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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #50 on: November 19, 2007, 11:45:45 PM »

Mexico Security Memo: Nov. 19, 2007
November 19, 2007 19 22  GMT



Turf Battles

So far this month, one of the deadliest days in Mexico has been Nov. 17, when at least 11 drug-related deaths were reported in six states. From charred bodies discovered in Chiapas state to armed men storming a house to kill two presumed drug dealers in Durango state, the killings provide a snapshot of violence in a country where approximately 2,400 people have died violently so far this year.

The cartel turf battles that produced much of this violence have led to important shifts in cartels' areas of territorial control. The federal attorney general's office reported this past week that the town of Zamora, in Michoacan state, is now in the hands of elements of the Gulf cartel, following a long battle with members of the Sinaloa-linked Valencia cartel. As long as rival gangs continue to fight for control of lucrative smuggling routes, shifts such as this one should be expected to continue -- along with the violence that accompanies them.


Political Violence

One of the biggest challenges to counternarcotics operations in Mexico has been corruption not only of law enforcement personnel but also of government officials. In addition to threatening, killing and kidnapping officials already in office, organized crime groups have demonstrated an interest in influencing the election process. An incident this past week in Michoacan state underscored this trend. On Nov. 16 in Zamora, as the election commission was tallying up the final vote from local elections held Nov. 11, a group of armed men entered the commission's office, threatened members and set fire to documents related to the election. Political candidates and their campaign staffs also have been subject to violence. At least one candidate for office in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, was reportedly abducted before a vote there last week while another candidate's financial adviser was said to have been kidnapped.

The waters of political violence are murky in Mexico, where it is common to hear of politicians dispatching henchmen to intimidate or eliminate their rivals. There is an element of truth to some of these rumors, especially in a country where the presidency and top levels of government were dominated by one political party for more than 70 years. However, drug trafficking organizations also have a strong interest in promoting candidates that are on their payroll. In some cases, politicians might even have knowledge of cartel actions against opponents, and frequently the henchmen hired by political candidates will have ties to the cartels.


Body Snatching

More than 50 armed men entered the city morgue in Ensenada, Baja California state, early Nov. 15 to remove the body of man who had died three days before in a helicopter accident while following the Baja 1000 car race. The heavily armed group reportedly arrived in more than a dozen vehicles, stormed the building and loaded the body into a vehicle, firing assault rifles at police officers before fleeing. Prior to the theft, two unidentified individuals had reportedly attempted to claim the body but authorities did not release it.

Although it appears certain that the body belonged to an important member of the Tijuana cartel, there is official confusion as to who the man was, likely because the body was registered at the morgue under a pseudonym. Initial reports from authorities in Baja California state indicated that the man was Francisco Medardo León Hinojosa, aka El Abulón, a high-ranking lieutenant in the Tijuana organization. Later reports from the federal attorney general's office suggested that the missing body belonged to the son of Alicia Arellano Felix, one of the siblings of the Arellano Felix crime family that runs the Tijuana cartel. Reportedly there had been a strong security presence at the morgue prior to the theft to prevent any such action; the incident highlights how police forces are no match for well-equipped -- and well-informed -- cartels.






Nov. 12


Authorities in Sinaloa state reported finding the body of a man along a highway. He had been bound at the hands and wrapped in a blanket.


Nov. 13


A high-ranking police commander from Acambaro, Guanajuato state, was shot to death while driving along a rural road.


Nov. 14


The director of public security in Toluca, Mexico state, was unhurt following an apparent attempt on his life when two men on a motorcycle fired several shots into his vehicle.


Nov. 15


Two people died and one was wounded in a firefight involving automatic weapons and rival drug-trafficking gangs in Tamazula, Durango state.


Fire crews from Laredo, Texas, crossed the border to assist the Nuevo Laredo fire department in battling more than 20 fires across the city. Under a mutual aid request, a fire department source confirmed that arson was the cause of many of the blazes, which included grassfires and structural fires.


Nov. 16


Two sailors in the Mexican navy were abducted by armed men from a bar in the Pacific port city of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state. A third who resisted the gunmen was wounded.


A plane believed to have been carrying more than 1 ton of cocaine made an emergency landing on a federal highway in Oaxaca state. The crew succeeded in unloading the cargo, setting fire to the plane and escaping before authorities arrived.


Nov. 17


The bodies of a man and woman were found in Jalisco state. Each had been shot in the head.


A city employee discovered the dismembered body of an unidentified person in a dumpster in Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua state. Body parts were found in two suitcases.


Two men were killed in their home in Durango state when armed men entered the residence and shot them several times. Police believe the men owed money to drug traffickers.


Authorities discovered the burned bodies of two unidentified men along a highway in Chiapas state. The men were bound at the hands and appeared to have been tortured.


Nov. 18


A sailor in the Mexican navy was shot to death by several gunmen as he was walking along a street in Acapulco, Guerrero state. He reportedly was able to fire several rounds from a pistol before being killed.


Six armed men entered a hotel in the Monterrey suburb of San Nicolas de los Garza in Nuevo Leon state, stealing an ATM and the hotel safe. The gunmen subdued three employees and four guests during the incident and exchanged gunfire with police as they fled.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #51 on: November 26, 2007, 02:39:10 PM »

WSJ

Mexican Truck Stop
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
November 26, 2007; Page A20

It's hard to say who came out on top in the Nov. 15 debate among Democratic presidential candidates held in Nevada. But we do know that free trade took a beating. A majority of the candidates disapproved of some or all of the U.S. bilateral and regional trade agreements -- including the North American Free Trade Agreement -- and pledged to reverse the trend toward market opening if given the chance. Hillary Clinton stopped short of promising to undo Nafta but she called for a "trade timeout."

It is troubling to hear the protectionist drumbeat growing louder in the Democratic Party, particularly as it concerns Latin America. The last time Washington adopted an anti-trade bias by signing into law the Smoot-Hawley tariffs in 1930, it set off a world-wide depression -- and a period of isolationism in Latin America that took some 60 years to begin to reverse. Now Democrats seem to be saying that if they can only capture the White House, they are committed to reliving this painful history.

The Democrats' anti-trade agenda is already playing out in Congress, with both houses continuing to block the full opening of the southern border to Mexican long-haul trucks under Nafta. Congress's actions could damage the U.S. economy because Mexico has the legal right to retaliate. What's worse is what this flouting of U.S. commitments to Mexico suggests to the Mexican people about Yankee integrity.

The problem dates back to 1995, when Bill Clinton issued an executive order -- in violation of Nafta, which he had signed into law -- to stop Mexican long-haul trucks from crossing the border. Mr. Clinton was responding to pressure from Teamsters, who didn't want any new competition. He cited safety concerns -- things like substandard drivers and vehicles -- which to this day have never been supported by evidence.

In fact, Mexican trucking companies have a long history of operating in the U.S. and with no notably inferior safety record. Yet their numbers have been limited since 1982, when the Reagan administration announced that until Mexico opened its markets to U.S. competitors, no new licenses would be granted to Mexican carriers. Existing Mexican long-haul trucking businesses had their permits grandfathered, and from 1992-2002 some 1,300 Mexican-domiciled companies -- all of which were majority U.S.-owned -- received "certificates of registration" to deliver "exempt commodities" from Mexico to the U.S.

In other words, there have been plenty of Mexican trucks on U.S. roads all these years -- although not as many as there might be under Nafta. Nevertheless, in a 2002 appropriations bill Congress demanded that they be subject to a new set of safety regulations, some of which are more stringent than U.S. standards. Since that year, the Department of Transportation's Inspector General has audited the safety process at the border annually and has been able to certify that it is working. Mexican carriers are also more heavily insured than their U.S. competitors. Every Mexican truck is required to carry U.S. insurance on top of the insurance it carries in Mexico.

Earlier this year, the DOT analyzed the safety record of Mexican carriers in the U.S. from 2003-2006. It looked at the rate in which trucks received an "out-of-service" designation by DOT inspectors targeting companies with the worst records. The out-of-service rate for U.S. trucks was 23.5%, compared to a rate for trucks from Mexico of 21.29%. Mexican short-haul trucks operating in the border zone also had a better record than the U.S. trucks, with an out-of-service rate of 22.5%.

These statistics ought to be enough to end the debate. But with Teamster pull still strong in Congress, the Bush administration this year offered to introduce a pilot program to allow a limited number of new trucking companies to begin doing business in the U.S. under close DOT scrutiny. The program kicked off on Sept. 6, and there are now seven Mexican companies operating 44 vehicles in the U.S. and four U.S. companies operating 41 vehicles in Mexico. You'd think that those with safety worries would be glad to see such a vigilant approach to the problem. But just after the program started, both the House and the Senate voted to strip its funding in the 2008 budget.

It's not clear whether this budget cut will be sustained. But the effort makes it obvious that Congress is no honest broker. As John Hill, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told me last week: "Every time we move closer to implementing the provisions of Nafta, Congress adds a new provision. It's hard to hit a moving target."

Mr. Hill also challenges the charge that Mexican trucks are not safe. "We've applied strong enforcement guidelines and Mexico has met them. The opponents of Nafta are looking for any way they can find to drum up fear among Americans, even though Mexican trucks have been operating safely in this country for years."

Mexico doesn't have to sit still for this. In February 2001, a Nafta arbitration panel issued a unanimous decision against the U.S. block on Mexican long-haul trucks. Mexico could retaliate with import tariffs on U.S. goods to the tune of $2 billion. In the Nov. 20 issue of the Latin American business magazine Poder y Negocios, Mexican Secretary of Communications and Transportation Luis Tellez said that his country has not ruled out that possibility.

He also expressed frustration with Congress: "The problem is that the Congress is no longer in the frame of mind in which it sees Nafta as something important or something that the U.S. government has to comply with." There are those in Congress, he said, who don't have a clear idea of what Nafta is and others who don't want to "lose points and Teamster support."

During the free trade bashing in Nevada, Mrs. Clinton said that instead of signing new agreements, we "need to get back to enforcing the ones we have, which the Bush administration has not done." When it comes to Nafta and the Mexican trucks we can all agree on the first part of that statement, but the fault lies with Congress, not the president.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #52 on: November 30, 2007, 02:23:47 PM »

Targeting Mexico's Drug Cartels: Is the Sinaloa Federation Next?
Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon stepped up pressure on organized crime and drug trafficking organizations nearly a year ago, the hardest-hit organization has been the Gulf cartel. The extradition of cartel leader Osiel Cardenas-Guillen to the United States, the capture of several Gulf lieutenants and the concentrated presence of security forces in the cartel's territory have combined to put much more pressure on Gulf members than on those belonging to its rival, the Sinaloa federation of cartels. But Mexico City could soon begin targeting high-ranking members of the Sinaloa federation.

U.S. counternarcotics sources say Sinaloa leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, Mexico's most-wanted drug lord, is now believed to be hiding out in Pachuca, a city in the central Mexican state of Hidalgo. Guzman has been on the run since he escaped in 2001 from the Puente Grande maximum security prison in Jalisco state. Identifying the location of one of the most elusive drug traffickers in Mexico is a vital step in expanding the scope of the current war against the cartels.





The city where Guzman is believed to be hiding is not the most likely of locations -- perhaps the reason he has successfully eluded law enforcement for so long. Hidalgo state is not near the Sinaloa cartel's home territory of northwestern Sinaloa state, where Guzman is likely to have more friends and associates willing to aid him. Large cities in Sinaloa territory, however, are places where Mexican authorities would focus their search for him. Far from being an isolated village in the middle of nowhere, Pachuca is a state capital, located about 100 miles from Mexico City. Most important, in a country where cartel territory is violently conquered and defended, Pachuca is an essentially neutral region, in which rival drug traffickers do not have a particular interest in extending their influence.





Despite the risks of arrest and attack by rivals, Guzman has not exactly been hiding under a rock. Although his personal security needs are high -- requiring a large contingent of heavily armed bodyguards -- that fact has not stopped him from taking occasional trips over the last few years. One particularly high-profile event was his wedding in Coahuila state in July, for which the local military commander reportedly ordered some of his soldiers to man roadblocks out of the area -- assumingly following a payoff. While romancing his 18-year-old bride, Guzman reportedly flew to her town in one of his six private aircraft after several hundred security guards had locked down the town.

Such high-profile and public movements simply mean that Guzman has been receiving assistance from a variety of official sources. In the world of Mexican organized crime, it is common for high-ranking cartel figures to have law enforcement officers and military personnel on their payrolls. They also typically have strong connections to government officials at all levels, who provide protection in exchange for financial contributions. Guzman has a long history of buying off officials who are in the position to help him. In the Puente Grande prison break, for instance, at least 30 guards were implicated in assisting in the escape.

Since Calderon's crackdown, Mexican authorities have been cooperating more and more with their more capable U.S. counterparts. They most likely focused on the Gulf cartel first because, unlike Sinaloa territory, the area in northeastern Mexico controlled by the Gulf cartel has more important industrial and commercial interests. This kind of coordination could be what is needed to take Guzman into custody.

It is unclear exactly what will happen to the Sinaloa federation once Guzman is out of the picture, though it unlikely will maintain its current form. The Sinaloa cartel leads a federation of smaller drug trafficking organizations, most significantly the Zambada Garcia organization and the Esparragoza organization, both of which are led by former high-ranking Juarez cartel members. With Guzman either dead or in custody, the leaders of these groups could reassess their relationships with the Sinaloa group, resulting in a loss of a significant portion of Sinaloa's territory and limiting its ability to import South American cocaine.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #53 on: December 07, 2007, 09:39:41 PM »

Iran-Mexico meeting deepens ties to Islam
President Calderon welcomes Khatami in effort to bypass confrontational West

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted: December 7, 2007
4:50 p.m. Eastern
By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com

Mexican President Felipe Calderon welcomed former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami to Mexico City
In a little notice meeting reflecting growing ties between South America and the Islamic world, Mexican President Felipe Calderon welcomed former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami to Mexico City. The two leaders met Wednesday at Los Pinos, Mexico's official presidential residence, to discuss deepening cultural bonds with the Islamic world in the face of Western notions of a "clash of civilizations.

The visit drew virtually no mention in the press outside of Mexico, even in Iran.

Khatami came at the invitation of the International Center for Dialogue between Civilizations, established in 2006 at the Colegio de San Luis in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi. A notice on the Colegio de San Luis website said Khatami spoke at the center to oppose the main thesis of Harvard University professor Samuel Huntington's seminal 1996 book "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order."

In his speech, Khatami proclaimed a "Dialogue among Civilizations," a theme echoing a 2001 U.N. declaration. Similarly, a statement by Calderon emphasized, in diplomatic language, that Khatami was promoting an exchange of opinions "concerning the roads available to promote peaceful co-existence among natures and cultures."

The Mexican newspaper La Jornada echoed the presidential statement: "The government of Mexico shares the conviction that dialogue and negotiation should be promoted as the preferred means to advance agreements."

The radical leftist La Voz de Aztlan in Los Angeles characterized the Khatami-Calderon meeting as "part of a growing alliance between Mexico, South America and Islam."  La Voz de Aztlan also noted, "President Calderon has been worried about the growing racist hostility against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the USA."

The online publication said the visit "may signal the beginning of a new international alignment that may bring into reality what Patrick Buchanan wrote in his new book, 'Day of Reckoning.'"

In July, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met in Tehran with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reflecting Tehran's recent campaign to develop closer ties with Latin America. In September, Ahmadinejad met with Fidel Castro in Cuba, where the communist dictator endorsed the Iranian leader's efforts to further the goals of the Islamic revolution begun by Ayatollah Khomeini.

The International Center for Dialogue between Civilizations was opened in 2006 by Islamic Dawa of Chauen, a militant Shiite Islamic group originally formed in Iraq, and the radical Junta Islamica of Spain.

Chauen is a city in the Mexican province of Marruecos with historic ties to the Berbers in Morocco. The Junta Islamica derives from the descendents of the Moriscos, the Spanish Muslims expelled from Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group noted for aggressively promoting the rights of Hispanic immigrants, characterizes the Nation of Aztlan, publisher of La Voz de Aztlan, as a "tiny Chicano group that pushes racism and homophobia." Aztlan is the name for the mythical place of origin of the Aztec people. In the politics of Hispanic immigration, Aztlan has come to represent the part of the southwestern United States, including a large part of California, sought by the Reconquista movement for Mexico.

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« Reply #54 on: December 14, 2007, 11:48:10 AM »

U.S.: Targeted Officer Killings Crossing the Border?
Police in Arizona were still searching Dec. 14 for two suspects involved in a recent home invasion targeting a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Tucson. The agent told police that he woke early Dec. 9 as four armed men forcibly entered his home. At least one suspect fired at the agent, at which point he retrieved his service weapon and returned fire as the suspects retreated in a sport utility vehicle (SUV). His shots apparently struck at least one of the suspects, who was found shot to death several hours later in a rural area. Another suspect was later detained after police discovered the SUV in flames, apparently set ablaze by the attackers in order to destroy evidence.

Home invasions can have a variety of motives. In this case, the incident very likely involved a failed assassination attempt -- an idea that raises concerns about new forms of violence associated with Mexican organized crime crossing the border.

There are several reasons to believe this home invasion was not a random occurrence but rather an intentional attempt to kill the agent. First, the agent reportedly drove a Border Patrol vehicle that he parked at home every night -- and criminals looking for an easy burglary target are unlikely to pick the home of an armed law enforcement officer. Second, though police have officially said that no motive has been determined, one blog reporting on this incident has described police sources as saying it involved an assassination attempt gone wrong.

This attack, then, was almost certainly associated with some element of Mexican organized crime. Drug trafficking organizations and smuggling groups certainly would have had an interest in targeting the agent, and Mexico's drug cartels are notorious for violent killings targeting police officers and army personnel across Mexico, carried out by highly trained and heavily armed former military members employed by the cartels. For instance, at least seven Mexican police officers were killed and five wounded last week alone in incidents involving grenades, assault rifles, assassinations, and one kidnapping and fatal beating.

Though cartels' hit men have ample resources and there is evidence they have operated cells inside the United States, the suspects in the Tucson case more likely belonged to a U.S.-based gang working on behalf of a Mexican criminal organization.
The fact that the two suspects who have been identified are 19 and 20 years old suggests that they are not the experienced military-trained operatives employed by Mexico's drug cartels. Also, experienced and trained operatives would not have retreated after being fired at by one person -- and, frankly, an attack by more seasoned operatives most likely would not have failed. Even if the attackers had experience targeting poorly-trained police officers in Mexico, it is much more difficult to successfully attack a well-trained U.S. federal law enforcement officer.

Though there is currently no evidence that the agent in this case was involved in illegal activity, it is important to note that many police and government officials targeted for assassination in Mexico have been paid off by a rival criminal organization. Corruption has not been limited to the Mexican side of the border; many low-paid agents in the United States have found themselves facing the dilemma of "plata o plomo" -- "silver or lead" -- which means take a bribe or take a bullet.

Police also are often targeted simply for doing their job. For example, after Mexican police in the border city of Tecate shut down a smuggling tunnel running under the border last week, a group of gunmen entered the home of a Tecate police commander -- who had been on the job less than a week -- and shot him more than 50 times while he lay in bed. His family was unharmed, though this was not the case when a former police officer in Mexico's Sinaloa state was shot to death, along with his wife and three young daughters, at his home several weeks ago.

While targeted killings of police are common in Mexico, they have yet to reach similar levels in the United States. Over the last few years, though, there has been an increasing trend of criminal activity commonplace in Mexico spreading north across the border, including kidnapping, threats against journalists and extortion. This latest incident raises concerns that targeted killings of police officers could be the next form of violence exported across the border.

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« Reply #55 on: January 01, 2008, 10:27:54 PM »

Mexico Security Memo: Dec. 27, 2007
Stratfor Today » December 27, 2007 | 2021 GMT
Organized Crime in Baja California
An unknown number of assailants attacked the newly appointed police chief of Playas de Rosarito, Jorge Eduardo Montero Alvarez, on Dec. 18, killing one policeman and injuring at least one other. The attack happened at about 1 p.m. when approximately 10 vehicles pulled up to the building where Montero Alvarez and his bodyguards were getting out of their vehicles and the assailants opened fire with high-caliber weapons. The police repelled the attack, returning fire with AK-47 and R-15 rifles; Montero Alvarez was not hurt. Three vans spotted in the attack were later found abandoned nearby.

The attack followed a Dec. 17 announcement by Mexican President Felipe Calderon that the federal government would aid in a crackdown on organized crime with a deployment by the Mexican military to Playas de Rosarito. The attack was a definite signal of cartel displeasure; similar attacks have occurred elsewhere in connection with major anti-cartel operations. Following the announcement and the attack, an undisclosed number of soldiers arrived Dec. 19 to patrol the city, both tourist areas and high-crime residential areas.

Playas de Rosarito, which adjoins Tijuana in Baja California state, has experienced rising problems with organized crime. Extensive corruption among public officials, including law enforcement officers, has exacerbated this problem. The federal government launched Operation Tijuana in January, sending more than 3,000 troops to battle local drug gangs. The deployment to Playas de Rosarito marks the expansion of the federal mandate to combat organized crime in the Tijuana-San Diego border area.

Border Crossings in Arizona
Arrests of illegal border crossers near Yuma, Arizona, fell more than two-thirds during 2007, in part a result of a variety of new barriers covering a 48-mile stretch of the border. Ranging from simple road barriers to more extensive fencing installations, the Yuma Sector barriers do not form a solid wall along the border, but instead use barricades targeted to meet the needs of the landscape and adjusted as appropriate to the relative accessibility of each area. While the barriers alone have contributed greatly to the drop, other measures like an increased law enforcement presence on the border and threat of jail time for first-time illegal crossings by adults deserve credit, too.

The drop in arrests following the fence-building program in the Yuma Sector represents a significant success, as the sector had experienced a significant growth in arrests in previous years. Although overall arrests by the U.S. Border Patrol along the U.S.-Mexican border fell from 1.4 million to 1.1 million from 1997 to 2006, crossings in the Yuma Sector skyrocketed from 30,000 to 119,000 during the same period. Despite this success, the crossings probably have shifted to other sectors as immigrants seek easier routes, a well-established phenomenon. For instance, although total arrests in the San Diego Sector have fallen by about 142,000 in the last nine years, the reduction has been counterbalanced by crossings elsewhere. Thus, aggregate numbers in the Tucson Sector rose by around 120,000 during the same period.


The Secure Fence Act of 2006 that initiated and supports fencing projects like the one in the Yuma Sector underwent substantial changes Dec. 21, as the omnibus spending bill signed in to law by U.S. President George W. Bush contains language that makes fence building nonmandatory and leaves all barrier construction at the discretion of the Homeland Security secretary. The act originally mandated 700 miles of double fencing split among five different sectors. The mandate was modeled after the San Diego method of a two-fence barrier, which was shown to be 95 percent effective in reducing illegal border crossings along a 14-mile stretch of border dividing San Diego and Tijuana from 1992-2004.

Beheadings Spreading to Capital?
The headless bodies of five people have been found in Mexico City since Dec. 17, at least four of whom were customs agents from Mexico City International Airport. Two of the headless agents were discovered wrapped in plastic and stuffed in the trunk of a car in Tlaneplanta, a northern district of Mexico City, El Nuevo Diario reported Dec. 17. The victims’ heads and two severed fingers were left on the street. A finger was placed in one victims’ mouth, while the other was put in the ear of the second victim. Two other bodies were found in similar configurations. Another body had severed hands.

