I don't want to be sued, so let's make it clear that the following is only MY OPINION. I could be totally wrong about everything including what you'll read below. Make up your own mind.
There are a number of firms, mostly headquartered in the Washington D. C. Beltway, which are headed by professors and other pseudo professionals, who peddle their services to the equally unknowing USGOV bureaucracy. Some of them, like Southern Pulse --
"Southern Pulse is a decentralized, field-based investigations organization focused on security, politics, energy, and business in Latin America. Founded in 2004 by investigative journalist and author Samuel Logan, Southern Pulse presents clients with reports and training courses sourced from the ground up. This organization began as a private human intelligence network in the Americas. Southern Pulse is now based in Annapolis, Maryland, and runs its free online media monitoring service from Washington, DC. Senior investigators operate from hubs in Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile to leverage our network, unique access, and deep understanding of the region to mitigate risk for public and private sector clients with exposure to political, security, financial, or legal risk in Latin America."
-- feel that having somebody read on-line newspapers from Latin America, which they turn into their "educated opinion", lends some sort of twisted validity to what they put out.
Here are some of their more recent opinions regarding Guadalajara (GMA)
- Los Zetas and rivals in the Sinaloa Federation are content with a non-confrontational coexistence in the GMA. Completely untrue. Los Zetas have NO significant presence in Jalisco and no infrastructure to support them if they arrived.
- There are two, tier-two groups in the GMA; each has aligned itself with a rival tier-one group. Mostly untrue. They (like USGOV) separate CJNG from the Sinaloa Federation, and it's not. They assert that the Milineo Cartel is affiliated with Los Zetas and it's not. I am not going to source this thing out for you, dear reader.
- There are at least three, tier-three street gangs with specific areas of operation in the GMA. Partly true. But the "street gangs" are run COMPLETELY as wholly owned subsidiaries of (1) The Sinaloa Federation - two separate gangs and (2) La Resistencia, which doesn't call itself the Milenio Cartel anymore.
- The GMA has seen a violence high-water mark that will likely not been seen under current conditions. Untrue. They put that out right before Guadalajara broke out in near civil war in September 2012 after SEDENA grabbed El Mencho (yes, they let him go and he's back).
- The relative low value of the GMA plaza has resulted in the increased importance of rural areas. Though this is true in other areas of Mexico, it is most salient in Jalisco among all areas of our study. Completely untrue. And this brings me back to the central point. These researchers with "people on the ground" would not seem to be on the ground in places such as Guadalajara. Or if they are, they lack significant access to the information that they report. Do they ever speak to Ruben Osegevera Cervantes personally? Did they ever have a sit down with Nacho Coronel (before SEDENA killed him at El Chapo's request) and pick his brain over the future of his mini-empire, centered in Jalisco and Guadalajara? Do they go to El Azul's rancho outside Guadalajara and speak to the great man, himself? Of course not. What about the rift last spring between El Mayo and El Mencho and the impact that had on Guadalajara street gangs? You never hear these 'experts' discussing nuts and bolts because they don't understand how things work among the narcos.
I'm sure that if somebody from Southern Pulse were to respond to this blog (and I'm not holding my breath), they would say that their information comes from 'reliable sources on the ground', which would mean that they read the newspapers. (then they sell that reading service to people as evaluated intelligence)
Who owns the Mexican newspapers and who tells the newspapers what to print (for the most part)? Sadly, the narco matas and related blogs seem to have better information than the newspapers do because they can publish with a degree of anonymity.
Don't bother going to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for answers or to the US El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC). HIDTA gets its information from USGOV so it's no more valid than DEA. Though they are right more often than they're wrong (maybe 60/40), they lack the real ground game in Mexico that one needs to understand what's going on and more importantly, why things happen the way that they do. Relying on the (now part of Gobernacion) SSP for reliable information is folly. I don't care how well USGOV asserts that its sources are vetted.
It's all ground game. My advice to private analysis groups: Go big or go home.
USGOV doesn't want my advice.