Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Agents Raid NM Gun Store in Border Smuggling Case

By: The Associated Press
Federal agents have raided a Deming gun store and arrested the owner, his wife and their two sons on a 30-count indictment accusing them of smuggling guns across the border with Mexico.

According to the federal indictment, the firearms sold by the defendants included 27 AK-47-type rifles, three AR-15 rifles, two .50 caliber rifles, and two 9 mm pistols - weapons favored by Mexican Cartels.

U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales says Rick and Terri Reese and their sons, Ryin and Remington, were arrested in nearby Las Cruces where they were opening a new shop.

Authorities say after the arrests, state and federal officers executed search warrants on the New Deal Shooting Sports in Deming and the family home Tuesday.

It's not clear if the family has retained attorneys. The defendants are scheduled to make their initial appearances in the federal courthouse in Las Cruces on Thursday.

Mexico Casino Massacre Suspects: We Only Wanted to Scare the Owners

The suspects told investigators they were “scolded” by their bosses for killing so many people at the casino, which was the target of an extortion racket common in several parts of Mexico

The five suspects arrested in connection with the attack last week on a casino in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey that left 52 people dead told investigators they did not plan to kill anyone and only wanted to scare the establishment’s owners, officials said Tuesday.

The suspects, who have confessed to the attack and are being held under a preventive arrest order while prosecutors build the case against them, were paraded before the press Tuesday at the Nuevo Leon state Attorney General’s Office.

The five men were photographed in front of the vehicles they used to carry out the attack last Thursday on the Casino Royale in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon.

Los Zetas, Mexico’s most violent drug cartel, is suspected of ordering the attack on the casino, Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina said Monday, citing information obtained following the suspects’ arrests.

Los Zetas started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel but broke with that criminal organization in March 2010, unleashing a wave of violence across Mexico in an effort to grab new territory.

The suspects told investigators they were “scolded” by their bosses for killing so many people at the casino, which was the target of an extortion racket common in several parts of Mexico, officials said.

Investigators have obtained videos showing the suspects filling containers at a service station with the gasoline they later used to torch the casino, as well as other images from security cameras that show the suspects’ vehicles arriving at Casino Royale, Nuevo Leon Attorney General Adrian Emilio de la Garza said Tuesday.

The suspects have confessed to the casino attack and other crimes, including kidnappings and murders, De la Garza said, adding that physical evidence, such as fingerprints, linked the men to the vehicles used in the attack.

At least 12 people took part in the attack and videos from security cameras show “other accomplices” who had not been spotted by investigators during the initial review of the footage, De la Garza said.

One vehicle stops in the middle of the street to “see whether the attack that was ordered is being staged,” the Nuevo Leon AG said.

“Based on the statements and evidence we have, we can determine that the people were not the target,” De la Garza said, adding that some of those involved in the attack “are burned.”

“It was a situation that became chaotic and got out of control,” the Nuevo Leon AG said.

The criminals ordered the security guards and other people inside the casino to get out, preventing more people from dying, De la Garza said.

Authorities have asked Interpol for assistance in locating Casino Royale owner Raul Rocha Cantu, federal Attorney General’s Office regional chief Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas said.

Investigators have obtained a statement from a pilot who they are certain flew Rocha Cantu out of the country, the federal prosecutor said.

Federal authorities are looking for the Casino Royale owner so they can get a statement from him.

The casino torched last week is owned by Grupo Royale, which has gambling establishments in the cities of Monterrey, Mazatlan, Los Cabos and Escobedo.

“It is very important to use this tragic event as an opportunity to once and for all” impose order on the casino industry, Gov. Medina said.

Some casinos operate under court orders and the licenses of others are passed from person to person without any oversight, the governor said.

The federal government completed the deployment on Monday of 1,500 army troops in Monterrey to bolster security in the wake of the attack on the casino.

A total of 1,500 Federal Police officers arrived Sunday in Monterrey as part of the federal government’s efforts to restore order to the industrial city.

Monterrey and its suburbs have been battered by a wave of drug-related violence since March 2010, when three rival cartels reportedly went to war with Los Zetas.

Los Zetas has been battling an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels, known as the Nueva Federacion, for control of the Monterrey metropolitan area and smuggling routes into the United States.

A total of 267 murders were registered in Monterrey in 2009, with the figure rising to 828 in 2010 and more than 1,100 so far this year, according to official figures.


Unbelievable, or perhaps totally believable.

Julio Berrones Ramirez, one of the five suspects arrested for the attack against the Casino Royale, had been previously apprehended by agents from the Nuevo Leon’s Attorney General’s office for armed robbery of a vehicle and possession of a firearm.

Berrones Ramirez, “El Julio Rayas”, who resides in the colonia Hacienda los Morales in the municipality of San Nicolas, was captured on July 8, 2010 by state investigative police with two other men while driving a car that been stolen in a violent carjacking.

“El Julio Rayas” was driving a Mazda 3 sedan that had the license plates from a VW Beetle that had also been violently carjacked when the police spotted the vehicle at the intersection of Churubusco and Prolongacion Madero.

Berrones Ramirez and his two accomplices resisted arrest and attemped to flee but were captured after a short pursuit.

In the interior of the car the officers found a .45 caliber pistol.

On Monday morning Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina presented Berrones Ramirez as part of the comando that attacked the Casino Royale last Thursday, that resulted in the deaths of 52 innocent civilians.

In an interview with the Televisa network the state’s public security representative, Jorge Domene, confirmed Berrones’s arrest in 2010. However, Domene could not explain how or when the suspect gained his freedom after his previous arrest.

“That’s part of the investigation, to understand how the suspect gained his freedom and who is responsible.”


Monday, August 29, 2011

El R-2 Arrested

A top lieutenant of the Gulf Cartel as well as his right-hand man and five other members of one of the organization’s strike teams have been captured, Mexican authorities have announced.

Abiel “R-2” Gonzalez Briones, 28, was arrested over the weekend near the town of Camargo, at the El Azucar dam, according to information released by Mexico’s federal police. Camargo lies across the border from Rio Grande City.

Gonzalez Briones’ right-hand man, 27-year-old Jorge Bryan “R-24” Aguilar Hinojosa, was captured, too.

Other captured gunmen include:
-Santos Otolio “El Stitch” Benito Gonzalez, 22
-Damian “El Pajarillo” Santes Santiago, 28
-Jorge Luis Esteban “El Colofox” Gonzalez, 35
-Luis Gerardo “El Flaco” Rosas Ibanez, 30
-Chito Leal Olguin, 40

The capture took place after aerial patrols spotted a group of gunmen who tried to elude capture. After Mexican authorities gave chase, Gonzalez Briones and his men were captured.
During the operation, authorities also seized eight assault rifles, two pistols, four grenades, more than $60,000 and an unknown amount of ammunition and communication devices.

Authorities described Gonzalez Briones as one of the main financial operators of the Gulf Cartel as well as the regional boss for Miguel Aleman, which lies across the Rio Grande from Roma.

Aguilar was in charge of the smuggling of narcotics into the U.S. and commanded a cartel strike team trained to fight members of rival cartels — primarily the Zetas.

Gonzalez Briones and his men are also believed to be responsible for the street-level distribution of narcotics in Matamoros and Camargo.

All the men were flown to Mexico City and turned over to the Organized Crime Division of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office.

Gonzalez Briones and Aguilar were members of the Gulf Cartel’s Rojos strike team, which was an off-shoot of the Zetas and received similar tactical training, according to a source outside law enforcement with direct knowledge of criminal activity in Mexico.

The original members of the Zetas were former Mexican military and federal police officers who joined the Gulf Cartel with the primary task of protecting its leader at the time, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the source said. Some of the Zetas were members of Mexican special forces; some were not.

