Saturday, April 30, 2011
By OLIVIA KATRANDJIAN
It has been two weeks since Robert Tamez, known to family and friends in South Texas as "Big Bob," disappeared after being attacked on his family's ranch in Tamaulipas, Mexico.
Tamez left Falfurrias, Texas in January and crossed the border into Miguel Aleman to be by his disabled father's bedside on the ranch near Ciudad Mier, a Mexican border town riddled with violence.
Now, his family said they are afraid he has been kidnapped and they hope it's not too late.
Agents from the San Antonio office of the FBI have contacted Mexican local and federal law enforcement authorities, which is standard procedure when an American goes missing in Mexico.
"Were looking into the matter," Erik Vasys, special agent for the FBI in San Antonio, told ABC News.
Two weeks ago, when the ranch was stormed by a group of men, Tamez's father was beaten but survived, his family said. The injured man was taken to Miguel Aleman and made it safely across the border to Roma, Texas. He is now in Texas with his family, waiting for news from his son, his family said.
"I just don't know if my son is alive or if he's dead. My heart keeps telling me he's alive," Grace Tamez, Robert Tamez's mother, told ABC News affiliate KRGV-TV in Rio Grande. "I want to think of Bobby the way he was, laughing, joking, giving me his bear hugs, and I can't."
"His whole thing was to take care of my dad. That was his main concern. That is his main concern," said Belen Ramos, Tamez's sister.
With widespread drug-related violence in Mexico only growing, this disappearance is just one of many recent incidents to occur in the U.S.-Mexico border regions.
Last fall, when Americans Tiffany and David Hartley went jet skiing on Falcon Lake at the Texas-Mexico border, they were attacked by Mexican pirates and David Hartley was shot and killed. Only days later, the lead investigator on the case, Rolando Flores, was decapitated.
In January 2011, a U.S. missionary working in Mexico sped against traffic to the Mexican border as his wife sat in the front passenger's seat, bleeding from a head wound after being shot by gunmen in a pickup truck. Nancy David, 59, died in a South Texas hospital 90 minutes after they got there.
The Mexican government has been waging a war against the Mexican drug cartels and the growing drug-related violence.
RICARDO CHAVEZ CARBAJAL
El Paso Times
Mexican federal police said Saturday they discovered a basement arsenal hidden behind the mirrors of a home gym that included three anti-aircraft guns, dozens of grenades, a grenade launcher, AK-47s and other high-powered weapons.
The neatly ordered stockpile found in an upscale neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, also contained several makes of machine guns, rifles, a shotgun and more than 26,000 ammunition cartridges, according to Raul Avila Ibarra, the federal police commissioner in charge of the city.
Police say they discovered the weapons Friday while searching a house near the U.S.-Mexico border. Avila said the police acted on an anonymous tip that there were kidnapping victims in the house, but no one was found.
The mirrors of the gym opened at the touch of a button near the floor, allowing access to the secret shelter, which also held more than 50 military uniforms, as well as bulletproof vests and gas masks. Three money-counting machines were also found.
No one was detained in the search. The police didn't reveal the origin of the weapons found.
A turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels left more than 3,000 people dead last year in this city of 1.3 million people.
The weapons had been stored in a neatly painted room decorated with a framed still from the 1983 movie "Scarface" depicting Al Pacino, as drug kingpin Tony Montana, wielding a machine gun. A jumbo-sized dollar bill featuring Montana's face rested on a bookshelf lined with heavy weapon cartridges.
Last year a record 111 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico nearly half of them on or near the Texas border as reported by Dudley Althaus for the Houston Chronicle:
Many residents along the border have dual U.S.-Mexico citizenship. Some of the murdered Americans may have spent most of their lives in Mexico. Other American border residents frequently cross south of the line to visit friends and family in troubled Mexican towns and cities.
Of course, as the drug cartels increasingly take control over cities on the north side of the border, U.S. residents may be no safer by staying at home. For example, the "notoriously brutal group known as the Zetas have used family and personal connections to make the Dallas area into a sophisticated distribution point" as reported by The Dallas Morning News:
"Dallas is no longer a world away from the border," said Jeffrey Stamm, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Dallas office, describing the Dallas area as a key base for the Zetas and other cartels. "We are close enough to be the command-and-control center."
Source: Friends of Ours contributed to this report.
Benjamin Arellano Felix, the former leader of one of Mexico's most feared organized crime groups, had been incarcerated since his 2002 arrest. He is flown to San Diego to face racketeering and drug conspiracy charges.
By Richard Marosi and Tracy Wilkinson,
Los Angeles Times
Arellano Felix, who had been incarcerated in a Mexican prison since his arrest in 2002, was flown to San Diego and transferred to the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he will be held under heightened security during court proceedings that are expected to last months, and possibly years.
The extradition marks the end of a long effort by U.S. authorities to get Arellano Felix into a U.S. courtroom. He faces racketeering and drug conspiracy charges as part of a San Diego federal grand jury indictment that has already led to the arrests and convictions of several of his brothers and associates from the cartel's heyday during the 1980s and '90s.
Arellano Felix, who headed the organization known as the Arellano Felix, or Tijuana cartel, was among the first of Mexico's modern organized crime bosses. With connections to Colombia, he and his brothers established a drug pipeline that funneled tons of cocaine and other drugs into California, according to the indictment.
Authorities allege the cartel generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, using the money to bribe Mexican military and law enforcement officials and to purchase weapons that enforcers would use to torture and kill enemies in Mexico and the San Diego area.
The effects of Arellano Felix's iron-fisted rule are felt to this day. Many families in Baja California are still searching for the whereabouts of people who disappeared during his years in power. The cartel popularized the use of chemicals to dispose of enemies, disintegrating bodies by dumping them into vats of lye and acid.
"The Arellano Felix organization has spread fear and violence on both sides of the border, and today's extradition is an important step forward in our effort to hold the alleged leaders of this criminal enterprise to account," said U.S. Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny A. Breuer.
Many observers doubt the case will ever get to trial, noting that every other defendant has pleaded guilty. If he cooperates with prosecutors, Arellano Felix could shed light on the deaths of numerous potential witnesses and a crusading Mexican prosecutor whose head was crushed in an industrial press. He could also implicate people the cartel bribed, said John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the case.
"It shows they're serious," Kirby said, referring to the administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Arellano Felix "could spill the beans on everybody. He had dealings with the highest levels of government, and in the church, in the military."
The extradition comes at a time of tense relations between the U.S. and Mexico, strained in part by leaked diplomatic cables that contained pointed criticisms by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual of the Mexican government's drug-war efforts. Calderon complained vociferously about Pascual's assessments, and Pascual offered his resignation in March.
