Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Woman Police Chief Slain in Meoqui

The body of Hermila Garcia Quinones lies covered next to her car in Los Garcia November 29, 2010. Garcia Quinones, a police chief, was killed by gunmen and Mexican soldiers found 18 bodies buried on a ranch near the Texas border on Monday in the latest bout of unrelenting violence in northern Mexico.

The woman leading the police department in the northern Mexican town of Meoqui was slain while driving to work, the Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office said Monday.

Hermila Garcia was named last month as chief of the 90-strong police force in Meoqui, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) from Chihuahua city, the state capital. In recent months, Meoqui had started to see some of this violence. A once peaceful town, the drug violence-related death tally has shot up to 40 deaths so far this year. Normally that death count would account for homicides over seven years.

Garcia was found fatally shot in her car at a spot near her home about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the town center, the AG’s office said.

Mexican federal police officers man a roadblock in the town of Meoqui, state of Chihuahua, northern Mexico, Monday Nov. 29, 2010 after the police chief of the town was gunned down.

Authorities suspect the police chief, whose prior experience included working as an investigator for the federal AG’s office, was murdered by gunmen working for drug traffickers or other organized crime elements.

"La Jefa," as she was known to her police agents, didn't carry weapons or have bodyguards.

"If you don't owe anything, you don't fear anything," she was fond of saying when asked why she didn't have security.

Mexican media reported that Garcia was single and lived with her parents, whom she supported financially.

Silvia Molina, the top administrative official of the police department in Ciudad Juarez, the state’s largest city, was murdered in 2008.

Policing has become a job so dangerous that men are now shying away from such posts. The state of Chihuahua, which borders Texas, has three other female police chiefs. Just last month 20-year-old criminology student Marisol Valles was appointed chief of police in Praxedis, in the Juarez valley, a key drug smuggling route just across the border from Texas also in Chihuahua state. Why did a 20-year-old mother accept the position? No one else would. Her predecessor was kidnapped more than a year ago. His head was deposited outside the police station a few days after he disappeared. After that, no one came forward to fill the police chief vacancy for more than a year -- until Valles was appointed top cop by the town's mayor

Other women who have taken top policing jobs because no men would include two housewives: Verenica Rios Ontiveros and Olga Herrera Castillo, who took over policing jobs in El Vergel and Villa de Luz, both in Juarez, now known as the "murder capital" of the world due to its high murder rate. The Juarez valley has had more than 2,700 drug violence-related deaths this year.

Juarez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, is Mexico’s murder capital, with more than 2,700 homicides so far this year and roughly 8,000 slain since the beginning of 2008.

The carnage is blamed on a bitter turf battle between rival drug cartels, itself part of a wider conflict involving the gangs and the Mexican security forces that has claimed nearly 30,000 lives nationwide over the past four years.

Chihuahua has accounted for around a third of all the drug war fatalities.

Crime Rate Falls in Mexico’s Murder Capital

The crime rate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, has fallen this month, with kidnappings, extortion and murders all down, the Public Safety Secretariat said.

The Federal Police has deployed some 5,000 officers in Juarez, taking control of public safety functions in the border city on April 9 and achieving a drop in crime in recent months, the secretariat said.

A total of 299 drug-related murders were registered in Ciudad Juarez in October, while 150 murders have been reported so far in November, the federal agency said.

Kidnappings have “shown a downward tendency, being reduced by half in the past month, falling from 14 cases in October to 7 so far in the month of November,” the secretariat said in a statement released Monday.

A total of 36 extortion cases have been registered in November, down from the 42 cases reported in September and the 56 cases registered in October.

More than 2,700 people have been murdered this year in Ciudad Juarez, topping the homicide figure for all of last year in the border city, press tallies show.

The Juarez and Sinaloa cartels, backed by hitmen from local street gangs, have been fighting for control of Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Arturo Gallegos, the suspected leader of the Los Aztecas gang, was arrested by Federal Police officers for his alleged role in 80 percent of the killings carried out in the past year in Ciudad Juarez, officials said over the weekend.

Gallegos is accused of being responsible, among other killings, for the massacre of 16 people attending a birthday party on Jan. 31 in the border city’s Villas de Salvarcar neighborhood.

The gang leader, who is also accused of killing two employees of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez and five Federal Police officers, was arrested along with two suspected accomplices.

The 32-year-old Gallegos was arrested during an operation targeting Los Aztecas, officials said.

The border city, where more than 8,000 people have been murdered since 2008, has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.

The Mexico City daily Reforma reported recently that gangland killings have topped 10,000 this year.

Cartel Violence, Kidnapping Haunt University in Mexico

By Thelma Gutierrez and Wayne Drash

Monterrey, Mexico (CNN) -- A college student at one of Mexico's top universities gets kidnapped. His abductors use his cell phone to text a friend: "Meet me here."
The friend gets snatched, too.

Working for drug cartels, the kidnappers keep trolling through the contact list to find more wealthy students whose parents can pay hundreds of thousands in ransom.
Another friend soon gets abducted -- his head shaved and a cartel insignia carved in the side of his head.

"The stories are so horrendous," says one worried mother, whom CNN has agreed to call just Francesca. "You're just like, 'Oh my God.' ...

"This is what we have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Right now, this is what we think about, this is what we talk about. It's taken over our lives."

Just five years ago, Monterrey was dubbed the safest city in Latin America and the commercial hub of Mexico. Now, it's fallen victim to the lawlessness and violence spreading throughout the country -- a cartel battleground where grenade attacks, shootouts and kidnappings dominate headlines.

At the prestigious Tecnológico de Monterrey, the escalating violence has led to an exodus of students. Many of the nation's wealthy send their children to the school. They now fear the cartels and other common street thugs will increasingly prey on their children.

"What comes with drug cartels is a climate of extortion and a climate of danger," Francesca says. "We don't know anymore who the enemy is. We're not sure. It could be my neighbor, it could be a security guard."

Two graduate students were killed in March when they got caught in the crossfire of a shootout between cartels and police just outside the university's gates. Last week, three cartel gunmen were killed when their car exploded after crashing just 200 yards from university dorms.

The school has added enhanced security measures, from armed police to cameras. The campus is completely gated, and anyone entering or leaving needs an ID.

Students -- and their parents -- stay in constant contact. They use Facebook, Twitter and text messages as a support network. When Francesca doesn't hear immediately back from her daughter, she pings her daughter's friends.

She was surprised recently to find her daughter at home and not in class.

"My friend just texted," her daughter told her. "She said there's been a shootout on the street she drives to school. I am not going to school."

Her daughter, whom CNN is identifying as Vivianne, says three of her friends have been kidnapped in the last three months. All three survived, but only after being brutalized. They've since left Mexico.

Seven others have dropped out of school as a safety precaution. Students don't go to nightclubs -- it's too dangerous to be out late. Even getting to school is stressful.

"I'm always in fear," says Vivianne.

Alberto Bustani Adem, a top school official, says the university is cognizant of the dangers and understands the fears of parents and students.

The university is not sure how many students have been kidnapped in recent months. Parents are scared to talk to the media for fear of reprisals.

"It's safe if you have precautions," Adem says. "Don't stay out late and walk outside at midnight in a dark area."

More than 100 exchange students from the United States have left this semester, Adem says. In September, the State Department issued a travel warning for Monterrey and advised that "the immediate, practical and reliable way to reduce the security risks for all children is to remove them from Monterrey."

Adem says the warning had a huge impact. "We practically didn't receive any Americans."

He says the university still has more than 600 foreign exchange students, from 50 different countries.

On campus, students say they're well aware of the violence all around. But they feel safe within the gated confines of the university.

"When you walk into school, you don't see someone getting beheaded. Like, you don't see a grenade being thrown," says Julian Cook, a sociology major from the United States.
Of the violence, he adds, "I don't really feel like it's any different than like New York or Baltimore or Philly."

Raffael Hirt, an international affairs major from Switzerland, says he's a "little concerned" by the violence, but it won't stop him from getting his degree.

For Francesca, though, the violence has gotten too close. She has made the agonizing decision to pull her daughter out of the university that she herself attended decades earlier. The violence, she says, "came out of nowhere" to one of Mexico's most amazing cities.

