Interdiction

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The Border: US Begins Turning Busted Smugglers Over to Mexico for Prosecution

For years, getting caught trying to smuggle drugs across the US-Mexican border meant being handed over to US authorities for prosecution. Problem was, US Attorneys on the border were so swamped with marijuana smuggling cases, the general rule was they wouldn't prosecute for less than 500 pounds. Instead, local prosecutors got those cases, but they were swamped, too. As a result, thousands of Mexican marijuana smugglers never faced prosecution in the US -- they were simply deported back over the border to Mexico.

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Reynosa/Hidalgo border crossing (courtesy portland.indymedia.org)
But now, according to the New York Times, under an agreement reached last month, US authorities have begun returning captured Mexican pot smugglers to Mexico for prosecution by Mexican authorities. Late last month, Sonora, Mexico, resident Eleazar Gonzalez-Sanchez won the dubious distinction of being the first person turned over to Mexican authorities after he was popped with 44 pounds by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Nogales, Arizona, border crossing.

The border agreement is a sign of "our effort to enhance cooperation between the US and Mexico on prosecuting drug trafficking cases," said Arizona US Attorney Dennis Burke.

There is plenty of work to do. In the past year, ICE opened 646 smuggling cases out of busts at the Nogales port of entry. In the fiscal year ending in October 2008, ICE busted 71,000 pounds of pot on the Arizona border.

The program is a pilot program currently operating in Arizona. US officials will be monitoring the cases returned to Mexico, and if satisfied with the results, may extend it all along the border.

Editorial: How Much Does It Cost to Build an Air-Conditioned Drug Smuggling Tunnel?

David Borden, Executive Director

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David Borden
Last year I attended a small lunch-time forum on the subject of immigration and the US-Mexico border. Seated at the table was a man in a military uniform, not one of the speakers, but clearly eager to say his piece. After the presentation was over, he put up his hand, told us he was an officer with Southcom -- the branch of the Armed Forces dealing with areas to the south of the United States -- and that his military education and experience told him that walls don't stop people. Walls just slow people down, he said -- you can go over a wall, you can through it, you can go around it, or you can go under it. And militarily he understood that a wall spanning our border would not slow people down enough to stop the kind of traffic that we have crossing the border -- not unless we simply shoot people to kill on sight, which he was unwilling to do.

Whatever one thinks about immigration, or attempts to block it at the border, the reasoning has clear implications for the so-far ineffective attempts at drug interdiction. If it is either impossible or at least difficult to stop people at the border -- and since we haven't managed to do it so far, it must at least be difficult -- how difficult must it be to stop the flow of drugs? After all, people have a certain height and width and depth, and they need oxygen and occasionally food and water and space to move. Drugs can be packaged in any shape or size, they don't require maintenance over the period of time involved in trafficking them, and a fairly small volume of certain drugs can be worth a small mint. It's fairly safe to say that drugs are not going to be kept out of this country, no matter how hard we try. It is simply not going to happen.

Since that time the issue has taken on a new degree of poignancy and urgency. Since Mexican President Calderon took office in 2006 and began his attempted crackdown against the cartels, more than 12,000 Mexicans have died in the surge of violence that followed. The 2009 death toll alone has passed 6,000. Because drugs are illegal, all the money people spend on them in the US goes into a criminal underground where violence is often the rule. The unabated flow of drugs across the US-Mexico border is powerful evidence of prohibition's failure.

The past week offered up a more visual form of evidence to make the point. Across the border from San Diego in Tijuana a partially-completed smuggling tunnel was found. They got almost as far as the border fence. It was found by the authorities before being finished, but not very long before. Military officials took a group of reporters to see it on Tuesday. The tunnel had been equipped with electricity and an air supply, according to the Associated Press.

The tunnel is neither a new nor unique development. Last year one was found in the Mexican state of Baja California. That one had an elevator and rail transport system. At least 75 have been found since the 1990s, according to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE). They're not limited to our southern border, either.

