Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cartel Aerial Drops Thousands of Flyers in Culiacán; Blames Governor for Killing

by Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat

A departure from procedures typically used by cartels to convey messages was used Tuesday as thousands of flyers were aerial dropped on the Sinaloa city of Culiacán. 
The usual methods of hanging banners, displaying cartulinas, and posting videos have been long used to send messages.  Recently, in attempts to intimidate, terrorize and publicize threats, cartels have added the method of mass executions to accentuate messages.
In the past cartels have distributed small quantities of photocopied flyers, but the incident on Tuesday in the Sinaloa state capital was the first time that cartels have resorted to an aerial drop of flyers. 
Possibly, it may be another indication of heighten escalation in what has become a nationwide, military-scale battle between the Sinaloa cartel and the Los Zetas cartel.
"It appears they dumped them early in the morning from an airplane. They surely know that it would be very difficult to do by land," Sinaloa Gov. Mario Lopez Valdez said.
Security expert Raul Benitez at the National Autonomous University of Mexico said it was the first time he knew of such mass flyer distribution, much less from an aircraft.
"I can't remember any cartel having used an airplane to do this, nor of them having distributed propaganda in public places," said Benitez.
The single-page, computer-printed leaflets were unsigned, but expressed anger at the in custody killing of a suspect who was recently arrested and sent to a prison allegedly dominated by the Sinaloa cartel.
The suspect, who had been identified as a member of the Beltran Leyva gang, whose remnants have allied with the Zetas, was killed by another inmate four days ago.
The message was unsigned, the translated to English text as follows:

The governor denied he has links to Guzman. "This is a person I don't even know, whom I have never had contact with and from whom I have never received an order," Lopez Valdez said.
The content of the letter suggest it is the work of the Zetas, who have launched an all-out attack against Sinaloa strongholds after Sinaloa and their allies moved into Zetas territory in the states of Tamaulipas and Veracruz.
Benitez said. "The Sinaloa cartel is very powerful in monetary terms, but it has a weak force of hit men. And the Zetas are weak in terms of money, but they are very strong in military terms, they have real armies of killers."
The tit-for-tat battle is only likely to continue,  "It's about attacking enemy territory ... they keep striking blows against each other."
photos: RIODOCE
article source: RIODOCE & AP

Virtual Therapy Helps Residents of a Shell-shocked Juarez

Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times

A patient in Ciudad Juárez demonstrating treatment in which scenes related to a previous traumatic experience are viewed.


CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico — Every time Erica González put the video goggles on, the details of her four days in captivity came rushing back to her. She could smell the sweaty T-shirt used to cover her head, taste the ash in the beer bottles that she was made to drink water from and hear her abductors’ muffled conversations.

“It was scary to go through it again,” Ms. González said, “but I said, ‘It’s good for me.’ ”
Ms. González, 18, is one of 25 patients who recently completed a virtual therapy program similar to the one used by the United States military to treat Iraq war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Created by doctors and psychologists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the pilot project was aimed at filling a void in mental health services for Ciudad Juárez’s shellshocked residents.
The city, home to the powerful Juárez cartel and coveted by other criminal syndicates because of its strategic location within the drug trade, has been one of the front lines in President Felipe Calderón’s assault on organized crime.
The hair-raising virtual scenes that appear in the goggles were created for residents of this violence-racked city, which in recent years has had the highest murder rate in Mexico. The goggles show one of six scenes, including an armed robbery, a police checkpoint, a safe house for kidnappings and a shootout between cartel gunmen and army soldiers. Therapists show patients the scenes most closely related to their experience, and then further tailor the sessions to address their trauma more specifically, for instance by playing a song heard during their ordeal.
The program sharply reduced post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, with a success rate of 80 percent, organizers said.
“There has been a lot of attention to the problem of violence, which is understood as public safety, drug trafficking and police,” said Hugo Almada, who does research on the psychological toll of violence at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez. But the toll on mental health has been largely ignored, he said.
Even those directly affected by the city’s violence, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives in the past four and a half years, often do not know when they need help.
Another traumatized resident, Juan Carlos García, 29, stopped eating and sleeping and became withdrawn after his brother was killed and he had to identify the body at the morgue. After nearly a year, Mr. García’s wife and co-workers persuaded him to try the virtual reality treatment.
Wearing his goggles and headphones, he retold the series of traumatic events, from the last time he saw his brother alive to his burial. He worked through breathing exercises with his therapist afterward, techniques that were intended to help him lower his anxiety levels, which were monitored as he viewed the images through the goggles. And he did his homework between sessions, spending time in his brother’s room, visiting his grave and driving by the site where he was killed.
These exercises are especially important, the project’s therapists said, because unlike Iraq war veterans who eventually leave the battle zone, patients in Ciudad Juárez continue to live in danger. Because the patients have to drive by, or live near, the places where violent episodes occurred, the therapy is intended to help them stop avoiding these routes and routines.
But it is uncertain whether the program will continue, though, because the grant under which it was conceived ran out in December and no other financing has emerged, organizers said.
As emotionally draining as the process was, Mr. García said it was worth it. “I remember, but there isn’t as much pain,” he said.
The need for psychological services remains vast. A recent study by the university in Ciudad Juárez found that more than 70 percent of the city’s residents had passed by a cordoned-off murder site. The doctors leading the virtual reality treatment estimate that a quarter of the population in Ciudad Juárez suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Maria Teresa Cerqueira, chief of the United States-Mexico border office of the Pan American Health Organization, said many residents in the city were dealing with the loss of loved ones, the disappearance of people around them or fears over their own security. “You need a lot of therapists that can support people,” she said.

