Mexico Cartel Tied to Argentina’s Second-Largest Cocaine Sting

6/21/2017 InSight Crime

cocaineAuthorities believe that the second-largest cocaine seizure in Argentina’s history is linked to a Mexican cartel that exploited an unusual trafficking route, suggesting that Argentina’s transshipment role is continuing to grow, most likely due to both domestic and international drug-related developments.

Argentina’s Federal Police seized two metric tons of cocaine — the second-largest cocaine seizure in the country’s history, worth an estimated $60 million — in the Bahía Blanca port city of Buenos Aires province on June 19. Another 500 kilograms were seized in the Luján de Cuyo city of Mendoza province close to the Chilean border, according to a Security Ministry press release.

Authorities believe the drugs were smuggled from Chile to the province of Mendoza and on to Buenos Aires. In Bahía Blanca’s port, the cocaine — reportedly destined for Spain and Canada — was hidden in steel coils to block customs scanners.

Cocaine has traditionally entered Argentina through the country’s northern provinces bordering Bolivia, and more recently those along the border with Paraguay.

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Mexico Arrests Knights Templar Leader, Cementing Group’s Demise

6/22/2017 InSight Crime

michoacan

Authorities in Mexico have arrested one of the last main leaders of the Knights Templar crime group, likely leaving the organization’s already debilitated leadership in further disarray and raising questions about which organized crime groups may try to capitalize on their weakening.

Ignacio Rentería Andrade, alias “El Cenizo,” was arrested in the Parácuaro municipality of Mexico’s western state of Michoacán on June 21 after a confrontation between armed individuals and soldiers, Proceso reported.

Rentería Andrade is the alleged leader of the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios), and reportedly had the largest territorial leadership of the group, Milenio reported.

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Mexico retail sales rise for second time in three months

6/23/2017 Reuters

Customer buys a television set during the shopping season, "El Buen Fin", at a Walmart store, in the early hours of Friday, in Monterrey
REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

Mexican retail sales rose for the second time in three months in April, official data showed on Friday, pointing to continued support for Latin America’s second biggest economy from private consumption.

Retail sales climbed by 1.2 percent month on month in April when adjusted for seasonal swings, according to data from the national statistics office. Compared with the same month a year earlier, sales were up by 1.4 percent.

Private spending has been a pillar of support for the Mexican economy in recent months, and reports from the private sector suggest it is still holding up.

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Mexico central bank hikes interest rate, hints it’s done

6/22/2017 Reuters

The Bank of Mexico logo is seen on the facade of an office building in downtown Mexico City
The Bank of Mexico logo is seen on the facade of an office building in downtown Mexico City, Mexico, June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Mexico’s central bank board made a divided decision to raise interest rates on Thursday and policymakers suggested that they may have raised borrowing costs enough to contain a spike in inflation.

Banco de Mexico raised its benchmark rate MXCBIR=ECI by a quarter percentage point to 7.00 percent, as expected by all 17 analysts surveyed by Reuters last week. One member voted to hold rates, the bank said in a statement.

The central bank has now raised its main interest rate in the last seven meetings. The rate has reached the highest level since early 2009, with inflation at more than an eight-year high.

Policymakers said in their statement that with Thursday’s hike “the reference rate has reached a level that is consistent with the process of efficient convergence of inflation to the 3 percent target,” though they said they would be vigilant.

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Mexico president calls for probe into alleged government spying

6/22/2017 Reuters

pena nieto wefMexican President Enrique Pena Nieto asked the attorney general’s office on Thursday to investigate charges the government spied on private citizens, saying he wanted to get to the bottom of the accusations that he called “false.”

Activists, human rights lawyers and journalists in Mexico filed a criminal complaint on Monday following a report that their smartphones had been infected with spying software sold to the government to fight criminals and terrorists. [nL1N1JH01Y]

“Here and now I want to categorically state this is a democratic government, this is a government that respects and tolerates critical voices,” Pena Nieto said at a televised event.

The complaint presented to the attorney general’s office by nine people followed a New York Times report that some of them had been spied on with software known as Pegasus, which Israeli company NSO Group sold to Mexico’s government.

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Mexico Casually One-Ups U.S. By Legalizing Medicinal Marijuana

6/21/2017 Forbes

marijuana leafThis week, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto informed the world that his country is taking its relationship with cannabis to the next level.

In an official decree, Peña Nieto publicly confirmed Monday that his government has legalized medicinal cannabis, a.k.a. marijuana, with almost total support from Mexico’s congress and senate. The move marks a significant policy change for the country and the president, which finally came around on cannabis following national discussion and protest.

As the Independent reported, the bill passed with “overwhelming” support in Mexico’s Lower House of Congress in April, with 371 members voting in favor, and just 19 voting against or abstaining. In December, it also blazed through Mexico’s senate, managing 98 in favor and seven against.

In addition to spreading the news, the decree established that Mexico’s Ministry of Health will be responsible for drafting and implementing “public policies regulating the medicinal use of pharmacological derivatives of cannabis sativa, indica and Americana or marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol, its isomers and stereochemical variants, as well as how to regulate the research and national production of them.”

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Murder investigations in Mexico hit record high in May

6/21/2017 Reuters

federal police mexicoThe number of murder investigations in Mexico rose to a record high in May, official data showed, as criminal violence increased dramatically since last year.

There were 2,186 murder probes in May, the highest for any month in data going back to 1997, according to the latest government statistics.

Some cases may include multiple homicides, and the number of murder victims reported in May was 2,452, the highest for any month in a separate series of data that only goes back to 2014.

The violence has contributed to a slump in the popularity of President Enrique Pena Nieto, and could undermine support for his Institutional Revolutionary Party in next year’s presidential race. Mexican presidents can only serve one six-year term.

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