My two questions are: How many successful drug smuggling operations are needed in order to pay for constructing and maintaining such a tunnel -- might it only need to be used once? -- and how many more tunnels are there that have never been found? I have a feeling that there are many undiscovered smuggling tunnels, and that the cost of building one with air-conditioning and electric transportation is low compared with the likely rewards. Mexico offers a virtually unlimited labor pool. The proof that the cost is low is simply the fact that they keep building them over and over. They wouldn't keep building the tunnels if it weren't a cost-effective strategy.

Don't expect the drug trade to slow anytime soon, at least not because of law enforcement, and don't let the pictures of the latest tunnel or drug seizure fool you into thinking it might. Hope that something happens to stop the wave of violence terrorizing our southern neighbors and threatening our borders possibly too. But don't expect that finding another tunnel is what will do that.

Efforts to Stop Drugs at the Border Have Become a Joke

You know that border fence we've spent billions of dollars building? Yeah, it's not really helping so much:

SAN MIGUEL, Ariz. — A pickup truck in Mexico pulls up to the 5-foot vehicle barriers that make up part of the multibillion-dollar border fence. A retractable ramp is extended from the truck, forming a bridge up and over the barriers.

Then, a second pickup — this one loaded with a ton of marijuana — rolls over the bridge and into the U.S.

With gadgetry such as custom-built ramps as well as ultralight planes, false doors and good old-fashioned duct tape, smugglers have demonstrated unbounded creativity when it comes to sneaking drugs across the Mexican border. And the U.S. government acknowledges there is only so much it can do to stop the flow. [AP]

Unfortunately, our brave drug soldiers are convinced that expensive and futile interdiction efforts are better than nothing:

"We have to keep it at a manageable level so society can continue to operate," said Elizabeth Kempshall, agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's office in Arizona.

They're literally insisting that society will collapse if they don't keep doing this. It's awfully silly when you consider that almost all the drugs are already getting through anyway. If that stuff were going to destroy our society, it would have happened already.

But don't bother trying to explain that to the drug warriors, because they're too busy thinking of new ways to waste money in an attempt to "win" something:

"This is a war of technology, and I believe that the only way we are going to win it is if our technology is better than theirs," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

The fact that our approach to substance abuse has evolved into a "war of technology" is just ridiculous. We'll never get anywhere with this nonsense no matter how many times we double down on our investment. It's plainly absurd to suggest that we can outspend our opponents when the game makes them obscenely rich while costing us billions.

It's like arguing that the secret to winning with scratch-off tickets is to constantly buy more and more of them.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debussman Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people -- the body count passing 6,000 for 2009 so far this week. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

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Ciuded Juárez (courtesy Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia)
Friday , October 16

In Michoacan, three bodies were found, all with messages attached. The messages were directed at the Zetas organization, and appear to have been from La Familia. La Familia was once part of the Zetas organization, but the two groups have been fierce rivals since the group split from the Gulf Cartel (and the Zetas) in 2006. In other parts of Mexico, two men were assassinated in Tijuana, and a boy who was jogging was killed after being caught in a firefight between gunmen and the army in Tamaulipas. Five people were murdered in Culiacan, Sinaloa, three in Hermosillo, Sonora, one in Durango, and six in the Ciudad Juárez area.

Saturday , October 17

In Tijuana, the nude, mutilated body of a man was found hanging from an expressway overpass. It is the second such discovery found in the last two weeks. Local news outlets reported that the man's tongue had been cut out, which suggests that drug traffickers suspected he was an informant. Additionally, a gun battle between police and drug traffickers left one police officer dead and two wounded. A suspected cartel member was also killed in the incident. Police recovered five assault rifles and vests with federal insignia from several vehicles used by the gunmen. The day before, the the decapitated body of a woman whose hands and feet had been bound were found in a different part of the city.

Monday , October 19

Two people were killed after being ambushed by a group of heavily armed gunmen in Guerrero. One of the dead was a policeman, and the other was a civilian who was riding a bus that was caught in the crossfire. Additionally, five bodies showing signs of torture were recovered from various parts of Acapulco. Attached to each of them were notes threatening "kidnappers, thieves and traitors" and signed by Arturo Beltran-Leyva, the boss of the Beltran-Leyva cartel. 18 people were killed in drug-related killings in Ciudad Juárez. At least 21 other drug-related homicides were reported in Mexico, including nine beheaded bodies found in Tierra Caliente.