The precision of the beheadings indicate the men were assassinated by professionals, while the placement of the fingers indicates the men were suspected of informing to the police. Although the motive behind the killings remains unclear, they occurred the day after the seizure of half a ton of cocaine at Mexico City International Airport, leading the authorities to suspect the murders came in retaliation.

Beheadings by organized criminal elements are common in Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Michoacán states, where drug cartel operations are widespread. The gruesome tactic has not been used commonly in Mexico City, however. These incidents could be an ominous sign the tactic may be spreading to the heart of Mexico.


Dec. 17
Two decapitated bodies of Mexico City International Airport customs agents were found in Mexico City.
The body of a 18 year-old man with a gunshot wound to the head was found floating in the Lerma River in Guanajuato state.
Two handcuffed bodies were found with evidence of torture in Cancún, Quintana Roo state.
The bullet-riddled bodies of two young men were found in Tijuana, Baja California state. One of the bodies was located inside a vehicle, while the other was found 900 feet away.
A man was killed after being stabbed 25 times in Mexico City. His wife was left alive, but was in critical condition after being stabbed twice by an unknown assailant.
The body of an unidentified man was found in Guerrero state. He had been shot at least 30 times with a variety of weapons that appear to include an AR-15, an AK-47 and at least one handgun.
Dec. 18
Assailants traveling in 10 cars attacked Jorge Eduardo Montero Alvarez, the newly appointed police chief of Playas de Rosarito, Baja California state. Although Montero Alvarez was unharmed, one of his bodyguards was killed and at least one civilian was injured.
Suspected assassins shot and killed three off-duty soldiers and wounded another at a shopping mall in Torreón, Coahuila state, late Dec. 18. An air force member also was injured in the shooting.
Dec. 19
A group used high-powered rifles to attack two men in Nuevo Leon state, injuring the pair.
Two people sitting in a car with foreign plates in Mocorito, Sinaloa, were executed with a .38-caliber gun.
The corpse of a 24-year-old man was discovered with evidence of blunt trauma and a bullet wound from a 9 mm weapon in Culiacán, Sinaloa.
The dead body of a man was found bound with adhesive tape; AK-47 rounds were found around the body.
The body of a farmer was found floating near a dam in the vicinity of the Tandhe community in Hidalgo state. Three suspects have been arrested in connection with the murder.
Dec. 20
The body of a young man who had been stabbed to death was found in Venta de Cruz, Mexico state. The man had been reported missing after he was taken into custody Dec. 9 by individuals who identified themselves as members of the Mexican Federal Agency of Investigations.
The body of a taxi driver who had been shot five times was found in Huasca, Hidalgo state, the fourth killing of a taxi driver in the past two months.
Dec. 21
A taxi driver was found dead in Cuautepec de Hinojosa, Hidalgo state, buried under a pile of rocks. He had been reported missing Dec. 17.
The bodies of two men were found shot in the head in an automobile in Mexico state.
The bodies of a man and his son killed by several unknown assailants in Culiacán, Sinaloa state, were found. The attackers reportedly fired at least 20 rounds at the pair.
Dec. 22
The body of an unidentified middle-aged man was found by authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state. The victim had been shot in the head and face and was tied with a plastic rope.
The bullet-riddled body of an unidentified young man was found in a parking lot in a commercial district in Tijuana, Baja California state. Although police reported to the scene rapidly, they failed to find the perpetrators.
The body of a teacher who had been shot to death was found on the side of a road near El Zapote bridge in Guerrero state. He had been carrying about $800 in pesos; a note was appended to his corpse.
The body of an unidentified man who had been strangled to death was found in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state. The state attorney general’s office initially erroneously identified the man as ex-policeman Alberto González Escobar of Ciudad Juárez, who has been reported missing.
Dec. 24
The body of an unknown man was found shot in the head, naked and bound at the hands and feet in Guerrero state. Evidence indicates the corpse of the man, who had been dead for quite some time, was transported to the site where it was found.
Gunfire killed three people in two separate incidents in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
Dec. 25
A gunfight between members of the Mexican army and presumed members of organized criminal groups in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, resulted in two injuries.
Dec. 26
Four people died of gunshot wounds in separate incidents in Tijuana state in a 72-hour period. No suspects have been detained.
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« Reply #56 on: January 06, 2008, 04:49:51 PM »

As an Angeleno, news of Rosarito is of particular interest to me:
==============
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080105/ap_on_bi_ge/mexico_frightened_tourists

Tourists shun crime-hit Mexico beaches By ELLIOT SPAGAT, Associated Press Writer
Sat Jan 5, 1:24 PM ET
 
PLAYAS DE ROSARITO, Mexico - Assaults on American tourists have brought hard times to hotels and restaurants that dot Mexican beaches just south of the border from San Diego.

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Surfers and kayakers are frightened to hit the waters of the northern stretch of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, long popular as a weekend destination for U.S. tourists. Weddings have been canceled. Lobster joints a few steps from the Pacific were almost empty on the usually busy New Year's weekend.

Americans have long tolerated shakedowns by police who boost salaries by pulling over motorists for alleged traffic violations, and tourists know parts of Baja are a hotbed of drug-related violence. But a handful of attacks since summer by masked, armed bandits — some of whom used flashing lights to appear like police — marks a new extreme that has spooked even longtime visitors.

Lori Hoffman, a San Diego-area emergency room nurse, said she was sexually assaulted Oct. 23 by two masked men in front of her boyfriend, San Diego Surfing Academy owner Pat Weber, who was forced to kneel at gunpoint for 45 minutes. They were at a campground with about 30 tents, some 200 miles south of the border.

The men shot out windows of the couple's trailer and forced their way inside, ransacked the cupboards and left with about $7,000 worth of gear, including computers, video equipment and a guitar.

Weber, who has taught dozens of students in Mexico over the last 10 years, plans to surf in Costa Rica or New Zealand. "No more Mexico," said Hoffman, who reported the attack to Mexican police. No arrests have been made.

The Baja California peninsula is known worldwide for clean and sparsely populated beaches, lobster and margaritas and blue waters visited by whales and dolphins. Surfers love the waves; fishermen catch tuna, yellowtail and marlin. Food and hotels are cheap.

News of harrowing assaults on American tourists has begun to overshadow that appeal in the northern part of the peninsula, home to drug gangs and the seedy border city of Tijuana. The comparatively isolated southern tip, with its tony Los Cabos resort, remains safer and is still popular with Hollywood celebrities, anglers and other foreign tourists.

Local media and surfing Web sites that trumpeted Baja in the past have reported several frightening crimes that U.S. and Mexican officials consider credible. Longtime visitors are particularly wary of a toll road near the border that runs through Playas de Rosarito — Rosarito Beach.

In late November, as they returned from the Baja 1000 off-road race, a San Diego-area family was pulled over on the toll road by a car with flashing lights. Heavily armed men held the family hostage for two hours. They eventually released them but stole the family's truck.

Before dawn on Aug. 31, three surfers were carjacked on the same stretch of highway. Gunmen pulled them over in a car with flashing lights, forced them out of their vehicles and ordered one to kneel. They took the trucks and left the surfers.

Aqua Adventures of San Diego scrapped its annual three-day kayak trip to scout for whales in January, ending a run of about 10 years. Customers had already been complaining about longer waits to return to the U.S.; crime gave them another reason to stay away.

"People are just saying, 'No way.' They don't want to deal with the risk," said owner Jen Kleck, who has sponsored trips to Baja about five times a year but hasn't been since July.

Charles Smith, spokesman for the U.S. consulate in Tijuana, said the U.S. government has not found a widespread increase in attacks against Americans, but he acknowledged many crimes go unreported. The State Department has long warned motorists on Mexico's border to watch for people following them, though no new warnings have been issued.

Mexican officials acknowledge crime has threatened a lifeblood of Baja's economy. In Playas de Rosarito, a city of 130,000, police were forced to surrender their weapons last month for testing to determine links to any crimes. Heavily armed men have patrolled City Hall since a failed assassination attempt on the new police chief left one officer dead. On Thursday the bullet-riddled bodies of a Tijuana police official and another man were found dumped near the beach.

"We cannot minimize what's happening to public safety," said Oscar Escobedo Carignan, Baja's new secretary of tourism. "We're going to impose order ... We're indignant about what's happening."

Tourist visits to Baja totaled about 18 million in 2007, down from 21 million the previous year, Escobedo said. Hotel occupancy dropped about 5 percentage points to 53 percent.

Hugo Torres, owner of the storied Rosarito Beach Hotel and the city's new mayor, estimates the number of visitors to Rosarito Beach since summer is down 30 percent.

In the city's Puerto Nuevo tourist enclave, which offers $20 lobster dinners and $1 margaritas, restaurant managers said sales were down as much as 80 percent from last year. One Saturday afternoon in October, masked bandits wielding pistols walked the streets and kidnapped two men — an American and a Spanish citizen — who were later released unharmed. Two people who were with them were shot and wounded.

Omar Armendariz, who manages a Puerto Nuevo lobster restaurant, is counting on the new state and city governments to make tourists feel safer. He has never seen fewer visitors in his nine years on the job.

"It's dead," he said.
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« Reply #57 on: January 22, 2008, 08:16:20 AM »

New York Times

January 22, 2008

Mexico Hits Drug Gangs With Full Fury of War

By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
RÍO BRAVO, Mexico —

These days, it is easy to form the impression that a war is going on in Mexico. Thousands of elite troops in battle gear stream toward border towns and snake through the streets in jeeps with .50-caliber machine guns mounted on top while fighter jets from the Mexican Navy fly reconnaissance missions overhead.

Gun battles between federal forces and drug-cartel members carrying rocket-propelled-grenade launchers have taken place over the past two weeks in border towns like Río Bravo and Tijuana, with deadly results.

Yet what is happening is less a war than a sustained federal intervention in states where for decades corrupt municipal police officers and drug gangs have worked together in relative peace, officials say. The federal forces are not only hunting cartel leaders, but also going after their crews of gunslingers, like Gulf Cartel guards known as the Zetas, who terrorize the towns they control.

The onslaught has broken up a longstanding system in which the local police looked the other way for a bribe and cartel leaders went about their business.

In Río Bravo, for instance, the state police station sits across the street from a walled compound that until recently was used as a safe house by Zeta gunmen. A deadly gunfight broke out when federal agents tried to arrest men carrying machine guns in a car.

As grenades exploded and gunfire ripped the air, Jesús Vasquez, 65, dived behind the dusty counter of his store. He hugged the concrete and prayed.

“It was ugly,” he recalled. “It’s the first time something like this has happened.”

President Felipe Calderón, who won office in 2006 on a promise to create jobs, has spent most of his first year in office trying to break up organized crime rings. To the consternation of some liberals here, he has mobilized the military to do it, sending 6,000 troops into Tamaulipas state alone.

As those troops, along with thousands of federal agents, have begun putting pressure on drug gangs, the midlevel mobsters and hit men have put up a surprising amount of resistance. Again and again, they have chosen to fight it out rather than surrender.

They have ambushed and killed more than 20 police officers this year. In the past two weeks, four federal agents and three Baja California police commanders have been assassinated, along with the wife and child of one of them, apparently in retaliation for arrests, law enforcement officials said.

That violence has spread to the United States. On Saturday morning, drug-smuggling suspects from Mexico killed an American border patrol agent, Luis Aguilar, 32, when he tried to stop their cars in sand dunes about 20 miles west of Yuma, Ariz., then fled back across the border. Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, said the killing demonstrated how Mexican criminal organizations had responded to the crackdown on their operations with increasing brutality.

“The Zetas are defying the state,” said Jorge Chabat, an expert on narcotics trafficking and security at CIDE, a Mexican research group. “This operation in the north of Mexico in recent days has no precedent.”

It remains to be seen whether Mr. Calderón’s strategy will work in the long run. Many of the nation’s most-wanted drug kingpins continue to elude federal forces, often with the help of local police officers.

Some federal officers admit privately that they face an uphill battle as long as local police officers continue to tip off drug gangs about their movements. The threat became clear on Saturday when federal officials arrested four local policemen in Nuevo Laredo, along with seven civilians, and charged them with feeding the Zetas information over police radio frequencies.

“You cannot count on the local police,” said a veteran federal inspector in Reynosa, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. “The problem lies in the state police. They are completely at the service of these guys.”

In Tamaulipas state, just south of eastern Texas, the government’s focus has been on strangling the Zetas. Founded by former Mexican commandos trained in the United States, the Zetas have long been the professional assassins of the Gulf Cartel, which controls the flow of drugs along the Gulf Coast and across the Texas border. The group is believed to have scores of members, though the exact number is unknown.

The gunmen remain a formidable force, the authorities say. Federal police commanders in the state must stay on the move and keep their location secret to avoid assassination attempts. The state federal attorney general’s office has been vacant for months; officials in Mexico City say they are having trouble filling the post.

Edgar Millán, a federal police commander who is in charge of tracking down the Zetas, said a contingent of 1,200 officers in Tamaulipas searched every day for members of the group, hitting specific targets believed to be safe houses and watching for cars carrying gunmen.

The federal police also run a system of 10 checkpoints on major highways in the eastern half of the state. Most of the time, they stop cars with tinted windows that carry two or more young men, hoping to make it harder for the gunmen to move.

But the Zetas have a sophisticated spy network as well, Commander Millán said in an interview. They employ taxi drivers, store clerks, street vendors and members of the local police to keep them apprised of the movements of federal officers.

Several times in the past four months, the police have been close to capturing the leader of the cartel, Heriberto Lazcano, only to have him slip away at the last moment, Commander Millán said. Two other important reputed cartel leaders, Jorge Eduardo Costilla and Miguel Ángel Treviño, have also eluded capture.

While the Gulf Cartel leaders remain at large, the government scored a success in Sinaloa on Monday when it captured Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, one of five brothers who are high-ranking lieutenants in the Culiacan-based cartel.

Though the big bosses have slipped through the dragnet — the offensive that was started against the Zetas in late November after a prominent local politician was murdered in Río Bravo — it has paid off in many respects, officials said. The police have arrested about 40 reputed members of the gang and seized dozens of machine guns, rifles, side arms, grenades and boxes of ammunition.

The federal police have also begun to submit local police officers to a battery of tests to determine who might be linked to organized crime. Among the tests are polygraphs, drug tests and the vetting of personal finances. The goal is to weed out collaborators.

Many people here say they welcome the federal intervention, even if it means having columns of troops patrol their streets. But others voice doubt that government forces can ever stamp out the cartel, given its infiltration of the local police. All the federal forces have accomplished, they say, is unleashing more violence.

“Living in Mexico has become very difficult,” said one man who had been searched at a roadblock near Matamoros. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of drug dealers. “Even Colombia is looking better.”

Others complain that the presence of soldiers and federal agents, along with the gun battles, has scared away American tourists, an important source of income. Last year, about six million fewer people visited border towns than in 2006; hotel bookings are down and sales of package tours have fallen steeply, according to the Association of Mexican Hotels and Motels.

“A lot of people used to come over the border to eat and buy things,” said Alfredo Tantu, 40, the owner of El Cazador Restaurant near Río Bravo, as the smell of roasting baby goat wafted from his kitchen. “Now, almost no one comes because of all this police action.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/22/wo...mexico.html?hp
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« Reply #58 on: January 24, 2008, 10:14:10 AM »

A federal police officer escorts a man from one of two mansions in Mexico City where 11 suspected hit men allegedly linked to a seized suspected drug cartel leader were arrested.

January 23, 2008

MEXICO CITY -- Local police were relieved of duty Tuesday in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa as army troops disarmed the officers and searched for evidence that might link them to drug traffickers.

In Nuevo Laredo, soldiers surrounded police headquarters at 8 a.m. and ordered officers to remain inside. Federal troops conducted a similar operation in Tijuana last January, at the beginning of an offensive against Mexico's drug cartels and their allies in the police.

During the first 14 months of his rule, President Felipe Calderon has sent federal troops to at least half a dozen states, including Michoacan in the south and Veracruz on the Gulf. Calderon has vowed to break the power of the traffickers, who wield wide influence over local authorities and intimidate local news media.

At least two drug-trafficking organizations are fighting for control of Nuevo Laredo and its border crossings, a lucrative source of income for smugglers. President Vicente Fox, Calderon's predecessor, sent army troops there in 2005.

But the violence has continued unabated. Several observers in Nuevo Laredo say it is an open secret that many police officers cooperate with traffickers.

In an interview this month with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, Atty. Gen. Eduardo Medina Mora acknowledged that the Calderon government's purges of federal, state and local police were only the beginning.

"There are municipal police forces that have collapsed and that function more as support staff to organized crime rather than as guardians of public safety," Medina Mora said.

Last week, federal police arrested 11 men in Nuevo Laredo, including four police officers, who were said to be operatives for the so-called Gulf cartel.

On Tuesday, all on-duty police officers were confined to their stations and none patrolled the city, according to news reports. About 300 troops of the army's elite Airborne Special Forces Group established checkpoints throughout the city.

"This is an action that is taking place with the full cooperation of the mayor," said Alberto Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Nuevo Laredo city government.

Mexican military officials said the army would patrol the city with the assistance of state and federal police but declined to comment further.

In Matamoros, 600 police officers were confined to stations and were being questioned by federal authorities, according to media reports.

The similar operation last year in Tijuana lasted three weeks, with more than 3,500 soldiers and federal agents sent into the city. Many police patrolled unarmed, and a few were seen with slingshots until their weapons were returned.

In the months since, violence there related to drug trafficking and organized crime has continued unabated.

At least 17 people were killed in the border city last week, including three senior police officials, one of whom was shot in his home alongside his wife and two daughters.

Federal officials have said privately that many of their most recent shootouts have been with operatives of the Gulf cartel, based in the state of Tamaulipas, which includes Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros. The cartel has been the most aggressive in efforts to conquer territory from rivals, officials say.

Army special forces troops Tuesday confiscated two dozen assault rifles in a Reynosa "safe house" said to belong to the Gulf cartel and its band of hit men, the Zetas.

A day earlier, federal agents arrested Alfredo Beltran Leyva, allegedly a leader in the so-called Sinaloa cartel, also known as the cartel of the Pacific. And 11 suspected hit men allegedly linked to Beltran Leyva were arrested Tuesday in two mansions on the southern edge of Mexico City.

The suspected cartel operatives were lined up in the living rooms of the two homes. Federal drug officials presented the men to local reporters alongside a small arsenal of seized weapons, including machine guns and grenades.
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« Reply #59 on: February 25, 2008, 11:04:01 AM »

Mexico Under Siege
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
February 25, 2008; Page A14

Mexico City

Perhaps it is a sign of a maturing electorate that Barack Obama's past drug use has not become a disqualifying factor in his bid for the presidency. It may signify that Americans are beginning to view the intake of mind-altering substances as a private decision.

For those who embrace the notion of personal responsibility, such a change in public attitudes might be considered progress. But in Mexico, what suggests an increase in tolerance of illegal drug use in the U.S. has a tragic flipside: the gut-wrenching violence that arises when demand meets prohibition. This country is paying dearly for that contradiction.

Under prohibition, only criminals can serve the market for illegal narcotics. And they have a lot of incentive to do so since prohibition pushes prices up. These market dynamics have given rise to transnational crime networks -- modern, savvy businesses run by ruthless killers bent on preserving their income. Anyone who tries to get in the way risks becoming a statistic. Last year in Mexico there were 2,713 homicides attributable to organized crime, up from 2,120 in 2006 -- according to the intelligence arm of the country's attorney general.

 
It's a pretty grim picture. Yet there is at least one man in Mexico who believes that it doesn't have to be this way. His name is Eduardo Medina Mora, and 14 months ago he chose to accept what some would regard as mission impossible: taking on the job of attorney general with the express goal of restoring order to a nation turned upside down by organized crime.

I interviewed him last year, just 100 days into his new job, and I met with him again two weeks ago to take a reading on progress. He reports that the Mexican state is reasserting itself, though he also warns that the battle is far from won.

Mr. Medina Mora suffers no illusions about his office's capacity to shut off the supply of drugs to the U.S., or for that matter in Mexico, where drug use is on the increase. That's a welcome relief: After decades of a war on drugs claiming thousands of innocent lives, poisoning institutions in developing countries, and raising the incentive for pushing narcotics on children -- all the while delivering not a modicum of success -- the argument for attacking supply to end demand is by now tedious.

Instead, Mr. Medina Mora is a realist. "The objective," he says, "cannot be destroying narcotrafficking or drug-related crime, because demand is inelastic." "It is very important not to lose perspective on the goal," he tells me. "Trying to get rid of consumption and trafficking is impossible, as a bold objective."

This in no way implies surrender on his part. What's important, he says, is that the goal be clearly understood. Instead of focusing on supply, he is concentrating on the suppliers, and specifically their ability to run business empires. It's about removing "the enormous economic and fire power" of the cartels which threaten the Mexican democracy, and "recovering the territory [controlled by organized crime] for the people and the state." This view is not unlike that of Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe, who has led the fight to end the tyranny of organized crime in some parts of his country.

In Mexico, Mr. Medina Mora continues, "there are areas where organized crime disputes the state's exclusive use of force and its power to collect taxes. They are not only shipping drugs but they are involved in extortion, prostitution rings, smuggling goods and people, stealing Pemex [the state-owned oil company] products, and forcing legal businesses to pay protection taxes."

The attorney general's strategy has been to hit these businesses where it hurts most: in their pocketbooks. By studying the way the narcotics market works, his office has used "operational mapping and mapping of their supply and distribution routes" to "put obstacles in the way and block traditional flows." This approach involves tighter controls on air traffic, better technology and smarter inspection systems for shipments from South America.

Mr. Medina Mora says the plan is working, and rattles off a string of captures and seizures, including some 10 drug-trafficking planes -- even one DC-9 -- large enough to carry up to five metric tons of cocaine. Last year he reeled in a 23.5 metric-ton shipment of cocaine coming by sea from the Colombian port of Buenaventura, and broke up a Mexico City operation that allegedly supplied "meth" producers annually with over 100 metric tons of the precursor pseudoephedrine.

The attorney general is rightly proud of this record, and says that lower availability has meant sharp increases in the street price of both cocaine and "meth" in 38 cities in the U.S. -- according to U.S. officials. Still, the seizure scorecard does nothing to prove progress in the battle against drug use, any more than body counts reveal who is winning a war. And as prices rise so do cartel incentives, particularly when demand is notoriously resistant to change.

But going by Mr. Medina Mora's measure of success -- which is damage to organized crime such that it ceases to dominate Mexican territory and society -- there may be progress. Unfortunately, he says, proof of that could come in the form of more violence in the short run. "When this kind of criminal network begins to collapse, the criminals go back to more primitive methods of crime -- kidnapping, car theft and extortion. They fragment and lose control; cells start operating on their own and fighting with each other. Turf becomes very important."

As if to prove his point, two days after we talked a bomb exploded in the trendy neighborhood of Zona Rosa here. A government investigation is ongoing, but there is reason to believe that the device was meant as payback to law enforcement for the arrest two days earlier of seven members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.

Mr. Medina Mora believes more could be done with greater international cooperation against money laundering, and with a U.S. effort to stem the flow of high-powered weapons into Mexico. Another way, which he is too polite to mention, would be for U.S. authorities to acknowledge that under present policies they are losing their drug war.

