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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 30,000 people -- as of this week more than 9,000 this year. 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:

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/labarbie.jpg
Edgar Villarreal (''La Barbie''), after capture
Wednesday, November 17

In the city of Chihuahua, two Ciudad Juarez attorneys and a companion were executed after being snatched off a street by an armed commando. The two men were in Ciudad Juarez to investigate a case for a client they represent who faced federal charges.

Friday, November 19

In Tamaulipas, 11 suspected members of the Zetas Organization were killed during a clash near the town Nueva Ciudad Guerrero. The firefight occurred after soldiers on patrol came under fire. Two other gunmen were captured and nine rifles were seized, as well as four handguns, a grenade launcher and body armor.

In Ciudad Juarez, five people were murdered across the city. Among the dead was a municipal policeman who was gunned down on his day off. He is the 55th municipal police officer killed this year. In total, 130 policemen from the various law enforcement bodies that operate in Juarez have been killed so far  in 2010.

Saturday, November 20

In Mexico City, authorities began the process to extradite Edgar Valdez Villareal, better known as La Barbie, to the United States. Valdez, 37, was a high ranking lieutenant in the Beltran-Leyva Organization before being captured in August. He is charged in a 2002 indictment in Louisiana and a 1998 indictment in Texas, both for his involvement in cocaine trafficking. Valdez is a US national, as he was born in Laredo, Texas.

Sunday, November 21

In Colima, a former state governor was shot and killed at his home. His wife was wounded in the attack. Cavazos left office in November 2009. He is one of several governors, ex-governors and gubernatorial candidates killed in Mexico in the last few years. Colima has been relatively free of the rampant drug-related violence seen in other parts of the country. The state Secretary of Economic Development, who was visiting Cavazos at the time of the attack, was also wounded in the incident.

In Tepic, Nayarit, five suspected drug traffickers were shot and killed during a series of firefights across the city. The incident began after soldiers began chasing a vehicle with armed men aboard. One gunman was captured in the incident, and two soldiers were wounded.

Monday, November 22

In Colima, police accidentally shot dead a doctor during an operation to find the killers of ex-governor Cavazos.

Tuesday, November 23

In Brownsville, Texas, border patrol agents seized over 700 pounds of marijuana in the remote Flor De Mayo area of the city, which is located off Highway 281 and is just across the Rio Grande. The area is a well-known crossing point for drugs coming from Tamaulipas.

Total Body Count for the Week: 159

Total Body Count for the Year:  9,241

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

Mexico

Will U.S. Drones Join Mexico's Drug Prohibition War?

Localização: 
Mexico
Without leaving American airspace, remotely piloted surveillance drones — outfitted with cameras that provide real-time video — fly along the Texas border searching U.S. territory for drug smugglers, illegal immigrants and potential terrorists. Does the U.S. government ever risk the international fallout of using the aircrafts' high-tech surveillance abilities to take a peek south of the border — or share what they see with Mexican counterparts fighting for their lives? The American public likely never will know.
Publication/Source: 
San Antonio Express-News (TX)
URL: 
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/mexico/which_way_are_eyesin_texas_sky_looking_109590634.html?c=y&page=1#storytop

Mexico's Drug Prohibition War and U.S. business

Localização: 
Mexico
Drug prohibition violence is beginning to affect multinationals -- and not only on the border. "It's Al Capone and Tony Soprano doing whatever they want with little or no actual police interference," says Tom Cseh, deputy director of Vance International, a security firm in Mexico City. Among the recent reported incidents: Caterpillar ordered 40 American employees with children home after a shootout at a school in Monterrey earlier this fall; oil-services giant Schlumberger (SLB) said prohibition violence in northern Mexico hurt third-quarter earnings; and Canadian mining company Goldcorp (GG) plans to build a landing strip to fly gold out of a mine instead of hauling it on unsafe highways.
Publication/Source: 
CNN (US)
URL: 
http://money.cnn.com/2010/11/17/news/international/narco_terrorism_business_mexico.fortune/

Election 2010 and US Drug Policy in Latin America [FEATURE]

This month's election returns, which resulted in the Republican Party taking back control of the US House of Representatives, have serious, if cloudy, ramifications for progress on drug policy on the domestic front. Similarly, when we look south of the border, where a cash-strapped US has been throwing billions of dollars, mainly at the governments of Colombia and Mexico in a quixotic bid to thwart the drug trade, the Republican return to control in the House could mean a more unfriendly atmosphere for efforts to reform our Latin American drug policy.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/clinton-plan-merida-meeting.jpg
Plan Merida funding on the line?
Or not. Analysts consulted by Drug War Chronicle this week said it was too soon to tell. They varied on the impact of the Tea Party movement on Republican drug policy positions, as well as reaching differing conclusions as to whether the Tea Party's much-touted allegiance to fiscal austerity will be trumped by mainstream Republican militarism, interventionism, and hostility to drug reform.

