the state. In the modern world, its most common manifestation is narco-insurgency, although it may also be based on other forms of crime, especially smuggling. The defining feature is expansion of the criminal activity into a security threat, especially in the hinterlands where government control is limited.

The term was applied freely to Colombia,Peru, Bolivia and Afghanistan. As example, in 2000 the U.S. Army War College’s quarterly, Parameters, published George F. Franco’s Their Darkest Hour: Colombia’s Government and the Narco-Insurgency.

Now it’s Mexico. In May the Strategic Studies Institute at Carlisle Barracks  released Henry “Hal” Brands’ Mexico’s Narco-Insurgency and U.S. Counterdrug Policy.

There is way more on this, but those should be sufficient reading for a  Sunday afternoon.