British journalist Ed Vulliamy writes on The Guardian of the popular belief that “El Chapo” Guzmán’s recent escape from a maximum-security prison in Mexico may have been aided (or at least not prevented) by Mexican officials hoping El Chapo will restore order to the country’s criminal underworld:

Behind the calm lurks menace, and what prevails in Juárez is the chilling notion of what Italians call Pax Mafiosa (the mafia’s peace) under control of a single cartel. The commentator on matters narco, Adrián López, based in Sinaloa, calls it paz narca, narco peace.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but from what I’ve read on the pacification of Ciudad Juárez, the deadliest city in the world just a few years ago, peace in a given area has less to do with efforts by the military or police and more to do with one cartel securing total dominance over a given territory. The murder rate in Juárez didn’t drop from 10 a day in 2010 to less than two in 2013 due to the mano dura tactics of police chief Julián Leyzaola. Peace came to Juárez only after El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel bloodied the Juárez Cartel into submission.

In an article published by ProPublica yesterday, Ginger Thompson outlines what she’s gleaned from her rendezvous last week with a senior Mexican intelligence official and an American narcotics agent at a Texas café:

Chapo, my breakfast companions said, was forged in the early years of the drug war. He was old-school. And for all his lunacy and willingness to do whatever it took to build his empire, he had been a kind of mitigating force — killing when he was betrayed, but staying away as much as possible from attacks against the government as long as the government allowed his business to operate. If he were allowed to get back to business, the breakfast bunch said, he’d take care of El Mencho — most likely in a spate of violence that, while painful, would be quietly treated by Mexican authorities as a necessary evil. And whichever cartel leaders remained standing would be much weakened.

Though there are plenty of corridos claiming otherwise, El Chapo is not Mexico’s dark knight. He is a vicious thug who, according to the U.S. government, heads the armed wing of “the most powerful drug trafficking organization,” not only in Mexico, but in the entire world. Whereas Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is believed to handle the business end of the cartel’s operations, El Chapo is the man carrying the sword, a role he has assumed with equal parts proficiency, ferocity and delight.

No one can no for sure whether Mexico’s leaders intently loosed this demon on the Mexican public. Considering the lengths to which the Mexican government as gone in the past couple years to become the country’s most powerful cartel itself, it wouldn’t surprise me if President Peña Nieto had signed such a deal with the devil. If so, he’s signed away the future of his country.

For as Achilles told Hector before slicing his throat, “There can be no covenants between men and lions.”

[Photo: Fabrizio León Diez / Wikimedia Commons]

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