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

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Narco Reserves: Biological Protected Areas in the Hands of the Cartels

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Proceso
                               Mexico's Natural Protected Areas, paradise for criminal groups

By: Alejandro Melgoza Rocha, Special Report:
The budgetary reductions to the program of Natural Protected Areas applied in the last years affect the field work of the scientists and that of the surveillance personnel. However, specialists and teams of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources point to an even greater risk: before the abandonment of these extensive areas, organized crime, armed settlers and even municipal police incursion in them to commit crimes, including assassinations of caretakers, inspectors and biologists.

On board a jeep, the ranger and biologist of La Laguna de Chacahua, Gabriel Ramos Olivera, left the morning of August 18, 2017 for a work meeting. The 37-year-old biologist, considered by his colleagues as one of the most experienced observers in that national park, had already started his work day before 8:00 am.

At the height of El Zapotalito, a Oaxacan community where he was known as "Gabo", he was intercepted and riddled by two individuals mounted on a motorcycle. Dressed in beige boots, military cut trousers and a coat with the logo of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (Conanp), he was lying on the ground, bleeding.

Since that day, according to a relative, the local attorney has no progress in the investigation of those responsible for the murder of the ranger, who worked for six years monitoring the flora and fauna of the lagoon, declared one of the most important wetlands in the world .

What happened to "Gabo" is part of the series of crimes committed by organized crime against biologists from the academy and public agencies. The reason is that, since the administration of Felipe Calderón, the drug traffickers were taking over the areas rich in natural resources where work of study, protection and inspection is usually done.

According to documents and interviews with ex-environmental officials, academics and consultants, in protected natural areas of 16 entities it has been reported that criminal groups have carried out homicides, tortures, injuries, threats, kidnappings and blockades.

"I had to have records and difficult situations of occupation of the territories (...) There were times when difficulties arose to develop conservation work and follow up on the management and enforcement programs of the law", reveals in an interview the teacher Luis Fueyo, who was commissioner of the Conanp between 2010 and 2015.

And Dr. Raúl Arriaga, member of the Mexican Academy of Environmental Impact (AMIA), points out: "Virtually all protected areas in the north and south, where there is no economic activity, are spaces conducive to criminal action. We can not enter to do work and you play it if they catch you. " 

Dr. Israel Alvarado, a researcher at the National Institute of Criminal Sciences (Inacipe), specializing in environmental crime, agrees in a separate interview: "There are cases of cartels that asked the inspectors floor to do their job. The most repetitive thing that happens is that they do not allow them access and threaten them (...) The most aggressive people are the loggers; in operatives they received them with shots and with sophisticated weaponry. They are clear expressions of organized crime. " 
The experts consider that if the conditions are dangerous now, the budget cut to the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) in the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, especially in the management program for the operation of national protected areas, it will leave the scientists working in the field in a more vulnerable condition.

Narco -Reservas:
On May 21, 2010 came the first alert when three inspectors were tortured and killed: two from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (Profepa) and one from the National Forestry Commission (Conafor), as well as a park ranger from Conanp, after conducting an inspection of toxic waste in a river, which led them to a narco laboratory between Temascaltepec and Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico.
In this region is the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, one of the 175 protected natural areas with different categories ranging from reserves, national parks, natural monuments, sanctuaries, as well as areas of protection of natural resources and flora and wildlife.

A few days after the crime that dismayed the environmental sector, the teacher "Fueyo" took possession of his position. One of the first actions, as a result of the climate of insecurity, was to prepare an internal manual and provide training to inspectors and rangers who interned. 

In charge of coordinating the project was the Master of Science ,Vladimir Pliego, who became the direct liaison with the Secretary of the Navy. "The conditions changed a lot, at least in the time we were from 2010 and 2011. The reports that came to the commissioner were increasing and were almost daily. At some point (the reports were) of more serious conditions to leave.

"At the beginning they were focused on some natural areas. Two of the regional (offices), when they started in 2011 and 2012, told us that there was no problem and that we should take care of the others. By 2014, all (regional) and all ANP had passed some (criminal) issue. They could no longer go out at night and reach certain places. For 2015 it was a general warning. "

He adds that, in addition to organized crime, the aggressors were community and community police, among others.

