Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mexican federal judge orders arrests of five Mexican Army officers

By Chris Covert

Five Mexican Army officers have been ordered to detention by an unidentified Mexican federal district judge, according to Mexican news accounts.

According to an article posted on the website of Milenio news daily, among the officers ordered detained were retired General de Division Tomas Angeles Dauahare, retired General de Division Ricardo Escorcia Vargas, retired General de Brigadier Roberto Dawe Gonzalez, retired Lieutenant Colonel Silvio Isidro de Jesus Hernandez Soto and Major Ivan Reyna Muñoz.

All five are charged with a nexus to organized crime to commit crimes against health.

According to a report posted on the website of La Jornada En Linea news daily, the army officers are charged with protecting elements of the Beltran-Leyva drug cartel including Edgar Valdez Villarreal, Gerardo Alvarez Vazquez, and their cocaine trade.

The five officers are ordered to be detained for 80 days while investigations and trials are conducted.  This form of detention is routine in high profile drug cases but the length of this detention is double what is considered normal.

General de Divsion Angeles Dauahare became an issue on last springs's Mexican presidential election as it was found he was on a slate of at large legislative candidates for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI)  PRI went on to win crushing electoral victories throughout Mexican everywhere, but in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com

Mexican Marines bag five, detain four in firefight in Veracruz

By Chris Covert

A total of ten individuals including five municipal police officers have been killed in two separate gun fights in Veracruz state Tuesday according to Mexican news accounts.

According to an article posted on the website of ElPueblo.mx news daily, five unidentified armed suspects were killed after they fired on a Mexican naval infantry convoy near Xalapa, the capitol of Veracruz state.  An additional four suspects were also detained following the end of the firefight.

The marine unit was on patrol, between Xalapa and San Andres Tlalnehuayocan municipalities on Prolongacion Diamante in Unidad y Progres colony, when it came under small arms fire. 

Undisclosed quantities of weapons and vehicles were also seized by the marines.

In a remote mountain location in Veracruz state, several municipal police agents were ambushed and  five were killed by armed suspects in Ixhuatlan Madero municipality, according to a Notimex dispatch posted on the website of Aztecas Noticias news website.

The police group was travelling along a stretch of road between Onatal Azteca and Otatitlan when it came under small arms fire.

The article said the the attack was repelled, presumably meaning that several municipal police agents were involved in the ambush, but the article does not elaborate how many.  The report does not note any casualties of the attackers.

An operation is currently underway to locate the armed suspects responsible for the attack.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com

The Tarahumara Mountains: The Narco, tales of terror

Patricia Mayorga

Chihuahua, Chih. 7-27-2012 (apro). - Stories of terror in Guadalupe y Calvo Municipality, located in the Tarahumara Mountains,  repeat themselves day after day, without municipal, state or federal authorities doing anything about it. In the community of Ojito, for example, an armed group last Wednesday, July 26,  executed a young man, 27 years of age. The victim, Saul Martinez Rodriguez, was decapitated in front of his relatives.

Before they cut his throat, the murderers made a 16 inch cut on his chest. Hypovolemic shock was the cause of death, according to the Southern Zone Attorney general's office.

In Guadalupe y Calvo violence is the daily bread. The last week this past June, the armed group that controls this administrative government center stripped municipal police agents of their weapons and demanded 10,000 pesos for their return.  Not satisfied with that action, on the 29th an armed group slit open a man's throat in front of the hospital.

In an interview, the mayor Jose Ruben Gutierrez Lorea admitted there are violent incidents in his area, but it's no different than what is happening in other parts of the country, he said.

On election day, this past Sunday, July 1, members of a crime group threatened officials in a voting location in the community of Tohayana, and almost three months before election day, 34 men were murdered in that area.

Gutierrez Acosta (Lorea) said he became aware that something had happened in Tohayana, but he did not admit there were murders: "Yeah, they said there was a fight over there, but that's more than a month ago. There's not even that many people there any more, most of them have gone over to a town in the other state (Sinaloa), right now there's about two families left, that's what they say."

He assured (us) that the Army patrols the area and it's gotten more peaceful, although the locals have a different opinion . Fear has forced the people in the community to lock themselves in their homes every day,  and on weekends they prefer to get out of Guadalupe y Calvo. In the last few months, the State Human Rights Commission (CEDH) has insisted that (authorities) need to investigate what's happening in that municipality, which borders the State of Sinaloa.

On several occasions, the CEDH inspector/visitor for Parral, Victor Horta Martinez, has requested that municipal police officers be provided weapons, but up to now the local authorities have not responded. There are 60 officers working three shifts in the municipality, and a few more "sectionals" who work other areas..

CEDH President, Jose Luis Armendariz Gonzalez, admits that the violence in the municipality has increased and the rage has become "a natural thing." Criminal groups, he says, are constantly fighting in the towns, but it's difficult to report homicides or disappearances because the criminals themselves carry the victims off, for several reasons. They don't want to draw the attention of law enforcement agencies, he says, so they can keep on acting with impunity without the Army or the state and federal police feeling the need to strengthen patrols.

One of the members of the military who has worked in that area, located in the south of Chihuahua, assures (us) that, while [the Army]  has managed to seize drugs and weapons, and arrest criminals, his work --he declares-- is almost like that of a street sweeper; "it's as if you're sweeping and somebody is coming behind you throwing more trash."

He points out that drug trafficking is part of the inhabitants' daily life. For example, he illustrates,  indigenous women and children are hired to work planting and harvesting opium poppies (amapola) because they are skilled laborers for that type of crop, same as with apples, chile, onions, etc. Indigenous men take on the heavier work, such as harvesting marijuana, which is just another job for them since they don't get involved in organized crime because they are "nomads". They're not used to working for established businesses, so they go from job to job, from season to season.

Horror stories

At the municipality, the local area's government center, the inhabitants have turned their homes into "tanquetas" (light armored vehicles) and live with the uncertainty that at any moment and at any hour, they will see  armed men, with or without hoods, come to fight with each other or with the townspeople.

On weekends, teachers, medical personnel and residents leave the town, because the violence gets worse on those days.

"When we return, we find out there have been murders, abductions (levantamientos), kidnappings. Ransom demands are made in millions of pesos, generally 5 million pesos. People work hard to get the money together, it's very common for them to work the gum opium (la goma); they sell it and resell it and get the money," explains one of the town's school teachers.

People get together early in the day and behind closed doors to celebrate birthdays. "There's so much fear, that you lock the door, and if somebody knocks you don't open the door or ask who it is until you hear the voice of whoever is knocking. Or, if they come to visit, they have to call ahead by phone to warn you. Schools are always locked up, kids only go out for recess, and they don't leave until their parents come (for them). Only a few are allowed to leave by themselves because they live close by," he emphasizes.

According to the teacher, more than half of the students in one of the grade schools are orphaned of either a mother or father. In fact, there are class groups in which out of 23 students, 18 are orphans, since women are also murdered because they're the partners of men involved with criminal groups, he points out.

In Guadalupe y Calvo, the indigenous community, almost half of the population, is of Tepehuan ethnicity. There's a Catholic shelter that many of those indigenous people come to, used also by some mestizo (mixed blood) community members. In that shelter they treat young girls who have been raped, abused, abandoned or mistreated, and who are suffering psychological aftereffects. The shelter is operated full time and is financed by a sponsor and by the Chihuahua Business Foundation, but the workers are from the community, teachers and doctors.