When the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas split in early 2010, some of the members of the Rojos stayed with the Gulf Cartel, and others went with the Zetas, the source said. The Gulf Cartel now has a similar group called the Erres — or the R’s — a new version of the Rojos.

Source: http://www.themonitor.com/news/gulf-54262-hand-right.html

People in Monterrey say Enough is Enough!

Mexican police say they have arrested five men they believe are members of the Zetas drugs cartel in connection with last week's Monterrey casino massacre.

The news has come too late for hundreds of local people, who have staged protests against how four million-strong Monterrey has become a gangster's shooting gallery.

Shoes were left to remember the innocent victims on the steps of the state governor's office, where protesters called for him and Monterrey's mayor to quit.

Five 'Zetas' arrested for deadly Monterrey casino attack

by Action 4 News Staff

Mexican authorities have arrested five alleged members of the Zetas drug cartel for their role in a deadly attack on a Monterrey casino.

Some 52 patrons of the Casino Royale were killed when gunmen stormed the building and used gasoline to light on fire on Thursday.

Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina held a press conference early Monday morning to say five men have been arrested.

The El Universal newspaper reported the men were identified as:

• Luis Carlos Carrasco Espinosa, El Chihua, 25 years old, Chihuahua
• Javier Alonso Martínez Morales, El Javo, 37 years old, Monterrey
• Jonathan Jair Reina Gutiérrez, 18 years old, Monterrey
• Juan Ángel Leal Flores, 20 years old, Monterrey,
• Julio Tadeo Barrones Ramírez, El Julio Rayas, 28 years old, Monterrey

Gov. Medina told reporters that the men had lengthy criminal histories and are members of the Zetas drug cartel.

El Universal reported that one of the men was identified through fingerprints from a vehicle seized at the crime scene.

That man’s arrest led to the arrest of the other four.

Gov. Medina told reporters that the Zetas had been extorting money from the owners of the casino.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Acapulco update

Extortion of teachers causes the closure of 140 elementary and middle schools in Acapulco

Below is a copy of a letter sent to an administrator in the Acapulco public education system.

Greetings Professor (name redacted), we know you are the paymaster for the teachers in area (redacted)

Pay careful attention.

You have 15 days to give us a list of the following teachers:

1. Whoever earns more than $8,000.00 (8 thousand pesos) biweekly.
(underline in black whoever earns between 20 and 50 thousand pesos monthly)

2. Those who live from La Cima to KM 30 and Cayaco.

3. Names, addresses and telephone numbers (not cell phone numbers)

4. Legible copies of voter registration cards (on the reverse the names and addresses of schools where they work)

5. A copy of the payroll (of all area 32)

Note the name and school where they work of any person who refuses to divulge any information. Show them this warning.

Advise them that after October 1 they must pay a “tax” of 50 percent of their salary and annual bonus. Whoever refuses has the opportunity to leave, if not you all know we are not fucking around.

You and your supervisor are exempt from this tax as long as you continue cooperating with us.

The teacher who lives close to the jail named Cermeno or Cerdeno is also exempt because he has already cooperated.

If you have problematic teachers underline them in red and advise the principals that we are aware of the high cost to the heads of families and that they will receive a special visit.

We will be in contact

More than 600 teachers have closed their classrooms this week in 140 Acapulco elementary and middle schools in the face of extortion threats delivered through pamphlets by members of organized crime that are charging a “derecho de piso”, or tax, of 50 percent of salaries and bonuses.

This was confirmed by the Assistant Coordinator of Basic Education with the Guerrero Department of Education for the Acapulco-Coyuca de Benitez region, Julio Cesar Bernal Resendiz, who has met with SNTE (teacher’s union) officials discuss the threats.

"There is talk of some threats in some areas, especially the 4th sector, including the colonias (neighborhoods) of Ciudad Renacimiento, Emiliano Zapata, Vacacional, Arroyo Seco and other colonias in the outskirts of the city.”

Bernal Resendiz admitted "there are cases of teachers who have been extorted and kidnapped and have filed complaints, but they're scared, do not want people to know and are afraid."

Two elementary school teachers in the 32nd zone spoke of what has happened since last Thursday.

"I am a professor in Acapulco, we are afraid about what is going on, we have received written messages that say they will take 50 percent of our wages and we are afraid." said one of the teachers.

“We agreed to stop classes since Wednesday until the authorities can resolve this."

“Several teachers have been kidnapped, or extorted and most do not want to talk, but we're tired of so much violence. I have fear there may be retaliation.”

A middle school teacher in Ciudad Renaciminto added, "It's very difficult to explain this, but the reasons why many coworkers are failing to go to their classrooms is because we are living this firsthand. We therefore call on the authorities to help us. Because we are being harassed, threatened, kidnapped.”

According to people with knowledge of Acapulco's underground both La Barredora and CIDA extort the working population. It is believed that the attempt to extort teachers is the work of the infamous Comando del Diablo, led by Jose Francisco Sosa Vasquez "El Capi Sosa" and Los Calentanos, led by Cleotilde Toribio "El Tilde". Both of these groups operate for La Barredora.

(A teacher and SNTE union official from the state of San Luis Potosi who had commented previously about a similar situation in Ciudad Juarez had stated that mass extortion attempts against teachers are fairly common but are normally ignored without any further problems. He stated, however, that in areas of extreme insecurity [like Acapulco and Juarez] these threats are much more credible, and the danger of retaliation may be real.

He added, “Extortion attempts are an everyday occurrence now, a feature of everyday life. Nobody answers the telephone if the number on caller ID is not recognized. You no longer give your name to strangers you meet. No phone numbers or addresses to casual acquaintances or even distant relatives. Never respond to street surveys or polls. Even bank employees can’t be trusted.”

“You only trust close relatives and very close friends. The ‘amistad’ that was a way of live here in Mexico is becoming extinct.”

Predictably it is not only the teachers who are living in fear but also the parents of Acapulco schoolchildren.

“We fear what could happen to our children,” mentions a mother of an 8 and 10 year old attending an elementary school in the Vicente Guerrero housing district.

“No one is safe now, they kidnap rich and poor kids” says the mother, a housewife, who walks her children to school and back home even though she lives two blocks away.

After a summer with dozens of executions and gun battles parents now wait outside of the schools until the children enter their classrooms and crowd the school before classes end for the day.

“If anything happens or if you are let out early, call me,” says a mother to her 9 year old daughter attending a private school on the Avenida Farallon, a thoroughfare that has seen its share of decapitated and dismembered bodies. She explains that she bought her daughter a cellphone to keep in communication, “A cellphone is no longer a luxury, its a necessity to stay aware.”

The mother stated that 3 weeks earlier armed men had forcibly entered the school and abducted a 16 year old student who was later found murdered in the community of La Sabana.

“A line has been crossed,” she said.

(Guerrero is one of the states with the highest levels of poverty in Mexico. Cellphones are unaffordable for most children.

A mother from Monterrey was interviewed last year in San Antonio, Texas, where a large community of wealthy expatriate Mexicans with the means to obtain the correct residence visas live in the upscale Stone Oak section of the city.

When asked to describe the greatest difference between life in Monterrey and Texas, she answered that she simply could not comprehend that her children could walk home from the private school they were attending in safety. In Mexico her children needed bodyguards to ensure their survival.


Ex-Chief Pleads Guilty

By Rene Romo / Journal South Reporter

LAS CRUCES — Former Columbus Police Chief Angelo Vega, handcuffed and dressed in a red prisoner jumpsuit, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy, smuggling and public corruption charges.

The charges are in connection with a federal gun-smuggling case that also snared the border town’s mayor and a trustee.

The maximum penalty under the three charges is 35 years in prison, but under a sealed plea agreement reached with federal prosecutors, Vega is facing “much less than the maximum,” said defense attorney Jess Lilley.

