Mexican Drug War

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Continued Drug Prohibition Allows Mexican Drug Gangs to Diversify Into Human Smuggling

Location: 
Mexico
Phenomenally rich due to drug prohibition, Mexican drug gangs, which used to focus exclusively on ferrying narcotics such as cocaine to the United States, have diversified into other lucrative criminal activities such as human smuggling and extortion.
Publication/Source: 
National Center for Policy Analysis (TX)
URL: 
http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=19755

Mexican Drug Traffickers Expand Reach in Central America

Location: 
Central America is struggling to contain rising drug prohibition violence as powerful Mexican drug traffickers, facing a government crackdown at home, expand southward and intensify operations in neighboring nations.
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67P3MA20100826

Mexico Offers 'Drug Deal and People Trafficking Holidays'

Location: 
Mexico
While escalating violence in Mexico's war on drugs may be prompting some would-be tourists to think twice about visiting the country, others see it as a chance to try a different kind of travel experience. A new type of traveler is flocking to the country, keen to experience a dark underworld of drug traffickers, leftist rebels and illegal migration.
Publication/Source: 
Daily Mail (UK)
URL: 
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/article-1306299/Mexico-drug-wars-people-trafficking-city-tours-offered-travel-firms.html

U.S. Consulate Warning of Zeta Kidnappings in Mexico

Location: 
Monterrey, NLE
Mexico
After the possible kidnapping attempt of a college student last Friday, the U.S. Consulate is warning Americans who travel to Monterrey that they face a greater risk of being kidnapped.
Publication/Source: 
KRGV (TX)
URL: 
http://www.krgv.com/news/local/story/Consulate-Warning-of-Zeta-Kidnappings-in-Mexico/O6Z_lCxZPEmUKMhC6I5Xdw.cspx

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling 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 more than 28,000 people, the government reported this month. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of 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:

municipal building, San Fernando, Tamaulipas
Thursday, August 19

In Ciudad Juarez, 12 people were killed in various parts of the city. In one case, a man on a bus was killed after being shot by another passenger, who was apparently following him and waiting for an opportune moment to strike. In another incident, a group of armed men stormed a house, killing one man and leaving a woman and a child wounded.

Friday, August 20

In Monterrey, two private security guards were killed after a shootout in front of the prestigious American School Foundation, known for educating the children of many wealthy locals and those of American expatriates. The gun battle apparently began after the guards had a verbal altercation with a group of armed men who were driving near the school. Four guards who disappeared under unclear circumstances during the gunfight turned up safely on Friday. It is unclear whether the men fled or were kidnapped by the gunmen, as has been reported in the Mexican media.

Saturday, August 21

In El Paso, a bullet fired during a gunfight in Ciudad Juarez struck a building belonging to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). At least eight rounds fired in Ciudad Juarez have struck buildings in El Paso in recent weeks.

Sunday, August 22

In Cuernavaca, four bodies were discovered hanging from a bridge. The bodies had been decapitated and mutilated, and their genitals had been removed. A note left at the scene indicated that the men were affiliated with American-born cartel figure Edgar Valdez Villareal, who is currently in a power struggle with Hector Beltran-Leyva for control of the Beltran-Leyva Organization. Cuernavaca has seen a dramatic surge in violence since cartel boss Arturo Beltran-Leyva was killed in December, leaving his organization leaderless.

Monday, August 23

In Hidalgo, seven bodies were discovered inside two mines that were being used as clandestine graves by suspected drug cartels. Authorities were led to the mine by several suspects arrested last week, including three police officers. In May, a similar discovery in Taxco led to the discovery of 55 bodies.

In Ciudad Juarez, five people were killed in several incidents in the city. Among the dead was a federal police officer who had been decapitated, dismembered, and whose body parts were left strewn along a highway. In another incident, a municipal policewoman was shot dead off-duty as she drove in a car with her child, who was left uninjured.

Tuesday, August 24

In Tamaulipas, 72 bodies were discovered at a farm after a gun battle in San Fernando, about 100 miles from Brownsville, Texas. The bodies were discovered by Marines acting on a tip from a man who claimed he was an illegal migrant who had been kidnapped. Initial reports suggest that the dead are mainly Central American immigrants who were killed after refusing to pay an extortion fee. Drug cartels, particularly the Zetas Organization which is powerful in Tamaulipas, have increasingly begun kidnapping migrants in addition to narcotics smuggling.

Near Acapulco, two bodies were discovered hanging from an overpass bridge on the highway from Chilpancingo. Their arms had been chopped off and a note was left with the bodies threatening extortionists, kidnappers, and the army.

In Mexico City, investigators from the UN and the OAS said that Mexico was the most dangerous place for journalists in the Americas. Some 60 journalists have been killed in the country since 2,000, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

Wednesday, August 25

In Sinaloa, three young men were found dead inside a car near the town of Las Palmas. All three had been reported missing on Sunday. At least one of the bodies, found in the trunk of the car, had signs of torture. All three had been shot.

