Alfredo Corchado of the Dallas Morning-News has an article that will be of interest to anyone trying to come to grips with whether a state of armed conflict can be said to exist in some areas of Mexico. In particular, the story is of interest with respect to the question of territorial control by a non-state actor, which for some observers is an important consideration in determining whether circumstances of violence in the non-international setting have crossed over the threshold of armed conflict.
The gravamen of the piece is that in some places, cartels have established "virtual parallel governments . . . that levy taxes, gather intelligence, muzzle the media, run businesses and impose a version of order that serves their criminal goals." Corchado quotes Howard Campbell (UTEP-Anthropology) for the proposition that in these areas, cartels "are the ultimate decision-makers in the territories they control." Focusing on Ciudad Juarez, Corchado reports that the Juarez Cartel has made arrangements for businesses to pay fees to it via direct deposit, while at the same time some interviewees "said they were not even bothering to pay federal taxes anymore." Most insightfully, the piece concludes with a quote from an unnamed US intelligence official who observes that "You can't measure success in Mexico solely on whether violence is up or down, but by who's in control of some of these territories...."