Tuesday , October 20

In Guerrero, at least three banners were found which threatened police and Genaro Garcia Luna, the Secretary of Public Safety. The signs were signed by what appears to be a new, Guerrero branch of the "La Familia" cartel which is based in Michoacan. The signs also accused Garcia Luna of protecting the Beltran-Leyva cartel and the allied Zetas organization. In another part of Guerrero, the body of a bus driver was found by the side of the road, and showed signs of torture. A second body was found near Acapulco.

Near the city of Ciudad Mante, police arrested a man who had 107 kilos of marijuana in a hidden compartment of his pick-up truck.

Wednesday , October 21

A suspected member of the Juárez Cartel was added to the FBI's ten most wanted list. Eduardo "Tablas" Ravelo, 41, is allegedly a high-ranking member of the Barrio Azteca gang. In exchange for a steady supply of narcotics, Barrio Azteca performs enforcement tasks for the cartel on both sides of the border, and can effectively be considered part of the Jurez cartel which operates on American soil. Ravelo is suspected of ordering the killing of another high-ranking gang member, David "Chicho" Meraz, during an internal power struggle. Meraz was killed in Ciudad Jurez last year. Ravelo is reportedly hiding in Juárez under the protection of the cartel.

Earlier in the week, another man with suspected cartel connections was also added to the FBI's ten most wanted list. Jose Luis Saenz, of Los Angeles, is suspected of killing at least four people (including his girlfriend) and is allegedly an enforcer for an unnamed Mexican drug trafficking organization. In October 2008 he shot and killed another gang member in LA County who apparently owed $620,000 to the cartel.

Across Mexico, 40 drug-related homicides were reported in a 24-hour period, bringing the 2009 total to over 6,000. Thirteen of these were in Chihuahua, and of these, nine were in Ciudad Juárez. According to a running tally by El Universal, 1,000 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in the last 40 days. The previous 1,000 had been killed over 41 days, and the 1,000 before that in 44 days. Since August 1st, an average of 24 homicides were reported daily, approximately one every hour. One out of every three drug-related homicides was in Ciudad Juárez. Much of the violence is due to the conflict being fought by the Sinaloa Federation and the Juárez cartel over control of the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso drug trafficking corridor.

Thursday, October 22

In the United States, over 300 people were arrested, in what is being called the largest single-blow against Mexican drug cartels operating in the country. The arrests targeted the US operations of the La Familia cartel, which is based in the Mexican state of Michoacan. Law enforcement officials said arrests were made or charges were files in multiple states, including California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennesee, Texas, and Washington State. Many of the charges filed were directed against those involved with the cartels methamphetamine smuggling network in the US, with other charges being directed at those involved in cocaine and marijuana trafficking for the organization. Additionally, a New York grand jury has indicted Servando Gomez-Martinez, who is linked to the July murder of twelve federal police officers who were found dead by the side of a roadway.

Total body count for the week: 203
Total body count for the year: 6,018

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexican Drug War Update--October 22

