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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:

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Ciuded Juárez (courtesy Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia)
Thursday, October 29

In Guerrero, a body was found hanging from a highway overpass. The unidentified man had been shot in the head, and left with two notes with messages from "La Familia." In Ciudad Juárez, a high-ranking police intelligence official was killed when he was attacked by heavily armed gunmen as he ate in a restaurant. One policeman was killed, and the official and two bodyguards were wounded. A sign was later found taking responsibility for the attack, which was apparently ordered by "El Chapo" Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa Federation. Additionally, nine other murders were reported in Ciudad Juárez, four in Sinaloa, one in Tijuana, and four bodies found in the trunk bed of a truck in Michoacán.

Saturday, October 31

In Sonora, a well known union leader was killed along with 14 others, including four children. Margarita Montes Parra, 56, was ambushed by gunmen armed with AK-47's. It is unclear whether his death was ordered by drug traffickers or as a result of his union work. One of his sons, Adrian, was killed two years ago in what is thought to be a drug-related murder. Parra made headlines by publicly accusing the governor of Sonora of protecting his son's killers. He also accused the Veracruz state government of being complicit in drug trafficking.

Monday, November 2

Officials identified four bodies that had been found executed in an SUV in Mexico City. Three of the men had the word "kidnappers" handwritten on their body with marker, and a sign was found in the vehicle which read "for kidnapping, the boss of bosses". This is the nickname of Beltran-Levy cartel boss Arturo Beltran-Levy. There has been an increase of violence against kidnappers and petty criminals in recent months on the part of vigilantes working with drug traffickers and elements of the police. Additionally, in Tijuana, 13 suspected cartel gunmen were captured after a firefight that wounded one soldier and one gunman.

Tuesday, November 3

In the town of San Pedro Garza Garcia, near Monterrey, the mayor announced the death of a drug trafficker hours before the body was actually found. After being sworn in, Mayor Mauricio Fernandez was quoted as saying that "Black Saldana, who is apparently the one asking for my head, was found dead today in Mexico City." His announcement came 3 ½ hours before the blindfolded corpse of "Black Saldana" (otherwise identified only by his first name, Hector) was found. While at first he evaded questions about his prior knowledge of the incident, Fernandez later claimed that he had been tipped off by US officials that he was going to be targeted, and then found out about Black Saldana's death through unspecified means.

In Durango, a journalist who specialized in police matters was found dead after being kidnapped by armed men on his way to work. Alongside the body was found a note, whose contents were not revealed to the public. Vladimir Antenna Garcia, who wrote for El Tempo de Durango, is the third journalist killed in Durango this year, and the eighth journalist killed in Mexico.

In Chihuahua, 18 people were killed in a 48 hour period. Nine of these murders occurred in Ciudad Juárez. Among them was a municipal police officer who was gunned down in a hair salon where he was accompanying his wife. Additionally, in the state of Veracruz, a high-ranking member of the Zetas organization, nicknamed "El Gonzo" or "Z-20" was killed after being shot by Mexican naval personnel. Four people were arrested during the operation.

Wednesday, November 4

In the city of Chihuahua, police and soldiers shot dead a federal policeman who was driving one of three cars that failed to stop for them. The police and troops were on a joint patrol when they attempted to stop the suspicious vehicles. The three vehicles ignored orders to stop, sparking off a gun battle that left the federal agent and left another unidentified man wounded.

In Ciudad Juárez, six people were gunned down in a bar. Among them was off-duty US Air Force Staff Sgt. David Booher, who was based at Holloman Air Force base outside Alamogordo, New Mexico. The motive for the attack was unclear, but it bore all the hallmarks of a drug-related murder in Ciudad Juárez. The incident brings the number of deaths in Ciudad Juárez to 30 over the last four days. Additionally, in Garcia, Nuevo Leon, a recently appointed police chief was killed along with four of his bodyguards when they were ambushed by an unknown known of heavily armed gunmen.

Body count for the week: 111
Body count for the year: 6,286
Body count since December 2006: 15,000+

Read the last Mexico Drug War Update here.

Marijuana Legalization: California Poll of Primary Voters Finds Narrow Majority Say Keep It Illegal

A poll released this week suggests backers of California marijuana legalization initiatives have their work cut out for them. The Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research poll of 750 primary voters in late October found 52% wanted to keep marijuana illegal, while 38% supported legalization.

An April Field poll found that 56% of respondents supported legalization. But that support came in the context of a polling question about legalizing and taxing marijuana in the context of California's ongoing budget crisis. In that poll, respondents said they favored "legalizing marijuana for recreational use and taxing its proceeds."