Samuel Gonzalez, a former top organized crime prosecutor, said the extradition came as U.S. and Mexican officials were meeting in Washington to discuss the Merida Initiative, a package of U.S. aid for the drug war. At the State Department on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted her Mexican counterpart, Patricia Espinosa, at the third gathering of the Merida Initiative High-Level Consultative Group.
"It's a gift from Mexico," Gonzalez said of the extradition. "This is a way for Mexico to show its good intentions."
With most of its original leaders either arrested or dead, the cartel has splintered into rival factions in recent years, leading to brutal infighting that has all but wiped out the once-powerful group.
Arellano Felix's brother, Javier, was captured on a boat off Baja California in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison. Another brother, Ramon, the cartel's notorious enforcer, was gunned down in Mazatlan in 2002.
Benjamin Arellano Felix is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Friday, April 29, 2011
THE BROWNSVILLE HERALD
A string of shootouts in and near the state of Tamaulipas left a trail of dead as Mexican federal authorities, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas organization fought a three-way battle.
The Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, once allied, are fighting for control of the area.
One of the shootouts began about 4 a.m. Thursday in Los Aldama in Nuevo Leon state and ended in the nearby rural area of Arcabuz, Miguel Aleman, Tamps., leaving six gunmen dead, according to a Mexican law enforcement official whose name can’t be released for security reasons. The farming town of Arcabuz is about 45 miles south of Roma.
The shootout, which began as a clash between the Gulf and the Zetas, included more than 40 SUVs with gunmen. After the military arrived, the groups turned and transferred the fight to the downtown area of Arcabuz, resulting in the deaths of six gunmen, the official said.
Two other men were gunned down about 600 yards from the area, the official said, adding that all the men were carrying firearms and some were wearing body armor.
Official information from the Mexican military regarding the shootout wasn’t immediately available.
Additionally, the Mexican Army issued a news release regarding a Tuesday shootout in Ciudad Mier, Tamps., about 8 miles west of Roma, that left two gunmen dead.
Police arrested a major drug-trafficking suspect who was trying the rebuild the criminal mob of jailed kingpin Edgar Valdez Villarreal, Mexican authorities said Friday.
Miguel Angel Cedillo Gonzalez, "El Pica", was arrested Wednesday in Mexico City thanks to “investigative and intelligence work carried out by the Federal Police,” the federal Public Safety Secretariat said in a statement.
At the time of his arrest along with two other suspects, Cedillo was seeking the assistance of other drug cartels to reassemble Valdez Villarreal’s organization and wage a battle for control of the drug trade in the states of Guerrero and Morelos, the secretariat said.
The Federal Police officers seized an SUV, two 9 mm pistols, a grenade, five cellphones and a laptop computer from the three suspects.
Following the death of kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva during a December 2009 shootout with marines at an exclusive condo in the central city of Cuernavaca, the cartel he had led split into two rival bands, one headed by his brother and second-in-command, Hector, and the other by Valdez Villarreal.
Hector Beltran Leyva’s faction is known as the Pacifico Sur cartel, while Valdez Villarreal – who was suspected by his rivals of betraying his boss to the authorities – founded his own gang.
The August 2010 capture of Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie,” was the fruit of more than a year’s worth of investigations across five of Mexico’s 31 states.
Authorities say Cedillo was the leader of Valdez Villarreal’s organization in Morelos and that he was reaching out to other cartels for support against a splinter faction operating in the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco, Guerrero state.
According to police, Cedillo sought help from drug trafficker Servando Gomez, one of the top leaders of the criminal gang originally known as La Familia Michoacana, which now calls itself Los Caballeros Templarios (The Knights Templar).
Cedillo was arrested on Sept. 9, 2003, for ties to organized crime and served a four-year prison sentence, but he resumed his criminal activities following his release.
Authorities in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas plan to scrutinize 9,000 state and municipal police for possible ties to the organized crime groups blamed for hundreds of killings.
The vetting process will be carried out by private firms, state government secretary Morelos Jaime Canseco told reporters.
Another Tamaulipas official said the state government is turning to outside contractors because it wants the investigations to be completed by the end of 2011.
"To meet the goal we have to resort to hiring private services that have national certification," that official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Tamaulipas, a Gulf coast state bordering Texas, has made very slow progress compared to other Mexican states in the effort to clean up law enforcement agencies perceived as ridden with corruption, the federal interior ministry says.
Hundreds of officers have been fired nationwide.
Once the bad cops are weeded out, Tamaulipas will begin the task of professionalizing its law enforcement agencies, Canseco said, adding that he is still waiting for the Mexican government to respond to his request for federal agents to be seconded to the state police.
Plagued since the beginning of 2010 by a vicious turf war between the Gulf and Los Zetas drug cartels, Tamaulipas is now the focus of media attention for the nearly 200 bodies recently found in mass graves not far from the U.S. border.
Most of the victims are men kidnapped from passenger buses by Los Zetas gunslingers, possibly with aim of recruiting more foot soldiers for the cartel.
Army troops liberated 52 Central American migrants who were being held captive at a residence in the northern border state of Tamaulipas, Mexico's defense department said Friday.
The group comprises 34 Hondurans, 12 Guatemalans, five Salvadorans and a Nicaraguan, the department said in a statement.
They were rescued in the wee hours of Thursday by soldiers from the 8th Military Zone acting on an anonymous tip that people were being held at a house on Naranjos Avenue in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, a city just across the border from McAllen, Texas.
Mexican gangs target undocumented migrants bound for the United States, grabbing travelers and contacting their families to demand ransoms.
The Central Americans freed Thursday were turned over to immigration authorities and will likely be repatriated to their respective countries of origin, the defense department said.
The rescue was carried out by soldiers assigned to Operation Northeast, an effort to curb the violence associated with a turf war between the Gulf and the Los Zetas drug cartels.
Los Zetas is blamed for the massacre last August of 72 mainly Central American migrants who were found dead on a ranch in San Fernando, Tamaulipas.
Nearly 200 bodies have been discovered this month at another location in San Fernando. While only two of the victims have been identified, the majority of the dead were men abducted by Los Zetas from buses headed to Reynosa.
This week's rescue of kidnapped migrants was the third this month in Reynosa.
Forty-four Guatemalans and three Mexicans were freed on April 9, followed by the liberation of 68 people - including 56 Mexican nationals - on April 19.
Mexico's independent National Human Rights Commission estimates that as many as 20,000 migrants were kidnapped in 2010.
The first narcobanner, which was seen by hundreds of passing motorists, was placed on the Rolando Arjona, bridge next to Home Depot.
The second was seen hanging from a pedestrian bridge over Ciudades Hermanas Avenue in front of the Lion's Club.
