Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Over 25,000 names on secret list of "disappeared"

Sunday, December 30, 2012 |

El Diario/Proceso 

12-29-2012

Anabel Hernandez

Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat

During the six-year Calderon administration, and as a result of his war against drug trafficking, 25,276 persons acquired the classification of "desaparecidos" (disappeared). They are 25,276 human beings who officially are neither alive nor dead. They simply are not there. They are only statistics, but behind each of them there is a woman, a man, or a child with names, last names and families, and of whom so far nothing is known. This weekly journal gained access to the "Integrated Database of Persons not Found" (Base Integrada de Personas no Localizadas) and  the report from all the attorneys general in the country, which was presented last July 17 (2012). From an analysis of both documents comes the first official count of the "disappeared" in Mexico, a phenomenon that is part of the inheritance that, like it or not, the government of Enrique Pena Nieto received and must confront.

Distrito Federal (Proceso).-- Disappeared Person No. 2,586: Martha Teresa Chacon Corral. Housewife born in Durango, Durango; 1.70 meters (5'7") tall, medium build, medium dark skin, wavy brown hair, has some facial discoloration.  On February 14, 2011, after 5:00 p.m.,she was with her son, Jose Angel Martinez Chacon, in her home, when two men entered all the way into the ironing room, where Martha Teresa was, and took her. She was wearing blue jeans, cap, grey T-shirt with blue sleeves, pink felt boots and a pink sweatshirt. Since then, her whereabouts are not known.

Disappeared Person No. 15,822: Newborn male whose parents did not have time to register. March 33, 2007, in Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas, disappeared. The report was filed that same day.

Case No. 22,889: Juan Antonio Mota Macias, 28 years old. Commander of a Zacatecas corrections facility (Centro de Readaptacion Social). On March 11, 2010, at 1:30 in the afternoon he was in his home in the town of Trancoso, Zacatecas, with his wife and son, when a group of armed men came into his house and took him. He was wearing underwear only and was barefoot. At this time, his whereabouts are unknown.

Brothers Gerardo and Eduardo Bahena Cabrera are numbers 2,728 and 2,739 on the list. The first was 29 years old and the second, 26. Members of the Armed Navy (Marines), they disappeared on January 1, 2010, in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and nothing is known about them since.

Numbers in the shadow

All are part of the list of persons who disappeared in Mexico during Felipe Calderon's war against drug trafficking, and they are in a report drafted by the Attorney General's Office (PGR) and the justice departments of all the states and the Distrito Federal. They are simply some of the thousands of women, men, children and babies that during six years appear to have vanished on a highway, a military road block, in their homes, on the way to grocery store or simply out walking.

While the government of Enrique Pena Nieto and local authorities have remained silent regarding the list of persons who disappeared in Mexico from December, 2006, to July, 2012, Proceso obtained access to the  "Integrated Database of Persons not Found" and to the most recent report created by the PGR and the attorneys general of 32 states and the Federal District (Distrito Federal) that was presented July 17 (2012) at the Interior Ministry  (Secretaria de Gobernacion).

The database and the report jointly reflect the horror of the "desaparecidos" in Mexico. The integrated database, updated to February, 2012, contains 20,851 cases, but the report presented on July 17 states that the number of disappeared persons reached 25,276. On Tuesday, December 18, Proceso had access to the documents and analyzed the statistics and facts. This is the first information about the Calderon's government human disaster.

According to the investigation and the official documents that  were accessed, the "Integrated Database of Persons not Found" and the attorneys general report presented on July 17, 2012, at the Interior Ministry was prepared and organized by personnel at the PGR's Planning , Analysis and Information Center against Crime (Cenapi; Centro de Planeacion, Analisis e Informacion para el Combate a la Delincuencia). Cenapi gathered and organized the information provided by the state attorneys general.

Each disappeared person was assigned a number, the date, state, township or police station and town where the disappearance took place were noted, and the date of each particular report. The name of the disappeared person was noted, along with the age, gender, occupation, nationality and aliases, if this was known. The report also details whether there are photographs of the person.

Also, there was a section where their physical and health characteristics were described, as well as the registration of any vehicle the person may have been traveling on and a brief description of the incident. Finally, it was thought advisable to also include data about the relative who reported the disappearance.

On reviewing the data, one can see that not all the states include the same degree of detail in the information about the victims. Some states provided very vague information.
 
The numbers in the database only reflect those disappeared persons for whom there was a report made or police complaint filed. Disappearances not reported (to the authorities) are not included, as in the case, for example, of undocumented immigrants that cross Mexican territory on their way to the United States.

Through the National Commission for Human Rights (Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos) it is known that there are hundreds or thousands more cases.

In addition to the reports provided by local authorities, Cenapi added information from the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN; Centro de Investigacion y Seguridad Nacional), according to the documents that were reviewed for this article.

The integrated database contains just one case from 2005, which was not reported until 2006, without specifying the date; there's also a report from August, 2006), but the rest involves persons who disappeared between December 1, 2006, and February, 2012. The figure of 20,851 (disappeared) persons was obtained from this document.

According to official documents that Proceso has, on May 24 and 25, during the XXVII Ordinary Session of the Plenary Meeting of the National Conference on Procurement of Justice (XXVII Sesion Ordinaria de la Asamblea Plenaria de la Conferencia Nacional de Procuracion de Justicia) in Monterrey, the PGR and the state prosecutors agreed to complement and finalize the reports in the database no later than June 5, 2012, and to develop a permanent method for amplifying, updating and validating the information.

In that session, it was also agreed that, in order to comply with the requirements in the decree by which the Law for the National Registry of Facts on Lost or Disappeared Persons (Ley del Registro Nacional de Datos de Personas Extraviadas o Desaparecidas) was promulgated, information referring to the "general facts about persons not located" should be forwarded to the National System of Public Security.

According to the document, of which Proceso has a copy, "towards that end, on June 13, the PGR/Cenapi and the National Information Center of the National System of Public Security began to work on a project proposal, taking into consideration the structure of the database required and the legal document upon which to base the corresponding exchange of information, in order to comply with the referenced law."

As far as can be determined, the intent was to make the numbers public. But it didn't happen that way.

The numbers increased noticeably in the reports provided by the state attorneys general and Cenapi personnel began to clean up the list to determine how many of the disappeared persons had already been found, dead or alive, so they could have a figure that was closer to reality. 

The numbers were overwhelming. No government was safe, except the Nayarit government, which reported zero disappearances. All of them, including the federal government, maintained silence on the numbers.

On July 17, 2012, in the third national meeting of the Executive Secretaries of the state public security systems or councils at the Interior Ministry, a report was presented on the progress on the Collaboration Agreement for the Unification, Integration and Exchange of Information on the Matter of Persons not Found (Convenio de Colaboracion para la Unificacion, Integracion e Intercambio de Informacion en Materia de Personas no Localizadas).

The gross number of disappeared persons was 29,386, but it was cleaned up: 3,895 persons were found alive and 215 were found dead. The final number was 25,276. This report is not as detailed as the database, but is instead a summary, updated up to the day of the meeting, of the number of persons whose disappearance was confirmed.