"We were pulled into this situation with no time to think or react," she says. "This is the kind of atmosphere we're living with in Mexico. Nobody can live like that, adults or students."

Mexican Military Using Flyers in Drug War

Rio Grande Texas Valley
Reported by: Lisa Cortez

The Mexican military is using a new tactic to stop cartel violence and gain support from people in border towns. They're handing out flyers with a simple message: Don't help the cartels, don't give them places to hide, back the Mexican military and help protect Mexico instead.

Mexican marines passed out the flyers on the streets of Reynosa this weekend. It starts by saying, “Enough already! Don't make pacts with cartel members.”

It says, “Support the Mexican military and with your help there will be no street or community where the criminals can hide. Show us where they are and we will arrest them.”

The flyer urges citizens to help stop the robberies, kidnappings and violence plaguing Reynosa and other border towns. The flyer also lists phone numbers and even an e-mail address where people can submit information anonymously.

USNORTHCOM: There is NO U.S. Spy Agency in Mexico

On November 17, 2010 I posted a translation of a Proceso article titled: U.S. SUPER INTELLIGENCE CENTER REVEALED IN MEXICO. The following is NORTHCOM'S response to the information originally published by Proceso Magazine:

Truth behind the Bilateral Implementation Office (BIO)

We have seen some mileage from a story out of Mexico alleging a “Binational Intelligence Office,” of U.S. Government officials in Mexico. It is unfortunate that other news agencies are starting to pick up this story, because frankly it simply isn’t true. In violation of standard journalistic practice, “Proceso” magazine never contacted the Embassy to seek confirmation of any part of this patently false story. The following points below are being communicated to media outlets who call us and we wanted to share them with you, our friends, so you can at least be aware of our perspective on this story. Links to the original story can be found below.

· There is no “Binational Intelligence Office” in Mexico involving USG agencies.

· There is a Merida Initiative Bilateral Implementation Office (BIO). It was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations Patricia Espinosa in March 2009, and it opened August 31 in Mexico City.

· This office allows for daily exchanges between technical staffers of agencies of both countries with the purpose of fully implementing equipment transfer and training programs under the Merida Initiative.

· Neither officials from Mexico or the United States working in the Bilateral Implementation Office engage in intelligence or operational activities.

· The BIO demonstrates the high level of strength and depth of the bilateral relations between both countries in terms of security, as supported by the principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust and respect of jurisdiction.

· This innovative, permanent mechanism for consultation facilitates the implementation of the mandate of the Merida Initiative High Level Meeting, which took place in Mexico City on March 23, 2010, that the Merida Initiative programs disrupt the capacity of organized crime to operate, institutionalize the capacity to sustain rule of law, create a secure, 21st century border infrastructure, and build strong and resilient communities.

The following link will take you to the press releases announcing the Bilateral Implementation Office (BIO) http://mexico.usembassy.gov/eng/releases/ep100901_Bilateral.html

This facility for ongoing consultation by the teams of both governments was inaugurated by David Johnson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, and by Julián Ventura Valero, Undersecretary for North American Affairs of Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Relations.

USNORTHCOM is proud of our military to military relationship with Mexico, and we hope that these false allegations of a U.S. spy agency is quickly debunked by our partners, neighbors and friends to the south.

Thanks for reading!
NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

"El Flaco", La Familia Michoacana, Arrested

Alfredo Landa and three other men were arrested in the area of Indeco in possession of firearms, cartridges and various objects, including 25 deeds of properties in the state.

Mexico, Nov 30 (EFE) .- The Mexican federal police arrested José Alfredo Landa Torres, alias "El Flaco", designated as an alleged cartel leader of the "Familia Michoacana in Morelia, capital of Michoacan state, southern Mexico.

The Public Security Secretariat (SSP) federal indicated in a statement that the capture of "El Flaco" came as a result of the operations against crime in Michoacán, where the detainee was responsible for his staff to coordinate, manage finances, corrupt officials and distribute drugs.

Landa said the agency assumed control of operations in Morelia after the capture of the former drug lords and Miguel Miranda Ortiz, alias "El Tyson" arrested last June and José Luis García Vázquez, alias "El Chilaca 'arrested in August.

The SSP said that Landa was arrested yesterday in Morelia, thanks to an investigation taking place on the said cartel.

According to the intelligence services of the department, "El Flaco" was arrested at age 17 in California (United States) for the crime of selling drugs, mostly marijuana and crack.

In 2007, "El Flaco", originally from the town of Arteaga, joined "La Familia Michoacana" on the recommendation of Servando Gómez, alias "La Tuta", one of the main leaders of that group.

The SSP added that after serving surveillance, the offender was assigned to the square of Morelia as head of informants (hawks) in the main entrances of the city under the command of "Tyson" and following the arrest of the operators the square, Landa was appointed chief in the plaza of Morelia.

The unit said the arrested confessed that the recent announcement by the cartel "La Familia Michoacana" to fall back in December of this year was to improve the group's image.

He explained that the strategy was to cause the band members themselves increase the number of ordinary crimes such as extortion, kidnapping, theft of property, and others to create a sense of "vacuum of authority and the need for their presence as a measure of crime control. "

As evidence of this objective, the police seized from "El Flaco" more than 25 deeds and documents collectible copies and originals in which the band wanted to "rob and extort money from their legitimate owners."

To date, the Federal Police have arrested in the last two years, seven capos of this organization responsible for the plaza of Morelia, including Arnoldo Medina Rueda, alias "La Minsa".

Together with the operator, the police arrested Sierra Campuzano Eden, alias "El Chino", 36, and second in command at the time, who was jailed in 1992 in El Paso (Texas, USA. UU.) For possession of firearms.

In the operation two people were arrested, officers seized an assault rifle AK-47, two pistols, vehicles, communication equipment and various documents.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Shootouts in Reynosa

Mexican military actions in Reynosa result in "aggressors" killed or arrested.

Martha L. Hernández
The Monitor
The Mexican military has reported killing one “aggressor” during a shootout Saturday near the shopping center “Plaza Periferico” in the southern part of Reynosa.

According to a military press release, several men started shooting at a military convoy and soldiers returned fire. The press release said two of the “aggressors” were arrested and one was killed.

The soldiers seized two shotguns, four pounds of marijuana, a vehicle and $20 in cash in that incident.

On Wednesday, the military killed two other aggressors in another shootout, the press release said. That one occurred in the subdivision Villa Florida.

Also, in it the first report of actions to recover Ciudad Mier, which has been vacated by most of its resident since the town was taken over by drug cartels, the military reported detaining six suspects.

The Discrete Charm Of The American Advisor

Strategy Page

November 29, 2010: Mexican security organizations have continued to increase their level of cooperation with the U.S.. Intelligence fusion (sharing intelligence) has been the chief focus, but the Mexican military has also expressed an interest in help with improving tactical and operational training, particularly in counter-insurgency methods. U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) has had a Mexican liaison officer for at least two years and now the U.S. military describes the Mexican officer as a permanent liaison officer.

The Mexican military is subtle about the developing relationship and the U.S. military understands the political context. Mexican ultra-nationalists would scream if the cooperation were too evident. The U.S. military has around $35 million budgeted to help Mexico with counter-narcotics operations and training. In 2008 the budget was around $12 million, so this is a significant boost in funding.

A lot of the instruction goes on in the U.S., though a few U.S. instructors and training teams have taught security courses in Mexico.

U.S. and Mexican police are finding a growing number of smuggling tunnels on the border. Some are a kilometers long. The U.S. has brought in equipment that can detect the tunnels, but the Mexicans have been equally successful at just noting street traffic and working informants.

November 24, 2010: The government announced that it will reinforce federal police and military units engaged in operations in the northern Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon (both border on Texas). The overall operation is named Coordinated Northeast Operation. Increased cartel-sponsored violence in the city of Monterrey (Nuevo Leon state) is one reason. The government intends to stop the roadblock tactic that cartel gunmen have used to harass citizens and ambush local and state police.