"It's worth staying here because you see that you are making a difference, that you can do something for the children," says the teacher being interviewed.

"Everyone knows who sells and who uses (marijuana). The problem right now is that supposedly the people that had always been here belonged to El Chapo. About a year and a half or two years ago, they arrested a man they called El Mochomo, he's still in jail, and because they haven't gotten him out his people turned on him and are killing the El Chapo (Joaquin Guzman Loera) people," he says.

He recalls the massacre that took place three months ago in Tohayana, that, in fact, was not reported in the media. After they killed them, he adds, they (the killers) sent the town a warning: if you don't settle down, there will be more deaths. Last Sunday, (July) 22nd, they killed six, and five on Wednesday, the 25th, also in the municipal government center.

"The deaths are very bloody, they torture them, decapitate them, cut them into pieces. You generally hear more than a hundred shots, sometimes (the shootouts) don't last long in (terms of) hours, but they are more frequent. To get to El Vergel, for example, you have to go through Guadalupe y Calvo, and the people over there belong to another criminal group, so when they pass through here to get there, there's always a shootout."

The coordinator of the Chihuahua Institute for Adult Education in that area, Hector Jauregui, ran over a man a month ago in the municipality. The professor himself took the wounded man to the hospital but he died a few hours later.

The dead man was the father of one of the town's sicarios (killers for hire), who forced the police to arrest the driver and hand him over to him.

"It was so blatant! They killed him in front of many witnesses who heard him say, when they were about to kill him, not to do this because he had a family," recalls the teacher.

The CEDH got a complaint on that case and Inspector Victor Manuel Horta let it be known that, by order of the State Attorney General, any official who travels to Guadalupe y Calvo must travel with bodyguards, because so many of them have been murdered these last few months.

The Southern Zone prosecutor, David Flores Carrete, pointed out that the actions of the Municipal Public Safety Directorate in Guadalupe y Calvo cast doubt on the job they are doing.

In the municipality, the center of local government, local residents identify three pickup trucks that frequently drive through the place as (belonging to) a group that recently came from Sinaloa. They travel with hoods on, and wear military clothing and carry AK-47s (cuernos).

"They're young, and some of them go around with their faces uncovered all the time. Before, you knew who the bad guys were, you know who sells and uses drugs, but these days they don't respect anybody, everything has become bloodier," emphasizes the interviewee.

They flee for safety reasons

Dozens of doctors and nurses in the municipality have fled in the last year and a half because they were personally affected by the violence. Since 2010, the doctors at the regional Department of Health hospital have lived moments of terror when they've had to treat victims wounded by gunfire who belong to one group or another. For example, a married couple, both doctors-- he a pediatrician and she, an internist-- had to leave the hospital three months ago because one of them was attacked on the road to El Ocote, and they took their daughter away from the place because they received kidnapping threats. They asked for a transfer because of the situation with their daughter, but they were given only six months to take care of their situation.

The majority of the doctors who arrive there do it as part of their social service or internship, and when that (assignment) is over, they decide to remain there because they see the needs and goodness of the local people, who need them. However, the violence has forced them to leave, even those with 10 or 20 years on the job. The doctors are from Puebla, Guerrero, Baja California, Distrito Federal (D.F.), Sonora and Chiapas, Jalisco and Chihuahua.

"Nobody wants to move to the mountains any more," say two doctors who left the community. One left the hospital a year and a half ago, the other a few months ago.  According to the doctors, on at least three occasions armed groups came into the hospital looking for a patient to murder him.

In December, 2010, at 1:00 in the morning, individuals came and asked a nurse about a patient. When she pointed him out, they stabbed him. When the killers came out of the hospital room, the nurse came face to face with them. They were young men between 18 and 20 years old, and they threatened her with the knife.

A week later, on New Year's Eve, an armed group came into the hospital. A nurse on duty was intercepted and threatened by the "relatives" of a victim of one of the patients and forced to tell them where he was. They took the patient away and murdered him about a half mile from the hospital. The nurse was transferred for six months to a hospital in the capital city to be treated for post traumatic stress. At the end of that period, she asked not to return because there were threats against her.

The Health Workers Syndicate asked her not to file criminal charges.

On another occasion, at the beginning of 2011, a person wounded by gunfire arrived at the hospital, and his wife asked for protection because he could not be transported elsewhere. Hospital staff told them they could not guarantee his safety.

"The family brought a lot of armed people, they stayed in the hospital for 36 hours. It was a very tense situation. There were about eight people in the hall ways, and there were more in the parking area and on the wall (around the hospital)," recalls one of the female doctors.

Doctors and nurses had to deal with the situation during that time. The hospital director came in several hours later "and told the armed men, 'behave yourselves, because later the doctors will not want to treat you.'"

The Army came after the men had already left. They questioned the doctors, asked to talk with the patient and the hospital director. "The problem is that there were rumors that the doctors had notified the Army, and we were afraid of reprisals," he said.

On September 12, 2011, another armed group came into the hospital and murdered a 33-year old man who had just been brought in with bullet wounds. The armed men followed him into the emergency room, killed him and left. Hospital staff were in shock, but there were no reassignments.

Unprotected police

This past May 19th, the Guadalupe y Calvo chief of public safety, Eleazar Salas Martinez, was murdered. That afternoon, he left the office accompanied by one of his police agents and went to a place where he had an appointment, according to the testimony of the police officer, who survived.

When they got to a ranch house, several armed  men wearing hoods picked them up, blindfolded them with adhesive tape and took them to an uninhabited area. The police officer testified that he heard several shots and, after a few minutes, he removed the blindfold and saw there was nobody around.

The chief was 36 years old and left infant children. He had no life insurance or social security, nor did he sign payroll receipts, and he was listed with the City Council as earning very low wages. His wife will receive support from the Trust for Care of Victims of Violence. Nothing more. Last week, they murdered the police officer who survived that attack. He was with his brother and a nephew, who were also murdered.

The residents of Guadalupe y Calvo believe that it was that same police officer who set his chief up to be murdered. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

They're planting drugs on federal lands

Luz del Carmen Sosa

El Diario. 7-30-2012. Namiquipa, Chih. Drug traffickers in the State of Chihuahua plant marijuana even on federal lands. Cultivation of the drug on the fertile lands in some municipalities goes unpunished  because it is too difficult for the Federal Public Ministry (federal prosecutors) to locate the owners of the marijuana.

Drug traffickers find suitable areas for this activity via satellite and they choose sites that are close to streams to make sure they have water, especially in times of drought. When these plots are located by the Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR: Procuraduria General de la Republica) or the Department of Defense (Sedena: Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional)-- from the air-- there's no way to  prosecute the owners of the property where the drugs are growing...the property belongs to the federal government.

"All we can do is initiate an investigation in the area to find out who is growing (marijuana) and try to locate the responsible parties," says PGR delegate Cesar Augusto Peniche Espejel during the destruction of the first plot found this season. The cost of the operation was not yet calculated. At least 20 federal officials participated in the operation, each with different duties, including the driver of the tank truck that transported the fuel and the two helicopter pilots.

How much marijuana was kept from reaching the market was impossible to determine. Peniche Espejel estimates that 80% of the national production (of marijuana) goes to the United States and 20% stays in the state. Securing and destroying two small plots on federal property demonstrates the capabilities of the drug trafficking industry in Chihuahua and the fight appears uneven. The federal agents must deal with human and technological shortages against the ever-more sophisticated organized crime infrastructure.