The messages read:
"YA CHAPO GUZMAN DEJA DE MANDAR GENTE A GUASAVE TE VAS A QUEDAR SIN NADA!!! YA VEZ COMO TE FUE ”
Chapo Guzman, quit sending people to Guasave, you're going to be left with nothing!!! You saw how it worked out for you last time.
By DUDLEY ALTHAUS
Underscoring the region's severe security crisis, Mexico's defense ministry reported that soldiers have either killed or recovered the bodies of 338 alleged gangland gunmen so far this year in the cities and ranchland towns near the South Texas border.
The tally was quietly released by the military district that includes metropolitan Monterrey and the adjoining states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi. Soldiers also arrested 1,200 suspected gangsters, seized more than 2,000 rifles, 500 pistols, 450 grenades and 450,000 rounds of ammunition.
Many of the slain gunmen died in fighting between rival criminal bands, a military spokesman said. But scores more have died in skirmishes with the army. Five Mexican soldiers were killed in the area's clashes this year, the military said.
The army "continues battling the criminal organizations at every level, in urban as well as rural areas," the defense ministry statement said, "emphasizing its commitment to bring the climate of peace and tranquility that that society deserves and demands."
Northeastern Mexico has exploded in violence in the past 14 months as the so-called Gulf Cartel narcotics trafficking organization has gone to war with the the paramilitary assassins known as the Zetas who onced worked for it.
The two gangs have waged nearly daily battles with one another - and with security forces - in the Mexican cities and towns along the Rio Grande and in the Monterrey and Tampico areas.
Clashes near U.S. border
Six more men were killed Thursday when army troops clashed with supposed gangsters battling one another in the village of Los Aldama, a short drive southwest of the Rio Grande at McAllen. Soldiers in the past week also killed six alleged gunmen in Nuevo Laredo, bordering Laredo, and two others in Ciudad Mier, on the border 50 miles upriver from McAllen.
President Felipe Calderon has ordered thousands more soldiers and marines into the region, so far to little obvious effect. Large swaths of territory - particularly the small farm and ranch towns in the triangle bounded by Monterrey, the border and the Gulf of Mexico - remain at least intermittently under the gangsters' sway.
That became all too apparent this month when soldiers and police uncovered mass graves in San Fernando, a town of about 60,000 people 80 miles south of the border at Brownsville. The graves so far have yielded 183 bodies.
Calderon had vowed to pacify San Fernando last August after alleged Zeta gunmen executed 72 Texas-bound Central American migrants on a farm there.
Though only a handful of the graves' victims have been identified, the majority of them reportedly are civilians abducted by gunmen from inter-city buses passing through the town in recent months.
"It's not an option for the government, nor can it be for anyone in our country, to quit the fight against this criminal and social disease," Alejandro Poire, the government's national security spokesman, told reporters.
Calderon deployed the military against the criminal gangs upon taking office in December 2006 and there are now some 50,000 soldiers and marines involved in the fight. He has vowed to keep them in the field until local, state and federal police forces are up to confronting the gangsters.
Few expect that to happen soon, and certainly not before Calderon leaves office 18 months from now.
Thousands have died
Gangland violence has killed more than 35,000 people in little more than four years. Officials say most of the victims appear to have been murdered by gangland rivals. But a growing number have been killed in clashes with the military, especially in the region near south Texas. Hundreds of innocent civilians have also been killed, both by gangsters and the military.
Police this week arrested an army captain in Monterrey accused of helping plant a gun on a 28-year old civilian who was mistakenly killed by federal police and soldiers during a shootout on one of the city's main streets.
Opinion polls show the army still enjoys wide public support. But a growing number of human rights advocates, citizens groups and Calderon's political opponents of Calderon have demanded the military's return to the barracks. Nationwide protests demanding just that are planned for May 8.
Alter Net/By Daniel Robelo
After forty years and a trillion dollars, supporters of the drug war still claim that any discussion of legalization sends the “wrong message” to children.
After forty years and a trillion dollars, supporters of the drug war still claim that any discussion of legalization sends the “wrong message” to children.
The truth, as seen in news from Mexico ever day, is that the drug war itself is killing children. And the message we send by not discussing alternatives is one of cruel indifference.
According to reports by The Washington Post and Associated Press, at least 1,000 boys and girls have been murdered since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office and unleashed the army against drug traffickers – with the ready support of the United States. Tens of thousands more have been orphaned; so many in Chihuahua that the state government has set up a special fund to care for them.
Including these young victims, over 37,000 people have been killed since late 2006 in violence caused by drug prohibition in Mexico – similar to what the U.S. experienced during alcohol Prohibition, but far more deadly. Many have been migrants, like those found in mass graves which, as I write, continue to be unearthed in Tamaulipas and Durango; most have been young men and women just entering adulthood.
More than 70 percent of all federal arrests in Mexico never reach trial, highlighting deficiencies in the justice system which are at least as important as issues like police firepower when it comes to tackling organized crime.
Written by Patrick Corcoran
Mexico's Attorney General's Office (Procuraduria General de la Republica - PGR) released a report earlier this week saying that authorities were able to bring to trial only 28 percent of federal arrests in 2010, reports Excelsior. The rest of the more than 106,000 people detained went free. In a majority of these cases, this was due to insufficient evidence against the accused, or cases that were sloppily put together.
The PGR report highlights serious problems with the criminal justice system, both in the "ministerios publicos" which head up investigations and prosecutions, and in the judges who decide criminal cases. The integrity of these officials has been called into question on numerous occasions in recent years, and other examples of institutional incapacity abound. One famous case is the so-called “michoacanazo,” the mass arrest of dozens of state and municipal politicians in the state of Michoacan in 2009. The arrests were hailed at the time as a historic step forward in attacking official corruption, but, by early this year, every single one of them had been released from custody without charges.
Cases related to organized crime -- from drug trafficking to possession of military grade weapons -- are typically dealt with in the federal system, so its shortcomings have serious implications for the government's ongoing war against drug cartels.
Despite the evident bottlenecks in the judicial system, much analysis of Mexican public security issues has, in recent years, focused on the supposed firepower and hardware gap between law enforcement and drug gangs. For the most part, the difference is exaggerated. The Mexican armed forces have tanks, artillery, fighter jets, and warships; drug gangs do not. But the perception persists. For this reason, American aid via the Merida Initiative has focused primarily on outfitting Mexican agencies with top-of-the-line gadgetry, from Bell helicopters to CASA coastal patrol planes.
Helped by all this technology, the number of arrests on drug charges has spiked during the Calderon presidency, a fact often pointed to as a sign of his government's dedication to tackling organized crime. According to government figures released in February, 30,000 people have been arrested in Mexico for drug charges since Calderon’s term began in December 2006.
