By William Neuman / New York Times
For nearly a week, gun-toting masked men loyal to a local drug gang overran the small city of Chilapa along a key smuggling route. Police officers and soldiers stood by as the gunmen patrolled the streets, searching for rivals and hauling off at least 14 men not been seen since.
“They’re fighting over the route through Chilapa,” said Virgilio Nava, whose 21-year-old son, a truck driver for the family construction supply business who had no apparent links to either gang, was one of the men seized in May. “But we’re the ones who are affected.”
For years, the United States has pushed countries battling powerful drug cartels, like Mexico, to decapitate the groups by killing or arresting their leaders.
And while the arrests of kingpins make for splashy headlines, the result has been a fragmenting of the cartels and spikes in violence in places like Chilapa, a city of about 31,000, as smaller groups fight for control.
Like a hydra, it seems that each time the government cuts down a cartel, multiple other groups, sometimes even more vicious, spring up to take its place.