“It’s not months. It’s years,” Lilley said of the sentencing range prosecutors will recommend, while declining to be more specific.

Vega is the 12th of 14 people accused in the gun-smuggling case to plead guilty since an 84-count indictment was handed up and dozens of law enforcement officials raided the town March 10. One defendant, Ignacio Villalobos, is still at large. Another member of the alleged ring, Gabriela Gutierrez, the wife of former trustee Blas Gutierrez, is awaiting trial.

Former Mayor Eddie Espinoza and trustee Blas Gutierrez have both pleaded guilty in the case, in which prosecutors allege that the Columbus-based group bought more than 200 weapons from a Chaparral dealer and smuggled them into Mexico in a deal with La Linea, the main enforcement arm of the Juárez drug-smuggling cartel.

Since 2008, more than 8,000 people have been killed in Ciudad Juárez and surrounding areas in violence fueled by conflict between the Juárez cartel and the rival Sinaloa cartel.

Lilley said Vega’s decision to plead guilty to the original charge, and two new ones, was based on an evaluation of the evidence.

“He (Vega) has obviously made some poor choices. Poor choices don’t make somebody a bad person,” Lilley said. “He’s ready to move on.”

Vega was originally charged with one count of conspiracy, but additional smuggling and public corruption charges were added Thursday under the plea agreement.

In a hearing on Vega’s detention conditions in late March, a federal prosecutor said the evidence against the former police chief was “ripe for additional charges,” according to hearing notes.

Federal prosecutor Steve Spitzer said Vega was approached in October by Blas Gutierrez and Espinoza to work with La Linea to smuggle weapons from the U.S. into Mexico. Vega admitted he was paid “well over” $10,000 for providing his services, which included conducting surveillance for the smuggling gang and pulling over three federal agents in October to try to find out what they were doing in Columbus.

According to court documents, Vega used his police credentials in February to buy thousands of dollars worth of tactical combat gear that was to be sent to Mexico. Vega bought a bulletproof vest Feb. 18 for one of the leaders of La Linea, Spitzer said. Spitzer also said that Vega knew that Blas Gutierrez used a Columbus Police Department pickup to smuggle some of the weapons into Mexico.

After police seized a total of 20 AK-47-type pistols from Blas Gutierrez on Feb. 12 and Feb. 24 while he drove home to Columbus from Chaparral, Vega twice called a federal law enforcement agent to vouch for his co-defendant. Vega told the federal agent that Blas Gutierrez was not involved in gun-smuggling to Mexico and that the firearms purchases were legitimate, according to a recording of the conversation.

After calling the agent the first time, Vega and Gutierrez spoke via telephone in a call that federal agents monitored. According to a transcript of the call, Gutierrez asked Vega what the agent said.

“Nothing,” Vega said, “I just told him a … lie.”

Vega described the conversation for Gutierrez: ” ‘Do you vouch for him, chief?’ ‘Yeah, yeah … yeah.’ ”

Lilley said Vega, who had a 20-year career in law enforcement, “doesn’t want to make any excuses for the poor choices he made. He’s not trying to blame anybody else.”

Source: http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2011/08/26/news/exchief-pleads-guilty.html

Mexico's Sinaloa cartel makes big move into meth

By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's most powerful drug cartel appears to be expanding methamphetamine production on a massive scale, filling a gap left by the breakdown of a rival gang that was once the top trafficker of the synthetic drug.

The globe-spanning Sinaloa cartel is suspected of dealing record tons of drugs and precursor chemicals processed in industrial-sized operations.

The apparent increase in the Sinaloa group's involvement comes as the Mexican government says it has dismantled the La Familia gang with key arrests and killings of its leadership, and as Mexico is once again the primary source of meth to the United States, according to U.S. drug intelligence reports.

Methamphetamine production, gauged by seizures of labs and drugs in Mexico, has increased dramatically since 2008.

Mexican authorities have made two major busts in as many months in the quiet central state of Queretaro. In one case, they seized nearly 500 tons (450 metric tons) of precursor chemicals. Another netted 3.4 tons (3.1 metric tons) of pure meth, which at $15,000 a pound would have a street value of more than $100 million.

Authorities said they couldn't put a value on the precursors, which were likely headed for a 300-foot-long (100-meter-long) industrial processing lab found buried 12 feet (4 meters) underground in a farm field in the cartel's home, Sinaloa state.

"We think it was Sinaloa," said a U.S. law enforcement official in Mexico, noting that Sinaloa can piggyback meth onto the network it already has for cocaine, heroin and marijuana. "They may now have this renewed interest in trying to control a bigger portion of the meth market. Although La Familia has distribution points in the U.S. ... they don't have the distribution network that Sinaloa cartel has."

He couldn't be named for security reasons.

Steve Preisler, an industrial chemist who wrote the book "Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture" and is sometimes called the father of modern meth-making, said "the quantity is just amazing."

"It is a huge amount of starting material which would allow them to dominate the world market," Preisler, who served 3½ years in prison more than two decades ago, emailed The Associated Press in reply to questions. He added that the most efficient production methods would yield about half the weight of the precursors in uncut meth, or between 200 and 250 tons, which could be worth billions of dollars.

Officials of Mexico's federal police, army and attorney general's office refused to comment on who owned the meth lab or precursor warehouses.

Meth availability in the U.S. has rebounded since the drop in 2007 and is directly related to production in Mexico, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Meth seizures remained roughly level in the U.S. at 8.16 tons (7.4 metric tons) in 2008 and 8.27 (7.5 metric tons) in 2009. But Mexico went from seizing 0.37 tons (0.34 metric tons) in 2008 to 6.72 tons (6.1 metric tons) in 2009, the U.N report said.

Mexican meth seizure figures for 2010 are not yet published, but the U.S. official said they almost certainly rose over 2009.

Authorities seized 200 tons of precursor chemicals at the seaport of Manzanillo last year, a raid that the Attorney General's Office described at the time as the largest in Mexican history. The Queretaro seizure last month was double that.

Seizures of methamphetamine laboratories also have increased dramatically, according to the U.S. State Department's 2011 International Narcotics Control Report. The number of methamphetamine labs seized by Mexican authorities jumped from 57 in 2008 to 217 in 2009, and the number of busts remained almost as high in early 2010. The volume "suggests that it is not solely for U.S. and domestic consumption," the report said.

The Mexican government says its offensive against La Familia, a pseudo-religious gang based in western Michoacan state that was once the country's main meth producer, is one of the key successes in its crackdown on organized crime and drug-trafficking. Founder Nazario Moreno Gonzalez was killed in a two-day shootout with federal police in December. His right-hand man, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, who allegedly ran the meth operations, was arrested in June.

But the U.S. official said other gangs are now trying to fill the void.

Sinaloa, headed by fugitive drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, tends to think big: in mid-July, Mexican soldiers found a 300-acre (120 hectare) marijuana field in Baja California, the biggest such plantation in the country's history. The army said laborers working for the Sinaloa cartel planted thousands of plants under vast swaths of shade cloth and irrigated and fertilized them.

But nobody was prepared for the size of the meth network officials found in industry-heavy Queretaro, one of Mexico's safest states in terms of drug violence. The two seizures were related, the U.S. official said, and came out of the arrest of a local meth distributor months ago.

When soldiers raided three interconnected warehouses on June 15, they thought they had found 1,462 50-gallon drums filled with various precursors. But when experts examined the stash, they found 3.4 tons (3.1 metric tons) of pure meth.

Last month, soldiers discovered another warehouse at an industrial park piled with 300 metric tons of solid phenylacetamide and the equivalent of about 150 tons of liquid methyl phenylacetate.

Used in an old type of meth production known as "P2P," the ingredients are easier to smuggle, or to make from other substances that aren't specifically banned. Such precursors have become more prevalent since Mexico outlawed meth's main ingredient, pseudoephedrine, in 2007.