The difference in poll questions influenced the way people responded, said poll director Adam Probolsky. "By saying there is a chance to help solve the budget crisis, you'd push some people toward making it legal," he said. "It makes it more palatable to people. If we had asked the same question, and said some studies show we'd have 10,000 more highway deaths, you'd push it the other way."

The two polls also sampled different voter pools. The Capitol Weekly poll was based on likely June primary voters, which is a smaller and more conservative group than general election or registered voters. The Field poll looked at registered voters.

While the poll may be a shot across the bow for legalization initiative organizers, it may not accurately predict how such a campaign will fare, Probolsky said. "This doesn't test the push messages -- closing the state budget gap versus the public safety messages," he said. "You need to test half a dozen of those pros and cons to see where the initiative lies."

When measured by party affiliation, only 25% of Republicans supported legalization, compared to 45% of Democrats and nearly 48% of voters who declined to state a party preference. Voters over 65 were most likely to oppose legalization, with 56% saying prohibition should continue. But that was only one point higher than the 55% of 18-to-34-year-olds.

The poll was taken the same week the Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF) held a hearing on his marijuana legalization bill at the state capitol in Sacramento. It also comes as petition-gatherers for at least three different legalization initiatives pound the pavement for signatures.

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The drug war corrodes the integrity of law enforcement in multiple ways, as we see this week: Testilying, sexual extortion, thievery, and the usual just plain old corrupt practices. Let's get to it:

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hands in the cash
In Atlanta, federal prosecutors recently dropped charges accusing a felon of possessing a handgun after a US magistrate testimony from the Atlanta narcotics squad "less than candid." Members of the Atlanta police Red Dog drug unit testified that they pulled the man over after driving past his car and smelling marijuana. They said after the stop that they found a gun in the car. But US Magistrate Linda Walker suppressed the evidence, saying she could not believe the officers had actually smelled marijuana coming from the passing vehicle and thus had no legal reason to stop his vehicle. That's what's known as testilying.

In Medina, Washington, a Medina police officer was arrested October 29 for having sex with a woman he arrested in return for arranging to get her marijuana possession charges dropped. Officer Ismael Garcia Ramirez is charged with official misconduct in the incident, which began when he pulled over the woman for driving on a suspended license. Garcia Ramirez then found marijuana in the car and said he arranged to meet with the woman later for sex. He promised to have her charged dropped, prosecutors said. The woman said the sex was not consensual.

In Lawrenceville, Georgia, two former Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office narcotics investigators were arrested for unrelated offenses October 29. Major David Butler, head of the narcotics and vice units until he resigned under pressure earlier this year, is charged with using a county credit card to buy unspecified items at an adult novelty store and to pay for a motel room. He is also charged with stealing $4,000 from the department's dope buy cash stash. He's out on $20,000 bail. Former narc Vennie Harden is charged with three counts of first-degree forgery and one count of violation of oath of office for forging a supervisor's name on a form authorizing payment of county funds between February and April of this year. He's out on $11,800 bail.

In Philadelphia, a former Philadelphia police officer was hit with more federal charges Wednesday. He had earlier been charged in an alleged violent plot to steal $1.5 million from a cocaine dealer. Former officer Alhinde Weems, 34, was charged Wednesday with conspiracy to commit robbery, drug distribution, and more. According to prosecutors, Weems twice distributed crack cocaine between December 2008 and January 2009, and attempted to peddle a kilogram of cocaine. Weems has behind bars since March, when he was charged in a plot to dress as a detective, enter a drug dealer's home, rob him, and shoot him if necessary. He is being held without bail.

In Miami, a former Miami Dade police officer was sentenced last Friday to two years in federal prison for participating in a drug smuggling conspiracy that was actually an FBI sting. Former officer Jorge Delgado, 31, admitted using his patrol car to protect what he thought was a shipment of Ecstasy in exchange for $2500. He pleaded guilty in July to aiding and abetting an attempt to possess Ecstasy with the intent to distribute. He could have gotten up to 20 years.

In Brownsville, Texas, a former US Customs and Border Protection officer was sentenced Wednesday to more than 11 years in federal prison for taking bribes to allow illegal immigrants and illicit drugs to pass into the country. Sergio Lopez Hernandez, 41, pleaded guilty in April to taking more than $150,000 in bribes to let car loads of people and drugs pass through his lane on the B&M International bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico.

