December 3, 2013
The 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?”
November 20, 2013
The 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.
November 20, 2013
The 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.
September 30, 2013
InSight Crime, 9/25/2013
It is tempting to separate Mexico’s drug cartels into six hierarchical groups, each competing for trafficking turf. The reality, however, is that the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel, the Juarez Cartel, the Zetas and La Familia, not to mention several new offshoot organizations, are fluid, dynamic, for-profit syndicates that sometimes operate under the umbrella of what are effectively conglomerates but more often than not operate as independent, smaller-scale franchises.
September 10, 2013
The Washington Post, 9/10/2013
An audacious band of citizen militias battling a brutal drug cartel in the hills of central Mexico is becoming increasingly well-armed and coordinated in an attempt to end years of violence, extortion and humiliation.
What began as a few scattered self-defense groups has spread in recent months to dozens of towns across Michoacan, a volatile state gripped by the cultlike Knights Templar, a drug gang known for taxing locals on everything from cows to tortillas and executing those who do not comply.
The army deployed to the area in May, but the soldiers are mostly manning checkpoints. Instead, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is facing the awkward fact that a group of scrappy locals appears to be chasing the gangsters away, something that federal security forces have not managed in a decade.
July 31, 2013
July has been an interesting month for Mexico watchers. The country started the month with local elections, captured a major cartel boss, faced a series of tough losses on the futbol pitch, and experienced a series of violent attacks by organized crime groups.
Here are some articles from this past month.
July 29, 2013
By Fernando Gómez Mont and Jorge G. Castañeda**, The Washington Post, 7/26/2013
Last year, voters in Colorado and Washington state approved initiatives legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. While the details are being worked out, those watching the developments are in not only the United States. Mexico, too, is taking note, having paid an enormous price waging a costly — and, to a certain degree, futile — years-long crusade against drugs in consonance with the international community’s punitive approach.
A growing number of Mexicans are asking logical questions: Why should their leaders follow a path that provokes violence, generates human rights violations, erodes the country’s image abroad and costs a fortune — mainly to stem the northern flow of drugs? Why spray and uproot marijuana fields in the hills of Oaxaca, search for tunnels in Tijuana and incarcerate “weed” traffickers in Monterrey if consumption is made legal in parts of the United States? Why deploy such an enormous effort to deter drug trafficking if Washington does virtually nothing to stop the flow of firearms to Mexico — and has concluded that it can, and should, prevent migrants from Mexico and Central America from entering the United States? If Congress can “secure” the border against people, using walls and drones, why can’t it do the same against drugs or guns and, in the process, respect Mexico’s right to design its own policies?
**Fernando Gómez Mont was Mexico’s interior minister in the administration of Felipe Calderón. Jorge G. Castañeda was minister of foreign affairs in the administration of Vicente Fox.
July 29, 2013
The Washington Post, 7/29/2013
Gunmen ambushed and killed one of Mexico’s highest ranking navy officials and the officer escorting him Sunday in the rough western state of Michoacan, authorities said. Two other people were injured in the shooting in an area where a fight between rival drug cartels has caused a new outburst of violence.
The state prosecutors’ office said the attack on Vice Adm. Carlos Miguel Salazar happened on a dirt road near the town of Churintzio. The motive was unclear, but Salazar is the top navy commander in the neighboring Pacific coastal state of Jalisco.
July 17, 2013
The government of Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto has good reason to trumpet the capture yesterday of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, head of Los Zetas, one of the country’s most brutal and most powerful drug cartels.
Even by the gory standards of Mexican drug lords, Trevino stood out for his sadistic streak: He is accused of orchestrating, in several large-scale incidents, the kidnapping and killing of 265 migrants in northern Mexico. (According to one survivor, they were killed when they refused to work as drug mules.) The U.S. and Mexican governments had offered a combined bountyof as much as $7 million for his capture. Let’s hope that they have more money in the reward pinata, because they’re going to need it.
May 24, 2013
Osiel Cardena’s lawyer, Juan Jesús Guerrero Chapa, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday afternoon by an armed man after shopping in a local mall. He also defended other drug kingpins such as Gilberto “El June” García Mena, Juan García Ábrego, and his brother Humberto.