Authorities say the P2P method produces a less-potent drug. But the 2011 World Drug Report released in June by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime noted that the sheer quantity of meth the Mexican cartels are producing allows them offer it in purer form.

Soldiers found a sophisticated underground meth lab near the Sinaloa coast city of Mazatlan on June 26. The two-story structure had an elevator and ventilation systems, cooking and sleeping facilities. The house-sized under ground complex was reachable only by a 30-meter (yard) long tunnel, the opening disguised under a tractor shed.

The U.S. official said the warehouse in Queretaro raided in July was apparently meant to supply the underground lab in Sinaloa.

Some speculate that the Sinaloa cartel is trying to reach even beyond the U.S. Police in Malaysia arrested three Mexican brothers in March 2008 at a secluded meth factory along with a Singaporean and a Malaysian, and seized more than 60 pounds (nearly 30 kilograms) of methamphetamine.

While the U.S. official wouldn't say that the men belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, he noted that were from Sinaloa state.

"Were they over there showing people how to cook meth? ... Or was it a test for Sinaloa, a test of the capability of expanding the market to that part of the world?" he said.

Such an Asian connection would be a natural link for the cartel, since most of Mexico's precursor chemicals come from the region.

Drug Gangs Control Half of Mexico

By Julian Rodriguez Marin
Violent crime has become a problem of national security in Mexico, where half of the territory is outside of state control and “we’re in the hands of the narcos,” an intelligence expert and author of a new book on Mexico’s public safety woes, said.

Jorge Carrillo Olea, founder of Mexico’s leading intelligence center, said the “state has lost territorial control, and therefore governability,” over roughly 50 percent of the country.

The government has been incapable of fully enforcing the law and ensuring justice is upheld, said Carrillo, who spoke to Efe while in Mexico City to promote his new book, “Mexico en riesgo; una vision personal sobre un Estado a la defensive” (Mexico at Risk: A Personal Vision of a State on the Defensive), published this year by Grijalbo.

Carrillo, who in 1989 founded the Center for Research and National Security, or Cisen, a civil entity overseen by the interior ministry, said Mexico’s crime and public safety problems will last for decades because the society has “reached a point of no return.”

He said the country has neglected to combat money laundering and weapons trafficking to avoid stepping on the toes of big Mexican and foreign capitalists, particularly from the United States.

Mexico has shirked its commitment to halt this traffic and “things go no further than empty rhetoric,” said Carrillo, who formerly held top posts in the country’s public administration.

Governments also have undermined the nation’s sovereignty with their policies, ceding authority to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI – “who act like lords and owners in our country” – and even openly requesting assistance from the United States, he said.

The national security expert said drug gangs receive huge profit margins on their business and their battles for control of territory can pose enormous national security risks to countries like Mexico.

Cartels have weapons to combat Mexican security forces, although “with enormous losses for (the gangs)” because they recruit young men without military training, “give them an AK-47 and they use it as if they were watering a garden,” Carrillo said.

The expert said that although the army keeps killing young men recruited by drug mobs, these groups will continue to find more impoverished persons willing to earn between 8,000 and 12,000 pesos ($650-$970) a month and gain a sense of power, obtain women and defy authority.

El Loko Taken Down

We had been following an incident that happened last Thursday in Cadereyta, Nuevo León where the Mexican military had received an anonymous tip that several sicarios had been seen travelling in two vehicles, both Mazdas. The sequence of events reported was that when the sicarios were surprised by the military, they opened fire, which generated a gunfight between the sicarios and military at a ranch in the region.

The military managed to kill three of the sicarios, while two others managed to escape. The military secured three AK-47 style long guns, a shotgun, ammunition and magazines.

There have been preliminary reports that one of the sicarios killed was no other than El Loko. He was described as heavy set, about 200 pounds and was wearing a green shirt and Bermuda shorts. The military believes that it might be El Loko and the Attorney General's Office did confirm that the man killed was in fact El Loko.

The military had intitially suspected the man to be El Loko based on the fact that his name was written on the sun visor and the trunk of one of the vehicles. On the walls of the ranch military observed the letter "Z" written in yellow paint. The military believe that the ranch was used by the sicarios as a safe house.

El Loko is plaza boss in Allende and Cadereyta for Los Zetas. He is known to be a brutally violent sicario that has participated or has been linked to some gruesome executions.
One of the executions he was responsible for was the dismemberment of two half sisters; one was Katia Cavazos Castillo, 24 years of age and niece of the State Secretary of Social Development and former Mayor of Allende, Aurora Juana Cavazos. The other female, Kendy Cavazos Caballero, was also niece of the politician. On Agust 3, 2011 14 municipal police officers had been detained and six of them admitted turning over the girls to El Loko and said they were on his payroll.

Source: http://www.lapoliciaca.com/nota-roja/cae-abatido-el-loko-por-militares-el-asesino-de-las-sobrinas-de-funcionaria-en-nl/

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another voice speaks out

Carlos Fuentes asserts that Mexico needs the assistance of an international police force to defeat the drug cartels.

Hours before accepting a literary prize Saturday night in Spain, Carlos Fuentes, one of Mexico's most accomplished writers, spoke decisively about the country's crisis of violence and drug trafficking.

"They should decriminalize drugs and get help from the Israeli, French or German police forces who have proven effective in combating crime," he said.

The 82 year old Mexican writer, and social and political activist, acknowledged that he was stunned by the horrific "narco" attack at the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, that killed 53 people.

"Unless steps are taken to legalize drugs in coordination with the United States, which is the biggest drug market, and unless more effective internal police actions are forthcoming, the drug cartels will defeat the Mexican Army and the country's unarmed society," argued Fuentes.

The writer, along with former presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo, Carlos Gaviria and Fernando Cardoso, is part of a group working for a culture without drugs and favors the legalization "in principle, of their consumption."

"Drugs are a universal problem, not local, and we cannot argue about Mexican sovereignty because it has already been broken. So why not then appeal to the most effective police groups to assist in dealing with these gangs that only understand the language of violence?"


U.S. Widens Role in Mexican Fight

By Mark Mazzetti and Ginger Thompson
The New York Times
The Obama administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican police to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the United States, assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the American side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for American and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Although the operations remain rare, they are part of a broadening American campaign aimed at blunting the power of Mexican cartels that have built criminal networks spanning the world and have started a wave of violence in Mexico that has left more than 35,000 people dead.

Many aspects of the campaign remain secret, because of legal and political sensitivities. But in recent months, details have begun to emerge, revealing efforts that would have been unthinkable five years ago. Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, who was elected in 2006, has broken with his country’s historic suspicion of the United States and has enlisted Washington’s help in defeating the cartels, a central priority for his government.

American Predator and Global Hawk drones now fly deep over Mexico to capture video of drug production facilities and smuggling routes. Manned American aircraft fly over Mexican targets to eavesdrop on cellphone communications. And the D.E.A. has set up an intelligence outpost — staffed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives and retired American military personnel — on a Mexican military base.

“There has always been a willingness and desire on the part of the United States to play more of a role in Mexico’s efforts,” said Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexico at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “But there have been some groundbreaking developments on the Mexican side where we’re seeing officials who are willing to take some risks, even political risks, by working closely with the United States to carry out very sensitive missions.”

Still, the cooperation remains a source of political tensions, especially in Mexico where the political classes have been leery of the United States dating from the Mexican-American War of 1846. Recent disclosures about the expanding United States’ role in the country’s main national security efforts have set off a storm of angry assertions that Mr. Calderón has put his own political interests ahead of Mexican sovereignty. Mr. Calderón’s political party faces an election next year that is viewed in part as a referendum on his decision to roll out this campaign against drug traffickers.

