Tuesday, August 31, 2010

History of U.S. Citizens in Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organisations: Fred Gomez Carrasco

Although Edgar Valdez Villarreal is the latest U.S. born gangster to rise to kingpin status in the world of Mexico’s drug cartels, he is not the first or the highest ranking, or even the most murderous on a personal level.

The following is a brief history of another notorious U.S. born drug trafficker who rose to a leadership position in Mexico’s criminal underworld. Other histories will follow

Fred Gomez Carrasco "El Señor": Feb 10, 1940 - Aug 3, 1974

Born and raised in San Antonio Texas, Fred Gomez Carrasco was, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the biggest and deadliest drug lord on the Texas-Mexico border, overseeing a cocaine and heroin empire that stretched from Guadalajara to San Diego, California, and Chicago, Illinois.

It was suspected by law enforcement personnel of the day that he personally committed at least 47 murders during his criminal career.

Gomez Carrasco’s organization was also responsible for the murders of dozens of other victims, mostly other gang members, in Laredo and San Antonio, Texas, and across other cities in Texas and the U.S.

Gomez Carrasco was based in Nuevo Laredo after taking the city in a brutal war that mirrored today’s drug gang violence and lawlessness. Around 100 victims of execution style murders including more than two dozen policemen were left in the wake of the struggle that ousted the equally ruthless Reyes-Pruneda clan from regional control of drug trafficking.

The violence was severe enough that in another precursor of today’s lawlessness the Mexican army was sent in to occupy the city.

He was arrested in Guadalajara, Mexico in September, 1972, with 213 pounds of heroin worth more than $100 million and a large arsenal of weapons.

In December of 1972, Gomez Carrasco bribed authorities and escaped a prison in Jalisco in a laundry truck.

After returning to the U.S. and vowing that he would never be taken alive by law enforcement, Gomez Carrasco was arrested in July 1973 in San Antonio, Texas after being shot four times by police and surviving.

After leading an unsuccessful escape attempt from the Texas state prison at Huntsville, Gomez Carrasco, and another convict committed suicide during a shootout with lawmen after an 11 day siege of the prison library where hostages were held. Two hostages were murdered in the escape attempt

Sources: Time Magazine, Texas Monthly, Dallas Morning Times, Hecho en Tejas: a literary review.

Monday, August 30, 2010

La Barbie Arrested

Edgar Valdez Villarreal is said to be the heir to the Beltrán Leyva cartel.
Edgar Valdez Villarreal, aka "La Barbie," heir to the Beltran Leyva cartel, was arrested by Federal Police in the state of Mexico.

According to the news from Carlos Loret de Mola, the alleged capo was apprehended near Toluca.

However, ForoTV Televisa, cites that the arrest took place within the state limits of Morelos and Guerrero.

More information as it becomes available ...

Sources Reporting:
La Jornada

Reuters - Mexico captures "La Barbie" drug trafficker

Mexico captured major drug trafficker Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez on Monday in a second big coup for President Felipe Calderon in his battle against murderous trafficking cartels.

Federal police caught Valdez, a leader of the Beltran Leyva gang based in central Mexico, in a house in a residential area on the edge of the state of Morelos, near Mexico City, a police spokesman told Reuters. He said Valdez put up little resistance.

The attorney general's office also confirmed the U.S.-born smuggler -- nicknamed "La Barbie" for his fair complexion and blue eyes -- was caught alive.

His capture comes on the heels of the killing by Mexican soldiers of another drug boss, Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, in July.

But Valdez's capture may be seen as an even bigger win for Calderon as Valdez could be extradited to the United States, where he has a $2 million bounty on his head.

"It's a key success. What is very good is that they didn't kill him. That makes a big difference," independent security analyst Alberto Islas said of Valdez's arrest.

Calderon is struggling with growing alarm in Mexico and abroad over his drug war, which has sparked vicious turf battles between rival gangs that have killed more than 28,000 people, mainly traffickers and police, in the 3-1/2 years he has been in power.

The Roots of Organized Crime

La Jornada
Marco Rascón

Organized crime in Mexico today did not form itself in a vacuum, its structure originates from the police and security forces of the Mexican State. That is why this drug war is so bloody and extends to all levels of government and society.

Daniel Arizmendi, alias "El Mochaorejas" (ear cutter)

Ex State of Morelos Judicial Police agent and ringleader of an infamous kidnapping ring that cut off body parts to expedite ransoms. The "supercop" who led the effort to arrest him, State of Morelos police commander and CISEN commissioner Albert Pliego Fuentes alias "el Superpolicia", was convicted and imprisoned for organized criminal activity and distribution of cocaine for the Juarez Cartel.

Organized crime in Mexico today did not form itself in a vacuum, its structure originates from the police and security forces of the Mexican State. That is why this drug war is so bloody and extends to all levels of government and society.

Over the past 30 years, corruption, impunity and the political and discretionary application of justice converted every police officer and every public safety agency into a criminal entity. Whether willing or otherwise, every Mexican police officer, every ministerial (investigative) official, to survive as such, had to break the law and abide by the codes of special privileges granted by the ruling political power, the PRI.

Police were segregated from society and their use in an ideology of political and social repression led to corruption. The political class for decades, and clearly after 1968 and 1971, found in this corruption a vein of gold and overindulged itself on it. The use of laws, rules and regulations for the purpose of extortion was institutionalized.

The last 30 years of the PRI regime incubated the virus of organized crime by training hundreds of policemen in their dirty war against political enemies, systematically using torture, abduction and disappearances and murder, and enriching the participants in these crimes. The way of charging the regime for their services was impunity, which transformed them into partners and protectors of drug dealers, robbers and car hijackers. From Arturo “El Negro” Durazo, to Daniel “El Mochaorejas” Arizmendi, hundreds of police have been criminalized.

Over time, the police realized that the repression of political opponents, union activists, students, urban movements or communists gives stability to the regime, but it is not business. Thanks to the impunity, the machinery was oiled with kidnapping for ransom and the extortion of small and large businesses. The insecurity created by gangs of police and former police officers is business.

By the 1990’s the kidnapping industry had polluted the entire judicial system from the federal level down to the municipalities. The purchase of patrol cars, weapons and communications equipment increase the profits from their own terror. Prosecutors, Attorney Generals and Governors work as part of organized crime.

The reforms of the 90s, meant to fight crime, brought only more power and impunity to the corrupt, out of control cops. The legalization of wiretapping, liberalization of police raids and the witness protection program were instrumental in a clash over the profitability of crime. The new, modern police hunted the old; the spiral of vengeance became never ending.

Migrants Are Prey In Mexico's Deadly Violence

by Jason Beaubien
Marco Ugarte/AP
A migrant from Honduras waits for a train during his journey toward the U.S.-Mexico border on the outskirts of Mexico City.

This week, Mexico experienced the worst mass killing in what was already an incredibly bloody battle against organized crime. Seventy-two migrants were gunned down by what authorities say were drug cartel hitmen.

The migrants, from Central and South America, were trying to get through Mexico in hopes of crossing illegally into the U.S.

The massacre has terrified migrants still in Mexico, who know it's not uncommon to be seized while transiting Mexico and held for ransom.

Mexico's Human Rights Commission said in a report released last year that 20,000 migrants are kidnapped annually trying to cross the country. Another 60,000 are detained by the Mexican immigration authorities and deported. Hundreds of thousands more make it to the United States and then try to get past the U.S. border patrol.