by Bernd Debussman Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,800 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war: Friday , October 16 In Michoacan, three bodies were found , all with messages attached. The messages were directed at the Zetas organization, and appear to have been from La Familia. La Familia was once part of the Zetas organization, but the two groups have been fierce rivals since the group split from the Gulf Cartel (and the Zetas) in 2006. In other parts of Mexico, two men were assassinated in Tijuana, and a boy who was jogging was killed after being caught in a firefight between gunmen and the army in Tamaulipas. Five people were murdered in Culiacan, Sinaloa, three in Hermosillo, Sonora, one in Durango, and six in the Ciudad Juarez area. Saturday , October 17 In Tijuana, the nude, mutilated body of a man was found hanging from an expressway overpass. It is the second such discovery found in the last two weeks. Local news outlets reported that the man’s tongue had been cut out, which suggests that drug traffickers suspected he was an informant. Additionally, a gun battle between police and drug traffickers left one police officer dead and two wounded. A suspected cartel member was also killed in the incident. Police recovered five assault rifles and vests with federal insignia from several vehicles used by the gunmen. The day before, the the decapitated body of a woman whose hands and feet had been bound were found in a different part of the city. Monday , October 19 Two people were killed after being ambushed by a group of heavily armed gunmen in Guerrero. One of the dead was a policeman, and the other was a civilian who was riding a bus that was caught in the crossfire. Additionally, five bodies showing signs of torture were recovered from various parts of Acapulco. Attached to each of them were notes threatening “kidnappers, thieves and traitors” and signed by Arturo Beltran-Leyva, the boss of the Beltran-Leyva cartel. 18 people were killed in drug-related killings in Ciudad Juarez. At least 21 other drug-related homicides were reported in Mexico, including nine beheaded bodies found in Tierra Caliente. Tuesday , October 20 In Guerrero, at least three banners were found which threatened police and Genaro Garcia Luna, the Secretary of Public Safety. The signs were signed by what appears to be a new, Guerrero branch of the “La Familia” cartel which is based in Michoacan. The signs also accused Garcia Luna of protecting the Beltran-Leyva cartel and the allied Zetas organization. In another part of Guerrero, the body of a bus driver was found by the side of the road, and showed signs of torture. A second body was found near Acapulco. Near the city of Ciudad Mante, police arrested a man who had 107 kilos of marijuana in a hidden compartment of his pick-up truck. Wednesday , October 21 A suspected member of the Juarez Cartel was added to the FBI’s ten most wanted list. Eduardo "Tablas" Ravelo, 41, is allegedly a high-ranking member of the Barrio Azteca gang. In exchange for a steady supply of narcotics, Barrio Azteca performs enforcement tasks for the cartel on both sides of the border, and can effectively be considered part of the Juarez cartel which operates on American soil. Ravelo is suspected of ordering the killing of another high-ranking gang member, David "Chicho" Meraz, during an internal power struggle. Meraz was killed in Ciudad Juarez last year. Ravelo is reportedly hiding in Juarez under the protection of the cartel. Earlier in the week, another man with suspected cartel connections was also added to the FBI’s ten most wanted list. Jose Luis Saenz, of Los Angeles, is suspected of killing at least four people (including his girlfriend) and is allegedly an enforcer for an unnamed Mexican drug trafficking organization. In October 2008 he shot and killed another gang member in LA County who apparently owed $620,000 to the cartel. Across Mexico, 40 drug-related homicides were reported in a 24-hour period, bringing the 2009 total to over 6,000. Thirteen of these were in Chihuahua, and of these, nine were in Ciudad Juarez. According to a running tally by El Universal, 1,000 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in the last 40 days. The previous 1,000 had been killed over 41 days, and the 1,000 before that in 44 days. Since August 1st, an average of 24 homicides were reported daily, approximately one every hour. One out of every three drug-related homicides was in Ciudad Juarez. Much of the violence is due to the conflict being fought by the Sinaloa Federation and the Juarez cartel over control of the Ciudad Juarez-El Paso drug trafficking corridor. Total body count for the week: 113 Total body count for the year: 5,928 Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debussman Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,800 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Wednesday, October 7

Three men were killed in the state of Guerrero in different parts of the city of Tecpan de Galeana. Police believe that armed men travelling in two vehicles were involved in all three incidents, which occurred the same night.

Thursday, October 8

A pregnant Guatemalan woman was killed along with her mother in Chiapas. The two Guatemalan women were found dead on a farm outside the city of Tuxla Chico. Additionally, five people were killed in Guerrero, three in Durango, and three decapitated bodies were found in Sinaloa. In the northern city of Monterrey, two people were killed and a third was wounded after a firefight took place inside a restaurant. Fifteen people were reported killed in Ciudad Juarez during the same 24 hour period.