Brisa Delgado is one of the victims of violence left adrift by the lack of a response network. Gang members burst into a house party that she was attending in January 2010, firing indiscriminately and leaving 15 people dead. Ms. Delgado’s head was grazed by a bullet in the attack, which the authorities said was a gang’s attempt to neutralize young people they mistakenly thought were rivals. Her government-subsidized psychologist discharged her after two months of therapy, but Ms. Delgado, a soft-spoken 18-year-old with auburn bangs swept to the side, was not feeling any better.
“Every day I dream that I get killed,” she said, looking down at her fidgety hands.
Neglect toward mental health is not exclusive to Ciudad Juárez. All across Mexico, institutions for the mentally ill are known for their decrepit conditions. On a recent afternoon, a dozen patients huddled in the shady end of a courtyard in one of the shelters for the mentally ill in Ciudad Juárez, off a dusty highway east of the city. They swatted off flies drawn to the smell of feces and dirty clothes.
Most of the money to operate the shelter comes from private donations. The government’s participation is negligible, said the shelter’s founder, the Rev. José Antonio Galván, who often salvages discarded and expired food for the patients.
“These are people that don’t exist,” Father Galván said. “They are invisible.”
For those whose lives have been turned upside down by criminals, psychological care can make the difference between self-imposed seclusion and guarded freedom. Ms. González, who stayed home for months after her kidnapping, has begun venturing out again. She goes to the movies with her boyfriend from time to time and is planning to return to school in August.
Ms. González is afraid that she may be kidnapped again, but she still feels as if she has come a long way.
“Before, I couldn’t talk about it without crying,” she said with a small, triumphant smile.

Drug war ghosts

By Tomas Bravo

The memory is still fresh. I close my eyes and I can feel the tension. First the explosions… then the screams… then the silence.

The trickles of blood on the concrete make their way as small, red rivers to form a puddle, quickly dried by the sun. The bodies lie there, surrounded by police tape, waiting to be checked by forensic technicians. The prying eyes of the neighbors are fixed on the laughing police officers and the reporters who are speculating on the reasons for the execution.

Moments later the bodies are bagged and placed in a van, ready for their penultimate destination. If they are lucky they have family members who will recognize them at the coroner’s office and are able to give them a burial. In the worst cases, they will end up in a mass grave, next to others without names but similar in their wounds and histories in a parallel world.

Once the forensic experts and police officers are gone, only murmurs uttered by the curious crowd are left. A girl dressed in a school uniform looks at the blood on the pavement in horror, at the impact of the bullets on the wall surrounding the school and at the signature the killers left behind to make sure everybody knows who are responsible for the killings: “Z”

When I was offered the job of covering Monterrey and the so-called “Narco Wars” I had no idea what was coming. I arrived in March 2007 to a thriving city, stained only by isolated cases of violence. But in 2011 the 1,000 executions in the previous 12 months had been surpassed and the situation was out of control. People’s behavior and their routines had changed drastically. Night life was prohibited; no one wanted to be a victim.

The attacks on bars, executions of civilians and police in broad daylight and shoot-outs between rival gangs led to a rude awakening from the dreams of progress and welfare. Covering Mexico’s northern border also changed my life dramatically. Previously I lived in Guatemala and Honduras where what I had seen made a deep impression on me but nothing had prepared me for this.
It was a challenge and I committed mistakes in the beginning – mistakes that luckily didn’t have fatal consequences. I wasn’t the only one who had to live up to the changes. My colleagues who used to cover the occasional guy killed in a bar brawl or those who perished in a car accident were going through the same experience.

Threats became real and a few weeks after my arrival, hitmen kidnapped local journalists Gamaliel Lopez and cameraman Gerardo Paredes, both from TV Azteca, while they were leaving the University Hospital. Their bodies were never found and the guild would never be the same again. There was no margin for errors.

According to Reporters sans Frontières (Reporters without borders) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to work as a journalist. Colleagues from all over the country have suffered abuses while working, either from gangs or authorities and in the worst cases they have disappeared or have been executed. State and federal authorities rarely act in defense of journalists; there are neither investigations nor arrests made. Simply nothing.
While on assignment on the northern border I witnessed the worst human miseries: children killed or injured by stray bullets during clashes between rival gangs, headless corpses strung from bridges and overpasses, chopped off body parts thrown onto the street with threatening messages from one gang to another or to the government.
These deaths are just numbers for some media outlets, and for a large part of Mexican society, they are numbers that swell the statistics but have no face or name. Nobody was really interested.
People would say that those killed probably had something to do with it, that they “were involved somehow.” The conjecture above reason and the stigma annihilated logic, only the families left behind knew of the struggle.
The stress was huge. You live literally from day to day and the price is high. Threats, death and post traumatic stress disorder come with the job. For some of us it’s just a bitter experience, whereas others fare worse; they are kidnapped, tortured and killed, sometimes in front of their families, sometimes along with them.
The job has become Russian roulette but you don’t have the control of the trigger. Others do. To feel the cold metal of the muzzle pressed against your head, listening to the simple question “Do you value your life?” is something I don’t wish on anyone.
It’s hard to remember the most difficult situations. There’s always a lump in my throat or a lost tear, and the ghosts continue to be there, drunk on the adrenaline of the assignment.
I have always walked hand in hand with those who have allowed me to photograph them – their pain is often mine. Frequently I had to control my emotions at a funeral or at a crime scene, holding back the tears, gathering the strength to keep going.
I’d be lying if I said that my mind is okay after a little more than nine years covering the violence. I’d like to believe it is but every coverage leaves its mark; some difficult to get rid of. The tears of the people who cry for their loved ones, the threats, the adrenaline, the errors, and the shreds of the soul are left at each step.
Seeing the emptiness in the eyes of those who await the return of their loved ones back home, already knowing that such a return is impossible, is the emptiness I feel inside of me.
Now, since I’m living in Mexico City, everything looks so far away. It’s like I’ve woken up and the nightmare is finally over. I don’t hear the gunshots, the shooting blocks away from my house, nor the grenade attacks, nor the constant coming or going of sirens that break the silence of the night, nor crying or screaming.
But I know the problem is still there, fueled by corruption and disinterest of the authorities – the reality of a society that has been humiliated and oppressed forever.
I express my love and appreciation to all my friends and colleagues with whom I have shared moments of tension and journalistic joy, the exchange of experiences and solidarity in complex times. My respect for those who were threatened and also to those whose lives were blinded by bullets, hatred and stupidity. I share solidarity with those who have left their homeland, have been chased away by threats and left without the support of the media they work for.
Words or pictures do not stop bullets, and in the end, a story is not worth a life.