Total Body Count for the Week: 301

Total Body Count for the Year: 7,331

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

San Fernando, TAM
Mexico

Mexican Troops Find Dozens of Drug Prohibition Victims' Bodies

Location: 
TAM
Mexico
Mexican marines have found 72 corpses at a ranch after a shoot-out with drug traffickers that left one soldier and three gunmen dead near the town of San Fernando in Tamaulipas. It appears to be the largest dumping ground for the victims of drug prohibition violence found in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon began a stunningly unsuccessful offensive against traffickers in late 2006.
Publication/Source: 
London Evening Standard (UK)
URL: 
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23870646-mexican-troops-find-dozens-of-drug-war-victims-bodies.do

Mexico Talking But Not Moving on Drug Legalization [FEATURE]

When, earlier this summer, the Mexican government admitted that some 28,000 people had been killed in prohibition-related violence since President Felipe Calderon rolled out the army in December 2006, it seemed to mark a turning point in Mexico's ongoing debate over how to end the madness. Calderon began an ongoing series of meetings with civil society organizations, government functionaries, and the political parties, and even suggested that drug legalization was open for debate.

Feb. '09 drug policy forum held by
Mexico's Grupo Parlamentario Alternativa
But he quickly stepped back from the abyss, clarifying that no, he did not support legalization and, yes, he was going to continue to rely on the Mexican military to fight the drug war for the rest of his term.  Still, while the short-term prognosis for serious drug reform is poor, the president's stutter-step around the issue has opened the door for debate.

That doesn't mean any of the four legalization bills, mostly aimed at marijuana, in the Mexican Congress's lower chamber or the one in the Senate are likely to pass. After all, it was only last year that Mexico approved the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of drugs (and even that was wrapped inside a broader bill aimed at widening the drug war). Analysts who spoke to the Chronicle this week agreed that while the increasingly open debate over legalization is a step in the right direction, reform is going to be an uphill battle, at least until Calderon's successor is chosen in 2012.

The series of meetings Calderon has been holding are a good thing, if long overdue, said Maureen Meyer, a Mexico analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America. "With these encounters, he's getting more buy-in from all sectors -- civil society, the government, the political parties -- but it's late," said Meyer. "The critique of current strategy should have begun long ago. At least in the past few weeks, there has been more frankness in his discourse on the magnitude of the problem and more willingness to engage in discussion, but what that means in terms of policy remains to be seen."

What it does not mean, Meyer said, was real measurable progress toward legalization. "There are several bills that are looking at legalization, mostly of marijuana, and yes, this broader debate is happening, but it will be a long time before we see some legislative changes in the county," she said.

"The debate over legalization has already been going on for many years," said Jorge Hernandez Tinajero, a Mexico City political scientist and member of CUPIHD (in English, the Collective for an Integrated Drug Policy). "It is the political class that has been slowest to enter into it, and especially the president, who was the last to concede that a discussion was necessary," he said.

"In reality, Calderon brought this up not because he thought he could win the debate, but because his strategy has been just a tremendous failure, and this disaster is reaching intolerable levels, including among his closest allies," Hernandez continued. "For example, the theme of legalization leapt up in an encounter with civil society organizations dedicated to security, and almost all of them are on the right."

But while the years of carnage under Calderon has opened the door for legalization, it is still a minority position even if it is gaining more high-powered adherents, such as Calderon's predecessor Vicente Fox. None of the three main political parties are keen on it even if some political figures are keen to use the bloodshed as a club against Calderon. And from the north, the US is glowering down.

"I don't think drug legalization will go any further than a discussion among specific sectors of society," said Victor Clark Alfaro, head of the Bi-national Center for Human Rights in Tijuana. "It's mainly supported by intellectuals and academia, but it doesn't have the sympathy of the population as a whole, nor does it have the support of the US government," he argued.

Even if there is no political will to advance legalization in Mexico right now, the issue will continue to fester until it is addressed, said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC. "The issue of legalization and decriminalization is not going to go away, it will hunker down in the suburbs of this debate, and at a certain point, will explode," he predicted.

"We don't know how or when this is going to end, but it won't end with this president," Clark said. "There are sectors of the population telling him to change his strategy, but Calderon has told society he is going to continue with the strategy until the end of his term. That means two more years of the same or worse. Probably worse," he predicted.

While political progress toward legalization and a reduction in violence appears blocked for now, Calderon's deployment of the Mexican Army and the bloody results of that deployment have damaged both the president and the military. It is also contributing to the likelihood that Calderon's conservative PAN (in English, National Action Party) could lose the presidency in 2012. The PAN fared poorly in off-year elections this summer.

"If you ask me how I will remember Calderon, it is the violence," said Clark. "The huge number of people getting killed with the war against drugs, the increasing activity of the drug cartels -- this war has obviously damaged Calderon's image instead of bolstering it, at least in our country," he said.