Friday, October 9

In Tijuana, the mutilated body of a state official was found hanging from a bridge. The official, Rogelio Sanchez, was kidnapped Wednesday, and was suspected by police of giving fake drivers licenses to drug traffickers. Tijuana is currently the scene of a violent turf war between the Arellano-Felix Cartel and a breakaway faction led by Teodoro Garcia Simental.

In Guerrero, ten people were found executed, all bearing signs that read "This is what is going to happen to thieves and extortionists. Respectfully, the Boss of Bosses." Local authorities offered no explanation for the notes. (The same appellation was used in a September 12 killing in Acapulco.) Authorities were alerted to the bodies -- many of whose heads were found bound in masking tape -- by a series of anonymous phone calls. In recent months many low-level criminals have been killed by vigilante groups thought to be working with the support of drug traffickers or members of the police.

In the state of Jalisco, four suspected cartel gunmen were killed in an hours-long gun battle with the Mexican army. During the battle, a police helicopter which had been called to the scene was struck by gunfire. A helicopter gunship was also called in. In the state of Chihuahua, a soldier was killed and several wounded after being ambushed near the small hamlet of Colonia LeBaron. The area has been heavily patrolled following the July killing of an anti-crime activist and his neighbor.

Monday, October 12

In the waters of the port city of Mazatlan, four men were arrested after the ship in which they were travelling was found to be carrying approximately 500 kilos of cocaine. After catching sight of an American naval vessel in the area, the men were seen began throwing the drugs overboard, set fire to their ship, and jumped into the water. American naval personnel rescued the men and turned them over to Mexican military authorities.

Tuesday, October 13

In Ciudad Juarez, eight people were killed in drug-related violence. Among them was a woman who was found beheaded. The woman was in her late twenties and had a tattoo of Santa Muerte, or "Saint Death", a symbol popular among Mexican criminals. In a separate incident, four men were killed when gunmen attacked a mechanics workshop, and three others were killed in other shootings.

In Navolato, Sinaloa, a group of armed men kidnapped and killed the brother-in-law of a brother of Vicente Carillo Fuentes, the reputed head of the Juarez Cartel. The man, Jacobo Retamoza, 34, was the lawyer who represented the La Guajira farm, where in November 2008 a group of armed men dressed in military uniforms kidnapped 27 people. He was driving on a highway when he was intercepted by a group of heavily armed gunmen who spirited him away in a truck. Several hours later he was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds.

In Chiapas, a vast arsenal was discovered after the arrest of four men, who ranged in ages from 21 to 41. The men had in their possession 21 AR-15 rifles, 18 AK-47's, and five pistols, one of which was jewel encrusted. Additionally, law enforcement officers found 17, 212 rounds of ammunition, over 300 grenades, several blocks of TNT, a sniper rifle, nine vehicles, and confiscated two race horses found on the property.

Total body count for the week: 178
Total body count for the year: 5,815

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Police Discover World's Most Expensive Marijuana


Police in Texas just made a remarkable discovery that could potentially turn the domestic marijuana industry upside down. Although a recent drug raid only turned up a single marijuana plant, officers determined that it is the most valuable marijuana ever reported. According to Sheriff Thomas Kerss, this type of marijuana has a street value of $6,000 per ounce!

That's some very impressive pot. According to the government's own data, collected by the National Drug Intelligence Center, high-grade marijuana prices top out at around $7,500 per pound in high-value markets. That's around $470 an ounce. Similarly, the marijuana magazine High Times estimates the average price of high-grade marijuana at $428 per ounce in August 2009.

As you can see, the marijuana just discovered in Texas is more than 12 times as valuable as anything currently on the market. Even the hippies at High Times have never heard of anything like this, but maybe that's because the police are doing such a good job keeping it off the streets.

*****
Or maybe the police lied about how much it's worth. After finding only one little pot plant in a big dramatic drug raid, they wildly inflated the value of their drug seizure in order to make newspaper headlines. It's happened before, although this is by far the most laughably outrageous marijuana price ever claimed by police in the three years I've been documenting this behavior.