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
WSJ
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« Reply #60 on: March 11, 2008, 11:37:00 AM »

Tijuana Lives up to Its Reputation
The violent city of Tijuana, Baja California state, more than lived up to its reputation for mayhem this past week thanks to a series of incidents that left more than a dozen people dead. In a March 3 incident that sparked a six-hour gunbattle, military forces responding to an anonymous tip arrived at a suspected safe-house only to be met with gunfire as they sought entry. The soldiers established a security cordon around the area and waited for army special forces. The military forces led the raid on the building, and detained several gunmen who had sheltered inside. Later in the week, a police patrol came under fire when it sought to stop a convoy of suspicious vehicles. In another incident, police reported the discovery of five kidnapping victims, including one teenager.

While these kinds of violent incidents have become routine for the city, organized criminal activity in Tijuana has become increasingly fractured over the years. Historically, the city’s criminal networks have been involved with the Arellano Felix crime family. Also known as the Tijuana cartel, the Arellano Felix organization at one time was among the most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico. Following the arrest of several top members in the 1990s, however, the cartel lost much of its power. As a result, many of the smaller gangs that once worked for the cartel lost their source of income, and began expanding their operations to other activities to make money.

An Arellano Felix Brother Returns
The return of one of the cartel’s former leaders could change the equation. Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was released from a U.S. prison this past week and deported to Mexico, where he became a free man for the first time since 1993. The oldest brother in the family, Francisco Rafael at one time was responsible for organizing cocaine purchases from Colombian suppliers. He was arrested in 1993 by police in Tijuana on weapons charges, and was behind bars in Mexico until 2006, when he was extradited to the United States and sentenced to six years for selling cocaine to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent in 1980. Given credit for time served in Mexico, however, he was released after just two years.

Although Francisco Rafael has been out of the picture for 15 years, it seems likely that he will eventually go back to the family business. It is difficult to determine what impact this change will have on the cartel’s operations, however, especially since his return might not be welcomed by other criminal organizations in the city. One important area to watch is whether the cartel becomes involved in the cocaine business. It has been several years since the Tijuana cartel has been involved in large-scale independent cocaine trafficking, but it is possible that Francisco Rafael’s previous experience in coordinating cocaine purchases could be put to use again. While significant changes to Tijuana’s dynamic will not happen overnight, potential ramifications of the former leader’s return must be watched closely.

Targeting Small Gangs in Monterrey
Police in Nuevo Leon state launched an effort this past week to crack down on several small gangs in the Monterrey area that officials believe are connected to the Gulf cartel. In a series of raids, authorities detained more than 500 people as they swept through areas where these gangs are believed to be operating and selling drugs. But the raids did not produce the results that authorities were looking for. For example, 381 people — including many drug addicts — were detained in one raid, but only one pistol, small quantities of drugs and drug paraphernalia were seized. While it would not be surprising to learn gangs in the Monterrey area are connected with the Gulf cartel, there is no evidence these particular organizations did more than sell drugs on the street.

These raids represent one of the challenges authorities in Mexico face as they battle the country’s drug problem. While drug-dealing gangs like those targeted in Monterrey represent a public safety issue that must be addressed, focusing on them requires diverting people and resources from the mission of hunting down the members of the large cartels that are the heart of the problem.

March 3
One person died and several were wounded during a six-hour firefight between security forces and suspected drug gang members in Tijuana, Baja California.

Five bodies were discovered in a makeshift grave used by a drug-trafficking group in Chihuahua state.
The bodies of two men were found in two separate incidents in Mexico state. One victim had been shot in the head at close range while the other had been shot several times.
Ten assailants killed a candidate for local office in a small town in Guerrero state.
March 4
A raid on an alleged Gulf cartel safe-house in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, resulted in the seizure of seven firearms, 23 fragmentation grenades, nine armored vehicles and body armor.
Authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state, discovered the bodies of five people who had been abducted the day before. At least one of the victims was a minor.
The body of an unidentified man shot in the head at close range was found along a highway in Hidalgo state.
March 5
The bodies of three kidnapping victims were found in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. The victims, one of whom was a minor, were abducted from their homes March 3.

A man in Tijuana, Baja California state, died after being shot twice in the head while walking.
A Durango state police officer died outside his home when he was shot at least 70 times by gunmen traveling in two vehicles.
A police commander in Nuevo Leon escaped unharmed from an assassination attempt by three men who pursued him as he left work.
A firefight in Torreon, Coahuila state, between military forces and suspected gang members left one gang member dead and another wounded.
Gunmen fired on a group of police officers assigned to a congressman’s protective detail in Oaxaca state. Three officers were wounded; the congressman was not in the city at the time of the attack.
Police in Tijuana, Baja California state, exchanged gunfire with armed assailants traveling in three vehicles.
March 6
The bodies of three unidentified victims were found outside the office of the attorney general in Oaxaca state.
March 7
Authorities in Tijuana, Baja California state, announced the arrest of three men in possession of nearly 100 firearms, 50,000 rounds of ammunition, 23 grenades, and half a ton of marijuana.
Authorities in the port city of Manzanillo, Colima state, seized more than $11 million in $10, $20, $50 and $100 bills in a shipping container aboard a freight ship. The seizure took place after a routine inspection of the ship — which was headed to Panama — revealed irregularities in the container’s paperwork.
A police commander in Oaxaca state was shot dead while sitting in a park cleaning his shoes.
March 8
One soldier and six gunmen were reported dead after a firefight in Chihuahua state.
Two police officers in Jalisco state died when assailants fired on them with automatic weapons.
March 9
A taxi driver in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, was shot dead by a group of gunmen traveling in a vehicle.
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« Reply #61 on: March 17, 2008, 05:13:13 AM »

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/15/AR2008031501013.html

Drug Trade Tyranny on The Border
Mexican Cartels Maintain Grasp With Weapons, Cash and Savagery

Gallery

In Mexico, a Fight Against Drugs and Fear
Drawing on firepower, savage intimidation, and cash, drug cartels have come
to control key parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, as Mexican troops wage a
multi-front war with the private armies of rival drug lords.
» LAUNCH PHOTO GALLERY










By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, March 16, 2008; Page A01

TIJUANA, Mexico

The killers prowled through Loma Bonita in the pre-dawn chill.

In silence, they navigated a labyrinth of wood shacks at the crest of a dirt
lane in the blighted Tijuana neighborhood, police say. They were looking for
Margarito Saldaña, an easygoing 43-year-old district police commander. They
found a house full of sleeping people.
Neighbors quivered at the crack of AK-47 assault rifles blasting inside
Saldaña's tiny home. Rafael García, an unemployed laborer who lives nearby,
recalled thinking it was "a fireworks show," then sliding under his bed in
fear.

In murdering not only Saldaña, but also his wife, Sandra, and their
12-year-old daughter, Valeria, the Loma Bonita killers violated a rarely
broken rule of Mexico's drug cartel underworld: Family should remain free
from harm. The slayings capped five harrowing hours during which the
assassins methodically hunted down and murdered two other police officers
and mistakenly killed a 3-year-old boy and his mother.

The brutality of what unfolded here in the overnight hours of Jan. 14 and
early Jan. 15 is a grim hallmark of a crisis that has cast a pall over the
United States' southern neighbor. Events in three border cities over the
past three months illustrate the military and financial power of Mexico's
cartels and the extent of their reach into a society shaken by fear.

More than 20,000 Mexican troops and federal police are engaged in a
multi-front war with the private armies of rival drug lords, a conflict that
is being waged most fiercely along the 2,000-mile length of the U.S.-Mexico
border. The proximity of the violence has drawn in the Bush administration,
which has proposed a $500 million annual aid package to help President
Felipe Calder¿n combat what a Government Accountability Office report
estimates is Mexico's $23 billion a year drug trade.

A total of more than 4,800 Mexicans were slain in 2006 and 2007, making the
murder rate in each of those years twice that of 2005. Law enforcement
officials and journalists, politicians and peasants have been gunned down in
the wave of violence, which includes mass executions, such as the killings
of five people whose bodies were found on a ranch outside Tijuana this
month.

Like the increasing number of Mexicans heading over the border in fear, the
violence itself is spilling into the United States, where a Border Patrol
agent was recently killed while trying to stop suspected traffickers.

Drawing on firepower, savage intimidation and cash, the cartels have come to
control key parts of the border, securing smuggling routes for 90 percent of
the cocaine flowing into the United States, according to the State
Department. At the same time, Mexican soldiers roam streets in armored
personnel carriers, attack helicopters patrol the skies, and boats ply the
coastal waters.

"The situation is deteriorating," Victor Clark, a Tijuana human rights
activist and drug expert, said in an interview. "Drug traffickers are waging
a terror campaign. The security of the nation is at stake."

Dominated by a Private Army


More than 1,900 miles southeast of Tijuana, the city of Reynosa stretches
along the Rio Grande across from south Texas. This is Gulf cartel country, a
region dominated by the cartel's private army, Los Zetas. Their arsenal
befits a military brigade, exceeding those of some Mexican army units.

===============



Led by Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, Los Zetas are a highly disciplined
mercenary squad composed of former elite Mexican troops, including officers
trained by the U.S. military before they deserted. The group has become an
obsession of Calderon's administration, which has sent more than a thousand
troops to Reynosa and neighboring cities.

Soldiers crowd the slender canal bridges that crisscross Reynosa, stopping
drivers at random and staring across the cityscape with their fingers on the
triggers of heavy weapons. The tense atmosphere has led to mistakes.
On Feb. 16, soldiers fatally shot Sergio Meza Varela, a 28-year-old with no
apparent ties to the drug trade, when the car he was riding in didn't stop
at a checkpoint. "You're scared to leave your house," Alejandra Salinas,
Meza's cousin, said in an interview outside the family tire shop. "We're
just in the way."

In Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, the growing Sinaloa cartel is
fighting rivals over smuggling routes. But in Reynosa, police say, only
Mexican soldiers threaten the Gulf cartel's control.

To prepare for battle, Los Zetas have stocked safe houses with antitank
weapons, assault rifles, grenades and other heavy weapons, including some
that Mexican law enforcement authorities believe once belonged to the U.S.
Army.

"How can I fight them?" said Juan Jose Muniz Salinas, Reynosa's police
chief. "It's impossible."

On Feb. 7, soldiers stormed the dusty "El Mezquito" ranch outside Miguel
Aleman, west of Reynosa, and found one of the largest illegal arsenals in
recent memory: 89 assault rifles, 83,355 rounds of ammunition, and plastic
explosives capable of demolishing buildings. Two days later in nearby Nuevo
Laredo, soldiers found a weapons cache that included eight military uniforms
to be used as disguises.

The mounting evidence that cartels have infiltrated many border police
forces has prompted drastic action.

In Reynosa, soldiers disarmed the entire police force in January, leaving
them without weapons for 19 days while ballistics tests were conducted.
Police officers, who make $625 a month, were also forced to provide voice
samples for comparison with recordings of threats made over police radios,
Mayor Oscar Luebbert Guti¿rrez said in an interview.

"It wasn't worth it," said Mu¿iz Salinas, the police chief. "They come after
us, but it's other authorities that are really involved. Look at the state
police, the federal police and the military."

The Enemy Is in the House


It was New Year's Day in Tijuana, the hilly city at America's busiest border
crossing. City workers prepped for celebrations, but Jesus Alberto Rodriguez
Meraz and Saul Ovalle Guerrero, both veteran police officers, had other
plans.

They were going to get rich.

==================

The officers stole one ton of marijuana from the Arellano Felix drug cartel.
But before they could sell the load they were kidnapped. Four days later
their bodies were found, Tijuana's new police chief, Jesus Alberto Capella,
said in an interview.

The killings barely registered in Mexico, numbed by an avalanche of at least
30 police officer murders in the past three months and dozens more in the
past year. Their case illuminates the pervasive police corruption created by
drug money.

One of every two police officers murdered in Mexico today is directly
involved with drug gangs, according to estimates by police officials,
prosecutors and drug experts.

Capella, nicknamed "Tijuana Rambo" because he fought his way out of an
assassination attempt shortly before taking office, estimates that 15
percent of the city's 2,300 police officers work for drug cartels, earning a
monthly stipend as body guards, kidnappers or assassins. In Baja California
alone, Mexican justice officials estimate that 30 percent of the local and
federal police force is on a cartel payroll.

"We have the enemy in our house," Capella said.

The killings in Loma Bonita here were related to a police corruption case,
Capella and other police officials said. A few days earlier, Tijuana police
had killed an officer working as a bodyguard for a drug gang that tried to
rob an armored car.

Cartel assassins, using police radios, vowed revenge. Within a week,
Saldana, his family, and two other officers had been murdered.

Some of the killings have come with specific messages taunting Mexican
author ities.

During one week in mid-February, six bodies were found with signs lashed to
them that included information such as the phone number and address of the
Mexican army office set up to receive tips about organized crime. According
to analysts, such "narco-messages," some of which are carved into the
bodies, are intended to keep residents from reporting tips.

The decline of the Arellano Felix cartel's dominance of Tijuana has had the
unexpected effect of deepening police corruption.

After one brother was assassinated and two others were arrested, a war
erupted because the cartel's new leadership -- including a sister,
Enedina -- refused to share territory with the Sinaloa cartel, a police
official said on condition of anonymity. Once loyal to the Arellano Felix
cartel, some police officers switched sides.

"The police became armed wings of the warring cartels," the police official
said.

===================

At the same time, tighter border enforcement following the Sept. 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks has made it harder for cartels to smuggle drugs into the
United States. So the cartels developed a local market by giving out free
samples of drugs, according to Clark, the Tijuana-based drug expert and
human rights activist.


The estimated number of addicts in Tijuana doubled from 100,000 in 2004 to
200,000 in 2007, Clark said. The number of small stores or houses where
drugs are sold increased fivefold -- to 20,000 outlets -- over that time.
Each outlet pays protection money to police, so their proliferation meant
more payoffs.

In response, authorities in Baja California and several other border states
have begun giving police lie-detector tests. The questions range from the
innocuous to queries such as "Have you ever worked with a drug trafficker?"

Rommel Moreno Manjarrez, Baja California's attorney general, said in an
interview that out of every 1,000 officers tested, 700 fail.

"It's impossible for the narco to succeed without the help of the police,"
he said. "The success that the narco has been having is because of the
police."

Transformed by Drug Money


About 20 minutes south of Tijuana, high-rise condominiums line the coast
near Rosarito Beach. Once a sleepy hideaway for Hollywood stars, the town
had over time exploded into a gaudy party magnet, drawing tourists to the
beach and the studio where the movies "Titanic" and "Master and Commander"
were filmed.

Rosarito's further transformation has been propelled by drug money and
culture, turning the surfer's haven into a key transshipment point for
cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines. City hall is now an armed
encampment. Soldiers in armored personnel carriers guard the front entrance.

The new police chief, Jorge Eduardo Montero Alvarez, now occupies an office
inside the cordon. His headquarters was rendered uninhabitable by a December
attack.

Investigators believe Rosarito Beach police -- working on behalf of the drug
gangs -- were behind the attack, which killed one of Montero Alvarez's
bodyguards. Days later, Mexican soldiers disarmed the entire 149-officer
Rosarito police force.

"I'm more afraid of the police than the narcos," said Jorge Luis Quinones, a
Rosarito Beach physician and businessman, reflecting a feeling that has
built for years among many of the surrounding area's 150,000 residents.

In June 2006, three Rosarito Beach police officers were beheaded. For Hugo
Torres Chabert, scion of the wealthy family that founded the famed Rosarito
Beach Hotel, it was a grim wakeup call.

Convinced that almost every level of the city's government had become
tainted with drug money, Torres Chabert ran for mayor and won. Soon after
taking office last December, he fired 80 of the city's 500 employees. But he
says he hasn't been able to press for arrests for lack of evidence.


=================



"They were corrupt, but not stupid," he said.

To the children of Rosarito Beach, narco gunmen had already became local
heroes because they drove the fanciest cars, wore the latest styles and
acted like they owned the town. "Black commandos," the drug cartel hit men,
began openly flashing their weapons, snorting cocaine and strutting through
the beach town.
"It became impossible to avoid drug dealers -- your kids go to school with
their kids," Aurelio Casta¿eda, a Rosarito Beach bar owner and merchants
association official, said in an interview. "You'd go to a bathroom in a
bar, and they'd be selling cocaine. They don't even try to hide it, and
there was nothing you could do about it, nobody you could turn to."

Castaneda's once-busy bar, El Torito, is often empty. He says his business
is down 80 percent since 2001, when Rosarito Beach's drug violence spiked,
scaring off most surfers and other tourists.

Beyond the flash of the bars and hotels, Rosarito Beach is a warren of
impoverished neighborhoods where developers, after paying off city
officials, did not bother to install water lines or electrical connections.
The dismal living conditions created fertile recruiting grounds for drug
traffickers, who have found many willing to "mule" their product across the
border for $500 a trip.

But great quantities of drugs stay in Rosarito and are sold at hundreds of
convenience stores or private homes that thrive under police protection. Not
long ago, a Baja California journalist began digging into the problem. The
cartels found out and, in a series of phone calls, threatened to kill him.

It wasn't the first time. He'd had enough. Terrified, the journalist left
the business.

"I was saying to myself, 'This is an important subject,' " the journalist
said on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety. "But I wasn't
willing to lose my life over it."
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« Reply #62 on: April 14, 2008, 03:32:33 PM »

Mexico Security Memo: April 14, 2008
Stratfor Today » April 14, 2008 | 1952 GMT
Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Operation Chihuahua continues
The security operation that began March 31 in Chihuahua state made little significant progress this past week, echoing a theme that has developed in previous security operations elsewhere in the country. Although the number of drug-related killings has declined since federal forces arrived in the state, the problem has not disappeared, with approximately 10 homicides reported in the area since April 1. Public security in general faces a challenge, as many police units in the state reportedly have stopped conducting routine patrols. As a result, residents in Ciudad Juarez have reported an increase in the number of car thefts and the kidnapping of small-business owners in the downtown area, including those having auto parts stores, restaurants and hardware stores. An official from the state attorney general’s office said the kidnappings could be intended to scare the wealthier business community into paying its “protection” fees to organized crime groups in the city.

Although arrests of high-value Juarez cartel targets have not occurred, the government has claimed several victories that will impact the organization’s capabilities. For example, in what appears to have been a well-planned operation, eight cartel suspects were arrested at the funeral of one of their fellow members this past week. Following aerial surveillance of the cemetery, army special forces descended on the site via helicopter while being fired on by the funeral party. Meanwhile, troops on the ground secured the cemetery’s perimeter and eventually captured all suspects present. The high priority placed on these kinds of operations helps to explain the poor public security in a city being patrolled by the military. Operations such as this require a significant commitment of manpower and resources — and they are a much higher priority for Mexico City than is preventing car thefts.

Mexico’s national defense secretary, citing intelligence acquired by the military, announced this week that the Juarez cartel has plans to undermine the military’s credibility by committing violent crimes against the population while dressed in military uniforms and driving trucks painted to look like government vehicles. He warned that the cartel plans to commit sexual assaults while conducting fake searches of homes, businesses and nightclubs, and then videotape the acts to later leak to the media or post online.

There is no doubt that the Juarez cartel — or other large criminal groups in Mexico — has access to military and law enforcement uniforms and credentials. Cartel members also routinely conduct kidnappings, targeted assassinations and other attacks while purporting to be legitimate authorities. However, a move to begin targeting the civilian population with the specific intention of undermining the government’s credibility would indicate a further shift by the cartels toward insurgent-style tactics.

There is reason, however, to doubt the credibility of the secretary’s statement, which comes as the military is under increasing political scrutiny for alleged human rights abuses. A series of high-profile incidents over the past year involving the unwarranted use of force against civilians has the potential to upset the military’s position as one of the most respected institutions in Mexico. One possibility, then, is that the secretary’s announcement is intended to allow plausible deniability of any future embarrassing incidents involving military personnel. The move could backfire, however, as it will result in a more wary public in areas where the military is currently operating — exacerbating already tense relations in areas where it most needs the cooperation of the population to succeed.

Juarez cartel shifting tactics?
The leftist militant group Democratic Revolutionary Tendency-People’s Army (TDR-EP) released a video message last week opposing the privatization of Mexico’s state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), an idea currently being debated in Mexico City. TDR-EP previously claimed joint responsibility for a series of small bombings in Mexico City in November 2006, though the group’s operational role in the incident is considered to be small to nonexistent. However, the statement echoes a recent message by the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which carried out several successful attacks against Pemex oil pipelines in 2007.

While President Felipe Calderon’s proposed energy reform plan has stirred up heated political debate, it also has the potential to spark a new round of pipeline attacks. Pemex increased its security at many of its facilities in 2007, but the EPR attacks against remote pipelines demonstrated that it is impossible to protect all of the company’s infrastructure. Aside from an unclaimed bank bombing in Mexico City on March 30, EPR has been noticeably — and inexplicably — inactive since the last round of Pemex attacks Sept. 10, suggesting that the group has lost members or resources, affecting its capabilities. However, the intensified debate over energy reform might be all that is needed to begin planning the next attack.


April 7
A group of armed men threw several fragmentation grenades at police during a pursuit in Salvatierra, Guanajuato state.
Authorities in the state have noted an increase in the frequency of grenade attacks over the last several weeks.
Authorities in Acapulco, Guerrero state, discovered the bodies of two unidentified individuals bound at the hands and with gunshot wounds to the head. The bodies were found buried approximately nine feet under a building, and were estimated to have died about a year ago.
The body of a federal agent who had been kidnapped the day before was found in Tijuana, Baja California state, with a gunshot wound to the head and signs of torture.
A man carrying false documents identifying him as a federal law enforcement agent was shot to death by a group of gunmen that fired more than 50 rounds at his vehicle in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
Two female reporters from a radio station were shot to death while traveling in a vehicle in Putla de Guerrero, Oaxaca state.
Gunmen traveling in a vehicle fired several shots at a government building in Rosarito, Baja California state.
April 8
Two presumed drug dealers were shot to death by a group of armed men in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
Officials from Laredo, Texas, met with their counterparts in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, to discuss a plan to improve security in the two cities. In addition to narcotics trafficking, the officials discussed frequent bomb threats on the international bridges and the recent influx of heavily tattooed members of the Mexican Mara criminal gang.
A bodyguard of the Sinaloa state treasurer died after being shot in the back by several armed men while he was arriving at his home with his 3-year-old son in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
Several armed men entered a hospital in Navolato, Sinaloa state, and shot a patient who had been admitted several days before after he was wounded in a gun attack.
April 9
Residents in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, reported gunshots fired on their home by several unidentified assailants traveling in a vehicle.
A man was shot to death outside a health club in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, a day after he escaped a kidnapping attempt.
Four suspects were detained following a firefight outside a police station in Tijuana, Baja California state. Authorities said the attack on the building came after police arrested a man and impounded his vehicle.
April 10
Three people, including one minor, traveling together in a vehicle were shot to death by armed assailants in a suburb of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The driver of the vehicle reportedly returned fire briefly before he died.
The bodies of two men with gunshot wounds were found in a vehicle in Guadalupe Distrito Bravo, Chihuahua state.
Authorities in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state, found the body of a man who appeared to have been killed in another location.
A Baja California state police officer died after he was shot by several armed men while he was driving to work in the border city of Mexicali.
April 11
The bodies of two men who had been abducted several days earlier were found in plastic bags and bound at the hands along a highway in Navolato, Sinaloa state.
April 12
The bodies of three men who had been shot to death in separate incidents were found in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
A deputy police chief in Tijuana, Baja California state, was wounded along with a bodyguard after they engaged a group of armed assailants that entered his home, presumably to assassinate him. At least two of the gunmen were killed. The attackers reportedly arrived at his home during a child’s party.
April 13
A police commander died after he was shot by several armed men just north of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
A large banner hung over a street in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, said in part, “Los Zetas operational group wants you, soldier or ex-soldier. We offer you good pay, food, and attention to your family. No longer suffer mistreatment or hunger. “The banner included a telephone number to call for more details. A similar banner appeared the day before in Reynosa.

