For three years it has chronicled Mexico’s drug war with graphic images and shocking stories that few others dare show, drawing millions of readers, acclaim, denunciations – and speculation about its author’s identity. Blog del Narco, an internet sensation dubbed a “front-row seat” to Mexico’s agony over drugs, has become a must-read for authorities, drug gangs and ordinary people because it lays bare, day after day, the horrific violence censored by the mainstream media.
The anonymous author has been a source of mystery, with Mexico wondering who he is and his motivation for such risky reporting. Now in their first major interview since launching the blog, the author has spoken to the Guardian and the Texas Observer – and has revealed that she is, in fact, a young woman.
Some of the most important civic groups in Mexico are imploring President Enrique Peña Nieto to let Congress debate the wisdom of creating a new paramilitary police force, or gendarmerie, to combat the persistent scourge of violence here. The civic groups are concerned that Peña Nieto will create the new force by presidential decree, instead of introducing a bill in the Legislature. Without a vigorous debate in Congress, the groups fear, the gendarmerie may suffer from an ill-defined mandate and lack important human rights protocols, among other things.
“There are meaningful and legitimate doubts about the project,” security analyst Alejandro Hope of the Mexican Competitiveness Institute said in an interview Wednesday. “So I think it’s fair to ask for a discussion.”
Despite Mexico’s strengthening democracy and booming economy, the country’s security crisis rages on. Fifty thousand people have been killed in the past five years due to drug and organized crime-related violence. “The sense of fear and the sense of helplessness has extended beyond the areas that are mostly affected by the increasing violence,” says Alejandro Hope, a former Mexican intelligence officer. “It has changed the national conversation in Mexico, and it has changed the way Mexicans think of their country.”
The crisis has been driven by many factors, experts say, including the Mexican government’s offensive against drug-trafficking organizations, which began in December 2006. And while the country has enjoyed steady economic growth in recent years, economic inequality has left millions of Mexicans on the margins. “Those are the types of populations that the drug cartels or gangs look to and often recruit from,” says Shannon K. O’Neil, CFR’s Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies. Meanwhile, Mexico’s weak security and justice institutions, prone to inefficiency and corruption, have been “quite unable to deal with this level of violence,” argues Hope.
Neat, freshly painted buildings and a renovated church line the central square. Shiny SUVs rest curbside. Some lack license plates, as if the law doesn’t apply. Mansions crown the surrounding hills. Badiraguato, a town of 7,000 in Sinaloa state, shouldn’t have such wealth. It’s among the poorest municipalities in Mexico. But you’re better off not asking questions here.
This is a secretive place, hot and quiet in the Sierra Madre foothills. There’s an army barracks, but soldiers mostly stay inside. It’s the heart of drug country, home to Mexico’s most powerful criminal syndicate: the Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Al Jazeera, 2/22/2013
Guatemalan authorities are investigating whether Mexican drug cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was killed in a clash between traffickers and its forces in Peten near the border with Mexico. Officials on Thursday said fingerprints and photos were taken to determine whether Mexico’s most wanted man was dead in the gunfight in a jungle area of the Peten Department. The information was being cross-checked with Mexican authorities.
“The first information we have is that it could be him,” Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez told local radio, cautioning that authorities could not be “100 percent” certain. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he had no information yet to confirm whether Guzman was killed and that he was “hoping to get some information” soon.
Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s first month at Harvard was marked by strong opposition, both home and abroad, to his strategy in combating his country’s drug cartels while in office. The former Mexican leader has remained relatively quiet as he begins his one-year teaching appointment at the Kennedy School of Government, but he recently defended himself in a commentary published in the Kennedy School’s Latin American Policy Journal.
Calling the border city of Ciudad Juárez a “place of progress,” Calderón said that his government’s tactics helped reduce the bloodshed in a town once dubbed the world’s most violent.
Maximina Hernandez says she begged her 23-year old son, Dionicio, to give up his job as a police officer in a suburb of Monterrey. Rival drug cartels have been battling in the northern Mexican city for years. But he told her being a police officer was in his blood, a family tradition. He was detailed to guard the town’s mayor.
In May 2007, on his way to work, two men wearing police uniforms stopped Dionicio on a busy street, pulled him from his car and drove him away. That same day, the mayor’s other two bodyguards were also abducted. Witnesses say the kidnappers wore uniforms of an elite anti-drug police unit. The three men haven’t been seen since.
Nearly 150 people and possibly hundreds more have disappeared at the hands of Mexico’s police and military during the drug war with little or no investigation of the cases, a human rights group said Wednesday, as it called on the new government to account for the country’s missing. The organization, Human Rights Watch, said in a report that Mexico has “the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades.” The group found a litany of cases in which witnesses reported people had been abducted or were last seen with the military or the police, never to be seen again.
Altogether the group documented 149 such cases in the past six years, after the previous president, Felipe Calderón, began his term with heavy deployments of military and federal police to combat exploding violence. The group’s investigation found 60 cases in which witness testimony and other evidence demonstrated that local police officers had colluded with cartels in abductions.
The following is an excerpt from Steven Dudley’s latest report for In Sight Crime: Organized Crime in the Americas, titled Juarez After the War.
For many crime watchers, the fighting in Juarez that cost nearly 10,000 people their lives over a four year stretch was a battle of the titans: the Juarez Cartel versus the Sinaloa Cartel. But beneath that analysis is the deeper question of who pushes the levers of power in Mexico.
The question is even more complicated in Juarez, a border city where several layers of power brokers are still seeking to impose their will on one another and control this lucrative plaza. These include large criminal groups, local and federal police, the army, the state Attorney General’s Office, politicians, and street gangs.