At $6,000 an ounce, that would mean one little joint costs $200. A dimebag would be invisible to the naked eye. It just doesn’t make sense, which is why I refuse to believe it's an honest mistake when cops say stuff like this. Narcotics investigators buy drugs all the time so they can arrest people for selling to them. They know the market well and if their estimates come out all crazy, it's because they're trying to impress people with the fruits of their filthy labor.

But the stupidity doesn’t end there. Lying about the value of marijuana rather obviously encourages people to grow it. If these guys really gave a damn about "winning" the war on drugs, they wouldn’t be running around in the middle of an economic crisis telling people you can make thousands of dollars from a single marijuana plant. Nonsense like that could quickly blow up in your face.

Unless, of course, the people who get paid a good salary and benefits to bust marijuana growers actually want more people to do it. Say it ain't so.

Update: I just heard back from KRTE9 News and the online version of the story has been corrected to say $6,000 per pound, which makes a lot more sense. I'm told that "the DEA mistakenly told the sheriff 6,th an oz," which is pretty weird. That means multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in disseminating this number and no one noticed how absurd it was?

I'll take their word for it that someone just screwed up here, which is what a couple readers suggested to me as well. But please understand that this is hardly the first time I've encountered police claiming ridiculous marijuana prices that artificially inflated the value of their drug seizures. Whether it's done deliberately or not, this behavior serves to misinform the public and shouldn’t be tolerated.

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Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

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Mexican army anti-drug patrol
Thursday, September 10

Last Thursday morning, the body count for the year passed 5,000. Four people were killed in Guerrero, among them a rural law enforcement officer. Additionally, in Chiapas, a group of gunmen threw a fragmentation grenade at a municipal office. Several people were wounded and a vehicle parked outside was damaged.

Friday, September 11

In Tijuana, authorities reported a spike in drug prohibition-related violence. Nineteen people were killed in the first eight days of September. Authorities have reported 405 homicides in Tijuana from January 1st through September 11th. This is less than half of the 843 homicides reported in 2008, but 68 more than the 2007 total. The Baja California attorney general's office believes that much of the recent violence is due to reprisals against suspected informers following the arrest of several high-level traffickers.

Saturday, September 12

In the resort city of Acapulco, five bullet riddled bodies were found dumped in a landfill. According to Mexican authorities, police found a note near the bodies which was signed "the boss of bosses." It is unclear to whom the note refers.

In Sinaloa,a municipal police commander was killed when his car was ambushed by four vehicles carrying an estimated twenty armed men. His 13-year old son and a friend of his were wounded. Two innocent bystanders, aged 14 and 17, were killed by stray bullets as they sat under a tree near the road. Meanwhile, four charred corpses were found in a burning car on the Mexico City-Oaxaca highway. In Ciudad Juarez, 12 drug-related murders were reported.

Sunday, September 13

In Ciudad Juarez, Eight people were killed in just a few hours. The eight people who were killed died in six different incidents. Among the dead was Jose Robles Ortiz, who was riddled with bullets on September 11th. His death is being investigated by the state prosecutor's office for the state of Chihuahua.

Monday, September 14

At the El Paso border checkpoint, over $1 million in cash was seized over the period of a few days. The largest seizure took place on Friday afternoon, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials found $802,720 in an SUV that was headed towards Mexico. Two Mexican nationals, aged 33 and 34, were detained and remain in El Paso County Jail. Two other seizures made during the week totaled $206,000. El Paso is just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, and is a lucrative drug trafficking corridor for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. It is a federal offense to not declare currency over $10,000 dollars upon leaving or entering the US.

Tuesday, September 15

In Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, 21 people were killed on Tuesday. In Tijuana, firefighters found six bodies inside a burning car. Four of the men were seated in the car, while two were found in the trunk. In Ciudad Juarez, five people-including two brothers-were gunned down at a car wash. Ten people were killed in other acts of violence in the city. Five people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a hardware store, and five men in a pickup truck were killed when they were ambushed.