"Fueyo" and "Pliego" left their positions of the Conanp in 2015 and delivered the document: "Safety Guide", but they do not know if it is currently applied. 

According to the interviewees and the official documentation, the most dangerous "protected" natural areas are in Baja California, Sinaloa, Sonora, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Durango, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Jalisco, State of Mexico, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero.

The most conflicting are the Monarch Butterfly Reserve, between Michoacán and the State of Mexico; the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park, in Nuevo León; Laguna Madre, Tamaulipas; Nevado de Toluca National Park and the Volcanoes Biosphere Reserve, State of Mexico, and the entire Tarahumara mountain range, in Chihuahua.
As if this biologist's work is not dangerous enough and under funded, he has to be constantly vigilant for outsider threats such as organized crime groups and hidden poppie/ marijuana fields or clandestine narco laboratories, narco roadblocks and threats of the illegal logging and mining operations.

Also, the National Park Lagunas de Zempoala, Morelos; Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California and Delta del Río Colorado, respectively in Baja California and Sonora; Sumidero Canyon National Park, Lagunas de Montebello National Park and the Lacandona Jungle, in Chiapas; Tula National Park, Hidalgo; La Malinche National Park, Puebla and Tlaxcala; and La Martinica, Veracruz.

"The last eight years the dangers have intensified a lot.  In Durango I had to pay for security through friends who know the bad guys, only to let them know that we are going, but they do not guarantee anything," says the biologist Arriaga, who said that time he was pursued on the road by a caravan of well armed drug traffickers to a military checkpoint.
According to file PFPA / 5.3 / 12C.6/05639, of the 73 inspectors - biologists and engineers - assaulted since 2010, 15 were detained and kidnapped by organized crime and armed civilians, in Guerrero and Tamaulipas. 

The cases of murders by alleged narcos are those of the Monarch Butterfly Reserve, in 2010. 

And in 2014 a Profepa inspector was beaten outside a store by three fishermen involved in the illegal trafficking of totoaba fish in the Upper Gulf of California; In the same way, an environmental official was attacked with Molotov cocktails during an inspection carried out on a boat. 

NOTE: You can access any of our previous posts on the conflicts and violence in San Felipe and the illegal Totoaba bladder trade by using the search engine at top, inc "Cocaine of the Sea".

According to file PFPA / 9.4 / 2C.22.1 / 3038/2014, of which Proceso has a copy, those responsible were reported for attempted homicide.
             A Nature Reserve "Watcher"; just another day in the Park on the lookout for bad guys
Blocking biologists:
In 2016 a team of scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) won a call to carry out the project "Community participation for the conservation of cats and their prey in Lagunas de Chacahua", as part of the granting of support for the execution of activities of the Program of Recovery and Repopulation of Species at Risk (Procer).

However, as they say in a letter addressed to Conanp, the biologists gave up the project because of the "scenarios of violence and insecurity that arise, in addition to the difficulties in accessing and leaving the state via the highway due to the numerous roadblocks that they are implemented by people outside the federal or state government , ie heavily armed convoys of men; there are no conditions for the development of work in the field."

Consulted in this regard, teachers of biology of the UNAM own consider that field practices have become unsafe, especially in Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, State of Mexico and Guanajuato.

"One day I told the students that we should work a little late so that the samples we brought to conservation would not deteriorate; We started taking botanical specimens, and these men went around the hotel and checked everything. They had ski masks, military clothes, long arm guns, and I realized they did not have any official insignia . The next day we left and we did not come back, "says the  teacher. "In some places we have faced the huachicoleros, (fuel thieves) in others the illegal loggers ... before our walks used to be longer," he adds. 

For reports like the previous ones, says the academic, the UNAM published the "Regulation for professional outings and field practices of the Faculty of Sciences", approved by the Technical Council of the Faculty of Sciences on October 4, 2012.

Dr. Arriaga, undersecretary of Semarnat during the administration of Vicente Fox, states that such attacks on students, researchers and consultants have already affected his work: "There are areas in which the information is 20 years ago and we have no way to update it. The estimate we make is by means of remote sensors with satellite images, but there is no possibility of doing field verification. "

Maestro Fueyo differs: "I do not say that the monitoring process has been interrupted, both by Conanp and the communities, as well as by students; it is not something that has been disarmed  The most risky thing is the side effect of not having people in the field and those who are occupying it are the criminal groups. There  are outbreaks of violence that, if you do not control them, it will be a bigger problem."

