Mexico extradites top cartel member

November 22, 2013

San Antonio Express, 11/21/2013

Mexican Police catch drug dealer photo by Jesús Villaseca P Latitudes PressMexico extradited an alleged former top member of the Zetas drug cartel Thursday to face narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges in Laredo, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent said.

Officials with the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not confirm or deny Thursday afternoon that Iván Velázquez Caballero, known by the nickname “El Taliban,” had been sent to the U.S. But Mike Vigil, the former chief of international operations for the DEA, said Velazquez is now in the country.

Velázquez is one of more than 30 people charged in a massive conspiracy indictment, alleging that, between 2000 and 2008, the Zetas smuggled large amounts of drugs into the U.S. and committed homicides in Texas as part of their narcotics trafficking operations.

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Mexican cartels abet heroin and meth surge in U.S., DEA study says

November 20, 2013

heroin_powderThe Los Angeles Times, 11/19/2013

The availability of heroin and methamphetamine in the U.S. is on the rise, due in part to the ever-evolving entrepreneurial spirit of the Mexican drug cartels, according to a new study released by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The report, which analyzes illicit drug trends through 2012, also notes that cocaine availability was down across the United States. It offered various possible reasons for the decline, including cartel versus cartel fights over drug routes in Mexico, declining production in Colombia and various anti-narcotics strategies that have put more heat on the groups that control production and shipment of the product.

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U.S. offers $5-million reward for drug kingpin

November 6, 2013

Los Angeles Times, 11/5/2013

5582822219_182abf7ec5_oThe U.S. State Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, who was convicted in the murder of a U.S. anti-narcotics agent in 1985, but vanished in August after a Mexican court freed him from prison on a technicality.

Caro Quintero, 61, once one of Mexico’s most powerful drug kingpins, was last seen walking out of a medium security prison in the state of Jalisco around 2 a.m. on Aug. 9 after serving 28 years of a 40-year sentence. An appeals court granted him freedom after controversially ruling that his federal case should have been handled in a state venue.

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Mexico’s Curbs on U.S. Role in Drug Fight Spark Friction

May 1, 2013

drug dog sniffing suitcaseThe New York Times, 4/30/13

In their joint fight against drug traffickers, the United States and Mexico have forged an unusually close relationship in recent years, with the Americans regularly conducting polygraph tests on elite Mexican security officials to root out anyone who had been corrupted. But shortly after Mexico’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, took office in December, American agents got a clear message that the dynamics, with Washington holding the clear upper hand, were about to change.

There have long been political sensitivities in Mexico over allowing too much American involvement. But the recent policy changes have rattled American officials used to far fewer restrictions than they have faced in years. Asked about security cooperation with Mexico at a news conference on Tuesday, President Obama said: “We’ve made great strides in the coordination and cooperation between our two governments over the last several years. But my suspicion is, is that things can be improved.”

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Mexico ends open access for US security agencies in fight against cartels

April 30, 2013

IMG_7195Associated Press, 4/30/13

Mexico is ending its unprecedented open relationship with U.S. security agencies that developed in recent years to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. All contact for U.S. law enforcement will now go through “a single window,” the federal Interior Ministry, the agency that controls security and domestic policy, said Sergio Alcocer, deputy foreign secretary for North American affairs.

Alcocer confirmed the change to The Associated Press on Monday, three days before U.S. President Barack Obama visits for his first bilateral meeting with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office Dec. 1. The new policy is a dramatic shift from the direct sharing of resources and intelligence between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement under former President Felipe Calderon, who was lauded by the U.S. repeatedly for increasing cooperation between the two countries. FBI, CIA, DEA and border patrol agents had direct access to units of Mexico’s Federal Police, army and navy and worked closely with Mexican authorities in major offensives against drug cartels, including the U.S.-backed strategy of killing or arresting top kingpins.