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns walked into that storm during a visit to Mexico this month and strongly defended the partnership the two governments had developed.

“I’ll simply repeat that there are clear limits to our role,” Mr. Burns said. “Our role is not to conduct operations. It is not to engage in law enforcement activities. That is the role of the Mexican authorities. And that’s the way it should be.”

Officials said Mexico and the United States began discussing the possibility of cross-border missions two years ago, when Mexico’s crime wave hit the important industrial corridor between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo. To avoid being detected, the Mexican police traveled to the United States in plain clothes on commercial flights, two military officials said. Later the officers were transported back to Mexico on Mexican aircraft, which dropped the agents at or near their targets.

“The cartels don’t expect Mexican police coming from the U.S.,” said one senior military official. None of the officials interviewed about the boomerang operations would speak publicly about them, and refused to provide details about where they were conducted or what criminal organizations had been singled out.

They said that the operations had been carried out only a couple of times in the last 18 months, and that they had not resulted in any significant arrests.

Zetas Butcher Some Apparent Golfos

A few days ago a group of unknown criminals detonated a grenade in front of a business in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas.

The following day five men appeared executed, some were decapitated, while others were dismembered. Placed next to the remains was a narco-message written on placards signed by the criminal group of Los Zetas.

The various cards had the same message allgedly by Los Zetas, it said that the victims belonged to the Gulf Cartel.

Translated text:
"Keep sending more of these fucking shit of Golfos (Gulf Cartel Members), come out and fight you fucking pussies. Stop throwing grenades against the people fucking shits. Attentive; Zetas."

An American Drug Lord in Acapulco

Rolling Stone Magazine

On a warm morning in May a few years ago, Edgar Valdez, a drug lord who goes by the nickname La Barbie, woke up in one of the houses he owned in the resort city of Acapulco.

In the 1950s, this beautiful beach town was the premier haunt of American celebrities: Frank Sinatra used to prowl the hotel lounges, Elizabeth Taylor had her third of eight weddings here, and John F. Kennedy honeymooned on the coast with Jacqueline.

The glamour started to fade in the 1980s, but the city remained a popular vacation destination until a few years ago, when the Mexican cartels transformed Acapulco from a seaside paradise into one of the most violent flash points of the drug war.

As chief enforcer for the town's most powerful cartel, Barbie drove the celebrities away for good and made tourists nervous about straying too far into Acapulco when their cruise ships pulled into port. He felt bad about it, a little, but that is the way of the world, he thought – eat or be eaten.

Barbie has olive skin, but his nickname comes from his good looks and green eyes. He was known for his happy-go-lucky personality, though he could turn terrifying and bloodthirsty in an instant. At 31, he still had the strong, raw body of the linebacker he had been in high school: five feet 10, 210 pounds. Barbie kept a glass case at home filled with 60 Rolexes and diamond-studded Audemars Piguets, but unlike most narcos, he didn't grow a beard or wear flashy gold jewelry.

He preferred to dress like a sophisticated South American on holiday, favoring polo jerseys with an emblem of a horseman and a stick, the kind that real Argentine jockeys wear. In fact, the myth of Barbie looms so large in Mexico that his addiction to the shirts started what's known as the Narco Polo trend, with working-class Mexicans clamoring to buy knockoff versions in street stalls. "These shirts like Barbie's have become the fashion," Mario López, the governor of the Mexican state of Sinaloa, told reporters in June. "Many young people want to emulate men like him as idols."

But his fashion sensibility wasn't the only thing that distinguished Barbie from other Mexican drug lords: He was also a gringo, a middle-class suburban jock who was born and raised in Texas. He is the only U.S. citizen known to have risen to the top of a Mexican cartel, and the only American on the State Department's list of targeted drug lords. (The U.S. government offered $2 million for information that would lead to his arrest.) For years, as drugs flowed into Acapulco from Colombia, Barbie controlled the main distribution routes out of the city, moving as much as two tons of coke – that's 2 million grams – into the U.S. every month.

Most of the drugs went to Memphis and Atlanta, where Barbie is believed to have been the main supplier for several violent networks, including one run by the half brother of DJ Paul from Three 6 Mafia. Barbie cleared up to $130 million a year moving drugs in the States, but with typical boldness he made little effort to launder the money. Instead, he simply loaded the cash onto flatbed trailers and trucked it across the Mexican border.

In the lawless world of the cartels, that kind of money made Barbie a prime target. On this morning in Acapulco, he decided to eliminate the most immediate threat he faced. One of the policemen he kept on his payroll had informed him that four hit men from the Zetas – one of the most violent cartels, led by elite, American-trained soldiers who defected from the Mexican army – had been sent to Acapulco to kill him. So Barbie dispatched some of his own guys to ambush the hit men.

When one of the assassins stopped in the town plaza to buy a phone card to call his sister, Barbie's men punched him in the gut and hustled him into a waiting SUV. To their surprise, however, the hit man had brought along his wife and two-year-old stepdaughter, figuring he might as well enjoy a family vacation while he was waiting to kill Barbie. Caught off guard, Barbie's men hustled them into another SUV, covering their faces with towels so they couldn't see.

The hit man and his family were taken to a house surrounded by an electric fence on the outskirts of Acapulco. According to testimony, Barbie's would-be assassin was then escorted to a bedroom upstairs, where he and his three Zeta accomplices were tied up and ordered to sit on top of a bunch of black garbage bags, which had been taped together to create a large tarp. Barbie climbed the stairs in the afternoon, carrying a video camera and a pistol tucked in his belt.

With the camera on, he began interrogating the men, asking them where they came from and what kind of work they did for the Zetas. "I have the contacts in the army to find out about the patrols," one confessed. "I am a recruiter for the Zetas," said another. "I worked as a 'hawk,'" said the third, adding that after he had kidnapped someone, his boss would tell him whether "they were going to take him to el guiso or not."

"What is el guiso?" asked Barbie.

"It's when they grab someone, they get information about moving drugs or money, they get what they want, and then, after torturing him, they execute him," the hit man said. "They take him to a ranch or one of those places, they shoot him in the head, they throw him in a can, and they burn him with different fuels like diesel and gasoline."

The words came spilling forth. As Barbie questioned them, the men told detailed stories about kidnapping rivals, killing reporters, burying people's daughters. They must have thought they were going to get some concessions for divulging so many secrets. But Barbie had other plans. He raised his gun. "And you, buddy?" he asked the fourth hit man.

The man never got a chance to answer. Suddenly, a gun entered the frame and blew the guy's head off.

Mexican army, feds raid casinos after arson attack

Photos: Gabriela Pérez Montiel


Hundreds of soldiers and federal agents are raiding casinos in this northern city, authorities said Saturday, two days after an arson attack on a gambling house killed 52 people and stunned a country that had become numb to massacres and beheadings.

Security forces had so far confiscated about 1,500 slot machines at 11 casinos in Monterrey and its surroundings and arrested three people, Mexico's tax agency said. It said the continuing operation was meant to verify whether casinos had paid taxes or introduced slot machines illegally.

Thursday's arson attack by gunmen was a macabre milestone in a conflict that the government says has claimed more than 35,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006. Others put the death toll over 40,000.

The torching of the Casino Royale has raised questions over Mexico's regulatory controls for fast-spreading gambling houses.

Authorities have not been able to reach the owners of two companies pointed out as titleholders of the casino. Jorge Domene, security spokesman for Nuevo Leon state, said an order to appear before state police has been issued for owners of the two companies, CYMSA Corp. and Vallarta Attractions and Emotions.

During the raids, which began Friday, about 700 soldiers, federal police and Treasury Department agents seized slot machines and put them in moving trucks.
Authorities did not say the raids were related to the arson. But one of the casinos searched was also registered under Vallarta Attractions and Emotions, according to the gaming unit of Mexico's Interior Department. Information of the other locations was not immediately available.