Cenapi personnel had in their possession the database and the report was released by then-Attorney General Marisela Morales days before the Calderon administration ended. The former public servants have expressed fear that the information on disappeared persons was erased from the PGR archives, but they point out the National Public Security System and the state governments also have (the information), but have chosen to remain silent.

Presumably, this is the reason that they leaked part of the information to the Washington Post and another part to the Investigation and Training Center Civic Proposal (Centro de Investigacion y Capacitacion Propuesta Civica). The complete information was provided to this reporter on Tuesday, December 18.
 

2011 and the DF, the worst

From December, 2006, to July, 2012, the year with the greatest number of disappeared persons was 2011. According to the report from the state attorneys general, the number was 8,977; that was the year that had the most murders in the Calderon war against drug trafficking. In February of 2012, the PGR officially admitted to a figure of 12,903 deaths in executions or confrontations between organized crime groups.

From confrontations between criminal organizations,  48 persons a day were murdered and 24 (per day) disappeared, on average.

The year with the second highest number of  disappeared persons was 2010, with 7,246. It was also the second most violent year in the six year administration, with almost 11,500 murders by organized crime, according to tallies from several sources. The states in which there appeared to be less explicit  violence were the ones with the most disappearances.

According to the report presented on July 17, the entity with the most disappeared persons was the Federal District (Distrito Federal), with 9,268 cases, 36% of the 25,276 disappeared persons in the entire country.
(Anabel Hernandez/Proceso)

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Police Commander Executed in Saltillo

Saturday, December 29, 2012 |

Borderland Beat

Saltillo. - The commander of the South Delegation of the Municipal Police, César García Guevara, was killed in the line of duty in the early hours of Friday after being shot by a group of armed men in the neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

It was reported that at 0:38 hours, while on patrol duty in his official car, a Chevrolet Captiva  no.11208, the chief was attacked and killed by unknown gunmen at the intersection of Division and Rios in the southern sector of the city. 

As a result of the shooting, the commanding officer lost control of the police vehicle and impacted over the back of a parked Ford Model 79 truck.

 The officer was shot in the head and the body with various firearm projectiles in what  appeared to the naked eye to be the same that
instantly took his life.

The Chief of Police of Saltillo, Yáñez Clemente Carrillo confirmed to Radio Zócalo the assassination of Caesar Eleazar Garcia Guevara commander, 39 years old, who early Friday was riddled with 12 shots from a high caliber weapon.

It was reported earliest at 12:38, when a witness at the scene took the dead commander's radio and used it to notify the base of his death. Immediately police moved to the scene at Division  and Rios Streets in neighborhood Buenos Aires where Garcia Guevara  was found dead aboard his Chevrolet Captiva patrol car.  The officer was hit by shots from persons in a gray Dodge car.  According to the witness, the shooters fired first into the back of the commander's vehicle, which swerved to the right of driver, and hit a parked truck and he was dead instantly," said the official.

Yanez Carrillo called the fallen Commander as an honest cop, courageous, with a very great future vocation with law enforcement. He had 13 years of service within the corporation. The fallen commander is survived by his parents, his wife and two small children.


Press Chief Confirms the criminal act against the municipal police 
Press Chief Confirms the criminal attack against the municipal police 

In the morning broadcast of Radio Zócalo Saltillo, the CP Francisco Juaristi contacted the press chief of the municipal police, Patricia Moreno, confirming the fact and location where the commander of the South Delegation, Cesar Garcia Guevara, was killed.

Moreno explained that around 1:00  on División del Norte, in the neighborhood of  Buenos Aires,  a police car on a routine neighborhood patrol was violently attacked. Garcia Guevara was traveling alone and died alone aboard his patrol vehicle.

For now, they haven't ascertained the identity or number of armed individuals who assaulted the officer. As of yet they have no details on the size of the bullets that took the life of the commander, except
according to the authorities of the fourth group of Homicide Attorney General of the State, they found shell casings of high caliber at the scene. The investigations are proceeding.


Patricia Moreno said that Cesar Garcia Guevara had risen through the ranks of the police to become a commander of  the Southern Command Delegation, indicating he was the one who had previously personally informed families of slain officers on duty to fact that their funerals would have to be held privately for security reasons as well as for the tranquility of the bereaved.



They have had at least Five Chiefs of Police killed in Saltillo

The Chief of Police in Saltillo Yáñez Clemente Carrillo recounted fallen cops along the years and said there has been more than five, including Commander Marcial Barron, Captain Ignacio Meza, the official Reyna Barajas Munguia, Elisa Ugalde Maribel Torres and the latter, Commander Eleazar Cesar Garcia Guevara.

The prosecutor of Common Law, Rafael Martinez de la Rosa, verified the violent crime and ordered the the removal of the body and arranged transportation to the Medical Examiner for the autopsy.

Source: Zocolo,

 Lavoz

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2012 a Violent Year in Coahuila

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Posted on Borderland Beat Forum by BJEFF
 
This is a recap that concentrates on Saltillo the capital, though events from other cities are included it does not capture the reality of the rampant violence of Piedras and Torreon.
 
 
 

The escape of 129 prisoners from the prison of Piedras Negras, the execution of Jose Eduardo Moreira, son of former Gov. Humberto Moreira, the killing of Heriberto Lazcano, the leader of the Zetas cartel, and the execution of electoral officer Nathaniel Rivera have been security events that have recapped the first years of Ruben Moreira as state governor.

In his campaign platform, Moreira made it clear that security would be one of the hallmarks of his administration, with the phrase "I'll handle security."

Here is an account of the violence  that have occurred in the state during the first year in office Moreira.

DECEMBER 2011  

 The first month of the current administration had no respite or any influence because it was the Christmas season. In December attacks continued in the bars and clubs of  Torreon  Also  there was a killing of a policeman chief  and his stepson in Saltillo, and the kidnapping of seven Police graduates.
 
[number signifies date]
 
3 Organized crime "welcomes" the new administration with an attack on bar "La Barra" of Torreon, where three people died.  

5 The municipal police chief  of Saltillo, Emmanuel Almaguer Perez and his stepson , are executed  while in their  vehicle.

7 Three men aged between 20 and 30 years old were gunned down in Vista Hermosa, in Saltillo.

9  Seven Coahuila police graduates are kidnapped, which unleashes a confrontation where two people are rescued and one dies.

13  Serafin Pena Santos, director of Cereso of Saltillo, is killed by eight bullets in front of a technical secondary University Avenue.

23  The municipal police  Gilberto Escobedo was kidnapped but later found 
 
good guys are really the bad guys


Eduardo "Lalo" Moreira

 

JANUARY 2012

The first month of 2012 shocked the city Saltillenses because it presented the first "hanging", common in cities like Monterrey and Torreon.

16 The director of Women Cereso [prison], Silvia Parra Perez of Saltillo, is ambushed and kidnapped in the morning by armed men.  later released.