Counting the Cost - The cost of the 'war on drugs'

Counting the Cost - The cost of the 'war on drugs' por aljazeeraenglish

From the farmers to the traders, the cartels to the consumers, we assess the efecctiveness and the economics of the 'war on drugs'.

Adding to Unease of a Drug War Alliance

 Alexandre Meneghini/Associated Press:  Soldiers at a Mexico City ceremony on May 14.


 The biggest military corruption case here in recent years has worsened an already frayed relationship between American law enforcement officials and the Mexican Army, the institution most trusted and empowered by officials here to fight the drug war.

The case involves the arrests this month of four formerly high-ranking army officers, including a former under secretary of defense, who are suspected of passing information to the Beltrán Leyva drug gang for money. For some Americans, the arrests confirm a longstanding wariness of the army, and have reawakened concerns about how closely it may be linked to the gang, one of the top traffickers of cocaine to the United States and a particular focus of American drug agents.
American exasperation with the army reached a high point in 2009 when, fed up with what they saw as unusual foot-dragging by the army after it failed to act on American intelligence on the leader of Beltrán Leyva, the Americans turned to the Mexican Navy for help. The ensuing raid turned into a publicity coup for the navy when the gang leader was killed.
A meeting last year between American law enforcement agents and Mexican Army commanders to try to work through their differences ended abruptly. “It was basically 15 minutes, hello and goodbye,” said one official with knowledge of the meeting.
Much of what doomed it were bad feelings over leaked diplomatic cables from the American ambassador at the time, Carlos Pascual, who had vented about the army’s refusal to go after the Beltrán Leyva gang more aggressively. Mexican officials, including President Felipe Calderón, were outraged, and Mr. Pascual eventually resigned.
Now, several current and former American officials agreed, the detention of three generals and a lieutenant colonel accused of supplementing their civil servant salaries with drug profits has shaken the officer corps.
“The D.E.A. 99 percent of the time is going to deal with Mexican law enforcement, not the military,” said Michael Braun, a former chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. He recited a series of army-related corruption cases, including the 1997 conviction, on organized-crime charges, of a former general who was the country’s drug czar.
Still, American officials professed to be as puzzled as anybody else about why the military officers had been detained now, after three, including Tomás Ángeles Dauahare, the former defense under secretary, left the military; one, a general, was on active duty. It was unclear, the American officials said, if there was some hidden urgency or if the arrests merely reflected turmoil in the army ahead of the July 1 presidential election and the victor’s eventual appointment of new leadership at the Defense Ministry. Prosecutors have not divulged much about the case.
The army has played a pivotal, if reluctant, role — commanders have privately complained that they have no police training and that soldiers are too exposed to drug traffickers — in the antidrug offensive that Mr. Calderón began in 2006. Nearly 50,000 soldiers have fanned out across the country, confronting traffickers, seizing drug labs and burning marijuana crops, often replacing local police officers too corrupt or ill prepared to do their jobs.
In turning to the army, Mr. Calderón relied on one of the institutions that the Mexican public trusts most, ranked closely behind the Roman Catholic Church and universities in a survey last year by Consulta Mitofsky, a polling group.
The Americans, too, however warily, have supported the Mexican Army through a $1.4 billion antidrug program, known as the Merida Initiative, providing the army eight helicopters and training while American military officers seek to tighten bonds with their Mexican counterparts, particularly for counterterrorism efforts.
But awkward, tense encounters between American law enforcement agents and the Mexican Army are common, and they tend to themselves as distant cousins who have told ugly family stories about each other.
Few have been uglier than the case against the former officers accused of working for the Beltrán Leyva gang, known for its success in using violence and payments to corrupt and intimidate politicians, the police and, it now appears, members of the army.
The 2009 killing of the gang’s leader “will not solve Mexico's drug problem,” Mr. Pascual wrote in one cable, “but it will hopefully generate the momentum necessary to make sustained progress against other drug trafficking organizations.”
The sensitivity over that raid by the navy, and Mr. Pascual’s criticism, remains. Reluctant to antagonize a potential partner, no American official wished to be quoted by name commenting on the case of the detained generals or the state of the relationship.
From time to time, army insiders have fed tips to the Americans on generals believed to be dirty, but rarely has the Mexican government acted on them, current and former law enforcement officials said. The Reforma newspaper said 12 generals since 2000 had been accused of ties to organized crime.
American officials said that even though some of the intelligence they had passed on to Mexico about the Beltrán Leyva organization may have figured in the generals’ detention, they were not active participants in it.
“This is a Mexican investigation,” a senior State Department official said.

Mr. Calderón, in his first comments on the arrests, defended the army last week, saying, “Without the Mexican Army, the country probably would have fallen into criminal hands by now.”

“I regret and condemn that some, specifically identified, according to the evidence found by both the attorney general and the military prosecutor, may have been involved in illegal acts,” he said.
The military’s human rights record has also created tension, with a State Department report released Thursday noting complaints over unexplained disappearances and other allegations of abuse at the hands of soldiers. The report, assessing human rights around the world, took Mexico to task for tolerating official corruption and said human rights monitors called the Mexican Army “the government entity with the greatest number of human rights complaints (1,695) filed against it during the year.”
American agents all seem to have a story about suspicious Mexican Army activity.
Mr. Braun, former Drug Enforcement Agency chief of operations, recalled helping to monitor a group of police officers pursuing a drug plane in southern Mexico in the early 1990s. When it landed, the officers moved in, but they were intercepted by soldiers, who, Mr. Braun said, “executed them on the airstrip.”
“They didn’t know the military was there guarding a load,” he said. “Nobody knew that.”
Jayson P. Ahern, a former Customs and Border Protection commissioner who is now a consultant with the Chertoff Group in Washington, recalled getting regular reports of soldiers who had ended up in American territory in remote Southwestern desert areas known to be drug-trafficking routes. They always claimed to have lost track of the international boundary, a plausible explanation in dark, inhospitable terrain.
“There was never an instance where it was shown to be actual cartel activity,” Mr. Ahern said. “But it was certainly suspicious.”
The current case continues to generate plenty of intrigue. Last week, Mexico extradited to Texas an important leader in the Beltrán Leyva gang, Sergio Villarreal. Known as “El Grande,” he had been long sought by the United States, and local news reports said he had given a statement linking the detained army officers to the cartel. American officials said Mr. Villarreal’s extradition had not been tied to the corruption case.
“In the past, the Mexican Army was one of the most nationalist institutions in Mexico; they wave the sovereignty flag,” said Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement who helped oversee the agency’s work in Mexico. “So it has taken a while for the law enforcement community, our officials, to embrace this effort. Law enforcement works with law enforcement. Traditionally that is the way it has been.”