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« Reply #63 on: April 20, 2008, 02:20:51 PM »

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/19/AR2008041901916.html?hpid=sec-world

From Mexico, Drug Violence Spills Into U.S.
Brutality Gives Rise to Formidable New Problems for Both Countries

PUERTO PALOMAS, Mexico -- Javier Emilio Pérez Ortega, a workaholic Mexican police chief, showed up at the sleepy, two-lane border crossing here last month and asked U.S. authorities for political asylum.

Behind him, law and order was vanishing fast. In the four months he had served as Puerto Palomas police chief, drug traffickers had threatened to kill him and his officers if they tried to block the flow of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines into the United States, his former colleagues said on condition of anonymity.

After a particularly menacing telephone call, his 10-man force resigned en masse. His bodyguards quit, too. Abandoned by his men and unable to trust the notoriously corrupt Mexican authorities, Pérez Ortega turned to the only place he believed he could find refuge -- the United States, the former colleagues said.

As President Bush meets this week with Mexican President Felipe Calderón in New Orleans, the repercussions of Mexico's battle with drug cartels are increasingly gushing into the United States, giving rise to thorny new problems for Mexican and U.S. officials, as well as the millions of people who live along the border.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in January while chasing suspected traffickers fleeing back to Mexico, AK-47 bullets have been found a half-mile inside U.S. territory after shootouts in Mexican border towns, and wounded Mexican police have been taken to the United States for treatment at heavily guarded hospitals.

Here in Puerto Palomas, a wind-swept desert town south of Columbus, N.M., spillover from Mexico's drug war is measured in bullet-pocked bodies. In the past year, at least 10 gunshot victims have been dumped at the border checkpoint -- taken there by friends or colleagues who believed their only hope of survival lay across the border.

In the calculus of U.S.-Mexican border relations, the living were rushed to medical treatment -- sometimes with law enforcement escorts -- but the dead were not allowed across. Either way, the fallout from Mexico's drug war was being dropped at the doorstep of the United States.

"Mexico's problem is Sheriff Cobos's problem," Sheriff Raymond Cobos, whose jurisdiction in Luna County, N.M., stretches to the border with Puerto Palomas, said in an interview. "No doubt about it."

Cobos ordered a major state highway closed after shootouts in Puerto Palomas and recently sent deputies to monitor the funeral in Columbus of a Mexican man killed in Puerto Palomas. His force goes on alert when drug gangs start shooting in Puerto Palomas, deploying with semiautomatic weapons to the lonely roads and cactus-dotted expanses on the U.S. side of the border. Gunfire is often heard by residents of Columbus, as well as by Border Patrol agents, who have significantly increased their vigilance.

More than 130 miles of rough driving from Ciudad Juarez, Puerto Palomas was once known as a placid outpost marred only occasionally by violence. But since the beginning of the year, more than 30 people have been killed in the town, Puerto Palomas Mayor Estanislao García said in an interview.

Puerto Palomas became strategically important because Ciudad Juarez, the traditional drug-trafficking hub, has been inundated with Mexican army troops sent to contain a war between the rival Juarez and Sinaloa cartels blamed for more than 200 deaths this year.

The cartels probably knew that the Mexican military was coming months before its arrival in late March and saw Puerto Palomas as an acceptable alternative, a high-ranking Mexican federal government official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the campaign against cartels.

"They have their own intelligence operations," the official said of the cartels. "For them, it's like a chess game."

The cartels quickly brought daylight gunfights to the streets and dumped victims around town. In March, Eddie Espinoza, the Columbus mayor, was in a dentist's chair in Puerto Palomas when armed gunmen stormed the office, making off with $2,000.

"They're getting brazen down there," Espinoza, who was unhurt, told reporters.

In the past two years, as cartels spread terror, the population dropped from 12,000 to 7,500, García said. Row after row of abandoned houses line eerily quiet neighborhoods. Tourists, the town's lifeblood, have stopped coming.

"When people stay here, they don't go down to Mexico anymore," Martha Skinner, a former Columbus mayor who owns a bed-and-breakfast three miles from the Mexican border, said in an interview. "They're afraid."

On March 17, several Puerto Palomas police officers quit after being threatened by drug traffickers. García said the officers believed that they were targeted because of an inaccurate Mexican newspaper article that implied they would confront drug gangs.

Within several hours, the entire police force had resigned, rendering the town lawless. Even Pérez Ortega, the stern police chief, left to seek asylum. He awaits a decision in a federal detention center and could not be reached for comment.

Palomas recently recruited a new police chief and nine officers, but they have only two revolvers and two assault rifles for the entire force. The drug traffickers tote automatic weapons and grenades. "Trying to fight the drug traffickers would be like a race in which I was on foot and they were in a car," Salomón Baca, Puerto Palomas's new police chief, said in an interview.

Baca, like his officers, has refused to move his family to Puerto Palomas. The officers all sleep on cots crammed into a backroom of the police station.

Baca, who hopes to move to the United States, is hopeful that his old friend Pérez Ortega will get asylum. For many here, especially as border towns have become shooting galleries, flight to the United States is an ever more pressing dream. But moving north sometimes creates as many problems as it solves.

In 2000, Mauricio Rubio, then a Puerto Palomas police officer, sought asylum. He had been arrested by Mexican state police after helping a New Mexico sheriff's official arrest two men outside Puerto Palomas. The men were suspected of killing a woman in Deming, N.M., and presumably were being protected by corrupt Mexican police.

Rubio and the New Mexico sheriff's official, who also was detained, were released after U.S. diplomats intervened. Afraid that corrupt police would kill him, Rubio and his family asked for, and were granted, permission to live in the United States. But within days, his family was falling apart.

"My daughters were crying all the time, yelling at me and saying, 'Why did you have to get involved in things you shouldn't have been getting involved in?' " Rubio, who now lives in New Mexico, said in an interview.

His wife left him six months later. Since then, he has pined for the cozy feel of his Mexican neighborhood, where everyone knew him. But he is afraid to return -- in the months before he fled, 11 friends in the Ciudad Juarez police force were murdered.

Cobos, the Luna County sheriff, said it is likely that more Mexican police will seek asylum in coming months and years, as the war between drug cartels that has cost more than 5,000 lives in the past two years shows no sign of abating. Asylum requests are long shots at best -- of the 2,611 requests from Mexicans in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available, 48 were granted.

Cobos considers Mexican police officers, especially those who assist U.S. law enforcement in drug cases, perfectly suitable candidates for asylum. But he also worries that increasingly brazen drug cartels will simply slip across the border in pursuit of Mexican police given refuge there and that he is not equipped to combat them.

For that reason, Cobos has a blunt message to any Mexican policeman who wants to live in his county: "I don't want you around."

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« Reply #64 on: April 21, 2008, 03:42:54 PM »

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0421zetas0421.html

Mexican soldiers recruited to be drug cartel's hit men

Chris Hawley
Mexico City Bureau
Apr. 21, 2008 12:00 AM
MEXICO CITY - One of Mexico's biggest drug cartels has launched a bizarre recruiting campaign, putting up fliers and banners promising good pay, free cars and better chow to army soldiers who join the cartel's elite band of hit men.

"We don't feed you Maruchan soups," said the banner in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, referring to a brand of ramen noodles.

The recruiting effort by the Gulf Cartel reflects how Mexico's fight against traffickers increasingly resembles a real war, 17 months after President Felipe Calderón ordered the army into drug hotspots. Smugglers are now training for battle in shooting ranges, using psychological warfare and fighting the army with machine guns and grenades. advertisementOAS_AD('ArticleFlex_1')

"Army and police-force conflicts with heavily armed narcotics cartels have escalated to levels equivalent to military small-unit combat," the U.S. Embassy said last week in a travel warning to Americans.

Earlier this month, fliers began appearing in the border city of Reynosa in Tamaulipas state urging soldiers to defect. They were pasted on telephone poles over government posters that offered rewards to drug informants.

Benefits for recruits



"Former soldiers sought to form armed group; good pay, 500 dollars," the fliers said.

On April 13, a 10-foot-long banner appeared on a pedestrian bridge over Nuevo Laredo's Reforma Avenue, urging soldiers to join the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel's hit squad.

"The Zetas operations group wants you, soldier or ex-soldier," the banner said. "We offer you a good salary, food and attention for your family. Don't suffer hunger and abuse any more."

It listed a cellular-telephone number, which had been disconnected a few days later. The banner was taken down a few hours after it was spotted.

Last Thursday, another banner appeared in the city of Tampico urging soldiers and federal agents to defect.

"Join the ranks of the Gulf Cartel," it said. "We offer benefits, life insurance, a house for your family and children. Stop living in the slums and riding the bus. A new car or truck, your choice.

"What more could you ask for? Tamaulipas, Mexico, the USA and the entire world is Gulf Cartel territory."

Authorities said the signs were probably an attempt to demoralize the soldiers and police, rather than a serious recruiting effort.

"They do these things in public places to create confusion among the authorities themselves," said Ruben Salinas, commander of the Reynosa police department's second division.

Still, recent arrests have shown that defections are a real danger. On Thursday, federal agents detained the Reynosa police commissioner himself, Juan José Muñiz, for questioning because of evidence he was protecting the Zetas, the Mexican Justice Department said. He has not been formally charged.

Military experts said the recruiting campaign, whether genuine or simply aimed at sowing discontent, shows the increasing sophistication of the cartels.

"This is combat between two forces, one regular and one irregular," said Jorge Luis Sierra, a military expert and author of a book about the Mexican special forces.

In recent months:


• Five former cartel recruits identified at least six military-style training sites in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states, the Dallas Morning News reported on March 30. It cited written testimony from the witnesses that was leaked from the Mexican Justice Department.


• On Jan. 19, police discovered a 50-foot-long target range, complete with soundproofing foam, a ventilation system for gun smoke and buckets for spent cartridges, hidden under a house in Tijuana. The house also had a machine shop for assembling and repairing weapons.


• Soldiers on March 17 seized a Jeep Grand Cherokee outfitted with a smoke-screen generator, bulletproofing and a device for spraying spikes onto the road. The vehicle was abandoned by gunmen following a shootout with the army in the northern state of Tamaulipas.


• On Wednesday, Mexican prosecutors formally charged five municipal police officers with being Zetas in the northern state of Coahuila.


• Former Mexican soldier Daniel "Cheeks" Pérez Rojas was captured in Guatemala on April 8 in connection with a shootout there that killed 11 people in Guatemala in March. The Mexican Justice Department says Pérez Rojas is a Zetas leader and that the shootout, some 900 miles from the Gulf Cartel's home turf, showed the international reach of the hit squad. Much of the cocaine smuggled by the Mexican cartels moves first through Central America.

Troop retention



Many of the Zetas are former members of the Mexican army's special forces, the U.S. Justice Department has said.

Some, like Pérez Rojas, came from the Special Forces Airborne Groups, or GAFES, which received U.S. training and surplus American "Huey" helicopters in the 1990s.

Most of the Vietnam War-era helicopters were eventually returned to the United States because of chronic mechanical problems, leaving the commandos frustrated and with few opportunities for advancement. A few decided to switch sides, Sierra said.

The Mexican military has long had a problem with desertion. Between January and September 2007 alone, some 4,956 army soldiers deserted,about 2.5 percent of the force,according to the National Defense Secretariat.

Soldiers are facing more incentive to switch sides because of Calderón's decision to use troops against the drug traffickers, said Arturo Alvarado, a sociologist who studies criminal-justice issues at the College of Mexico.

Calderón began dispatching troops to patrol Tijuana, Juarez, Michoacan state and other trafficking corridors shortly after taking office in December 2006.

Thousands of soldiers have spent months away from their families, patrolling border cities. An army private earns an average of $533 a month, the National Defense Secretariat said in response to a freedom-of-information request in February.

"I don't see why these supposed recruiting (signs) should be a particular worry to the government because the recruiting occurs in other ways," Alvarado said.

"But what's true is that there is enormous desertion in the Mexican army and police force. They should be worried about that and take action to offer better working conditions."
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« Reply #65 on: April 24, 2008, 07:37:21 AM »

http://news.yahoo.com/s/mcclatchy/20...latchy/2917333

By Franco Ordonez, McClatchy NewspapersTue Apr 22, 3:56 PM ET

JUAREZ, Mexico — Daniel Escobedo was driving to school when he stopped for what he thought was a security check at a roadblock in the Mexican city of Juarez , across the border from El Paso, Texas .
Worried about being late for class, he hurriedly handed his driver's license to the two uniformed men, who he thought were police officers.
Moments later, two dark SUVs screeched to a halt. Armed masked men jumped out and grabbed Escobedo, 21. He spent the next six weeks blindfolded, shuttled between safe houses while a drug-gang leader negotiated a ransom with his father, who's a lawyer. He was beaten, shocked and burned until his rescue April 1 by Mexican soldiers who'd been tipped that drug dealers were using the house.
"For a month and a half, I thought I was going to die," Escobedo said.
He's one of a growing number of kidnapping victims here as Mexico's drug gangs seek new business to replace lucrative drug smuggling, which has become more dangerous as Mexican authorities pursue the largest anti-drug-trafficking effort ever in the country.
Corporate security experts estimate that drug gangs are now responsible for 30 to 50 kidnappings a day in Mexico and that ransoms often run to $300,000 if the victim is returned alive. They often hold several victims at a time. Two other victims were being held with Escobedo.
"The narco-kidnappers are not looking for chump change," said Felix Batista , a Miami -based corporate-security and crisis-management consultant who's negotiated the releases of dozens of kidnapping victims throughout Mexico .
"It's a pretty darn good side business."
The phenomenon is spilling over into the United States . Phoenix police investigated more than 350 kidnappings last year, a 40 percent increase from the year before. Most are tied to crackdowns in Mexico , said Detective Reuben Gonzales of the Phoenix police department.
The rise in kidnapping helped prompt a recent warning from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City about the dangers Americans might face as they travel in Mexico . "Dozens of U.S. citizens were kidnapped and/or murdered in Tijuana in 2007," across from San Diego , according to the advisory, which was issued April 15 . "Public shootouts have occurred during daylight hours near shopping areas."
Mexican officials say the wave of kidnappings is a sign that drug traffickers have been squeezed by President Felipe Calderon's yearlong offensive against smugglers. The president has dispatched 20,000 soldiers around the country to confront what had been growing drug violence that had pushed the number of kidnappings, murders and arms-smuggling cases to record levels.
"Drug trafficking is not producing for them as it did in the past," Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said last month in Washington . "So they are moving into other crimes, such as extortion, kidnapping, car theft."
However, the rise in kidnappings also shows that Mexico's law enforcement problems go beyond narcotics. Distrust of the police, who may be involved in some of the abductions, and fear that victims will be harmed make kidnapping one of Mexico's most underreported crimes.
Mexican officials say that only a third of kidnappings are reported to police, but corporate experts say it's more like one in 10. A public opinion survey by the Center for Social and Public Opinion Studies , an arm of Mexico's Chamber of Deputies, found that only 52 percent of Mexican citizens "very probably" would report being crime victims.
"People perceive the justice system is not trustworthy," said Eduardo Rojas , the director of the center's public opinion department. "The failure to report is related to the perception of inefficiency, corruption and injustice that exists in the penal justice system."
That means that drug gangs can kidnap almost with impunity.
Escobedo's father, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern that the kidnappers would target him next, never reported his son's abduction to police after the kidnappers used the young man's cell phone to contact his father. Via a text message, they demanded $100,000 for the student's release. One message, which Escobedo's father showed to McClatchy , read, "if you love your son a lot, find it in cash."
His father was collecting money from friends and relatives to pay the ransom when he received a call from the military at 5 a.m. on April 1 . The soldiers said they'd found his son, who showed his father scabs on his nose, legs, and arms that documented the torture.
"It was 40 days of suffering," his father recalled. "It was 40 days, believe me, that I couldn't sleep, waiting for the kidnappers to contact me again. . . . It was so many days of terror until my son was returned."
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« Reply #66 on: May 08, 2008, 10:11:40 PM »

May 8, 2008

Acting Head of Mexico’s Police Killed

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 3:31 p.m. ET

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Mexico's acting federal police chief was shot dead Thursday outside his home -- a brazen attack that comes as drug traffickers increasingly lash back at a nationwide crackdown on organized crime.

Edgar Millan Gomez was shot 10 times after he opened the door to his Mexico City apartment complex, where at least one gunman was waiting for him before dawn, the Public Safety Department said. Two bodyguards were also wounded. Millan died hours later in a hospital.

President Felipe Calderon's government said Millan played a vital role in the country's battle against organized crime and denounced ''this cowardly killing of an exemplary official.''  Millan, 41, was named acting chief of the federal police March 1 after his superior was promoted to a deputy Cabinet position, said a police official who was not authorized to give his name.  The official said police were investigating and had not yet determined a motive for the pre-dawn attack. One suspect with a record of car theft was arrested.

Mexico has suffered a wave of organized crime and drug-related violence in which more than 2,500 people died last year alone.  Since taking office in 2006, Calderon has sent more than 24,000 soldiers to drug hotspots, and Millan was in charge of coordinating operations between the federal police and those troops.

Cartels have responded fiercely to the nationwide offensive, killing soldiers and federal police in unprecedented attacks. But until recently, most of those killings took place in northern Mexico where drug gangs rule large areas of territory. Now criminals appear to be getting more brash with daring slayings in the capital.

George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, said Millan's death ''shows the increasing audacity of the cartels.''

''This happened in Mexico City where people like Millan tend to be quite cautious, often sleeping in different houses on different nights, and who have their own security patrols,'' he said. ''When you can get someone like this, no one is safe.''

Millan was the second top federal police official killed in less than a week in Mexico City. A Mexican federal police intelligence analyst was killed on May 2 in an apparent armed robbery attempt outside his home.

In January, police in Mexico City arrested three men with assault rifles and grenade launchers who were allegedly planning to assassinate Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, a top prosecutor who oversees the extradition of drug traffickers.

Millan was involved in solving a number of high-profiling kidnappings.  In 2000, he helped capture one of Mexico's most feared kidnappers, Andres Caletri, and disband two notorious abduction rings. In 2001, he was named head of anti-kidnapping operations for the Federal Agency of Investigation, Mexico's version of the FBI.  Under his direction, agents captured five suspects involved in the abduction of Ruben Omar Romano, the coach of Mexico's Cruz Azul soccer team in 2005.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/worl...Killed.html?hp
==========
Top policeman shot dead in Mexico
A senior Mexican police official has been gunned down in the capital, Mexico City, officials have said.
Edgar Millan Gomez was in charge of co-ordinating national police operations against drugs traffickers.
He was shot nine times outside his home early on Thursday and died later in hospital, officials said. Two of his bodyguards were wounded in the attack.
Police are investigating if the attack was drug-related. Several top policemen have been killed in the past week.
Police said a group of gunmen had attacked Mr Millan.
"They were hunting him," a spokesman for the security ministry told Reuters news agency.
Police have arrested a 34-year-old man in connection with the attack.
Lucrative trafficking routes
Mexico has seen a surge in drug-related killings recently. Last year, 2,500 people were killed; so far this year, 1,100 people have been killed.
Two other senior police officers were killed in Mexico City in separate incidents last week.
And earlier this week, a senior officer in Ciudad Juarez - across the border from the United States - was ambushed as he left police headquarters.
President Felipe Calderon has sent nearly 30,000 soldiers and federal police to fight Mexico's powerful drug cartels since he took office in 2006.
The drugs cartels have fought back by attacking security forces. They are also fighting with each other to control lucrative trafficking routes.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/7391128.stm
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« Reply #67 on: May 13, 2008, 11:23:51 AM »

Mexico Security Memo: May 12, 2008
Stratfor Today » May 12, 2008 | 2046 GMT

Related Links
  a.. Tracking Mexico's Drug Cartels

More High-Level Assassinations
While drug-related violence was widespread around Mexico this past week,
much attention was focused on the capital after two high-profile
assassinations occurred there within two days. In the first, alleged members
of a murder-for-hire gang shot and killed Edgar Millan Gomez on May 8 in his
own home. Millan Gomez was Mexico's highest-ranking federal law enforcement
official, responsible for coordinating much of the federal police
counternarcotics campaign. He reportedly was shot up to eight times at close
range by a gunman armed with two handguns - one of which had a silencer --
who was waiting inside his apartment building. One of Millan Gomez's
bodyguards, who was departing for the evening, was wounded as he apprehended
the gunman. Millan Gomez was the highest-ranking federal official to be
killed since the May 2007 assassination of Jose Nemesio Lugo Felix, also in
Mexico City.

The second assassination involved Esteban Robles Espinosa, head of Mexico
City's judicial police anti-kidnapping unit. Robles reportedly was shot nine
times by four gunmen traveling in a vehicle outside his home.

Although no substantial links have been reported, the Mexican government
suspects the Sinaloa cartel was behind these killings. Indeed, Millan
reportedly had orchestrated the arrest of several Sinaloa enforcers in the
capital earlier this year. These killings - as well as the assassination
last week of two federal police officials in Mexico City - also match the
trend reported last week of increasing cartel activity in Mexico City. The
targeting of federal authorities - especially by the Sinaloa cartel - in
Mexico City has been a key aspect of this activity since the beginning of
the year.

This past week's assassinations prompted Mexican President Felipe Calderon
and other officials to vow the government would not be deterred in the fight
against organized crime. While this increase in killings in Mexico City puts
the government in the position of needing to respond, it probably will not
fundamentally shift the government's strategy. In fact, it is unclear
exactly how the government will be able to respond in a meaningful way.
Without deploying additional military forces - which Calderon so far has
been reluctant to do - Mexico City is resigned to shifting around the
currently available forces - and this means withdrawing them from ongoing
security operations elsewhere.

This sort of response appears to be precisely the outcome that the Sinaloa
cartel or other criminal groups were hoping for, however. If that is the
case, other officials in Mexico City probably will be targeted. As the
cartel prepares for increased pressure from the Mexican government, which is
about to deploy reinforcements to Sinaloa state, greater violence against
federal authorities in other parts of the country can be expected -
especially if the deployment is large enough actually to negatively affect
the Sinaloa cartel's ability to traffic drugs.

Targeting the Son of 'El Chapo'
The Sinaloa cartel was at the center of another high-profile killing in
Mexico this week, also. The son of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo"
Guzman Loera was shot and killed outside a shopping center in Culiacan,
Sinaloa state, in an attack reportedly carried out by more than 40 gunmen
traveling in five vehicles. The son of the Sinaloa cartel's top money
launderer, Blanca Margarita Cazares Salazar, also was killed in the attack.

The Gulf cartel's enforcement arm, Los Zetas, carried out the killing,
according to a Stratfor source in Mexico with ties to the law enforcement
community. Recent reports of a split between Sinaloa and a resurgent Juarez
cartel mean Sinaloa has more than one enemy, however. Watching for where
retaliatory attacks are aimed will be perhaps the best way to figure out who
carried out the attack in Sinaloa - the killing of Guzman's son undoubtedly
will prompt strong reprisals by the Sinaloa cartel, which most likely knows
very well who was behind this incident.