18 Appears the first hanging in Saltillo. The body of Joel Espinosa Luis Sosa is found in the MDV,  after being executed and hung on that structure.

FEBRUARY

The month of "love and friendship" was not so, and was characterized by the killing of police and elements involved in drug trafficking.

4 The elements of Alfredo Peralta Police Investigating Oscar Ramirez and Jesus Ontiveros are riddled in Torreon.

14 Arturo Alvarez Andrade, police chief of Saltillo, was killed by three bullets in Saltillo outside his home in Lomas de Guadalupe.

16 After the capture of federal and state control by the PGR, an armed group attacked and killed Jorge Bazaldua, the trusted  Tobias Sergio Salas, is one of the state officials arrested, allegedly for his links drug trafficking.

APRIL 

During April, a zeta leader is arrested in  Saltillo, causing  violence to break out   including that massive shootout at the  building of the PGR, which injured three federal agents.

1 Three bodies of women are found in a clandestine grave in the ejido .

28 José Alberto González Xalate, "El Paisa", whom federal authorities identified as a member of Los Zetas is arrested, a fact that triggers a series of shootings in Saltillo.

29  Aboard two Humvees,  a heavily armed commando attacked and  shot the building of sub Attorney General's Office in Saltillo, injuring three federal agents and a civilian passing by.

JUNE

During the summer of this year, the shootings are intensified in Saltillo. In June it became necessary to shut down schools and close shops for the security of people.

3 A total of 11 dead and over 10 wounded by gunfire was the aftermath of  the shooting attack by a command at the rehabilitation center  located in Ejido La Union in the rural area of ​​Torreón.

22 On this day occurred one of the most violent days in Saltillo, and chases after clashes throughout the day between gunmen and authorities, there was a total  of nine people killed: eight criminals, one civilian and three state troopers injured.

9  Zocalo reporter Saltillan Stephania Cardoso and her little son are kidnapped after attending a party. Days later she speaks  through social networks ensures that all right, but still in danger. [some doubts on this story]

JULY

These days, a shootout in middle of the night woke from their dreams to Saltillo.

5  A confrontation in Saltillo left a toll of four dead suspects, three soldiers injured and a woman traveling in the same vehicle as the attackers. The facts were reported around 3:32 am on crossing of Boulevards Luis Echeverria and Miguel Hidalgo.

AUGUST 

Shocking was meeting in Saltillo was a safe house where organized crime guarding hostages, even from other cities, including Monterrey.

9  Ten kidnap victims were freed and five suspects, including 16-year-old arrested in Saltillo, during a raid by federal police.

28  Three adults and a child are executed by a command inside a garage and car wash.

SEPTEMBER 

The now famous flight of dozens of inmates Cereso of Piedras Negras,

11 The municipal police in  Reyna Barajas,  assigned to the Coordination of alcohol, and Maribel Ugalde, the Police Special Unit for the Investigation of Family Violence, are found executed with bullets to the head on the highway Saltillo- Torreón.

17  In the largest mass escape in memory, 129 inmates escaped from Cereso of Piedras Negras.

18  Ignacio Meza Rueda, deputy director of the Municipal Police of Saltillo, is ambushed and executed in the MDV.

19  One dead, two injured are the casualties  of an assault of a commando into the restaurant "The Frigate"

 

 
Lazca


OCTOBER

Perhaps most shocking month: Jose Eduardo Moreira is executed, son of former Gov. Humberto Moreira, in an alleged "narcovenganza" in which police were involved in  Acuña. Also killed Heriberto Lazcano, top leader of the Zetas.

2  In a Piedras Negras clash between authorities and criminals, is killed Alejandro Chavez Trevino, nephew of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the second Zeta leader.

3 Jose Eduardo Moreira, son of former Gov. Humberto Moreira, Acuña is executed in revenge for the GATES killing of Alejandro Chavez Trevino.

7 In a confrontation in Progresso,  killed by elements of the Navy is  Heriberto Lazcano, top leader of Los Zetas.

12  Elements of the Federal Police arrested three men and rescued a person deprived of liberty  during a raid in Torreon.

NOVEMBER

The continued violence claiming the lives of security personnel, in this case a member of GROMS.

3  10 people are killed in Torreon in two different events. Six killed   when a commando broke into a ritual of Santa Muerte and four more to be found inside a car,  two couples dismembered.

5  After a series of clashes in Piedras Negras, six criminals are killed by federal forces, disrupting classes for 2000 students. That same day, in Saltillo, a narcomanta created panic by appearing in the MDV.

8   Omar Juarez, "The Peluso" Saltillo plaza boss of Los Zetas, is captured by the Navy of Mexico.

10  A local group element GROMS dies after chase and confrontation with criminals in the Metropolitan Park.


22. Military troops a property located five kilometers from the bypass  Berrueto Eliseo Mendoza,  where there were half-buried human remains.

24  Four people were executed inside a taxi were located on a road near the boundaries between Piedras Negras and Zaragoza.

28  In Saltillo, GROMS elements fought gun battles against a group of criminals, four killed 

DECEMBER

The 2012 violent closes December 1. The kidnapping and execution of Nathaniel Rivera and the appearance of 4 "hanging" in the MDV.  highlighted  the news this month.

1 During the first hours of the government of Enrique Peña Nieto and even before he received the presidential sash, a group of thugs appeared in Saltillo with attacks on government installations and the Institutional Revolutionary Party building. Through a statement, warning that it was the "first phase" of their conflict.

3  An ambush on  PGJE officers left  an officer dead and seriously injured  another in Jupiter Street North  in Saltillo.

7  The dawn of this day are four bodies hanging in Megadistribuidor. According to early investigations, this act would be part of a clash between two rival gangs of organized crime.

8  The execution of  a mining entrepreneur in the Carboniferous Region of Coahuila.

12 It is revealed that kidnappers are members of the PAN in Coahuila, some of them identified as Guillermo Anaya team.

17 In El Ejido Guadalupe Victoria, in Saltillo, are found the bodies of six people executed.

18  They confirm that Nathaniel Rivera, executive secretary of the IEPC, is among the six people found tortured and executed in Ejido Guadalupe Victoria.

27  Five children escape the Juvenile Detention Center in the Bellavista neighborhood, after beating guards, also  find in  Viesca six bodies.

28  Cesar Garcia Guevara, element Municipal Preventive Police, was killed from  15 shots in the Buenos Aires colonia of Saltillo.
 
Vanguardia

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Four Zetas Killed while Trying to Steal Plaza Boss El Pokemon's Body

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Borderland Beat


In a statement issued near midnight on Friday, the state government reported that a group of men attacked soldiers guarding the amphitheater where the body of the suspected plaza leader was held.

Elements of the armed forces shot to death four suspected criminals when they attacked the military in an attempt to steal the body of Ángel Enrique Uscanga Marín, alias El Pokemon , identified as the leader of the criminal group Los Zetas in the region of Cordoba, in the state of Veracruz.
On Thursday 27 December, soldiers working as part of the Coordinated Operation Safe Veracruz, faced off with a cell of organized crime in the Congregation on 2o de noviembre,  of the same city.