14 kilos of cocaine seized in Tijuana

14 Kilos seized in Tijuana, belonging to 'El Tigre'

Yesterday around 4:30 P.M, munipical police arrested a mother and her daughter, and two other men, in the Linda Vista colonia, in Zona Central.  According to reports the police, on patrol, observed the suspects engaging in transferring packages from one vehicle to another, in an apparently suspicious manner.  

Police learned that Aurelia Rocha Soto, 65, was the mother of her companion, Ortesmia Rocha, 39.  The packages that were being loaded into a gray blazer, from a green Cherokee, were 14 kilos of cocaine, wrapped in gray duct tape, with stickers of 'Winnie The Pooh' and 'Tigger', and hearts and flowers.  Police, after interrogations established a chain of command, and custody, eventually leading to the owner of the kilos.  

The four who were detained yesterday, work for someone known as 'El Burro', who reports to  Rosy Hernandez Guajardo, the sister of Hector Guajardo Hernandez, 'El Guicho', who was arrested last summer.  All of them are subordinates of Jose Soto Gasteleum, known as 'El Tigre', who belonged to the group under Teodoro Simental, 'El Teo', and who still leads a cell, apparently under the Sinaloa banner, however, there are some different reports on this. 

If you recall, 'El Tigre' was the one responsible for the seizure of 134 tons of marijuana in October 2010, which was being stored in a warehouse, waiting to be broken down, and crossed.  The 134 had several different owners, including Fernando Sanchez Arellano, and Alfredo Arteaga, 'El Achilles'.  Tigre sent men to steal the shipment, which was believed to be only three tons, instead it caught the attention of the Army, and ultimately lead to the entire load being seized.  

This set off a feud between 'El Tigre' and 'El Aquiles', who apparently both operated for 'El Mayo', but were competing for power and preference among their superiors.  A rehab center in Tijuana was stormed by gunmen, lead by 'El Boxer', who was operating under 'El Achilles'.  The shooters killed 13, and taunted Tijuana munipical police on the radio, tactics not seen since the bloody reign of El Teo.  

Jose Soto is said to have his base of operations in Rosarito, and has apparently brought 'El Rosy' under his fold, after previously fighting her group, after the capture of 'El Guicho'.  Zeta Tijuana has reported that the group of 'El Tigre' is also hostile to the Sanchez Arellano group, as well as the Achilles group, but it is a murky and layered picture, that clouds with more information, instead of clarifying.  

This is the second seizure of Sinaloa Cartel cocaine in Tijuana, in the last few weeks.  26 kilos, said to belong to El Mayo were stopped last week.  The workers admitted they worked for the aging, legendary, Sinaloa leader.  It is worth noting that the seizures this week were made by municipal police, who, according to statements made by captured 'El Chapito', Octavio Leal Hernandez, are largely loyal to 'El Achilles'.  

El Tigre, though responsible for multiple murders and kidnapping, has not yet had an arrest warrant issued against him, as Zeta Tijuana reported earlier this year. Accusing the PGR of allowing him, and other traffickers in Tijuana to operate with apparent 'carte blanche'.  Murders and violence continue to drop in Tijuana, however.  Even Anthony Bourdain filmed a recently aired episode of 'No Reservations' in Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada, that featured the famous chef personality sampling Baja's revered cusine in upscale restaurants, as well as taco stands on the street.   

Sources:  AFN Tijuana, SD RED, Zeta Tijuana. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

10 die in Coahuila

By Chris Covert

A total of five unidentified individuals were found in a grave in a remote area of Coahuila state and five others were killed or were found dead over the weekend in the La Laguna region of Coahuila state, according to Mexican news and Twitter accounts.

A Mexican Army unit was dispatched Saturday to a canyon in La Roja de la sierra de Arteaga, where the unit found a  grave containing the remains of five individuals.  The victims has been tortured and were shot at the site.  Several spent shell casings were found at the scene.   News reports say the victims had been dead for two years.

Arteaga municipality is adjacent to Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila.  According to reports the location about 15 kilometers by dirt road, presumably to the east of the Monclova-Monterrey highway or Mexico Federal Highway 57.  It is unclear the circumstances which sent the army unit to the location to find the grave.

According to a posting at Nota Roja Koneocho blog, a total of five individuals were shot to death or were found dead, and five others were wounded in the La Laguna  region of Mexico
  • Two men were shot to death and three others were wounded at an office near the intersection of calzada Abastos and Independencia.  Only one of the victims, Houston Andres Lopez, 22, was identified.
  • At Plaza Cuatro Caminos, a man identified by a relative as Antonio Avalos de la Paz, 30, was found shot to death.
  • Two individuals,identified as Esteban Velazquez Perales and Jessica Guerrero Galvan  were shot and wounded near the intersection of calles Sarabia and Revolucion.
  • Two taxi drivers were shot and wounded near the intersection of calzada Lazaro Cardenas and Rodriguez Triana.
  • Enedino Goday Flores, 23, was found shot to death in La Laguna colony.
  • An unidentified man in his 30s was found shot to death near the intersection of calles Campo and Nuevo Zaragoza.
  • Near Diagonal Reforma an unidentified man was shot and wounded in an armed mugging outside a grocery store.
The La Laguna region in Mexico is astride Mexico Federal Highway 40, the northern most contiguous major highway linking the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. La Laguna encompasses the cities of Torreon in Coahuila, Ciudad Lerdo and Gomez Palacio in Durango.  It is also the site of the security operation Seguro Laguna commanded by the Mexican Army, specifically the Mexican XI Military Region.  Seguro Laguna was initiated last fall.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for

12 bad guys killed in Veracruz state

By Chris Covert

A firefight between a Mexican Army unit and armed suspects has claimed the lives of 12 armed suspects Tuesday, according to Mexican news reports.