Federal police spokesman Juan Carlos Buenrostro said additional security forces were being deployed to this industrial metropolis of more than 4 million people Saturday. Buenrostro did not specify what actions police would carry out or the number of agents who would arrive to the city.

Mayor Fernando Larrazabal said the Casino Royale and other 12 casinos violated municipal laws and were allowed to remain open after obtaining federal court injunctions.

The casino had been attacked twice before, including an incident in May when gunmen strafed it from the outside. Last month, gunmen killed 20 people at a bar in Monterrey.

Cartels often extort casinos and other businesses, threatening to attack them or burn them to the ground if they refuse to pay.

Authorities have not blamed a specific drug-trafficking organization for the casino attack. But the city has been ensnared in a turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its offshoot, the Zetas, and is on track for record levels of killings this year.

A surveillance tape showed the Casino Royale building engulfed in flames in little more than two minutes after eight or nine men arrived in four cars carrying canisters into the building.

Authorities said they were still investigating whether the casino's emergency exits were blocked. But many bodies were found in offices and the bathrooms, indicating the victims were expecting a shootout.

"They sought places to protect themselves from firearms," said Jorge Camacho Rincon, the state civil protection director. "They went running to closed areas."

Most died of smoke inhalation and were found clutching cellphones, a law enforcement official who wasn't authorized to be quoted by name told The Associated Press.

Saturday was the second day of mourning declared by Calderon, who labeled the attack the worst against civilians in the nation's recent history.

"We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits," Calderon said.
Mexicans have endured plenty of horrific crimes during their country's five-year offensive against cartels.

But the casino attack had a major impact because many of the victims were from the middle class, and not cartel foot soldiers or migrants who have become the usual targets, said Jorge Chabat, an expert in safety and drug trafficking at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics.

"We're talking about an attack on a civilian population of a certain income," he said. "Because who was there was from the middle class, the upper middle class of an important city in Mexico."

Calderon is offering a $2.4 million reward for information leading to the capture of the casino's attackers, the same amount offered for the arrest of top drug lords. Authorities had sketches of three of the men based on interviews with 16 survivors of the fire.

The U.S. consulate in Monterrey issued an emergency message for Americans following the attack and warned consular employees and their families to avoid casinos, adult clubs and similar places "that have been targets for violence."

Additional links of interest:
Continuaron de noche operativos en casinos
Van federales contra casinos en Monterrey

For Three consecutive days, Narco Canvases have `appear' in Michoacán

Friday August 26, 2011,

Morelia, Michoacan. Several narco canvases with photos of a criminal group were offering a reward of up to $500,000 dollars for whoever gives information on their whereabouts. They started appearing Friday morning on the distributor road and pedestrian bridges, exits to Quiroga and Ciudad Universitaria.

Authorities were alerted by motorists traveling these areas of the city, so immediately the appropriate law enforcement prepared to travel to this places and remove them.

The narco canvas verbatim said: To the general population, we inform you that were offering a reward to the person who provides timely and accurate information for the location of El Terry and El Torito.

Added, they are kidnappers and traitors who have joined the enemies Los Zetas. Were also giving rewards for those who are following them, here are their names and photos. We gave an ultimatum to everyone that continues to have communication with those who are following these traitors.

It also reveals, that there's no more opportunities and punishing those who didn't believe we were going to find out your continued support with information to these traitors and kidnappers.

At the end of the narco canvas are five pictures with the names of Antonio Mendez Vargas, El Toño, they offered a reward of $500,000 dollar, Martín Rosales, El Borrego or El Terry, $ 300,000, Otoniel Mendoza, Montana, $100,000, José María Chávez Magaña, El Pony, $100,000 and Froylan Guzman Cano, El Chimino, $ 10,000, while for Paredes Rodolfo Cardenas, El Bofo, $300,000.

On one side of the canvas appears the narco shield of Los Caballeros Templarios, "the Knights Templar."

Source: http://www.cambiodemichoacan.com.mx/vernota.php?id=157181

After Fatal Casino Attack, Mexican Officials Focus on Organized Crime’s Link

By Randal C. Archibold
The New York Times 
A firefighter searched for victims on Friday, the day after an arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Mexico.

An arson attack on a casino in northern Mexico on Thursday that left 52 people dead has thrown a spotlight on the growth of gambling houses throughout the country and their role in organized crime.

In what President Felipe Calderón called an act of “true terrorists,” armed men in four vehicles — a Mini Cooper leading sport utility vehicles and a pickup truck — calmly drove up to the Casino Royale in Monterrey at midafternoon, dashed inside, ordered people to get out and set it ablaze with a flammable liquid.

The flash fire engulfed the gaming hall, trapping patrons scrambling for the few exits and hiding in bathrooms. The toll was among the highest for a single attack since a government crackdown on organized crime began in 2006 and infighting among gangs unleashed an explosion of violence that has left more than 35,000 dead.

Although no motive has been determined, it bore the hallmarks of an organized crime assault, and government officials and security analysts said the brutality suggested the work of the Zetas, one of the largest and most feared gangs in the area.

On Friday, Mr. Calderón and, in a statement, President Obama cast the disaster as related to the drug war. Mr. Calderón, in a departure from past mass killings, labeled the attack terrorism.

“It is evident we are not facing common criminals, we are facing true terrorists who have surpassed not only the limits of the law but basic common sense and respect for life,” Mr. Calderón said, his voice tinged with anger.

He went on to scold the Mexican Congress for not enacting security reforms he has proposed, and the United States, which he called an ally, but one whose drug consumption and gun sales have exacerbated the problem in Mexico.

“We are neighbors, we are allies, we are friends, but you, too, share responsibility,” he said.

Mr. Obama released a brief statement condemning “the barbaric and reprehensible attack,” adding, “We share with Mexico responsibility for meeting this challenge, and we are committed to continuing our unprecedented cooperation in confronting these criminal organizations.”

Mexico does not have Las Vegas-style gambling, or more accurately, such gaming houses are technically prohibited by law.

But sports betting, bingo and electronic games are permitted, and many entertainment businesses fashion themselves as casinos, lit garishly outside and dimly inside, while illegal betting parlors operate in the shadows, according to security analysts.

A lot of money flows through such casinos, making tempting targets for organized crime groups, which extort them or launder money through them, the analysts said.

Arson Attack on Monterrey Casino Part of Battle over Gambling Industry

Written by Steven Dudley
Buried in President Calderon's speech on a Monterrey arson attack which left more than 50 dead was the key to why it happened: the rise of illegal gambling establishments in Mexico under his watch, and the emerging battle in the underworld for control of these money-laundering havens.

In the middle of the afternoon on August 25 a group of armed men entered the Casino Royale in Monterrey, north Mexico. They poured gasoline around the building and set it alight, killing at least 52 people.

President Felipe Calderon rushed to condemn the killings, spending most of a 20-minute speech admonishing the "terrorists" for their barbarity and the United States for its consumption of illegal drugs, before hastily adding a single phrase which cuts to the heart of the matter -- the struggle for control of illegal gambling houses. (See 10-minute mark of video below.)

"I specifically ask the [judiciary] to review the legal decisions that have been taken, which allow the operation of many of these types of ... hidden transfer houses that criminals use in various parts of the country," the president said.

According to a recent article in Proceso magazine, the number of illegal gambling houses has risen from 198 to 790 since Calderon took office nearly five years ago. Many of these are illegal, the article adds.

An internal government report obtained by Proceso says that 140 of these businesses are unlicensed. This number fell from 185, in part, the magazine says, because illegal establishments were absorbed by legal establishments.

At the epicenter of this rise in gambling houses is the state of Nuevo Leon, of which Monterrey is the capital. Another excellent overview of the rise of these casinos from the Frontera Norte/Sur news desk (via Borderland Beat) said the number of casinos in the state increased from five to 57 in the last 11 years, adding that 31 are illegal.