It was reported that operations had killed five suspected gunmen but it wasn't until Friday afternoon that the Attorney General of the State of Veracruz verified that among the dead was the plaza chief  of Los Zetas.

In the statement issued near midnight on Friday, the state government reported that a group of men attacked the soldiers guarding the amphitheater where the body of the plaza leader lay.

The members of the order repelled the attack and shot dead four gunmen who fired from a vehicle against the military installation which contained the bodies of the five criminals killed on Thursday.

Elements assigned to the coordinated program "Veracruz Seguro" established a security perimeter around the area to protect civilians. Ministerial authorities arrived on the scene, who testified the facts.
  
At the scene they secured vehicles, weapons and a grenade, which were made available to the appropriate authority.
It is known that in May of this 2012, Ángel Enrique Uscanga Marín, El Pokemon was arrested in the town of Amatlán de los Reyes for the crime of theft of motor vehicles, however, he was released..

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Mexico Finds Smuggling Tunnel Near US Border

Friday, December 28, 2012 |

Borderland Beat

By Adriana Gomez Licon
Associated Press


Mexican authorities have discovered a sophisticated smuggling tunnel equipped with electricity and ventilation not far from the Nogales port of entry into Arizona, U.S. and Mexican officials said Friday.

The Mexican army said the tunnel was found Thursday after authorities received an anonymous call in the border city of Nogales, Sonora, south of Arizona. U.S. law enforcement officials confirmed that the Mexican military had discovered the football field-long tunnel with elaborate electricity and ventilation systems.

U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Victor Brabble said the tunnel did not cross into the U.S.

The army said the anonymous caller was reporting gunmen standing outside a two-story house in a hilly neighborhood near the international bridge where motorists travel between Mexico and the United States.

Inside the house, soldiers discovered a fake wall inside a storage closet under a staircase that led to a dark room with buckets and clothes. After lifting a drain cover in that room, soldiers found another staircase at the entrance of the tunnel that went 16 feet underground and measured a yard in diameter. Light bulbs lit the underground passage and pipes stretched across the 120-yard tunnel that Mexican army officials believe was built to smuggle drugs.

It was unclear whether officials made any arrests, but the house where the tunnel was found was seized by the local government. Military officials did not say how long they believed the tunnel had been under construction, but authorities say it can take six months to a year to build such a passage.

Sophisticated secret tunnels stretching across the international border have become increasingly common as drug cartels invent new ways to smuggle enormous loads of heroin, marijuana and other drugs into U.S.

More than 70 such tunnels have been found since October 2008, most of them concentrated along the border in California and Arizona. In Nogales, Arizona, smugglers tap into vast underground drainage canals.


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Northern Zacatecas scenes of thefts shootings and kidnappings

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By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com

Despite public promises by authorities to reinforce security in northern municipalities of Zacatecas state, several security incidents have taken place, including the kidnapping of a relative of a Chihuahua state politician Christmas eve, according to Mexican news accounts.

A news story published on the website of El Siglo de Durango news daily Friday reported that three members of the family of Camargo, Chihuahua mayor Arthus Zubia Ordaz died in a carjacking incident near Fresnillo, Zacatecas.

According to the report at around 1200 hrs, the family was bound for Chihuahua state when the victims was intercepted by armed suspects, and then driven some distance only crash at a location about 24 kilometers outside of Fresnillo.

Killed in the crash was Yolanda Zubia Fernandez, a former government official from Guanajuato state and Zubia Ordaz's sister, and Brenda Ordaz Zubia, 34  and her son Luis Alfredo Ordaz Zubia, 14.

Three months ago Chihuahua state politician Alex LaBaron claimed that in September in Fresnillo Max LeBaron, his brother, and two women were taken hostage and driven to a warehouse in Cuencame municipality in Durango.  There Max Lebaron was beaten.  Three hours later the trio were released near Fresnillo.

The last incident probably explains why the Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) the controlling agency for the Mexican Army had announced plans in November to reinforce the northern border areas in Zacatecas, especially near the borders of Durango and Coahuila states.

Since that announcement, more than 50 individuals have been killed mostly in intergang fighting and executions.

Incidents have taken place on or near Mexico Federal Highway 54, and have included 13 killed in or around Fresnillo between November 12th and December 16th.  Included in that time frame was a counter kidnapping operation by units with the Mexican 11th Military Zine which led to the capture of four kidnapping suspects.  Other killings have occurred in that time frame in Jerez and Calera municipalities as well as in Guadalupe and Tabasco municipalities.

According to a news item posted on the website of El Sol de Zacatecas news daily intense fighting between armed gang members have been taking place since Christmas.  Locations in Fresnillo include firefights on Calle Miguel Hidalgo, near Zona Centro and near the Palacio Municipio or city hall.  Fighting continued in Zapata colony, on Avenida Huicotand and near Chedraui store.

Reports were also received from the sectors  Lomas de Plateros and  Fovissste, which are near roads leading to Valparaiso municipality.

According to the report fighting continued Thursday in Esparza colony, near the school Secundaria Técnica 2 and in Paseo del Mineral colony near roads that lead to Valparaiso.

No one was reported killed or wounded in these multiple gunfights.

It is worth noting that a comment appearing on the El Siglo de Durango article charged that federal and state police forces in the area were charging tolls at checkpoints in northern Zacatecas.  That comment was removed a few minutes later.  The original remark in Spanish can be seen here.

Criminal gangs also ahve been known to don military uniforms to appear as legitimate security elements to disguise their presence in public.

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

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100 bodies in Durango mass grave identified since January

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To read the last Borderland Beat story on the Durango narcofosas, click here


By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com

Less than 30 percent of victims found in Durango's mass graves have been identified, according to Mexican news accounts.

Fiscalia de la Garza Fragoso

A news report posted on the website of El Siglo de Durango news daily, Durango state Fiscalia General del Estado (FGE) or attorney general, Sonia Yadira de la Garza Fragoso, released information that since the final report on the mass graves in Durango state in March, 2012, 100 bodies have been identified by family members, and then returned to them.

Starting in mid 2011, 331 total dead were found in a series of mass graves discovered in Durango state, primarily in Durango city, the capital. Other sites found were as far away as Gomez Palacio in the extreme western part of the state around the La Laguna area and in Santiago Papasquiaro municipality in the north.

Late July another nine dead were found in Cristobal Colon sector of Durango city, bringing the total to 340 dead.

Many of the victims had been killed as far back as 2007, and 77 percent of those had been strangled or asphyxiated, mainly by being buried alive.

de la Garza Fragoso said relatives such as grandparents and cousins were providing DNA samples to help with identification, a much less accurate means of determining the identity of the victims.  Some remains, however, are so decomposed that DNA samples are impossible to obtain, so, according to de la Garza Fragoso, other means are being used.

The mass graves in Durango are cumulatively the worst mass grave find in the Mexican Drug War to date.  That said, those murders occurred over a six year period. The mass murders and graves in San Fernando municipality in Tamaulipas state are by far the worst mass grave in the Mexican Drug War to date, standing at 193 dead.  Those deaths took place between August 2010 and May 2011.