According to information found on the website of El Universal news daily, the confrontation took place near the village of Palo Gacho in Emiliano Zapata municipality, where the Mexican Army maintained a security checkpoint.

According to a report published at the website of Milenio news daily, a group of armed suspects travelling aboard several vehicles refused an order to stop, which initiated the gunfight.

Soldiers at the scene also seized an undisclosed number of weapons and vehicles.

According to the Milenio report, a Twitter posting from the government of Veracuz state disclosed  that a number of military checkpoints are set up on major roads into Xalapa.

Emiliano Zapata municipality is about 15 kilometers southeast of Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz state, and about three kilometers southwest of Mexico Federal Highway 140.

The security operation was billed as part of Seguro Veracruz, which is a joint security operation similar to Seguro Laguna, which combines municipality state and federal security assets in an effort to stop illegal drug manufacture and distribution on the area as well as migrants travelling to the north and the United States.

In a related report on the website of, four unidentified individuals were found dead near the village of Matacocuite in Veracruz municipality bringing a total of 100 individuals have been murdered or found dead in less than a month in Veracruz state.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news fro

 © Copyright 2012 by Chris Covert
You must obtain permission to reprint this article.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bad guys attack cop shop in Jalisco state

By Chris Covert

As many as 40 armed suspects attacked the facade of the police station and city hall in San Cristobal de la Barranca municipality in extreme northern Jalisco state Sunday morning, according to Mexican news reports.

A report on the website of El Sol de Zacatecas news daily said that the suspects arrived aboard ten pickup trucks at about 0600 hrs, dismounted and then proceeded to fire on the police station.  The firing last five minutes.

The suspects then left board their vehicles in the direction of the nearby village of La Lobera.  The attack left no one hurt.  About 500 spent shell casing from AR-15 and AK-47 rifles were found at the scene.

San Cristobal de la Barranca is on the mountain highway Mexico Federal Highway 23 which connects Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state in the south with Teul de Gonzalez Ortega in Zacatecas state in the north.

The area since at least 2011 has been a scene of an intense and deadly competition between Los Zetas, and La Valencia Drug Cartel and Carteles Unidos, both of which are aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel.

That competition has led to large scale armed encounters between the groups, the bloodiest of which was an unconfirmed gunfight in San Cristobal de la Barranca municipality, which led to as many as 20 dead a year ago.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for

© Copyright 2012 by Chris Covert
You must obtain permission to reprint this article.

10 killed in Acapulco over the weekend

At least 10 people were murdered over the weekend in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, Mexican prosecutors said.

The bodies of nine men and a woman were found in different sections of the port city between Saturday night and noon on Sunday, spokesmen for the Guerrero state Attorney General’s Office told Efe.

The woman’s body was discovered around 2:00 a.m. Sunday on a highway near Acapulco, the AG’s office said, adding that the unidentified victim appeared to be in her early 20s.

Two dismembered bodies were found Sunday morning by the Acapulco municipal police department.

The mutilated bodies were discovered in Acapulco’s La Maquina district, with the heads and extremities left alongside the trunks.

Two men were gunned down at a basketball court in La Maquina on Saturday morning.

The other five bodies were found in different sections of the resort city, and all of the victims died from gunshot wounds, the AG’s office said.

The La Barredora drug gang and the Cartel Independiente de Acapulco have been fighting for control of the resort city for more than one year.

The two gangs were originally part of the criminal organization run by Edgar Valdez Villarreal, the AG’s office said.

Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie,” was arrested by the Federal Police on Aug. 30, 2010.

Guerrero Gov. Angel Aguirre Rivero launched an operation involving state police and Federal Police officers to provide security in areas frequented by foreign and domestic tourists.

“Operation Safe Guerrero” was launched on Oct. 6, 2011, in an effort to reduce the soaring crime rate in the state.

People living in other areas of Acapulco have been demanding a larger police presence due to the surge in drug-related violence.

Acapulco, a favorite among Mexican and foreign tourists for decades, has lost business to other destinations due to the violence.

The war between La Barredora and the Cartel Independiente de Acapulco is behind the rising body count in the Pacific port city, officials said. EFE

Mexico suspects cartel in Pepsi subsidiary attacks

Photo credit: AP | In this photo taken late Friday, May 25, 2012, flames rise from a warehouse of the Mexican potato-chip company Sabritas, in Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico. Over the weekend, unidentified gunmen launched a series of coordinated attacks against the company's installations in the western state of Michoacan in what has been described as the most violent and concerted attack on a private transnational company in the country's 5 ½-year drug war. Sabritas is a subsidiary of PepsiCo. (AP Photo)
Mark Stevenson