Europe: Dutch Cannabis Café Owner on Trial Over Amount of Pot on Hand

In what is widely viewed as a test case as the Netherlands tilts toward a tougher stance toward cannabis use and sales, the owner of one of the country's biggest cannabis coffee shops went on trial this week on drug trafficking charges. Meddy Willemsen, 58, owned and operated the Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen near the Belgian border until it was shut down in May 2008.

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downstairs of a coffee shop (courtesy Wikimedia)
Now, he and 16 managers and suppliers are on trial in Middleburg. Prosecutors are calling them an organized crime ring.

Checkpoint was serving up to 3,000 customers a day, mainly Belgian and French, but was closed after investigators twice found large amounts of cannabis on the premises. They found 120 kilograms on premise in 2007 and 110 kilos in May 2008.

Under Holland's "tolerance" policy toward cannabis, people can purchase up to five grams per day at licensed coffee shops. Coffee shops are limited to having five pounds on hand. That law has been widely, if quietly, flouted. For a high-volume coffee shop like the Checkpoint, for example, five pounds could be going out the door every hour five grams at a time.

Like all Dutch coffee shops, the Checkpoint also suffered from the "back door" problem. While the Netherlands provides for legal sales, it does not provide for a legal cannabis supply to the coffee shops. That leaves the supply, a $4 billion a year black market business, to an ever-responsive criminal underground.

"The question is whether the conditions of the government's tolerance policy have been violated," Judge Saskia Meeuwis said at the start of the trial.

Prosecutors certainly thought so. "This is clearly a contravention of the spirit of the tolerance policy devised by the government to respond to local demand," said Middelburg prosecution spokeswoman Elke Kool. "This is the biggest-ever case of its sort. We are dealing with a real criminal organization here."

But Raymond Dufour of the Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation told Cannazine the case shows that the current system does not work. "Coffee shops are only allowed to have 500 grams of cannabis in stock," he said. "Everybody knows that if you have 2,500 clients a day, you need more than 500 grams. It's just a silly condition. Everybody in Terneuzen must have known this."

The trial comes as the Netherlands moves to tighten the reins on the coffee shops. The national government announced in September that it wanted to reserve coffee shops for local users -- not foreign drug tourists. The city of Amsterdam has moved to cut the number of its coffee shops in half, while other cities are imposing zoning restrictions on them. In southern Limburg province, 30 coffee shops will become members-only clubs next year, while in two border towns, local authorities are shutting down all coffee shops in a bid to defeat drug tourism.

In April last year, Checkpoint introduced a customer card system intended to prevent customers from exceeding the daily five gram limit and prevent minors from entering the shop.

A verdict in the Checkpoint case is expected December 2.

Drug Legalization: Senator Pushes Amendment to Censor Any Talk of That

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), an inveterate drug warrior, doesn't want to hear the L-word in Washington. This week, the corn-belt conservative offered an amendment to Senator Jim Webb's (D-VA) pending bill, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, that would explicitly forbid any recommendations that even mention drug legalization or decriminalization.

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the face of ignorance and prejudice -- US Sen. Charles Grassley
Webb, a congressional champion of criminal justice and drug law reform, introduced the bill in a bid to fix what he considers a failing, costly, and inhumane criminal justice system, including the war on drugs. Webb's bill contemplates the creation of "a commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom." That would presumably include taking a close look at the impact of drug laws.

Grassley's amendment says its purpose is "to restrict the authority of the Commission to examine policies that favor decriminalization of violations of the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substances." The amendment in its entirety reads as follows:

The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.

Grassley's politically bowdlerizing ploy quickly drew the ire of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "Senator Grassley's censorship amendment would block what Senator Webb is trying to achieve with this bill," said Jack Cole, a retired undercover narcotics detective who now heads the LEAP. "All along, Senator Webb has said that in the effort to fix our broken criminal justice system 'nothing should be off the table.' That should include the obvious solution of ending the 'drug war' as a way to solve the unintended problems caused by that failed policy."

As Grassley's amendment started to draw critical scrutiny, he attempted to defend himself. In a conference call with media this week, Grassley responded to a question about the amendment: "Well, my intent on that amendment isn't any different than any other amendments that are coming up. The Congress is setting up a commission to study certain things. And the commission is a -- is an arm of Congress, because Congress doesn't have time to review some of these laws. And -- and -- and the point is, for them to do what we tell them to do. And one of the things that I was anticipating telling them not to do is to -- to recommend or study the legalization of drugs."

When asked if his amendment would include limiting the discussion of medical marijuana, Grassley responded: "Yes, the extent to which it would be decriminalization, the answer is yes."

Grassley added that he had floated several amendments and that he would not necessarily introduce all of them. As of Thursday, he had not yet formally introduced his censorship amendment.