Since 2006, and including Fiscal Year 2011 budgets that have not actually been passed yet, the US has spent nearly $2.8 billion on military and police aid to Colombia, with that number increasing to roughly $7 billion if spending back to the beginning of Plan Colombia in 1999 is included. Likewise, since 2006, the US has dished out nearly $1.5 billion for the Mexican drug war, as well as smaller, but still significant amounts for other Latin American countries and multi-country regional initiatives. Overall, the US has spent $6.56 billion in military and police assistance to Latin America in the past five years, with the drug war used to justify almost all of it.

Even by its own metrics, the US drug war spending in Colombia has had, at best, limited success. It has helped stabilize the country's shaky democracy, it has helped weaken the leftist guerrillas of the FARC, and it has managed to marginally reduce coca and cocaine production in Colombia.

But those advances have come at very high price. Tens of thousands of Colombians have been killed in the violence in the past two decades, Colombia has the world's highest number of internal refugees, widespread aerial spraying of coca crops has led to environmental damage, and paramilitary death squads linked to the government continue to rampage. Some 38 labor leaders have been killed there so far this year.

The results of US anti-drug spending in Mexico have been even more meager. The $1.4 billion Plan Merida has beefed up the Mexican military and law enforcement, but the violence raging there has not been reduced at all. To the contrary, it has increased dramatically since, with US support, President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the cartels at the beginning of 2007. Around 30,000 people have been killed since then, gunfights are a near daily occurrence in cities just across the border from the US, and the flow of drugs into the US remains virtually unimpeded.

That is the reality confronting Republicans in the House, who will now take over. The shift in power in the House means that the chairmanship of key foreign affairs committees will shift from moderate Democrats to conservative Republicans. Current House Foreign Relations Committee chair Howard Berman (D-CA) will be replaced by anti-Castro zealot Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), while in the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Elliot Engel (D-NY) will be replaced by Connie Mack (R-FL).

Other Republicans on the subcommittee include hard-liners Dan Burton (R-IN) and Elton Gallegly (R-CA). But there will be one anti-drug war Republican on the committee, Ron Paul (R-TX).

"Ileana and her committee will try to stir things up more, but it's too early to say what that means for drug policy," said Sanho Tree, drug policy analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC. "She'll do anything she can to screw over the Castro brothers, and that is the lens through which she sees the world."

That could mean hearings designed to go after Castro ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who threw out the DEA several years ago, and whose country is cited each year by the State Department as not complying with US drug policy objectives. But beyond that is anybody's guess.

"I think you might see a change of tone," said Adam Isaacson, an analyst with the Washington Office on Latin America. "You'll see Venezuela portrayed more and more as the drug bad guy, but neither Ros-Lehtinen or Mack can see much beyond Cuba," he said.

"If you bought the premise that the drug war was an extension of the Cold War, you could have a brand new Cold War framework here," said Isaacson. "They won't be able to buy a lot of Blackhawks, but they can use it as another way to beat up on the Obama administration."

"I think not much is going to change," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "To the extent the need is to cut money, Republicans might want less funding for these programs, but that's a big if. But this is a different sort of Republican, and so there may be the possibility of a left-right coalition to quit funding Plan Colombia. I'm not sure the Republicans can keep their people in line on Mexico and Colombia."

"Obama has been unyielding when it comes to maintaining the status quo on hemispheric drug policy," said Larry Birns, executive director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "He hasn't come up with any new programs or expressed any sympathy for the progressive drug policy initiatives coming out of Latin America. He is not going to allow himself to be accused of being soft on drugs. All hope for reform is gone, and there is little likelihood that the administration will come up with any drug-related initiative that will cost more money than we're spending now or that would challenge the pro-drug war lobby that now exists. I don't think we will see much activity on this front," he predicted.

Nor did Birns look to Tea Party-style incoming Republicans to break with drug war orthodoxy. He cited campaign season attacks from Tea Party candidates that Washington was "soft on drugs" and suggested that despite the occasional articulation of anti-drug war themes from some candidates, "the decision makers in the Tea Party are not going to sanction a softening on drugs in any way."

"I'm not aware of a single reference to the prospective drug policy of the new class of representatives," said Birns. "It seems to have become desaparicido when it comes to hemispheric policy."

"The Tea Partiers are very vague on foreign policy in general, and we're seeing things like John McCain coming out and attacking Rand Paul for not being interventionist enough," noted Tree.