Of these underground establishments, 12 are in Monterrey, according to a report by Mexico's ReporteIndigo. One of these was Casino Royale, a separate ReporteIndigo report says.

Aside from the uptick in phenomena that often accompany gambling, such as prostitution and gambling addiction (which Proceso chronicles in another excellent article), there are obvious connections to organized crime.

The United States government estimates that Mexico's criminal groups launder between $19 and $29 billion in proceeds from sales (Mexico's estimates are about half this). The money is laundered through numerous channels such as real estate, hotels, agricultural goods, transport companies, mineral trade, etc.

Heavily cash-driven establishments such as casinos have also traditionally attracted organized criminal groups. But casinos are technically illegal in Mexico, so the establishments themselves seek to have their games categorized as "skill" rather than "chance," thereby sidestepping the legislation, and leading to a proliferation of casinos posing as "foreign books" and "bingos," according to a 2009 report by the International Monetary Fund on money laundering in Mexico (download pdf file here).

Mexico President Blasts US After Casino Massacre

Calderon declares 3 days of mourning, says America partly to blame for drug violence.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning Friday for the 52 victims of a casino fire set by presumed drug traffickers, branding the attackers "true terrorists" and ordering authorities to offer a $2.4 million reward for their capture.

Calderon also once again lashed out at the United States, saying it is not doing enough to reduce the country's high demand for illicit drugs or to stop the illegal trafficking of U.S. weapons into Mexico.

Armed assailants burst into the casino Thursday afternoon, swearing and shouting for customers and employees to get out. But many of the terrified victims fled farther inside the building, where they died trapped amid the flames and thick smoke that soon billowed out of the building.

Calderon described the incident as the worst attack on innocent civilians in recent memory.

"We are not confronting common criminals," he said in a televised nationwide address. "We are facing true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits."

The federal Attorney General's Office announced the reward money, equal to the amount the government has offered for information leading to the capture of the nation's top drug lords.

Surveillance video shows at least eight gunmen arriving at the Casino Royale in four cars. The they then head to the main entrance as customers rush outside to their cars in an attack that lasted just a little more than two minutes. The attackers are also seen carrying three large bottles, which Gov. Rodrigo Medina said probably contained gasoline, while others stand guard by several awaiting vehicles.

Medina said investigators are talking to 13 witnesses and are looking for the owner and the legal representative for the casino.

Family members arrived at the morgue all through the night in Monterrey, a modern metropolis and one of Mexico's most important business centers that has been the scene of a ferocious turf battle between the Gulf and Zetas drug cartels.

Medina lowered the death toll to 52 early Friday. He had said late Thursday 53 people had died in the fire at the Casino Royale. He said 33 victims have been identified.

Nuevo Leon state Civil Protection Director Jorge Camacho said there were 35 women and 10 men among the victims. He said another seven could not be identified because they were badly disfigured.

Camacho said most victims died of asphyxiation and that most of the bodies were found in hallways leading to the exits.

Santiago Loera, 53, went to the morgue looking for his brother, Miguel Angel, a cook at another casino who had gone to the Casino Royale to sign a new contract.

"We think he's here," Loera said.

Loera said authorities have asked him for a DNA sample.

A visibly angry Calderon urged the United States to do more to curb demand for illegal drugs and stop weapon trafficking into Mexico.

"If ... they are resigned to consuming drugs, then they need to find alternatives ... and establish clear points of access different from the border with Mexico, but this situation can't keep going on like this," he said.

President Barack Obama condemned the attack as "barbaric" and "reprehensible."

In a statement issued from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where he is wrapping up a vacation, Obama said Friday that the Mexican government and its people are waging a brave fight to disrupt violent transnational criminal organizations and that the U.S. will remain a partner with Mexico in that fight.

On the home front, Calderon called on Mexicans to convert their shock and anger into action.

"Today Mexico is upset and saddened and we have to transform this sadness and this grief into courage and valor to face ... these criminals in a united way," he said.

Calderon later visited the site of the attack, accompanied by first lady Margarita Zavala and several members of his security Cabinet.

The group, all dressed in black, arrived in a long motorcade and held a minute of silence outside the burned hulk of the Casino Royale before placing a giant green wreath in the circular driveway leading up to the building.

Calderon, Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna and Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan Galvan then left without saying a word.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ex President Fox proposes truce with organized crime

Xochitl Alvarez/El Universal

Given the levels of extreme violence that Mexico is experiencing, former President Vicente Fox proposes the creation of a liaison group of international experts to mediate a truce with organized crime, and the creation of an amnesty law.

In reaction to the attack of the Casino Royale in Monterrey, the former Mexican President announced his decision to become "a voice that calls out for Mexico to follow the path of peace, harmony and nonviolence."

Fox described the attack on the casino as a crime against humanity and called for urgent and exemplary measures against the criminals involved. He said that events like those that occurred in Monterrey have overwhelmed and pummeled the nation.

At the close of a course on public safety in the Fox Center, a combined presidential library and academic center located in Rancho San Cristobal, Guanajuato, the former president called for “decision makers” to review "what is not working, why we are not advancing, why there is a lack of a sense of urgency in the work that lies ahead. "

He called on all political actors and the government to seek new creative solutions through alternative means in search of harmony and the restoration of peace in our society.

Fox pledged his efforts in this "process to reach solutions through an alternative route to restore peace and harmony in our society and to restore the image of our country, confidence in the future and the long-awaited hope."

He added that these events show as that you do not combat violence with violence, which lead to the levels of cruelty that we are seeing and experiencing.


Vicente Fox launched five ideas for discussion and public scrutiny.

"We must analyze the legalization of drugs at the highest level”

“Reinvent and reform our institutions of security and justice, devoloping a professional police force that is respected and supported.”

“Accelerate all policies that lead to income opportunities, employment, education, sport and culture."

"Establish exemplary measures against criminals that commit a crime against humanity."

"Convene a liaison group of experts at the international level to provide ideas and solutions, to call on violent groups to establish a truce, and to assess the suitability of an amnesty law.”

Fox called out to Mexicans to sacifice their comfort and tranquility, and work to restore civil peace and harmony in the country.


At the Fox center, Assistant Secretary of Public Security Alejandro Rubido spoke against the former president’s proposal to negotiate with violent groups.

"From my point of view I do not share the vision of having any kind of truce with criminal groups, they are enemies of the Mexicans, they are attacking and hurting citizens," he said.

He noted that crime is combated with the lawful use of force and the application of energetic social programs.

"We must be firm, we must fight them, any country that has attacked the levels of crime that we are seeing in Mexico today has done it through the use of force, but also with social programs, prevention programs. This is not only violence against violence.”

Security video released in Monterrey casino attack

by Sergio Chapa

Authorities have released security camera footage taken outside a Monterrey casino where 52 died in what officials are calling an 'act of terror.'

The deadly attack happened near downtown Monterrey late Thursday afternoon.

Gunmen stormed the building and doused the casino with a flammable liquid and then ignited it.

People hiding from the gunmen in restrooms and other places died after becoming trapped by the flames or succumbing to smoke.

Mexican officials released security camera footage taken from the outside of the casino.

The suspects are seen arriving at the casino and people are recorded on tape fleeing for their lives.

The final frames of the surveillance video show flames and black smoke.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is blaming drug traffickers and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

Mexico's Security Secretary Alejandro Poire denounced the narco-attack as an 'act of terror.'

Officials are offering a $30 million peso reward for information leading to the arrests of those responsible.