A Survivor's Tale

William, a 19-year-old from Honduras who doesn't want to give his last name or have his photo taken, was just recently released by one of Mexico's kidnapping gangs. William spent 15 days with his hands cuffed and his feet bound together. He was being held, he says, with a dozen other migrants in a house in Matamoros.

"All you could do is talk on the phone," he says. "They'd hold it up to you." They'd hold the phone so he could beg his family to pay his ransom.

William says his heavily armed captors went from one migrant to another, forcing them to give a phone number of a family member, preferably in the United States. If the relative who answered the phone didn't take them seriously, the kidnappers would beat the victim so the screaming could be heard on the other end of the phone.

They told William they'd kill him if his family didn't pay.

Eventually, several of his family members in the United States wired the captors $3,500.

"Thank God," he says. "They paid them for my life."


Fernando Antonio/AP
Marleni Xiomara Suarez Ortega weeps as she holds up a photo of her husband, Miguel Angel Carcamo, at her home in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Her husband was allegedly among the 72 migrants found dead in northern Mexico this week.

Barbie’s Bad Break-up: The Fight for Mexico’s Heartland

FNS Special Report:

From the bustling, smoggy innards of Mexico City, the cities of Cuernavaca, Morelos, and Acapulco, Guerrero, long loomed as tranquil getaways for the harried residents of the Mexican capital. For the rich, weekend homes and estates in and around Cuernavaca and on the beaches of Acapulco stood as status symbols of class privilege, economic might and political power.

For the middle classes, a weekend jaunt to an Acapulco hotel or an appearance at the hip, outdoor bars in downtown Cuernavaca delivered relief to a hectic weekday schedule. And even for the poor, a low-budget splash with a cracked tin of tuna on the sands of the Bay of Santa Lucia represented a ritual escape from reality.

Nowadays, though, the mythic nirvana of the resort destinations just south of Mexico City is becoming part of a fabled past. In recent months, episodes of murder, decapitation and chaos blamed on organized crime have shaken Cuernavaca and Acapulco.

Efren Leyva, president of the Guerrero state branch of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), called the violence in his home turf ground nearly “uncontrollable.”

As in Chihuahua and Tamaulipas to the north, the killing spree in Guerrero coincides with an election campaign. Since the beginning of the year, several prominent politicians associated with the PRI, PRD and PT parties have been murdered in Guerrero.

The break-up of the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel, also known as “The Enterprise,” into two warring factions is blame for much of the violence. Since last year, authorities have attributed more than 300 killings to the conflict, with at least 57 of them occurring in Cuernavaca alone. On one especially violent weekend last March, more than 30 bodies were tossed around Acapulco as the Pacific resort geared up for the springtime holiday season. As in Ciudad Juarez and other northern hot spots, many if not most of the war’s victims have been very young.

Policemen and other officials have made the list of the victims, including Acapulco city water department official Alejandro Lopez, a half-brother of former Mayor Alberto Lopez Rosas of the center-left PRD party.

The father of the two men, Alfredo “El Rey Lopitos,” Lopez Cisneros, was a legendary land squatter organizer and political leader gunned down back in 1967.

Barbie and Hector Call it Quits

Rising tensions inside the Beltran-Leyva organization exploded after kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva was slain by Mexican marines in a Cuernavaca shootout last December 16.

Known as “El Barbas” and “El Jefe de los Jefes,” or “Boss of Bosses,” Beltran’s violent death in a high-rise luxury apartment complex located in the center of the Morelos state capital symbolized how drug lords had climbed the social ladder to live alongside if not replace the old, well-heeled bourgeoisie that long claimed the “City of Eternal Spring” as its garden of diamonds and delight.

Sinaloa Cartel

The Sinaloa Cartel (Pacific Cartel, Guzmán-Loera Cartel) (Spanish: Cártel de Sinaloa) is a Mexican drug cartel primarily operating out of the states of Baja California, Sinaloa, Durango, Sonora and Chihuahua. The cartel is also known as the Guzmán-Loera Organization and the Pacific Cartel, the latter due to the coast of Mexico from which it originated, other names include the Federation or Golden Triangle.

According to the U.S. Attorney General, the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for importing into the United States and distributing nearly 200 tons of cocaine and large amounts of heroin between 1990 and 2008.

Pedro Avilés Pérez was a pioneer drug lord in the Mexican state of Sinaloa in the late 1960s. He is considered to be the first generation of major Mexican drug smugglers of marijuana who marked the birth of large-scale Mexican drug trafficking. He also pioneered the use of aircraft to smuggle drugs to the United States.

Second generation Sinaloan traffickers such as Rafael Caro Quintero, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Avilés Pérez' nephew Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, would claim they learned all they knew about narcotrafficking while serving in the Avilés organization. Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, who eventually founded the Guadalajara Cartel was arrested in 1989.

While incarcerated, he remained one of Mexico's major traffickers, maintaining his organization via mobile phone until he was transferred to a new maximum security prison in the 1990s. At that point, his old organization broke up into two factions: the Tijuana Cartel led by his nephews, the Arellano Félix brothers, and the Sinaloa Cartel, run by former lieutenants Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, Adrián Gómez González and Joaquín Guzmán Loera El Chapo.

The Sinaloa Cartel used to be known as La Alianza de Sangre (Blood Alliance). When Héctor Luis Palma Salazar (a.k.a: El Güero) was arrested on June 23, 1995, by elements of the Mexican Army, his partner Joaquín Guzmán Loera took leadership of the cartel.

Guzmán was captured in Guatemala on June 9, 1993, and extradited to Mexico, where he was jailed in a maximum security prison, but on Jan. 19, 2001, Guzmán escaped and resumed his command of the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán has two close associates, Ismael Zambada García and Ignacio Coronel Villareal (killed on July 29, 2010).

Guzman and Zambada became Mexico's top drug kingpins in 2003, after the arrest of their rival Osiel Cardenas of the Gulf Cartel. Another close associate, Javier Torres Felix, was arrested and extradited to the U.S. in December 2006; so far, Guzmán and Zambada have evaded operations to capture them.

On July 29, 2010 Ignacio Coronel was killed in a shootout with the Mexican military in Zapopan in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Violence Boils in Ciuadad Juarez

Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua News: Violence, Tensions Boil.
Approximately 6,000 people have been murdered in Ciudad Juarez alone since January 2008.

Source: Salem-News.com

Around-the-clock executions, routine kidnappings, burnings of rural homes, hangings of murder victims from overpasses, scatterings of body parts on public streets, a car bomb, and threats of more violence have all put Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua on extreme edge.

The violence boils as the administration of Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza, state legislature and municipal governments enter their last months in office and prepare to hand over political leadership to others from the same Institutional Revolutionary Party.

On Tuesday, July 20, more than 200 Mexican soldiers conducted an operation in the Ciudad Juarez neighborhood of Hidalgo, a district close to three international bridges connecting the border city to El Paso, Texas. Supported by a helicopter, troops accompanied by dogs reportedly set up checkpoints and scanned homes of nervous residents with a hand-held detection device used to find arms and explosives. No contraband was reported seized.

Three members of the street gang Mexicles found executed point blank with gunshot to the head. The three bodies were found on the side of the "carretera Libre to Juarez" in an area known as "Curvas del Perico," a common dumping ground for bodies.

