Op-ed: In Mexico, guilty till proven innocent

June 5, 2013

justice - gavelBy Maureen Meyer, CNN, 6/5/2013

The case of Yanira Maldonado brought international attention once more to the innocent people getting caught in Mexico’s drug war. Maldonado, a U.S. citizen and mother of seven children, was released late last week after spending more than a week in a prison in Nogales, Mexico, accused of trying to transport marijuana aboard a bus.

She and her husband, Gary, were returning on the bus from a family funeral in Sonora, Mexico, when soldiers at a military checkpoint stopped them. The passengers were told to get out so that the soldiers and an official from the public prosecutor’s office could inspect it. She was arrested and handed over to the official because soldiers said marijuana was found under her seat — conviction could have meant a minimum of 10 years in jail. A surveillance video showing her boarding the bus with only her purse, blankets and two bottles of water apparently exonerated her.

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Mexico drug cartel commander pleads guilty in murder of U.S. official

May 24, 2013

justice - gavel and bookReuters, 5/23/2013

A Mexican drug cartel commander known as “Tweety Bird” pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court in Washington to ordering the ambush and murder of U.S. immigration agents in 2011, according to U.S. officials. The plea related to a February 2011 incident when two “hit squads” from the Los Zetas drug cartel forced an armored U.S. government vehicle off a highway near Mexico City and surrounded it, federal prosecutors said.

Zetas commander Julian Zapata Espinoza, known as “El Piolin” (Tweety Bird), ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila out of the car, said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division. When the agents refused, identifying themselves as American diplomats from the U.S. embassy, Espinoza ordered the gunmen to fire on the vehicle. Zapata was killed and Avila was seriously wounded but survived, officials said.

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