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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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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Four Mexican federal police killed in ambush in Guerrero

6/19/2017 Reuters

guerreroGunmen ambushed Mexican federal police agents on Monday killing four and wounding seven in Guerrero, one of the country’s states that is most plagued by drug-violence, the government said.

The agents were attacked during an operation in the municipality of San Miguel Totolapan, the federal attorney general’s office said in a statement.

One criminal suspect was killed and three were wounded, the office said.

State authorities said soldiers and state police were searching for the gunmen. San Miguel Totolapan is a fiefdom of Los Tequileros, one of the bloodiest criminal gangs in Guerrero.

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Mexico Marines to Regain Control of Country’s Ports

6/17/2017 InSight Crime

marinaMexico’s Marines will regain control of the country’s 103 ports on June 17, after a hiatus of 41 years. The move is a worrying sign that ports are out of control, but militarization has yet to become a panacea for any of this country’s organized crime issues.

Among other things, the Navy Secretariat (La Secretaría de Marina – SEMAR) will assume all security functions of the ports, while the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes – SCT) will be in charge of all economic aspects.

In addition to maritime and port security, SEMAR will also authorize the arrival and departure of vessels, and inspect and certify Mexican and foreign vessels.

The Marines assumed control of the ports after their creation in 1821 and maintained that control until 1977 when Mexican President José López Portillo reformed the Organic Law of Public Federal Administration (Ley Orgánica de la Administración Pública Federal), which put the SCT in charge of the construction of port infrastructure, its administration, operation and security.

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Miami summit an opportunity to rethink Central America

6/13/2017 Miami Herald 

central america conference
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, at center, gathers with Central American leaders during Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America at Florida International University on Thursday, June 15, 2017. At left of VP Pence is U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at right of Pence.
AL DIAZ/ Miami Herald

This week’s Miami summit with the presidents of three of the Western Hemisphere’s poorest and most violent nations may not draw the kind of attention of the recent NATO or G-7 meetings attended by President Trump, but maybe it should.

The direct implications of the Miami meeting for the national security of the United States should not be ignored.

The irregular flow of migrants and the existence of illicit trafficking networks in Central America are symptomatic of the region’s greatest challenges: fragile governments infested with corruption that are unable to protect their own citizens, provide adequate economic opportunities or deliver basic services. Failure to address these challenges in a comprehensive and sustained way poses grave risks to the region, and ultimately the security of the United States.

Dubbed the “Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America,” the June 15 and 16 meeting is the brainchild of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. He, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will co-host the meeting with their Mexican counterparts.

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Mexico Losing the Fight Against Illegal Firearms

6/15/2017 InSight Crime

guns1Press reports have raised the alarm on decreasing gun seizures in Mexico and their possible impact on homicides, but the bigger issue may be the sheer size of Mexico’s black market.

The number of illegal firearms seized by Mexican authorities dropped by more than 60 percent between 2013 and 2016, according to Milenio.

Citing data from the Defense Department (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional), the news outlet reported on June 15 that seizures stood at 9,474 in 2013, but only 3,593 in 2016.

Nearly 28,000 illegal weapons were seized between December 2012, when President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, and May 2017. A total of 3,324 of grenades were also taken out of circulation during that period. Grenade seizures decreased by nearly 70 percent between 2013 and 2016, however.

These figures indicate that Mexican authorities seized an average of 17 weapons and 2 grenades per day since Peña Nieto took office. The majority of these firearms were high powered weapons.

A separate report by Animal Político noted that the number of investigations for carrying or stocking illegal firearms dropped steeply between the first four months of 2015 and those of 2017, while the number of cases opened for gun-related homicides during those same periods increased by 70 percent, numbering 5,075 cases between January and May 2017.

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Central American leaders facing U.S. aid cuts pledge to do more

6/15/2017 Reuters

tillerson-public-domainFacing deep cuts to foreign aid by the Trump administration, Central American leaders pledged on Thursday to take more responsibility to battle organized crime and curb illegal immigration from the region.

Washington is pushing the violent countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, known as the Northern Triangle, to enact economic reforms to lift private investment and stem the flow of migrants at a meeting of Latin American leaders in Miami.

The Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America began with the Inter-American Development Bank announcing $2.5 billion in funding for infrastructure projects in the nations which make up the bulk of migrants crossing the U.S. border.

Trump’s administration hopes tax and regulatory changes in the region will boost growth and encourage companies to invest, filling the gap left by less aid to the region. He sent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to oversee talks in Miami.

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