A drug cartel lieutenant has been detained in a series of firebombing attacks on Mexican potato-chip company Sabritas, a subsidiary of U.S. food giant PepsiCo. Businessmen and experts said Monday the attacks were the first coordinated targeting of a multinational company in Mexico's 5 1/2-year-long drug war.
Five Sabritas warehouses and vehicle lots were attacked Friday and Saturday in the Mexican states of Michoacan and Guanajuato. Witnesses in one case described armed, masked men who tossed firebombs and torched dozens of the company's distribution trucks and some warehouses.
Gerardo Gutierrez, president of Mexico's Business Coordinating Council, said Monday that it was "an isolated case" of the kind of extortion that gangs have previously practiced with small and medium-sized businesses. He called on authorities to act immediately to prevent the practice from spreading.
"What we cannot allow is for this kind of isolated case to become generalized," Gutierrez said. "The authorities have to take forceful action."
In a speech to an anti-crime conference Monday, President Felipe Calderon said drug cartels threaten growth and development and called them "an obstacle to prosperity because they attack companies large and small."
The state attorney general's office in Guanajuato confirmed Monday that several suspects had been detained in the attacks there, and that one was identified as a lieutenant of the Knights Templar drug cartel. The office did not suggest a possible motive.
Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former official in Mexico's CISEN intelligence agency, said it was the first attack he could recall against a transnational company in Mexico. Even in Mexico's most violent city, Ciudad Juarez, the warring drug gangs have largely left alone the many foreign-operated assembly plants known as maquiladoras.
"In Ciudad Juarez, they practically never tried to blackmail the maquiladoras," Hope said. "They focused more on small businesses ... they are easier targets, and with an industrial firm, one doesn't know exactly who to blackmail. It's not as clear who signed the checks or controls the checkbook."
The huge state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos oil company has suffered hundreds of non-violent fuel thefts from pipelines and the kidnapping of some employees. But only leftist rebels have tried to set fire to its facilities.
In a statement issued Sunday, PepsiCo said five distribution centers were damaged, but no one was injured in the attacks and the amount of the damages had not been calculated.
The company appeared to respond to emails that circulated in Michoacan, home of the Knights Templar drug cartel, suggesting the attacks were revenge for the unproven allegation that prosecutors used Sabritas' extensive fleet of delivery trucks to gather intelligence.
"We repeat that in accordance with our code of conduct, all of our operations are carried out in the current regulatory framework and our vehicles and facilities are used exclusively to carry our products to our customer and clients," the company said. The company would not say whether that statement responded to the spying allegations.
Hope said such a spying scenario sounded unlikely, if not impossible. Sabritas employs more than 70,000 people and has a nationwide delivery fleet of about 14,500 trucks that are a common sight even in the most dangerous and remote parts of Mexico.
Hope said the attacks may not represent a new stage in drug gang extortions, but rather stem from the peculiar characteristics of the Knights Templar, a pseudo-religious cartel that split from Michoacan's La Familia cartel in 2011.
The Knights Templar organization is a relatively local, minor player in drug smuggling, trafficking mainly in methamphetamines and marijuana. With little access to the more lucrative cocaine and heroin business, cartel members have sought to raise money from other criminal activities.
"The Knights Templar have been more aggressive in their use of extortion and alternative sources (of income) than practically any other cartel, except the Zetas," Hope said. The hyperviolent Zetas cartel was formed along Mexico's Gulf coast by deserters from an elite military unit and has been linked to the extortion and kidnapping of civilians.

UPDATE: According to Investigators, the attacks were launched after the company repeatedly refused to pay $50,000 pesos per month in extortion fees. (cuaota). Meanwhile, Sabritas has released a statement claiming there has never been any threats or extortion attempts.
Neither threats nor extortion: Sabritas (Spanish)

MEXICO: The Killing of Innocents, by Cartels, Police, Military and Death Squads

By Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat

On New Year’s Day of this year, I wrote an article for Borderland Beat and titled it “A Closer Look: Who Were The 35 Slaughtered in Veracruz?” I wanted to bring to readers the probability that the dead were not criminals, but rather they were victims chosen randomly to create a macabre display so monstrous it would shock and terrorize citizens and grasp the attention of the world press.

It was September 2011, in Beautiful Boca del Rio, Veracruz.  Amid rush hour traffic, adjacent to the World Trade Center and Plaza of the Americas, there just before an overpass laid a gruesome sight; 35 bloody, bounded, nude or semi nude corpses had been thrown to the pavement of Adolfo Ruiz Blvd. 

The victims all bore signs of extreme torture.  “Branded” with paint messages on each of their bodies the words “POR Z” (for Zetas.), The majority had died of asphyxiation, a few by blunt trauma and one by gunshot to the head.
The gunmen displayed two banners declaring the dead were of the Los Zetas cartel, one banner read:
(Former Attorney General of Veracruz)
Within hours, and much too hasty for the comfort of those who are familiar with the interworking’s of an investigation, the Veracruz Attorney General Renaldo Escobar Perez announced  most of the bodies had been identified and all had connections to organized crime, further all had criminal records for serious crimes,  including kidnapping, murder, and drug trafficking.
The governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte wasted no time reaching out via social networks, Twitter and Facebook declaring the same as his attorney general.  Irony was not lost on the fact that Duarte, a PRI Party Governor, had previously threatened to imprison anyone who sends out erroneous info via Twitter or any social network. 

Months later the truth would be revealed, that in fact none of the dead had ties to organized crime and almost none had criminal records of serious crimes.  Six had records of minor violations, such as fighting or stealing, and one was suspected of a serious crime which had no link to organized crime.
Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas Martinez, then Deputy Regional of PGR, now the head of the organized crime division of SIEDO, quietly waited until the investigation was complete before reporting with respect to the victims,  “not of organized crime”, and “most without criminal history”.

In an interview by Joaquin Lopez Doriga,  Salinas Martínez,   reiterated    twice the fact that the dead were not found to have cartel connections.  Lopez Doriga pressed further by asking, “Both Governor Duarte and the then Procurator of Justice stated that the deceased 35 had a criminal records, do you corroborate that?".
Salinas Martinez skillfully pirouetted around the fact that both the Governor and the Attorney General were either liars, or at best  mistaken, as he carefully answered,  “In  regards to the statements by the then Attorney General  and Governor,  I cannot say anything because I don't know about that, but in what it corresponds to the file that I had at my disposal, it  is another perspective, for let’s say something in this regard, it’s another version…” answered Salinas Martine

Subsequently, Renaldo Escobar would resign, and the entire police force of Boca del Rio would be fired for corruption, the Marina (Navy) would fill in the policing duties of the municipality.