A once-vibrant commercial and residential zone now splotched with economic decay and abandonment, Colonia Hidalgo was the scene of the deadly July 15 car bombing that killed three people, including Doctor Guillermo Ortiz Collazo.

Described as a respected physician, the 50-year-old Oritz also was known for his musical talent and membership in a one-time popular band. Ortiz was killed as he rushed to attend a wounded man who was dressed up as a policeman and left on the street as apparent bait to lure federal officers into an explosive trap. Hundreds attended the funeral of Ortiz, who left behind four children.

Three bodies found among the trash along a road in "Curvas del Perico" executed with multiple gunshots to the head.

Captured by a cameraman who was wounded in the course of duty, the bombing was posted widely on the Internet. A significant escalation in the so-called narco war, Ciudad Juarez’s first-ever car bombing recalled tactics previously employed in numerous conflicts across the globe including Northern Ireland, Colombia and Iraq, among others.

The initial accounts of the incident reported the material used in the bomb was the powerful explosive C-4, but unidentified sources within the Federal Police later said the car bomb was possibly constructed with the industrial explosive Tovex.

Deadly Journey: Migration Through Mexico

By : Franz Smets

Migrants from Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala who want to reach the United States first have to travel through Mexico, where their path is long and hard, and too often becomes a deadly.

The mostly young Central American men and women who make it over Mexico's southern border usually still have most of the trip ahead of them. The border crossings in Tapachula, Chiapas, and in Chetumal, Quintana Roo, are the least of their problems.

It is after the southern border that their ordeal really begins. There are gangs of young thugs, often in the service of major drug cartels, who attack and rob them, rape the women and sometimes even kill them.

In a report issued in April, the human-rights organization Amnesty International charged Mexico with failing to protect migrants passing through the country from being preyed on by criminals and corrupt officials alike. The group said that organized crime in Mexico was expanding its reach to victimize Central American migrants.

"Their vulnerability makes them targets for kidnapping, human trafficking and extortion," Amnesty said.

Even when they are not directly involved, police often look the other away to cash in.

Until recently, the primary exploitation of migrants consisted of charging them to get them across Mexico's northern border into the United States. Recent events, including this week's massacre of 72 migrants at a ranch in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, make it clear that conditions have changed for the worse.

The drug cartels increasingly try to get these impoverished people to join their ranks: according to media reports, almost 10,000 Central American migrants were kidnapped in Mexico over six months in 2009. Their families are asked to pay large sums of money, and whoever cannot pay in cash is made to pay in labour. Those who are not willing to cooperate with the drug gangs are killed.

"You'll need to pay us somehow, blondie," kidnappers told the Salvadorian Marisolina.

The young woman, currently a protected witness of the public prosecution, had no relatives in the United States or El Salvador who could pay 3,000 dollars for her release, according to her own account, which was published Thursday in the Mexican daily El Universal.

Bomb in Tampico and Another Mayor slain in Tamaulipas

Both events went unreported by local media.

Bomb Wounds 2 in Tampico
At least two people were wounded when a bomb exploded at the police headquarters in Tampico, a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, officials said Sunday.

The bomb went off around midnight Saturday at the building near city hall.

The blast destroyed the guard booth at the entrance to the police headquarters, wounding an officer and another person, a police spokesman said.

The two victims were taken to a nearby clinic in a police car and treated by doctors.

Officers chased the suspected bombers and engaged them in a shootout, but no arrests were made, the police spokesman said.

At least 15 people were wounded in separate grenade attacks on Saturday in Reynosa, located across the border from McAllen, Texas, the municipal police department said.

The first attack occurred on Colon street, where two grenades were thrown into a bar just after midday.

The second incident happened about two hours later, when a grenade went off on Morelos and Matias Canales streets in downtown Reynosa.

Six people wounded at the bar were hospitalized, while three people wounded in the second grenade attack had to be hospitalized.

The other people wounded in the attacks were treated at the scene.

Two car bombs exploded early Friday at the Televisa network’s office and the municipal transit department in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, but no one was wounded.

Marines engaged a group of gunmen in a shootout on Friday in Tampico as school was letting out, leaving two children dead and two adults wounded.

Mayor assassinated in Hidalgo, Tamauliapas

Unidentified gunmen murdered the mayor of a small town in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas where 72 migrants were massacred last week, a source in the state prosecutor's office said on Sunday.

'They've just killed the municipal president (mayor) of Hidalgo,' the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Marco Antonio Leal Garcia, 46, was shot dead while he was driving his car, the source said. His four-year-old daughter was seriously wounded in the attack, the source said.

Leal Garcia had taken office in January 2008 and was supposed to step down on December 31. The town of 25,000 people is located 90km northwest of the state capital, Ciudad Victoria.

His predecessor was seriously wounded in an attack a year ago, and a police officer was killed in March in a machine-gun and grenade attack on the mayor's residence.

The state has been hit by five attacks involving explosives since the discovery on Tuesday of the bodies of 72 migrants who had been massacred at a Tamaulipas ranch, allegedly by a notoriously violent drug trafficking gang call Los Zetas.

Sicarios detonated explosive devices in Reynosa, at least one dead

More than 20 injured ad at least one person dead was the toll in two violent incidents in Reynosa. The first incident occurred in the streets J. B. Chapa and Colón at around noon yesterday where an about ten people were injured from the blast and one died from the injuries. At around 2pm another explosion was detonated on the streets of Canales y Morelos not far from city hall. An intense police presence was seen at the scene but no one was arrested.

The city government via Tweeter informed the public that the sicarios had used three grenades and resulted in 23 injured and one fatal. This prompted the temporary closure of the international bridge Hidalgo that seperates Reynosa with McAllen.

Mexico Targets Money Laundering with Plan to Limit Cash Transactions

By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer

MEXICO CITY - President Felipe Calderon proposed sweeping new measures Thursday to crack down on the cash smuggling and money laundering that allow Mexican cartels to use billions in U.S. drug profits to enrich their criminal organizations.

Legislation introduced by the Calderon administration would make it illegal to buy real estate in cash.

The new laws would also limit the purchase of vehicles, boats, airplanes and luxury goods to 100,000 pesos in cash, or about $7,700. Violators could be sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.

Criminals here are increasingly using cash transactions to launder their vast profits, according to a senior Mexican official who investigates financial crimes but spoke on the condition of anonymity because of security protocols.

The Mexican official and his counterparts in U.S. law enforcement say that billions of dollars in cash are used to buy airplanes, ranches and businesses to circumvent new Mexican laws that require banks to report large cash movements.

"This illicit money is vital for the criminal. That is what they seek, this money. It is also vital to finance their activities," said Calderon, who called the new money-laundering laws "unprecedented."

Mexican drug cartels and their Colombian suppliers generate, launder and remove from the United States $18 billion to $39 billion each year, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center. Most of this money crosses the Southwest border in plastic-wrapped bundles of $20 or $100 U.S. bank notes, stashed in tires and engine compartments of cars and trucks.

"In the criminal world, cash is king, and in Mexico you have to go after the cash if you want to disrupt their operations," said Jerry Robinette, a special agent in charge of the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency in San Antonio.

A recent report by Douglas Farah, a consultant for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, concluded that "very little is effectively being done to either impede the movement of drug money into the formal economy or significantly reduce the flow of bulk cash across the U.S.-Mexico border."