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

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CDG Decapitates Zeta Plaza Boss in Zacatecas

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Borderland Beat

Members of the Gulf cartel (CDG) abducted and executed a Zetas plaza boss in the state of Zacatecas. A Mexican narco-blog posted the picture of Commander Niño de Los Zetas (boy of the Zetas) who was decapitated by alleged members of the Gulf cartel in Zacatecas.

Commander Niño was plaza boss in numerous towns in the state of Zacatecas but he was in charge primarily in the towns of Fresnillo and Jerez.

The Gulf cartel placed the decapitated head of the plaza boss along with a narco-card with a message where they accused him of also being extortionist and kidnapper. The message said the following:

"For being a kidnapper and extortionist Commander Niño of Los Zetas."

The Gulf cartel and Los Zetas are currently locked in battle over control of plazas in Zacatecas that has generated an increase of violence in the region.

Source: El Diario de Coahuila

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PGR Arrested One of Mexico's "Most Wanted " Women

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MEXICO CITY, (ap). - Nessie Susana Topete Herrera or Jessica Itzel  Martinez Requena, one of the nine women most wanted by the Attorney General's Office (PGR), was captured Thursday in the city of Querétaro.

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Immediately, the authorities of that entity made available to the Attorney General of the State of Mexico (PGJEM), which has outstanding warrants with justice for her alleged involvement in several robberies and murders committed in the cities of  Zinacantepec and Toluca, as recorded in the criminal case 185/2011.

In addition, the 22 year old is associated with a band of robbers to computer  businesses, from which four murders were derived.

Once the PGJE learned that the accused, who is from the state of Mexico, recently had  moved to Querétaro, elements of the Crime Investigation Department deployed investigators who identified her exact location and then carry out her capture

According to information provided by the Mexican authorities , Nessie Susana Topete, 22, was part of a gang that was involved in the robbery trade with violence,  operating in the cities of Toluca and Zinacantepec.

Another most wanted women by federal justice is Dolores Torres Moreno, La Lola , who is part of the kidnap gang known as Los Montante and also organized crime.

The third most wanted woman in the country is Andrea Penaloza Pineda, who is related to the killing of three youths in the El Seminario neighborhood, in Toluca.

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More details on the Christmas eve massacre at El Platanar Ontiveros

Thursday, December 27, 2012 |

By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com

The Christmas eve massacre at El Platanar Ontiveros in Sinaloa state was caused by a rivalry between drug gangs over territory, according to Mexican news reports.

According to a Proceso wire dispatch published on the website of Vanguardia news daily, the armed group which invaded the remote mountain community numbered about 30 armed suspects, so said Sinaloa state Procuraduria General de Justicia (PGJE), or attorney general Marco Antonio Higuera Gomez.

Marco Antonio Higuera Gomez

Higuera Gomez at a news conference told the press that his office had a number of leads in the case including the identity of some of the shooters, but he did  not elaborate, only saying that armed groups vying for territory in Sinaloa state include Beltran Leyva cartel, the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas.

According to the news article, Concordia mayor José Eligio Medina Rios has been informed at around 1930 hrs by Maria Ontiveros Osuna  that her husband Francisco Tirado Gutierrez had been kidnapped.

It was later learned that Tirado Gutierrez, along with three other individuals, Bastidas Feliciano Gutierrez, Francisco Lizarraga Perez  and Marcelino Rueda Medrano had been taken to the town basketball court and executed.  Tirado Gutierrez was beheaded using a machete.  Investigators found 17 spent cartridge casings identified in the story as "Cop killer" rounds, probably 5.7mm.

According to an El Universal dispatch which appeared on the website of El Diario de Coahuila news daily, Lizarraga Perez, 19, was a student on vacation attending Autonomous University of Sinaloa,

About 20 minutes later, Medina Rios found five other individuals who had been shot to death at a nearby grocery store, identified as Francisco Parentes Medina, the store owner, Victor Medina Garay, related to Parentes Medina, Parentes Medina's sons, Jesus and Francisco Parentes Paez and Tomas Rodriguez Aguirre, a neighbor.  At the store investigators found 96 spent cartridge casings for an AK-47 rifle.

According to Higuera Gomez, El Platanar Ontiveros had a local army detachment permanently stationed in the village, but the unit had been dispatched to another location for a counternarcotics operation.  Higuera Gomez said the armed group took advantage of the military unit's absence to make their assault.

Higuera Gomez also said that none of the victims had a criminal history, but any nexus with organize crime is under investigation.

The same group which performed the massacre in El Platanar Ontiveros also killed two Sinaloa state Policia Estatal Preventiva agents in Mazatlan municipality near the Picachos dam last November, said Higuera Gomez.

Many residents in the area had fled to Concordia municipality drug gang violence in other areas of the state.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and natonal political new for Rantburg.com

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Los Zetas crew in Nuevo Leon admits to 22 murders

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By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com

Five armed suspects suspected in the deaths if 22 individuals were detained by Nuevo Leon state ministerial agents and a unit of the Agencia Estatal de Investigaciones (AEI), according to a Mexican news accounts.

The detainees were identified as  Ezau Alejandro Saldaña Olvera, Carlos Arturo Bazaldua Escalante, Jesus Guadalupe Frías Mendoza o Hesus Alejandro Drias Lozano, Mario Vazquez Ramirez and Francisco Javier Sanchez Robles.

According to a news item posted on the website of Milenio news daily, the five suspects were operating as halcones, or lookouts for the Los Zetas drug cartel in Anahuac municipality in Nuevo Leon state.

Quoting the Nuevo Leon state  Director de Comunicacion Social del Gobierno del Estado, Jorge Domene Zambrano, the five detainees had been operating in Anahuac municipality between April and August of 2012. 

In total only four complaints had been filed against the crew.  Three of the detainees were placed under arrest on a road leading to Monclova, Coahuila this month.  Information developed from that arrest led to the other two members of the local gang.

In addition to the 22 allegedly killed, the crew also committed kidnappings and carjackings in the area, and were employed as hitmen.  Among the victims were individuals who had denounced members of the crew, relatives of enemies and operatives of rival local gangs.

Among the cases  allegedly involving the crew include:

  • An April, 2012 cases of a hit on a woman and her daughter who had gone to the police about the crew.
  • An April, 2012 case of hit on an unidentified female who was a relative of an individuals who had denounced one of the crew to the local police.
  • A June, 2012 carjacking victim.
  • A June, 2012 kill order against an unidentified individual.
  • A June 2012 hit against a drug dealer and his son.
  • A July, 2012 hit against a female acquaintance of one of the crew's leaders.
  • A July 2012 hit against a mechanic accused of stealing money from the crew.
  • A July 2012 hit on a female who was living in ejido Los Rodriguez.
  • An August hit on a male member of a rival gang.
  • Two men were killed because they had posted photos of escapees of the Apodaca prison break last February.
  • Two men who were abducted from 20 de Noviembre colony.
  • Six others who were identified as relatives of a former crew member known only as Z50.
According to the report, 17 of the 22 murder victims had been incinerated while the other five were buried in various places in and around the municipality.

