Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How A Small Cog In Mexico’s Criminal Economy Grew Into A Hotbed Of Terror

Posted by DD republished from Huffington Post

By Jesselyn Cook
World News Reporter, The Huffington Post

Homicide rates in Mexico’s southeastern state of Veracruz have skyrocketed to record levels, and some now call it the country’s biggest mass grave.

This aerial image shows the area known as Colinas de Santa Fe where Mexican authorities work to find the remains of people buried in mass graves on the outskirts of Veracruz. More than 250 skulls were found there earlier this year in what appears to be a drug cartel’s mass burial ground, prosecutors said.

In a sobering new report, “Veracruz: Fixing Mexico’s State of Terror,” the International Crisis Group describes the crime- and corruption-plagued region as “emblematic of the challenges facing the country as a whole.” Veracruz has at least 2,750 unresolved disappearance cases, but civil society groups say as many as 20,000 people could be missing.

Just this week, police discovered a note near the tortured bodies of two women and nine men. “You want a war, you’ll get a war,” it reportedly read. Veracruz Gov. Miguel Ángel Yunes Linares said the killings, like more than 70 percent of recent homicide cases, were linked to organized crime gangs.

Veracruz atrocities largely stem from political failures that include ineffective law enforcement strategies, systemic obstruction of justice and a lack of judicial accountability, the International Crisis Group report says.

    The recent history of Veracruz, the gruesome details of which are starting to emerge, underlines the crisis not of one state administration but of the Mexican political system as a whole, where a well-intended democratic transition has fallen short of expectations and become corroded by organized crime. The ease with which political power-holders have been able to pursue criminal ambitions points to structural weaknesses in the democratic system.

The rise of organized crime throughout the country reflects Veracruz’s evolution from a base for drug trafficking to a “set of criminal enterprises,” according to the report. Crimes, including extortion and kidnapping, have been on the rise at both the state and federal levels in recent years.

The International Crisis Group calls on the U.S. and other governments to increase pressure on Mexican leaders to address root causes of the nation’s organized crime epidemic, and refocus strategies for resolving the crisis. Support must be directed away from militarization and toward anti-graft efforts, the group explains.

Effective reform in Veracruz will depend strongly on sustained federal support, which seems unlikely. The Mexican government is already grappling with challenges like U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed import tax and border wall threatening its economy, straining resources to combat organized crime.

Ineffective Government, Rampant Corruption

Veracruz’s transformation from a small hub in Mexico’s criminal economy used by drug cartels into an increasingly dangerous region plagued by record violence is becoming clearer with mounting evidence of grisly brutalities and deep-seated corruption.

Violent crimes in the state surged as more criminal groups pushed in after the election of Javier Duarte Ochoa, an unpopular governor who came into office in late 2010. There were 3,208 homicides logged in the first four years of his term ― an alarming jump from 1,848 during his predecessor’s first four years.

Duarte has been declared a fugitive criminal since resigning six years into his term over allegations that linked him to embezzlement, drug cartels and the murders of several journalists.

Under his leadership, widespread state-criminal collusion and impunity gripped the region, undermining the legitimacy of the Mexican government at all levels. A whirlwind of killings targeted legal professionals, police officers, crime witnesses and others who dared to challenge criminal institutions and their suspected political accomplices

At least 17 journalists were killed in Veracruz ― one of the most dangerous places to be a reporter in all of Latin America ― and others went missing while Duarte was governor. Many had covered local crime and violence extensively. Duarte ruled the state “with the intent of hiding or denying these crimes, and assuring their culprits a free rein,” the International Crisis Group reports.

The state’s violent and sometimes deadly oppression of the press is not an isolated case in Mexico. The country is ranked 149 out of 181 countries in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders. The group describes Mexico as “the Western Hemisphere’s deadliest country for the media.”

A man hangs images of murdered journalists outside the Government of Veracruz building in Mexico City, Feb. 11, 2016. Mexico is considered to be the deadliest country for journalists in the western hemisphere.
 In Veracruz, an alliance between criminal groups and the highest levels of local political power paved the way to an unbridled campaign of violence. The International Crisis Group.

Abuse of power in the state became so rampant under Duarte’s leadership that an initiative called the Veracruz Truth Commission was created following his resignation to foster new standards for accountability and civil society engagement in criminal investigation and prosecution.

Duarte’s legacy of corruption illustrates a trend throughout Mexico. State governors are among the country’s least reputable public authorities, the International Crisis Group says. Eleven governors have been investigated since 2010 for corruption, including fraud, money laundering, nepotism and links to drug cartels.

The Failure Of Militarization

EDUARDO MURILLO via Getty Images
Homicide numbers surged following the launch of former President Felipe Calderón’s military

Duarte came into power amid a major shift in law enforcement strategies to eradicate organized crime. In 2007, then-President Felipe Calderón mobilized tens of thousands of troops in an escalated effort to crush drug cartel operations.