U.S. and Mexican agents seize no more than 1 percent of this southbound cash, according to an analysis by The Washington Post, based on figures provided by both governments.

If passed by the legislature, Calderon's new money-laundering laws would upend common practice in Mexico, where many legitimate buyers and sellers prefer cash transactions to skirt tax bills.

As part of the $1.4 billion Merida aid initiative to Mexico, U.S. agents have trained their Mexican counterparts to detect and disrupt money-laundering operations.

The Mexican government in June announced strict restrictions on cash deposits and withdrawals made in U.S. dollars. Mexicans with bank accounts can deposit as much as $4,000 in cash per month, but Mexicans without accounts can exchange only $300 a day up to $1,500 a month. Businesses can move larger amounts of U.S. dollars but the new restrictions have faced tough opposition.

Calderon’s opposition supports money laundering initiative.
El Informador de Guadalajara
El Noreste.com

Calderon’s opposition in congress has issued statements of broad initial support for the set of money laundering initiatives introduced this past week to Mexico’s legislative body.

According to lawmakers the proposed legislation will be discussed during the session that runs from September to December 31.

However, deputies and senators from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Labor (PT) and even the President’s National Action (PAN) warned that even though the initiatives carried “great relevance" there are weaknesses that will be addressed as the legislative process moves forward.

The legislators stated that farmers, ranchers and small and medium size entrepreneurs and merchants who carry out their transactions mostly with cash not be penalized by the money laundering initiatives.

Senator Tomás Torres Mercado summed up the opposition’s stance: "We will work to ensure that the laws do not transfer to the citizen the burden of proof to establish the origin of their money."

The PRI Governor of the State of Mexico and current frontrunner for his party’s Presidential nomination in 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto, welcomed the initiative because "it puts a lock on the proceeds of drug trafficking."

In a media interview the outspoken PRD governor-elect of Sinaloa, Mario López Valdez, said he considered the bill to combat money laundering is a valuable tool in the fight against organized crime. “The proposals by President Felipe Calderón are the tool that was lacking to comprehensively combat organized crime."

He called on federal legislators to find a consensus on the initiatives that transcends partisan politics and offer a real commitment to a society that is crying out for peace and tranquility in the country.

He explained that the Legislature is obligated to provide legal instruments to the federal executive, to be successful in the fight against drug trafficking and organized criminal gangs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Stepped-up Efforts by U.S., Mexico Fail to Stem Flow of Drug Money South

By William Booth and Nick Miroff
Washington Post Staff Writers

LAREDO, TEX. - Stashing cash in spare tires, engine transmissions and truckloads of baby diapers, couriers for Mexican drug cartels are moving tens of billions of dollars in profits south across the border each year, a river of dirty money that has overwhelmed U.S. and Mexican customs agents.

Officials said stemming the flow of this cash is essential if Mexico and the United States hope to disrupt powerful transnational criminal organizations that are using their wealth to corrupt, terrorize and kill.

Despite unprecedented efforts to thwart the traffickers, U.S. and Mexican authorities are seizing no more than 1 percent of the cash, according to an analysis by The Washington Post based on figures provided by the two governments.

The major Mexican drug organizations write that off as the cost of doing business - losing a percentage far smaller than the fees for an ordinary wire transfer or ATM withdrawal, Mexican and U.S. law enforcement officials said.

The Obama administration recently proposed a $600 million surge in spending and personnel, including additional gamma-ray scanners and money-sniffing dogs, as part of an intensifying effort to capture the dollars going from U.S. drug consumers to Mexican mafias.

The drug traffickers and their Colombian suppliers smuggle $20 billion to $25 billion in U.S. bank notes across the southwest border annually as they seek to circumvent banking regulations and the suspicions aroused by large cash deposits, studies by federal officials, regulators and academics show.

"If we fail to curtail these money flows, the confrontation with organized crime will generate more violence and more corruption," Carlos Pascual, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said at a border conference in El Paso this month.

Most of the money is smuggled in plastic-wrapped bricks of $20 bills. Often the bank notes retain the sticky residue or fine powder generated by the marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine sold to the most voracious consumers in the world.

"Cash is the ultimate challenge for us," John Arvanitis, chief of financial operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an interview. "It moves so rapidly, so fluidly. It crosses borders. It moves in bulk. It is stored in warehouses. It is moved into business. They have multiple, multiple options. They can hide a million dollars in a tractor-trailer, or they can carry it across the border in a handbag."

Since the two countries pledged to bolster joint operations in March 2009 and began searching more vehicles heading south, customs agents have seized record amounts of cash - not only in vehicles but also hidden in children's toys, loaves of bread and body cavities.

But authorities are barely making a dent in the cartel profits. U.S. agents captured $85 million in illicit cash along the southwest border last year, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Mexican inspectors have seized $31 million in suspicious cash at all ports of entry into the country over the past three years, according to figures provided by the Mexican customs agency. In two years of undercover operations targeting Mexican cartels in the United States, the DEA seized $216 million, although it is unclear how much of that would have been smuggled south.

"We see mostly small seizures, in small denominations. It doesn't mean that much to them," said a senior Mexican official who investigates financial crimes, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of security protocols. "To really hurt the criminal organizations, we would have to be confiscating much, much more." Asked how much more, the official said, "a billion dollars."

T.J. Bonner, president of the union representing Border Patrol agents, said seizing cash in southbound traffic is extremely difficult.

"Throw a backpack of cash over the fence into Mexico, and what are we going to do?" he said. "Charge someone with littering in a foreign country?"

Mexican officials say a greater percentage of drug profits remain in the United States than U.S. officials acknowledge. Former attorney general Eduardo Medina Mora said that, based on the U.S. notes Mexican banks return to the United States, about $10 billion "does not have an explanation and could be attributed to the flow of drug trafficking money."

That figure does not include the billions never deposited in Mexican banks but quickly smuggled farther south - to Central America, to pay transport costs, and to Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, to purchase more cocaine.

'No paper trail'

Cash smuggled across the border is a leading source of foreign currency in Mexico, surpassed only by petroleum sales and about equal to the dollars earned from tourism and official remittances from Mexicans working in the United States.

"There's no paper trail when you smuggle $400,000 or $500,000 over the border in a hidden compartment on one car," said David Gaddis, deputy chief of operations for the DEA.

U.S. bank notes are easily spent in Mexico, where 67 percent of commercial transactions are made with cash - often dollars - as opposed to 21 percent in the United States.

Since late 2006, when President Felipe Caldern launched his U.S.-backed military-led offensive against the traffickers, police and soldiers have confiscated $411 million in U.S. currency but only $23 million in Mexican pesos, according to Mexico's intelligence service.

In the United States, cash from the wholesale distribution of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana is consolidated in several key cities, including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, before it moves south.

"What we are seeing is the professionalization of the movement of bulk cash," said an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of security protocols. "We are seeing specialists in money movement. That's all they do. They prefer to lose drugs versus money because drugs are so much easier to replace."

ICE agents said cartels pay couriers about 2 or 3 percent to smuggle cash, far more than they lose to law enforcement.

At the crossing
At the busy border crossing in Laredo, U.S. customs agents search hundreds of southbound vehicles a day. Pickups and vans filled with household goods bought in the United States slow to a stop as agents ask the occupants whether they are carrying weapons, ammunition or more than $10,000 in cash. Almost everyone says no.