This operation was a success and the public servants celebrated. There are public officials who are trying to contain the production, planting and cultivation of drugs with limited resources and equipment, and they face internal contamination and criminal organizations that employ all their powers of corruption and violence to make sure their business succeeds, says Mexican journalist Jorge Luis Sierra.

This expert on matters of public safety and organized crime explains that these (eradication) efforts are overshadowed by the capacity of drug trafficking organizations to absorb the losses from eradication of the plots and still maintain a level of production that satisfies the demand in the U.S. and the domestic markets. According to U.S. authorities, Mexico seized six tons of cocaine in 2011, which is approximately 2% of the 300 tons of cocaine that go through Mexico bound for the United States.

"The same thing happens in the case of marijuana. Mexico seized 900 metric tons in 2011, but both countries estimate that this country has a much higher production capability. The most recent estimate was done in 2008 when the U.S. determined that Mexico had the potential to produce 21,000 metric tons of cannabis a year," he explains. 

In search of the plots

The oak and pine foliage protects the green marijuana plants. They cannot be easily seen from the air and only the experience in searching out plots that the team has, mostly made up of pilots with military training, allows the plants to be detected. These specialists guide their aircraft mostly over stream beds and arroyos, they know that the cultivated plots may be close by, and this time they were right on.  On Friday morning they located almost four acres planted with marijuana.

In a canyon located about 20 miles northwest of Namiquipa Municipality, right on communal lands of Nuevo Delicias, they located the two plots. The next day, agents of the Federal Public Ministry and Federal Ministerial Police officers, led by PGR delegate Cesar Augusto Peniche Espejel, traveled to the site to verify the finding and destroy (the crop).

In the river, recent rains have created a strong current and both the local farmers and drug traffickers are taking advantage of the water.

"The natural availability of water helps cultivation. Trees have been cleared on this side of the property to level the ground to clear the land of vegetation," explains the official at the site.

It was not easy to get to this location.  The team had to be transported by helicopter to get them to a place where there were rocks on the river bed. There, they crossed the river, then traveled for several minutes on foot. The people caring for the plot used horses to get there and it appears they fled by the same means. 

The trunks of cut trees and pine trees could be seen on the ground. Others were (left standing) to protect the plants, four plants per square yard, and although some of the plants were quite small, some had grown to almost four feet.

"They don't clear all the trees because trees help camouflage the marijuana plants," adds the PGR delegate.

The primitive irrigation system can be seen among the plants. Hoses and plastic fittings allow river water to flow, in this case with a great deal of strength because the current was strong with the recent rains.

"Rains were delayed a month this year and our marijuana plots eradication program also follows the rainy season.  In this case, the plants start growing thirty days after the first rains, and that's when we can identify the plantings," he says.

According to the federal eradication program, the PGR has 60 days to locate and destroy marijuana plots. "In the next 60 days we will locate other plots as the plants grow big enough, and, of course, there are places we haven't yet flown over where we're going to find taller plants,." he explains.

The boundaries of Namiquipa municipality contain some of the places used by drug traffickers to plant drugs. "We've located other areas in the state, and we will be locating the plots according to schedule. The important thing is to get there when they are this tall, because that won't give the traffickers an opportunity to re-plant the land. With 60 days (remaining), they can't get another crop in," he asserts.

The Army also takes part in the marijuana eradication program. That's why a joint effort is so important, because there are areas that are very difficult to access. That's where the Army comes in.

"All these eradication efforts, added to climate conditions, will inevitably increase their desperation and decrease their income, and that helps us because they will take more chances to get the drugs out and take them north," says the government official.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 30th Badanov's Buzzkill Bulletin

By Chris Covert

Since July 11th Mexican Army and naval forces have seized a total of 3,979.22 kilograms of marijuana, 160.454 kilograms of methamphetamine, 1,120 liters of liquid methamphetamine, 2,375 kilograms of methamphetamine in solid form, 1 kilogram of cocaine, USD $3,171,780.00 (MX $41,988,975.14) and MX $950,000.00 (USD $71761.48) in cash.
  • A Mexican Army unit with the 2nd Military Zone seized quantities of drugs and guns in Baja California state July 18th.  The raid took place in Mexicali municipality in the Villa Hermosa colony on Avenida Antonio de Mendoza where soldiers found a total of 158.9 kiolgrams of methamphetamine packaged in 40 bags.  Also seized were three rifles, one handgun, 12 weapons magazines, 220 rounds ammunition, two vehicles and other contraband.
  • Another army unit with the Mexican 2nd Military Zone located a quantity of drugs and guns in Tijuana municipality in Baja Calfornia state. The raid took place in Villafontana colony, La Presa Delegation where seized drugs included 1.745 kilograms of methamphetamine.  Weapons and other contraband seized included one handgun, 40 rounds of ammunition, one fragmention hand grenade and one vehicle.
  • A Mexican Army unit with the 15th Military Zone detained one individual at a traffic stop in Octalan, Jalisco state July 11th.  Soldiers found one handgun, 18 rounds of ammunition, one weapons magazine, a radio and a motorcycle.
  • On July 12th, an army unit with the Mexican 15th Military Zone located quantities of chemicals used on the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Ciudad Guzman municipality in Jalisco state.  Soldiers found 5,700 liters of an undisclosed chemical precursor in 27 bins and five drums.
  • On July 15th Mexican Army units with the 15th Military seized quantities of weapons in in El Grande municipality.  Weapons and munitions seized included seven rifles, two handguns, 31 weapons magazines, 711 rounds of ammunition, tactical gear and seven vehicles.
  • An army unit with the Mexican 8th Military Zone seized more than three tons of marijuana in Tamaulipas state July 18th.  The army unit was on patrol in Ciudad Miguel Aleman when it happened upon an abandoned building containing 3,178.6 kilograms of marijuana in 730 packages.
  • On July 21st a Mexican Army unit with the 9th Military Zone located a hidden drug laboratory used to make synthetic drugs in Sinaloa state. The unit was on patrol near the village of Aguajito de León in Rosa Morada Sindicatura in Mocorito municipality when it found the lab hidden in the brush.  Among the contraband found was 2,375 kilograms of methamphetamine in solid form, 1,120 liters of liquid methamphetamine, 325 kilograms of caustic soda, 30 kilograms of sodium acetate, 410 liters of alcohol, 600 liters of acetic anhydride, 150 liters of toluene, 50 liters of methylamine, 40 liters of hydrochloric acid, 1,280 liters of a liquid substance unknown, 6 reactors of organic synthesis as well as Various equipment.
  • An Mexican Army unit with the 9th Military Zone found an abandoned stolen vehicle with guns inside in Sinaloa state July 22nd.  The patrol found the vehicle in Adolfo Lopez Mateos colony in Culican municipality.  Soldiers seized three rifles, two handguns, two grenade launcher attachments, four grenades, 30  weapon magazines. 560 rounds of ammunition and 15 radios.
  • An army unit with the Mexican 15th Military Zone found quantities of chemicals used to manufacture synthetic rugs in Jalisco state July 20th.  The seizure took place in Guadalajara municipality where the unit located a warehouse.  A total of 9,000 liters of undisclosed chemicals in 47 barrels, 44 bags of an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine and six containers with 60 liters of an undisclosed chemical substance.  Two vehicles were also seized by the army.
  • On July 21st a Mexican Army unit with the 15th Military Zone located weapons and munitions on the highway between Sayula and San Gabriel in Jalisco state.  Soldiers seized two handguns, 11 weapons magazines  and 225 rounds ammunition.
  • An army unit with the Mexican 15th Military Zone detained an unidentified individual in Ocotlan in Jalisco finding .62 kilograms of marijuana July 22nd.
  • A Mexican Army unit with the 9th Military Zone detained one unidentified individual near the village of Potrerillos in Mocorio in Sinaloa state July 23rd.  Soldiers also seized two rifles, one handgun, nine weapons magazines, 224 rounds of ammunition and tactical gear.
  • An army unit with the Mexican 6th Military Zone located a quantity of marijuana and weapons in Piedra Negras municipality in Coahuila state July 25th.  A total of 800 kilograms of marijuana was found in a building along with 10 rifles, four weapons magazines, 3,751 rounds of ammunition and a live jaguar.
  • July 23rd a Mexican naval infantry unit detained four individuals said to be members of Los Zetas criminal cartel in Puebla state, and seized quantities of drugs, cash and weapons.  The detainees were identified as William de Jesus Torres Solorzano, Yanela Perez Vargas, Felipe de Jesus Cortez Sanchez and Jesus Jimenez Lopez Germain.  Marines also seized two rifles,  three handguns, four weapons magazines, two hand grenades, 230 round of ammunition and one kilogram of cocaine.  Cash seized included USD $830,000 (MX $10,987,788.00) and MX $950,000.00 (USD $71761.48).
  • In two separate operations, Mexican naval infantry forces detained five individuals said to be members of the Los Zetas criminal cartel in Veracruz state July 23 and 24th,  seizing more then MX $30 million in foreign currency..  The detainees were identified as Rafael Antonio Medina Rea, Ricardo Romero Fuyivara, Jesus Rosas Ibarra, Ruiz Feliciano Atilano and Rafael Soliz.  Contraband seized included two handguns, five hand grenades, four vehicles and communications gear.  Cash was seized in two lots, the first USD $1,610,890.00 (MX $21,325,445.00) and the second of USD $730,980.00.00 (MX $9,675,741.08)