In Veracruz, like in the rest of the nation, the shift toward aggressive militarization dramatically backfired, the International Crisis Group notes, inciting more violence and inflaming the conflict rather than curbing it.

The state has endured a stunning spike in violence and crime-related killings since the start of the military-led campaign. In July 2016, monthly homicide numbers reached 132 for the first time in recorded history.

The gruesome trend appeared on the national level as well. During the same month, there were 1,842 preliminary inquiries for homicide ― the highest monthly figure since President Enrique Peña Nieto was elected in 2012.

A recent report from the Belisario Domínguez Institute recalls that Mexicans enjoyed “historic lows” in homicide near the end of 2006. National homicide numbers tripled from 2007 to 2011.

“It was after the start of the permanent [military] operations that a real epidemic of violence occurred at a national level,” the report notes

Durante looking down his nose at a indigenous constituent as if to say "what are 'you" doing in a room with "us"
Mexico’s militarized enforcement also came with a startling rise in human rights abuses by law enforcement. From 2006 to 2011, complaints filed with Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission against the National Defense Ministry, or SEDENA, jumped from 182 to 1,626, peaking in 2009 at 1,800.
This military strategy was implemented without coordination or approval from local or regional authorities, leaving them susceptible to criminal influence, the International Crisis Group report explains. “Lacking equipment and training, many local and state authorities regarded confronting organized crime groups as impossible and outside their mandate.”

Narciso Peña Cortés, Veracruz’s current under-secretary for operations in public security, echoed that sentiment and highlighted the risks of militarization in the region and nationwide.

“The armed forces do not have the necessary sensitivity to deal with citizens,” he told the International Crisis Group. “We are made to destroy the enemy.”

Yunes became Veracruz governor in December 2016, after Duarte fled the state, ending more than eight decades of leadership by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. He vowed to prosecute culprits in Veracruz and dispel thousands of untrustworthy law enforcement officers. But his first 10 days in office were marred by 40 killings tied to organized crime ― half allegedly committed by Veracruz state forces.

Yunes’ two-year mandate to reform Veracruz’s ineffective civic institutions has little chance of success because the state is facing bankruptcy and stands to receive little federal support from the PRI.

The U.S. has devoted billions of dollars in support for Mexico’s intensified crackdown on organized crime since 2008, but much of this funding has been used to purchase military equipment for security forces.

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  1. In Veracruz there were training camps for the Nicaraguan contras, and staging for supplies and weapons transfers, also used for drugs and money, they were left behind after they were caught for the murder of Kiki Camarena, just as carlos salinas de gortari was getting elected president by vote fraud and the murdering of PRD candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas top volunteers, about 1 000 murdered or disappeared,
    Salinas still needed to steal the election with help of the PAN party and the federal congress, and he kept using the contras training camps, and brought all his sicarios up with him to power, it escalated to put epn in power, and he is paying back the favor giving away the governme t owned e terprises to "american entrepreneurs, forcing the gasoducts robbers to find other sources of income.
    Veracruz. Eeds to take over their own governance and police work and disown the public debt incurred through corruption,
    --let the creditors themselves find duarte and take care of their own they will do due diligence next time pa que no anden ahi nomás de calientes prestando los centavos a lo pendejo como si jueran sus pinchis nalgas.

    1. I would take your comment serious, but Cardenas never got assasinated, he still alive and kicking.


  2. Too bad Mexicans cannot start a revolution. It's too late. Narcos have control of all municipales. They vanish anyone that stands up. Just keep watching soccer, novelas, Lucha libre.

