“The Cucaracha Effect”

I’ve heard of the balloon effect when fighting drugs, but I’ve never heard of the cucaracha effect (that is, the cockroach effect).  Thus, the LA Times article entitled “Is Michoacan violence causing ‘cucaracha effect’?” caught my eye.

Before reading the piece, I guessed (correctly) that cracking down on drug cartels in one region will lead the traffickers to scurry off to another region, presumably one where the government is focusing less on enforcement.  If you’ve been following the news from Mexico in the last year, you know that Michoacán is ground zero for the fight between the cartels, vigilante groups that sprung up in response to little state action against said cartels, and much later–the federal government.

If the intuition behind the effect makes sense, the evidence presented in the article is pretty weak and anecdotal.  There have been attacks on 9 Oxxo convenience stores in Michoacán and neighboring state Hidalgo recently, some of them burned down and others robbed by armed gunmen.

The question is whether these attacks can be linked to the Knights Templar (the main drug cartel in the region).  Government officials don’t seem to have an answer.  The KT hasn’t claimed responsibility for them and one official says that the attacks aren’t consistent with their MO.  Other officials aren’t so sure, however. The article reports that on Monday, Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong met with governors of surrounding states … [and]… discussed their plans for “shielding” their states from “any possible effects that the security actions being carried out in Michoacán may have.”

I’m not sure how you effectively shield your state from the cucarachas.  It’s not like you can just call Orkin.