Mexican forces struggle to rein in armed vigilantes battling drug cartel

January 17, 2014

protest -- stroke -- resistanceCNN, 01/17/2014

The vigilantes came to violence-torn towns with a simple pitch: Join us and fight back before the cartel kills you. For some in the western state of Michoacan, long a flashpoint in Mexico’s drug war, it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.They toted guns and called themselves self-defense groups as they patrolled the streets, claiming they were forced to fight the Knights Templar cartel themselves because the state had failed to protect them. They took over several communities and sent a clear message to cartel members and authorities: Keep out.

But this week, the Mexican government stepped in, sending federal forces to the region and ordering the vigilante groups to lay down their weapons.

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Cartel Censorship Reaches Mexico City

January 16, 2014

newspapers thumbnailNewsweek, 01/16/2014

Like an unstoppable tsunami, the wave of drug-related censorship that has enveloped thousands of journalists in Mexico has reached the capital city, long a bastion of relatively open crime reporting, according a report released Wednesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Since former President Felipe Calderon declared war on Mexico’s criminal syndicates seven years ago, reporters in the provinces have adapted to the new rules of the game: no detailed reports on cartel activity, no mention of top echelon drug leaders, no serious investigations into executions. In hundreds of towns and cities across Mexico, journalists can do little more than regurgitate vague official press releases. For those who stray, threats, kidnappings, beatings and murder are not uncommon. According to Article 19, a press freedom group, 50 reporters have been killed since Calderon took office on December 2006.

But until recently, Mexico City-based journalists had largely been spared from the cartel demands that created a self-imposed censorship for most of the country. They often wrote about criminal organizations without fearing for their lives and the city itself was a bubble of relative calm. Now that’s changed. One of Mexico’s strongest cartels, the Familia Michoacana, has descended on Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl at the edge of Mexico City and silenced the press there, according to the report.

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Mexico protects wounded leader of citizen militia trying to fight off cartels

January 10, 2014

m16 gun closeupThe Washington Post, 01/09/2014

Fifty federal police officers armed with black assault rifles guard the gates of an exclusive private hospital in this cosmopolitan capital.

They are patrolling the polished stone lobby, standing sentry under palm trees, surveilling the Starbucks. Private security guards and local police man the doors, driveways and elevators.

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Mexican Cartels Become Web Savvy By Using Social Media For PR, Selfies

November 5, 2013

Twitter_256x256Fox News Latino, 11/05/2013

Only a few years ago, drug dealers were using pagers and pay phones to avoid detection from authorities in the illicit business. Now, with the advent of social media, many web-savvy Mexican narcos have joined the likes of Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber by using Twitter, Facebook and other online tools to run PR campaigns, post selfies, brag about their wealth and even target rivals.

Like any burgeoning business, Mexico’s drug cartels are using the web to conduct very successful public relations campaigns that put those of their counterparts in Colombia and Myanmar in the 1980s to shame.

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Mexican judge orders release of 5 high-ranking army officials accused of aiding a drug cartel

July 8, 2013

justice - gavel and bookAssociated Press, 7/4/2013

A Mexican judge on Thursday ordered the release of five high-ranking army officials accused of aiding a drug cartel after federal prosecutors dropped organized crime charges against them citing a lack of evidence. It’s the latest drug trafficking case against military officers started during former President Felipe Calderon’s administration to fall apart.

Judge Raul Valerio Ramirez said he ordered the immediate release of Gen. Roberto Dawe, Gen. Ricardo Escorcia, Gen. Ruben Perez, Lt. Col Silvio Hernandez and Maj. Ivan Reyna from a maximum security prison in Mexico state where they have been held since their arrest last year. The officers were charged with protecting members of the Beltran Leyva cartel. Federal anti-drug prosecutor Rodrigo Archundia Barrientos dropped charges in the case after concluding that witness testimony was not enough to sustain the case, Valerio Ramirez said in a statement.

