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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Mexico extradites top cartel member

November 22, 2013

San Antonio Express, 11/21/2013

Mexican Police catch drug dealer photo by Jesús Villaseca P Latitudes PressMexico extradited an alleged former top member of the Zetas drug cartel Thursday to face narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges in Laredo, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent said.

Officials with the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not confirm or deny Thursday afternoon that Iván Velázquez Caballero, known by the nickname “El Taliban,” had been sent to the U.S. But Mike Vigil, the former chief of international operations for the DEA, said Velazquez is now in the country.

Velázquez is one of more than 30 people charged in a massive conspiracy indictment, alleging that, between 2000 and 2008, the Zetas smuggled large amounts of drugs into the U.S. and committed homicides in Texas as part of their narcotics trafficking operations.

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The Majority Of Mexico’s Prisons Are Controlled By Inmates

November 20, 2013

The Business Insider 11/19/2013

prisonViolence has increased in Mexico’s prisons and the majority are controlled by inmates, the National Human Rights Commission said.The commission found in an annual report that 65 of the country’s 101 most populated prisons were under the control of convicts in 2012, a 4.3 percent increase from 2011.

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Mexico City’s Fraying ‘Pax Mafiosa’

October 16, 2013

Mexico City - nunavut (Flickr)Forbes, 10/15/2013

Over much of the past decade, as Mexico has seen a significant spike in violence related to organized crime, Mexico City has remained relatively tranquil. To be sure, the violent crime rate in the capital city has ticked up steadily since 2006, but nothing like what other parts of the country have witnessed.

The reason for the relative calm is a “Pax Mafiosa” that reigned in the city—at least until recently. Many Mexican capos (cartel bosses) own houses in Mexico City, send their children to local schools and use the capital as a place to meet with corrupt officials. A longstanding pact ensured that organized criminal groups would not compete over drug dealing and trafficking operations in the city in return for a tacit agreement from the local security forces that their relatives would be allowed to go about their daily business without being harassed.

That deal now appears defunct.

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99% of kidnappings in Mexico went unreported last year

October 4, 2013

Quartz, 10/3/2013

mx_crimes_200The latest public security report, released by Mexico’s statistics bureau (INEGI) earlier this week, reveals the extent of the country’s rampant and virtually unpunished kidnapping problem. According to the report, a mind-boggling 105,682 kidnappings were committed in Mexico last year, of which an incredibly small 1,317 were reported to local or federal authorities. In other words, 99% of kidnappings in Mexico flew under the radar last year.

Many kidnappings are drug-related, and therefore often kept from authorities because victims involved in the drug trade want to avoid backlash or crackdowns on other offenses. But a good deal of the 100,000+ abductions went unreported on suspicion that nothing would be done, or worse, that more harm would come to the involved parties.

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Violence Sets Mexico City on Edge

August 26, 2013

gun - crime sceneThe Wall Street Journal, 8/25/2013

For the past few years this sprawling capital has weathered the country’s drug war as an island largely free from the violence that the drug trade brings. But a series of high-profile kidnappings and murders has raised fears that crime is once again on the rise in Mexico City. In contrast to the nation’s cartel wars, in which thousands of people have been slaughtered by the country’s drug gangs, the recent killings in Mexico City have been far fewer, and appear to involve local street gangs. But many cases have been no less grisly.

One of the most notorious involves authorities’ discovery late last week of a mass grave holding the bodies of 13 people in a poor Mexico City suburb. Officials on Friday confirmed that five of the bodies belonged to a group of 12 young people who vanished in a mass kidnapping in May from a nightclub in the Zona Rosa tourist district—the first such crime the capital had seen in years.