Incredibly, few in the global press have made corrections to the identity of the victims, that in truth among the dead were housewives, students, and a highly decorated police officer.  For the most part the dead were good, hardworking, regular citizens; innocents used as props.  Even on this date if one looks at the news accounts  for the massacre, it remains attributed as a criminal on criminal crime and the dead were of the Los Zetas cartel.
The January post was well received, but a fair amount of readers balked at the notion, believing the words of executioner’s banner rather than the Federal Agency and the families of the victims.  

Innocents, (civilian) being used by narcos to send a message is not a new theory, however as crimes became executed in greater numbers, and the increased intensity of horror, people bravely came forth crying out for justice for their murdered loved ones, falsely accused of being narcos. Whereas the question of innocents being used by cartels has always been spoken about, at this point in time people are no longer rejecting the idea but coming to terms of its reality.

The Veracruz 35 and Chapala, and it is suspected that the Guadalajara's, Jalisco, Nuevo Laredo, and Nuevo Leon recent mass killings were of innocents.   

Additionally, there are the blogger murders. The first of the three executions were of a female and male couple, kidnapped, tortured and left hanging on a bridge in Nuevo Laredo. Next came the execution of a woman named Maria Elizabeth Macías, ( "La Nena de Laredo) her tortured, decapitated body was left near a monument in the center of a roundabout. Her decapitated head posed a top a computer keyboard.
A fourth victim ”blogger” named "Rascatripas" was a 35-year-old man was killed and left on the same roundabout as Nena.  By narco messages left at the scene, Los Zetas took responsibility for the executions, declaring that the four were narco reporting on blogs After it became apparent that the first two killed were not connected to a blog or news source reporting narco news, one could be assured that Zetas would strike again.

That is when “Nena” was killed.  It was confirmed that she was a contributor to Nuevo Laredo en Vivo, a citizens forum created for citizens to share information of narco activities.
With the last of the four, Rascatripas, was a message stating the man was a reporter for Nuevo Laredo en Vivo, nonetheless the blog via twitter rejected that notion, Nuevo Laredo Vivo (Nuevo Laredo Live) reported that the man killed is "not one of our collaborators," but "a scapegoat" whose murder serves to send a message of fear.  In summation, 3 of the 4 have not proven to have a connection to a narco news blog.
Another high profile example is the Chapala, Jalisco massacre. On May 9 of this year 18 people were found murdered and dismembered. The massacre is the work of the Zetas allied cartel Milenio Cartel. Immediately the word was the victims were not cartel connected but were innocents.
The story did not stop there. First it was reported that the death total was to be higher, by 14.  14 kidnapped children were held in a guarded safe house in Tala. By incredible fate the sicario was late to the execution. Just late enough for the guards to become so high on drugs they passed out.
This offered the victims an opportunity to escape, all but two left through a window.12 boys left immediately leaving behind two that were imprisoned by fear. The decision to stay turned out to be a deadly one, as the two fearful boys were found one day later murdered and dismembered among the 18 killed.
On May 12ththe General Attorney of Justice of the State of Jalisco reported on the capture of the mastermind of the massacre of the 18 on May 9th. He was identified as, Juan Carlos Antonio Mercado, aka El Chato, the Chief of plaza of the Los Zetas cartel in Tala, Jalisco.
“Chato” pointed out that the 12 kidnapped who managed to escape from a safe house from his command, are “innocents” with no criminal ties.
“Randomly” Chato answered when asked how people were selected for execution. “People were going to be tortured and dismembered, to then be thrown to the Arcos de Millennium, my boss chose victims, he said who, then I kidnapped", he would point out one and say “that one”, explained Chato.
Nuevo Laredo, on May fourth a total of 23 bodies were found, nine hanging off a bridge, with Zetas taking responsibility,  then hours later fourteen dismembered "Zetas" with Chapo Guzman leader of the Sinaloa cartel taking responsibility.  State authorities in a news conference stated the dead were regular citizens, not narcos. 
On May 13th, 49 dismembered bodies were abandoned in Nuevo León, next to the bodies a banner signed by los zetas, the banner identified the dead as criminals.
Days later dozens of banners signed by Los Zetas, disclaimed responsibility. Reports on leading Mexican newspapers claimed justice is finally realized as the executioners were members of the Gulf cartel and who concocted a plan that Los Zetas would be blamed. 
Eight  members of the Gulf cartel were detained including a person using the moniker “El Loco”.  The information was announced by SEDENA agency. Ultimately, "El Loco" was apprehended and identified by SEIDO (agency Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime) in the perp presentation as a leader of the Los Zetas cartel. The entire scenario created confusion and mistrust of the federal agencies that appear not to have been collaborating with one another.
The SEDENA agency indicated that though most victims were decapitated, not all, and those with heads had facial features consistent with Central America or “Southern Mexico”, and suspected to be, at least in part, innocents. For their part SEIDO has not issued a statement about the issue.
Reported in Milenio News Agency; before the discovery of the 49 butchered bodies, it was presumed, and gaining strength  in recent months, that the evidence is clear that in many massacres innocent people have been represented as criminals by drug traffickerers.


                 “Randomly” Chato answered when asked how people were selected for execution. “
The above video is a recording of  “El Chato”, below is the video dialog, translated into English.