The U.S. government delivered three Black Hawk UH-60M helicopters to Mexico's federal police force. The helicopters were provided as part of the Merida Initiative to combat drug cartels.

November 23, 2010: Police continue to hammer the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. Prosecutors announced the arrest or Carlos Montemayor, who had replaced Edgar Valdez, who was arrested last summer.

Montemayor was captured in Mexico City and told police that kidnapping and murder of 20 Mexican tourists in the city of Acapulco was a case of mistaken identity. The murders occurred in September. Beltran Leyva gunmen thought the tourists were members of the rival La Familia cartel.

November 18, 2010: Texas governor Rick Perry said that the U.S. needed to consider using more aggressive tactics to keep violence along the Mexico-U.S. border from escalating. The governor said that Mexico needed to approve whatever type of assistance the U.S. could provide, but that assistance could include military forces.

The state of Texas, in fact, is engaged in what state security officials have called paramilitary operations. The Texas state police are part of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). The Texas DPS has 16 helicopters and uses them along the border to deploy field intelligence teams and tactical strike teams. The DPS runs a joint operation intelligence center (JOIC) in the state capital, Austin.

November 18, 2010: Drug cartel gunmen killed the manager of an oil services company. The murder took place near the town of Thuatlan (Vera Cruz state). The oil services company works for Mexico's national oil company, PEMEX.

Security officials reported that ten people were slain and five wounded in several violent clashes in Jalisco state (western Mexico). In one gun battle, Jalisco state police killed five cartel gunmen and arrested four others. The police reported the gunmen belonged to Los Zetas drug cartel.

November 17, 2010: A senior member of La Familia drug cartel, who was recently arrested by Mexican police, told authorities that an offer made by cartel leader Servando Gomez is legitimate. Mexican media had reported that Gomez had offered to disband the cartel. Why? Because La Familia is in disarray, having had a number of leaders either killed or captured.

November 16, 2010: A U.S. Border Patrol officer fired at and wounded a suspected illegal immigrant. The officer encountered the suspect in a canyon just north of the Mexico-U.S. border. The Border Patrol officer was conducting his patrol on horseback. The wounded man was taken by helicopter to the hospital.

November 14, 2010: A recent government report noted that drug cartels have made an increasing number of threats to news media. The report followed an investigation into the murders of journalists throughout the country –and there have been scores of them. The drug gangs want to intimidate media outlets for several reasons.

Silencing critics is the obvious objective, but getting positive coverage (from frightened reporters, producers, and editors) is another payoff. There are rumors that some drug cartel members have issued actual press releases. The cartels have used websites in the past and posted videos, and also made numerous statements to reporters, but the press release approach takes that up a notch.

High-Tech Border Patrol: 5 New Tricks to Find Smuggler Tunnels

Popular Mechanics

The Department of Homeland Security says tunnels under the U.S.-Mexico border are proliferating as security is tightened aboveground. The solution? A sensor network that peers through dirt and rock. The technologies to build it are being developed with funding from the department’s advanced research wing. Here are the most promising contenders.

Ground Penetrating Radar
* How It's Done: GPR uses pulses of radio-frequency energy to see beneath the surface. In commercial use since the 1970s, it is today's standard for detecting voids such as caves and tunnels.
* Who's Working on It: GPR is widely used in quality-testing roads, and to find unmarked graves, locate utility lines, trace subsurface geology, sweep for mines and search archaeological sites.
* What the Limits Are: This method does not work well in moist mediums like clay and rarely penetrates deeper than 40 ft. Officials say that false alarms even at shallow depths waste time and money.

Seismic Waves
* How It's Done: The way that vibrations just under the surface change as they pass through rock and dirt provides details about what's below, and can show the presence of a tunnel.
* Who's Working on It: Researchers from the U.S. Army and Kansas Geological Survey in 2006 analyzed tunnel detection methods using seismic sensors in Kansas and along the U.S.-Mexico border in California.
* What the Limits Are: To create real-time detectors, more powerful imaging software must be developed to filter out the waves' reactions to natural and man-made noises, such as wind and highway traffic.

Electrical Resistivity
* How It's Done: Electrical currents can't leap across empty space at low voltages. Metal electrodes staked in the ground could form a remotely monitored system that would tell solid rock from a void.
* Who's Working on It: While refusing to disclose its customers, Advanced Geosciences staff say the company has been approached by governments, including the U.S., to learn more.
* What the Limits Are: A wide-ranging network would be expensive and would have to be hidden or disguised to avoid tampering.

* How It's Done: When underground soil is removed, it causes very subtle changes in the Earth's gravitational field. Lower gravity readings can indicate a tunnel.
* Who's Working on It: In 2006 Western Kentucky University researchers field-tested robots in Texas studded with microgravity sensors to promote the concept of a mobile, deployable system.
* What the Limits Are: Very high precision is required. The gravity differential for smuggling tunnels can be as slight as 10 microgals--measured against the Earth's field of 100 million microgals.

Cosmic Rays
* How It's Done: Muons are subatomic particles created by cosmic rays hitting the Earth's atmosphere. The number of them detected underground varies with the mass above: If there's a tunnel, more muons are found.
* Who's Working on It: Aside from a 1990 study by the U.S. Army, little research has been focused on this method. However, in 2006 a 12-year-old in San Diego converted two Geiger counters into a weak tunnel detector.
* What the Limits Are: A large number of costly detectors, buried beneath the probable paths of illicit tunnels, would be needed. (Small detectors find few muons and therefore have low resolutions.)

Photos of Sicarios in NL

Blog Del Narco has released a series of photographs that show the casualties of an unnamed confrontation between sicarios and authorities that took place in Nuevo Leon.

In the pictures, various men appear dead and some are dress in military style clothing.

According to BDN the site of the gun battle was near a bodega which the sicarios used both as a meeting place and a lookout position. Several vehicles were also confiscated.

16 Zetas Arrested, Guanajuato

Guanajuato, Gto - A group of “Zetas” installed in Guanajuato who undid their kidnapped victims in acid where arrested. Among the 16 arrested, a federal police agent and a former elite soldier with training in anti-cartel tactics. The group was responsible for several kidnappings in the surrounding areas.

Their most recent victim, kidnapped by two women who put sleeping pills in his beer allowing them to transport him to a safe house in Salamanca. Because of an overdose, the victim was accidentally killed, which didn't stop the group from establishing contact with the victims family and asking for a ransom.

The agreed payment took place in Puebla, Israel where Omar Sanchez Romero a Federal Police, collected the ransom.

Immediately following the arrest, seven Zetas with tactical weapons and uniforms were captured in a safe house in Salamanca. At their safe house, authorities found videos were victims were pressured to tell their relatives to pay the ransom. Upon searching the house a hole was found with remains of an apparent victim who had been put in a bucket with acid.

Another group of 7 more Zetas who worked in agenda with the already captured group where arrested, two days later in Celaya.

In total, 8 safe houses in Guanajuato used by this group where discovered. High powered weapons and three vehicles were also confiscated.

People Arrested

María Guadalupe Morales Moya “La Lupe” de 44 años, de Celaya
Onofre Gómez Flores “El Azucarado” de 38 años, de Valle de Santiago
Omar Israel Romero Sánchez “El Flaco” de 33 años, del Distrito Federal
Francisco Javier Méndez Castañeda “El Paco o el Jotito” de 32 años, Valle de Santiago
Federico Aguilar Lara “El Pancho” de 35 años, de Celaya
José Antonio Jiménez Jaso “Don Toño” de 55 años (Considerado el líder de la banda), de Valle de Santiago
Margarita García Reyes “La Mago” de 47 años, de Salamanca
Alberto Iván Escandón Martínez “El Iván” de 33 años, de Tamaulipas
José Arturo Alfaro González “El Arturo” de 26 años de Coahuila.
Juan Carlos Don Diego Martínez “El Chaparro” de 34 años de Celaya
Ulises Valdez Chávez “El Chino” de 26 años de Celaya.
Jonathan Uriel Zapata Picasso “El Doker” de 18 años
Cristo Herbey de la Cerda Hernández “El Nano” de 23 años de Coahuila.
Hugo Ocampo Ortiz “El Gafe” de 24 años de Celaya que fue militar.
Liliana Quezada Espinoza “La Lily” de 28 años de Celaya.