Badanov's Burnt Blunt Special (Triple Special Edition)
  • Soldiers with the 2nd Military Zone incinerated drugs at a military base in Aguaje of Tuna in Baja California July 25th.  A total 890.547 kilgrams of marijuana and 2,708 kilograms of methamphetamine were destroyed.
  • In Santa Maria del Oro, Nayarit state, soldiers with the 13th Military Zone incinerate quantities of drugs July 25th.  789.65 kilograms of marijuana and 23.6 kilograms of marijuana seeds were destroyed.
  • Near Guayamas Sonara, Mexican naval personnel incinerated 8,703 ki8lograms of marijuana July 28th.

Mexican Prison’s Security Chief Gunned Down

The security chief of the prison in Culiacan, the capital of the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, was gunned down, police said.

Alejandro Osuna Rios was murdered on Friday in front of his house, police said.

The 36-year-old Osuna Rios had been in charge of security at the prison for four months.

Osuna Rios was attacked by several gunmen riding in two SUVs as he stood in front of his house with his wife and son in the Villas del Manantial district.

Sinaloa state Attorney General’s Office investigators found 44 bullet casings and an ammunition clip for an AK-47 at the crime scene, as well as the officer’s service weapon.

Osuna Rios, who had just started his vacation, did not have time to draw his 9 mm pistol and return fire, police said.

Sinaloa is currently the scene of a bloody turf war among several cartels.

The state is home to the drug cartel led by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.

The Sinaloa organization, sometimes referred to by officials as the Pacific cartel, is the oldest and most powerful drug cartel in Mexico.

The Sinaloa cartel, according to intelligence agencies, is a transnational business empire that operates in the United States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Americas and Asia.

About 50,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country’s powerful cartels, sending soldiers into the streets to fight criminals.

Source: The Associated Press

Federal Police: "Zetas and CDG are the Two Cartels Engaging in Kidnapping"

Borderland Beat

Tamaulipas is the hot spot  and number "1" for kidnappings....

Los Zetas and the Gulf cartels are the two groups of organized crime that the Federal Police (PF) has identified as the major criminal organizations engaged in kidnappings in the country of Mexico.

Benito Armando Espinosa, head of the Research Division PF reported that the highest number of kidnappings that is registered in the country is in the state of Tamaulipas. The commissioner explained that they have been identified as both cartels operate in the north and south, through kidnappings against businessmen, who were charged'' dues'' or even intimidated by gun attacks with their trucks. ''

The operation of kidnapping in the north, almost always we see that the state of Tamaulipas where there is the most kidnappings . Cells of the Gulf cartel and the cells of Los Zetas both operate in Tamaulipas, These criminal groups are operating in the same way in the south, in the area of Veracruz, Tabasco, and Chiapas but less there.

We know that the Gulf and Los Zetas are in these areas and also operating in the same way, taking entrepreneurs, depriving them of their freedom and forcing them to ask their employers for money,'' said the official.

La Familia Michoacana and The Knights Templar are also identified as criminal groups that engage in kidnappings in the central part of Mexico, who choose their victims mostly from the vehicles they drive, the clothes they wear or the places they frequent. ''

In the central there are people who are now living well with a good car. We see that also in the Zacatecas area where also Los Zetas as well as La Familia Michoacana are operating kidnapping cells, said Armando Espinosa.

Although the commissioner said that currently there are no groups who mutilate their victims, but they have detected and mention that there are different types of kidnapping involving women, than men and even children. In addition to these groups are people posing as criminal organizations, which hold the kidnapping without a well-structured, planned organization of cells , and believe it or not there are people who fake their own kidnapping.

This post:
originated from Proceso, then translated ∧ posted on Borderland Beat Forum by Havana

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Los Zetas to Priest: "So You Don't Think We Can Kill you"?

Borderland Beat
“They thought that they were going to find information that will demolish my moral authority, but they will not find anything else than the word of Jesus. Hope it is useful”….Stated  by Fr. Solalinde after Zetas stole his laptop
o  Zetas prefer that the shelter of Ixtepec stay open
o  PRI Government spread negative images of Central Americans, he points out.
o  He insists that he will not accept a bureaucratic position in the Church
Ixtepec, Oaxaca  “Two members of the Zeta Cartel told me here, inside the shelter: “Do you think that we cannot kill you? We don’t do it because if we do, the shelter will close and then the migrants will go to other places, we will have to look for them everywhere!  We prefer that they stay here” the catholic  priest Alejandro Solalinde Guerra, stated in an interview. Solalinde is responsible for  the shelter Hermanos Del Camino.
“It is different here than in Lecheria (passing point of immigrants in the state of Mexico). One of those responsible for causing us many problems is drug traffickers. We are not perusing them, because we are not police. I am not a policeman; I wasn’t placed here to chase drug traffickers. But, they are the ones that harm the immigrants  and I have had to intervene,” he adds.
The criminalization against the migrants has been very high. However, one positive change is the PRD town city council has changed their attitude.
He notes that the PRI government, spread in the media a very bad image of the immigrants.   Central Americans that are passing by the shelter, are targeted by the government and organized crime groups.