May 5
  a.. The Mexican military launched an operation in Chiapas state involving
aircraft and navy ships looking for boats transporting illegal goods.
  b.. Authorities in a remote part of Michoacan state discovered two shallow
graves containing the bodies of three individuals who apparently had been
executed.
  c.. A tactical intelligence unit of the federal police will be deployed to
Sinaloa state, a state official announced.
  d.. The body of a police commander was found with five severed fingers in
Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state.
  e.. Authorities in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, reported the shooting death of
a man who may have been shot more than 100 times.
  f.. The second in command of a Chihuahua state police agency was shot dead
by several assailants in her garage in Ciudad Juarez.
May 6
  a.. One police officer and one gunman died during a firefight between
police and several armed men who had just committed a targeted killing in
Nogales, Sonora state.
  b.. Several gunmen shot and killed a police commander in Culiacan, Sinaloa
state. Several stray bullets also struck and killed a civilian bystander at
a nearby gas station.
  c.. A police captain in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, died when he was
shot several times while driving his vehicle.
May 7
  a.. At least seven people died during a firefight between army forces and
armed men in Villa de Cos, Zacatecas state.
  b.. Five people were reported wounded after a group of gunmen opened fire
on a police patrol in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
May 8
  a.. Four people were wounded in the Pronaf district of Ciudad Juarez,
Chihuahua state, after gunmen traveling in a vehicle shot them.
  b.. Mexico's federal security Cabinet met to discuss drug violence in
Sinaloa state; one of the officials present said the government intends to
increase the presence of security forces in the state.
  c.. Approximately three armed men shot and killed the bodyguard of the
police chief in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico state.
  d.. A Chinese tourist was stabbed to death by an alleged drug dealer
outside a nightclub in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The victim was seen
arguing with his attacker moments before he was killed.
May 9
  a.. Three police officers in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, were wounded
in their patrol car when several armed men shot them.
  b.. The chief and deputy chief of police in Sinaloa state resigned their
positions after apparently receiving death threats, media reported.
  c.. The local governments of Tijuana and Mexicali, Baja California state,
asked the federal police to send a special anti-kidnapping task force to the
cities in order to combat the increasing incidence of extortion-related
abductions there.
  d.. A former political leader in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, was
abducted by a group of armed men. Some reports indicate that a current
government official who was with him at the time was wounded during the
kidnapping.
  e.. Police in Navolato, Sinaloa state, reported the discovery of seven
bodies with signs of torture. At least one of the victims was a police
officer.
  f.. A man and his son were shot dead in an apparently drug-related
shooting incident in Palomas, Chihuahua state; more than 60 shell casings
were recovered from the scene.
May 10
  a.. The second highest-ranking police official in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
state, died after being shot several times while driving near his home. His
name had been on a hit list left in January at a memorial to fallen police
officers in the city.
  b.. A soldier was found alive in Jacona, Michoacan state, bound at the
hands and feet and bearing signs of torture.
May 11
  a.. Authorities in Huetamo, Michoacan state, reported finding the body of
an unidentified man who appeared to have been shot more than 100 times.
  b.. Five people were shot dead in separate incidents in Sinaloa state in
the cities of Culiacan, Salvador Alvarado and Angostura.
  c.. The police chief in Amecameca, Mexico state, received a death threat
from a group of several armed men who demanded he discontinue efforts to
halt illegal logging operations in the area.
  d.. Five people died in an apparent drug-related shooting incident in
Palomas, Chihuahua state. Authorities reported recovering more than 160
shell casings from the crime scene.
===========================
I don't agree with this one.  I think for US intervention to be considered
things would have to get A LOT worse than they are now.
Geopolitical Diary: High Stakes South of the Border
May 13, 2008 | 0440 GMT

The Mexican government has arrested five individuals involved in the killing
of Edgar Millan Gomez, Mexico's highest-ranking federal law enforcement
official. The five men allegedly operated on the orders of the Sinaloa
Cartel. The death of Millan Gomez at his home in Mexico City is the latest
example of the escalation of violence in the ongoing war between the Mexican
federal government and the cartels that control large swaths of Mexican
territory. The assassination of such a high-level target clearly puts
increased pressure on the government.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon's boldest initiative upon taking office 18
months ago was the deployment of thousands of troops to combat Mexican drug
cartels. In doing so, he brought the fight to the doorstep of organized
crime.

Calderon's efforts in combating the cartels have been notable, as he is the
first Mexican president to challenge cartel control of Mexican territory in
a serious way. But his resources are limited. To tackle the threats and
challenges facing the government, Calderon has shifted troops from one place
to another. But any fundamental ramping up of dedicated troops would strain
Mexico's resources.

The shift of cartel violence into the interior of Mexico, and particularly
into Mexico City itself, has been a gradual trend that Stratfor has observed
over the past year. Cartel involvement - particularly by the Sinaloa
cartel - in the capital appears to have increased noticeably since a failed
attack with an improvised explosive device in February. Millan Gomez's
assassination is the latest example of this trend.

Mexico's continued descent into chaos could have enormous implications for
the United States, with the potential to shift considerable U.S. attention
to the Western Hemisphere.

The economic importance of Mexico to the United States is difficult to
overstate. The potential disruption of trade between the two countries -
particularly relevant at a point when the United States is staring down the
maw of a recession - would be a massive liability for the United States.
U.S.-Mexican trade totaled about $350 billion worth of goods in 2007, making
Mexico one of the United States' largest trading partners.

Now, there is a real danger that Mexico's crime situation could spin out of
control. The cartels need stable supply routes to the United States to
secure their drug shipments, while the government is seeking to stem the
tide of violence that has wracked Mexico for decades. The law of unintended
consequences is in play here, and there is a distinct danger that violence
could further spill over into the United States - disrupting trade flows and
border security.

Although the United States may be moving forward with policies like the
Merida initiative, which will lend aid to Mexico's war on the cartels, the
current efforts are limited. U.S. forces are largely preoccupied in Iraq and
Afghanistan. While it would take a great deal to tip the scale toward a U.S.
military intervention in Mexico, we may now be at a point where that has to
be considered given what is at stake.

The last time the United States meaningfully asserted control over a
deteriorating situation in Mexico was in the early 20th century during the
Mexican Revolution, when the United States occupied Veracruz for six months
to protect U.S. business interests. If violence on the border started
hurting the bottom line, the cost of not doing anything would start to
approach the cost of military action. The potential for an escalation of
violence between the cartels and the government spiraling out of control
could tip that balance.

It is unclear what the threshold for U.S. action in Mexico would be. But the
stakes are high. If the United States sees trade flows threatened, and the
security situation deteriorating, Washington might see fit to intervene. And
just because it hasn't done so in a century doesn't mean it will not choose
to do so in the future.
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« Reply #68 on: May 14, 2008, 08:19:47 AM »

http://www.military.com/news/article...=1186032310810

May 14, 2008
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Three Mexican police chiefs have requested political asylum in the U.S. as violence escalates in the Mexican drug wars and spills across the U.S. border, a top Homeland Security official told The Associated Press.

In the past few months, the police officials have shown up at the U.S. border, fearing for their lives, according to Jayson Ahern, the deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.

"They're basically abandoned by their police officers or police departments in many cases," Ahern told AP.

Ahern said the Mexican officials - whom he didn't name - are being interviewed and their cases are under review for possible asylum.

In the most recent high-level assassination, a top-ranking official on a local Mexican police force was shot more than 50 times and killed. Drug-related violence killed more than 2,500 people last year alone in Mexico.
"It's almost like a military fight," Ahern said Tuesday. "I don't think that generally the American public has any sense of the level of violence that occurs on the border."

As the cartels fight for territory, this carnage spills over to the U.S., Ahern said - from bullet-ridden people stumbling into U.S. territory, to rounds of ammunition coming across U.S. entry ports.

U.S. humvees retrofitted with steel mesh over the glass windows patrol parts of the border to protect agents against guns shots and large rocks regularly thrown at them. At times agents are pinned down by sniper fire as people try to illegally cross into the U.S.

Mexico's drug cartels have long divided the border, with each controlling key cities. But over the past decade Mexico has arrested or killed many of the gangs' top leaders, creating a power vacuum and throwing lucrative drug routes up for the taking.

President Felipe Calderon, who took office in December 2006, responded by deploying more than 24,000 soldiers and federal police to areas where the government had lost control. Cartels have reacted with unprecedented violence, beheading police and killing soldiers.

In general, violence along the U.S. border has gone up over the years. Seven frontline border agents were killed in 2007, and two so far in 2008. Assaults against officers have also shot up from 335 in fiscal 2001 to 987 in fiscal 2007.

There have been 362 assaults against officers during the first four months of 2008, according to Border Patrol statistics. The pattern has been that when more security resources are deployed along the U.S. border, violence against officers spike in response.

Most assaults are along the San Diego and Calexico, Calif., border, as well as the Arizona border near Yuma and south of Tucson.

Now, about 14,000 U.S. border agents work on the southern border, up from more than 9,000 in 2001.

The Bush administration has requested $500 million to fight drug crime in Mexico. Congress is currently considering the proposal.
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« Reply #69 on: May 14, 2008, 12:44:06 PM »

May 13, 2008

 

Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?

By George Friedman

 

Edgar Millan Gomez was shot dead in his own home in Mexico City on May 8. Millan Gomez was the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Mexico, responsible for overseeing most of Mexico's counternarcotics efforts. He orchestrated the January arrest of one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, Alfredo Beltran Leyva. (Several Sinaloa members have been arrested in Mexico City since the beginning of the year.) The week before, Roberto Velasco Bravo died when he was shot in the head at close range by two armed men near his home in Mexico City. He was the director of organized criminal investigations in a tactical analysis unit of the federal police. The Mexican government believes the Sinaloa drug cartel ordered the assassinations of Velasco Bravo and Millan Gomez. Combined with the assassination of other federal police officials in Mexico City, we now see a pattern of intensifying warfare in Mexico City.

 

The fighting also extended to the killing of the son of the Sinaloa cartel leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, who was killed outside a shopping center in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state. Also killed was the son of reputed top Sinaloa money launderer Blanca Margarita Cazares Salazar in an attack carried out by 40 gunmen. According to sources, Los Zetas, the enforcement arm of the rival Gulf cartel, carried out the attack. Reports also indicate a split between Sinaloa and a resurgent Juarez cartel, which also could have been behind the Millan Gomez killing.

 

Spiraling Violence

 

Violence along the U.S.-Mexican border has been intensifying for several years, and there have been attacks in Mexico City. But last week was noteworthy not so much for the body count, but for the type of people being killed. Very senior government police officials in Mexico City were killed along with senior Sinaloa cartel operatives in Sinaloa state. In other words, the killings are extending from low-level operatives to higher-ranking ones, and the attacks are reaching into enemy territory, so to speak. Mexican government officials are being killed in Mexico City, Sinaloan operatives in Sinaloa. The conflict is becoming more intense and placing senior officials at risk.

 

The killings pose a strategic problem for the Mexican government. The bulk of its effective troops are deployed along the U.S. border, attempting to suppress violence and smuggling among the grunts along the border, as well as the well-known smuggling routes elsewhere in the country. The attacks in Mexico raise the question of whether forces should be shifted from these assignments to Mexico City to protect officials and break up the infrastructure of the Sinaloa and other cartels there. The government also faces the secondary task of suppressing violence between cartels. The Sinaloa cartel struck in Mexico City not only to kill troublesome officials and intimidate others, but also to pose a problem for the Mexican government by increasing areas requiring forces, thereby requiring the government to consider splitting its forces — thus reducing the government presence along the border. It was a strategically smart move by Sinaloa, but no one has accused the cartels of being stupid.

 

Mexico now faces a classic problem. Multiple, well-armed organized groups have emerged. They are fighting among themselves while simultaneously fighting the government. The groups are fueled by vast amounts of money earned via drug smuggling to the United States. The amount of money involved — estimated at some $40 billion a year — is sufficient to increase tension between these criminal groups and give them the resources to conduct wars against each other. It also provides them with resources to bribe and intimidate government officials. The resources they deploy in some ways are superior to the resources the government employs.

 

Given the amount of money they have, the organized criminal groups can be very effective in bribing government officials at all levels, from squad leaders patrolling the border to high-ranking state and federal officials. Given the resources they have, they can reach out and kill government officials at all levels as well. Government officials are human; and faced with the carrot of bribes and the stick of death, even the most incorruptible is going to be cautious in executing operations against the cartels.

 

Toward a Failed State?

 

There comes a moment when the imbalance in resources reverses the relationship between government and cartels. Government officials, seeing the futility of resistance, effectively become tools of the cartels. Since there are multiple cartels, the area of competition ceases to be solely the border towns, shifting to the corridors of power in Mexico City. Government officials begin giving their primary loyalty not to the government but to one of the cartels. The government thus becomes both an arena for competition among the cartels and an instrument used by one cartel against another. That is the prescription for what is called a "failed state" — a state that no longer can function as a state. Lebanon in the 1980s is one such example.

 

There are examples in American history as well. Chicago in the 1920s was overwhelmed by a similar process. Smuggling alcohol created huge pools of money on the U.S. side of the border, controlled by criminals both by definition (bootlegging was illegal) and by inclination (people who engage in one sort of illegality are prepared to be criminals, more broadly understood). The smuggling laws gave these criminals huge amounts of power, which they used to intimidate and effectively absorb the city government. Facing a choice between being killed or being enriched, city officials chose the latter. City government shifted from controlling the criminals to being an arm of criminal power. In the meantime, various criminal gangs competed with each other for power.

 

Chicago had a failed city government. The resources available to the Chicago gangs were limited, however, and it was not possible for them to carry out the same function in Washington. Ultimately, Washington deployed resources in Chicago and destroyed one of the main gangs. But if Al Capone had been able to carry out the same operation in Washington as he did in Chicago, the United States could have become a failed state.

 

It is important to point out that we are not speaking here of corruption, which exists in all governments everywhere. Instead, we are talking about a systematic breakdown of the state, in which government is not simply influenced by criminals, but becomes an instrument of criminals — either simply an arena for battling among groups or under the control of a particular group. The state no longer can carry out its primary function of imposing peace, and it becomes helpless, or itself a direct perpetrator of crime. Corruption has been seen in Washington — some triggered by organized crime, but never state failure.

 

The Mexican state has not yet failed. If the activities of the last week have become a pattern, however, we must begin thinking about the potential for state failure. The killing of Millan Gomez transmitted a critical message: No one is safe, no matter how high his rank or how well protected, if he works against cartel interests. The killing of El Chapo's son transmitted the message that no one in the leading cartel is safe from competing gangs, no matter how high his rank or how well protected.

 

The killing of senior state police officials causes other officials to recalculate their attitudes. The state is no longer seen as a competent protector, and being a state official is seen as a liability — potentially a fatal liability — unless protection is sought from a cartel, a protection that can be very lucrative indeed for the protector. The killing of senior cartel members intensifies conflict among cartels, making it even more difficult for the government to control the situation and intensifying the movement toward failure.

 

It is important to remember that Mexico has a tradition of failed governments, particularly in the 19th and early 20th century. In those periods, Mexico City became an arena for struggle among army officers and regional groups straddling the line between criminal and political. The Mexican army became an instrument in this struggle and its control a prize. The one thing missing was the vast amounts of money at stake. So there is a tradition of state failure in Mexico, and there are higher stakes today than before.

 

The Drug Trade's High Stakes

 

To benchmark the amount at stake, assume that the total amount of drug trafficking is $40 billion, a frequently used figure, but hardly an exact one by any means. In 2007, Mexico exported about $210 billion worth of goods to the United States and imported about $136 billion from the United States. If the drug trade is $40 billion dollars, it represents about 25 percent of all exports to the United States. That in itself is huge, but what makes it more important is that while the $210 billion is divided among many businesses and individuals, the $40 billion is concentrated in the hands of a few, fairly tightly controlled cartels. Sinaloa and Gulf, currently the strongest, have vast resources at their disposal; a substantial part of the economy can be controlled through this money. This creates tremendous instability as other cartels vie for the top spot, with the state lacking the resources to control the situation and having its officials seduced and intimidated by the cartels.

 

We have seen failed states elsewhere. Colombia in the 1980s failed over the same issue — drug money. Lebanon failed in the 1970s and 1980s. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was a failed state.

 

Mexico's potential failure is important for three reasons. First, Mexico is a huge country, with a population of more than 100 million. Second, it has a large economy — the 14th-largest in the world. And third, it shares an extended border with the world's only global power, one that has assumed for most of the 20th century that its domination of North America and control of its borders is a foregone conclusion. If Mexico fails, there are serious geopolitical repercussions. This is not simply a criminal matter.

 

The amount of money accumulated in Mexico derives from smuggling operations in the United States. Drugs go one way, money another. But all the money doesn't have to return to Mexico or to third-party countries. If Mexico fails, the leading cartels will compete in the United States, and that competition will extend to the source of the money as well. We have already seen cartel violence in the border areas of the United States, but this risk is not limited to that. The same process that we see under way in Mexico could extend to the United States; logic dictates that it would.

 

The current issue is control of the source of drugs and of the supply chain that delivers drugs to retail customers in the United States. The struggle for control of the source and the supply chain also will involve a struggle for control of markets. The process of intimidation of government and police officials, as well as bribing them, can take place in market towns such as Los Angeles or Chicago, as well as production centers or transshipment points.

 

Cartel Incentives for U.S. Expansion

 

That means there are economic incentives for the cartels to extend their operations into the United States. With those incentives comes intercartel competition, and with that competition comes pressure on U.S. local, state and, ultimately, federal government and police functions. Were that to happen, the global implications obviously would be stunning. Imagine an extreme case in which the Mexican scenario is acted out in the United States. The effect on the global system economically and politically would be astounding, since U.S. failure would see the world reshaping itself in startling ways.

 

Failure for the United States is much harder than for Mexico, however. The United States has a gross domestic product of about $14 trillion, while Mexico's economy is about $900 billion. The impact of the cartels' money is vastly greater in Mexico than in the United States, where it would be dwarfed by other pools of money with a powerful interest in maintaining U.S. stability. The idea of a failed American state is therefore far-fetched.

 

Less far-fetched is the extension of a Mexican failure into the borderlands of the United States. Street-level violence already has crossed the border. But a deeper, more-systemic corruption — particularly on the local level — could easily extend into the United States, along with paramilitary operations between cartels and between the Mexican government and cartels.

 

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently visited Mexico, and there are potential plans for U.S. aid in support of Mexican government operations. But if the Mexican government became paralyzed and couldn't carry out these operations, the U.S. government would face a stark and unpleasant choice. It could attempt to protect the United States from the violence defensively by sealing off Mexico or controlling the area north of the border more effectively. Or, as it did in the early 20th century, the United States could adopt a forward defense by sending U.S. troops south of the border to fight the battle in Mexico.

 

There have been suggestions that the border be sealed. But Mexico is the United States' third-largest customer, and the United States is Mexico's largest customer. This was the case well before NAFTA, and has nothing to do with treaties and everything to do with economics and geography. Cutting that trade would have catastrophic effects on both sides of the border, and would guarantee the failure of the Mexican state. It isn't going to happen.

 

The Impossibility of Sealing the Border

 

So long as vast quantities of goods flow across the border, the border cannot be sealed. Immigration might be limited by a wall, but the goods that cross the border do so at roads and bridges, and the sheer amount of goods crossing the border makes careful inspection impossible. The drugs will come across the border embedded in this trade as well as by other routes. So will gunmen from the cartel and anything else needed to take control of Los Angeles' drug market.

 

A purely passive defense won't work unless the economic cost of blockade is absorbed. The choices are a defensive posture to deal with the battle on American soil if it spills over, or an offensive posture to suppress the battle on the other side of the border. Bearing in mind that Mexico is not a small country and that counterinsurgency is not the United States' strong suit, the latter is a dangerous game. But the first option isn't likely to work either.

 

One way to deal with the problem would be ending the artificial price of drugs by legalizing them. This would rapidly lower the price of drugs and vastly reduce the money to be made in smuggling them. Nothing hurt the American cartels more than the repeal of Prohibition, and nothing helped them more than Prohibition itself. Nevertheless, from an objective point of view, drug legalization isn't going to happen. There is no visible political coalition of substantial size advocating this solution. Therefore, U.S. drug policy will continue to raise the price of drugs artificially, effective interdiction will be impossible, and the Mexican cartels will prosper and make war on each other and on the Mexican state.

 

We are not yet at the worst-case scenario, and we may never get there. Mexican President Felipe Calderon, perhaps with assistance from the United States, may devise a strategy to immunize his government from intimidation and corruption and take the war home to the cartels. This is a serious possibility that should not be ruled out. Nevertheless, the events of last week raise the serious possibility of a failed state in Mexico. That should not be taken lightly, as it could change far more than Mexico.
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« Reply #70 on: May 28, 2008, 11:47:57 AM »

E-mail Warning in Juarez
While there was a slight increase in the number of murders in Ciudad Juarez over the weekend, it was hardly the bloodbath predicted in an e-mail that began circulating among residents May 22. The anonymous e-mail promised it would be “the bloodiest weekend in the history of Juarez” and warned residents to stay in their homes because gunmen would be shooting at malls, restaurants and other public places.

The e-mail referred to the upcoming violence as “La Limpia” or “The Cleansing,” which prompted Juarez Public Safety Secretary Orduna Cruz to issue a statement urging the citizens of Juarez to stay calm. As it turned out, the most significant murders of the weekend were those of police officers Fabian Reyes Urbina and Carlos Valdez Rodriguez –- both were wearing full uniforms when they were gunned down May 23 while getting into a 1993 Ford Escort. That same day, five bodies were discovered at an intersection wrapped in blankets; two of the five were decapitated and their heads were found in plastic bags next to the bodies — the typical signature of a cartel killing. Press releases from government officials in Chihuahua state put the total number of murders in Juarez over the weekend at 22. Murders for this past week totaled 33, a slight increase from 25 the previous week.

The e-mail warning had its effect in Juarez. Several night clubs and restaurants were closed over the weekend and traffic was scarce on many city streets as most of the residents stayed in their homes. Regardless of the unknown author’s intentions, the e-mail demonstrated that such a warning could have significant economic impact. Some store owners reportedly lost as much as 60 percent of their business over the weekend. Cross-border tourism from Juarez’s sister city, El Paso, Texas, essentially came to halt over the three-day Memorial Day weekend, which is normally a high-traffic holiday.

Target Lists
Banners with the names of 21 state police officials appeared on overpasses and bridges May 25 in Chihuahua City. The names were written in black ink and signed by Gente Nueva, a break-away group from the Gulf cartel that is funded by factions of the Sinaloa cartel, which has been fighting for influence in the area since early 2007. The emblazoned names are reminiscent of the list found at the fallen officer memorial in Juarez in January. Since then, of the 17 officers named, almost half have been assassinated.