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U.S. role at a crossroads in Mexico’s intelligence war on the cartels

April 29, 2013

Mexican Police catch drug dealer photo by Jesús Villaseca P Latitudes PressThe Washington Post, 4/27/13

For the past seven years, Mexico and the United States have put aside their tension-filled history on security matters to forge an unparalleled alliance against Mexico’s drug cartels, one based on sharing sensitive intelligence, U.S. training and joint operational planning. But now, much of that hard-earned cooperation may be in jeopardy.

The December inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto brought the nationalistic Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) back to power after 13 years, and with it a whiff of resentment over the deep U.S. involvement in Mexico’s fight against narco-traffickers. The new administration has shifted priorities away from the U.S.-backed strategy of arresting kingpins, which sparked an unprecedented level of violence among the cartels, and toward an emphasis on prevention and keeping Mexico’s streets safe and calm, Mexican authorities said.

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A Drug War Informer in No Man’s Land

April 29, 2013

DEA badgeNew York Times, 4/29/2013

Mr. López played a leading role in what is widely considered the biggest drug-trafficking case in Mexican history. The episode — which inspired the 2000 movie “Traffic” — pitted the Mexican military against the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Throughout the 1990s, Mr. López worked closely with them both. He served as a senior adviser to the powerful general who was appointed Mexico’s drug czar. And he was an informant for the D.E.A.

His two worlds collided spectacularly in 1997, when Mexico arrested the general, Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, on charges of collaborating with drug traffickers. As Washington tried to make sense of the charges, both governments went looking for Mr. López. Mexico considered him a suspect in the case; the D.E.A. saw him as a potential gold mine of information.

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Hand of U.S. Is Seen in Halting General’s Rise in Mexico

February 5, 2013

mexican armyThe New York Times, 2/4/2013

As Mexico’s military staged its annual Independence Day parade in September, spectators filled the main square of Mexico City to cheer on the armed forces. Nearly 2,000 miles away in Washington, American officials were also paying attention. But it was not the helicopters hovering overhead or the antiaircraft weapons or the soldiers in camouflage that caught their attention. It was the man chosen to march at the head of the parade, Gen. Moisés García Ochoa, who by tradition typically becomes the country’s next minister of defense.

The Obama administration had many concerns about the general, including the Drug Enforcement Administration’s suspicion that he had links to drug traffickers and the Pentagon’s anxiety that he had misused military supplies and skimmed money from multimillion-dollar defense contracts. In the days leading up to Mexico’s presidential inauguration on Dec. 1, the United States ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, met with senior aides to President Enrique Peña Nieto to express alarm at the general’s possible promotion.

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U.S. cities become hubs for Mexican drug cartels’ distribution networks

November 5, 2012

Washington Post, 11/3/2012

A few miles west of downtown, past a terra-cotta-tiled gateway emblazoned with “Bienvenidos,” the smells and sights of Mexico spill onto 26th Street. The Mexican tricolor waves from brick storefronts. Vendors offer authentic churros, chorizo and tamales. Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood is home to more than 500,000 residents of Mexican descent and is known for its Cinco de Mayo festival and bustling Mexican Independence Day parade. But federal authorities say that Little Village is also home to something else: an American branch of the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel.

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Rubén Zuno Arce, Guilty in Drug Killing, Dies at 82

September 20, 2012

New York Times, 9/19/2012

DEA agent Enrique Camarena

Rubén Zuno Arce, a central defendant in the 1985 torture and killing of an American drug enforcement agent in Mexico, a crime that increased tension between Mexico and the United States in part because of Mr. Zuno’s ties to Mexican government officials, died on Tuesday in a federal prison in Coleman, Fla. He was 82.

Mr. Zuno had connections high in the Mexican government and was the brother-in-law of Luis Echeverría Álvarez, who was president from 1970 to 1976. In 1992, he was convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy in the death of Enrique Camarena Salazar, a longtime agent for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration who had helped discover and destroy billions of dollars worth of drugs controlled by the so-called Guadalajara Cartel in the mid-1980s.

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