His computer was stolen
After travelling through Europe for about a month he returned  to Mexico,  after receiving 6 death threats on June 9th.  The priest is  the coordinator of the Human Mobility of Social Pastoral of the diocese of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca and founder of the migrants shelter Hermanos Del Camino. He returned to Ixtepec,  Mexico on July 12th, to continue with the defense of the Immigrants.
The day that he returned to that municipality of Oaxaca, as signal of the territory that he is stepping on and despite that being safeguarded by police, his laptop computer was stolen.
“They thought that they were going to find information that will demolish my moral authority, but they will not find anything else than letter of Jesus. Hope it is useful”, Solalinde Guerra highlights. He mentions that the most confidential and critical information is on 60 notebooks that are in a safe place in Mexico City.
The generalized opinion between the people of Ixtepec about Priest Alejandro Solalinde is positive, although some of them don’t know much about his work or know the shelter. He is only questioned about the fact he doesn’t officiate mass.
He will leave the coordination of the pastoral of the diocese of Tehuantepec. Regarding that, he points out that he will not accept any bureaucratic or office position, instead he will continue with his mission, which is  greater dignity for migrants.
He explains that security protocol of the shelter was designed by the United Nations Organization and that he as well as the members of his work team count with precautionary measures.
There are guards with assault rifles are inside and out of the shelter. There is a perimeter wall build with church resources and surveillance cameras. We are still working with the illumination of the train tracks knows as La Bestia (the beast).
“I opened this shelter as a space for freedom. It is no use to just turn it into a plain kitchen. They should have their house here, the house of the migrants, but the security is necessary for now, because if not the maras, zetas or whomever would get in and we wouldn’t be able to control that if it is not coordinated with the authorities”, he expose.
He assures that the behavior of the migrants in the shelter is good; they participate in the cleaning chores and cook, some of them clean the train tracks, others participate in the construction of the walls and dormitories. A female group attends the train arrival.
                               Atop "The Beast"El Norte bound  in search of the American Dream (Source Bartlett)
Going home: depleted resources, 3 Guatemalan brothers give up after being dumped by the US
 at the Mexican POE, for the 3rd time, they decide to go home (source:Chivis-Borderland Beat)
They, he continues, register the people that will stay in the shelter in a data base with photographs, to have a record of the people that pass by. That is how is done in the other shelters in the route north of Mexico. Women separate from men; some that are pregnant decide to stay until the give birth.
The joy of not being "essential"
I am intransigent (inflexible) so the police respect the migrants. But it is also true that we are still in danger; for that reason we need the police. I would say that our shelter is safer today because it is the only place where the police can socialize (with migrants) and become  aware of the situation, Solalinde says.

The Gang That Took on Chapo: Los Mazatlecos

By ACI for Borderland Beat

There has been a lot of talk of Choix and Northern Sinaloa lately.  Currently the area is at the center of the cartel wars.  With gun battles raging, mass exodus of civilians from their homes, the area harkens back to towns such as Meir or Saric.  Ghost towns, whose residents had to flee for fear of death; those who haven’t left yet stay inside, only venturing out if necessity.  Abandoned homes dot the landscape, homes which had been passed down generation after generation, inhabited now only by ghost of the past.  Gunmen roam the hills, these men bring the devil with them.  Those who have left, leave behind their culture, their history, their lives, everything they knew.  America doesn't like these stories, it shocks most who become aware.  As this nightmare continues the people of the Sierras can only watch as the outlaws battle it out, with federal forces in the middle.          

The man thought to be at the center of it all, is Chapo Isidro, he has been a character of interest for some time now.  Many wish to know how one man has been able to bring so much hell upon the Sinaloan Cartel.  The answer is not as simple as one would think, its a complex tapestry of what remains of the Beltran-Levya Organization.  Many of the leaders of los mazatlecos have been killed or arrested recently.  It is not yet clear how the group may recover from these loses but because they work closely with los zetas, it is difficult to discount this group.  So the question is who are the Mazatlecos?

Los mazatlecos are one of the largest groups working under the Beltran-Levya umbrella.  Los mazatleco’s took their name from their place of origin, Mazatlan, located on the southern coast of Sinaloa.  The city has long been prized by traffickers for its geographic location and its thriving port.  Mazatlan is one of busiest ports in Mexico.  Los Mazatlecos were at the direct service of El Mochomo before his arrest in 2008.  Since his arrest it is believed their loyalties have shifted to that of Hector Beltran-Levya.  The groups influence stretches from Sinaloa to the state of Nayarit and could be considered the largest and strongest cell operating under the Beltran Levyas as well as one of its last.

The mazatlecos leaderships came to light after the arrest of one of its patriarchs Geovany Lizarraga Ontiveros, who was arrested in Los Mochis in May of 2011.  The group attempted a daring rescue but failed and were repelled by elements of the military. 

Marcos Lizarraga Ontiveros the brother of Geovany was also arrested in May.  Geovany Lizarraga Ontiveros was thought to have given him control over distribution for the entire state of Sinaloa for the Beltran-Levya Organization.  He was taken to Mexico City to be tried for connection to organized crime and distribution of drugs.

Since this time much has happened to the group and its ability to operate.  Fighting has been long standing since since 2008 when the federation split. Recently though, violence has become a full fledged battle for control of the lucrative drug producing area known as “The Golden Triangle.”

The following people are part of Chapo Isidro's network.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Narcos Stealing Millions in Texas Oil Field Equipment

Borderland Beat
Narcos buy or trade drugs for stolen oil field equipment  used to cap PEMEX pipelines, subsequently, trucking the PEMEX stolen oil back into the U.S. and selling it to American oil brokers....Chivis

KRGV - Investigators say Mexican cartels are stealing millions of dollars in equipment from oil companies along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Officials said the equipment is behind used to steal fuel from Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex.
"The cartels (are) buying, or trading narcotics for stolen oil field equipment so they could put taps on Pemex's pipelines," said Midland County Chief Sheriff Deputy Ed Krevit.
Many of the thefts are happening at oil fields in the Permian Basin.
"There's more oil field theft in this area than any place I've ever worked," said Dustin Brown, with Savanna Drilling.
Krevit estimates that Pemex may be losing up to $350 million a year from illegal taps on their pipelines.
He said cartels often truck the oil back to the U.S. where they sell it to oil brokers.
"Some of the cartels have been shouldered out of their traditional smuggling paths, so they've had to turn to other ways of generating revenue," Krevit said.
The cartels use the money to buy weapons and ammunition, he said.
"If they are doing it in West Texas, they're doing it in South Texas," said Phil Jordan, former DEA supervisor.
Jordan said there is intelligence that cartels are stealing equipment in South Texas.
More than a dozen companies drilled more than 3,000 wells in South Texas last year.
"If I'm losing equipment, losing parts, losing pieces, it's passed on to the operator and the operator has to pass it on to the consumer," Brown said.
Task force investigators said they are trying to stop the cartels in their tracks. They will start training law enforcement to spot oil field thefts.

Alleged Juárez Cartel Leader Arrested

From the archives that were awaiting publication:

By Lourdes Cárdenas
El Paso Times

A top leader of the Juárez drug cartel who was born in the United States was arrested Friday night in Mexico City, federal police authorities said.

Benjamin Valeriano Jr., also known as "El Cachitas," was identified as one of the main operators of the Juárez cartel. According to authorities, he worked for Guillermo Castillo Rubio, "El Pariente," who was arrested in 2012 and who was considered the second in command after Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who is known as "El Viceroy."