Many cars are just waved through. Others are briskly inspected. The officers tap on the vehicle panels with rubber mallets, searching for hidden compartments; open trunks and glove boxes; use mirrors to examine the undercarriage; hold a density meter next to the gas tank; and pop open the hood and inspect the running engine.

"We've seen hidden compartments in oil pans, with cars running on two quarts of oil instead of five," said Gene Garza, director of the Port of Laredo for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

If agents detect anything suspicious - if a car with Arizona plates has no bugs on its windshield or a woman who claims to be the driver's wife looks nervous - the vehicle is inspected a second time, with cash-sniffing dogs. The vehicle might then be scanned by X-ray machines and disassembled.

What's Behind Mexican Migrant Killings Still Unclear

By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Newspapers
President Felipe Calderon on Friday accused the gunmen who killed 72 illegal migrants in northern Mexico this week of "incalculable savagery" as his government attempted to depict the major drug gang implicated in the slaughter as weakened and desperate.

The discovery of the grisly massacre Tuesday night at a ranch near San Fernando , about 45 miles southwest of Brownsville, Texas , put the spotlight on Los Zetas, a crime syndicate based along the Gulf Coast of Mexico that has international tentacles.

The massacre — and its murky motives — continued to shake Mexico on Friday.

A small car bomb blew up near the local offices of Mexican network Televisa farther south in Tamaulipas state, in Ciudad Victoria , causing damage but no injuries. Calderon himself also confirmed that two state criminal investigators who'd been assigned to probe the slayings had vanished.

In an interview on W Radio, Calderon searched for words to describe the contempt he felt for the gunmen who lined up the migrants — mostly from Central America but also from Ecuador and Brazil — and sprayed them with bullets.

"They are simply beasts," Calderon said.

The sole apparent survivor, an Ecuadorean, feigned death and escaped the San Fernando ranch, stumbling with a bullet wound in his neck to alert Mexican marines who were stationed nearby.

A top aide to Calderon blamed Los Zetas and said military pressure on the group had left it weakened and in need of reinforcements. Alejandro Poire of the National Security Council said the gunmen had captured the migrants and given them a choice: Work for Los Zetas as gunslingers and peons, or face death.

When the 58 male and 14 female migrants resisted, they were killed.

"Rather than a kidnapping with an apparent financial aim, it was done fundamentally with the goal of detaining these people and forcing them to join the structures of organized crime," Poire said, according to a transcript of his remarks, made in another radio interview, that Calderon's office issued Friday.

Human and civil rights groups voiced outrage that the Calderon government used the massacre to defend its military campaign against drug cartels, even as the human toll grows.

Poire "tries to diminish the magnitude of the massacre, affirming that it is a sign that organized crime has been hit by the government," 39 groups from around Latin America said in a statement.

However, an Austin, Texas -based strategic intelligence research group, Stratfor, said in a report Friday that Los Zetas, sometimes called simply the "Z's," indeed are hurting.

Los Zetas, which arose more than a decade ago as a paramilitary shock force for the Gulf Cartel, broke away from the struggling Gulf drug lords in February and have been locked in a bloody war with other trafficking groups since then.

The group has branched into other areas of criminal activity, including piracy of consumer goods, extortion and taking control of human smuggling routes from traffickers known as coyotes, reaping from $2,000 to $10,000 per migrant.

Needing more gunmen against its rivals, Los Zetas called up Central American gang members with whom they're allied, the Stratfor report said.

"This latest incident shows a continued desperation for manpower and ability to put boots on the ground to defend Los Zetas' home territory," it said.

Another analyst of Mexico's security situation, Edgardo Buscaglia , cast doubt on official accounts of the massacre and criticized Calderon's handling of it.

"First, we have to find out whether they really were Zetas," Buscaglia said, or whether they might have been crime gangs further down the chain.

Angie Sanclemente Valencia

Angie Sanclemente Valencia also known as Angie Sanselmente Valencia (born 25 May 1979) is a former Colombian beauty queen and lingerie model believed to be the ringleader of one of the world's largest drug syndicates.

Angie Sanclemente Valencia is escorted by police after being arrested at a youth hostel in Buenos Aires.

Valencia is originally from Colombia, where she won the prestigious Reinado Internacional del Café (International Queen of Coffee) beauty pageant in 2000 but was dethroned two days later when it was found she was married.

Valencia's operation is believed to be a "rival empire" to that of her former boyfriend, a Mexican drug baron known as "The Monster". She formed her own cartel after splitting with him. She is alleged to have recruited other models, whom she is quoted referring to as her "unsuspicious, beautiful angels" as drug traffickers, paying them up to around $5,000  per trip to transport cocaine from Argentina to England by way of Cancún.

Valencia's alleged syndicate was believed to have been exposed on December 13, 2009, when a 21-year-old woman, "Ariel L", was arrested with a suitcase containing 55 kg (121 pounds) of cocaine at Ezeiza International Airport, Buenos Aires, Argentina. "L" made no attempt to hide the drugs inside her bags, leading authorities to suspect the ring had help from employees.

She is reported to have been told that no one at the airport would try to stop her, and an investigation was launched to find employees of the airport with possible links to the syndicate. After questioning "L", three additional arrests were made and a warrant was issued for Valencia's arrest.

Authorities believed she was still in Argentina after she fled a hotel where she had been staying with her pomeranian. Investigators attempted to trace her location through the address under which the animal was registered, but it only led them to an abandoned warehouse. In March 2010 Interpol issued an international warrant for her arrest.

Valencia was arrested in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on May 26, 2010, while staying in a local hostel. Police reported that she had registered under a false name and had tried to alter her appearance by dyeing her hair blonde.

Colima Cartel

The Colima Cartel is a Mexican drug trafficking and methamphetamine producing cartel operating out of Guadalajara, Jalisco, and formerly led by the Amezcua Contreras brothers. The cartel was directed by José de Jesús Amezcua Contreras, and supported by his brothers, Adán and Luis.

The Colima Cartel is believed to obtain large quantities of the precursor ephedrine, through contacts in Thailand and India. From Thailand arrived to Collins Laboratories property of Baltazar Tirado Escamilla and from there was distributed to different methamphetamine labs in Mexico and the United States.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency traces the foundations of the Colima Cartel to 1988 as an illegal alien smuggling operations. It is believed the cartel established its roots in methamphetamines and their precursors during the late eighties and early nineties while other Mexican cartels were focused on the cocaine trade.

Through a more organized and grander operation, the Colima Cartel were able to over take the previous motorcycle gangs and independent traffickers who once dominated the methamphetamine trade.

The Colima Cartel operated originally only in trafficking for Colombian cartels, through contacts with those cartels, it is believe the Colima Cartel learned how to better market and structure the organization as an international business. By 1992 the Colima Cartel, through operations as a business, was able to establish amphetamine contacts in Switzerland, India, Germany and the Czech Republic.

What separated the Colima Cartel from other trafficking operations was their control of the methamphetamine trade, instead of receiving a percentage of goods smuggled for Colombian cartels, they received 100 percent of the profits of their methamphetamine trade.

The DEA has reported the Colima Cartel heavily recruited relatives to operate at the first two tiers of their organization, "insulating the structure." Relatives and close friends compromised the first two tiers who then recruited low level, non related individuals to operate the methamphetamine cooking process and the smuggling of chemicals into the United States.