But, of course, a massive increase in the number of arrests means very little if the state can't convict them. (Indeed, such a cycle is arguably worse than failing to apprehend anyone in the first place, in that the arrests concentrate dangerous criminals in short-term facilities ill-equipped to handle them, thus creating anarchic “universities of crime.”) Calderon has made a similar point in the past. Last year, for instance, he complained, with a heavy dose of sarcasm, of the crumbling michoacanazo, “Now it turns out that nobody has done anything here, nothing is wrong; now it turns out that everything is just fine.”
Some of those arrested for federal offenses and then released without trial have gone on to commit notorious crimes. One recent alleged example is Julian Zapata, a suspected Zeta who, following his 2008 arrest and subsequent release in 2010 for lack of evidence, stands accused of participating in the shooting death of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Jaime Zapata in February.
The hallmark effort to address this bottleneck in the criminal justice system was the 2008 judicial reform, which established provisions for the presumption of innocence and oral, public trials. However, many elements of the reform, which is to be implemented over an eight-year period through 2016, have been limited both by spending cuts and rampant insecurity.
Mexico's focus on improving police technology and capacity to track and capture criminals should not come at the expense of the slower work of building institutions.
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Benjamin Arellano Felix, former leader of the once-powerful Arellano Felix drug cartel, has been extradited from Mexico to the United States to stand trial in federal court in Southern California, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office said Friday.
Mexican authorities handed Arellano over to U.S. marshals on Friday at the international airport in the city of Toluca.
Arellano was considered the operational and financial operator of the Arellano Felix Organization, and the man who led the group as it rose to power during the 1990s. As the cartel’s leader, Arellano was instrumental in keeping at bay other drug-trafficking organizations from the Baja California region until his arrest by the Mexican military on March 9, 2002 in the city of Puebla.
U.S. authorities had been seeking Arellano’s extradition to stand trial in San Diego federal court.
Run by a group of brothers — Benjamin, Eduardo, Javier and Ramon — originally from Sinaloa state, the Arellano Félix drug cartel monopolized the lucrative routes for illicit drugs through the Tijuana region to the United States for more than two decades.
The cartel has been weakened over the years with as the brothers and some trusted lieutenants have been arrested or killed. Experts said what was once a strong hierarchy has been replaced by a network of criminal cells led by Fernando Sánchez Arellano, a nephew of the brothers. Sánchez’s nickname is “El Ingeniero,” the Engineer.
In Baja California and across Mexico, drug-trafficking gangs have gained control through violence, intimidation and bribery of law enforcement officials at all levels of government. Originally focused exclusively on trafficking drugs, the organizations have been supplementing their income through other crimes such as kidnapping, robbery and car theft.
In 2007, Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched an unprecedented campaign against organized crime, giving the military the primary enforcement role. More than 35,000 people have been killed in the 4½-year war.
Note: This is the only video I could find where it shows images of Benjamin Arellano Felix being arrested.
STRATFOR’s 2010 annual Mexican cartel report, the fluid nature of the drug war in Mexico has prompted us to take an in-depth look at the situation more frequently. This is the first product of those interim assessments, which we will now make as needed, in addition to our annual year-end analyses and our weekly security memos.
In the first three months of 2011, overall violence across Mexico continued to rise. The drug cartels are fighting for control of lucrative ports of entry along the U.S. border and strategic choke points in the interior of Mexico — urban crossroads on both major and minor smuggling routes. These crossroads include cities like Ciudad Victoria, San Luis Potosi, Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Durango, Torreon, Saltillo and Chihuahua. Some of them are important because they straddle vital north-south routes running along the coastlines. Others have strategic value because they sit on major highways that serve as direct routes through the interior of the country, from various points on the Pacific coast to ports of entry on the Texas border. And along that border, the control of plazas that have border crossings is being hotly contested from Juarez to Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico.
Mexican Drug War 2011 Update
The Gulf cartel, still battling its former enforcer arm Los Zetas, is holding on to Matamoros, a vital Gulf asset. With the Sinaloa Federation’s help, the Gulf cartel has repelled Zeta offensives both at Matamoros and Reynosa but has not displayed the force necessary to push Los Zetas out of Monterrey. Los Zetas, suffering the loss of 11 mid- to upper-level leaders and plaza bosses, continue to fight their primary war with the Gulf cartel while training and assisting allied cartels in Juarez, Tijuana and Acapulco.
The Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) cartel is managing to keep Sinaloa forces at bay in Juarez but has lost its outlying territories in Chihuahua state as well as its primary drug supply line from Chihuahua City. Sinaloa’s effective blockade of Juarez has begun to choke off VCF’s supply and revenue flow. VCF is not yet out of the game, but it is limping noticeably. Another cartel on the decline — a shadow of its former self — is the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO, aka the Tijuana cartel). AFO has very little territory left that it holds alone and is now subservient to the Sinaloa Federation, to which it pays for the right to access the California ports of entry.
The Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS) and the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA), both of which comprise splinter factions of the former Beltran Leyva Organization, are battling each other for control of Acapulco’s seaport. CPS is the more successful of the two, with its territorial control stretching north along the Gulf of California coast into Sonora state, though smuggling corridors up the coastline are regularly disputed by the Sinaloa Federation.
After what seemed to be the sudden death of La Familia Michoacana (LFM) in January, it is now apparent that a portion of LFM of undetermined size has rebranded itself as the Knights Templar, which emerged on the scene in mid-March. Other members of LFM continue to operate under that name. This development is very new and it is not clear yet who the Knights Templar leaders are, how many are in the new group, what kind of relationship they have with their former brethren in LFM and what, if any, relationship either group has with the Sinaloa Federation. A great deal likely depends on the willingness of Sinaloa and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera to allow LFM or the Knights Templar to re-establish their former infrastructure and smuggling routes.
As for the Sinaloa Federation, it is now the regional hegemon in the western half of Mexico and is actively expanding its territory. Currently there are Sinaloa forces helping the Gulf cartel battle Los Zetas in the northeast, slowly strangling the VCF in Juarez, running the show in Tijuana and fighting for supremacy in Acapulco. Wherever there is a conflict in Mexico between or among a cartel’s current or former factions, you will find Sinaloa’s helpful hand. And in every case Sinaloa is gaining territory. While internal strife and external pressure from the Mexican military and federal law enforcement agencies have weakened all of the other cartels, the Sinaloa Federation has proved impervious to the turmoil — and it is growing.
