Mexican cartels steal billions from oil industry

September 25, 2014

09/25/14 The Washington Post

Oil barrelsMexico overcame 75 years of nationalist pride to reform its flagging, state-owned oil industry. But as it prepares to develop rich shale fields along the Gulf Coast, and attract foreign investors, another challenge awaits: taming the brutal drug cartels that rule the region and are stealing billions of dollars’ worth of oil from pipelines. Figures released by Petroleos Mexicanos last week show the gangs are becoming more prolific and sophisticated. So far this year, thieves across Mexico have drilled 2,481 illegal taps into state-owned pipelines, up more than one-third from the same period of 2013. Pemex estimates it’s lost some 7.5 million barrels worth $1.15 billion.

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Mexico’s Cartel-Fighting Vigilantes Get Closer to Texas Border

July 9, 2014

07/09/14 NBC News

machine gunThe gunmen nabbed watermelon farmer Jesus Manuel Guerrero as he drove from his ranch to buy supplies and held him for five painful days in the trunk of a car.

When family members finally paid a $120,000 ransom and they released him, he was urinating blood.

He’s just one of hundreds of victims of a wave of kidnapping that’s swept this once peaceful farming town, about 130 miles south of Texas.

But almost three years after his brutal abduction, Guerrero, who is now the mayor, says his town has become safer, the kidnappers scared to enter.

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In life, Mexican cartel boss was revered as a saint

March 12, 2014

jesus_malverdeLos Angeles Times, 03/10/14

If nothing else, the slaying of cartel boss Nazario Moreno Gonzalez by  Mexican soldiers may have burst the bubble of mysticism that had made him one of  the stranger figures to emerge in the country’s drug war. Moreno, whose nicknames included “El Mas Loco” (“The Craziest”), was a  founder of Michoacan state’s La Familia drug cartel and its offshoot, the Knights Templar — groups that have moved massive amounts of methamphetamine and other drugs north to the United States.

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Legal U.S. Pot Won’t Bring Peace to Mexico

January 22, 2014

marijuana leafBloomberg, 01/21/2014

Since Jan. 1, Colorado has had a legal marijuana market. The same will soon be true in Washington State, once retail licenses are issued. Other states, such as California and Oregon, will likely follow suit over the next three years.

So does this creeping legalization of marijuana in the U.S. spell doom for the Mexican drug cartels? Not quite. The illegal marijuana trade provides Mexican organized crime with about $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year. That’s not chump change, but according to a number of estimates, it represents no more than a third of gross drug export revenue. Cocaine is still the cartels’ biggest money-maker and the revenue accruing from heroin and methamphetamine aren’t trivial. Moreover, Mexican gangs also obtain income from extortion, kidnapping, theft and various other types of illegal trafficking. Losing the marijuana trade would be a blow to their finances, but it certainly wouldn’t put them out of business.

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Mexican militia leader vows to continue battle with drug cartels after plane crash

January 16, 2014

youth with handgunThe Washington Post, 01/14/2014

More than a week after surviving a plane crash, the injured Mexican militia leader Jose Manuel Mireles rejected the government’s call for his movement to disarm, vowing to fight on until the drug cartel leaders in his area have been arrested and the state of Michoacan establishes the rule of law.

Mireles, a 55-year-old surgeon who leads the militia movement that has spread rapidly over the past year across Michoacan and seized territory from the Knights Templar drug cartel, spoke to reporters late Monday from a safe house after being treated at a private hospital in Mexico City.

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Mexico seminary joins list of extortion callers’ targets

December 3, 2013

cell-phone-imgaeThe Los Angeles Times, 12/2/2013

It is a distressingly common part of life in modern Mexico: the bullying phone call demanding that the person who answers pay up — or else. Businesses get the extortion calls. Families get them.

And now, apparently, so has the country’s main Roman Catholic seminary.

In a sermon Sunday, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera announced that a vice rector at the Conciliar Seminary of Mexico received a number of threatening phone calls Nov. 20-21. The callers, the cardinal said, demanded 60,000 pesos — about $4,500 — “in exchange for respecting the lives of the superiors of that institution,” according to a statement issued Sunday evening by the Archdiocese of Mexico.

“Last week we were meeting in the seminary; they called numerous times, and identified themselves as La Familia Michoacana,” Rivera said, according to the news service Milenio, referring to a drug cartel based in Michoacan state. “But who knows?”

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Vigilante groups seize control of towns in western Mexico

November 20, 2013

hands in handcuffsThe Wall Street Journal, 11/19/2013

Rogelio Valencia peered out from a sandbag bunker outside Tepalcatepec in a fertile region of Mexico’s Michoacan state, keeping an eye cocked for marauding gangsters.

“They might come in 10 or 12 pickups. But we are prepared,” says Mr. Valencia, a civilian with a pistol tucked in his waistband and a two-way radio at hand.

Tepalcatepec is in a “liberated” region of Michoacan state, where an armed uprising of civilians has succeeded in lifting a yoke imposed by a crime group with a feudal-sounding name, the Knights Templar, which keeps a searing and heavy hand on the majority of Michoacan’s 113 municipalities.

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