Valeriano, 32, was born in Pecos, Texas, and allegedly started his criminal career in 1998 distributing drugs in the United States, Mexican officials said. Later, he moved to Ojinaga, Chihuahua, where he was allegedly moving drugs from Parral, Jiménez, Camargo, Manuel Benavides and Villa Ahumada, Mexican authorities said.

Valeriano is on the most-wanted list of the Drug Enforcement Administration in El Paso. He was charged with continuing a criminal enterprise and conspiracy.

An affidavit in support of his extradition was filed in U.S. District Court in Pecos on Nov. 21, 2011.

The affidavit is based on Crispin Borunda-Cardenas' deposition in which he, as the former leader of a drug-trafficking organization in Chihuahua, stated that in 1997, Valeriano smuggled large quantities of marijuana from Mexico to the United States for his organization.

The affidavit states, "Valeriano was very successful and quickly began to oversee some marijuana smuggling operations for me. From 1997 through 2003, Valeriano conspired with me and others, both known and not known, to possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana."

In the affidavit, Borunda-Cardenas said that he and Valeriano began to have problems about 2004 because other people were running their own drug-trafficking organization.

By that time, the affidavit continues, Carrillo Fuentes took control of the distribution of marijuana in Ojinaga. Then Carrillo Fuentes put Valeriano in charge of the "Ojinaga plaza."

Valeriano became part of the Juárez cartel command, almost at the same time that José Luis Ledezma, also known as "El JL," became the leader of "La Línea," the armed branch of the organization.

Valeriano was arrested in Lomas de Chapultepec, a wealthy neighborhood in Mexico City, where he supposedly moved after the arrest of José Antonio Acosta Hernández, also known as "El Diego." Acosta Hernández was extradited to the U.S.

Zetas split: Would this bring more violence or peace for Mexico?

From the archives that were awaiting publication:

A weakening of the Zetas in the northeast may discourage the drug gang's forays into other parts of Mexico, but internal strife often leads to more murders, writes InSight Crime.

By Patrick Corcoran,
InSight Crime

Reports of a split between the two leaders of Mexico’s notorious Zetas drug gang suggest that a violent power struggle may be brewing in the group's northeastern home turf, a conflict which could shake the established order in the country's criminal underworld.

According to a new report from Proceso, the partnership of the Zetas' two main leaders – Heriberto Lazcano, alias “Z-3”, and Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40” – has come under strain, and the two appear to be headed for an open confrontation.

In recent months, a series of public banners (known as “mantas”) and videos uploaded to the internet have made reference to the two Zeta leaders’ capacity for betrayal. One manta, which appeared both in Monterrey and Zacatecas on June 1, placed a photo of Lazcano amid several former Zeta leaders who have been killed or arrested over the past several years, implying that Mr. Lazcano arranged their downfalls so as to secure control of the group.

However, the manta also alleges that Mr. Treviño was involved in the betrayals and asks, “Are we better off with Lazca or Z-40?”, which suggests that the authors were either disgruntled lower-level Zetas or a rival group passing themselves off as such. A series of videos was posted online over the following days which referred to Treviño as the “New Judas” and accused him of using federal troops to have his fellow Zetas commanders picked off one by one.

The Proceso report points to Treviño as the more powerful of the two leaders today, with Lazcano evidently spending much of his time in recent years in foreign countries, among them Germany and Costa Rica.

But the tangle of accusations and apparent betrayals, which are far more numerous than those outlined above, suggests a breakdown in organizational structure that goes beyond the two principal leaders. As InSight Crime has noted in the past, this hypothesis is supported by the numerous incidents of disobedience in the ranks of the Zetas.

Proceso describes the 49 dead bodies left in along a highway in Nuevo Leon in May as another example of this phenomenon. According to the magazine, the local boss charged with carrying out the crime disobeyed Treviño in not tossing the bodies in a nearby town plaza, because of his worries about the backlash of such a provocation. Instead, he dumped the bodies along a comparatively remote stretch of highway, where they were subsequently discovered by authorities.

Treviño’s relative strength doesn’t assure that he’ll emerge victorious or (even less likely) strengthened by the internal strife. Indeed, the reports of internal decay make it likely that whatever the result of the recent tensions, the victorious capo will be heading a weaker organization.

Continuing degradation in the Zetas' command structure would likely be a source of violence in the group’s territories in the northeast, especially Veracruz, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas. Certainly, internal strife within a group typically leads to a sharp uptick in murders. Such has been the case in Mexico’s northeast for years: the 2010 conflict between erstwhile allies the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas has driven a sharp increase in murder rates in the state's named above.

A similar dynamic was at play in 2008, when the Beltran Leyva Organization split from the Sinaloa Cartel, which drove an outbreak in violence across wide swaths of western and southern Mexico. Or, further back, the split between the Carrillo Fuentes family and the Sinaloa Cartel following the latter’s murder of Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes in 2004 eventually precipitated the fight over Juarez that has turned the border town into Mexico’s most violent city for the past four years.

In such cases, the subsequent fighting may be initially motivated by revenge or personal hatreds, but the dispute for territorial control is often not far from the surface, and helps sustain the conflict for years to come.

For instance, Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes’ murder may have helped spark the tension that led to the fight for Juarez, but it was control of the border town itself, one of the busiest along the US-Mexico border, that turned a blood feud into something like a war zone.

However, a prolonged spiral of violence isn’t inevitable; the division between the Familia Michoacana and Caballeros Templarios, which followed the 2010 death of Familia boss Nazario Moreno, provoked a relatively mild increase in violence in Michoacan. Indeed, the state’s murder rate in 2011 (a little more than 17) remained below the national average (just shy of 21), and the rate through six months of 2012 is virtually identical.

A weakening of the Zetas in their home turf may also discourage the group’s forays into far-flung regions of Mexico, such as Jalisco or Sinaloa. The organization’s presence in such areas has led to a great deal of violence, and has helped cement the Zetas’ reputation as the most expansionist, destabilizing gang in Mexico. Should fighting at home lead bosses to call their gunmen deployed elsewhere back into the state’s northeastern home, this could lead to a lessening of tensions elsewhere.

Furthermore, reports that a significant chunk of the Zetas could align with the Gulf Cartel could be a key factor in determining the impact of the split.

If a resulting alliance is capable of overwhelming the divisions between the Gulf Cartel and Zetas bosses – i.e., if the Zetas resisting collaboration with other groups are eliminated from the industry – then it could ultimately turn into a driver of a more peaceful interaction between the various gangs in Mexico’s northeast.

That’s the most optimistic scenario, and while not implausible, unfortunately recent history suggests that it is not a particularly likely outcome.

– Patrick Corcoran is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region.. Find all of his research here.

Treasury Targets Sinaloa Cartel Leader’s Corporate Network

From the archives that were awaiting publication:

By Samuel Rubenfeld
Wall Street Journal

The U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday it slapped Kingpin Act sanctions on nine entities and 10 individuals linked to a leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.

Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, also known as El Azul, has used money from his involvement in the drug trade to build a network of businesses that includes a housing development, a shopping mall and an industrial park, Treasury said.

“While other Mexican narcotics traffickers have garnered and in some cases sought more attention, Esparragoza Moreno has purposely kept a low profile hoping to avoid scrutiny while increasing his influence and ill-gotten gains,” said Adam J. Szubin, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, in a statement.  “His entire corporate network that was created with illicit drug proceeds is in our sights.”