In the next three to six months, STRATFOR expects Sinaloa to lead the pack in the fights for Acapulco and Durango. However, Sinaloa has so much going on around Mexico that Guzman may redeploy some of his fighters — from regions already solidified under his control, such as Tijuana — to Durango and Acapulco to facilitate quicker, more decisive victories there. STRATFOR anticipates an even greater level of violence in Juarez as Sinaloa’s chokehold tightens, and we expect to see a major push by Los Zetas to recover control of Reynosa, where the Gulf cartel will lose its hold if Sinaloa pulls fighters from there to fight elsewhere. Los Zetas are highly likely to hold onto Monterrey in the near term, absent a major government push or a massive effort by Gulf and Sinaloa, which is unlikely at this point but cannot be ruled out.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Clashes that occured in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday morning in Guamuchil and on the highway to the neighboring municipality of Guasave have left at least seven people dead.
The clashes began at approximately 3:00 AM when gunmen on board five vehicles clashed with municipal police in Guamuchil and then attacked the police station and city hall.
No injuries or fatalities were reported during the attack on the police station but twelve police vehicles were heavily damaged and superficial damage was reported to city buildings and at least three residences.
After the attack the convoy of gunmen dumped the bodies of four men on Ferrocarril street who had been abducted earlier then headed out on Federal Highway 15 in the direction of the neighboring city of Guasave.
The four dead men were identifid as residents of El Burrion, a town in the municipality of Guasave.
On the highway the convoy was reportedly intercepted by a rival group of gunmen and series of shootouts on the highway ensued.
The bodies of three deceased gunmen and several heavily damaged vehicles were found abandoned between Guamuchil and Guasave.
A Mexican Army source reported the arrest of one suspect named Jesus Ramon Rodriguez who suffered a gunshot wound to a hand.
Suman 7 muertos en enfrentamiento
CUCUTA, COLOMBIA In the pink light of dawn, William Yacia Pineda views the black-market commerce at this busy crossing on Colombia's border with Venezuela. Anything is possible.
"One day, it's gasoline, the next day cocaine," says Yacia, shrugging his sloping shoulders in a white muscle shirt, his biceps bulging. "Whatever the world needs, we supply."
Yacia is one of a legion of pimpineros, gasoline vendors who rise in the dark to buy cheap gas from neighboring Venezuela and resell it for a few more pesos in Colombia. But there are higher-margin goods to move: The dollars multiply exponentially when the product is refined cocaine and the final market is Dallas and cities beyond.
And at every stop along the way - from Colombia to Central America, into Mexico and on to U.S. markets - the traffic spawns violence and corruption, undermining governments and democratic institutions - all to serve the incessant demand from the north.
"For too long, Latin America has paid the price in pools of blood for our demand," said David Gaddis, deputy chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration and former regional director in Mexico City and Bogota.
"Vulnerable countries have been ravaged, lives destroyed and democracies maligned. We've made some major improvements, but it remains an uphill battle as long as demand persists."
For many U.S. cities, the path of destruction generated by Mexican drug traffickers begins at this pivotal transshipment point, where everything from electronics to cocaine and gasoline moves across borders.
Of course, this border region is just one of several points of departure for smuggling cocaine to the U.S., Europe and other spots around the globe. Cocaine shipments also leave via the port of Buenaventura on speedboats, large ships or even submarines, much of it bound for Central America or one of Mexico's many ports in the Pacific Coast states of Guerrero, Michoacan, Jalisco and Colima. Or the cocaine may travel overland north from Medellin and into Panama.
But here, where ties between Colombia's powerful cartels and traditional Mexican cartels go back to the 1980s, the Cucuta border crossing represents a special allure for newcomers like the Mexican paramilitary group known as the Zetas.
U.S. report says drug violence has prompted the rapid transformation of the Mexican Armed Forces
The deteriorating security environment in the past three years and the growing U.S. concern about the stability of one of its most important allies and trading partners has driven the rapid transformation of the Mexican Armed Forces.
In a report named The U.S. Military engagement with Mexico: Uneasy past and challenging future has indicted this and was prepared by Graham Turbiville for the Joint Special Operations University.
The signing of a contract between the Government of Mexico and Boeing company for a billion dollars four months ago to acquire a network of three satellites, land bases, an acquisition of 12 CASA C-295 aircraft and the increase training of special operations troops in the United States all confirms this.
The 74 page document, notes that the expansion of drug violence, waves of refugees and other humanitarian emergencies, not only took the military relationship between Mexico and the United States to unprecedented levels, but also an understanding and willingness to confront common threats.
Slow military forces, with heavy structures, slow responsiveness and stagnant training has led to a building of a new Mexican Army based on the strength of the Green Berets, commando units, elite forces and assault troops, cites the report.
By Carolina Corral
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
April 28, 2011
CUERNAVACA, MORELOS, MEXICO, Wednesday April 27, 2011: This morning the water in the Paloma de la Paz fountain was dyed the color of blood when members with the Movement for Peace took off their shoes, rolled up their pants and got into the fountain to sprinkle in red vegetable oil paint to act as the blood shed in this so-called “war against narco-trafficking.”
“The blood represents all of the victims that the violence and the war have left us with during this administration. It is also a way to protest the authorities and their inability to stop the operations of criminal groups in this country,” explained a member of the network.
This was the first action on the itinerary of a protest that is being lead by three motives: to remember the seven people murdered a month ago along with all of the others who have lost their lives in the same way, to protest a proposal for a national public security law that would give the executive branch of the government the power to use the army at its beck and call against demonstrators, and to promote the National Forum of Young People in the National Emergency.
Once the fountain waters had turned red the young people moved to the state Attorney General’s office to close it down with a yellow banner that said “Closed due to impunity and complicity.” They delivered their fist letter to the office, denouncing the ineffectiveness of the Attorney General, who has not resigned from his position despite four hundred deaths in Morelos due to the “war” and inefficient legal investigations. The demonstrators read in a loud voice, “We are here to remind Attorney General Luis Benítez Vélez that he has not done his job as a public servant.” They denounced the fact that “there is no justice for victims of this so-called ‘war’ against narco-trafficking, because the criminals and authorities imitate each other until they turn into one entity.”
The last stop was the Morelos State Congress while the deputies were in session. Members of the network entered the building and turned their backs on the lawmakers to show the same way they had turned their backs on the public. Network members began to read a letter to the chamber which called for them, among others things, to reconsider a proposal to impeach Governor Marco Adame Castillo and bring him to justice. “We know that we can’t ask you for very much. In a few months more than half of you will have resigned to look for another elected political position, directing the legislative gridlock in the state. However, we still believe that you can salvage a shred of dignity and assume the role to impeach the one who was elected to govern but has not done so.”
They ended their letter saying “we are closing down this congress to denounce that in Morelos there is no governing body that brings justice.” They put up another yellow banner that said “Closed due to incompetents.” They said that there is a lack of political representatives who are making coherent decisions in favor of the public and called for Mexican youth to come to talk—to create agreements and solutions for the country—at the National Forum of Young People in the National Emergency being held April 28-29 at the Mexican Union of Electricians’ hall in Cuernavaca. Attendees from Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez, Chiapas, Sonora, Michoacán and Guerrero have confirmed that they are arriving to the city today to begin discussing Mexico’s future.