Police: What is you're name?
El Chato: Juan Carlos Antonio Mercado
Police: What is you're alias?
El Chato: "El Chato" (Meaning flat faced...)
Police: Who do you work for?
El Chato: Cartel Millennium
Police: How many people did you participate in kidnapping?
El Chato: 16
Police: Where were you holding them captive?
El Chato: In a house in Tala (Jalisco)
Police: You were in charge of the operation, what did you do and how much were you paid?
El Chato: 7,500 pesos a week... (About 600 U.S. dollars...)
Police: For how long?
El Chato: Since mid April. We kidnapped them and were going to leave the bodies in the arcos de millennium, but we couldn't because it was full of police and they were on to us, we couldn't leave the bodies there...
Police: How did you choose the victim's?
El Chato: Randomly...
Police: So they are innocent people?
El Chato: Yes...
Police: What was the purpose of this?
El Chato: To send a message, I don't know...
Police: What message?
El Chato: I don't know, a message for the government I think...
Police: Who were you doing this for?
El Chato: Fernando, he was the one that tortured them...
Police: You only kidnapped them or what else did you do?
El Chato: I kidnapped them, Fernando tortured them...
Police: What time of day did you kidnap them and what type of person did you kidnap?
El Chato: I would just get the order from Fernando, Fernando would come with me, he would just say "get that person", and we would get them...
Police: Fernando is a ZETA?
El Chato: YES...
Police: What is his code?
El Chato: R2...
Police: What is your code?
El Chato: R8
Police: What does the "R" stand for?
El Chato: I don't know, they just told me I am "R8"...
Police: Who told you?
El Chato: Fernando...
Police: Do you work for any other cartel's?
El Chato: No...
Police: Who is directly in charge of you?
El Chato: Fernando...
Police: What is his alias?
El Chato: R2...
Police: Regarding the people in Tala,  when did you kidnap them and how are they related to the 18 bodies found in Chapala?
El Chato: We just fucked them up, Fernando got phone numbers from the people in Chapala...
Police: You were going to dismember them also?
El Chato: I think so...
Police: When did you kidnap the people that were killed in... (I don't know the name of this town...)
El Chato: At the end of April...
Police: We have heard of a "Cuota", was there a certain number of people you had to kidnap?
El Chato: First they told me 10 then later 15...
Police: Did you participate in the kidnapping of the 3 waiters from the restaurant in Chapala?
El Chato: No...
Police: Did you participate in the killing of the two young men?
El Chato: No, Fernando killed them, Fernando chose the victim's...
Police: Why? What physical characteristics did the people have? (what type of people)?
El Chato: I don't know, he just told me get this person or that person...
Police: How many people work for you?
El Chato: Seven...
Police: Are you sorry for what you did?
El Chato: Yes...
Police: When were you going to kill the 12 people that were found alive or what was the plan?
El Chato: Supposedly the 10th of May (Mothers Day in Mexico...)
Police: Why?
El Chato: I don't know...
Police: Did you take out money from an ATM with a victim's bank card?
El Chato: That's right...
Police: You were with others?
El Chato: Yes, "El Moco" (Booger...)
Police: El Moco works for you?
El Chato: We work together...
Police: How much did you take out of the ATM?
El Chato: 3,000 pesos (About 250 U,S. dollars...)
Police: What were you going to do with the money?
El Chato: I gave 1,500 to the guero... (Guero means light skinned person...)

Narco execution is not the only threat to the people of Mexico.  A new report from the U.S. State Department reveals that Mexican police and the military have "engaged in unlawful killings, forced disappearances, and instances of physical abuse and torture".  The report findings are that the Mexican government is killing and torturing their people and covering the horrendous acts by altering records and being deceitful by safeguarding  the truth from the public.

In late 2010, the respected Mexican News Agency El Universal published an article titled “Social Cleansing Not Drugwar”.  The article detailed the determination of a small group of Mexican Senators and their effort to force CISEN (intelligence branch) to release documents and a report that contained evidence of “Comando Negro”,  Black Commando death squads, also called “grupos de limpieza”, Social Cleansing  Squads.  
In September 2010, the Senate formally asked the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) for detailed reports about the existence of these groups, whom it called "death squads" because it is believed they may be responsible for a large number  of  murders officially recognized in this war against the drug cartels, and for thousands of unsolved disappearances.

"These groups operate outside the law with the knowledge and complicity of the Mexican State," said Senator Ricardo Monreal Avila, parliamentary coordinator of the Labour Party  and the leader of the group who sponsored  the request for information from Cisen.  It is thought that thousands of Army deserters, both soldiers and officers, and police officers fired for corruption make up these groups. They are "trained paramilitaries," says the Senator.

Under the guise of authority the squads wear police uniforms, carry badges and drive patrol cars.  In the article Universal asserts “ No accounting is given to what actually occurs, but if revealed we would see that there are not 28,000 murders, as the government insists, but more than 40,000.  (These represent 2010 numbers). 

Wikileaks Cable:

2009 U.S. State Department cable, later released by Wikileaks, hinted at darker forces at work: paramilitary death squads.

"City and state government officials have argued that there exists no evidence of a vigilante movement in Ciudad Juarez and that the messages by the CCJ (Juarez Citizen Command) are a hoax. A consulate contact in the press, however, suggests that the CCJ is a real self-defense group comprised of eight former 'Zetas' hired by four Juarez business owners (including 1998 PRI mayoral candidate Eleno Villaba)."

The cable went on to describe how the Zetas — a cartel that operates largely along the Gulf of Mexico — obtained their weapons. "According to the contact, the former Zetas paid a visit on local military commanders when they arrived in Juarez in September 2008, and purchased previously seized weapons from the army garrison. According to the contact, the former Zetas pledged not to target the army, and made themselves available to the army for extrajudicial operations."
In the book “El Sicario”, authored by Molly Molloy and Charles Bowden, Molloy in her introduction wrote about the Universal article and the death squads. The victims of these groups are the “malandros” or bad guys, gays, riffraff, all the elements of society that they deem human garbage. Below is an excerpt from the book;
The Universal article should have been an international bombshell, but the truth is the article was ignored not only by the Mexican press, but by the international press. Maybe it is not an eyebrow raising fact that the Mexican press ignored the article, but it is an outrage that the international press considered it unimportant and ignored the courageous article.

Perhaps that should be remembered when being critical with respect to the Mexican press coverage of the Drugwar.

To read the State Department Report LINK HERE

English Translated Version of "Social Cleansing, Not Drugwar" Universal Article HERE

Further Information on the US State Department Report, by Chris Covert HERE
Chato Interview translated on Borderland Beat Forum, found on "Chivos" post

To DD Of Borderland Beat Forum...muchas gracias mi amigo (for the cable information)