El Azul, whom Treasury said has been active in the drug trade since the 1970s, was identified in 2003 under the Kingpin Act as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker. Sinaloa was identified in 2009.

He was indicted on drug-trafficking charges in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in 2003, and is wanted in both the U.S. and Mexico, Treasury said.
The U.S. State Department Narcotics Rewards Program is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to El Azul’s arrest, while Mexican authorities are offering 30 million pesos for information leading to his capture.

Six of the 10 individuals placed under sanctions Tuesday are members of El Azul’s family–two of his wives and four of his children. One of the wives owns property on his behalf. She, along with the four children she had with him who were sanctioned Tuesday, own and operate two companies that manage the property, where they developed a residential community and a shopping mall, Treasury said. One of the companies also manages an industrial park.

The other wife, along with three others, were slapped with sanctions for owning or controlling seven gas stations on El Azul’s behalf, Treasury said.

Mexican Marines Nab 5 Zetas, Seize $1.6 Million

Mexican marines detained five suspected members of the Zetas drug cartel this week and seized more than $1.6 million in cash, the Navy Secretariat said in a statement.

The arrests in Mexico City and in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz were the result of intelligence gathering and several operations conducted in recent days, the statement said.

Rafael Antonio Medina Rea and Ricardo Fuyivara Romero were detained Tuesday in this capital in possession of a suitcase with $880,000 in cash, as well as a handgun and a grenade.

The military personnel also detained suspected Zeta Jesus Rosas Ibarra on Wednesday in Mexico City and confiscated a box inside his vehicle with $730,890 in cash, as well as a handgun and another grenade.

According to the statement, authorities suspect Rosas Ibarra of serving since 2008 as a money manager for Los Zetas, a criminal gang notorious for its brutality.

Rosas Ibarra told authorities the two men detained Tuesday in the capital worked with him and were involved in transporting ill-gotten cash in hidden vehicle compartments.

The secretariat also said two men suspected of transporting money for the Zetas – Feliciano Ruiz Atilano and Rafael Vazquez Solis – were arrested Wednesday in Xalapa, capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz.

Los Zetas, a group founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained Mexican special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but the two criminal organizations had a falling out in 2010 and the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account, gaining control of several lucrative territories.

Even in the violent world of Mexican organized crime, the Zetas stand out for their propensity to dismember the bodies of their victims.

President Felipe Calderon, who will step down in December, gave marines, army soldiers and federal police the lead role in the battle against drug cartels shortly after taking office in 2006.

Source: EFE

Mutilated and imprisoned...for doing his job

Proceso. 7-26-2012

He acted at all times in compliance with the dictates of military protocol. Health Lieutenant Nestor Ramirez tried to control insubordination and, believing his life was in danger, killed a subordinate. But he didn't know that, apparently, he was surrounded by soldiers working for drug traffickers, who, in addition, injured him so severely that he lost his legs...today he is mutilated, in jail and accused of homicide. 

Mexico, D.F. When Health Lt. Nestor Ramirez Bautista saw that two trailer trucks were hitching and unhitching boxes in the yards of the International Bridge No. 2, in Piedras Negras, he knew something was wrong. Even though he was on break, he decided to order his subordinates to inspect the loads.

Flanked by a private and a corporal, he summoned the drivers of the tractor trailers, which he thought were acting nervously. The drivers admitted they were transporting an illegal substance. To corroborate this, Ramirez approached the first vehicle, but, before he got there, the private took off running.

The corporal was the only one who agreed to climb onto the truck, but once on top of the tractor trailer, instead of obeying the order, he called the military base on his cell phone. He told them that Lt. Ramirez had gone crazy and wanted to inspect a clean trailer.

Nestor Ramirez is a health lieutenant, that is, a military nurse. His superiors decided to place him in charge of an armed unit. Complaining was useless. "These are operational needs," he was told when they made him commander and put him in charge of a handful of soldiers that were guarding the border crossing between Piedras Negras, Coahuila, and Eagle Pass, Texas.

He was used to certain rudeness from those who had trained for combat roles. But never insubordination like this. He became suspicious.

When he heard what the corporal was saying on his cell phone, he pointed his weapon at him and ordered him to get off the vehicle. He disarmed him while other soldiers approached to try to calm him down. Suspicious of all of them, he ordered them to lower their weapons and brought them under control, shooting twice at the ground. But the corporal's call had summoned four reinforcements who got there aboard a Suburban. With two more shots to the ground he placed three more soldiers under submission. Bullet fragments from the shots fired into the concrete struck Private Juan Cortes Hernandez.

Yelling and making threats, one of the newly arrived soldiers refused to lower his weapon.

"Don't make a big deal, it's fixed, you're going to get screwed!", warned Zapper Corporal Onesimo Diaz Robles.

Military personnel hold weapons in three positions; they're called "low guard" (pointing the weapon at the ground), "middle guard" (pointing it to the front) and "high guard" (pointing it upwards). From a low guard, Lt. Ramirez fired two more times but  this didn't have any effect. Two more shots. Nothing. Corporal Diaz raised his guard, but before he fired, the lieutenant fired.

The bullet entered the thorax and exited through his neck. Onesimo was choking on his own blood and couldn't talk. Ramirez insisted:

--What's in the trailer? Who does the load belong to? -- he yelled at him.

The wounded corporal could only manage to wave his hands with his palms open, simulating wings. In the Army, that's a sign used for referring to Generals.

Ramirez believed that reinforcements would arrive at any moment. The shots echoed on the meadows around the customs office on Bridge No. 2, and they were heard on the Texas side the morning of April 24. He thought that help would come soon...and it did come.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw several military vehicles approaching fast. Trustingly, he remained with his back to them. He didn't want to lose sight of his subordinates. He heard doors open and close, the sound of boots on the ground...and a burst of bullets struck him on the legs.

At the discretion of the judge

The narrative of these events is contained in File No. 378/2012, and includes a video in DVD format, identified as "Videos Record 29 C.P. 300/2012" which makes the statement of Ramirez Bautista more coherent.

However, military justice Colonel Jose Antonio Romero Zamora, second judge of the First Military Region, refused to accept the disc as evidence and ordered that Ramirez Bautista, who lost his legs from the bullet wounds and from the way he was transported, be imprisoned.

Romero Zamora chose to accept the version given by the the insubordinate soldiers, and they ratified the version that was leaked to the media moments after the incident.

On that same day, April 24, several news services, among them El Universal, reported that an active duty Army soldier had wounded two of his fellow soldiers, one of whom died two hours later in  a local hospital. In quotes, the note cited an anonymous military source:

"It was after 9:00 this Tuesday morning when all of a sudden, for no reason at all, the soldier took out his weapon and began firing like crazy. First he shot into the air and then at his fellow soldiers, who were trying to calm him down."

That is how Lt. Ramirez was described, firing like a crazy person. But the statements from the other persons involved are contradictory.

For example, the wounded soldier, Juan Cortes Hernandez, asserted that while he was alongside Lt. Ramirez he noticed he was carrying a 9mm MP-5 submachine pistol, when in fact he used a 7.62 cal.
G-3 automatic rifle. At the hearing, the lieutenant's lawyers pointed out that the confusion is not believable, especially for a soldier with several years of service, since the MP-5 is a long weapon while the G-3 is short; the first is semi-automatic while the second is fully automatic. [Note; the Proceso writer is confused. The G-3 is a long weapon, and the MP-5 a shorter one. Both are selective fire.]  This was also rejected by the judge.