An interviewee who is part of the staff of the Conanp comments that, although the technology allows to acquire information, "there are always key points in which it is necessary to verify in the field, and that is not so easy. We have known of university students who go between lagoons and mangroves seeing crocodile genetic issues, and suddenly there are signs that tell them that they cannot  advance anymore."

A colleague adds: "As protected national areas are large and remote areas, they are very favorable places for Organized Crime groups that grew and grew. There are different generations  doing research on vegetation in the countryside, find illegal crops, and you feel fear because someone armed might come out."

Gaps and budget cuts:
Currently, the environmental sector suffers from deficiencies to monitor and inspect, as well as to preserve its own security, mainly in the states with the greatest upsurge in violence, such as Guerrero, Michoacán, Tamaulipas and Edomex.

Lawyer Diana Ponce, consultant in environmental law and sustainable development, who was Assistant Attorney for Profepa from 2001 to 2004, says: "There is a lack of training, equipment for inspections and basic manuals to investigate a place before entering. People are not necessarily ready for surveys and field inspections."

"Last year I was giving a course to inspectors from Profepa San Luis Potosí. In these government exchanges there is nothing that resembles a civil service; they take out those who are there and put people from new teams. "

For Dr. Alvarado, who was deputy director of Coadyuvancia in Federal Criminal Proceedings of Profepa, in this unit "there is never gasoline, serviceable vehicles , etcetc. There is a lot of work to do and the budget is rickety for everything environmental".

The interviewees attribute this situation to the cuts that have been applied to Semarnat. The government of López Obrador is not the exception: it reduced 7, 447.92 million pesos, according to the Budget of Expenditures of the Federation 2019.

Only the Natural Protected Areas Management Program, which began in 2012, suffered a 30% cut from 126 million in its first year to 87.71 million in the current administration.

"The budgets have been reduced by almost half from 2016 to 2019," explains Fueyo, current coordinator of the Mexican Network of Organizations, Scientists and Rural Societies of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations (UN). And concludes:

"What this reduction implies in practice is that you stop having mobility. You do not have the resources to go to the countryside and the untended territories that begin to be occupied by criminal groups. " 


  1. Nothing is off limits for these criminal organizations. Whether protecting their lands (territories) from rival intrusion. Or simply to conceal their illegal activities.
    Mexico along with many countries are engaged with this problem (Illegal logging, growing, wildlife and natural resource tapping).
    Many environmental observers are concerned with the growing number of people who are engaging in this practice. Raising alarm bells to authorities with no enforcement success.
    Nowadays these caretakers and observers of OUR WORLD are being persecuted by government and criminal organizations. Not much difference to those fine journalists who are slaughtered because of their work.

    Beautiful insight borderlandbeat of the continuous disrespect and mismanagement of this global issue.

    Hope chivis is well since postings of comments have not been uploaded recently.


    1. Thank you very much for all your comments.
      and Yes, a sorry scenario, I could spend a whole lifetime posting on these issues.
      Observant you are, Chivis will be posting comments ASAP, thank you again for your concern and please be patient BB commenters !!

    2. It's sad to say our generation to come will not see this gross negligence only the results.


    3. EXXON, SHELL, BRUTTISH PETROLEUM at the helm do not care about ecological reserves or parks and bullshit, they do not fill your gas tank or your bank coffers either.
      Blaming the cartels or the "Mexican narcos" will not do the job, politicians are sold or for sale, except, for now, maybe, AOC WHO DOESN'T KNOW A COCKROACH FROM A GARBAGE DISPOSAL, but sure knows how to fight like a bitch for what is right...
      (I bet former waitresses got in the kitchen a few times, but never to do the dishes if they too pretty, that what Mexican are for)
      Hey, Don't tell anybody I told you to obstruct justice, OK?

  2. Things will get better says Amlo

    1. Its everyone's problem not just AMLO. This fight is global.

    2. Besides the insecurity, these issues are always bound by inadequate funding all over the world. AMLO is cutting funding by 30 % or so says this article; NOT encouraging but we will have to see if any of his security implementations work. This is a worldwide issue.
      I simply cannot imagine the Monarch butterfly reserve being ruined; it is one of the most infamous migrations in the Western Hemisphere.
      I have lots of Butterfly Bushes ( buddleas ) and other bird, butterfly and bee attracting is one small thing we can all do to help and you get pretty flowers plus the butterflies, the birds and the bees ! My local biosphere is positively humming right now.

