At Breakfast to Talk El Chapo, Drug War Veterans Serve Up Cynicism

7/20/15 Pro Publica

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán

The slight man at the breakfast table seemed more like an evangelical minister than someone who once brokered deals between Mexican drug lords and state governors. He wore a meticulously pressed button-down, a gold watch, gold-rimmed glasses, and a gold cross around his neck. His dark brown hair was styled in a comb-over. And when his breakfast companions started to tuck into their bowls of oatmeal and plates of salmon benedict, he cleared his throat and asked for a moment of silence.

“Would you mind if I say grace?” he asked.

The gathering last week at Le Peep café in San Antonio would seem unusual almost anywhere except south Texas, where Mexico kind of blends into the United States — and so does the drug trade. Seated next to the cartel operative was a senior Mexican intelligence official. And next to him was a veteran American counternarcotics agent. They bowed their heads for prayer and then proceeded to talk a peculiar kind of shop.

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Mexico Media Round-Up: Another Violent Month

06/60/15 Forbes

crime and drugsDuring June, 2015 Mexico’s went to the polls for mid-term elections and also witnessed a number of grisly organized crime related attacks. In May 2015 Mexico saw a month on month increase in murders for the first time in over three years, a sign that president Enrique Peña Nieto’s security strategy may not be working as smoothly as expected.

On June 1 I tweeted this article I wrote for Americas Quarterly. In the article I explain, that as organized crime groups have threatened and killed political candidates and radical protest groups promised to disrupt the election, the southwestern state of Guerrero presented unique challenges for Mexico’s June 7 mid-term election. “Security problems are certainly not isolated to Guerrero, but Guerrero does present a unique profile of challenges. The state is home to a mix of drug trafficking groups, their offshoots and affiliated street gangs, as well as militant teachers groups and armed leftist guerrilla groups,” I explained.

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US Banks Close Branches Along Mexico Border to Prevent Money Laundering

5/27/2015 InSight Crime

Major US banks have recently closed branches along the southern border with Mexico in an attempt to crack down on money laundering, a reflection of the ease with which Mexican drug traffickers can legitimize illicit proceeds north of the border.

In recent months, major banks such J.P. Morgan and Bank of America have closed their branches in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, reported The Wall Street Journal. Other banks, including Wells Fargo and Chase, have reportedly closed hundreds of customer accounts, many of which belonged to Mexican nationals.

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Shootout in Mexico’s Embattled Jalisco State Leaves 8 Dead

5/20/2015 InSight Crime

InSightLogo_main_24bitA shootout between Mexico‘s federal police and alleged criminals has left at least eight dead in Jalisco state, in what could be a harbinger of more violence as security forces intensify their offensive against the Jalisco Cartel.

The gunfight took place on May 18 in the municipality of Villa Purificacion, the same town where the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG) shot down a military helicopter using a rocket-propelled grenade launcher (RPG) earlier this month, reported Reuters.

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Fragmenting Criminal Gangs: Mexico Follows Colombia

5/18/2015 InSight Crime

InSightLogo_main_24bitMexico’s security situation is looking increasingly like that of Colombia several years ago —  indicating that it might be possible to predict the future of Mexico‘s criminal groups based on what Colombia’s underworld is like now.

A new report by El Universal outlines how each of Mexico‘s largest criminal organizations has fractured in recent years, due to the capture or killing of high-profile leaders, as well as internal rivalries.

The report, based on information from Mexico‘s Attorney General’s Office (PGR), states that there are nine cartels now operating in the country, and an additional 45 criminal cells that work for these larger organizations, carrying out activities ranging from gasoline theft to extortion to kidnapping. These numbers were previously obtained from the PGR last year by Mexican newspaper Excelsior.

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U.S. Ambassador Urges Mexico To End “Alarming Levels Of Impunity” In Crimes Against Reporters

5/13/2015 Forbes

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne used the occasion of  World Press Freedom Day on May 3 to urge attention to what he called “alarming levels of impunity” in crimes against reporters in Mexico where, “We have yet to see a successful conviction at the federal level for crimes against journalists.”

Article 19, a U.K.-based international press freedom watchdog, reported an 80% increase in acts of aggression (physical attacks, threats, beatings, kidnappings, killings, etc.) against the Mexican press in the two years of the Peña Nieto Administration. The group recorded  656  cases of aggression,  including six reporters killed. Most of these crimes go unpunished.

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Can Mexico’s Electoral Authority Stop Criminal Funding?

5/11/2015 InSight Crime

voting mexicoMexico is weeks away from a landmark midterm election, but many analysts worry that the nation’s electoral authorities are dropping the ball as far as criminal organizations financing their preferred candidates.

On June 7, Mexico will elect the entire lower house of congress, nine governorships, and local offices in more than half the country. While the Senate and the presidency are not in play, it is the most important date in the electoral calendar prior to the 2018 election.

Against that backdrop, some analysts are worried that the nation’s campaign regulatory agency, the National Electoral Institute (INE), is not doing enough to prevent the flow of money stemming from organized crime into candidates’ campaign war chests. Jesus Tovar Mendoza, the Executive Director of the think tank Red de Estudios sobre la Calidad de la Democracia en America Latina, recently complained to E-Consulta that the statutes enforced by the INE are insufficient.

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For more analysis on Mexico’s 2015 midterm elections, visit the Mexico Institute’s 2015 Elections Guide.

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