The DVD that was rejected as evidence by Judge Romero contains seven videos taken by the security cameras at the customs checkpoint, and, apparently, was provided by the defense for Lt. Ramirez. This reporter could not locate his lawyers.

The first video shows almost completely the scene described by the accused and mutilated lieutenant. In addition, it also showed the way the soldiers who shot him picked up the fired cases and the weapons, altering the (crime) scene. In general, forensic material is scarce in the investigation case number GN/CDACUNA/02/2012, with which the military trial started.

The forensic evidence in the file is so weak that it does not even include the  [sodium] rhodizonate test applied to Lt. Ramirez to determine whether he fired or not. Nor [does it include] the test for the others involved. It also does not contain the medical evaluation performed on Ramirez Bautista in Clinic 11 of the Piedras Negras IMSS (social security hospital), but it does contain the one performed when he left the General Military Hospital in Mexico City, two and a half months later, when Surgeon Major Juan Carlos Leon Cruz wrote that he did not show any signs of torture.

The military judge also did not want to accept testimony that contradicted the soldiers' version, on the basis that they were too far away. For example, the testimony of Military Public Ministry Major German Rodriguez Morales, the one who ordered cavalry sergeant Juan Carlos Ramos Roman to fire at the lieutenant's legs.

In the video, after the shot Lt. Ramirez fired at Corporal Diaz Robles, he Diaz can be seen squatting,  watching the arrival of the reinforcements, then being carefully led to a military vehicle, the same with Private Juan Cortes.

It gets worse. In the video one can see that Lt. Ramirez only fired once, although the death certificate for Corporal Diaz establishes that there were two, not one, bullet wounds. The second shot is unexplained and neither the prosecutor that led the investigation nor the military judge wanted to broaden the inquiry with respect to this matter.

As for Lt. Ramirez,  his fellow soldiers grabbed him by his wounded legs, carried him about 15 yards until they got to a pickup truck, where they threw him carelessly.

High impact nurse

He had arrived to the north of Mexico a few days before, coming from Tonala, Chiapas. The Defense Department decided that the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Mexican Army, deployed there, would travel to Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, although its scope of operations was broadened to include Ciudad Juarez and several cities in Coahuila.

Lt. Ramirez had taken leave of his family on February 20, 24 hours after the Day of the Soldier, when according to newspaper reports, General Oswaldo Angel Sanchez Velasco, battalion commander, read the same speech that Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan Galvan had read before Felipe Calderon in Mexico City.

"A united Mexico is stronger than the criminal factions, no matter how violent they may be. Reason and law are on our side."

In Tonala, the battalion had already faced members of the Mara Salvatrucha and the Zetas that smuggled drugs and migrants through that zone. The arrival of the 21st Battalion to the north of the country was celebrated in the media, which published images in which could be seen the arrival of the huge military convoy.

But as the members of the battalion were distributed to Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Chihuahua, the units were disintegrated. Lt. Ramirez was placed among strangers.

Today he is in prison, accused of abuse of authority, homicide and injuries. He doesn't have legs any more and before his rehabilitation was complete he was interned in Military Camp Number 1.

Last (July) 6, the judge on the case asked for a medical evaluation to reactivate the proceedings for the murder charges. The (hospital) discharge order notes that Lt. Ramirez's vital signs are stable. It states also that he is post-operative after amputation of his lower extremities, in "physical therapy phase" that could be done at home, which is why "it was decided to release him."

Interned in the military prison, where there are no wheelchair ramps, toilets or showers for disabled persons, nor facilities where he can develop and carry out the rehabilitation he still needs, Lt. Ramirez was confined in the prison's sick bay, although, according to regulations, no intern may stay there permanently.

He has also lost all his benefits and half of his salary, although there's been no firm sentence issued in his case.

In his testimony, Ramirez declares that his actions were intended to prevent passage of two vehicles that were trying to take drugs into the United States, an activity related to the orders he had been given, because he was assigned to a "high impact operation."

In accordance with Article 6 of the Disciplinary Law  for the Army and the Air Force, the insubordination justified the use of force --in this case, the weapon-- to impose discipline. That is to say, Lt. Ramirez asserts that he acted in accordance with Army directives. He also argues that the judge did not take into consideration that Article 119 of the Code of Military Justice provides that self defense exempts a defendant from criminal responsibility.

Despite this, the lieutenant is charged with abuse of authority resulting in homicide and injuries.

With respect to the two tractor trailers mentioned in the file, and visible in the videos from the customs station, that disc the judge did not want to admit [into evidence] and about which he made no findings at all, there is no report or investigation because the other soldiers let them go.     

Thursday, July 26, 2012

62 Mexican Policias Federales kidnapped in Michoacan

By Chris Covert

A total of 62 Policia Federal (PF) agents have been kidnapped in Uruapan municipality in Michaocan state, according to a several Mexican news accounts.

Twelve PF agents apparently happened upon a roadblock maintained by local indigenous Angahuan and Carapan Indians when they were taken prisoner   Indigenous Indians are protesting illegal logging in the Meseta Purepecha area, according to a report posted on the website of El Sol de Zacatecas news daily.

According to a late article posted on thw website of El Sol de Mexico news daily, a total of 50 additional PF agents were kidnapped. The article failed to elaborate when and where the additional police were kidnapped.

The roads between Uruapan and Paracho, and Los Reyes and Zamora are being blocked as well as roads near Angahuan Capacuaro, Santa Cruz Tanaco and Tlazazalca.  Those stretches of roads are less than seven kilometers from Cheran municipality, where continual protests against activity residents have claimed as illegal logging has taken place the past two years.

Wednesday a Michoacan government news release said that at least three mixed operating bases would be established in the areas around Cheran, Paracho and Santa Cruz Tanaco. BOM or Base de Operaciones Mixtas, is a mixture of federal and state security forces. The mixing of security forces from all levels of gvoernment is a practice in routine use in Nuevo Leon state to counter drug gangs operating in the area, and to provide patrols.

According to the El Sol de Mexico article the kidnappings are a response to the Michoacan state government plan to beef up security forces in the area.  PF have also been asked to leave the area by indigent Indians.

The news release, which names Michoacan governor Fausto Vallejo Figueroa said a number of repeated meetings would take place to assess the security situation in the area.

The uptick in activity takes place in the wake of the murder of two Cheran residents two weeks ago near Cheran.  The victims, Urbano Macias Rafael, 48, and Guadalupe Geronimo Velazquez, 28 were kidnapped as they attempted to bring in cattle from the fields.  A protest by Cheran residents not only locked local officials in the town hall, but also took place in the capital of Morelia at the legislative palace.

The two men were later found dead.

Issues for local indigenous Indians in Michoacan boil down to illegal use of lands they consider tribal and sacred.  Residents of Cheran have been protesting illegal logging and organized crime activity in the area for years.

Even so, indigenous Indians such as the residents of Cheran have allegedly themselves been involved  in a number of illegal acts such as auto theft carjacking, illegal roadblocks and imposition of illegal duties, as well a number of other petty crimes.

Michoacan is one of the six most heavily reinforced states in Mexico with at least 8,000 Mexican army troops deployed to the area.  Those troops along with elements of Mexican Naval Infantry troops and Policia Federal troops were ordered into the state to provide additional security for the November 2011 elections.  Those troops have only been reinforced since then.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com