In the last couple of months, the Zetas have been taking some major blows to their organization, I'm wondering if they finally lost some power behind it. This group in particular had 8 safe houses, something you don't acquire in a week or two.

Honduras: Mexican Cartels Work Closely with Street Gangs

Attorney General Roy David Urtecho says that street gangs in his country are seeking to establish direct business contacts with Colombian and Mexican cartels and they have also tried to take over all drug smuggling operations in the Central American nation of Honduras.

The gangs known as MS-13 and M-18, have recruited over 70,00 youths who have traditionally been the lookouts and sicarios for the capos, but they are now making an effort to take formal control of the drug trade within their own country.

Commenting at an international forum on law enforcement, Urtecho says that the Sinaloa cartel is one of the main groups that maintain a heavy presence in the area, and states that his country is an imprtant gateway for Colombian drugs to enter Mexico and the United States. He went further to say that Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán has stayed in Honduras at various times and continues to do so to this very day.

"We have also found evidence of abandoned planes and vehicles that have been have marks of Venezualan and Columbian origin that have been used to trasport drugs."

The Attorney General of Honduras said that in 2002 the gang problem in the nation dramatically grew after the massive deportation of latino immigrants from the U.S. that resulted in a replenishing of the MS-13 and M-18 ranks. It was at this time that the Mara gangs became a serious source for sicarios for the Mexican cartels, who were seeking for a way to establish security for drug shipments through the Central American country, as well as recruiting soldiers for the bloody war in northeastern Mexico.

New Aspirations

About two years ago the top echelon of the Mara gangs began to restructure their organizations in Honduras, They were no longer satisfied with simply being enforcers and gunslingers. "Now they wanted the real power. They had been seeking an understanding with the cartels in Mexico and Columbia, to establish themselves as legitimate traffickers instead of street level thugs."

"Once they had control over the level of violence in the country, they began to impliment a system of bosses and subordinates; they went from hiring themselves out as the armed branches of various foreign criminal organizations to fully operating all criminal activities in Honduras. Even as we speak, they have a complete monopoly over the violence and drug smuggling routes in the country," said Urtecho.

He added that the new members of the Maras gangs are making an attempt to blend in with regular society; they no longer cover themselves in tattoos or wear gang style clothing or represent colors. This is because of the influence of the international cartels.

There is of course, the age-old argument of poverty and education; the mara gangs have been around for quite a long time, the fact that they commit murders, robbery, extortion, and drug dealing is nothing new. But what has changed is their attitude to the game; the new generation wants to imitate the success of their Mexican and Colombian brethren and make a name for themselves as the legitimate leaders of their own cartels.

La Barbie in Honduras

The murder of two intelligence officers revealed that Edgar Valdez Villarreal (a) La Barbie, formed a training school for sicarios in Honduras. This incident happened a while back: when he was working as the head of sicarios for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa cartel. The aim of this school was to recruit competent killers to go after rival groups and their police contacts.

According to police records, the structure of this group formed around La Barbie; he arrived in 2007 and 2008 and began to help plan executions of enemies in the northern part of the country. He did this with collaboration from established criminal groups who were already working in Honduras.

La Barbie arrived with about a dozen Mexican sicarios who answered directly to him. He wasted no time in "cleaning" the up any problems the Mara gangs and the CDS were having on a local level. This strategy was reminiscent of the murder of several members of the Zacapa cartel that is attributed to Valdez Villarreal when he was is Guatemala, back in March of 2008. That particular crime took place in Río Hondo, a municipality of Zacapa, Guatemala.

The Sinaloa and Gulf cartels are primarily in control of the drug trade in Honduras and other countries in Central and South America. They are working with the Atlántic, Copán, Santa Bárbara and Central cartels of Honduras to establish a working relationship and insure that shipments of cocaine travel without any delay or impediment.

Further Evidence

Colombian police have previously arrested various criminals with links to La Barbie and the FARC (rebel group).

Among them Mexican citizen Julio César Piña Soberanís, who said he was the emissary of Valdez Villarreal. Julio Also had ties to the FARC who were a primary source of cocaine for La Barbie's group, and they were "responsible for coordinating and camouflaging multi-ton quantities of cocaine," according to an anonymous police source.

Another previous arrest with ties to La Barbie happened in Costa Rica. Walberto Salazar Cuero, (a) Guavita, was responsible for drug distribution for guerrilla groups operating in Panamá, explained the same official.

Source Articles:



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Drug Tunnel Discovery Signals New Cartel In Town

Francisco Vega/AFP/Getty Images
A Mexican soldier patrols the tunnel discovered on Thanksgiving Day at a warehouse in
By: John Burnett

Federal authorities are questioning suspected drug smugglers to learn more about a tunnel trafficking operation uncovered on Thanksgiving Day. It's the second sophisticated smuggling tunnel between Tijuana and San Diego that agents have discovered this month, and it's more evidence that a new cartel has muscled into Tijuana.

The tunnel found Thursday is nearly a half-mile long, extending from under the kitchen floor of a house in Tijuana to a pair of warehouses in the Otay Mesa industrial district of San Diego.

It has ventilation, electricity, a cinder-block entryway and a rail system for a small cart to move drugs into the U.S. Of the 76 cross-border drug tunnels discovered in the past four years, the Thanksgiving Day tunnel is one of the most elaborate officials have come across, according to Mike Unzueta, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in San Diego. He says losing the tunnel is bad for cartel business.

"It can't but hurt," he says. "Potentially, we're looking at a year or longer to construct something with this level of sophistication, and upwards of a million dollars in terms of the cost." Unzueta said smugglers hand-dug the channel in hard clay soil with an electric jack-hammer.

More Tunnels, More Tactics

Acting on a tip Thursday, federal agents followed a tractor-trailer from the warehouse to a border patrol checkpoint. Investigators found 20 tons of pot and arrested three men in the U.S.; the Mexican military arrested five more. The arrests led to the discovery of the tunnel.

Federal agents discovered a similarly constructed tunnel on Nov. 2, connecting warehouses in Mexico and the U.S. They recovered more than 30 tons of cannabis in that bust.

Francisco Vega/AFP/Getty Images
A Mexican soldier peers into the entrance of the tunnel from a Tijuana kitchen.

"The more we have tried to fortify and beef up border security, the more we have driven cartels underground, or out into the ocean, or more ingenious, clandestine methods of moving products across the border," says David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute of the University of San Diego.

Sinaloans Expand Their Turf

Federal investigators believe both underground passageways were under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel, which is run by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, the world's most wanted drug lord.

What's important is that the Tijuana smuggling corridor has traditionally been controlled by the Tijuana Cartel, which is run by the Arellano Felix family. The recent tunnel discoveries confirm that the Sinaloans have expanded their turf — by brutality and negotiation — and now have a solid foothold in Tijuana, Shirk says.

"The tunnel itself is not demonstrating any new characteristics — it's big, it's loaded with marijuana, and we've seen that before," Shirk says. "But what we haven't seen before this close to the Tijuana corridor is a Sinaloa operation of this magnitude."

The victory celebration among U.S. cops may be short-lived. If the past is a guide, Mexican drug smugglers will simply start digging new tunnels.

Mexican cartels emerge as top source for U.S. meth

By William Booth and Anne-Marie O'Connor
The Washington Post
Exploiting loopholes in the global economy, Mexican crime syndicates are importing mass quantities of the cold medicines and common chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine - turning Mexico into the No. 1 source for all meth sold in the United States, law enforcement agents say.

Nearly three years ago, the Mexican government appeared on the verge of controlling the sale of chemicals used to make the drugs, but the syndicates have since moved to the top of the drug trade.

Cartels have quickly learned to use dummy corporations and false labeling and take advantage of lax customs enforcement in China, India and Bangladesh to smuggle tons of the pills into Mexico for conversion into methamphetamine. Ordinary cold, flu and allergy medicine used to make methamphetamine - pills banned in Mexico and restricted in the United States - are still widely available in many countries.