Written by Patrick Corcoran
Monday, 25 April 2011 09:24
In a "narcomanta," or banner, displayed in Durango in mid-March, Los·M and Gente Nueva, which are respectively linked with Sinaloa bosses Ismael Zambada Garcia and Joaquin Guzman Loera, accused traffickers Felipe Cabrera and Noel Salgeiro of "heating up the plaza" of Durango, the state's capital city. The expression typically refers to an attempt by a gang to take over a town under rival control, through targeting competitors, attacks on government facilities, riots in local jails, and other violent tactics. The mantas gave the groups associated with Cabrera and Salgeiro 24 hours to leave the area.
That was followed by a pair of videos uploaded online in March, showing men dressed in military garb interrogating hit men allegedly working for Salgeiro. In one of the videos, two triggermen said that they had been in Durango just a month, after being sent with orders to heat up the plaza.
The dispute seems to indicate an internal split within Gente Nueva. Salgeiro and Cabrera are leaders of Gente Nueva, though their base of operations has typically been Parral, Chihuahua, a state that neighbors Durango. Yet Gente Nueva was alongside Los M at the bottom of the narcomanta, indicating some ownership of the message. Under this theory, Cabrera and Salgeiro represent a minority wing of Gente Nueva that has lost support among of the higher-ups in Sinaloa.
Gente Nueva started as a band of gunmen working for Guzman, alias "El Chapo," and has since earned notoriety for its role in the ongoing violence in Juarez. Guzman's gang has been pitted against the La Linea in Juarez, which occupies a similar role for the Juarez Cartel of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, in addition to other local groups. Violence in Juarez has left more than 600 people dead so far this year, after 2010 in which more than 3,000 people were murdered.
The strife within Gente Nueva has also led to speculation about the relationship between Zambada and Chapo Guzman. The two men are, along with Juan Jose Esparragoza, alias "El Azul," the pillars of the Sinaloa Cartel. No credible reports of bad blood between them have emerged. But in the drug trade, of course, friendship is often temporary, and virtually always comes second to business. With billions of dollars at stake, a rupture between the two is far from impossible.
While the Sinaloa Cartel is often portrayed as the most stable of the major organizations in Mexico, it has not been exempt from internal strife. In 2008, bad blood between Guzman and erstwhile ally and fellow Badiraguato, Sinaloa native Arturo Beltran Leyva, led to a major split in the gang, and a reordering of the nation’s drug trade, as each party sought new alliances. The fallout killed Guzman's son in 2008. Beltran Leyva ultimately shifted his operations south to Cuernavaca, where he was killed by Mexican marines in 2009.
Durango is attractive both as a pathway and as a producer state. Along with Chihuahua and Sinaloa, it forms part of the largely lawless Golden Triangle, a mountainous region notorious for poppy and marijuana cultivation. Durango is also an easy drive from Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, two of the largest border crossings, which makes it strategically advantageous for anyone seeking to send drugs into the U.S.
Because of its appeal to organized crime, Durango is commonly counted among the most violence-ridden states in Mexico. The state was in the news last week when a mass grave containing 37 bodies was discovered near the state capital.
Rumors that Chapo is living in Durango have been circulating for years. Most famously, in 2009, the state's archbishop accused authorities of ignoring his existence on a ranch in the area. More recently, the DEA told press in mid-April that Guzman was in Durango.
“That’s a very macho culture, very misogynist, and we women are left defenseless,” Lagarde said.
The activist, who has been calling for the inclusion of femicide in Mexico’s Criminal Code, has published numerous articles about gender identity, feminism, human development and deomocracy.
The “political environment in Mexico has intensified in the past few years” just as “the violence and crimes against women had gained visibility,” Lagarde, a former congresswoman and currently a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said.
Activists had been denouncing violence against women and the impunity of the killers before the Calderon administration declared war and put “the army in the streets” of Mexico “without going through Congress,” a conflict that “has cost the lives of 40,000 people in four years,” Lagarde said.
“Now, it’s intensifying, but it had been. It was and it was very clear,” the former congresswoman, who taught a course on violence against women at the Autonomous University of Madrid, said.
Lagarde said she and other female lawmakers worked for enactment of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Violence Free Life, which “is a very important law and a legal benchmark” both in Mexico and Latin America.
Violence against women is “a much bigger problem” than that affecting Ciudad Juarez because the violence in the border city has internationalized the problem, Lagarde said.
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, first gained notoriety in the early 1990s when young women began to disappear in the area.
In most of the slayings, the victims were young women from poor families who came to the border city from all over Mexico to work in the many assembly plants, known as “maquiladoras,” built there to take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Investigators have not determined who is behind the killings, although there has been speculation that serial killers, organized crime groups, people traffickers, drug smugglers and child pornographers, among others, may be involved.
Over 500 women have been killed in Juarez since 1993, with the majority of the cases going unsolved.
“Ciudad Juarez does not have the highest level of femicides in the country,” Lagarde said, adding that Mexico state, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area, has that dubious distinction.
“Violence against women is a serious structural problem, and the development conditions in Mexico and political conditions of the country’s government do not point to a commitment by the federal government, in all the country, to the rights of women,” Lagarde said.
Another milestone in the fight to end violence against women in Mexico was the November 2009 finding by the Inter-American Human Rights Court that the government was failing to prevent and duly investigate violence against women in Juarez, a gritty metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
“It is the first time that an international court found a state guilty of crimes against women,” the activist said, adding that the Mexican government “is very cynical and has not followed the recommendations made by the tribunal. It does not comply with anything.”
The women’s rights activist, however, still holds out hope for change in Mexico.
“We’ll have to take more cases to the international courts, stage more protests, convince the people that violence against women is an issue, an issue for the citizenry, that we cannot think it’s normal and will take care of itself on its own some day,” Lagarde said.
Officers from the Department of Traffic of Juárez will be able to carry weapons for their safety as a result of deadly attacks carried out by gunmen against two officers Tuesday afternoon, Juárez officials said.
"In light of those events, we are making changes in Traffic Unit policies in the matter," Juárez Mayor Héctor Murguía said in a statement. "It was a cowardly and sneaky action committed against both officers."
Murguía added that local police officers will escort traffic officers in order to prevent another deadly attack.
Two Juárez traffic officers were shot to death Tuesday afternoon while patrolling the streets. Both were unarmed.
"They (the killers) are trying to scare us away," Murguía said. "But we are not going to give in."