Despite calls from conservatives for vigorous budget cutting, Tree was skeptical that the Latin American drug war budget would be cut. "In the Heritage Foundation budget cut report, for example, they killed ONDCP's funding and foreign assistance, but nothing from the military budget," he noted. "Maybe they can find some common ground on the drug war, but I'm not holding my breath."

"We haven’t heard them say too much yet," said Isaacson, disagreeing with Tree. "But they don't have any money. The Tea party wants to cut the budget and the foreign aid budget is most vulnerable. Even the Merida Initiative could be in play," he said.

But, Isaacson said, the old-school hard-liners are already at work. He cited a Wednesday conference on Capitol Hill called Danger in the Andes, which explores the "threat" from Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba.

"A lot of these new guys went," he said. "John Walters, Roger Noriega, and Otto Reich were there. Good to see some new faces," he laughed painfully.

"We still don't know much about the Tea Party when it comes to foreign policy," said Juan Carlos Hidalgo of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute. "Whether these guys will follow their budget-cutting instincts and look to reduce foreign aid and the military presence abroad, or whether they will follow the neoconservative wing of the party that believes in empire and strong defense and pursuing interventionist policies all over the world is the question," he said.

"I expect more of the same under the Republicans," said Hidalgo. "I don't foresee big changes. This Tea Party is going to play conservative when it comes to the war on drugs," he predicted. "But I haven't seen a single Tea Partier say what they believe on this issue. We have to give them six months to a year to show their colors."

Mexican Marines being trained by US Marines
The Tea Party movement has already shown conflicting tendencies within it when it comes to foreign policy in general and US drug policy in Latin America in particular, Hidalgo argued. "Some part of it is militaristic and interventionist, like Sarah Palin. On the other hand, there are people link Rand Paul, who stands for a non-interventionist foreign policy and who thinks drug policy should be reassessed," he said. "We don't know how that is going to play out."

But Hidalgo strongly suggested he thought that it wasn't going to be in a reformist direction. "Even though the Tea Partiers believe in smaller government, the movement has been hijacked by the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party," he said. "Its biggest names are Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, both of whom are ultraconservative Republicans. I would be pleasantly surprised to see Tea Party representatives come into office and say the war on drugs is a failure, a big waste of money that has failed miserably. They claim they will look at every single budget item, and what better way to cut spending? I'll believe it when I see it," he said.

One thing that managed to win reluctant Democratic votes for funding the drug wars in Colombia and Mexico was human rights conditionality, meaning that -- in theory, at least -- US assistance could be pared back if those countries did not address identified human rights concerns. With tens of thousands dead in both Mexico and Colombia in the drug war, with widespread allegations of torture and abuses in both countries, the issue should be on the front burner.

In reality, human rights concerns always took a back seat to the imperatives of realpolitik. That's likely to be even more the case with Republicans in control of the House.

"There is not going to be much sympathy to human rights as a driver of US policy," said Birns. "The Republicans initially used human rights as an anti-communist vehicle; it was never meant to be used against rightists. Given that the Obama administration has been conspicuously silent on Latin America, human rights, like drug policy reform, is an issue that has largely disappeared from the public debate. If anything, the noise level of things to come on drug policy will be significantly lowered. Whatever was in the air about new approaches has pretty much been put to bed for the winter."

"On Plan Merida, the Democrats attached human rights conditions because of concerns the Mexican army was committing human rights abuses," said Hidalgo. "It's an open question whether a Republican House will be less concerned about human rights when it comes to helping Mexico, or will they say we should cut spending there?"

For Hidalgo, the big election news in 2010 was not the change in the House of Representatives, but the defeat of Proposition 19 in California.

"Before the vote, several Latin American leaders, including Colombian President Santos, said that if it were to pass, that would force Colombia to reconsider its drug policy and the war on drugs and bring this issue to international forums like the United Nations," he said. "That gave many of us hope that Colombia would precipitate an international discussion on whether to continue the current approach or to adopt a more sensible approach like Portugal or the Netherlands," he said. "Now, that is not going to happen."

Washington, DC
United States

Drug Prohibition War Forces Flight from Mexican Town

Localização: 
Ciudad Mier, TAM
Mexico
Around 300 people have abandoned the town of Ciudad Mier, fleeing drug prohibition violence from traffickers who were threatening residents. The town, one of numerous cities on borderlands believed to be in dispute by two rival organizations, is a stone's throw from the border of Texas. More than 60 people have been killed in the town of about 6,000 people this year.
Publication/Source: 
The Wall Street Journal (NY)
URL: 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703848204575608990334970362.html

Drug Prohibition War Prompts Text Message Alert System at UT-Brownsville

Localização: 
Brownsville, TX
United States
The University of Texas-Brownsville/Texas Southmost College is planning an emergency text messaging system as part of its strategy to alert students and faculty to dangers amid the drug prohibition war raging across the Rio Grande. One recent intelligence alert had campus police knocking on dorm doors in the middle of the night to warn students to stay indoors.
Publication/Source: 
San Antonio Express-News (TX)
URL: 
http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/drug_war_prompts_text_message_alert_system_at_ut-brownsville_107093873.html

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 in August. 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.