May 19
A banner reading “Join us or die,” referring to local police, was posted in Juarez.
Four people thought to be Americans were shot in the head and dumped in a notorious drug-smuggling area of Rosarito.
José Martínez Quiñónez, a top commander of the security arm of the state attorney general’s office in Chihuahua state, was assassinated outside his home in the Juarez suburb of Parral.
May 20
The bodies of two high-level state police officials in Morelos state were found in the trunk of a car on a highway between Cuernavaca and Mexico City. The bodies had single gunshot wounds to the head and showed signs of torture. A note attached to the car read, “This is what happens to those who walk with El Chapo.”
Former army major Roberto Orduna Cruz took over the 1,600-man Juarez police force.
Sixteen people were killed in a firefight in Durango.
May 21
The Mexican military took control of Villa Ahumada, a small town 80 kilometers south of Juarez, after the entire police force quit. Officers were afraid of being assassinated.
May 22
An anonymous e-mail began circulating around Juarez and El Paso advising residents to stay indoors over the upcoming weekend. The e-mail also claimed that recent executions in Juarez were in response to threats made by the Juarez cartel.
The U.S. Senate passed the Merida Initiative, a $400 million aid package designed to help the Mexican government halt drug traffic into the United States. The U.S. House of Representatives passed its own aid package the previous week.
May 23
Fabian Reyes Urbina and Carlos Valdez Rodriguez, two municipal policemen in Juarez, were shot and killed as they were getting into a 1993 Ford Escort.
Juarez police discovered the charred remains of three individuals in a burned out car.
Five blanket-wrapped bodies, two of which had been decapitated, were found in the middle of an intersection in Juarez.
Four decapitated heads were found in four separate ice chests six kilometers outside of Durango.
May 24
Two men were found dead in the Rio Bravo neighborhood in Juarez.
One man was found dead in his SUV in Juarez with over 100 bullet holes in his vehicle.
May 25
A charred body was found in the back of pickup truck in a parking lot in Juarez. Authorities were unable to identify the sex of the body because of the extensive burns.
The unidentified body of a male between the age of 35 and 40 and with five bullet wounds was found at an intersection in Juarez.

stratfor
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« Reply #71 on: May 29, 2008, 07:02:25 AM »

It's Time to Bust the Telmex Monopoly
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
May 19, 2008; Page A13
WSJ

It is a decade overdue, but Mexico finally has a clear path to ending the near-monopoly status of Telmex – Carlos Slim's Telefonos de Mexico. Whether President Felipe Calderón seizes the day will signal just how serious he is about modernizing his country's economy.

The cost to the economy of Telmex's dominance cannot be overstated. Lack of competition is the reason Mexicans pay some of the highest telecom charges in the developed world, according to a report last year by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. It's also the reason Mexicans' access to telephone services – landlines and mobile – is "one of the lowest in the OECD." As a result, while the world forges ahead in the information age, Mexico is being left in the Stone Age.

 
Mexico finally has a clear path to ending Telmex's near-monopoly. But will President Felipe Calderón seize the opportunity? Americas columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports. (May 18)
Good news came last week when the government ordered Telmex to provide interconnection to a key competitor. It is the first time since 1997, when Telmex's monopoly privileges ran out, that the government has been willing to enforce the terms of the 1990 concession title. That is the agreement signed at the time of privatization.

Even so, the ruling does nothing to solve the main cause of Mexico's inefficient and costly telecom market. Until Telmex is forced to provide competitive pricing to non-Telmex carriers that have to use the network, and simple number portability to customers who want to switch to other carriers, competition will not evolve. Telmex should also have to cease its practice of cross-subsidizing its telephony businesses.

Until now, Mr. Slim has been an immoveable object. When his monopoly privileges expired in 1997, regulators tried to make him provide network access, at competitive rates, to the other carriers. But by then he had gotten used to the spoils of the monopoly. Whenever regulators have tried to force competitive practices, he has used the courts to block them.

Mexico's largest special interest is also known for using his influence in the halls of Congress and with the executive. During the presidency of Vicente Fox (2000-2006), a former Telmex employee was miraculously named the minister of communication and transport. Judging from how little was accomplished under Mr. Fox, that minister wasn't shy about looking after his former boss's interests.

 THE AMERICAS IN THE NEWS

 
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.Until now, Mexicans have been wary of crossing the powerful Mr. Slim, who is said to control 40% of advertising in the country. But the problems caused by Telmex's uncompetitive practices can no longer be ignored. To that end the telecom regulator, known by the Spanish acronym Cofetel, has drafted a proposal aimed at creating an environment where competition can flourish. The initiative calls for interconnection for all competitors at cost-based rates. It would also introduce an institutional framework similar to that of most OECD countries, and bring Mexico into compliance with the World Trade Organization.

The trouble is that Mr. Slim has already shown that he can litigate to eternity anything coming from the regulator. So even if the new regulation is adopted, Telmex is likely to use the injunction process to block its effectiveness. That is, unless Mr. Calderón trades Mr. Slim something for his cooperation.

Economic giants have gigantic appetites, and Mr. Slim's needs to be fed again. Having consumed Mexican telephony, he now wants to begin eating into the television market by delivering video. But the terms of his 1990 purchase of Telmex strictly forbid such an expansion.

So all the Calderón government has to do to tame the Telmex beast is to enforce the terms of the existing title concession. This would mean that the company would have to adopt accounting practices that avoid cross-subsidization. It also would mean making it clear to Mr. Slim that the Telmex concession title prohibits the provision of television services.

If Telmex wants to change the terms of that original contract so it can compete in video, Mr. Calderón should exact a price. If the company otherwise complies with its original obligations, the Cofetel plan can be put on the table, along with a fee, as the cost of a television license.

Standing firm on this point is important to the future of both television and telephony in Mexico. Right now cable companies are trying to deliver telephone services, but Telmex's interconnection rates are making it difficult to compete. Mr. Slim will crush these midsized competitors if he is allowed to offer video without opening telephony.

The Slim dynasty cannot prosper if it cannot expand into television. If Mexican regulators get smart and begin to aggressively privatize the wireless spectrum, its odds are even slimmer. That's why this is the moment to drive a stake through the heart of the Telmex monopoly. If Mr. Calderón passes up the chance, he will seal his own fate as a reformer and practically guarantee that Mexico will fail to live up to its potential in the next decade.
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« Reply #72 on: May 31, 2008, 11:05:31 AM »

Drug Massacre Leaves a Mexican Town Terrorized


 
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
Published: May 31, 2008
VILLA AHUMADA, Mexico — A massacre here two weeks ago has turned this once sleepy town into a ghostly emblem of the drug violence that has swept Mexico over the last year and a half, gutting local police forces, terrifying citizens and making it almost impossible for the authorities to assert themselves.


In Villa Ahumada, Mexico, on May 18. The night before, dozens of gunmen killed six people in the town, including two civilians who were together in a pickup truck, and abducted others.


On the night of May 17, dozens of men with assault rifles rolled into town in several trucks and shot up the place. They killed the police chief, two officers and three civilians. Then they carried off about 10 people, witnesses said. Only one has been found, dead and wrapped in a carpet in Ciudad Juárez.

The entire municipal police force quit after the attack, and officials fled the town for several days, leaving so hastily that they did not release the petty criminals held in the town lockup. The state and federal governments sent in 300 troops and 16 state police officers, restoring an uneasy semblance of order. But townspeople remain terrified.

“Yeah, we’re afraid, everyone’s afraid,” said José Antonio Contreras, a 17-year-old who was threatened by the gunmen. “Nobody goes out at night.”

Tourists driving south from Texas to the Pacific Coast beaches pass through Villa Ahumada on Highway 45. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when this dusty town on the railroad tracks was best known for its roadside burrito stands, its good cheese and its having recorded one of the coldest temperatures in Mexico — 23 below zero in January 1962.

In recent years, however, it also became a way station along one of Mexico’s major drug smuggling routes. Villa Ahumada lies about 85 miles south of El Paso on the main highway from the city of Chihuahua to the border city of Ciudad Juárez.

Mexico’s drug violence has by now become so pervasive that it is infecting even small communities like this one, which has fewer than 9,000 residents.

Around the country in the last 18 months, more than 4,000 people have been killed in similar attacks and gun battles, even as President Felipe Calderón has tried to take back towns where the local police and officials were on the payroll of drug kingpins.

This week, seven federal officers died in a gun battle with cartel henchmen when they tried to enter a house in Culiacán, Sinaloa, a city notorious for its traffickers. The officers had been sent to the city, along with 2,700 other soldiers and agents, to track down a reputed drug kingpin believed to have ordered the assassination of the acting federal chief of police, who was killed in Mexico City on May 8.

When the police arrived, banners were hung in the city taunting the officers and saying the reputed kingpin, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, reigned supreme in Culiacán.

In Villa Ahumada less than two weeks after the massacre, people remained so cowed that even the mayor and his police commissioner declined requests to be interviewed. When asked who the gunmen were and why they had come, most of the residents who were interviewed shook their heads and whispered that spies were everywhere. In private, however, some acknowledged that the town had long been home to narcotics traffickers in league with a reputed drug dealer, Pedro Sánchez Arras.

Frightened residents, who did not want to be identified, said Mr. Sánchez’s agent in the town was Gerardo Gallegos Rodelo, a 19-year-old tough guy who went around with an armed posse. It was rumored that he and Mr. Sánchez had links to a drug cartel in Ciudad Juárez that is controlled by the Carrillo Fuentes family. Law enforcement officials did not confirm the claim.

Several residents said Mr. Gallegos and Mr. Sánchez had also seemed to enjoy good relations with the local police. People shrugged and tolerated the arrangement. The town was peaceful, after all, some said. It seemed best to leave well enough alone.

“Wherever you are in Mexico these days there are drug dealers, not just here,” explained Raúl Moreno, 64, a day laborer. “They didn’t bother anyone. No one bothered them.”

The trouble started, people here say, when Mr. Gallegos was killed in a shootout with a group of reputed gangsters in Hidalgo del Parral, in the southern part of Chihuahua State, on April 6.
=============

Page 2 of 2)



Two days later, the army swooped in on his funeral in Villa Ahumada and arrested dozens of people in attendance, taking into custody a police commander, Adrián Barrón, among others. It remains unclear what those detained will be charged with, the attorney general’s office said.

The arrest seemed to set in motion the trouble in Villa Ahumada. Late on the Saturday night four days after Mr. Sánchez’s arrest, said Mr. Contreras, the 17-year-old, he and several other boys were dancing at a party for a friend in a hall just off the main square when they heard the rat-tat-tat of machine-gun fire.

He hurriedly left the party with his girlfriend and mother, but they ran into three cars full of heavily armed men, he said. Spewing death threats, the men forced the three to lie on the ground. He waited for the shots, but the cars roared off. One of the men called out, “We’ll be back.”

For three hours, the gunmen roamed the town in six pickups and sport utility cars. They strafed a used car lot with bullets. They pumped more than 75 rounds into two men riding in a truck. One was Julio Armando Gómez, the manager of a roast chicken place. The other was Mario Alberto González Castro, 41, who sold tickets at the bus station.

Mr. González’s wife, who asked to be identified only by her nickname, Cuquis, said she had gone looking for her husband when she heard the shooting and found his lifeless body oozing blood in the car. Her hands trembled with fear when she was asked who might be behind the killing; then she broke down, saying she had told the police what she knew and could not say anything else. “He was innocent, innocent above all else,” she said through her sobs.

The gunmen caught up to the police chief, José Armando Estrada Rodríguez, and two officers, Óscar Zuñiga Dávila and José Luis Quiñones Juárez, who were sitting in their patrol car at a gas station. The attackers killed the three men with 26 shots from an assault rifle, officials said.

Also killed was Luis Eduardo Escobedo Ruiz, 21, who happened to be pulling into a parking lot near the gas station. More than 100 shells were found outside his car.

Privately, some residents speculated that the attackers came from a rival drug cartel intent on dislodging the Carrillo Fuentes family from Ciudad Juárez and the cities along the route down through Chihuahua State to Sinaloa State. Some whisper it was Joaquín Guzmán, an accused drug kingpin known as “El Chapo,” who sent the commandos. Others mention the Zetas, feared hired killers in the employ of the Gulf Cartel.

“They are getting rid of all the people connected to Pedro Sánchez,” said one young man, requesting anonymity for fear of the cartels. “All the police worked for Pedro.”

The state authorities say they still have little information about what happened, much less whom the gunmen worked for. The fearful silence of residents makes it hard for investigators to make progress, Eduardo Esparza, a spokesman for the state attorney general, said.

“At this moment, we have no lines of investigation,” he said. “It’s hard to get information. The families of the victims refuse to talk, mainly out of terror. One can’t advance at a good pace. There are lots of barriers.”

One measure of those barriers is that the state police have been informed of only two kidnappings on the night the raiders came to town, but several residents insisted that at least 10 people were missing.

The townspeople say they feel a pall hanging over them. The roadside restaurants and vendors of cheese say fewer people stop in the town, apparently out of fear. Soldiers in Humvees with mounted machine guns patrol the streets.

Some residents said they were stunned that the entire police force of more than 20 officers had stepped down. Many say the town will never be able to afford the cost of a more professional force that could stop future attacks.

“One feels very disillusioned with the government,” said the owner of a popular restaurant, who has spent her life in the town. “There is no one who seems to be able to do anything.”


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« Reply #73 on: May 31, 2008, 07:32:34 PM »

http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/tijuana/warning.html
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« Reply #74 on: June 06, 2008, 06:56:35 PM »

Independent.co.uk
Mexico’s war on drugs: Journey into a lawless land

With 1,400 dead this year alone, and gangs pinning up 'wanted' posters naming police they wish to see killed, Mexico's war on drugs is spiralling out of control. Richard Grant risked his life to travel through the mountains of the Sierra Madre – the most dangerous region of all – and witnessed the terrifying slide into anarchy

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

If someone had come up to me in my early twenties, when men are supposed to be at their most reckless, and offered me a fortune to go into a place like the Sierra Madre, I would have thought about it for about three seconds before saying no. But after years spent reporting gangs in South Central LA, where I had a gun pointed at me for the first time, the Zapatista uprising in southernmost Mexico, and riots in Haiti, my acceptable level of risk kept rising. I had begun to think the Sierra Madre would not be that dangerous, and besides, I was curious about the nature of anarchy. The forbidden mystique of the Sierra got the better of me.

The Sierra Madre Occidental, the Mother Mountain range of the Mexican West, begins just south of the Arizona border and extends for nearly 900 miles. It contains no cities or large towns, only two paved roads and almost nothing in the way of law and order. This rugged cordillera has always defied the efforts of governments – Aztec, Spanish and Mexican – to enforce control, and it is now one of the biggest production areas in the world for marijuana, opium and heroin, and a staging point for Colombian cocaine.

It is not the sort of place where you can just turn up without an introduction, and I spent years trying to make contacts who could take me in under their protection. Time and again, I was told that it was too dangerous to take a gringo into the mountains, because the drug lords were feuding, or battling the army. Finally, I found a way to get into the Sierra Madre, spent four months travelling down the range and was extremely lucky to escape from the mountains without getting killed.

Along the way, I glimpsed Mexico's future. In the past 18 months, and particularly in the last two weeks, the murderous narco-anarchy I saw in the Sierra Madre has gone nationwide. President Felipe Calderon has gone to war against Mexico's drug cartels, all of which were started by Sierra Madre clanfolk who came downhill – and he is now discovering that the Mexican state isn't strong enough to defeat them.

In Mexico City, cartel gunmen assassinated the nation's police commander in the grounds of his home. In the state of Chihuahua, drug gangs have, in the past fortnight, put up hit lists and wanted posters with names and photographs of police commanders, and offers of reward money for their deaths. In the border city of Juarez, the list was posted on a police memorial statue. No one dared take it down, and so far 17 names have been crossed off it – dead.

The narcos are also feuding with other, with 1,400 drug-related murders so far this year, and many towns and cities are under a virtual curfew. Several police departments have resigned en masse in terror, and three police commanders have fled to the United States requesting asylum. President Calderon is claiming signs of progress, but it looks like the whole nation is unravelling, turning feral, descending into lawlessness.

****

The morning I left for the Sierra Madre, the sun was shining brightly. With my guide, I crossed the border at Douglas, passed through two Mexican army checkpoints looking for guns and drugs, then entered the foothills. My grand adventure was under way at last.

Crossing the line into the state of Sonora, I made my first stop in the town of Yecora. A three-piece band was playing on a flatbed truck and a crowd of 30 or 40 people had gathered. I love norteño music.

I parked and rolled the window down. It was good, raw, soulful, caterwauling norteño. A hundred years ago, they sang corridos in the Sierra about famous bandits, outlaws, revolutionaries, or particularly bloody feuds and heroic-tragic deaths. Now they sing about the drug lords, who sometimes commission the songs out of vanity, and events both real and imagined from the lives of drug growers, local bosses, regional traffickers, smugglers, dealers, pilots, assassins. There's a great deal of macho bragging and posturing, and despite the accordions and polkas, the music form it most resembles is gangsta rap.

I walked over to the back of the crowd as the band was singing a narcocorrido about some drug lord who was the king of the Sierra, with many houses, fine women and impressive machine-guns.

The next song had hardly begun when three drunk men with twitching lips came up to me. They offered to sell me marijuana at $100 a kilo, premium quality, good price, "special for you". When I said I had just pulled over to hear the music they got very suspicious and accused me of working for the US Drug Enforcement Agency, which is something you never want to hear in the Sierra Madre. I laughed it off with as much casual disdain as I could muster, said that I was a British tourist, bid them a sudden farewell and concentrated on maintaining a relaxed and deceptively speedy gait as I walked back to my truck.

I drove all the way out of the mountains without stopping again. Late that night, with enormous relief, I collapsed at a motel. I was safe.

Soon afterwards, I arrived in the town of Alamos. It would take a while to find someone willing and able to take me deeper into the mountains from there. Crossing the Sierra on a paved and well-travelled highway was one thing, but going into the mountains above Alamos by myself was different.

I studied the calm, impassive expressions on the faces of the grandmothers sitting in their doorways, the young couples arm in arm, the off-duty drug dealers standing outside the cantina, wearing silk shirts decorated with pictures of roosters, scorpions, pick-up trucks, AK-47s and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

I went into a cantina called Casino Señorial, a big concrete barn with the walls painted Tecate red and gold, white plastic tables and chairs and a giant, pulsating, multicoloured jukebox in the corner. The place was three-quarters full with men, and I could tell from the hard faces, lean shanks and tyre-tread sandals that most of them had come down from the Sierra.

On the wall behind the bar was a stuffed mountain lion, caught in the act of tearing the throat out of a stuffed deer. Fake blood was smeared around the wound and splattered down the wall. I sat down at the bar and ordered a caguama, a giant sea-turtle, or in this case a quarter-gallon bottle of Tecate beer.

Three women appeared and paraded on the concrete floor on stiletto heels. The whores collected money from the bartender and fed it into the jukebox. The music was all narcocorridos – "I'm one of the players in the Sierra where the opium poppy grows... I like risky action, I like to do cocaine, I walk right behind death with a beautiful woman on each arm... I've got an AK-47 for anyone who wants to try me..."

A group of men beckoned me over to their table. One of them was clearly in charge, a big, paunchy man with a glassy-eyed smile and a magnificent Roman nose. The others called him El Pelicano, The Pelican, and warned me that he and the younger man next to him were cops from the region.

I pulled up a chair and sat down and The Pelican thumped his empty caguama on the plastic table. The bartender scurried over with a fresh one and The Pelican looked at me to pay. They all looked ripped on cocaine, including the two cops.

Their lips were writhing and they were chewing at their tongues and guzzling down beer at a crazy pace. Five minutes after it arrived, the caguama was empty and The Pelican thumped it down on the table. Again I paid and five minutes later I paid again, and so on for the next 20 minutes.

They started making motions, as if lifting a key or a spoon to their nostrils. "Do you like perico?" asked the younger cop. Cocaine was perico, parakeet, because it made you chatter without knowing what you were saying.

"Not now, thank you," I said. Call me paranoid, but the idea of doing cocaine with Mexican cops made me nervous.

I got up to go to the bathroom and the two cops followed me in there. Then The Pelican raised his forefinger to stop me leaving, took out a plastic bag of cocaine, scooped a little mound on the end of his pocket knife and offered it to me.

They wanted me to buy some, which looked like a classic Mexican set-up: I would buy the cocaine, the cops would bust me and extort a large bribe, which they would then spend on cocaine. My instincts were telling me to leave but I didn't know how. To leave a Mexican drinking session before it reaches its natural conclusion, which is absolute drunkenness, is considered rude and disrespectful, and in the rougher parts of the Sierra it is a frequent cause of homicide.

The Pelican thumped down another empty caguama and I pulled out my wallet again and found that it was empty. A godsend!

I showed it to everyone at the table, thanked them for their fine company and outstanding hospitality and assured them that my house was at their orders if they were ever in Tucson.

I got up to leave and The Pelican said: "No, we need more perico. We need more beer. You can get more money from the wall of the bank. We are friends. Or are you too proud to drink with Mexicans?"

"We are friends without doubt," I said. "And there are no better people in all the world to drink with than Mexicans. I will go to the bank and get money from the wall."

I made my reeling exit, and headed towards and into the welcoming darkness of my guest-house.

****

The old adobe town of Urique was founded by a gold prospector in 1690. The sun was behind the canyon wall and the long dusk had begun. Behind Rafael's restaurant was a garden with some fruit trees and white plastic tables and chairs. There, I met two young men called Pancho and José. They had gel-spiked hair and were wearing cargo pants and Nike trainers.

"You want to buy some?" said Pancho without further ado, referring to the local marijuana, "$100 a kilo."

"Ah, no thank you."

"How about grenades? I have some good grenades and a rocket for them."

"The rocket shoots the grenades?"

"Yes. It works very well, very strong." He held up his arm and slapped it.

"It's not my business, but why would anyone need rocket-propelled grenades in Urique Canyon?"

Pancho gave me the patient, pitying look. "Helicopters," he said. "Sometimes the army comes in helicopters. We used to string cables across the canyons to bring them down, but these work much better."

"But I don't need to shoot down any helicopters."

"Hombre, you can use them for anything you want. If there are bandits on the road ahead, you stop and – BOOM!"

"How about some parakeet?" chimed in José. "We can get some right now from Pancho's aunt."

"No thank you. But tell me, how are the police here? Do they make trouble?"

"There is no problem," said José. They both grinned. "My brother is a police officer and we are training to be police officers ourselves."

Not so long ago, the largest town in each municipio would have a single resident comisario, or police officer, and he was responsible for law and order over hundreds of square miles of rugged, roadless mountains. His only real work was to confiscate moonshine, then sell it back to the townsfolk out of his office. That was the extent of the law unless there was a killing and the killer was considered too dangerous or troublesome for the victim's family members to kill. In that case, the local people would send for the judiciales, the state police, and they would ride up into the Sierra on mules.

Now, there are stations of municipal police officers in places like Urique and Chinipas. Pancho and José would soon be joining their ranks. Once they had their badges, guns and the power of arrest, their potential earnings would increase. Units of the state police and AFI (Mexico's equivalent of the FBI) were stationed in the Sierra Madre now, too, but this didn't mean that law and order had arrived. It usually meant more armed, ruthless men in town looking for a piece of the drug action – and a rise in teenage pregnancies and drink-driving accidents.

Trying to distinguish between police officers and drug traffickers can be a futile exercise in Mexico. The traffickers don't just buy protection against arrest; they hire state and federal policemen to transport loads for them and carry out executions.

Where once there was a relatively simple form of lawlessness in the Sierra, now things are more complicated, based on shifting arrangements of corruption financed by organised crime, linked to global black markets and affected by national and international politics. There are enormous amounts of money at stake now, and this was what drew the law into the Sierra Madre and also made it imperative to co-opt the law and keep it at bay.

****

Baborigame was an ominous, grim-looking town in a wide valley with heavily logged mountains around it. When Randy, another of my guides, first came here in the early 1990s, there was no law and no electricity, and a killing almost every night. The arrival of the law had resulted in a decline in the murder rate in town, and an increase in the murder rate out in the ranches.