Luis Amezcua Contreras

On November 10, 1997, Adán Amezcua was arrested in his hometown of Colima on weapons charges.

On June 1, 1998, Luis and Jesús Amezcua were arrested in Guadalajara, Jalisco, by agents from the Mexican counter-narcotics agency, the Fiscalía Especial para Atención a los Delitos contra la Salud (FEADS).

The Colima Cartel at the time of the arrests of Luis and Jesús was believed to be "the most prominent methamphetamine trafficking organization operating ... as well as the leading supplier of chemicals to other methamphetamine trafficking organizations" Within nine days of their arrest, the New York Times reported two of the three charges Luis and Jesús Amezcua Contreras were facing were dropped.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mexican Massacre Investigator Found Dead

Body of official dumped beside road near scene of killing of 72 Central and South American migrants in Tamaulipas.

By: Jo Tuckman

A Central American migrant rests on a piece of cardboard by the tracks awaiting his next ride. It's impossible to tell when the train will come - there are no schedules.

The body of an official investigating the massacre of 72 Central and South American migrants killed in a ranch in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas was found today dumped beside a nearby road alongside another unidentified victim, according to local media.

El Universal said the body of Roberto Jaime Suarez was found on a highway. He disappeared two days ago in the town of San Fernando, along with a transit police officer. A second body was found and is thought to be the officer.

The wife of Roberto Suarez told the BBC he had been missing since Wednesday, the day after the migrants were found dead at a ranch in Tamaulipas state. Suarez was involved in the initial investigation of the massacre, which authorities have blamed on the Zetas drug cartel. The federal Attorney General's Office has since taken the lead in the case.

Mr Suarez was one of the first people to find the migrants' bullet-ridden bodies at the ranch near San Fernando. Mrs Aguilar explained that as far as she knew, her husband had never received any direct threats from local drug cartels.

However, she conceded that his most recent work as the chief detective working on the massacre case was highly sensitive.

Earlier, two cars exploded outside the studios of the national TV network Televisa in the state capital, Ciudad Victoria. There were no casualties, but the blasts added to a growing sense of fear in the aftermath of the worst single act of violence in the country's raging drug wars.

Meanwhile, investigators under armed guard continued the process of identifying the victims, with 20 named by midday on Friday, local officials said.

The migrants, 14 of them women, came from at least four countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil and Ecuador. They were found bound and blindfolded by the wall of a barn after navy personnel stormed the ranch on Tuesday.

Migrants gather around a local newspaper to read about a mass kidnapping of migrants by a criminal gang known as the Zetas.

The massacre was discovered after an Ecuadorian migrant, who had been left for dead with a neck wound, escaped. Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, 18, found his way to a navy road checkpoint.

He said the migrants had been kidnapped by armed men who identified themselves as belonging to the Zetas, one of the cartels fighting for supremacy in the state. He said the killing began after they refused offers to work for the cartel.

Interviewed at their home in a remote Andean village by Ecuadorian TV, Lala's family said he had left for the US two months ago after paying $15,000 to a people smuggler to organise the trip.

"I told him not to go, but he went," said one of his seven brothers, Luis Alfredo. His 17-year-old pregnant wife Maria said she had received a call a few weeks ago from Guatemala, indicating all that was well.

Zeta Slaves: A Story from the Inside

Zeta Slaves: A story from the Inside

The horrifying massacre of 72 Central and South American immigrants by the hands of Zetas shocked the world. Preliminary investigations, based on testimony by the sole survivor of this attack, report the immigrants were first given the option of paying their ransoms in cash or as cartel slaves. Having no cash and refusing to join Zeta forces, the 58 men and 14 women, were blindfolded and bound before being executed on spot.

We know what happened to them, but what about the others? What happens to those who are unable to pay, but still desperately wish to survive?

Below you will read the story of Marisolina, a young immigrant from El Salvador who's only dream, like many before her, was the American dream. An immigrant who, with no means to pay ransom, was forced into the dark world of Zeta slavery.

Marisolina didn't have relatives in the United States, much less in El Salvador, who would or even could pay the Zetas, who kidnapped her, the $3000 dollars they demanded to release her."You're going have to come up with another way to pay us, Guerita", they repeatedly threatened her in the first few days of her captivity.

There was nobody to answer for her, no one to defend her. Within a week of kidnapping her near the railways of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, the Zetas had decided how she would pay her debt; Marisolina would become the safe house cook, in charge of preparing all meals for fellow immigrants who had been kidnapped, and those who held them captive. "At first I just cooked for them, but when they began to trust in me, they gave me their clothes to wash."

One evening, after serving dinner, a man everyone called "El Perro", who was in charge of the safe house, after getting very drunk and high on cocaine, asked me to sit down and talk for a while. It was at this moment he asked me: "Guerita, do you know why my clothes are always so dirty?"

Marisolina spoke of the fear she had of this man who always had a weapon in hand and took great pleasure in constantly abusing the immigrants he held captive. "I told him I imagined (because of the dirty clothes) he worked on the trucks which were used to transport the Central Americans."

"El Perro" let out a hardy laugh and replied: "I'm the butcher. I don't do any type of mechanics. My job is to I get rid of the trash that doesn't pay."

Still visibly scared, Marisolina recalls that exact moment: "Mockingly, and without any remorse, he told me he was in charge of killing the immigrants who couldn't afford to pay their ransom. He said: Fist I cut them into pieces so they fit into the drums, then I light them on fire, I let them burn until there's nothing left of the little assholes."

That night she couldn't sleep. She was alert and spooked by every sound. She heard people coming and going from the house, but was too scared to try to catch a peak of what was happening. The next morning "El Perro" brought more clothes to be washed.

No longer able to contain her tears she finally, after several long minutes, continued her story: "I washed, so many times, the blood of those people. As I scrubbed at the blood, pieces of meat fell out. Everything smelled of soot, which to me, was the smell of death."

Marisolina was held captive for three months by a group that called themselves Los Zetas. In their get togethers and business meetings, she was in charge of serving meals to the leaders."When they were together, I would hear them say Los Zetas was a very respectable organization. Sometimes they took me to a hotel they rented in Coatzacoalcos, it was there I learned to recognize La Compania's, as they called it, chain of command."

The soldiers, she revealed, where those in charge of guarding the immigrants day and night."Then there were the Alfa. I heard them, many times, speaking to police, immigration officials, and train conductors. They would advise them when large numbers of immigrants were coming on the train, or when they were detained."

Trying to minimize her Salvadoran accent, she recalls the location of at least six butchers, one for each safe house. "Above the butchers were the big bosses, they were the ones who gave the orders of which immigrants to kill."

She covers her face with shame and sadness as she recalls how she knew many of the immigrants which were killed. "One day they ordered me to take food up to a room I had never entered before. Just the smell of the place made me cry. They had them tied up there. They were the ones that couldn't pay. They were the ones on the list to be killed. Their eyes were covered and their hands were bound. The only way to get out now, was by dieing. I gave many of them their food at night and by morning they were gone. I saw so many disappear. And it hurts me that I couldn't help any of them, even though many, so many begged me."

One night, after a military strike on one of the Zeta safe houses led to the rescue of other immigrants, "El Perro", who by that time considered Marisolina his friend, asked her to accompany him to the store to by cigarettes and sodas. It was outside of the store she was released, but not before being warned she would die if she ever revealed what had occurred.