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Mexico bishop tackles organized crime, corruption

July 15, 2013

churchUSA Today, 7/15/2013

Bishop Raúl Vera cast a vote in Sunday’s local elections, then told the faithful: don’t back candidates associated with organized crime. Such admonishments have been rare from Catholic leaders in Mexico, who have mostly stayed silent on security issues and preferred not to upset the authorities or drug cartels — even as organized crime violence claimed more than 60,000 lives over the past six years and church officials fended off allegations they accepted donations from drug cartels.

The admonishment was vintage Vera, spoken plainly by a prelate less concerned with offending politicians than promoting the protection of human rights and providing pastoral attention to those not always welcome in the church — including gays — or neglected by the authorities, such as the victims of organized crime violence.

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INFOGRAPHIC: Money Laundering (Part 3)

July 1, 2013

Prepared by Constance McNally

Money Laundering - Part 3

The United States and Mexico maintain Financial Intelligence units to combat illicit finance activities. The U.S.  unit – the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)[1] – was created in 1990,[2]  and the Mexican unit – Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF)[3] – was created in 2004. [4] Both units service as a single source of information for government agencies and financial institutions to aid in the detection, interdiction, and prosecution of illicit and criminal financial activities.  It is important to note that a team of experts from the FATF, GAFISUD, and the IMF rated Mexico’s UIF just as effective as FinCEN.[5] Furthermore, in 2011 the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center highlighted 2010 legislation by the Mexican government concerning U.S. dollar transactions, noting that the new law will force launders to place money in U.S. and other dollarized economies,[6] implying that Mexican enforcement of anti-money laundering regulations is strong.  Mexico has continued this trend by passing new restrictions on cash transactions in 2012.[7] This closing off of the Mexican and U.S. financial markets may force DTOs in the future to use other methods, such as bulk cash smuggling, that are more susceptible to U.S. Law Enforcement activities.

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Despite Mexico Security Improvements, Public Polls Betray Deep Worries

June 19, 2013

Cops - Jesus Villaseca Perez (Flickr)InSight Crime, 6/17/2013

A government survey reveals how certain social behaviors in Mexico have changed due to public perceptions of crime, even though much of the country has seen violence levels plateau somewhat. According to a newly released portion of the National Survey of Victimization and Perceptions of Violence, known as Envipe under its Spanish acronym, Mexicans are substantially altering their lifestyles in an effort to insulate themselves from the violence. As a result, violence linked to organized crime is no longer considered an issue limited to public security, but is seen as a much broader problem, one that affects commerce, investment, education, and social life in general.

One of the most basic manifestations of this is the reluctance to enjoy the nation’s nightlife, previously a famous staple of towns like Mexico City and Monterrey. The survey — produced annually by INEGI, the government statistics agency — counted more than 23 million Mexicans who said they avoided public places such as bars and soccer stadiums because of fears of violence. This is not idle fretting: as InSight Crime has reported, bars have periodically been targeted and their patrons killed at random, as different criminal groups use terror tactics to advance their position. In one notorious incident in 2011, a first-division soccer game in Torreon was called off after just 45 minutes, due to a gun battle that started outside the stadium.

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The Rise of Mexico’s Self-Defense Forces

June 19, 2013

Latitudes Press.Foreign Affairs, July/August 2013

Mexico has suffered staggering levels of violence and crime during the country’s seven-year-long war against the cartels. The fighting has killed 90,000 people so far, a death toll larger, as of this writing, than that of the civil war in Syria. Homicide rates have tripled since 2007. In an effort to stem the carnage, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced last December that the federal government, having struggled to defeat the cartels using corrupt local police and an inadequate military, would create an elite national police force of 10,000 officers by the end of this year.

Many Mexicans are unwilling to wait. In communities across the country, groups of men have donned masks, picked up rifles and machetes, and begun patrolling their neighborhoods and farmland. As in the Tierra Colorada incident, their behavior is not always pretty. Several months ago, another such group in the state of Guerrero detained 54 people for over six weeks, accusing them of crimes ranging from stealing cattle to murder. After a series of unofficial trials, they handed 20 of them over to local prosecutors and let the rest go free.

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