Latin America: Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/malverde1-smaller.jpg
shrine to San Malverde, Mexico's ''narco-saint,'' Culiacan, Sinaloa
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:

Friday , September 4

- Troops arrested three suspected cartel assassins in Ciudad Juarez. The three are thought to be part of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez cartel. Between them, they are accused of having participated in 70 killings.

- A high ranking police official was gunned down in Los Mochis, Sinaloa. The commander, Ubaldo Dominguez Grijalva, was shot by at least two gunmen outside his house at 6:30 AM. Fifteen days ago, he was involved in an operation in which three suspected cartel hitmen were arrested after a firefight in Los Mochis.

Saturday , September 5

- Mexican troops captured a suspect in the September 2 killing of 17 patients in Ciudad Juarez drug rehabilitation center. The suspect, Jose Rodolfo Escajeda, is a high-ranking member of the Juarez cartel. He is also on the DEA's list of most wanted fugitives on suspicion of being involved in marijuana and cocaine trafficking to the United States.

- A former high ranking official of US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US. The man, Richard P. Kramer, had previously been stationed in Mexico. He was apparently convinced by drug cartel members to retire and begin working for them directly. Kramer is accused of searching for information from law enforcement databases concerning possible informants, and with being involved in a 660 pound cocaine shipment which traveled from Panama to the United States, before being finally seized in Spain in 2007.

Sunday , September 6

- Gunmen killed a state legislative candidate, his wife, and their two children at their home in Tabasco. Authorities originally suspected that the murders were carried out by drug traffickers angered by recent arrests. Jose Francisco Fuentes Esperon, 43, a former university professor, had begun his campaign just one day prior to his murder. Mr.Esperon and his wife were both shot, while the children, ages 8 and 10, were asphyxiated.

Monday, September 7

- An arrest was made in the killing of Juan Francisco Fuentes Esperon, the state legislative candidate murdered over the weekend (see above). Police arrested several young men in what apparently was a burglary gone wrong. Interestingly, however, the Zetas drug trafficking organization took the unusual step of publicly distancing itself from the murders. The Zetas hung a banner in Villahermosa, the state capital, saying they were not involved.

- Seven people were gunned down in several separate incidents in Ciudad Juarez. Four of the victims were killed at a motel, and included an ex-US soldier who lived in El Paso and worked for the Postal Service. The men were drinking when they were attacked by heavily armed gunmen. In another incident, a man was killed and five people wounded when gunmen entered a private party and began shooting.

Tuesday, September 8

- Mexico replaced its attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora, who had held the position for nine years. President Calderon gave no reason for the move. He is slated to be replaced by Arturo Chavez Chavez, who had previously worked for the state attorney general's office of Chihuahua, of which Ciudad Juarez is capital. He is likely to face a tough nomination battle in Mexico's congress, as the decision has been criticized because of his work in Chihuahua. During his tenure there from 1992-1996, the Juarez cartel became much stronger and the murders of hundreds of women went unsolved.

- In Veracruz, police found a headless body along with a message from drug traffickers attached to it. The body was left in the same location where two bodies (and another message from drug traffickers) were found on August 26. The note left with the body threatened extortionists and kidnappers, and may be the work of vigilante groups supported by drug traffickers or elements of the police.

- In Ciudad Juarez, a body with both arms severed was found dumped on a street. A spokesman for the regional prosecutor's office said that the victim was found with his severed arms crossed and placed on top of a cardboard sign that was left with the body. Additionally, the victim had plastic bags shoved into his mouth and his eyes were taped shut.

On another subject, two journalists from the state of Tabasco were arrested on suspicion of working for the Zetas drug trafficking organization. Newspaper correspondents Roberto Juarez and Lazaro Abreu Tejero Sanchez are accused of taking thousands of dollars from drug traffickers to withhold stories and share information from police sources. Police learned of the payments, which totaled some $4,500 a month, from a captured Zeta lieutenant.

Total reported body count for the week: 239

Total reported body count for the year: 4,955

Read last week's Mexico drug war update here.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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