In the past 18 months, Mexican armed forces have raided more than 325 sophisticated factories capable of producing a million pounds of potent methamphetamine a year. Seizures of Mexican methamphetamine along the southwest border have doubled.

"As hard as everyone is working to stop it, the stuff is just going to continue to flow in massive quantities," said Michael Braun, former chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration and now with Spectre Group International, a security firm.

In a typical scenario, United Nations investigators say, a legitimate pharmaceutical company in India exports cold pills to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where they are falsely labeled as herbal supplements and shipped to Belize, and then to Veracruz by cargo container.

"Mexico-based trafficking groups have shown tremendous resilience in getting around the precursor chemical prohibitions and controls," said Special Agent Alex Dominguez in the DEA Office of Diversion Control. "They are currently pursuing very sophisticated smuggling techniques. They are trafficking ephedrine-type medicines, just like you would smuggle any high-value contraband such as cocaine or heroin."

Legal ingredients

Ever resourceful, Mexican cartels have begun to manufacture methamphetamine using legally obtained ingredients - such as phenylacetic acid, or PAA, a honey-smelling chemical used in everything from perfumes, soaps and body lotions to food flavoring and antibiotics.

Traffickers prefer methamphetamine made from cold tablets because it is more potent, but they are increasingly relying on PAA, as resilient Mexican cartels revert to old-school recipes developed by U.S. motorcycle gangs in the 1970s that use phenylacetic acid and its chemical cousins.

At least half of all the methamphetamine seized along the border in the past year was made with precursor chemicals such as phenylacetic acid, U.S. agents told The Washington Post.

"For the cartels, the great thing about meth is it is not bound by geography," a senior U.S. law enforcement agent with direct knowledge of the Mexican drug syndicates who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of security concerns. "You can buy the precursor chemicals off the shelf. You can order them on the telephone."

Mexican mafias have quickly replaced American mom-and-pop domestic producers, who use soft drink bottles to "shake and bake" a few ounces of meth in motel rooms and rural slums, according to DEA officials.

The Chinese government concedes that it has no idea how many cold tablets its state-run companies sell each year. The Mexican government is unsure how much phenylacetic acid is used by legitimate manufacturers, such as Proctor & Gamble, and how much is diverted to the meth labs.

Mexican cartels began to produce ever larger amounts of methamphetamine over the past decade. But under heavy pressure from the United States, Mexico three years ago banned the import and sale of cold, flu and allergy medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the most sought-after chemicals used to make methamphetamine and ecstasy. Most Central American countries implemented their own bans.

Meth production in Mexico plummeted. In 2007, the military busted 33 clandestine laboratories and 51 in 2008, compared with the 215 it uncovered in 2009. Street prices spiked and purity dropped in the United States, an indication of relative scarcity. U.S. diplomats and law enforcement officials hailed Mexico's ephedrine ban as a major success.

But Mexican methamphetamine is surging again. After several years of declining production, the 2010 threat assessment by the Justice Department's National Drug Intelligence Center said Mexico was again "the primary source of methamphetamine consumed in the United States." A companion report was not released for fear of embarrassing Mexican President Felipe Calderon on the eve of his trip to Washington in May.

Los Aztecas Leader Caught

México City.-
Federal Police detained Arturo Gallegos Castrellón, alias “El Farmero”, a presumed leader of Los Aztecas (street gang with ties to La Linea and the Juarez cartel) and considered to be one of the most active sicarios operating in Ciudad Juarez. He is accused of ordering the murder of 14 youths in Villas de Salvárcar and 5 federal agents, among other cases.

Spokesman for the Regional Division Security Chief of Federal Police, Luis Cárdenas, said “Gallegos Castrellón is the leader for Los Aztecas in the Paseos del Bosque nieghborhood”

'El Farmero' was arrested along with two other people.

Carlos Rodríguez Ramírez (a) “El 67” was also apprehended. He was in charge of drug smuggling operations into El Paso. Gisela Ornelas Núñez (a) “La Maestra," helped transport guns and drugs for the group.

The spokesman said “El Farmero” also ordered the deaths of two student council members on March 14th.

In regard to the 14 youths killed in Villas de Salvárcar, Gallegos Castrellón said he had received false information that the teenagers were members of a rival gang Los Artistas Asesinos, a group with links to El Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel. But according to 'El Farmero': “ By the time we were there and realized it was a case of mistaken identity, "we had no choice and wasted them anyway."

He also confessed to helping plan the hit on the wife of another man who was detained, Jesús Ernesto Chávez Castillo. The reason given for her murder was that she had revealed information about the gang to authorities.

In their possession was several large and mall caliber weapons, 228 ammunition clips. 3 ounces of marijuana and 4 vehicles, one of them an armored pick up truck.

Source: http://www.milenio.com/node/588302

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Los Zetas Re-Enter León, Guanajuato

León is Mexico’s seventh most populous city with 1.2 million inhabitants, located in the central highland state of Guanajuato between San Luis Potosi, a Zeta enclave, to the north and Michoacan, home of La Familia Michoacana (LFM), to the south.

León is known internationally for its leather exports but has recently become another urban organized crime battleground.

Leon also has a thriving “narcomenudeo”, or illicit retail drug sales market. Domestic hard drug use, once a rarity in Mexico, has been a rapidly expanding phenomenon as inexpensive cocaine and methamphetamines leak out of the trafficking pipeline headed north and saturate entire areas of the nation.

Since the 1990’s, the organized crime “Plaza” of Leon had been under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel and Chapo Guzmán. But in 2008, the control of the plaza was left to the LFM. Hundreds of killers and drug dealers from Michoacan invaded Guanajuato to take over the state’s criminal underworld.

According to an interview granted to El Milenio by Servando Gomez “La Tuta”, a top LFM leader, La Familia entered Guanajuato only to create a buffer state that would serve to protect the people of Michoacan from their mortal enemies, Los Zetas.

Of course that is only part of the picture, the hypocritical LFM was also poised to exploit and defend their expansion of criminal profits in Leon and the rest of the state.

“La plaza se calento”

The violence took off when Los Zetas entered Guanajuato to try to get to Michoacán. In 2008 there were several severe clashes between the two groups in the streets of Leon.

Several police officers were killed and the Federal Police were attacked on Airport Boulevard. Zetas from the states of Zacatecas and Tamaulipas were sent to take control of León according to authorities who captured several of these men.

León had a very difficult year and a half until Los Zetas withdrew in late 2009 and early 2010 according to government intelligence reports. There were 135 executions linked to organized crime in León in 2009.
So far this year 68 executions have been reported but the rate of killings have been increasing recently.

It is believed that the appointment of María Guadalupe Anguiano as the head of Public Security in León on October 2009 had been a factor in clamping down on the violence and insecurity.

Anguiano is a Major in the Mexican Army and a specialist in military justice and had previously prosecuted two Army generals for links to organized crime.

However, Anguiano resigned her post and re-entered the military along with two other military officers that headed the León police force in July, 2010, under pressure for human rights abuses.

The León municipal police force is also the only Mexican municipal police force to be recognized by CALEA, the Comission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies based in the U.S., and is well on its way to receiving accreditation.

Otra vez estan aquí

The León police force will need all the talent and skills it possesses because it seems Los Zetas have returned, poised to again fight for control of organized crime in the city.

Their presence has already led to a series of executions that have reignited the dispute between the LFM and Los Zetas.

There are several reports of probes by Zetas hanging around the region. These are the first attempts. This will not be a great offensive like in 2008 and early 2009, but a war of attrition waged by several bands of criminals already operating in León that have joined with Los Zetas, supported by a few reinforcements sent from other states.

Leon is again sinking into insecurity.

145 "Narco" casas

At least 145 illegal drug outlets in homes have been spotted in León, says a report of the municipal Public Security Secretariat. These sites of retail drug sales are all over León

The two most common drugs sold are marijuana and cocaine. The study shows that these drugs have displaced inhalents as drugs of initiation as they become cheaper.