The torrent of drug money that had flowed through Baborigame in the 1980s and 1990s had left almost no trace. The streets were unpaved and potholed. The drains didn't work. Aside from a few "narco" houses with bright paint and fancy wrought-iron fences, people lived in squalid shacks and adobes.

By this point in my journey I was tired and run down and I had lost tolerance for machismo. It is the root of the worst evil in Mexico, the real reason why men kill each other and rape women in such horrifying numbers. Not that those numbers are available; according to The Washington Post, fewer than 1 per cent of rapes are reported in Mexico.

In the Sierra Madre the practice known as rapto – a man kidnapping a girl and forcing her to marry him – is commonplace. This is what happened to Chana, a woman I met. From Coloradas de la Virgen, she was now living in Baborigame. Raped at 15 and made pregnant, she had to marry the rapist so he could help her to raise the child. She had another child with her rapist husband and then he was murdered, leaving her with two children to raise. It happens to thousands of women like Chana every year. It is indefensible, but it is the code of the mountains.

Back near Alamos, I picked up another guide, Gustavo. One of his jobs was doing clerical and translating work for the municipio, or county police department, and this gave him access to the murder reports and crime statistics from the area. I started looking into the numbers.

The population of the municipio was approximately 23,000, with 9,000 in Alamos, 3,000 in San Bernardo and the rest scattered in small mountain villages and ranches. Gustavo said they were averaging 90 reported murders a year, and that it was safe to add at least another 20 unreported murders to that figure. Let's call it 100 murders a year, committed by a population of 23,000.

I knew that Mexico's overall murder rate was twice that of the United States, but here was a rural county with a murder rate eight times higher than the most homicidal US cities.

We drove into a village of about two dozen shacks, most of them built out of crudely woven sticks and dried mud with palm-thatch or corrugated tin roofs. More often than not, they also had a solar panel, a TV satellite dish and a big American pick-up parked out front.

"With the money from your first crop you buy clothes, jewellery and guns," said Gustavo. "I can assure you that every one of these huts has at least one pistol and one rifle inside. Then you buy your truck, your solar, your satellite and TV. The last thing you spend money on is the house."

We drove on to the next village, Aguacaliente. It looked deserted. We walked along the stream looking for the hot springs that gave the village its name. A middle-aged man appeared in a blue shirt and white hat and walked down the banks holding a bucket. "That's a woman's job," said Gustavo. "He was sent down here to see what we're doing."

The man introduced himself as Señor Espinoza and we all shook hands. Gustavo ran through his clan credentials. With no prompting, Señor Espinoza started talking about the soldiers. "We had a nice crop growing in the hills and we were ready to pick it when the army came with planes and helicopters and a captain that could not be fixed."

"It is these new college-educated army officers," said Gustavo.

"There are a couple of them near Alamos who can't be fixed. They are not reasonable men," said Espinoza. "We used to grow a lot of opium here and the army have stopped that too. It makes no sense. The army and the federales were getting their share, the politicians were getting their share from the mafia, the gringos were getting their drugs and the people here were able to make a living. It was a good system for everybody and now it is broken. Even if we get a reasonable captain during the next harvest, we have no money now and will not be able to fix things with him."

He bid us a courteous farewell, apparently satisfied that we were harmless. We walked back to the truck and sat in the cab making peanut butter sandwiches.

"Gustavo," I said, looking in the rear-view mirror. It didn't look good. There were two young men leading horses directly towards us and they had very hard stares on their faces. Gustavo looked over his shoulder. Two more men appeared and then all four of them pulled down their hats, and when Gustavo saw that, with a piece of bread half-smeared with peanut butter on his knee, he said, "Go, go, go! Go now! Go!"

I started the engine and slewed out of there, fish-tailing in the sand.

****

The largest component of Mexico's economy is still drug trafficking, estimated at about $50bn. According to a leaked study conducted in 2001 by Mexico's internal security agency CISEN, if the drug business was somehow wiped out, Mexico's economy would shrink by 63 per cent.

As Gustavo pointed out, the drug business was not a healthy occupation or a good influence on society. It makes boys neglect their schooling and any other ambitions they might harbour. It causes men to die young and violently and worsens corruption.

Coming back across the Cuchujaqui river in the gathering dark, tired and beaten up from a long day on bad roads, Gustavo spoke. "The thing about Mexico is that everyone is out to get everyone else, except within your family and very closest friends. We live with our senses and suspicions on full alert. Maybe someone thinks your wife is prettier than his so he whispers something to the police, or the mafia, and the next thing the police are planting drugs in your truck and you're going to jail for 10 years, or there's a bullet in your head and you may never know why."

He paused a moment and let out a long sigh: "I don't know if you can understand what it is like to live this way."

© Richard Grant 2008. Extracted from Bandit Roads, to be published tomorrow (Little, Brown, £16.99). To order the book for the special price of £15.99 (inc P&P), call Independent Books Direct on 0870 079 8897
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« Reply #75 on: June 06, 2008, 08:16:45 PM »

As Porfirio Diaz said some 100 years ago, "Poor Mexico; so far from God and so close to the United States."

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« Reply #76 on: June 06, 2008, 08:49:00 PM »

Poor Americans, so close to Mexico, and with a still unsecured border.......
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« Reply #77 on: June 07, 2008, 01:02:31 AM »

http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/10869/

**Content Warning-graphic photos from Mexico's drug violence**
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« Reply #78 on: June 07, 2008, 06:28:17 AM »

"Poor Americans, so close to Mexico, and with a still unsecured border......."

A witty rejoinder GM, and entirely valid-- we are in complete agreement about the border and that Mexico's inability to have opportunity for its people within its own borders presents profound problems for us.

I would also add that if Americans weren't buying the cocaine that we do, the drug trade would not be what it is.  (For the record, in my opinion our "War on Drugs" is a tremendous mistake.)
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« Reply #79 on: June 09, 2008, 11:31:02 PM »

Border battle brews over Mexico's undersea oil

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Unable to develop its deepwater wells and crowded by foreign energy giants, the nation weighs opening up a key industry.

By Marla Dickerson, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 5, 2008

U.S. GULF OF MEXICO -- Eight miles north of the maritime border with Mexico, in waters a mile and a half deep, Shell Oil Co. is constructing the most ambitious offshore oil platform ever attempted in the Gulf of Mexico.

As tall as the Eiffel Tower, the floating production facility will be anchored to the ocean floor by moorings spanning an area the size of downtown Houston. Slated to begin operating late next year, this leviathan known as Perdido (or Lost) will cost billions and be capable of pumping 100,000 barrels of crude a day.


But Perdido's most-notable achievement may be to compel Mexico to loosen its 70-year government monopoly on the petroleum sector, thanks to a phenomenon Mexicans have dubbed the "drinking straw effect."

Mexicans fear that companies drilling in U.S. waters close to the border will suck Mexican crude into their wells. Actor Daniel Day-Lewis' fictional oilman in "There Will Be Blood" likened the concept to siphoning a rival's milkshake.

"When they take petroleum from the American side, our petroleum is going to migrate," Sen. Francisco Labastida Ochoa, head of the Mexican Senate's Energy Committee, told the newspaper Milenio recently.

Oil isn't a simple commodity in Mexico. It's a powerful symbol of national sovereignty. Rancor over foreigners profiting from its hydrocarbons -- namely America's Standard Oil -- led Mexico to nationalize its industry in 1938. The state-owned oil company Pemex is forbidden by law from partnering with outsiders to exploit a drop of Mexican crude.

But for a growing chorus of Mexicans, sharing a milkshake is preferable to watching your neighbor drink it up. Mexico has no viable deepwater drilling program to match U.S. efforts near the maritime border. And it lacks an iron-clad legal means to defend its patrimony. Some are urging their government to partner with the U.S. to co-develop border fields or risk losing those deposits.

Mexican Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel has spoken repeatedly of her desire to negotiate such a pact. Cross-border fields are a hot topic in Mexico's Congress. Lawmakers are embroiled in a heated debate on how to strengthen Pemex, which provides 40% of Mexico's tax revenue but whose slumping output is alarming the nation.

Proposed legislation would still ban partnerships. But the consensus to permit some exception in the gulf region is growing as oil companies move closer to Mexican territory. The U.S. has issued drilling rights on dozens of parcels less than 10 miles from Mexican waters. Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil, plus independents including Houston's Bois d'Arc Energy, have secured acreage adjacent to the boundary.

"The pressure is forcing [legislators] to do something," said Mexico City attorney David Enriquez, a maritime law expert who will testify at a Senate hearing today on transborder reservoirs. "It's the one area where they are unified."

It's unclear whether big shared deposits even exist in the Gulf of Mexico. Historically, the region's deepwater finds have been isolated pockets of petroleum, not mega-fields.

Officials at the U.S. Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that regulates U.S. offshore production, said they had no knowledge that any gulf reservoirs now under development crossed the international divide.

Shell, which is developing its Perdido platform with Chevron and BP, said the deposits they were targeting were confined to U.S. territory.

Mexicans are skeptical. A recent editorial cartoon showed a greedy Uncle Sam sucking from a straw plunged deep into the gulf. But Pemex hasn't done the seismic and drilling work needed to determine if there is crude on its side.

All the more reason, Enriquez said, for Mexico to collaborate with the U.S. to find out what lies near the 470-nautical-mile gulf border and end all the speculation.

A spokesman for Minerals Management said his agency had worked with Mexico before on boundary issues and was open to discussing cross-border fields. "It's the neighborly thing to do," said Dave Cooke, deputy regional supervisor for resource evaluation for the agency in New Orleans.

Oil and gas fields straddle international borders all over the globe. Countries typically strike a "unitization agreement" to share the costs to extract the deposits and split the proceeds based on how much lies in each nation.

Britain has partnered with the Netherlands and Norway in the crowded North Sea. Australia and East Timor have a unitization agreement. So do Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea.

But the U.S. and Mexico have long skirted the topic, given their prickly history with oil.

Until recently, such an agreement wasn't necessary. Both nations had plenty of shallow-water reserves to keep them occupied. Low oil prices didn't justify the exorbitant costs of deepwater drilling, where a single well can cost $100 million or more.

But exploding crude prices and advances in seismic technology now have oil companies pushing into the farthest reaches of the U.S. gulf. Private operators snapped up a record $3.7 billion worth of leases at Mineral Management Services' March auction, virtually all of them in deep water.

Since 1992, firms have drilled more than 2,100 wells at depths greater than 1,000 feet in the U.S. gulf. Pemex has drilled seven deepwater wells since 2004, none of which is producing, and none is likely to for years.

Therein lies the nation's predicament. Mexico is the world's sixth-largest crude producer, but production is in its fourth straight year of decline. Mexico could become a net oil importer within a decade if it doesn't find new reserves fast.

Cantarell, a shallow-water gulf field in southern Mexico, is drying up after more than a quarter-century of production. April output averaged just over 1 million barrels a day, less than half of its peak in 2003.

Pemex says there are billions of untapped barrels in Mexico's deep waters. But it lacks the capital and know-how to go after them.

A bill being pushed by President Felipe Calderon's administration would make it easier for Pemex to hire the expertise it needs. But deep-water projects cost billions and can take a decade to come on line. Oil majors typically want a share of any crude that they find -- a standard industry practice forbidden by Mexico's constitution.

It's unclear whether a constitutional change would be necessary to let Mexico forge a unitization agreement with the United States. But industry experts said a deal would make sense for both sides.

Companies working in U.S. waters wouldn't have to worry about Mexico taking legal action if it were determined that Mexican crude was ending up in their wells. International law and commercial custom dictate that communal reservoirs be shared. But the U.S. has not ratified a key United Nations treaty on maritime law, which could complicate Mexico's effort to pursue any complaint over pilfered crude.

Nevertheless, oil companies don't like surprises, said Michelle Foss, chief energy economist at the University of Texas at Austin's Bureau of Economic Geology. "You're not going to put a billion dollars at risk if . . . you might have to suspend operations because of an international dispute," she said.

A unitization deal would give Pemex a chance to learn from deepwater veterans who have been working the gulf for decades. There is pipeline infrastructure on the U.S. side, eliminating the need for Mexico to duplicate such a costly effort.

Yet critics such as Mexican opposition leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador say border fields are the first step in opening Mexico's energy sector to foreigners and privatizing Pemex. Calderon denies it.

As Mexico mulls its next move, the U.S. is hitting the gas. Its gulf crude production averages 1.3 million barrels daily and is projected to rise to as much as 2.1 million barrels a day by 2016, thanks to Perdido and other deepwater projects.

Shaped like a giant tin can, Perdido will be anchored in 8,000 feet of water, making it the deepest so-called spar in the world. The movable structure, with up to 150 workers, will tap oil at three fields, Silvertip, Tobago and Great White.

"The easy oil is gone," said Russ Ford, Shell's technical vice president for the Americas.
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« Reply #80 on: June 17, 2008, 11:33:40 AM »

Mexico Security Memo: June 16, 2008
Stratfor Today » June 16, 2008 | 2330 GMT
Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Targeting Children
Twelve-year-old Alexa Belen Moreno was found shot dead in the back of an abandoned sport utility vehicle June 9 in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Police later reported that Moreno and two other young girls had been kidnapped in a park near where Moreno’s body was discovered. The three girls reportedly were kidnapped to be used as bargaining tools with rival groups, but the scenario changed when the kidnappers were intercepted by a rival group. The kidnappers proceeded to use the three as human shields as they engaged in a gun battle with the rival faction, resulting in Moreno’s death and the injury of another of the girls.

While violence has been aimed at young people before, even the cartels largely eschew the tactic. (La Linea, an alliance of corrupt police officials that acts as the enforcement arm of the Juarez cartel, later left a note next to the corpse of an individual stating, “This is what happens to those who involve the innocent.”)

The child kidnappings and the killing of Moreno reveal a trend seen before with the Arellano Felix Organization, aka the Tijuana Cartel. As the Tijuana cartel began to dissolve under pressure from multiple sources, elements of it diversified their criminal interests into different areas such as kidnapping.

The split between the Sinaloa cartel and the Juarez cartel over the Juarez plaza has been well documented, and is the source for the majority of the violence taking place in the border town. While the Sinaloa cartel continues to fracture, we will likely see the remaining Sinaloa elements in Juarez either move elsewhere or adopt this practice of diversifying their criminal enterprises. However, the narcotics trade will still be the central focus for these factions because that is where the most money is to be made.

Cuban Illegal Immigrants Abducted
A bus carrying 33 Cuban nationals guarded by National Institute of Migration (INM) guards was hijacked June 11 by an unknown number of armed men on the Palenque-Ocosingo road 140 kilometers (about 87 miles) outside Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of Chiapas state. The 33 Cubans were arrested in Cancun earlier in the week when the boat they were traveling in was intercepted by the INM. They were on the bus along with other Central American detainees traveling to an immigration detention center in Tapachula.

Cuban Ambassador to Mexico Manuel Aguilera de la Paz revealed that elements of the “Miami Mafia” were behind the hijacking in Chiapas. Human trafficking has been a large money-maker for the Cuban mafia, especially the Miami syndicate, for some time now. Recently, human smugglers have begun to take different routes through Mexico and across its porous border with the United States due to increased patrols by the U.S. Coast Guard along the Florida coast. Cuban nationals must only be present at the border and be able to identify themselves as a Cuban national to be granted asylum in the United States; they do not have to cross the border first. Families pay members of the Miami Mafia between $10,000-$15,000 per person to transport loved ones from Cuba to the United States, making this group of Cuban nationals quite valuable at just under $500,000. The Mexican Attorney General’s Office later announced that the Miami Mafia possibly could be cooperating with Los Zetas, using plazas controlled by the Zetas to transport Cubans to the U.S. border.





(click to view map)

June 9

The Police Chief of Jaltipan, a city southeast of Veracruz, was murdered by a group of armed men inside his home as he returned from work in the afternoon.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza announced an “Arms Crusaders” program to prevent cross-border arms transactions; he also announced the exchange of real-time intelligence between Mexican and U.S. authorities.
June 10
The corpse of Jorge Velazquez, the chief of security for Reclusorio Sur — a Mexico City prison — was found wrapped in a blanket on the side of the street in the Iztapalapa area of Mexico City. Authorities believe his murder resulted from a prison drug deal gone wrong. Prison officials later confiscated all cell phones belonging to prison inmates.
June 11
The head prosecutor for Mexico City announced that two kidnapping gangs still operating openly in the city are responsible for four recent abductions that remain under investigation.
Mexico’s attorney general said violence in the struggle against drug trafficking has not reached its peak yet, but will decline over the next few years.
June 12
Citizens of Morelia, frustrated with the inactivity of local law enforcement, posted three signs around town warning criminals not to commit petty crimes.
An informant provided the Mexican Attorney General’s office with information connecting high-ranking Public Security Secretariat official Juan Guadalupe Aguilar to Sergio Villareal — aka El Grand — a high-ranking member of the Beltran Leyva group with connections to the Los Zetas.
June 13
The bodies of a young married couple executed in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, were discovered in a house on a ranch, bound with gunshot wounds to the backs of their heads. This was the second such incident in a week in Michoacan.
June 14
“Commando Negro” leader Rosario Flores Rojas was captured outside Ensenada, Baja California state, in a joint operation between the Mexican Army and state law enforcement officials. Commando Negro has protected drug traffickers, operated a kidnapping ring and been involved in various incidents of score-settling.
June 15
Five people died in a shootout between two rival drug gangs and federal, state and local officials in Ciudad Obregon and Navajoa, Sonora States.
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« Reply #81 on: June 26, 2008, 09:05:13 AM »

**Their troops in action?**


http://www.nationalterroralert.com/jd_interviews.mp3

http://www.nationalterroralert.com/ma1.pdf

http://www.nationalterroralert.com/ma2.pdf

http://www.nationalterroralert.com/ma3.pdf

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/06/23/20080623abrk-homeinvasion0623-ON.html

Man killed in home invasion; drugs suspected
by Ali Pfauser - Jun. 23, 2008 04:34 PM
Six men with guns and body armor ambushed and killed a man in his Phoenix home Sunday, firing over one hundred rounds into the house.

No one else was injured. Investigators believe the house was being used to sell marijuana and the shooting was not random. Nevertheless, the large amount of ammunition alarmed authorities.

"We have seen an increasing amount of these type of violent crimes in the past five months," Phoenix Police Sgt. Joel Tranter said. "We want the public to realize that these types of crimes will not be tolerated in Phoenix."

Phoenix police officials gave the following details about the case: Special Assignments Unit detectives were near the area of 83rd Avenue and Encanto Boulevard when they heard gunshots coming from a neighborhood. The detectives began to drive toward the gunshots where they were directed by neighbors to a nearby house.

Once inside the home, detectives discovered the body of Andrew Williams, 30, shot numerous times, Phoenix Police Detective Cindy Scott said.

As police searched the gunshot-riddled house they determined over 100 rounds of various calibers of ammunition were used.

Police also recovered marijuana and body armor from the house.

As more investigators came to help, they noticed a red Chevrolet Tahoe driving suspiciously in the neighborhood. Detectives followed the vehicle to 7th Street and Coronado Road where Daniel Garcia-Saenz, 24; Manual Garcia-Trejom, 25; and Rodolfo Madrigal Lopez, 19, jumped out and ran from the vehicle before being apprehended by authorities.

All three suspects were wearing law-enforcement-like body armor. Helmets and various weapons were recovered from the suspect's vehicle.

Police believe there are three more suspects still outstanding in the case, Scott said.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Phoenix Police Department at 602-262-6141 or 480-WITNESS.
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« Reply #82 on: June 26, 2008, 01:37:52 PM »

http://michellemalkin.com/2008/06/26/outrage-our-friends-in-mexico-release-suspect-in-border-patrol-officers-murder/

More from our "amigos".
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« Reply #83 on: July 02, 2008, 06:00:47 PM »

Mexican Cartels and the Fallout From Phoenix
July 2, 2008




By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Late on the night of June 22, a residence in Phoenix was approached by a heavily armed tactical team preparing to serve a warrant. The members of the team were wearing the typical gear for members of their profession: black boots, black BDU pants, Kevlar helmets and Phoenix Police Department (PPD) raid shirts pulled over their body armor. The team members carried AR-15 rifles equipped with Aimpoint sights to help them during the low-light operation and, like most cops on a tactical team, in addition to their long guns, the members of this team carried secondary weapons — pistols strapped to their thighs.

But the raid took a strange turn when one element of the team began directing suppressive fire on the residence windows while the second element entered — a tactic not normally employed by the PPD. This breach of departmental protocol did not stem from a mistake on the part of the team’s commander. It occurred because the eight men on the assault team were not from the PPD at all. These men were not cops serving a legal search or arrest warrant signed by a judge; they were cartel hit men serving a death warrant signed by a Mexican drug lord.

The tactical team struck hard and fast. They quickly killed a man in the house and then fled the scene in two vehicles, a red Chevy Tahoe and a gray Honda sedan. Their aggressive tactics did have consequences, however. The fury the attackers unleashed on the home — firing over 100 rounds during the operation — drew the attention of a nearby Special Assignments Unit (SAU) team, the PPD’s real tactical team, which responded to the scene with other officers. An SAU officer noticed the Tahoe fleeing the scene and followed it until it entered an alley. Sensing a potential ambush, the SAU officer chose to establish a perimeter and wait for reinforcements rather than charge down the alley after the suspects. This was fortunate, because after three of the suspects from the Tahoe were arrested, they confessed that they had indeed planned to ambush the police officers chasing them.

The assailants who fled in the Honda have not yet been found, but police did recover the vehicle in a church parking lot. They reportedly found four sets of body armor in the vehicle and also recovered an assault rifle abandoned in a field adjacent to the church.

This Phoenix home invasion and murder is a vivid reminder of the threat to U.S. law enforcement officers that stems from the cartel wars in Mexico.

Violence Crosses the Border
The fact that the Mexican men involved in the Phoenix case were heavily armed and dressed as police comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed security events in Mexico. Teams of cartel enforcers frequently impersonate police or military personnel, often wearing matching tactical gear and carrying standardized weapons. In fact, it is rare to see a shootout or cartel-related arms seizure in Mexico where tactical gear and clothing bearing police or military insignia is not found.

One reason for the prevalent use of this type of equipment is that many cartel enforcers come from military or police backgrounds. By training and habit, they prefer to operate as a team composed of members equipped with standardized gear so that items such as ammunition and magazines can be interchanged during a firefight. This also gives a team member the ability to pick up the familiar weapon of a fallen comrade and immediately bring it into action. This is of course the same reason military units and police forces use standardized equipment in most places.

Police clothing, such as hats, patches and raid jackets, is surprisingly easy to come by. Authentic articles can be stolen or purchased through uniform vendors or cop shops. Knockoff uniform items can easily be manufactured in silk screen or embroidery shops by duplicating authentic designs. Even badges are easy to obtain if one knows where to look.

While it now appears that the three men arrested in Phoenix were not former or active members of the Mexican military or police, it is not surprising that they employed military- and police-style tactics. Enforcers of various cartel groups such as Los Zetas, La Gente Nueva or the Kaibiles who have received advanced tactical training often pass on that training to younger enforcers (many of whom are former street thugs) at makeshift training camps located on ranches in northern Mexico. There are also reports of Israeli mercenaries visiting these camps to provide tactical training. In this way, the cartel enforcers are transforming ordinary street thugs into highly-trained cartel tactical teams.

