Tracing the U.S. heroin surge back south of the border as Mexican cannabis output falls

April 7, 2014

marijuana leafThe Washington Post, 4/6/14

The surge of cheap heroin spreading in $4 hits across rural America can be traced back to the remote valleys of the northern Sierra Madre. With the wholesale price of marijuana falling — driven in part by decriminalization in sections of the United States — Mexican drug farmers are turning away from cannabis and filling their fields with opium poppies.

Mexican heroin is flooding north as U.S. authorities trying to contain an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse have tightened controls on synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and OxyContin. As the pills become more costly and difficult to obtain, Mexican trafficking organizations have found new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, Va., and Brattleboro, Vt., where, until recently, needle use for narcotics was rare or unknown.

Farmers in the storied “Golden Triangle” region of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which has produced the country’s most notorious gangsters and biggest marijuana harvests, say they are no longer planting the crop. Its wholesale price has collapsed in the past five years, from $100 per kilogram to less than $25.

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Chicago’s Heroin Problem: City’s Open-Air Drug Markets’ Surprising Connection To Mexican Drug Cartels (Video)

December 13, 2013

The Huffington Post, 12/12/2013

chicagoIn a Wednesday panel on HuffPost Live, Reader reporter Mick Dumke, Bloomberg reporter John Lippert and Chicago Recovery Alliance director Dan Bigg spoke on the Windy City’s heroin “open-air” heroin markets on the city’s West Side and its connection to the powerful Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel and its kingpin, “Public Enemy Number 1″ El Chapo Guzman.

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Mexico’s tomato-farm workers toil in ‘circle of poverty’

November 12, 2013

tomatoesThe Los Angeles Times, 11/11/2013

They sure do have tomatoes here in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Elongated red ones. Round green ones. Cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, grape tomatoes.Vast fields of tomatoes, lining the roads out of the Sinaloa capital of Culiacan, miles and miles of mesh tenting shielding the plants from the sun.

Last year, Sinaloa exported 950,000 tons of vegetables, mostly tomatoes and mostly to California and other parts of the United States, worth nearly $1 billion. Half the tomatoes eaten in the United States this time of year are from Sinaloa. The tomato is the symbol on the Sinaloa license plate.

But while a short list of landowners make millions, the planting, weeding, pruning and picking of the vegetables fall to armies of workers from Mexico’s poorest states — Oaxaca, Guerrero, Chiapas — who have little opportunity for schooling or other forms of legal employment.

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Tropical Storm Sonia Hits Mexico; Minor Flooding

November 5, 2013

Photo by Flickr User Maitri

The New York Times, 11/04/2013

Former Tropical Storm Sonia dissipated over the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, but not before causing some minor flooding in cities such as Mazatlan and Culiacan, forcing the evacuation of around 1,000 people, authorities said Monday.

The evacuations were largely preventative and people are expected to start returning to their homes, said Sinaloa state civil defense official Gabriel Olivera.

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Treasury sanctions 8 drug bosses working for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, calls them ‘kingpins’

May 8, 2013

shutterstock_113478238Associated Press, 5/7/2013

The Obama administration has levied financial sanctions against eight drug gang bosses accused of working for Mexico’s powerful and violent Sinaloa Cartel. The government accused the eight regional bosses of managing drug smuggling operations for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the purported head of the Sinaloa Cartel, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday. By declaring the men specially designated narcotics traffickers under the Kingpin Act, Washington has made it illegal for U.S. citizens to do business with them and freezes any assets they may have inside the U.S.

Seven of the men — Armando Lopez Aispuro, Guillermo Nieblas Nava, Felipe de Jesus Sosa Canisales, Raul Sabori Cisneros, Ramon Ignacio Paez Soto, Jesus Alfredo Salazar Ramirez and Jose Javier Rascon Ramirez — are believed to run smuggling operations in the Mexican state of Sonora, which borders Arizona. Cenobio Flores Pachecho is accused of being in charge of smuggling efforts in Mexicali, across the border from California.

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Femicide cases increase in 9 states (Spanish)

February 14, 2013

femicidesEl Universal 2/14/2012

Las nueve entidades que registran una tendencia creciente de homicidios de mujeres son Chiapas, Chihuahua, Distrito Federal, Durango, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Sinaloa y Sonora, según un estudio presentado por la subsecretaria de Derechos Humanos de la Secretaría de Gobernación, Lía Limón, en el Senado de la República.

El estudio también analiza las particularidades de cada zona. En el noreste del país, por ejemplo, una mujer de 20 a 24 años tiene 39 veces más riesgo de morir por homicidio, que una mujer de la misma edad de la zona centro del país.

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Mexico’s Coppel Brothers Emerge With $16 Billion Fortune

November 16, 2012

Bloomberg BusinessWeek, 11/15/2012

Sinaloa

In 1970, Enrique Coppel Tamayo introduced a credit card that allowed his working-class customers to buy clothing and furniture at a handful of retail stores he owned in Culiacan, Mexico.

With Mexico’s economy rebounding from the 2009 recession, and unemployment declining, the country’s consumers have more cash to spend on household goods. Coppel’s department stores across the country give the poorer among them the chance to buy a sofa-bed or an iPhone in small payments over six to 18 months. The Coppel empire has expanded despite the surge in violence in their native state of Sinaloa, home to the cartel of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most-wanted druglord.

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Mexico Institute Event: Security and Economic Opportunity in Sinaloa

October 22, 2012

Please join the Mexico Institute for a 2 part discussion with Governor Lopez Valdez of Sinaloa on October 25th at 2:30. Governor Lopez Valdez will first dicuss recently implemented crime prevention strategies and their effects in Sinaloa. He will also discuss opportunities for cross border trade and economic cooperation with the United States. As Sinaloa is one of the largest exporters of vegetable produce to the U.S., this is expected to be a very interesting event.

Please RSVP here.


Mexican Navy says captures top drug boss “El Coss”

September 13, 2012

Reuters, 9/13/12

The Mexican Navy said on Wednesday it had captured one of Mexico’s most wanted drug bosses, the head of the Gulf Cartel, in what would mark a major victory in President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on organized crime…

Islas said he expected Costilla to be extradited to the United States, and that his testimony could prove damaging to officials in Tamaulipas and neighboring Veracruz state, which has also been dogged by allegations of corruption…

With Costilla’s apparent capture, the cartel is looking increasingly weak, and bloody turf wars for control of the northeastern border with Texas would now intensify. “There will be an increase in violence there,” Islas said.

The stage was now set for increased hostilities in the region between Mexico’s two most powerful gangs, Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas, he noted.

This could prove a headache for Pena Nieto, who has vowed to quickly reduce the number of beheadings and mass executions. There have been more than 55,000 drug-related deaths in Calderon’s six-year offensive against cartels.

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Cocaine Incorporated

June 18, 2012

6/15/12, NYT Magazine

Known as El Chapo for his short, stocky frame, Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave...

The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well…

By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.

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