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.

Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Veto Override Falls Two Votes Short

Three months after New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch (D) vetoed a medical marijuana bill, bill supporters attempting to override the veto came up one vote short in the state Senate Wednesday. A two-thirds majority was required to override. The override effort had successfully passed the House earlier in the day.

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almost but not quite at the New Hampshire Statehouse
The House voted to override the veto by a vote of 240-115, or 67.7% of the vote. But supporters failed to pick up a single vote in the Senate, and that made all the difference. The Senate vote both last summer and this week was 14-10 to override. It would have taken 16 votes to reach a two-thirds majority.

The bill, HB 648, would have established three nonprofit dispensaries to distribute up to two ounces of marijuana every 10 days to patients whose use had been approved by a doctor. Patients could be approved for chronic or terminal conditions that included cachexia, or wasting disorder; chronic pain; or nausea or muscle spasms. They would have had to register with the state to obtain an ID card.

In his veto message earlier this year, Gov. Lynch cited concerns about cultivation and distribution, as well as the opposition of law enforcement. Lawmakers had attempted to address those concerns in conference committee, crafting a tightly-drafted bill, but Lynch was unmoved.

"It's up to 16 of us in this chamber to look at those who are suffering to say, 'I understand and I will help','' said Sen. Peggy Gilmour (D-Hollis). But every senator who voted against the measure earlier this year voted against the override Wednesday.

Pushing for the bill was the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "You never give up hope so I'm disappointed," coalition spokesman Matt Simon told the Nashua Telegraph. "Now I'm not looking forward to making those difficult calls to people depending on the legislature to relieve their unrelenting pain."

In fact, Simon and other medical marijuana supporters are looking to inflict a little pain on legislators who voted against them. In a message to supporters after the override failed, MPP pointedly noted that two senators who had voted against the override, Betsi DeVries and Ted Gatsas, are up for reelection in Manchester next week.

Southeast Asia: UN's Top Health Rights Officials Calls for Decriminalizing Drug Use, Ending Forced "Rehab Camps"

The UN's top official on health rights called Tuesday for the decriminalization of drug use and an end to forced drug rehabilitation camps in Asia. The camps amount to "keeping sick people jailed," said Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health at a conference on international health rights in Hanoi.

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Anand Grover (unaids.org)
"The criminalization of these practices actually hinders the right to health of all persons," Grover said.

Grover denounced the practice of many Asian nations, including China, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam, of forcing drug users to detoxify in massive drug treatment camps. The Open Society Institute reports that more than 50,000 people are being held in such camps in Vietnam and as many as 350,000 in China.

Grover elaborated on his decriminalization remarks in a Tuesday interview with Radio Australia. Remarking on the battle to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, Grover said: "Well, you know the success in Asia has been by being able to protect and empower the communities of sex workers, drug users and men having sex with men. But ultimately their rights are not being protected because their right to health is being compromised by, for example, large numbers of drug users who because possession and consumption is illegal in most countries find themselves in either compulsory treatment centers or voluntary treatment centers where it's not the evidence-based treatment which is actually resorted to, but old detoxification, which has a huge relapse rate, and they're subjected to a large number of abuses throughout the region, including in India for instance where NGOs run the centers and they're totally unregulated. And people will end up dying later on."

Grover clarified that he was not talking about legalizing the drug trade. "It's not the drug trade that we want to decriminalize," he said. "I think that large numbers of people who are just simple drug users they find themselves being treated as criminals and their rights abused."

Southwest Asia: Three DEA Agents Among Dead in Afghan Helicopter Crash

Three DEA agents and seven US soldiers were killed Monday when their helicopter crashed as they were returning from a firefight with suspected drug traffickers in western Afghanistan. They were among 14 US casualties suffered in helicopter crashes Monday. An additional eight US soldiers were killed Tuesday, making October the bloodiest month for the US in Afghanistan since it invaded and occupied the country eight years ago.

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DEA memorial for agents Leamon, Michael and Weston
The DEA identified the dead agents as Forrest Leamon, 37; Chad Michael, 30; and Michael Weston, 37. Leamon and Michael were members of the DEA's FAST (Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams) and Weston was assigned to the DEA's Kabul country office. Their deaths were the first reported by the DEA since it initiated operations in Afghanistan in 2005 in a bid to thwart the country's multi-billion dollar opium trade.

Afghanistan supplies more than 90% of the world's illicit opium, the raw ingredient for heroin. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported last week that Taliban insurgents earn as much as $160 million a year from taxing poppy farmers, protecting drug shipments, and operating their own drug smuggling networks. Those funds help finance Taliban operations against US and NATO forces and their allies in the Afghan armed forces.