    1. Yes let them reign just like in the U.S the billioners and Conmen have the country on lock.


  3. This is a good examination of the over-all problems that exist throughout Mexico.
    In this country the corruption of the system is more obvious because it isn't hidden as much behind the established system of politics and wealth that occur in the dominant world powers, and the violence here is more immediate, wide-spread, and unconstrained.
    What I find interesting is that so many of the expats, or also Mexicanos who work in the tourism industry, vocally deny the reality of Mexico. Sometimes it is because their livelihood is through tourism, and they do not want to impact their revenue stream. Others, maybe, want to paint a pretty picture, so that they feel safe in the idea of their choice to live here. I don't really understand, because for me, with all the the warts and flaws and brutal circumstances, Mexico is still for me the most amazing country that I have ever had the privilege to live in.
    Yesterday I went on the first tour that I have taken here. It was a mezcal tour in Oaxaca, and the Canadian man, a very kind, sensitive man that runs it, has lived here many years and has become part of the community. At one point, he mentioned that this particular town we were passing through was a place that one should not be visiting at night time.One of the people on the tour, a woman from England, asked about what sort of activities an organized crime group would occupy themselves with, here in Oaxaca. And I answered: extortion, kidnapping, drugs...
    The man running the tour, who lives here in Oaxaca, said he disagreed. He went on to say that he hasn't seen or heard about any violence here, and that when there are kidnappings, it is only because the people who were kidnapped were flashing around their money, and that his Mexican friends who have wealth here know to buy cheaper cars so that they don't get kidnapped. It was a shockingly clear example of blaming the victim. He also stated that violence was very low here, so I mentioned that perhaps it was only because this area is less valuable than others, in terms of crime revenue. It is the same in business: if there is a desirable piece of the pie, there will be more competition for it.
    Later we went to a mezcal producer, and our guide was explaining the certification process that the producers face, in terms of inspectors who come around and take samples. And I asked the owner of the business, so then do you have to pay a mordida? And our guide immediately said no, but after a little bit of questioning from me, the owner acknowledged that yes, she might have to do so.
    I have seen how one gets a driver's license here; if you don't pass the test, written or driving, you then negotiate how much you have to pay to pass. And of course it is in the interest of the examiners that you don't pass. Or you can talk to a friend who has a cousin who can get you a license, and then you pay them.
    Another tourist on this tour commented about being on a different tour, and how the guide told them not to give money to the children who beg. He said that if you don't give them money, the parents will decide that it is not useful to have their children beg, and will instead send them to school. This to me is a load of crap, because even if you don't pay for school, the pencils, paper, daily outfits and outfits for special days are way beyond the means of many families. What the guide told her is just a way to keep the tourists from feeling guilty about not giving money to the beggars, and a way to help them feel good about not giving.
    In order to enact change, there needs to be honesty about the reality of the situation, and it makes me sad when I see expats here who I believe really do love Mexico, participating in perpetuating the fantasy of an over-idealized Mexico.
    And this is why the journalists who are brave enough to speak out; risking their lives and the lives of their families, are truly heroes, and the warriors for a better Mexico. Thank you Borderland Beat.

    1. One of the few times I've actually read a comment this long. And you make a very interesting and truthful point.

    2. You are misinformed about about the children. In many (most) regions many of these children do not have parents in the área. They have been trafficked for the exclusive purpose of begging, selling flowers, gum, trnkets... etc. before being out into less noble professions as they grow older. That is not to say all children beggars are part of such a system but it exists and is widespread.

    3. Mmm...not sure what you mean by misinformed about the children. I'm not speaking about misinformation I've received about children here, I'm only speaking about children and parents that I have met here; not some movie or infomercial that I extract my information from.

    4. Wonderful read Thanks

  4. And EPN called Javier Duarte an example of the new generation of young PRI leaders transforming the party.

    1. Great comment! Shows you what EPN and the entire establishment which he represents are up to!

  5. Is it a coincidence of the FACT that the militarization of mexican law enforcement happens at the same time as the FACT that US law enforcement is being militarized???

  6. This is definitely one of the best reporting here on BB I have read.
    Great job .
    Very informative and articulated.

  7. Make everyone pay taxes!!!! Mexico has the lowest tax rate in the Western hemisphere, only Peru is lower. MEXICO is screewed once the oil runs out.

    1. Taxes would be another blow to Mexican folks at this time as those tax funds would end up on SAT's pockets and hardly make a difference.

      1) Revolution
      2) Nueva constitución with rights for Mexican citizens clearly defined
      3) senadores interinos por 2 años en lo que se escribe leyes nuevas basada en la nueva constitución
      4) Elecciones en la cual ningún senador interino o anterior puede ser elegido a ningún puesto
      5) Policías única; personas con estudios
      6) plan to collect taxes from people once the new government shows they are not corrupted

      You get the drift

    2. Mexico has vast resources. This is why it has been so exploited and is continuing to be exploited. Many of the narco groups have moved into mining and have a lucrative relationship with China; shipping the mined substances that China seeks for manufacturing in exchange for weapons and the raw materials to produce methamphetamines. I am not saying that this has the sanction of the Chinese government, but this is a reciprocity that exists. Mexico is less tied to oil than other countries such as Venezuela, and therein lies its strength.

  8. Good idea 10:21 provided they raise wages quite a bit.Who does pay taxes in Mexico besides the IVA sales tax?Is it businesses?Do the high wage politicians pay?I read that they were thinking of raising land taxes some municipalities because there's in the lowest of the Americas.

  9. And thank you to 11:40. Really, I hesitate to post because I don't want to be preachy, but sometimes I feel like it might be useful to share my experience here.

  10. And that's why Mexicans can not have a revolution.. the government will kill them off and even use sicarios or if your lucky, you will end up in prison on some false charges. Just ask Dr. Mireles about what he thinks. But now that they have him where they want him, he will not dare mention any wrong doing because they will torture him even more than he already is.. meanwhile the rich get richer and the poor get poorer or disappeared if they talk about change. REAL Sp!T

  11. Actually, few people pay taxes in Greece. Great article by the way. I feel for the innocent Mexican civilians living in such a dangerous environment.

  12. Is Duarte Wanted by the U.S?


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