Long walks and days and nights without eating or sleeping, preceded her denunciation of the Zetas who had held her captive. She didn't want to talk to the police, she trusted no one. She agreed to the assistance offered by the National Commission of Human Rights only after being reminded her testimony could help prevent others from suffering the same.

Unfortunately, Marisolina's nightmare did not end there. The greatest deception came when the Attorney General's office informed them her situation had changed. After reviewing her testimony, they had reasonable suspicion she was part of the Zeta's criminal organization, thus her legal status had changed from that of the victim to the indicted.

Marisolina for her part, after everything that has happened and learning how the Zetas operate, can't believe she survived, let alone, that they released her just like that.


14 Men Executed in Acapulco

Milenio.com, ADN Irza, Agora Guerrero
Salem news.com

Acapulco- Attacks on suspected members of the Cartel del Pacifico Sur headed by Héctor Beltrán Leyva left 14 men dead in execution style slayings in four different locations around the tourist destination of Acapulco, Guerrero during the morning hours of Friday, August 27.

The murders may have been a reprisal for the executions and public display of 4 mutilated bodies of men belonging to Edgar “la Barbie” Valdez Villarreal’s organization in Cuernavaca, Morelos.

According to the state of Guerrero’s Public Security Secretariat, the victims were beaten and tortured before being executed by gunfire from the usual weapons used by organized criminal gangs: .233 (AR-15), 7.62 x 39mm (AK-47) and 9mm calibers.

Three of the victims were identified as municipal policemen and one victim was a state government employee. As of late Friday evening the identities of the other victims had not been released.

“Narco” messages were found covering the bodies in all four crime scenes. The messages accused the victims of working for Humberto Zavala Sagal, a lieutenant working under Hector Beltran Leyva. Also mentioned was Juan Gallardo Gonzalez, a State Investigative Agent (policia ministerial)

“Esto me pasó por andar trabajando con Héctor Beltrán Leyva. Sigues tú, Humberto Zavala Sagal”. This happened to me for working for Hector Beltran Leyva. Your next, Humberto Zavala

“Esto me pasó por andar trabajando con Héctor Beltrán Leyva. Saludos a los Nieves y saludos Juan Gallardo González, alias El Pinto o Nonis”. This happened to me for working for Hector Beltran Leyva. Greetings to los Nieves and Juan Gallardo Gonzales, alias el Pinto or Nonis

“Ahí están tus pistoleritos, sigue mandando más”. There are your gunmen, keep sending more.

The states of Morelos and Guerrero, situated southeast of Mexico City, are besieged by the war between 2 rival factions of the Beltran Leyva cartel that are fighting each other for control of organized crime operations in both states.

What is at stake is the robust domestic drug consumption market in the tourist towns of Acapulco and Cuernavaca, both popular with residents of Mexico City, and a gateway into the drug market of Mexico City itself.

One faction is lead by Hector Beltran Leyva (CPS-Cartel del Pacifico Sur) , and the other faction is lead by Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. The Beltran Leyva cartel fractured after the death of its leader Arturo Beltran Leyva.

In a weekend in March of this year more than 30 people were killed in Acapulco in fighting between both groups and shootouts in broad daylight have occurred on the main tourist drag.

Also making inroads into this area is the ultra violent La Familia Michoacana. One source credited the violence on Friday to La Familia as the messages left on the victim’s bodies did not contain the usual label of “Mayates” that la Barbie”s organization uses when referring to the CPS. (Mayates is a derogatory term used for people of African descent)

Images of Friday's Carnage in Acapulco

Bombs Go Off in Mexican Cities

At least two car bombs exploded Friday near the television studios of Televisa in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas state in northeastern Mexico, authorities said.

Mexican policemen and a soldier stand guard next to remains of a parked vehicle outside a studio of top broadcaster Televisa in Ciudad Victoria, the Mexican state of Tamaulipas August 27, 2010. A car bomb exploded outside the TV studio early on Friday, but there were no injuries, Mexican media and witnesses said.

Two bombs went off early Friday in the capital of the violence-wracked northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, where 72 U.S.-bound migrants were slaughtered by gunmen earlier this week.

Neither bombing caused any casualties.

The first blast occurred shortly after midnight at the Ciudad Victoria studios of Televisa, Mexico’s dominant television network, knocking the station off the air and interrupting the power supply to the area.

While Televisa attributed the explosion to a car bomb, authorities have not confirmed that.

“There is material damage to the exterior. Inside, we don’t know, because soldiers and federal police have the zone condoned off and won’t let anyone enter,” Televisa news anchor Carlos Loret de Mola said on his Twitter account.

“The explosion shook buildings blocks away, power went down in the zone and we have not yet been able to re-establish the signal,” he said. “No more bullets ... no more grenades ... now, a car bomb.”

Within minutes, another bomb went off at the offices of the municipal transit department, some 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from the Televisa complex.

Friday’s bombing was the third strike in less than a month on Televisa installations in Tamaulipas. The network’s outlets in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros suffered grenade attacks on July 30 and Aug. 15, respectively.

Also targeted on Aug. 15 was the Televisa complex in Monterrey, capital of neighboring Nuevo Leon state.

The car that exploded in front of the television studio was a red Chevrolet Corsica with Texas license plates, the attorney general's office said in a news release. The car in front of the transit office was a white Mazda, also with Texas license plates.

A soldier and investigators work at the site where a vehicle exploded outside the Televisa network in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Victoria. Another possible car bomb exploded outside a police station in San Fernando, also in Tamaulipas state and near the site where the bodies of 72 slain migrants were found this week.

Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas have been plagued by increasing violence from drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States and some cartels have resorted to bombings and kidnappings to influence media coverage of their activities.

Tamaulipas was the scene this week of the massacre of 72 undocumented Central and South American migrants trying to reach the United States.

The lone survivor at a ranch not far from the U.S. border told investigators the murders were committed by members of the notorious Zetas drug cartel.

Beltrán-Leyva Cartel

 El jefe de jefes Marcos Arturo Beltran Leyva

The Beltrán-Leyva Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de los Beltrán Leyva) is a Mexican drug cartel and organized crime synidicate founded by the five Beltrán Leyva brothers: Marcos Arturo, Mario Alberto, Carlos, Alfredo and Héctor.

The cartel is responsible for cocaine transportation and wholesaling, marijuana production and wholesaling, and heroin production and wholesaling, controls numerous drug trafficking corridors, and engages in human smuggling, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, murder and gun-running.

The Beltrán Leyva brothers, who were formerly aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, have been allies of Los Zetas for some times.


Born in the Sinaloan countryside in the 1960s, the Beltrán Leyva brothers – Marcos Arturo, Mario Alberto, Carlos, Alfredo and Héctor – worked closely with Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, during decades of smuggling. Sensing a void in the rival Gulf Cartel after Osiel Cárdenas' arrest in March 14, 2003, the Sinaloa Cartel began to move into Gulf Cartel territory.

Both gangs have been battling each other in northern Mexican cities since then, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people including civilians, police and journalists. About 90% of the deaths are of drug traffickers.

In 2004 and 2005, Arturo Beltrán Leyva led powerful groups of assassins to fight for trade routes in northeastern Mexico for the Sinaloa Cartel. Through the use of corruption or intimidation, the Beltrán Leyva Cartel has been able to infiltrate Mexico's political, judicial and police institutions to feed classified information about anti-drug operations, and has even infiltrated the Interpol office in Mexico.


