(New Scientist) When the Mexican navy announced on 9 October that Heriberto Lazcano, leader of the country's most violent criminal cartel, Los Zetas, had been killed it was hailed as a major victory in the war on drugs. But it's doubtful that Lazcano's death will be the end of Los Zetas - or reduce violence in Mexico. After all, there is already a new leader.
More useful targets might be those apparently minor players with key connections, according to a complexity analysis approach that could help Colombia - the world's largest producer of cocaine - investigate and prosecute cartel members.
Complexity analysis depicts drugs cartels as a complex network with each member as a node and their interactions as lines between them. Algorithms compute the strength and importance of the connections. At first glance, taking out a central "hub" seems like a good idea. When Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993, for example, the Medellin cartel he was in charge of fell apart. But like a hydra, chopping off the head only caused the cartel to splinter into smaller networks.
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