The Beltran's bought all of Acapulco, SIEDO records show

CHILPANCINGO, Gro. The ministerial statements of two protected witnesses from the PGR, including a financial ex-operator for the Beltran Leyva cartel who happened to be Jose Jorge Balderas Garza, "JJ." Confirm that at least since 2008, authorities from the 3 levels of government had provided protection for the structure of the late drug lord Arturo Beltran Leyva, "El Barbas," in Acapulco. Ex-operators of the capo, killed in 2009, currently find them self's in a spiral of violence that wont come to an end.

Both ministerial statements in the dossier PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/218/2011, composed by SIEDO against operators of a group called Cartel Independiente de Acapulco (CIDA), which translates to "Indepente Cartel from Acapulco." Who were arrested this year from various operations, which the political magazine "Proceso" had access too.

The protected witness with the code-named "Zajed." Who claims to have been a financial operator in the former structure of the Beltran Leyva brothers, in the states of Quintana Roo and Guerrero from 2008 to July 2009. Reports that in Acapulco a weekend can produce up to 4 million pesos, about 320,000 usd, "just from the sale of drugs," weekday earnings were far less.

Confirms that the police receives 500,000 pesos, 40,000 usd, per week in exchange for impunity. The person in charge of receiving the money was a commander named Frias and also on the payroll of the criminal structure were local politicians and army officers who are part of a wide network of money laundering operations, transfers and sale of drugs in Acapulco.

While the witness "Nemesis," from his statements it could be "JJ," said that after the arrest of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, "La Barbie," last August. The structure was left in the hands of his father-in-law Carlos Montemayor, "The Charro." Acapulco operators decided not to work for him and formed CIDA.

CIDA, the witness Nemesis added, took control "of all the crimes" in Acapulco, the port of Zihuatanejo and Costa Grande region, an area bordering Michoacan.

The witness states that the main players from CIDA are Benjamin Flores Reyes, "The Godfather" and Moises Montero Alvarez, "The Korean," both arrested by federal police. The first in March of this year and the second on the 1st of August.

As for Victor Aguirre Garzon, from an insistent by others has been linked as a cousin of Governor Angel Aguirre Hernandez and Carlos Antonio Barragan, "The Melon." Both are still free to operate in this beach destination.

The four leaders from CIDA are defined by the witness Nemesis as "criminals with no brains." Who engaged in theft, extortion and kidnapping because "they don't have the same contacts in drug trafficking" as "La Barbie." Adding that during the splendor of the Beltran Leyva brothers they "were just hitmen."

Subsequently, CIDA suffered a split and then came the group called "La Barredora," "the Sweepers." Which is controlled by Cristian Hernandez Tarin, the son of "Chaky" and Eber Jair Sosa, "The Cream." Both groups have been identified as responsible for the unstoppable wave of violence that prevails in this port.

The financial operator of the Beltran Leyva

With his studies in engineering, specializing in banking networks and "having work experience" in banks. The witness "Zajed" told a federal Public Ministry on the 1st of June of this year in Mexico City where he said, that during the time he served as the financial operator for the Beltran Leyva cartel he managed the funds of the criminal organization that was generated from kidnappings, extortion, drug dealing and the trafficking of cocaine in big scale.

"But my main function was the payroll for municipal officials, state and federal." Who were co-opted by the organization to protect and provide facility for the cartel operations in the states of Guerrero, Nuevo Leon and Quintana Roo, alleges "Zajed " in his ministerial statement.

Weekly, refers the witness, attending meetings called "Gathering of Plaza Bosses." Which took place in properties of the capo Arturo Beltran in Acapulco, a residence "in Las Brisas and a ranch that's located in Puerto Marques."

The witness Zajed said that these meetings presided by "El Barbas" were attended by public servants, police and military who were serving the organization. Discussing their "responsability and accountability" in federal or local operations with the objective of not affecting the criminal group activities and maintain the tranquility in the plaza, adds the records consulted by Proceso.

About the leaders of CIDA, the witness Zajed said that Benjamin Flores, "The Godfather," was part of a cell of gunmen that's commanded by Isidro Juarez Solis, "El Kirry" and Gamaliel Aguirre Tavira, "El Guero" Huetamo. They were responsible for patrolling the metropolitan area of Acapulco, specifically the colony Renacimiento.

This point is considered by the financial ex-operator of the Beltran Leyva as a major drug distribution center for retail. Since it was converted by local authorities as the "zone of tolerance" in Acapulco, as well as a "filter or customs" access to the port, where gunmen remain to monitor the area.

"The Melon," the witness Zajed explains he was one of the hitmen that was under direct orders of the kingpin Arturo Beltran and Moises Montero Alvarez, "The Korean," saying he was favored by "El Barbas" and "La Barbie." Because his function was to distribute all types of weapons to supply the criminal structure that operated in the states of Guerrero, Morelos, and Mexico state.

Zajed reports that the arsenal was accumulated in the neighborhood of Tepito in Mexico City and the "Korean" was in charge of carrying arms to the cities of Acapulco, Cuernavaca and the state of Mexico.

All these operations were coordinated by Miguel Angel Moreno Araujo, "El Buche," considered "the adopted son" of Arturo Beltran and the most violent gunmen from the criminal organization who was killed along with "El Barbas" in Cuernavaca on December 2009, said the witness Zajed.

"JJ", protected witness of SIEDO

For his part, the protected witness Nemesis gave his ministerial statement on March 7th of this year in the town of Almoloya de Juarez, in the State of Mexico. Provided information related to drug trafficking activities that took place in the ports of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo because he ensures that it belonged to the Beltran Leyva cartel, said the official records.

The testimony of this witness focuses in detail on the events after the capture of "La Barbie" on August 30, 2010 and the confrontation between his father-in-law Carlos Montemayor, "El Charro," was arrested last November and the operators in Acapulco that decided to form CIDA were apprehended also.

In this respect, Nemesis relates that after the arrest of "La Barbie," his father-in-law communicated with "The Godfather" and "the Korean" to tell them he would take charge of the organization wages and the payment of local authorities so business would continues "with out problems."

But operators for "La Barbie" ignored him and decided to act on their own with an operator of "La Barbie" in the state of Mexico. Identified as "Compayito" or "the hand with eye," recently arrested was attempting to form a regional cartel, said the witness Nemesis.

However, the case of the 20 Michoacan natives that were picked up in Acapulco during September of last year and the subsequent discovery of 18 bodies inside a "Narco Grave" in a rural area. This beach destination virtually collapse the group of "La Barbie."

In this regard, the witness "Nemesis" refers that he held a conversation with "The Charro." The group of "The Melon," "The Godfather" and "The Korean" had told him that they picked up the Michoacan natives because they were part of the La Familia Michoacana, then i told them not to be malicious and let them go but they didn't listen to me," expressed the father-in-law of "La Barbie."

Later, the witness "Nemesis" reports another conversation with "The Charro" where the leaders informed him that CIDA had already killed the people from Michoacan and he had been blamed for this slaughter, through blankets that were placed in public areas in Acapulco. Where they announced the separation from the structure of "La Barbie."

Then "The Charro" asked Nemesis if he could borrow "people" to "give them hell," the leaders of CIDA.

In response, Nemesis said, "that he would talk to his people to see who would go with him but instead i didn't ask them because I had my own problems. They were putting my name on the television too often in relation with the attempted killing of Salvador Cabanas."

In early January of this year, José Jorge Balderas Garza, "JJ," who is identified as responsible for the attack of the footballer Salvador Cabanas was arrested by federal police in a suburb of Mexico City and later transfer to maximum security prison in Altiplano, in the state of Mexico.

Federal authorities have linked "JJ" with the Beltran Leyva cartel and later with the structure of "La Barbie." In which the testimony of the protected witness "Nemesis" becomes proof that Balderas Garza is adhered to the controversial program of the PGR and is now used by SIEDO against one of the groups that maintain a bloody war for control of Acapulco, where authorities have been complicit in this bloodbath.

Source: http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=279258