The cartel's assets include:

Hegemony over drug and other illegal activities at airports in Mexico, Monterrey, Toluca, Cancún, and Acapulco;
Hotels and restaurants, constructed to launder money, in Cancún, Acapulco, Cozumel, and other resorts;
A working agreement with Los Zetas.

Supply corridors for moving marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine from the Andes to the Arctic;
Capability to extort, launder money, run guns, smuggle humans, promote prostitution, and carry out kidnappings;

Friday, August 27, 2010

How many more bodies need to be found?

As reported by the Mexican press, 72 migrants (from Central and South America) were found dead in a ranch in Tamaulipas, courtesy of Los Zetas (El Universal and Proceso). In addition to the massacre in Tamaulipas, Los Zetas have also been implicated in the kidnapping and murder of Mayor Edelmiro Cavasos Leal (Noticieros Televisa).

What could Los Zetas possibly gain from both tragedies?

The answer is very simple, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an expert criminologist to figure them out: They don’t gain or lose anything and it’s obvious that they couldn’t care less about it.

Mayor Cavasos Leal, from Santiago, Nuevo Leon, was simply doing his job (something most politicians in Mexico don’t do), he chastised local police officers and cut their salary, unfortunately, what the mayor did not know is that these officers were also working for Los Zetas. So they kidnapped an innocent man, who clearly had an enormous amount of potential and whose presence would have contributed to a brighter future for Mexico (given the fact that he refused to get involved with any criminal organization), and executed him. The citizens in Santiago are right to be upset and disturbed by what happened and they deserve answers from the Mexican government.

What could they gain from such a careless and senseless act? Once again, nothing! What we undoubtedly know is that they are extremely brazen, malicious, and they couldn’t care less about the consequences.

I read on the Examiner, as they were reporting the massacre in Tamaulipas, the following: “The Zetas are especially dangerous considering they were founded by highly trained assassins who deserted the Mexican army.” Although, Los Zetas were founded by highly trained ex-federal officers (who were corrupt to begin with), the majority of the original members are either dead or currently incarcerated. So, what Los Zetas is presently composed of are younger men (new recruits), armed to kill (their craft), moreover, they are extremely violent and unpredictable. Their policy appears to be: “Kill first and ask questions later.”

The main issue is that they are not financially sustained by any of the drug cartels, so they have to supplement their income somehow and that’s what they are doing. Thus, instead of attacking and targeting their opponents (drug cartels), they are going after the general public (Mexican citizens), which for them is easy prey.

I believe I read somewhere, a couple of months ago, about the federal police raiding a Zetas camp site; however, they were unable to apprehend anyone. During the raid, they found apparel with the Zetas logo and a disturbing amount of firearms and grenades, it’s very clear that the government is not doing everything they can to apprehend them. Additionally, I’ve also noticed that they don’t care about the media coverage, because the more fear they instill in Mexican citizens, the better. In the mean time, I can only imagine that other lifeless bodies will be found and the kidnappings will continue.

How many more bodies need to be found before the idle Mexican government does anything substantial about this?

And by substantial, I mean successfully arresting them, not just attempting to.

Sources: El Universal, Proceso, Noticieros Televisa, The Examiner, and The Associated Press.
Picture: El Universal/AP

The Hypothesis: Executed by Los Zetas for Rejecting Sicario Roles

The 72 bodies found at a ranch in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas could be those of a group of illegal immigrants headed for the U.S. border, the Mexican government said Wednesday.

The preliminary investigation determined that the dead were from El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil.

The marines who discovered the bodies were acting on a tip from a survivor of the massacre who told authorities the immigrants were kidnapped by an armed group while trying to cross the border into the United States, Attorney General’s Office spokesman Ricardo Najera told a press conference here.

Najera was joined by Foreign Relations Secretariat official Salvador Beltran del Rio, who said the embassies of the four countries whose nationals were killed had been notified so they could assist with the identification process.

The survivor of a massacre on a ranch 85 miles south of Brownsville trudged into a navy checkpoint — a bullet wound in his neck — with a tale almost too gruesome even for a country locked in the throes of a vicious and bloody drug war.
Ecuadorean citizen Luis Fredy Lala Pomavilla,rests at a hospital in Matamoros, eastern Mexico, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. A Mexican drug cartel massacred 72 Central and South American migrants within 100 miles of the U.S. border that they were trying to reach, according to Lala Pomavilla who said to be a survivor who escaped and stumbled wounded to a highway checkpoint where he alerted marines. Lala Pomavilla told investigators that his captors identified themselves as members of the Zetas drug gang, said Vice Adm. Jose Luis Vergara, a spokesman for the Mexican Navy.

The eyewitness, who is from Ecuador, was hospitalized for treatment of a gunshot wound in the throat.

Mexican marines found the bodies of the 58 men and 14 women after a shootout with gunmen in the community of San Fernando that left a marine and three criminals dead. The troops seized 21 rifles, 6,500 bullets and several vehicles that had been disguised as belonging to police and the army.

Investigators suspect that the gunmen who engaged the marines in the shootout were behind the killings at the ranch, a military spokesman said, without providing details on how the people were killed.

The marines took part in a chase on Monday, but the shootout and the discovery of the bodies occurred the next day, the official said.

Alejandro Poire, Tecnical Secretary of Mexico's National Security Council, left, speaks with the Mexican Navy spokesman Vice-Adm. Jose Luis Vergara duringa press conference in Mexico City, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2010.

A minor was arrested after the shootout, and marines seized 21 rifles, 101 ammunition clips, four bullet-proof vests, camouflage uniforms and four SUVS.

“Among the (SUVs) is one that stands out for its cloned characteristics, with an apocryphal registration of the National Defense Secretariat,” the Navy Secretariat said.

Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state have been dealing with a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.

The violence has intensified in the two border states since the appearance in February in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia Michoacana drug cartels against Los Zetas, a band of Mexican special forces deserters turned hired guns.

Bomb Wounds 20 in Mexican Resort City

Rescue workers help a man who was injured after a fragmentation grenade exploded next to an open air bar in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, early Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010.

At least 20 people were wounded, four of them seriously, when unidentified individuals tossed a bomb into a bar in Puerto Vallarta, a resort city on Mexico’s Pacific coast, police said Thursday.

The attack occurred around midnight Wednesday at the Pink Cheladas bar, where about 150 young people were partying, Puerto Vallarta police department spokesmen told Efe.

The majority of the victims are in their 20s and one is 35.

Two of the victims had to have limbs amputated, while a third has an exposed leg fracture.

The press reported that a grenade was used in the attack, but the police spokesmen said investigators had not yet determined whether the assailants used a grenade or a Molotov cocktail.

The army and navy are trying to identify the type of weapon used in the attack in Puerto Vallarta, which is in Jalisco state.

The assailants threw the bomb “inside the bar” and “it exploded nearly in the middle” of the establishment, police department spokesmen said.

Five bomb threats had been received this year by different establishments in Puerto Vallarta, with the latest coming early Saturday, but no attacks had taken place.

No threats were received at the Pink Cheladas bar before the attack, police said.

No arrests have been made, but investigators have taken statements from most of the injured and the investigation is “at an advanced stage,” police said.