"Calderon's approval ratings are down from the beginning of his government, but they haven't decreased much lately," said Myer. "But if you ask a citizen in Ciudad Juarez, they tell you there's more violence than two years ago and they want the military and the federal police out. There is some hesitancy in continuing to support the PAN," she added. "It's not just the violence, it's also the economy."

The Mexican military, too, is seeing its image tarnished as it wages war against the drug traffickers and, seemingly, a substantial portion of the various local, state, and federal police forces, who are actually working for the so-called cartels. The number of human rights complaints against the military has climbed to more than 2,000 since it left the barracks at the end of 2006.

"Calderon played the military card, the ultimate card he had, but the military hasn't succeeded," said Birns. "It has instead generated negatives: increased violence, increased human rights violations, increased repugnance toward the military from the population. The army's commitment to the war has rendered it unpopular."

"When President Zedillo deployed the military in the 1990s, it was an institution with a good image in society, but when Calderon deployed them in large numbers the military is paying a price in terms of its image because of the increasing number of human rights violations," said Clark. "The soldiers lack training to deal with the drug war, but they are on its front lines."

But while it is the military waging the war, it is doing so on behalf of the governing elite. It is the president and the Congress who make the decisions, and when it comes to embracing drug legalization as a solution to the violence, they are just not there yet.

"The political class still doesn't understand the terms of the debate," said Hernandez. "Nor does it really know the drug problem. Our task as reformers now is to try to steer the discussion so they understand that drug legalization by itself is not going to end the problems of security, but it would help the drug problem."

While it is ultimately up to Mexico to resolve the problem of violence and insecurity related to the traffic in illicit drugs, there is something Americans can do to help, said Hernandez, and he wasn't referring to sending more guns and helicopters and DEA agents. What would help in Mexico would be watching California vote to legalize marijuana, he said.

"The debate in Mexico has also been pushed by the marijuana reforms in the United States," said Hernandez. "The perception is that while you are legalizing, we are killing ourselves. And the political class understands this, so the referendum in California is very important for us."

Mexico

Drug Prohibition Sends Bullets Whizzing Across the Border

Location: 
El Paso, TX
United States
At least eight bullets have been fired into El Paso, TX in the last few weeks from the rising violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, one of the world's most dangerous places. And all American police can do is shrug because they cannot legally intervene in a war in another country. The best they can do is warn people to stay inside.
Publication/Source: 
The Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h7aj4g7XAR-V5MnmRqPF9yWnK6ZwD9HQ28981

Mexican Army Kills US Citizen on Acapulco-Zihuatenejo Highway

According to Mexican press reports, the Mexican military shot and killed a US citizen on the Acapulco-Zihuatenejo highway Saturday night. The American was identified as Joseph Steven Proctor, either 32 or 35 years old, of Georgia.

The incident took place on kilometer 14 of the coastal highway, near the village of Cerrito de Oro in the municipality of Coyuca de Benitez in the state of Guerrero. For more than 30 years, the Mexican military has conducted patrols and checkpoints on the highway as part of its "permanent campaign against drug trafficking."

According to Lt. Francisco Javier Escamilla of the 68th Infantry Battalion, soldiers in a Hummer driving toward Coyuca encountered a Winstar pick-up truck traveling toward them. The truck opened fire on the soldiers, and when it refused to stop, the soldiers shot back, causing the truck to overturn.

The Mexican army did not initially report the incident, only issuing its statement after police found Proctor's body. Instead, an anonymous call to state police reported the truck and the body around 2:00am Sunday morning. When police arrived, they found Proctor's body in the truck. It had multiple bullet wounds. They also found an AR-15 rifle with a 41-cartridge clip holding only 34 cartridges.

[Editor's Note: Anyone with experience firing a semi-automatic rifle at oncoming military vehicles while driving solo down the highway, please contact us. We want to know just how that is done.]

Proctor's body was taken to Acapulco for forensic examination, then turned over to his wife, Mexican national Liliana Gil Vargas. Gil Vargas told the newspaper Reforma that her husband had left their home in Coyuca de Benitez at about 10:00pm Saturday night to go shopping at a supermarket.

State and municipal police are investigating. The US consulate in Acapulco is asking that the military cooperate in the investigation.

While the Mexican military has long played a limited role in enforcing drug prohibition, President Felipe Calderon unleashed it in December 2006, deploying some 50,000 soldiers and federal police in hot spots across the country. It is widely accused of human rights violations, ranging from rape and robbery to torture, murder, and forced disappearances.

Coyuca de Benitez
Mexico

Shootout Near School Shocks Mexico

Location: 
Monterrey, NLE
Mexico
Drug prohibition violence continues to build in Mexico where a gun fight occurred in front of the American School Foundation, the school of choice for the children of many of Monterrey's top businessmen as well as the children of Americans working in the city. The gun battle is the latest sign that Mexico's prohibition violence is spreading to wealthier areas of the country which had long thought themselves immune, and has deepened the fear that has gripped Monterrey in the last few months.
Publication/Source: 
The Wall Street Journal (NY)
URL: 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704504204575445970398254874.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

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