Javier García Herrera, 28, was gunned down Tuesday while riding his motorcycle on Panamerican Highway, officials said.
An hour later, another officer, Héctor Rodríguez Trevizo, 38, was shot to death while driving in his police unit on Juan Gabriel Avenue and Barranco Azul Street.
Juárez authorities took away the weapons carried out by traffic officers during the tenure of then-Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz, a local official said who doesn't want to be named because he is not authorized to comment in the matter.
"Back then, they decided to remove those weapons from the officers," the official said. "The gunmen used to attack the traffic officers to steal their weapons."
Both victims were unable to fight back sincethey didn't have their weapons anymore.
For safety reasons, Murguía declined to disclose when the officers will be armed again nor would comment about the safety steps implemented to protect law enforcement officers.
Both killed officers were buried with honors, Murguía said.
Valley Central News
Mexican authorities are confirming that two gunmen were killed during a Tuesday morning shootout with soldiers in Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas.
Mexico's Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA) reported that the incident took place around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
SEDENA officials reported that soldiers were patrolling between Nueva Ciudad Guerrero and Ciudad Mier when they came under fire.
The gunbattle ended with two gunmen being killed.
Soldiers sezied 15 assault rifles, ammunition, three vehicles and military uniforms at the scene.
The names of the gunmen were not released but the case remains under investigation.
Residents of Ciudad Mier had to flee the town back in November following a series of intense gun battles between rival drug cartels.
Mexico's federal government responded by sending more troops to the area.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Eight people were slain at a birthday party in Tepic, capital of the western Mexican state of Nayarit, the state Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday.
The victims, ranging in age from 17 to 48, were found dead at 7:35 p.m. Tuesday.
Citing accounts from neighbors, the AG’s office said the eight people were celebrating the birthday of one member of the group at a residence in Tepic when three vehicles rolled up.
“Armed and hooded subjects” got out of the vehicles, entered the residence and opened fire before fleeing in “an unknown direction,” the AG’s office said in a statement.
Fifteen people died last October when gunmen opened fire on a Tepic car wash operated by a drug-rehabilitation clinic.
In Guerrero state, southeast of Nayarit on Mexico’s Pacific coast, police found four men decapitated early Wednesday, official sources told Efe,
The bodies and severed heads were discovered outside the city of Zihuatanejo at a spot near the boundary with the neighboring state of Michoacan, according to personnel in the Guerrero AG’s office.
Accompanying the bodies were messages from the killers, a common feature of gangland killings in Mexico.
An anonymous 5:00 a.m. telephone call led Zihuatanejo municipal police to the village of Los Almendros, where they found the bodies and heads left at a bus stop.
The victims bore signs of torture and beating, the state AG’s office said.
Guerrero has been the scene of numerous killings linked to a battle among three different cartels for control of the drug trade in the state, an entry point for cocaine from South America and a center of marijuana and opium production.
Last weekend, five women were found murdered in the coastal resort city of Acapulco, Guerrero, which has suffered from a loss of foreign tourists scared away by the violence.
Three dismembered bodies and assorted body parts were found at a ranch in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, the State Investigations Agency, or AEI, said.
The ranch was apparently used by drug traffickers to “cook” the remains of slain rivals, the AEI said.
Authorities went to the abandoned ranch, located on a trail that leads to the Comunidad Chihuahuitas district of the city of Cadereyta, after receiving an anonymous tip about a burned body, the AEI said.
Army troops, Attorney General’s Office investigators and AEI agents went to the ranch to check out the tip and discovered three torsos in a well.
Investigators also found an ax and fuel-filled barrels that were apparently used to burn human bodies, officials said.
Other human body parts were found at the ranch, but investigators have not determined whether they came from the three dismembered bodies or from other victims.
“There is information to confirm that we are dealing with several bodies,” state security council spokesman Jorge Domene said.
AEI investigators are working to determine whether a mass grave found at the ranch contains more than the five bodies originally estimated, Domene said.
The AG’s office investigators plan to use heavy machinery in the search for more human remains.
More than 50 people, including an oil workers union leader and 37 employees of state-owned oil giant Pemex, have been reported missing in the past four years in Cadereyta, where drug traffickers operate.
Gunmen traveling in several vehicles attacked an officer on Monday with AR-15 assault rifles in Guadalupe, a city in the Monterrey metropolitan area, killing him, state security council spokesman Jorge Domene said.
The same gunmen killed two other officers a few minutes later while they were riding in their patrol car in Guadalupe, Domene said.
A total of 15 transit police officers have been killed this year by gunmen working for drug cartels and other organized crime groups.
The Monterrey city government has provided officers with bullet-proof vests in an effort to protect them.
Nuevo Leon and neighboring Tamaulipas state have been rocked by a wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers battling for control of smuggling routes into the United States.
More than 1,000 people, including about 80 police officers, have died in the violence in Nuevo Leon in the past year.
The violence has intensified in the two border states since the appearance in Monterrey in February 2010 of giant banners heralding an alliance of the Gulf, Sinaloa and La Familia drug cartels against Los Zetas.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
The cartels arrayed against Los Zetas blame the group’s involvement in kidnappings, armed robbery and extortion for discrediting “true drug traffickers” in the eyes of ordinary Mexicans willing to tolerate the illicit trade as long as the gangs stuck to their own unwritten rule against harming innocents.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and more than 36,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking officials.
Security forces have unearthed six more bodies in a northeastern Mexican border state where a drug gang is believed to be kidnapping passengers from buses and hiding their victims in secret graves, authorities said Tuesday.
A total of 183 bodies have been discovered in a month in 40 graves.
The horrific discoveries have intensified criticism that lawlessness reigns in Tamaulipas state, where the Zetas drug gang has terrorized migrants trying to make their way north to the United States. It is the same region where authorities say the Zetas killed 72 Central American migrants in August.
Meanwhile, a different search over the last month in the capital of northwestern Durango state has yielded 96 bodies in two mass graves as of Tuesday, said Gerardo Ortiz, spokesman for the state attorney general's office.
State investigators led by federal agents have exhumed 79 bodies in a car repair shop of a working-class neighborhood of Durango city, Ortiz said. Seventeen other decomposed bodies were found in mid-April next to a well-known hacienda in the city, less than a mile away from the car shop.
Ortiz said the bodies appear to have been buried under dirt for anywhere from six months to six years, but authorities don't know for sure because they haven't done tests.
He wouldn't say who the victims likely were or the motives. But unlike in Tamaulipas, where states across Mexico sent reports of missing persons and families lined at up morgues to give DNA samples, no one has been calling Durango. Very few families have inquired about loved ones, Ortiz said.
He said perhaps families were afraid to come forward, but he didn't want to speculate.
Both excavations are part of an investigation by the federal Attorney General's Office, Ortiz said.