The helicopter crashed in the predawn hours Monday after returning from a raid in which US and Afghan soldiers attacked a suspected drug trafficking compound. The US military said a dozen insurgents were killed in the raid. The Taliban claimed credit for shooting down the chopper, but US officials denied that it had gone down because of enemy fire.

The incident came as Afghan officials fiercely criticized a US military hit list of about 50 suspected drug traffickers, saying targeting them to be killed or captured "on the battlefield" undermines the Afghan justice system and could trigger a backlash against foreign troops. It was unclear if the compound attacked Sunday night belonged to a trafficker on the hit list.

Anti-Western sentiment is already running high in Afghanistan. This weekend, police in Kabul clashed with anti-American rioters infuriated by rumors that American soldiers had burned a copy of the Koran. Several people were wounded when police opened fire on the angry crowd.

Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debussman Jr.

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How many shipments are needed to pay for one drug smuggling tunnel?
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 month. 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:

Saturday, October 24

A high ranking federal police official was assassinated in Chihuahua. Jose Alfredo Silly Pena was a naval captain who served as a federal police intelligence official. He, along with three other men, had been kidnapped by heavily armed men some hours earlier. Additionally, 23 people were killed in violence in Chihuahua during a 48-hour period. 18 of these murders occurred in Ciudad Juárez. In Guerrero, four bodies were found in a hidden pit just meters from where seven bodies had been found last Tuesday. In other parts of Mexico, an unidentified gunman was killed by the army near Tlapehuala, and two more were killed and six captured after battling soldiers near Tamaulipas. The day before, four people, including two police officers, were killed after a firefight in Hidalgo; two people were killed in Michoacán, and three each in Durango, Coahuila, and Oaxaca.

Sunday, October 25

In Torreon, Coahuila, gunmen ambushed the convoy of the municipal public safety director. The official survived, but a nearby civilian was killed in the ensuing firefight. In another part of Torreon, a gun battle left two other people dead, one of whom was apparently homeless. Fifteen people were killed in Chihuahua, 14 of whom were killed in Ciudad Juárez. One of the dead was head of the police anti-theft unit, who was gunned down in a restaurant as he ate. At least three killings occurred in Sinaloa, and two women were kidnapped after being snatched from their car on the highway. At least three people were killed in Sonora, including a lawyer and a reputed gang leader.

The AP reported that dozens of ICE officials have been investigated for their handling of informants. Allegations include that ICE steered investigators away from a man who has since been charged with the El Paso murder of Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana. Galeana was a Juárez cartel manager and ICE informant. Additionally, ICE officials are being accused of allowing a man -- described as a "homicidal maniac" by the DEA -- to continue to be an informant even after having supervised the killing of a Juárez cartel associate.

Tuesday , October 27

In Puebla, four police officers were killed and a fifth wounded after being shot by gunmen. The officers were performing a traffic stop of a suspicious vehicle when another truck pulled up from which several heavily armed gunmen emerged and opened fire in an apparent attempt to "rescue" the passengers of the first vehicle.

In Nayarit, four men have been arrested in the videotaped and widely publicized torture of five teenagers. It appears the five boys had attempted to rob a house when they were captured by heavily armed vigilantes. In addition to being beaten and threatened with weapons, the boys were forced to kiss each other. The boys were later dumped naked on a street. There has been increased activity in recent months by vigilante groups thought to be linked to drug traffickers or members of the police.

Wednesday , October 28

Mexican soldiers have discovered an enormous, partially completed tunnel which ends just across the border from Otay Mesa, California. The tunnel, which was incomplete, came complete with electricity and an air supply system. Journalists in Tijuana were invited to tour the site, which is the latest of many similar discoveries in recent years.

Mexican police have arrested a man suspected of being La Familia's operations chief for the state of Michoacán. The man, Abel Valadez Oribe, 32, was on his way to a cockfight when he was detained by police after being tipped off by informants. Oribe, also known as "El Clinton," is also suspected of ordering multiple murders, including that of the mayor of Ixtapan de la Sal. His arrest comes a week after 303 suspected members of La Familia were arrested across the United States. In another part of Michoacán, the dismembered remains of an unidentified man were found by the roadside near Uruapan. Uruapan was the site of one of the most publicized incidents of the Mexican drug war in 2006, when gunmen threw five severed heads onto a dance floor in a local nightclub.

Total body count for the week: 157
Total body count for the year: 6,175

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