Mexico's former president Vicente Fox supported Prop 19
Wednesday, October 27

In Nayarit, 15 people were shot and killed after being attacked by heavily armed gunmen at a carwash. All the dead were workers at the car wash. The exact motive for the killings is unclear, and Mexican officials are denying initial reports that the men are former drug addicts.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, interviewing with Mexico's W radio network, gave his full support to California's Proposition 19 initiative to legalize marijuana. Fox told the network, "How great it would be for California to set this example. May God let it pass. The other US states will have to follow step." Fox added that Mexico has taken "the least productive route, which is fighting violence with violence. Violence never resolves violence," also commenting that Mexico's legal exports would go up if marijuana were legalized and peasants could legally grow it.

Thursday, October 28

In Mexico City, six young men were gunned down outside a store. The victims were all in their 20’s, and several had criminal records. Mexican media sources have stated that the men were members of Los Perros, a Mexico City gang that is known to have ties to the Zetas Organization. The incident took place in Tepito, a neighborhood known for black market activity.

Near Ciudad Juarez, four people were killed and 15 were wounded after gunmen attacked three buses taking workers to a Maquiladora factory owned by US-based automobile interior company Eagle Ottawa.

Friday, October 29

The director of Puente Grande prison was arrested because of alleged ties to drug cartels during his tenure as a high-level official at the federal Attorney General’s Office. He had resigned from his post in 2008 after a corruption probe that led to the arrest of several officials for ties to the Beltran-Leyva Organization. He was named to be director of Puente Grande prison in early 2010. Puente Grande is notorious as the prison from which Sinaloa Cartel boss "El Chapo" Guzman escaped in 2001.

Sunday, October 31

In Ciudad Juarez, seven people were murdered in several incidents across the city. This brings the monthly total for October to 352 homicides, making it the most violent month in the history of the city. The number exceeds the yearly total of many previous years. The previous highest monthly death toll was August of this year, in which 339 people were murdered. The total so far for 2010 is nearly 2,700 murders. October was also the most deadly month for women in Ciudad Juarez, with 48 women murdered. Almost 300 women have been killed in the city this year.

Monday, November 1

In Ciudad Juarez, three people were killed in two separate incidents. This is the lowest daily death toll in the city the last three months.

In Chihuahua, Mexican authorities said that four American citizens were among the most recent victims of Mexico’s drug war. On Sunday, Arturo Sandoval, 35, of El Paso, was shot and killed in a triple homicide in Ciudad Juarez. On Saturday, a 26-year old American woman and her 15-year old son were gunned down with a Mexican national shortly after crossing the bridge from El Paso. On Friday, a 24-year old American woman was among two people killed by gunmen inside a taco store.

Total Body Count for the Week: 82

Total Body Count for the Year:  8,789

Read the previous Mexico Drug War Update here.

Officials: Beyond Hartley Case, 92 Americans Killed in Mexico

Localização: 
Mexico
According to the U.S. Department of State, 92 Americans have been reported as victims of homicide in Mexico from June 2009 to June 2010. On September 10, the agency issued a travel warning for Americans planning to head to Mexico. It warned against taking unnecessary trips to Michoacán, Tamaulipas, parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango and Coahuila because of the ongoing drug prohibition violence.
Publication/Source: 
The Monitor (CA)
URL: 
http://www.themonitor.com/articles/hartley-44082-killed-shot.html

Drug Prohibition Gunmen Kill 13 at Tijuana Drug Rehab Home

Localização: 
Tijuana, BCN
Mexico
Police in Tijuana, Mexico, said 13 people were lined up and shot to death at a drug rehabilitation center.
Publication/Source: 
United Press International (DC)
URL: 
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2010/10/25/Gunmen-kill-13-at-Tijuana-drug-rehab-home/UPI-60861288017286/

Texas National Guard Soldier Killed in Mexico Went Despite Warning

Localização: 
Ciudad Juárez, CHH
Mexico
Pfc. Jose Gil Hernandez, a Texas National Guard soldier, was gunned down in violent Ciudad Juarez. He crossed the border despite the Guard urging soldiers not on active duty to stay out of Mexico. Hernandez is at least the third American serviceman killed in Juarez since the drug prohibition war began.
Publication/Source: 
The Washington Post (DC)
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/21/AR2010102105458.html

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