Juarez: The sequel

November 1, 2013

ciudad juarezThe Global Post, 11/1/2013

Thousands of matchbox houses once ranked among Earth’s deadliest patches through years of criminal war in Ciudad Juarez, an industrial and narcotics corridor bordering America’ssafest large city El Paso, Texas.

More than 10,000 people were murdered across the Mexican city of 1.3 million in less than five years. Many were young men gunned down on streets like these.

But the fever has broken. At fewer than two a day, murders citywide likely will finish the year at about a seventh (14 percent) of those three years ago.

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Tunnel for Smuggling Found Under U.S.-Mexico Border; Tons of Drugs Seized

November 1, 2013

mexicos-war-on-drugsThe New York Times, 11/1/2013

A deep tunnel snaking nearly 600 yards from Mexico under the border and into a San Diego warehouse is one of the most sophisticated underground drug smuggling passageways ever discovered, complete with electricity, ventilation and an electronic rail system, federal authorities said Thursday.

The tunnel, which was shut down Wednesday night after several weeks of surveillance, took about a year to build, the authorities said. Three people were taken into custody, and federal agents seized eight tons of marijuana and 325 pounds of cocaine they said was connected to the investigation.

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Mexico ‘clown’ gunmen kill ex-drug chief Arellano Felix

October 21, 2013

BBC News, 10/19/2013

gun - crime sceneThe authorities in Mexico have said gunmen dressed as clowns have shot dead a former leading member of a once-powerful and violent drug cartel. Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, 63, was killed in a beach resort in Baja California in north-western Mexico. He and his brothers controlled the drug trade on Mexico’s border with the United States in the 1990s. But their Tijuana cartel was gradually weakened by the capture or killing of other leading members.

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In Mexico, Extortion Soars Amid Crackdown On Drugs

October 15, 2013

gun - crime sceneThe Huffington Post, 10/14/2013

When the threatening phone calls demanding $20,000 in protection money began in December, Dr. Roman Gomez Gaviria shrugged them off, believing his clinic on the outskirts of Mexico City couldn’t possibly be of interest to criminal gangs. A few months later, his sense of security was shattered when three armed men barged into his office screaming “Dr. Ramon, you bastard, where are you?”

“They tried to tackle me, to take me out of the clinic, when I saw that each one had a pistol tucked into his belt,” said Gaviria, recounting the ordeal. “They thought that, because I’m a doctor, I wasn’t going to resist.”

Such shakedown rackets have long targeted businesses in the most violent corners of Mexico. Now the practice is spreading. One anti-crime group estimates that kidnapping across the country has jumped by one-third so far this year compared to 2012. And as the extortion industry expands, it has drawn both experienced criminals and imitators.

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Mexico City Mulls Legal Marijuana Clubs

September 6, 2013

The Huffington Post, 9/6/2013

marijuana leafThe Mexico City council is considering the legalization of cannabis plants and the creation of private marijuana smoking “clubs” as it mulls controversial legislation to liberalize consumption, lawmakers said.

The capital hosted a three-day forum on drug policy amid a growing debate in Latin America over the course of the region’s deadly struggle against narcotrafficking, with President Enrique Pena Nieto taking a stance against legalization.

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Obama’s Mexico Visit: Not Just About the Drug War Anymore

May 1, 2013

obamaTIME, 4/30/13

When former Mexican President Felipe Calderón waged his war on drug cartels, the media were guaranteed a crime photo op every few weeks. Alleged gangsters were thrust before the press along with heaps of guns, money and narcotics. These narco-perp walks were often accompanied by videos in which heavy-breathing suspects confessed how they had committed hundreds of murders and smuggled tons of cocaine to American users. And the parades often coincided with top U.S. officials visiting Mexico and trumpeting how the two nations stood shoulder to shoulder in their joint fight against cartel crime.

However, it is unlikely that U.S. President Barack Obama will be shown any such displays when he visits Mexico this Thursday. Since President Enrique Peña Nieto took power in December, the parades have stopped as part of an overhaul in the government’s security strategy. (Human-rights defenders also decried these staged pantomimes of justice.) Peña Nieto has shifted focus from fighting cartels to modernizing the economy and has encouraged media outlets to dedicate less coverage to decapitations and shoot-outs. In the run-up to Obama’s visit, both governments have emphasized trade and immigration reform over the battle with the cocaine kings. “The Peña Nieto administration has made it clear it wants to reduce the emphasis on violence and wants to talk about other things such as its reform agenda,” says security analyst Alejandro Hope, a former official of Mexico’s intelligence agency, CISEN. “It wants to change the conversation.”

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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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U.S. lawmakers urge government to press Mexico on human rights

April 26, 2013

capitolGlobal Post, 4/25/13

With President Barack Obama set to visit Mexico next week, a group of 23 U.S. lawmakers asked the administration to prioritize the defense of human rights in relations with the Aztec nation. The legislators expressed their concern over “the persistence of grave human rights violations in Mexico” in a Dear Colleague letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Headed by Reps. James Moran (D-Va.) and Ted Poe (R-Texas), the lawmakers are urging Obama to make the defense of human rights “a central part” of Washington’s agenda with Mexico. During the 2006-2012 government of Felipe Calderon, who militarized the war on drugs, complaints to Mexico’s independent National Human Rights Commission about abuses by police and soldiers increased fivefold to 2,723, the congressmen emphasized.

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Report: Focused Deterrence, Selective Targeting, Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime: Concepts and Practicalities

March 8, 2013

crime and drugsBy Vanda Felbab-Brown, International Drug Policy Consortium, February 2013

In “Focused Deterrence, Selective Targeting, Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime: Concepts and Practicalities,” published by the International Drug Policy Consortium in February 2013, Vanda Felbab-Brown first outlines the logic and problems of zero-tolerance and undifferentiated targeting in law enforcement policies. Second, she lays out the key theoretical concepts of the law-enforcement strategies of focused-deterrence and selective targeting and reviews some of their applications, as in Operation Ceasefire in Boston in the 1990s and urban-policing operations in Rio de Janeiro during the 2000s decade. Third, she analyses the implementation challenges that selective targeting and focused-deterrence strategies have encountered, particularly outside of the United States. And finally, she discusses some key dilemmas in designing selective targeting and focused-deterrence strategies to fight crime.

Read the full report here…


Mexico wants U.S. ties to focus on economy, education, not drugs

March 5, 2013

mexico-usa-flag-montageReuters, 3/4/2013

Sergio Alcocer, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister responsible for the United States and Canada, said the focus on tackling the cartels and border security meant many of the benefits of Mexico’s ties with the United States had been ignored. “The U.S. population needs to see Mexico is an important part of daily life,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

“We’re not just a geographical accident, we’re not a source of problems, on the contrary. We’re an area of opportunity and a source of how problems can be resolved.” Too often, cross-border debates on security and immigration had obscured the valuable contribution made by Mexican migrants to the United States, while Mexico had not made the most of its northern neighbor in modernizing its economy, Alcocer said.

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