Anahuac municipality is on Nuevo Leon Highway 1, about 40 kilometers southwest of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas and about 15 kilomters west of the Tamaulipas-Nuevo Leon state border.

Contraband seized in the investigation included five vehicles and communications equipment.

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

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Northern NM Homicides Drug Cartel Related

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Borderladnd Beat

By: Jill Galus
KOB Eyewitness News 4

As if four homicides within weeks of each other wasn't already enough, the Rio Arriba County Sheriff says there is no doubt the execution style killings are Mexican drug cartel related.

Earlier this month two bodies were found inside a travel trailer in Hernandez.
The victims were identified as Gino Valdez and Matthew Maestas. Both were killed in an execution style - each with five gunshot wounds hit point blank in the head.
A similar scene was discovered less than two weeks later. Two burned bodies were found in a torched mobile home near Medanales.

Tomas Sanchez, 20, was one of the victims. He was also the primary suspect in the Hernandez double homicide.

"It was drug related, and we do feel that certainly there is some Mexican cartel influence in these homicides," Rodella said. "I think we're seeing it more often, but I think anyone of us could go back probably 20, 25 years and we can see cases that would be similar to this where someone's killed and then the place is torched."
Rodella said his office is trying to tackle, but it doesn't help that the department is extremely understaffed.

He says they've been denied more funding from the Rio Arriba County Commission.
"We've had a sheriff that has ignored the budget process here at the county, he's refused to come in front of the commission and present us a well thought out plan," County Commissioner Barney Trujillo said.

And without that, he says the commission has no mission to support.

"He does not have an investigator, a detective on his staff to try to solve a lot of these crimes and murders that have taken place and that would be one of the first places I would look into getting if I were him as opposed to say hiring a public information officer or hiring an executive secretary to work in his department," Trujillo said.

Rodella says he's asked three different times, in writing, to present a formal plan before the commission, and each time he was ignored.


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ATF: Most Guns at Mexican Crime Scenes Traced to US

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Borderland Beat

By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times

More than 68 percent of the weapons recovered at Mexican crime scenes over a five-year period were traced to U.S. manufacturers or U.S. dealers who import firearms, according to statistics of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Between 2007 and 2011, Mexican law enforcement submitted 99,691requests to the ATF for tracing, and 68,161 of those firearms were determined to come from U.S. makers or were legally imported into the United States by federally licensed firearms dealers.

The ATF said it was unable to determine the source of the rest of the firearms because of missing information about the guns themselves, where they came from and how they got into Mexico.

Mexican drug cartels have waged brutal battles over turf in several areas of Mexico, including in Juárez, where firearms were used in most of estimated 11,000 homicides that police reported between 2007 and the end of November.


This is a breakdown of total firearms recovered in Mexico and traced by ATF, and the number of weapons of unknown origin:

  • 2011: 20,335, U.S.; 14,504, unknown.
  • 2010: 8,338, U.S.; 6,404, unknown.
  • 2009: 21,555, U.S.; 14,376, unknown.
  • 2008: 32,111, U.S.; 21,035, unknown.
  • 2007: 17,352, U.S.; 11,842, unknown.  

  • The "ATF Mexico" report does not include information on which, or if any, of the reported firearm recoveries were traced to the agency's Operation Fast and Furious, in which federal agents allowed guns purchased by straw buyers in the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico in an attempt to identify and arrest high-level arms traffickers.


    More than 1,000 of the 2,000 weapons connected to the Phoenix-based operation are unaccounted for, according to U.S. lawmakers, who investigated the botched ATF operation that began in late 2009.

    The ATF shut down Fast and Furious after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was fatally shot Dec. 14, 2010, in Arizona near the Mexican border. A rifle connected to the ATF operation was found in the vicinity of Terry's body.

    Some of the weapons attributed to Operation Fast and Furious were smuggled across the border through El Paso, and they were found by Mexican law enforcement officers at crime scenes in Juárez and other places in the state of Chihuahua.

    Recently, new allegations threaten the ATF with another scandal, prompting a U.S. senator to request an investigation.

    U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, who had initiated an investigation into Fast and Furious, said in a Dec. 19 letter to Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz that a former ATF official assigned to Phoenix might have purchased a gun that Mexican officials allegedly found at the scene of a November shootout between drug cartel operatives and Mexican soldiers in Sinaloa, Mexico.

    Grassley's letter said the area of the shootout reported by Mexican officials appears to coincide with a firefight that killed several people in the same area.

    "The gunfight claimed five lives, including a member of the Mexican military and a Sinaloa beauty queen, Maria Susana Flores Gamez," Grassley's letter said. His letter also said that the weapon allegedly obtained by the ATF official was purchased Jan. 7, 2010, but Grassley had no information on how it ended up in Mexico.

    "This information's implications and its ability to undermine public confidence in the integrity of ATF operations cannot be overstated," Grassley's letter said. "Your (Horowitz's) office needs to work swiftly. There must be a thorough, independent, and public explanation of these circumstances as quickly as possible."

    No one was available for comment late Wednesday at the ATF offices in Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

    The ATF also reported statistics for firearm recoveries and tracings in the United States, including Texas.

    Between Jan. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011, the ATF traced 15,058 firearm recoveries to Texas. The ATF said most of the tracings are for weapons found by U.S. law enforcement officers at crime scenes in Texas and in other states, but traced back to Texas sources.

    The top three recovery cities in Texas were Houston, with 3,034 firearm recoveries; Dallas, with 2,463; and Corpus Christi, with 502. ATF figures for El Paso recoveries were not available.

    "We use the ATF's tracing resources to investigate gun ownership, periodically, on a case-by-case basis," said Mike Baranyay, a detective with the El Paso Police Department. "Our investigators can also check whether a weapon is stolen through the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) system."

    The ATF's National Tracing Center conducted 319,000 firearms tracings in 2011.

    Tracing figures for 2012 will not be available until mid-2013 or later.



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    Zetas grow stronger despite Lazca's death

    Wednesday, December 26, 2012 |

    El Diario Milenio December 26, 2012

    Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat

    Distrito Federal-- Despite the death of the absolute ruler of Los Zetas, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, "El Lazca", this criminal organization was not affected. On the contrary, its cells continue in operation and are multiplying, and they are the bloodiest in the country.

    In over half of Mexico, they have a presence in activities related to drug trafficking, human trafficking, fuel theft and extortion, despite the blows struck against the organization in the past six years.

    The United Nations classifies this criminal group as the most violent in the Americas, which not only seeks control of the drug market at the national and international level, but also of the whole spectrum of illegal activities.

    Officials of the PGR (Mexican Attorney General) and the SSP (Secretariat of Public Security) commented that the "strengthening" of the criminal group is the result of the leadership of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, El Z-40, who now occupies El Lazca's position. This person's rise to power broke the pattern of the group, which had always been led by Army deserters.
    