Wednesday, September 16

In Ciudad Juarez, suspected drug cartel gunmen attacked a drug rehabilitation clinic, killing ten. This is the second such attack this month. Drug gangs have targeted rehab clinics in Ciudad Juarez, claiming that they are protecting members of rival trafficking organizations. A spokesman for the states attorney's office said that the dead included nine men and one woman.

Mexican independence day celebrations took place under extremely heavy security, due to fears of violence. Security was especially tight in Morelia, Michoacán, where a grenade attack by members of La Familia cartel killed eight people and wounded over 100 during last year's celebrations. In many cities, traditional children's parades and outdoor parties were canceled because of security concerns.

Body count for the year: 5,136
Body count for the week: 181

Read last week's Mexico drug war update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr. Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 5,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war: Thursday, September 10 Last Thursday morning, the body count for the year passed 5,000. Four people were killed in Guerrero, among them a rural law enforcement officer. Additionally, in Chiapas, a group of gunmen threw a fragmentation grenade at a municipal office. Several people were wounded and a vehicle parked outside was damaged. Friday, September 11 In Tijuana, authorities reported a spike in drug prohibition-related violence. Nineteen people were killed in the first eight days of September. Authorities have reported 405 homicides in Tijuana from January 1st through September 11th. This is less than half of the 843 homicides reported in 2008, but 68 more than the 2007 total. The Baja California attorney general’s office believes that much of the recent violence is due to reprisals against suspected informers following the arrest of several high-level traffickers. Saturday, September 12 In the resort city of Acapulco, five bullet riddled bodies were found dumped in a landfill. According to Mexican authorities, police found a note near the bodies which was signed “the boss of bosses”. It is unclear to whom the note refers. In Sinaloa,a municipal police commander was killed when his car was ambushed by four vehicles carrying an estimated twenty armed men. His 13-year old son and a friend of his were wounded. Two innocent bystanders, aged 14 and 17, were killed by stray bullets as they sat under a tree near the road. Meanwhile, four charred corpses were found in a burning car on the Mexico City-Oaxaca highway. In Ciudad Juarez, 12 drug-related murders were reported. Sunday, September 13 In Ciudad Juarez, eight people were killed in just a few hours. The eight people who were killed died in six different incidents. Among the dead was Jose Robles Ortiz, who was riddled with bullets on September 11th. His death is being investigated by the state prosecutor’s office for the state of Chihuahua. Monday, September 14 At the El Paso border checkpoint, over $1 million in cash was seized over the period of a few days. The largest seizure took place on Friday afternoon, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials found $802,720 in an SUV that was headed towards Mexico. Two Mexican nationals, aged 33 and 34, were detained and remain in El Paso County Jail. Two other seizures made during the week totaled $206,000. El Paso is just across the border from Ciudad Juarez, and is a lucrative drug trafficking corridor for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. It is a federal offense to not declare currency over $10,000 dollars upon leaving or entering the US. Tuesday, September 15 In Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, 21 people were killed on Tuesday. In Tijuana, firefighters found six bodies inside a burning car. Four of the men were seated in the car, while two were found in the trunk. In Ciudad Juarez, five people-including two brothers-were gunned down at a car wash. Ten people were killed in other acts of violence in the city. Five people were killed when gunmen opened fire at a hardware store, and five men in a pickup truck were killed when they were ambushed. Wednesday, September 16 In Ciudad Juarez, suspected drug cartel gunmen attacked a drug rehabilitation clinic, killing ten. This is the second such attack this month. Drug gangs have targeted rehab clinics in Ciudad Juarez, claiming that they are protecting members of rival trafficking organizations. A spokesman for the states attorney’s office said that the dead included nine men and one woman. Mexican independence day celebrations took place under extremely heavy security, due to fears of violence. Security was especially tight in Morelia, Michoacán, where a grenade attack by members of La Familia cartel killed eight people and wounded over 100 during last year’s celebrations. In many cities, traditional children’s parades and outdoor parties were canceled because of security concerns. Read last week's Mexico drug war update here.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year trafficking illegal drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed over 12,000 people, with a death toll of over 4,000 so far in 2009. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of several high- profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mexicandrugpatrols.jpg
Mexican anti-drug patrol
Friday, August 21:

- The mother and brother of the reputed head of the La Familia drug cartel were arrested by Mexican authorities. This came despite explicit threats on television last month by Servando Gomez, the cartel boss, that any action against his family would bring retaliation. Gomez's mother, Maria Teresa Martinez, was released two days after her arrest because of a lack of evidence. The brother, Luis Felipe Gomez Martinez, is still being held.