The report indicates that cocaine and its derivatives such as crack, as well as synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine, have greatly increased their demand. Marijuana is still the drug of choice, although the low cost of cocaine and its easy availability makes it increasingly accessible to the population.

One gram of cocaine is priced at almost 100 pesos and this has allowed the drug to gain ground in sales. It may soon pass marijuana as the drug of choice.

Amphetamines and methamphetamines have also experienced a boom in black market drug sales.

In León, the population most at risk of falling into drug addiction is found in the age range of 12 to 34 years. It is estimated that there are 5,722 women who use crack cocaine regularly.

Source articles:

“Ojalá La Familia cuidara toda la República”: La Tuta http://impreso.milenio.com/node/8621968

Los Zetas regresaron a León

Detectan en León 145 narco casas

Matan en León a una persona ya son 68 ejecutados

Tijuana Top Cop who Fought Cartels is Out of a Job

By Elliot Spagat
Associated Press

File - In this Dec. 2, 2008 file photo, Mexican Army Lt. Col. Julian Leyzaola, looks on after being sworn in as the new Public Safety Secretary in Tijuana, Mexico. Leyzaola was dismissed Friday, Nov. 26, 2010, after showing unprecedented zeal trying to end the grip of drug cartels on one of Mexico's most notoriously corrupt police forces.

Julian Leyzaola tried with unprecedented zeal to end the grip of drug cartels on one of Mexico's most notoriously corrupt police forces: In two years as top cop, he blanketed key parts of Tijuana with vetted officers, new patrol cars and military commanders, while purging hundreds of allegedly corrupt cops.
The retired army officer survived a drug-gang assassination campaign that killed dozens of his officers. He says he rejected an $80,000-a-week offer from an emissary of Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Now he's out of a job.

Mayor-Elect Carlos Bustamante said he will appoint Leyzaola's closest aide, Gustavo Huerta, as public safety secretary when his term begins Tuesday. Huerta, 42, knows Tijuana and is positioned to build on recent successes, Bustamante's spokeswoman said.

Leyzaola has been praised by President Felipe Calderon, U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual, U.S. law enforcement and Tijuana's business elite for standing up to the cartels and bringing order in the face of the city's worst drug violence.

Yet the state's human rights ombudsman accuses Leyzaola of beating some people suspected of killing cops. Some officers he arrested for corruption have been let go for lack of evidence and say they were tortured in custody. Huerta was also named in one complaint filed by several officers.

Leyzaola says the allegations come from critics who don't like his get-tough approach.

"The reality is that we needed extreme measures to restore order," he told officers last September after the human rights report came out. "That's what we did. It was necessary."
Mexico's local police forces are often bribed to be the eyes and ears of drug cartels, yet most police chiefs won't attack the gangs, noting that organized crime is a federal responsibility. They tend instead to focus on traffic violations, car thefts, assaults and home invasions.

That hands-off approach favors the cartels, says Daniel Sabet, a visiting professor at Georgetown University who studies Mexico's local police forces.

"You can't just shrug your shoulders and say it's not our jurisdiction," he said. "If there's an organized crime guy with an AK-47, you have to make that arrest."

Leyzaola, a chess aficionado who stays fit by playing handball, relished his pursuit of Tijuana's drug lords, calling his targets cockroaches, scum and dirty fat pigs. He captured and interrogated them himself.

He began his march to recapture Tijuana in early 2009 by reforming police in a different district of the city every three months. First, a strike force made a slew of arrests. Then beat cops were replaced by officers who passed intensive background checks. Former military officers with no police experience took over as district commanders.

When he suspected cops were dirty, he tried to humiliate them into quitting. First he assigned them to patrol palm trees outside his office, and later had them bake in the sun on the new headquarters' heliport.

"I have two up there right now," he said with a smile behind his large desk. "Until they get vertigo."

In early January, federal authorities arrested Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental—one of Leyzaola's "dirty fat pigs"—who allegedly was behind the cop-killing campaign and hung bodies from freeways and beheaded victims.

From the confessions of El Teo's top lieutenants in custody, Leyzaola learned that corruption was hitting close to home: a district police commander was taking $6,000 a month to tip El Teo to law enforcement presence. He was Leyzaola's close friend from military school.

They also said El Teo employed another district commander whom Leyzaolo tapped for special projects.

Monterrey, Mexico's Wealthiest City, Succumbs To Drug War

The Associated Press
A 21-year-old university student lies dead from a gunshot to the head. Nearby, paramedics wrap the head of another woman in a blood-soaked shirt while her husband holds their cowering children.

They were shopping in a popular downtown promenade when gunmen chasing a security guard opened fire into the crowd. This wasn't supposed to happen in Monterrey, Mexico's modern northern city with gleaming glass towers that rise against the Sierra Madre, where students flock to world-class universities, including the country's equivalent of MIT.

But drug violence has painted Monterrey with the look and feel of the gritty border 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the north as two former allies, the Gulf and Zetas gangs, fight for control of Mexico's third-largest – and wealthiest – city.

The deterioration happened nearly overnight, laying bare issues that plague the entire country: a lack of credible policing and the Mexican habit of looking the other way at the drug trade as long as it was orderly and peaceful.

"To a certain extent, we saw ourselves as a privileged city and very isolated from Mexico's problems," said Blanca Trevino, Monterrey-based president and CEO of Softtek, the largest information technology consulting firm in Latin America. "The violence hit us because we were not accustomed to having it and therefore to handling it. Now we live in a sort of psychosis."

The Mexican government announced Wednesday it is ordering a significant boost in military troops and federal police in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon, home to Monterrey.

The two states are under the heaviest attack since the cartel split earlier this year. Both have witnessed increasingly horrific violence spilling into daily life and claiming civilians, while politicians and journalists are either silenced or killed.

Earlier this month, residents fleeing gunbattles in Tamaulipas' once-picturesque town of Ciudad Mier ended up in Mexico's first drug-war refugee shelter in a nearby town, only to duck bullets from a gunbattle there.

Monterrey was used to being Mexico's definition of opportunity. The city of 4 million "regios" – a nickname for Monterrey residents that means "people of the regal mountains" – represented the future as money poured into northern Mexico from free trade and the opening of scores of assembly plants.

The city's many CEOs drove their own luxury cars unaccompanied to the trendiest Japanese restaurant or the top spot for roasted goat, the state's specialty, in the wealthy enclave of San Pedro Garza Garcia.

Some drug lords and their families retreated to the safety of Monterrey as well. In the home of the country's industrial heavyweights, including the world's third-largest cement maker, Cemex, and bottling giant Femsa, they could easily blend in with executives showing off their wealth.

Then-leader of the Gulf cartel, Juan Garcia Abrego, was arrested in the nearby town of Juarez in 1996. Two years later, a U.S. sting led to criminal charges of money laundering against employees at three Monterrey-based Mexican banks.

Despite sporadic violence and the known presence of drug traffickers, the city enjoyed a tranquility that gave it a provincial feel.

That started to change four years ago, when the Sinaloa cartel began battling the Gulf cartel for a piece of Monterrey's lucrative domestic drug market. The violence subsided after the cartels reportedly agreed to share the turf.

With the Gulf-Zeta split, the downfall was swift – "extremely so," in the words of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual – for a city with huge American interests that in some ways identifies more closely with the U.S. than Mexico.

"It's part of the risk of accommodating or allowing criminal groups to be able to live and operate quote `safely' in an area for the sake of peace," Pascual told The Associated Press. "But then this rupture occurs and turns into a massive battle."

As in much of Mexico, there was no viable law enforcement to counter the onslaught. The Zetas control the local police, Pascual said. Other police forces aligned with the Gulf cartel in the fight against them.

About half of the 750 police officers in Monterrey have been fired on suspicion of links to organized crime.

"Rather than becoming part of the solution, they become part of the problem," Pascual said. "When criminal groups want to contest one another for territory, if you don't have strong local law enforcement capable of immediately reacting and putting that down, then the violence has the capacity to continue."

More than 500 people have died in drug violence in the first 10 months of the year, compared to 56 slayings for all of 2009, according to tallies kept by the city's El Norte newspaper.

