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Mexican Drug War

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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

With 28,000 Killed Since 2006, Movement for Drug Legalization in Mexico Takes Hold (Video)

Location: 
Mexico
A growing movement in Mexico to legalize drugs, particularly marijuana, is taking shape. Four proposals that aim for varying degrees of decriminalization or legalization of drugs are on the docket in Mexico’s House of Deputies, and another is circulating in the Senate. Meanwhile, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who was a key U.S. ally in the war on drugs, has backed the legalization of drugs, saying prohibition has failed to reduce violence and corruption.
Publication/Source: 
Democracy Now! (NY)
URL: 
http://www.democracynow.org/2010/8/19/as_deaths_mount_to_28_000

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:

Santiago Papasquiaro, site of Saturday's firefight
Friday, August 13

In Ciudad Juarez, 17 people were murdered across the city. Among the dead were two members of CIPOL, the police intelligence service, as well as a young couple. Several people were shot outside a nightclub, and three men between the ages of 20 and 25 were killed after their car was ambushed by a group of gunmen.

Saturday, August 14

In Durango, at least 11 gunmen were killed after a two-hour firefight with the army near the town of Santiago Papasquiaro. Three troops were wounded during the gun battle. Many believe that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is hiding in Durango.

In Monterrey, at least eight gunmen kidnapped a plastic surgeon while he was performing surgery. It was later reported that one of his patients was the target of the raid. Police and army personnel launched an operation to find the abducted surgeon, with no success.

Sunday, August 15

In Morelos, at least six people were killed. In one incident, three young men were gunned down after a botched kidnapping attempt by gunmen outside their home. In another incident, the body of an unidentified man was found bound with tape and plastic. A note threatening the lives of local police officers was left alongside the body.

Monday, August 16

In Ciudad Juarez, 20 people were killed in several incidents in the city. The incidents included two separate triple homicides. Several of the bodies discovered in the city were bound with tape and showed signs of torture. Over the weekend, 51 people were killed. Monday’s killings bring the 2010 death toll in Ciudad Juarez to approximately 1,884.

In Oaxaca, gunmen killed eight members of a hunting party near Mexico's Gulf Coast. The exact motive for the killings is unclear. In Monterrey and in Reynosa, armed men threw hand grenades at the local offices of Televisa.

Tuesday, August 17

In a video made public on Tuesday, an alleged member of the Juarez Cartel claimed that the cartel is hiring attractive young women to serve as assassins. The suspect, Rogelio Amaya, claims that around roughly 30 women between the ages of 18 and 30 have been recruited and trained to carry out hits, which many of them have. Rogelio Amaya is thought to be a member of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel.

In Culiacan, four prison inmates were murdered and were discovered in a dumpster. All four had their throats slit. Three of the four men had been arrested earlier this month following a firefight with police. Violence between rival drug trafficking gangs is common in Mexican prisons.

Wednesday, August 18

In Nuevo Leon, the body of a kidnapped mayor was discovered three days after his abduction. Edelmiro Cavazos of was the mayor of Santiago, Nuevo Leon. He was discovered near a waterfall near the town after having been kidnapped by a group of at least 15 armed men wearing uniforms of the federal police force, which was disbanded nine years ago.

Total Body Count for the Week: 112

Total Body Count for the Year: 7,030

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

Mexico

Corrupt, Insecure Prisons Undermine Mexico Drug War

Location: 
Mexico
Experts say Mexico's President FelipeCalderon needs to get entrenched problems in the penal and judicial system under control if he is to have any chance of winning a war that has claimed more than 28,000 lives since late 2006 and sparked fears that drug trafficking organizations could turn Mexico into a lawless narco state.
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67H42G20100818

Kidnapped Mexican Mayor Found Dead

Location: 
Monterrey, NLE
Mexico
Yet another Mexican politican falls prey to drug prohibition violence. Security forces have found the handcuffed and blindfolded body of kidnapped mayor Edelmiro Cavazos of the northern Mexican city of Santiago. Cavazos was taken from his home by armed men on Sunday night.
Publication/Source: 
BBC News (UK)
URL: 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11016902

Lawmakers in Mexico to Debate Drug Fight

President Felipe Calderón summoned legislators to participate later this week in his continuing discussions with all of Mexico’s political establishment about how to win the war against the drug trafficking organizations. Is legalization on the table?
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times (NY)
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/18/world/americas/18mexico.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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