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Mexico elections, like weird ‘Wild West’

July 8, 2013

election's guide vote imageGlobal Post, 7/5/2013

Candidates have been gunned down, gangster cash alleged in campaigns, governors accused of corruption and a cat, dog and donkey nominated for municipal office. Mexico’s democracy is dancing dirty once again.

On Sunday, voters will elect one governor, 13 state legislatures and hundreds of city councils and mayors. Voters yawn, but politicians have been scratching at one another like bobcats. Economically crucial tax and energy reforms hang in the balance. “This is a setback in terms of elections,” says political scientist Sergio Aguayo, a longtime democracy activist and sharp critic of the country’s modern politics. “It’s the Wild West.”

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U.S.-Mexico Cooperation Against Cartels Remains Strong

May 16, 2013

Dario Lopez-Mills - AP (4)Forbes, 5/16/2013

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s approach to combating Mexican drug cartels has been a much-discussed topic since well before he was elected. Indeed, in June 2011 — more than a year before the July 2012 Mexican presidential election — I wrote an analysis discussing rumors that, if elected, Pena Nieto was going to attempt to reach some sort of accommodation with Mexico’s drug cartels in order to bring down the level of violence.

Such rumors were certainly understandable, given the arrangement that had existed for many years between some senior members of Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party and some powerful cartel figures during the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s long reign in Mexico prior to the election of Vicente Fox of the National Action Party in 2000. However, as we argued in 2011 and repeated in March 2013, much has changed in Mexico since 2000, and the new reality in Mexico means that it would be impossible for the Pena Nieto administration to reach any sort of deal with the cartels even if it made an attempt.

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Treasury sanctions 8 drug bosses working for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, calls them ‘kingpins’

May 8, 2013

shutterstock_113478238Associated Press, 5/7/2013

The Obama administration has levied financial sanctions against eight drug gang bosses accused of working for Mexico’s powerful and violent Sinaloa Cartel. The government accused the eight regional bosses of managing drug smuggling operations for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the purported head of the Sinaloa Cartel, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday. By declaring the men specially designated narcotics traffickers under the Kingpin Act, Washington has made it illegal for U.S. citizens to do business with them and freezes any assets they may have inside the U.S.

Seven of the men — Armando Lopez Aispuro, Guillermo Nieblas Nava, Felipe de Jesus Sosa Canisales, Raul Sabori Cisneros, Ramon Ignacio Paez Soto, Jesus Alfredo Salazar Ramirez and Jose Javier Rascon Ramirez — are believed to run smuggling operations in the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona. Cenobio Flores Pachecho is accused of being in charge of smuggling efforts in Mexicali, across the border from California.

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Cartels dispatch agents deep inside US

April 2, 2013

drug_war_02Associated Press, 4/1/2013

Mexican drug cartels whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the U.S. border are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States – an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world’s most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits.

If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels’ move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering.

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How Mexico’s Drug Cartels Recruit Child Soldiers as Young as 11

March 29, 2013

boy-with-toy-gunWired, 3/28/2013

In case you thought Mexican drug cartels had sunk as low as they could get, a new report details how they use children as young as 11 years old to do their murderous bidding. In the last decade, the cartels “have recruited thousands of street gang members, school drop-outs and unskilled workers,” the International Crisis Group recently reported. The ICG, a non-government organization that seeks to prevent conflict, notes many of these “recruits” — to use a clumsy term — are younger than 18, considered expendable, and deliberately ordered to attack superior Mexican military forces.

According to military officers interviewed by the organization, the “cartel bosses will treat the young killers as cannon fodder, throwing them into suicidal attacks on security forces.” First, the children are enticed or manipulated into joining the cartels, and given basic weapons instruction at training camps, many of which have been discovered in the jungles along the Guatemalan border. The weapons are varied, ranging from AR-15 rifles to Uzi submachine guns, and .38 and 9-mm caliber pistols. Next, the kids are put into cells led by experienced cartel soldiers, who have some prior training with the military or police.

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