Residents are used to having their daily routines interrupted by carjackings and "narcobloqueos" – roadblocks with stolen vehicles designed to keep police and soldiers at bay as the cartels do their business.

They drive simple cars and avoid night clubs and bars and go to parties with their pajamas, ready to spend the night in case it's too dangerous to venture home.

In March, two students at the prestigious Monterrey Tech University, Mexico's equivalent of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, died when they were caught in a gunfight between soldiers and gunmen outside the campus.

Five months later, the U.S. State Department ordered diplomats to remove their children from the area after a shooting outside the American Foundation School, a private school attended by many Americans and the children of some of Monterrey's wealthiest families. Two security guards working for the Femsa bottling company died in the gunbattle.

The city's businesspeople are now becoming the targets of extortion and kidnappings as drug traffickers look for other ways to make money. Common criminals also take advantage of the chaos. Now almost everyone knows someone who has been a victim of a crime.

The traditional weekend shopping trips to McAllen or Laredo, Texas, have stopped – it's too risky to drive along highways patrolled by gunmen. Those who still travel to South Padre Island, where the rich own weekend condos, do it by airplane.

The business community published a letter in national newspapers as far back as August demanding President Felipe Calderon and Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina send more troops. Now it will get its wish, though the government didn't detail how many would be sent, citing security.

But Aldo Fasci Zuazua thinks regios can make the difference. The former state public safety secretary and assistant attorney general is helping to lead a peace movement to galvanize people to stand up to the cartels.

"In Italy, in Colombia, things calmed down among the cartels, among the mafia, when people took to the streets and said, `Enough!'" he said.

Associated Press writers Mark Walsh in Monterrey and Katherine Corcoran in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Modern US Helicopters To Fight Drug-related Violence In Mexico

By: RTTNews.com

The United States has provided three state-of-the-art Helicopters to Mexico to help the neighboring country fight drug-related violence.

The Black Hawk UH-60M helicopters that the State Department delivered to Mexico's Federal Police Force (SSP) are among the most modern and effective helicopters in the world.

Valued at $64 million, they mark the first Merida Initiative aviation delivery to the Mexican Federal Police.

It will add to the SSP's current air fleet by expanding law enforcement operations, allowing for rapid response and increased mobility of law enforcement personnel, providing access to remote reach regions, and expanding interdiction operations to target illicit activities.

This delivery exemplifies the joint commitment made at the March 2010 High Level Consultative Group to implement "an ambitious multi-year initiative to broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation against transnational drug trafficking organizations and organized crime," the State Department said in a statement.

Under the Merida Initiative, the United States has so far delivered more than $310 million in equipment and training, with plans to deliver an additional $495 million by the end of 2011, it added.

The Merida Initiative is a historic program of cooperation that acknowledges the shared responsibilities of the United States and Mexico to counter drug-fueled violence that has threatened citizens on both sides of the border.

The massacre of 72 migrants by suspected drug traffickers in a northern Mexican state bordering Texas in August led to the resignation of Mexico's Commissioner of National Migration Institute after she was summoned by the Senate.

On August 24, gunmen from the dreaded Los Zetas drug cartel shot dead migrants from Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Ecuador in San Fernando as they were trying to enter the U.S. across the northern border.

Cutting across party lines, the Senators condemned the massacre and acknowledged that Mexico could not "demand respect for its nationals in the United States" when it "does not assure the dignified treatment" of migrants from other countries on its own territory.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comparison of the neighboring country with Colombia of the 1990's had evoked protests from the Mexican government.

It was followed by President Barack Obama's denial that growing drug-related violence in Mexico was comparable to the situation Colombia experienced two decades ago.

An estimated 28,000 people had died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006 despite real progress made by defense and police forces in tackling the drug mafia.

Benito's Story: Planting Seeds of Hope in Fields of Destruction

As we all know by now the historical gem that is Ciudad Mier, a Mexican town on the Rio Grande border with Texas, was recently depopulated by the ultraviolent, bloody Zetas in a move to consolidate territory as they battle their rivals, the Gulf cartel.

We could never have imagined this type of cleansing of populations in our own backyard, reminiscent of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan during the Taliban rule and other tragedies.

Many people bravely came to the aid of the internal refugees from Ciudad Mier that were accepted with open arms by their brothers and sisters in neighboring Miguel Aleman.

This is the story of one successful effort to deliver aid, love and support, orchestrated by a wonderful “Abuela”.

Sitting in my home, hoping my eyes and heart had somehow misinterpreted what I had just seen, I began to watch the video a second time.

There was no way to deny the truth, I understood the horror perfectly and I was sobbing at the realization.

How did we get here? What can be done to bring all the violence, pain, and suffering to an end?

I could never have imagined drug gangs would be successful in claiming an entire municipality and intimidate a whole population to abandon their beloved "Magical Town", chosen so for its beauty and historical and cultural past.

How could anyone have predicted the cruel irony of this legendary town’s banner, el Pueblo Magico.

Before this year if Ciudad Mier was Googled the response would have encouraged a visit on a tour that would include the sites of the first battle of the Mexican American war and the last battle of the Civil War.

Today those search results leading to the beauties and wonders of the magical town of Mier have all but disappeared. Much like the proud people who were forced from their homes with threats of death, they have been relocated and replaced by the tragedy of cartel violence, abductions and murders.

I am a grandmother and a humanitarian. I love this country with a passion. It is the land of my ancestors; my roots and my culture.

I see the disintegration of this beautiful country and feel, as all good people do, we are enslaved by this horrific violence and powerless to stop it.

We see no end, not in our life time, nor that of our children. My hope only begins when thinking of the future generations, that of the children and their children. But will it all be too little, too late?

What will happen with the children of this war? With the orphans? How are they being affected? How can they NOT be damaged and scarred?

It's these children I worry about most. They have unknowingly, out of necessity, created survival mechanisms to cope with their fears and anger. They have become desensitized.

Studies claim this desensitization is a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but how can it be? How can it be post trauma, when it's ongoing and escalating?

What type of people will this drug war produce? What type of adults will these children become? Children are losing their ability to become emotionally moved. What will the future hold for children whose moral, character, judgment and emotional development was so greatly compromised by violence and tragedy during such crucial stages of development?

Will they lose their ability to feel? This is my greatest fear.

Drug consumption and addiction increases as the cartels dump excess supply on the streets of impoverished colonias and rich enclaves.

If Mexico does not stabilize soon, one can only imagine what will happen when the next generation, previously exposed to violence, beheadings and atrocities, become adults.

My humanitarian work primarily involves and aids the educational and medical necessities of disadvantaged children. However, after seeing the video of the people of Mier now living an uncertain life in a Lions Club converted to a make shift shelter in Miguel Aleman, I was compelled to help.

What I wanted for the people of Ciudad Mier was not only to deliver much needed supplies, but to send them a message: The world now knows what has happened to them and they matter deeply to us. We are outraged and we care. That was my mission.

It took less than 5 days for my team and I, working day and night, to plan, coordinate, and prepare the supplies and two days to drive through multiple states then through the no man’s land of Tamaulipas, to deliver them.

The mission was accomplished through the heroism of my team and their drivers. We were as successful as we could be under the given circumstances.

My team carried hope, enthusiasm and courage going where danger lurks around every corner and violence and chaos explode without warning.

On this particular mission, my team included a teenage boy who had offered to help with personally delivering supplies to the children and elderly of Mier.

Benito is a special child: loving, caring, thoughtful, and a longtime volunteer for my foundation. Always with a smile, he was willing and eager to help.

I had mixed feelings about having allowed Benito travel to the shelter.

He comes from a very small town which is controlled by Zetas. Although there was a brief outbreak of violence last year, there has yet to be an actual struggle for this town between the Zetas and their rivals.

This has allowed his town to remain unmarked and deceptively peaceful.

Benito didn't know about drug cartels and territory wars. He has never witnessed a shootout and never heard or seen the destructive impact left by a grenade. He doesn't know about kidnappings, extortions, and has no idea that torture, mutilation, and decapitations are every day occurrences outside of his world. He had been sheltered, as children should be.