But an official in the federal office disputed that. The official, who insisted on not being quoted by name, said state authorities are in charge of the Durango invesigation.
Federal Attorney General Marisela Morales said at a news conference Tuesday that six more bodies had been discovered in the San Fernando area of Tamaulipas just south of the U.S. border in the past week.
Security forces began exhuming the corpses on April 1 after they were led to the site by suspects who confessed to kidnapping and killing bus passengers traveling through the area.
The motive for the bus abductions remains unclear, though prosecutors have suggested the gang may be forcefully recruiting people to work for it. Morales said the Zetas have also been extorting migrants for up to $2,000. Those whose families pay are led across the border to the U.S. by the Zetas themselves, she said.
The discoveries of the mass graves have sparked sporadic protests by citizens.
Alejandro Poire, the government spokesman for security issues, insisted "the government is in control of Tamaulipas."
He said the government has sent more federal police to the state and is aggressively investigating the mass killings and working to prevent more deaths.
He said the increased federal presence has led to the rescue of 119 kidnapped people in the northern Tamaulipas city of Reynosa in recent days, including Mexican, Central American and Chinese migrants.
Morales said 74 suspects have been arrested in the Tamaulipas killings, including 17 officers in San Fernando's municipal police force who were identified as collaborators of criminals by some of the detainees.
Only two of the 183 victims have been identified, Morales said. Mexican authorities have declined to reveal their identities, but the Guatemalan government has said one was a Guatemalan national.
A number of mass graves have been discovered over the past in areas of Mexico where drug gang turf wars have been the fiercest.
President Felipe Calderon stepped up the fight against drug traffickers when he took office four years ago, deploying thousands of federal police and soldiers to cartel strongholds.
Not too long ago Mexico was regarded as the Latin American nation most likely to become a developed country. Now it is commonly seen, if not as a failed state, at least as a nation where some of the most powerful and ruthless criminals on the planet control important parts of the territory and critical public institutions.
The answer does not matter just to Mexicans. The United States and Europe, both with large numbers of drug users of their own and therefore with powerful drug trafficking organizations in their midst, are also affected by what happens in Mexico, just like the rest of Latin America.
A frequent response is that the current Mexican tragedy is the result of decades of tolerance for the narco-traffickers. There was a tacit non-aggression pact that the Mexican government, politicians, business leaders, and the media had with the drug cartels. Others blame President Felipe Calderón who, without a clear plan, declared war on the cartels thereby breaking the truce that kept the country relatively calm for years. Another explanation is that the problem was imported: "It's the gringos," said a Mexican friend. "The United States buys our drugs and thereby creates these immensely rich criminals to whom in turn they freely sell machine guns and all kinds of advanced weapons that are used to kill our people." The bad economy of recent years is of course also a factor.
It is a question of moral values, say others. President Calderón, for example, recently stressed that Mexico must continue fighting the criminals and strengthening its institutions, but stressed that rebuilding the moral base of Mexican society was the main priority. "I'll tell you something that will make you think," said the president. "We captured a criminal who was just 19 years old and yet he boasted that he'd killed more than 200 people."
Who is right? Everyone. There is no doubt that Mexican leaders for decades succumbed to the temptation to believe their country was merely a "transit point" between the Andean farmers and American consumers. This illusion masks the fact that the criminals controlling the transit routes become rich and powerful and inevitably end up controlling politicians, judges, generals, governors, mayors, police, media companies, and even banks. Furthermore, in all the "transit" countries, part of the inventory stays there and is consumed locally, thus boosting demand at home while some imports are replaced by domestic production which creates an indigenous drug industry.
It is also true that President Calderón, by attacking the drug cartels, stirred up a hornet's nest which led to this terrible war. But it's just as true that without Calderon's reaction the capture of much of the Mexican state by the traffickers would have been complete and would have placed the nation even more at risk.
The fiercest critics of the president do not seem to give too much weight to the urgent need to contain the criminalization of the state. They say the price paid by the country has been too high and that Calderon's reclamation of key public institutions from the grip of the criminals is limited and will, in any case, be ephemeral.
Unfortunately, many Mexicans, terrified by the daily horrors and seduced by promises of a return to the calmer past thanks to a hypothetical -- and no longer realistic in practice -- truce with the drug cartels, have abandoned their president. Thus, this battle, one which should be fought by any decent society, has been instead reduced to "Calderón's war." And Calderón cannot win it alone.
Reclaiming the state and the many societal institutions now in the hands of criminals will require time, sacrifice, and commitment from all Mexicans: politicians and social leaders, journalists and the military, trade unionists and businessmen, housewives and university students. This cannot be Calderón's war, it must be Mexico's war. But Mexicans are angered by decades of economic frustration as mediocre policies and politicians fail to deliver on their promises of progress.
The country's murder statistics are of course shocking.More than 30,000 dead so far. But other data on Mexico is also striking: according Cristobal Pera, the CEO of Random House Mexico, there are no bookstores in 94 percent of municipalities and the percentage of people who actually read books is one of the lowest in Latin America.
There is some other info about Mexico that is stunning:
94% of the municipalities of the country have no libraries and the reader index is one of the lowest in Latin America. According to a study by Johns Hopkins University, Mexico's workforce has one of the world's lowest rates of participation in non-profit organizations (0.04 percent in Mexico; more than 2 percent in Peru and Colombia). I cite these statistics only to suggest that Mexico's narcotics problem has wider and fiendishly complex ramifications ranging from irrational U.S. policies on drugs and arms sales; to the negligible consumption of books in the country; to the low quality of its educational institutions; to the precariousness of its civil society organizations.
There are no quick or simple solutions to these problems. But the inescapable reality is that this is not the president's problem. It's the entire country's problem. Unless this is recognized by Mexican leaders of all parties and social sectors, Mexico's violence will continue to be the beleaguered country's main story.
Note: This post was sent to me (and previously posted on the BB forum by Buela, below you will find her personal experience and feelings regarding the matter:
I thought I would share this thoughtful article written by MOISÉS NAÍM and published in El Pais. I appreciated the tone of expression, non-accusatory, very well done, I thought it worthy of translation.
I was struck by the information of "readers" in Mexico and lack of libraries. When I first arrived in Mexico I asked to see a library at a school I was visiting, my group of Mexican educators looked at me as though I was from Mars.
Later I learned that not only did the school lack a library, not one school in the city of 300K had a library, worse yet, the city did not have a library. In classrooms there were no books to "borrow" for leisure reading.
It was heartbreaking and explained why children asked when I was setting up a small library in a school "why do you need all these books?" However upon subsequent visits at schools where I set up reading rooms or small libraries the children would be disappointed if I did not bring a few new books....Buela