-43 Mexicans were indicted by federal courts in Chicago and Brooklyn. The indictments, unsealed Thursday , charge them with operating a coast-to-coast distribution network through which drugs and money have flowed for the last 20 years. The three most high profile suspects -- Joaquín Guzmán Loera, Ismael Zambada García and Arturo Beltrán Leyva -- are the current and former leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, although Beltran Leyva now operates his own, independent organization. 35 of the 43 suspects remain at large, while the other eight were arrested during the last week in Chicago and Atlanta.

Saturday, August 22:

-The Mexican government decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth. Under the new laws, people are now allowed to have 5 grams of marijuana, 50 mg of heroin, half a gram of cocaine, and 40 mg of meth. Mexican prosecutors believe that the new law will help in the war against drug cartels by allowing federal prosecutors to focus on combating large-scale traffickers and distributors rather than small-time users. This change in policy comes at a time when drug cartels are selling an increasingly large number of drugs domestically. A 2008 government study found that the number of drug addicts in Mexico had almost tripled in the past six years.

-In Ciudad Juarez gunmen killed a Mexican army officer and another man in a bowling alley. Gunmen entered the Bol-Bol bowling alley and gunned down Captain Alejandro Aranda and an unidentified companion late on Friday night. Aranda was an administrator of a dining hall in a Ciudad Juarez military facility. Also, in Tijuana, three police officers were wounded when their patrol cars came under fire from suspected cartel gunmen.

Monday, August 24:

-The Mexican Army announced on Monday that it has captured a leading member of the La Familia drug cartel in the Pacific coast city of Manzanillo. Luis Ricardo Magana, also known by the alias "19 1/2" (traffickers frequently use numerical codenames), is alleged to be responsible for the cartel's shipments of methamphetamine to the United States. He is one of Mexico's most wanted fugitives and is also thought to be involved in the planning of retaliatory attacks on federal police agents. Also on Monday, in the state of Sinaloa, a cooler containing four severed heads was found by the side of rural road. The headless bodies were found some 3 miles away.

-16 people were killed during a 24-hour period in Ciudad Juarez. Among the victims was a police officer who wanted to resign after having previously received unspecified threats. In a separate incident, a group of heavily armed gunmen shot and killed a 15-year-old boy outside his home. The 16 killed now bring the death toll in Ciudad Juarez for the year over 1,100 killed.

Tuesday, August 25:

-Another 29 people were killed in drug-related violence across Mexico during a 24-hour period. Among the victims were a police commander and two of his officers in Nayarit who were killed when the car in which they were traveling was attacked by gunmen wielding automatic weapons. In Gomez Palacio, Durango, two prison guards were found dead, while, in a separate incident, gunmen attacked a couple. The man died while the woman was left in serious condition. In Nogales, a cooler containing a dismembered human body was left at the entrance to a technical university. Additionally, six individuals were killed in Ciudad Juarez, three bodies were found at a ranch in Sonora, four people were murdered in Guerrero, and parts of nine human bodies were found across Sinaloa.

-Recent court documents examined by the Houston Chronicle detail an ultra high-tech communications network employed by a Mexican drug trafficking organization. The federal court documents detail the testimony of Jose Luis Del Toro Estrada, 38, who is alleged to be a cartel communications expert. According to his testimony, his organization uses a string of hand-held radios on a network which stretches from Guatemala to the Mexico-Texas border. His team included an expert who specialized in installing radio towers and antennas, and another who researched new technology.

Total reported body count for the last week: 155

Total reported body count for the year: 4,587

Read last issue's Mexico drug war report here.)

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