    3. Gracias a dios I did not see many trees in la reserva mariposas worth commercial timber value when I last visited in '06. The altitude is high, very bad for mota and opiate plants growing. And the land is not flat. There is little money there for services. It is preserved by it's very nature to use a pun

    4. Plastic containers are real problem. Look highway and breaches in 🇲🇽

    5. I hope things get better so far not working. Amlo has great plans hope they work

    6. Sounds like Eden's paradise. My tranquility is my backyard with an assortment of flowers and trees. Along with an emasculate landscape design which wife and I find happiness.
      Added with a glass of wine by the fireplace.

      Enjoy life & nature


    7. That is wonderful, cheers !
      I hope no one forgets to enjoy the small pleasures and treasures we do have in this life whilst still being able to digest all this hideous news. I take satisfaction in knowing you can do that and yet don't have your head in the sand.

  3. My uncle is a ranger in one of these protected areas. Cds has a route that goes through it. After a few threats he had a meeting with a representative of mayos and told them leave the local villagers at peace and the scientists to do what they need to do in return I'll let you move your product through unreported and let you know when patrols will be in the area. For the past 5-6 years no mass Graves or illegal logging has gone on and they even sent some teens to help pick up litter. When la tuta was operating there it was a mess. But with my uncle feeding info to Cds and sicario 006's marksmanship it's tranquil now

  4. I remember going to the monarch butterfly preserve in 2006, it was beautiful and the indigenous people that live there took really good care of it. Unfortunately the cartels have lots of money to bribe state officials and local governments and do whatever they want while destroying the beautiful country of Mexico..

  5. Mexico will be a barren wasteland before the cartels are through with it. They plunder everything. Oil, timber, minerals, cultural/historical items, wildlife... they even steal the water.

    1. 8:08 anheuser bush, mineras, maruchaneras, fracking companies and power generation owned by foreigners are not Mexican spoilers of the environment, shet, mexicans do not consume Cheap Captive Chinese Communist Slave labor that much, except for cervezas and work to buy some pirated goods or after they become second hand fayuca or drug precursors paid for with work rewarded with a few pounds of shit to eat or sell and maybe weapons...never money!

    2. The US is not far from the same!
      Energy companies have turned communities into ghost towns. Alone with their contaminants in our drinking waters. Convinced my mother to sell the ranch along with mineral rights of 50 acres due to fracking in the area. It was only a matter of time that the well water will be of no use.
      Our exploits are unmeasrurable.

      Thank your politicians for accepting lobbyists money.

  6. Wise environmental authorities on the US said in the 80s:
    "Screw the spotted owl", and the politics of the powerful are reflected in the pollution of seas, rivers, lands, forest preserves, the whole Amazon that also belongs to the whole world and not to oil barons or mining conglomerates or firest predators with tight relationships to neo-liberal world class criminals sponsored by Das Kapital applying theories of narco-socialism and communism to the exploitation of the world and every creature big and small. Remember EXXON Valdez in Alaska and the spills left behind in Ecuador, not resolved after 30 years because of world class complicity by the US stopping the UN and others from remedies and sanctions...Say the top names behind the BS please, it will help a lot to know who is who and where.

    1. UMmmmm, I remember the loggers and anti- enviros saying "screw the spotted owl"; could you elucidate further a tad more clearly on that ?

    2. It was the 80s, it was a dark night and I was all alone, Yaqui. There came a red haired motherfacker making fun...
      Conan said "...screw the spotted owl... "
      it was a long season of drunk black outs, but I never forgot that.
      Pity that Americans will fight to th death for turtles, totoabas, butterflies, and the right of the extreme right to say the most outrageous shit, but not for the environment and peace on the world, because their Brain Washers know their extremist trades too well.

  7. I can't say that i wholly agree with you , but you were not alone; alot of us spent sleepless nights in those days and on and on. The old adage "Speak Truth to Power" never gets too old, just more and more appropriate. The fight for World peace, solving hunger, saving our human nest , the environment , will never be OVER.....its as ongoing as we are.


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