    Lazca
    
    El Z-40, they pointed out, is an intelligent and ruthless person who travels freely throughout the country and Central America, and who often stays in the Distrito Federal to close deals with Colombian narcos. As a cover, he uses "caravans" of purported businessmen and religious persons, among which he hides to evade law enforcement forces. In addition to this, they assume that he maintains contact with politicians from the northern part of the country that he has "bought".

    A branch of the cartel is in the hands of his brother Omar Trevino, El Z-42, who operates in the Gulf of Mexico area, while Miguel hides in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, or in Laredo, Texas, in the U.S.
     
    Currently, the federal government has in place a 30 million peso ($2.4 million) reward for each of the brothers; the U.S. is offering $5 million (reward) for each of them.

    According to information gathered by these agencies and information exchanged with the National Defense and Navy Secretariats, the officials indicated that El Z-40 has reinforced the cartel with "new blood", which today occupies the positions left by the local bosses who were arrested or killed. 

    This is why it has proven difficult to locate the new leaders, who control various illegal activities, from protection rackets to the sale of drugs.  The Zetas, they added, are behind the high-impact crimes that have been committed during the last six years, ranging from the murder of politicians, relatives of governors and undocumented (immigrants), to the slaughter of rival criminals.

    They currently operate in Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Distrito Federal, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo.

    Specialists

    Today this group, unlike other cartels, has specialized in the area of telecommunications and it has been established that they kidnapped specialists in this area to build their communications networks. A few months ago, the Colima Attorney General documented that an armed group picked up a group of computer systems engineers in the township of Tecoman, whose fate is still not known.

    During 2011 and 2012, the Navy dismantled more than two telecommunications networks in Veracruz that were being used not only to communicate among the group itself, but also to intercept communications between the Marines, the Army and the Federal Police.

    The new administration is faced with the challenge of identifying the new operators in the group, of whom they don't even have photographs, who constantly travel to Tamaulipas and Veracruz to report to the Trevino Morales brothers.

    Likewise, the group faced a revolt led by Ivan Vazquez Caballero, El Taliban, identified as one of the Zeta leaders. This triggered a series of confrontations in San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas until last September 26, when the Marines captured El Taliban in San Luis Potosi. This person had rebelled against his leaders, in particular against Miguel Angel Trevino, who had won the group's leadership years before the actual death of El Lazca. This is why there was no internal struggle for control within the group after the death of Heriberto, on October 7, in Coahuila.
    Founder

    Los Zetas were organized by a former member of the military, Arturo Guzman Decena, El Z-1, who worked worked under orders of the leader of the Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cardenas Guillen. After his death, the group continued to function as the armed branch of the cartel, but under the leadership of Jose Guadalupe Rivera, El Gordo Mata.  But after the capture of Guadalupe Rivera, in April 2005, El Lazca took control of Los Zetas until 2010, when he broke up with the Gulf cartel.


    One should mention that the principal leaders of Los Zetas were Army deserters, and they still have a large quantity of weapons that law enforcement agencies don't even have. The PGR has documented that the organization has in its possession M72 and AT-4 anti-tank rockets, RPG-7 rocket launchers, 37mm MGL grenade launchers, grenade launcher adapters for 37mm and 40mm, fragmentation grenades, and .50 caliber Barrett rifles. 

    It also has new generation firearms such as the Belgian-manufactured 5.7X28mm FN Herstal pistols, known as the "Five-Seven", imported by the United States, which due to its technical characteristics is capable of penetrating Kevlar and Crisat armor, also known as the "police killer".

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    15 die in Jalisco state

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    By Chris Covert
    Rantburg.com

    At least 15 unidentified individuals have been killed in gunfights and executions in Jalisco state Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Mexican press sources.

    A news item published on the website of El Universal news daily said that 15 individuals including four police agents in Pihuamo have been killed since Christmas eve.

    A news item posted on the website of El Diario de Coahuila news daily reported Christmas day that the bodies of four Pihuamo municipal police agents were found in he village of Los Naranjos.  The victims had been abducted from a bullring in Pihuamo municipality during an public event, and led away by armed suspects dressed in military uniforms.  A fifth victim was found in Los Naranjos, but the identity had not been established; only that that victim was not a police agent.

    Mexican drug cartel shooters and operatives routinely don military uniforms and use falsely marked vehicles as a mean of escaping observation.

    The El Universal article quoted an unidentified source with the Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), the controlling agency for the Mexican Army, saying that 10 others had died in armed confrontations between armed drug groups in the areas in southern Jalisco state.  The source said that army units found the bodies, and that those units were not involved with any exchange of gunfire with armed suspects.

    Since a scan of the website of SEDENA failed to turn up any notifications of any shootouts from any regional commands since December 23rd, the source is probably from a military zone spokesman, likely the 41st Military Zone based in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

    Probable gangs involved in the shootout include members of the Jalisco Nueva Generacion and Caballeros Templarios.

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

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    9 die in Sinaloa state

    Tuesday, December 25, 2012 |

    By Chris Covert
    Rantburg.com

    A total of nine unidentified individuals were shot to death in Sinaloa state Christmas eve, according to Mexican news accounts.

    According to a news report originating from an El Universal wire dispatch published on the website of El Porvenir news daily, the president of Concordia municipality, Eligio Medina Ríos, told the press that armed suspects entered the village of El Platanar de los Ontiveros are starting shooting at residents who were on foot.

    Among the dead were the spouse of a member of the village counsel.

    Medina Ríos also placed a call with Sinaloa governor Mario Lopez Valdez to ask for emergency aid to the area.

    It is unclear where in Concordia municipality El Platanar de los Ontiveros is, except that it has been noted it is in a remote mountainous area of Sinaloa state.

    The report also notes that many residents of the area have fled violence, including those from the villages of La Cieneguilla, El Tiro, El Llano and Zaragoza.

    Concordia itself sits on Mexico Federal Highway 40, the northern most contiguous major east west road in Mexico.  The highway connects the seaport of Mazatlan in Sinaloa state on the Pacific coast and Reynosa and Matamoros in Tamaulipas state.

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

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    New Concerns For President Peña Nieto: Hezbollah’s Rising Profile In Mexico – Analysis

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    Borderland Beat


    By J.T. Larrimore
    A day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s inauguration, opposition leaders met with the new leader to sign the “Pact for Mexico”, a bipartisan agreement to increase economic cooperation and improve the stability in a country notorious for its violent drug war and devastating corruption.[1] The current plague of instability in Mexico appears to have attracted transnational criminal and terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, which should be of paramount concern for President Peña Nieto. Hezbollah’s presence would further indicate a disturbing degree of instability in Mexico, which would undermine economic and social developments. 
    Hezbollah has been reportedly operating for over a decade in some of South America’s most corrupt and violent regions. However, a series of arrests, coupled with the discovery of an international money-laundering scheme in Mexico, has led some to claim that Hezbollah has now established a foothold in the country.[2] While its presence in Mexico is still contested, the framework for Hezbollah’s operations is now met with ideal conditions, given the group’s history of operating in areas with high levels of corruption are present.[3] 

    The South American drug trade has provided an opportunity for Hezbollah’s illicit activity for years, which would allow the terrorist organization to maintain financial solvency. According to U.S. security services, the majority of Hezbollah’s illegal operations have occurred along the Colombia-Venezuela border, as well as the Tri- Border Region between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. In these areas, a number of analysts have suggested that Hezbollah has aligned with various drug cartels to the mutual benefit of all parties involved.[4] Mexico, with its half-decade of escalating drug activity, presents similar conditions to those Latin American regions that are thought to already have ties to Hezbollah. These regions suffer from bouts of instability and are inflicted with high rates of corruption and a lucrative drug trade.