Benito was changed in Miguel Aleman, his rosy glasses were lifted, his innocence was lost. It was there, while listening to children tell him their stories, he said goodbye to childhood and became a young man.

He has learned not only the truth, but that it is incumbent on us to act to make a difference, especially when it is painful, because it is there that few venture.

On the way to the hotel, after the mission, Benito sat in silence. He now knew the true evils that lie in wait, he was hurt and afraid.

His Mother, in attempts to distract him and lift his spirits, turned on the radio only to have Benito scream: "NO! Please turn it off and don't speak!." She did as he asked and when the silence returned her son began to sob and shake and scream:"Why? Why is this happening? What will happen to those children? and the 'buelitos? Why don't they stop this?" He cried into the night.

I have included the reports Benito's mission report from and a letter from his Mother, who also went to Miguel Aleman shelter. Benito's report depicts the depth of what he has heard and learned on this mission, and how it affected him.

Abuela Gloria Bueño

CPS Leader Escapes Arrest Attempt

Milenio/David Monroy

Jiutepec, Morelos.- Eight people have been detained after an operation by elements of the Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA). In their possession; firearms, ammunition, and several luxury vehicles. The aim of the operation was to arrest Jesús Radilla (a) EL Negro, leader of sicarios for the South Pacific Cartel (CPS), a man who has been accused of planning over 250 executions and kidnappings. He narrowly escaped as he drank and entertained women at a bar, along with three known sicarios. One of the men captured is considered to be his right hand man.

Around 4 a.m, members of SEDENA arrived to the place where Jesús Radilla was drinking whiskey with his bodyguards, several women and patrons of El Fantasy and another nearby bar called 40 grados; when a members of the CPS saw the military approaching. They opened fire and provided cover for Radilla to escape,. This is the third time the sicario boss for the CPS has escaped arrest during an armed confrontation.

According to SEDENA, an anonymous phone call gave authorities the location of Radilla, who is known to to visit local nightclubs in Jiutepec, considered to be his base of operations. The arrest of Radilla was imminent, however it was personnel from El Fantasy who warned him of the military's presence. His table was already located to give him quick access the security exit, which he used to escape.

Despite the loss of Radilla and his driver, authorities detained two of his closest collaborators, one of them considered to be the right hand man. Gabriel Francisco Chueco Vázquez “El Chaparro,” who is accused of planning 100 murders. Eduardo Morales Cruz “El Lalo” is mainly responsible for planning kidnappings, were arrested.

Others detained were Israel García Saldívar “El Chiquisflais” a sicario working for Radilla and two women, both girlfriends of “El Lalo.”

SEDENA officers found one large caliber rifle, two handguns, dozens of ammunition clips, and five late model trucks that the group left abandoned at the scene of the confrontation.

Among those arrest were the managers of El Fantasy and the neighboring establishment 40 Grados. José Luis Oliva and Joaquín Estrella Castillo, respectively, were partying with the sicarios at the time of the operation.

After the ordeal, the waiters at El Fantasy and the women were released.

Diego Reportedly Released

Kidnapped Mexican former presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos was set free early Saturday, the daily El Universal reported on its front page, a claim the government has yet to confirm.

Fernandez de Cevallos, who was kidnapped in May, was released early Saturday and is in good health and at home, the unnamed relatives told the newspaper, giving no further details.

But neither the family nor government officials have publicly confirmed the release.

"We know nothing" about the alleged release, an official with the federal prosecutor's office told AFP.

"We can neither confirm nor deny the report," added an official with the office of Federal Security.

Other news outlets, also citing unnamed relatives, say that the politician is still being held hostage.

In October El Universal reported that the politician's family paid 20 million dollars ransom, and that his abductors agreed to release him in early November. The family neither confirmed nor denied the report.

Fernandez de Cevallos vanished on May 15 after he had driven to his ranch in the central Mexican state of Queretaro.

A prominent member of the ruling conservative National Action Party (PAN), Fernandez de Cevallos, 69, ran for president in 1994.

A brash, cigar-chomping candidate, he finished second in the election, losing to former president Ernesto Zedillo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

Fernandez de Cevallos remained a key player in the PAN, and is close to President Felipe Calderon, also a PAN member. Currently he is a partner in a law firm with Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont.

Neither the politician's family nor the president have issued any statements on his alleged release.

The government launched a massive manhunt soon after Fernandez de Cevallos was kidnapped, but relatives asked them to call it off so they could negotiate with the abductors.

It is unclear who snatched the politician.

The kidnapping was at first blamed on leftist guerrillas, but the small Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which operates sporadically in southern Mexico, issued a statement explicitly rejecting any role in the abduction.

Mexico should call in the Marines

By Edward Schumacher-Matos/The Washington Post
Friday, November 26, 2010

National pride is a good thing - until the water reaches your chin and your nation is still sinking. Mexico is not in that deep yet, but parts of the country are. Seven criminal cartels effectively control most cities and the drug trafficking lanes near the U.S. border, as well as their bases and production centers in the interior.

The Mexican government announced on Wednesday that it will send more troops and federal police to its northeastern corner near the U.S. border.

Yet the Mexican elite class and military remain too proud to do what they immediately should: Call in the Marines.

I say this a bit tendentiously to get Mexicans out of their nationalistic stupor. They, in fact, should call in the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force, too. But not in large units. Rather, Mexico is in dire need of American military specialists stationed within its borders to help the country build powerful electronic intelligence systems and train modern military and police forces to replace its suffocatingly hierarchical, outdated ones.

My saying this will insult many Mexicans, but I speak out of love for the country and its people. Mexico is neither a "failing state" nor a totally corrupt society, as - curiously - American nativists and humanitarians in the immigration debate claim (one wanting to wall off Mexico, the other to save Mexicans and invite into the United States anyone who wants to come).

But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was right when she said the cartels are "morphing into or making common cause with what we would consider an insurgency." Mexican officials and media erupted in protest, and President Obama apologized.

He shouldn't have. The United States and Mexico have to recognize that cartels in Mexico and other parts of the world represent what a growing number of clear-eyed specialists are calling a new form of "criminal insurgency."

They are attacking the state from within through corruption and violence and seeking to establish areas of influence in which they can operate without restriction," Bob Killebrew and Jennifer Bernal wrote in a just-released study for the Center for a New American Security.

Where it interests them, the cartels have cowed the local police, politicians and the press through intimidation, executions, massacres and coerced bribery. More than 200,000 people have fled Juarez; the border maquiladoras that were a national growth engine are struggling; and many business leaders from Monterrey, the modern industrial center of Mexico, have moved to Texas.

President Felipe Caldern has bravely tried to break the cycle by going to war with the cartels; but after about 28,000 deaths, most Mexicans think the cartels are winning. Caldern's term is up in two years, and Mexico will face the choice to keep fighting or return to an older policy of live and let live with one or more of the cartels. The latter is looking ever more attractive.

Mexico thus needs military and police help now. Yes, more fundamental matters such as drug demand in the United States and weak institutions in Mexico need addressing, but those are long-term concerns. Not even legalization of drugs - which I favor - will make the criminal cartels go away. They are in many businesses now, and they have tentacles throughout the hemisphere and in every large and medium-size U.S. city.

What is getting in the way of deeper cooperation with the U.S. military is that the Mexican military, political and intellectual leaders, abetted by U.S. intellectuals, still have their heads in the Mexican and American wars of the 19th century and the Cold War of the 20th. They talk of imperialism and hegemony - which are irrelevant today.

Though Mexico is our neighbor and supposed longtime ally, the Mexican army has never - never - participated in a joint military exercise with the U.S. military, as Roderic Ai Camp notes in a recent study for the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The Merida Initiative funds some police training by Mexicans in Mexico; Mexican military officers are increasingly studying in the United States; and Mexico has recently asked our Northern Command for help in setting up a joint intelligence center. But that's not nearly enough.

Plan Colombia, a U.S. initiative to thwart drug smuggling in Colombia, has been a success because several hundred military trainers and intelligence operatives have worked hand in glove with Colombians inside that country. More than just teaching officers, they empower sergeants and enlisted men from the working class, something the Mexican military, like the Mexican elite, has yet to do