    Evidence of Hezbollah’s Presence in Mexico 

    Hezbollah’s presence in Mexico is a conservational topic among politicians as well as security experts.[5] However, recent arrests and a surge of indictments, strengthens the argument that Hezbollah is now active in Mexico:

    On May 5, 2012, Jamal Yousef, a former member of the Syrian Army, pleaded guilty in a U.S. Court to a conspiracy that provided weapons to a Colombian terrorist organization in exchange for cocaine. Court documents revealed that the weapons used for the transaction had been stolen from Iraq, and were being held by a Hezbollah operative in Mexico.[6] 

    On June 23, 2012, Ayman Joumaa, a Hezbollah associate, was indicted in a U.S. Federal Court on charges of a conspiracy to distribute narcotics and engage in potential money laundering. Ayman Joumaa and his associates were accused of smuggling narcotics from Colombia to Mexico for the “Los Zetas” drug cartel. The drug earnings would be transmitted, laundered around the world and then placed in business and bank accounts linked to Hezbollah.[7]

    In September 2012, authorities arrested three men suspected of being Hezbollah operatives hiding in Mexico. One of them was a Lebanese man named Raffic Labboun, also a naturalized U.S. Citizen, who was considered to be the leader of Hezbollah operations in San Francisco, however, he fled to Mexico after being released from prison in the U.S. for fraud linked to the terrorist organization.[8] 

    While there has been a good deal of speculation over Hezbollah’s activity in Mexico, evidence reveals that their main objective has been financial in nature.

    Economic Reform Countered by Corruption 

    Newly inaugurated President Peña Nieto campaigned heavily on economic development issues by means of a series of basic reforms. The president believes that his reforms will boost Mexico’s economy and in the process, transform the country into being one of the world’s most important economic drivers. Mexico has excited economic forecasters, given that its GDP is expected to grow 4 percent annually, and the unemployment rate should fall below 5 percent.[9] However, foreign investors are concerned that Mexico is too unstable to develop into a global economic power. They argue the drug trade and rampant corruption will dampen any economic reform brought forth by the government.[10] In fact, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command concerning future threats, “In terms of worst case scenarios, Mexico… bears consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse.[11]
    Corruption has hindered Mexico’s social and economic development for years. Today, Mexico is the 71st most corrupt country in the world, and finds itself with little ability to reverse this debilitating trend without a stronger and more centralized anti-crime enforcement strategy.[12] If Mexico is to develop according to its lofty projections, the country’s endemic corruption rate must be more effectively addressed and resolved. 
    President Peña Nieto’s agenda on corruption initiatives includes a new anti-corruption commission that would have the authority to remove officials from office, hand out fines, and move ahead with prosecutions. Furthermore, the president has also proposed moving the federal police to the jurisdiction of Mexico’s Department of the Interior, among other far-reaching reforms of the country’s security forces. The departmental transfer of the country’s police force would hopefully limit the country’s potential for graft. Critics who are skeptical of these reforms have stated that in order to eliminate corruption, the president must create a functioning and improved criminal justice system and establish stronger anti-corruption measures that would automatically confiscate illegally obtained assets.[13] What these critics have failed to realize is that the Mexican government has already initiated many of these measures with little effect. Unfortunately, corruption appears to have become deeply ingrained within Mexican culture, which serves as a pessimistic indicator of real prospects for new reforms.
    In 2010, Transparency International carried out a poll to determine the extent of corruption in Mexico. In the poll, 31 percent of Mexican citizens had reported paying a bribe at least once, 75 percent of Mexicans believed that corruption had increased in their country, and only 22 percent believed that the government’s efforts to fight corruption were effective.[14] The poll revealed that the people of Mexico have a contradictory perception of corruption. The majority of them appear to have become accustomed and desensitized to a system of bribery as a function of the country’s everyday life. They disagree with the fundamental nature of a corrupt government, yet they often partake in the spoils and payoffs spawned by corruption in order to accomplish tasks and increase their earnings. In order for a more effective government authority to be achieved, the people must demand greater accountability as well as a significant advance in social reforms. This may only be achieved through formidable efforts to dislodge traditional norms of corruption.

    Drug War 

    President Peña Nieto has inherited former President Felipe Calderon’s drug war; a war which has resulted in the deaths of 50,000 people, and has attracted Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) like Hezbollah within its borders. Although Hezbollah’s primary objective has been financial, it has aligned with Mexican drug cartels in order to better traffic narcotics and launder drug profits.[15] President Peña Nieto must realize that this criminal alliance could topple any gains put forth by his administration. Michael Braun of the DEA has stated that Hezbollah is “in essence, the face of twenty-first century organized crime…meaner and uglier than anything law enforcement or militaries have ever faced.” [16] 

    In response to the violent drug war, President Peña Nieto has vowed to continue fighting drug trafficking. In order to carry out this effectively, he intends to remove the Army from conducting counter-drug operations, and has stated that Mexico will continue to cooperate with the United States. The drug war has often dominated talks between the two nations into a monothematic discourse that both leaders are eager to modify and hopefully reverse. 

    All the while, President Peña Nieto recognizes that Mexico’s poor image abroad has slowed the country’s economic growth. In order to reverse a declining inflow of capital to the country, the president has announced a commitment to modernize trade deals and further develop oil and gas exploration in order to attract more foreign investments. However, Peña Nieto must realize that if FTOs like Hezbollah continue to operate in Mexico, efforts to develop the country’s economy will be greatly hindered.[17]

    Conclusion 

    Hezbollah’s print in Mexico is still relatively light, but is an indication of the level of insecurity that the country continues to operate with on a daily basis. A high rate of corruption along with a lucrative drug trade perpetually threatens to stifle Mexico’s desire to overcome its reputation as a haven for transnational criminal and terrorist organizations 

    The new Mexican administration has pledged an ambitious reform of government institutions in order to alleviate certain problematic sectors of the economy. While a certain number of these reforms are legitimate, others appear to be headed for failure in their attempt to tackle core issues concerning instability. Based partly on Mexico’s deeply rooted political traditions, confronting these difficult issues will be decisive obstacles for President Peña Nieto to achieve his goals. The president must attract foreign investment, which cannot be sustained unless the remnants of the violent drug war are contained. It will be a difficult task for the new administration to accomplish such a task, but it is an initiative that his administration must confront and dispatch with success. 

    J.T. Larrimore, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs

    Sources: eurasiareview, Blaze



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