Though cartel enforcers have almost always had ready access to guns, including military weapons such as assault rifles and grenade launchers, groups such as Los Zetas, the Kaibiles and their young disciples bring an added level of threat to the equation. They are highly trained men with soldiers’ mindsets who operate as a unit capable of using their weapons with deadly effectiveness. Assault rifles in the hands of untrained thugs are dangerous, but when those same weapons are placed in the hands of men who can shoot accurately and operate tactically as a fire team, they can be overwhelmingly powerful — not only when used against enemies and other intended targets, but also when used against law enforcement officers who attempt to interfere with the team’s operations.

Targets
Although the victim in the Phoenix killing, Andrew Williams, was reportedly a Jamaican drug dealer who crossed a Mexican cartel, there are many other targets in the United States that the cartels would like to eliminate. These targets include Mexican cartel members who have fled to the United States due to several different factors. The first factor is the violent cartel war that has raged in Mexico for the past few years over control of important smuggling routes and strategic locations along those routes. The second factor is the Calderon administration’s crackdown, first on the Gulf cartel and now on the Sinaloa cartel. Pressure from rival cartels and the government has forced many cartel leaders into hiding, and some of them have left Mexico for Central America or the United States.

Traditionally, when violence has spiked in Mexico, cartel figures have used U.S. cities such as Laredo, El Paso and San Diego as rest and recreation spots, reasoning that the general umbrella of safety provided by U.S. law enforcement to those residing in the United States would protect them from assassination by their enemies. As bolder Mexican cartel hit men have begun to carry out assassinations on the U.S. side of the border in places such as Laredo, Rio Bravo, and even Dallas, the cartel figures have begun to seek sanctuary deeper in the United States, thereby bringing the threat with them.

While many cartel leaders are wanted in the United States, many have family members not being sought by U.S. law enforcement. (Many of them even have relatives who are U.S. citizens.) Some family members have also settled comfortably inside the United States, using the country as a haven from violence in Mexico. These families might become targets, however, as the cartels look for creative ways to hurt their rivals.

Other cartel targets in the United States include Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement officers responsible for operations against the cartels, and informants who have cooperated with U.S. or Mexican authorities and been relocated stateside for safety. There are also many police officers who have quit their jobs in Mexico and fled to the United States to escape threats from the cartels, as well as Mexican businessmen who are targeted by cartels and have moved to the United States for safety.

To date, the cartels for the most part have refrained from targeting innocent civilians. In the type of environment they operate under inside Mexico, cartels cannot afford to have the local population, a group they use as camouflage, turn against them. It is not uncommon for cartel leaders to undertake public relations events (they have even held carnivals for children) in order to build goodwill with the general population. As seen with al Qaeda in Iraq, losing the support of the local population is deadly for a militant group attempting to hide within that population.

Cartels have also attempted to minimize civilian casualties in their operations inside the United States, though for a different operational consideration. The cartels believe that if a U.S. drug dealer or a member of a rival Mexican cartel is killed in a place like Dallas or Phoenix, nobody really cares. Many people see such a killing as a public service, and there will not be much public outcry about it, nor much real effort on the part of law enforcement agencies to identify and catch the killers. The death of a civilian, on the other hand, brings far more public condemnation and law enforcement attention.

However, the aggressiveness of cartel enforcers and their brutal lack of regard for human life means that while they do not intentionally target civilians, they are bound to create collateral casualties along the way. This is especially true as they continue to conduct operations like the Phoenix killing, where they fired over 100 rounds of 5.56 mm ball ammunition at a home in a residential neighborhood.

Tactical Implications
Judging from the operations of the cartel enforcers in Mexico, they have absolutely no hesitation about firing at police officers who interfere with their operations or who dare to chase them. Indeed, the Phoenix case nearly ended in an ambush of the police. It must be noted, however, that this ambush was not really intentional, but rather the natural reaction of these Mexican cartel enforcers to police pursuit. They were accustomed to shooting at police and military south of the border and have very little regard for them. In many instances, this aggression convinces the poorly armed and trained police to leave the cartel gunmen alone.

The problem such teams pose for the average U.S. cop on patrol is that the average cop is neither trained nor armed to confront a heavily armed fire team. In fact, a PPD source advised Stratfor that, had the SAU officer not been the first to arrive on the scene, it could have been a disaster for the department. This is not a criticism of the Phoenix cops. The vast majority of police officers and federal agents in the United States simply are not prepared or equipped to deal with a highly trained fire team using insurgent tactics. That is a task suited more for the U.S. military forces currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These cartel gunmen also have the advantage of being camouflaged as cops. This might not only cause considerable confusion during a firefight (who do backup officers shoot at if both parties in the fight are dressed like cops?) but also means that responding officers might hesitate to fire on the criminals dressed as cops. Such hesitation could provide the criminals with an important tactical advantage — an advantage that could prove fatal for the officers.

Mexican cartel enforcers have also demonstrated a history of using sophisticated scanners to listen to police radio traffic, and in some cases they have even employed police radios to confuse and misdirect the police responding to an armed confrontation with cartel enforcers.

We anticipate that as the Mexican cartels begin to go after more targets inside the United States, the spread of cartel violence and these dangerous tactics beyond the border region will catch some law enforcement officers by surprise. A patrol officer conducting a traffic stop on a group of cartel members who are preparing to conduct an assassination in, say, Los Angeles, Chicago or northern Virginia could quickly find himself heavily outgunned and under fire. With that said, cops in the United States are far more capable than their Mexican counterparts of dealing with this threat.

In addition to being far better trained, U.S. law enforcement officers also have access to far better command, control and communication networks than their Mexican counterparts. Like we saw in the Phoenix example, this communication network provides cops with the ability to quickly summon reinforcements, air support and tactical teams to deal with heavily armed criminals — but this communication system only helps if it can be used. That means cops need to recognize the danger before they are attacked and prevented from calling for help. As with many other threats, the key to protecting oneself against this threat is situational awareness, and cops far from the border need to become aware of this trend.

Tell Stratfor What You Think

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« Reply #84 on: July 16, 2008, 09:39:38 AM »

Mexico: The Early Signs of a Failed State?   
By Congressman Tom Tancredo
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mexican law enforcement officials are walking into U.S. ports of entry in increasing numbers to seek political asylum, and the flow may soon become a flood as Mexico's battle with the drug cartels intensifies. Our first instinct is to welcome them, but there is more at stake than humanitarian sentiments.
 
The problem is that if our immigration laws are stretched to grant asylum to law enforcement personnel on the grounds that their own government cannot protect them, any Mexican threatened by these violent criminal gangs can claim the same right of asylum.
 
U.S. immigration law does not easily accommodate these law enforcement cases because they are fleeing threats from organized crime – the Mexican drug cartels – not political persecution by their government. If our laws are stretched to accept thousands of refugees from drug cartel violence, it will only exacerbate Mexico's problems.
 
We can sympathize with the Mexican police chief or prosecutor who lands on a cartel hit list because he will not play ball with them. The Mexican federal government seemingly cannot protect him and his family, so he flees to El Paso or Nogales and seeks asylum. The number of such asylum applications more than doubled in the first six months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007, but very few have been approved. What will happen if we do not accept these asylum applications as a humanitarian gesture? What will happen if we do?
 
The rising number of asylum seekers from Mexican law enforcement and the professional classes is a new phenomenon, not merely another facet of our open borders fiasco. These people are not swimming the Rio Grande or sneaking across the Sonora desert. They are walking into our border ports of entry from Texas to California and asking for protection. We must respect them for following our laws and doing it the right way. But we must also ask some hard questions before throwing open our gates. Humanitarian concerns must be balanced against other considerations – because the fate of Mexico hangs in that balance.
 
What happens to Mexico if all the good cops flee to the U.S. or Europe and the only ones left are working hand-in-glove with the criminals? What are the consequences if all the honest judges and prosecutors flee and only dishonest ones are left in charge of the courts? What happens if honest businessmen find it easy to flee to San Diego, Houston or Phoenix and only those who will do the cartels' money laundering are running the nation's trucking companies, farms, and banks?
 
The unpleasant truth is that this new refugee problem is the sign of a deep crisis not in the Mexican economy but in the Mexican political system itself. Mexico exhibits mounting signs of a "failed state," a political system that cannot satisfy the most basic conditions of civic order such as safety in one’s streets, home, school, and workplace. Failing states begin to hemorrhage people and their assets. The middle class begins to flee – doctors, lawyers, accountants, business owners, teachers, and of course, law enforcement officials, who are the first targets of criminal organizations.
 
These new "civic disorder refugees" are not like the millions of unemployed or underemployed who leave Mexico to a find a job and a better life. These middle class citizens have jobs – often good jobs by Mexican standards – but they do not have security for themselves or their families. They would much prefer to stay in Mexico but they cannot do so safely, so they flee.
 
If police chiefs and judges cannot be protected from the cartels, then how can ordinary citizens feel safe? If we open the gates to everyone who has a "credible fear" of the cartels, the Border Patrol will no longer have to worry only about people jumping the fence. Thousands will be waiting in line at one of over 300 ports of entry.
 
This new "emigration from fear" poses an urgent challenge for Mexico. If Mexico wants to win its battle against the drug cartels, it must begin by reforming its police and criminal justice systems so that honest cops, judges and mayors – and journalists – can do their jobs without undue fear of retaliation. To his credit, President Calderon has begun to tackle this problem.
 
Military operations against the cartel strongholds are probably necessary, but they can never be a substitute for a functioning criminal justice system. Mexican citizens must be able to trust the local police, and local police must be able to trust their government to protect them from gangster-terrorists.
 
The United States must not become an automatic escape valve for honest officials threatened by cartel violence. If that happens, Mexico will lose its most valued civil servants and become increasingly a militarized (and polarized) society.
 
Mexico is not yet a failed state, but if humanitarian sentiment and special interest pleadings in the U.S. block sound immigration policy – as happens all too often in American law and politics – we will hasten that tragic development.
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« Reply #85 on: July 28, 2008, 04:54:06 PM »

Significant Seizures

The Mexican government has made several large seizures of narcotics, materials and cash in recent weeks throughout Mexico. One of the biggest was the July 25 discovery of 8,000 drums of chemicals used to make synthetic drugs in a warehouse in Guadalajara, in Jalisco state. Some of the barrels contained ephedrine and others acetone, two key ingredients in the manufacturing of crystal methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine production is one of the more profitable enterprises in which Mexican drug cartels are involved, and the so-called Mexican “super labs” are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of the methamphetamine on the streets in the United States. It is important to note the growing importance of Mexican-made methamphetamine, the production of which has increased dramatically since 2005, when the United States began restricting the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. It is also important to recognize that one Mexican super lab is able to produce the same amount of the narcotic as hundreds of the small mom-and-pop meth labs common in the United States. The price of methamphetamine is comparable to that of powder cocaine in the United States, and with the cartels able to produce the synthetic narcotic themselves, they can keep a larger portion of the profits than when they act merely as middlemen transporting narcotics from South America.

In any case, someone in the methamphetamine business will not be pleased about the July 25 seizure, and some form of violent payback will likely occur in the coming weeks and months. This could be the attempted assassination of a high-profile law enforcement official with connections to the seizure, or even an attempt to reclaim the seized goods. In the past, the cartels have contracted with assassination gangs like El Nica, which is believed to have been involved in the May 1 murder of Roberto Velasco Bravo, director of investigations for the federal police’s sensitive investigations unit, and the May 8 murder of Edgar Millan Gomez, the acting head of the federal police. However, many of these gangs have been dismantled by the government. Therefore, the cartels will either contract with a new gang or send in cartel enforcers, in which case large amounts of firepower will likely be employed.

It is hard to say when an act of retaliation will occur. Millan was involved in a car chase that nearly captured Arturo Beltran Leyva outside of Cuernavaca, in Morelos state, and it was only a matter of hours before Milan was assassinated outside his home in the Guerrero colony of Mexico City. In an attempt to reclaim their “property” Los Zetas, who have diversified their interests to include human smuggling, are credited with the hijacking of a Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) bus carrying 33 undocumented Cubans in Chiapas state only a couple of days after they were detained by the INM in Cancun, Quintana Roo. The Cubans were later detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on the U.S. side of the border. In other cases, the time between seizures or arrests and retaliation has been weeks or even months. Although it is hard to predict the timing of a retaliatory strike, it is important to note that the cartels can act swiftly
when they see a need to.

Foreign Kidnappings
Reports began surfacing this past week of foreign nationals being kidnapped for ransom in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which shares a border with Texas and is home to the Gulf Cartel. On July 12, five South Korean nationals were kidnapped and held for a $30,000 ransom in the city of Reynosa. South Korean officials negotiated their release on July 22. South Korean officials refused to comment on whether the ransom was paid. It was later reveled that the five were planning to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to seek employment in the United States.

On July 21, a 19-year-old American citizen named Roel Rolando Ramirez was rescued from room 226 of the Hotel California in the Mexican town of Miguel Aleman, in Tamaulipas state. The son of a New Mexico rancher, Rolando Ramirez lived in the Texas border town of Rio Grande City, where he was forced into a car and blindfolded after reportedly being tricked by a friend into stopping his truck. Rolando Ramirez was then taken to the Hotel California where he was told to call his father and ask for $200,000 to be wired to bank accounts in Mexico for his safe return. Rolando Ramirez’s father then alerted the state police, and they were able to rescue Ramirez and arrest his captors.

Cartels typically target only their enemies in kidnapping attempts, but with the security situation along the U.S.-Mexican border in a state of flux, the cartels may be looking for other ways to make money. It would not be surprising to see cartels engage in kidnapping for ransom to help finance their narcotics operations, which have been constrained on both sides of the border. The Arellano Felix Organization (aka the Tijuana cartel) and the paramilitary group Los Zetas have both engaged in kidnapping for ransom when federal police and military operations severely hampered their drug trafficking activities. Also, it is important to note that human traffickers will sometimes hold their “cargo” hostage for additional funds. The illegal nature of human trafficking makes it difficult for awaiting family members to go to the proper authorities to report such situations.





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July 21
Roel Rolando Ramirez was rescued after he was kidnapped July 17 in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas state. Rolando Ramirez’s father alerted state police after his son phoned him for the ransom. Police were able to locate Rolando Ramirez in a hotel in Miguel Aleman and arrest the kidnappers.
Two men were killed with AK-47s outside of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Authorities say the assassins were traveling in a truck on a state highway when they opened fire on the two men.
July 22
Five South Korean nationals were set free after they were kidnapped by a gang and spent 10 days detained in an undisclosed location in Reynosa. A $30,000 ransom was demanded but South Korean officials declined to comment on whether or not it was paid.
Los Zetas were presumed to be responsible for the deaths of three state police agents in Campeche state. The three officers were leaving a restaurant around midday in Ciudad del Carmen when the gunmen opened fire.
July 23
Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes received two letters threatening his life from Gente Nueva, a paramilitary group last known to be associated with El Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel. In one of the letters, the group accuses Reyes of siding with Carrillo Fuentes and the Juarez cartel and of “collaborating with the AFP.”
July 24
Twenty-one ministerial police officers resigned from departments in Culiacan, Mazatlan and Guasave, in Sinaloa state.
Salvador Barreno, director of the prison system in Juarez, Chihuahua state, was shot some 60 times by an armed group outside his home. He died at the scene.
July 25
Federal authorities seized four residences of Jesus Ernesto Sauceda Felix (aka El Chapo Sauceda), who is presumed to have been behind a drive-by shooting that killed eight innocent people, including a 15-yeqr-old girl, almost two weeks ago in Guamuchil, in Sinaloa state.
Federal police and elements of the Mexican military found 8,000 drums of chemicals used to make synthetic drugs in the basement of a warehouse in Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
The body of Pablo Aispuro Ramírez, a municipal police officer in Culiacan, was found hanging in a tree wearing a sombrero with a message pinned to his chest. He was reported kidnapped July 17.
July 26
Federal agents seized five large-caliber weapons, 17 magazines and 388 rounds of ammunition in a raid on a residence in Ejido, in Sonora state. Authorities say the residents of the home, members of the Sinaloa cartel, were planning an assault on rival groups.
July 27
A shooting in a prison 47 kilometers from Navolato, in Sinaloa state, left one prisoner dead and two others injured. A pistol was reportedly smuggled into the prison for the targeted assassination of Victoriano Araujo Payan, the brother of Gonzalo Araujo Payan, a former high-ranking Sinaloa cartel member who reportedly committed suicide in 2006.
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« Reply #86 on: July 28, 2008, 07:39:08 PM »

I have only one question after reading this thread.  How can anyone defend these people coming into the U.S illegally?

Not all the bleeding heart slogans in the world will change the fact that the U.S is spending more tax dollars then it is taking on, mostly on social programs and initiatives that would not need to be in place if the general population were more self sufficient. 

Cities are literally on the verge of bankruptcy, and still more uneducated, non english speaking people pour across the U.S mexican border that these financially unstable cities and states will have to suppport. 

Does it not bother you guys that there are hundreds of thousands of good, english speaking, university educated people waiting to legally enter the U.S who will be more then happy to pay taxes and give to society instead of taking?

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« Reply #87 on: August 05, 2008, 10:08:43 AM »

Mex military points guns at US BP agents  angry angry angry

http://www.local2544.us/
===================================
Mexico Security Memo: Aug. 4, 2008
Stratfor Today » August 4, 2008 | 2110 GMT
Related Links
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Another Bloody Milestone
In the past week, the number of cartel-related homicides in Mexico surpassed 2,630 for the year, approximately the number of killings in the country during all of 2007. The country’s cartel war has intensified so much in 2008 that it has taken only seven months to claim the same number of victims that were killed in 12 months in 2007, which was a record year for drug violence.

While there are few corners of the country immune to organized-crime activity, much of the current violence is concentrated in areas where authorities have disrupted the largest criminal groups. The growing violence may simply be the price that must be paid for the government’s successes in targeting the cartels.

And there have been successes. A Mexican press report published in the past week detailed the progress the government has made in its operations against the Sinaloa cartel. Over the past two months, according to the report, authorities have investigated presumed money-laundering establishments, taken down a series of “transmission antennae” that formed part of the cartel’s communications network, and seized nearly 200 vehicles, an airplane, various weapons and currency worth more than $12 million.

None of these events alone represents a significant blow to the cartel. New money laundering networks can be set up, new police commanders bribed, and cellular phones can be used instead of radios. Continued over time, however, these kinds of successes would certainly disrupt the cartel’s business operations. With the security operations in Sinaloa state only a few months old, it remains to be seen how long the authorities can maintain their current operational tempo. One vulnerability of the operation is the absence of important industry or tourism in Sinaloa state, which makes the area a relatively low priority for security. There are many more important parts of the country that could emerge as hotspots and quickly draw security forces from their current assignments in Sinaloa.

Colombian Drug Trafficker Captured
Authorities in Mexico announced this past week the arrest of Ever Villafane Martinez, a Colombian drug trafficker believed to be the link between the Beltran Leyva organization in Mexico and the Norte del Valle cartel in Colombia. Villafane Martinez was arrested in Mexico City, where he had lived under an alias and operated a real estate business for several years. Authorities believe he fled Colombia sometime in 2001, when he escaped from a maximum security prison while awaiting extradition to the United States.

Much is unknown about the inner workings and external relationships of the Beltran Leyva organization and the exact role played by Villafane Martinez, which makes it difficult to assess the potential impact of his arrest. On one hand, if he was one of several mid-level members managing the cocaine flow from South America, any effects will likely be short-lived. On the other hand, if he had a management role high in the organization, or was the organization’s sole connection to its Colombian suppliers, the coming investigation into his financial records and Colombian acquaintances could have a lasting impact.





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July 28
A group of armed men opened fire on a police headquarters building in Lerdo, Durango state, killing two officers who were standing outside at the time of the attack.
The former police chief of San Juanito, Chihuahua state, died when he was shot 10 times by a group of gunmen chasing him in his vehicle.
A police patrol car forming part of a convoy transporting an alleged drug trafficker in Oaxaca, Oaxaca state, was intentionally rammed by an SUV driven by several armed men. Authorities believe the incident was an attempt to stop the convoy and rescue the suspect. The rescue attempt was unsuccessful and the alleged drug trafficker was kept in custody.
A police officer in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, was shot to death while driving by gunmen traveling in two vehicles that blocked his path and opened fire. After fleeing the scene, the gunmen returned to ensure that the victim was dead by shooting him in the head at close range.
July 29
Authorities in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state, reported the targeted killing of a former police officer. In a separate incident, a jeweler in the city was abducted by armed men from a restaurant where he was dining with his family.
July 30
Six members of a family — including two girls, ages 7 and 8 — were discovered dead in their home by unknown assailants in Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco state. Five of the victims had been shot in the head at close range, while the other was apparently killed by a knife. Authorities have suggested that the crime may have been motivated by robbery, since one of the victims had recently withdrawn a large amount of cash from a bank.
A federal police commander in Mexicali, Baja California state, was arrested by authorities in Los Angeles, Calif., on charges related to organized crime. The commander had reportedly fled to the United States with his family following the recent assassination of federal agents in Mexicali and amid rumors that he would be targeted next.
A police commander in Coacalco, Mexico state, was kidnapped from his home by six men armed with assault rifles.
A city official in charge of public works in Amatlan, Veracruz state, was shot to death by unknown assailants while driving his vehicle.
July 31
The chief of homicide investigations in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, died when he was shot in the head at close range as he was leaving his home.
One person died and another was wounded in Ecatepec, Mexico state, when their vehicle was fired upon by gunmen traveling in two SUVs with federal police insignia on the side. Authorities recovered more than 150 shell casings from the scene.
Aug. 1
Authorities in Pajacuaran, Michoacan state, found the body of an unidentified man bound at the wrists and with three gunshot wounds to his head.
Two men died and a female police officer was wounded by gunfire attributed to gang members in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
The bodies of two unidentified men were found with gunshot wounds to the head in Nogales, Sonora state. In nearby Cananea, the charred bodies of two men were discovered in a burned vehicle.
Aug. 2
The body of an unidentified man with signs of torture and at least one gunshot wound in the face was found in Nextlalpan, Mexico state. A note criticizing the Michoacan state-based criminal group La Familia was reportedly found with the body, though the contents were not released.
Aug. 3
The bodies of four federal agents were found inside a car along a road in Queretaro, Queretaro state. Authorities reported that the agents had been abducted the day before in San Luis Potosi state.
Federal police in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, arrested three alleged drug traffickers after a pursuit and firefight that began when the suspects attempted to flee from the agents.
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« Reply #88 on: August 18, 2008, 07:41:21 AM »

WSJ
THE AMERICAS
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY   

 
Mary Anastasia O'Grady is a member of The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and editor of the "Americas," a weekly column that appears every Monday in the Journal and deals with politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada.
Ms. O'Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She became a member of the Editorial Board in 2005. She previously worked as an options strategist, first for Advest Inc. and then for Thomson McKinnon Securities in 1983. She moved to Merrill Lynch & Co. in 1984 as an options strategist and was also a product manager and a sales manager for Merrill Lynch Canada and Merrill Lynch International during her 10 years with the company.
In 1997 Ms. O'Grady won the Inter American Press Association's Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary, and in 1999 she received an honorable mention in IAPA's opinion award category. In 2005 she won the Bastiat Prize for journalism, which honors writers who promote the institutions of a free society. Ms. O'Grady, who was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., received a bachelor's degree in English from Assumption College and an M.B.A. in financial management from Pace University.


Mexico Pays the Price of Prohibition
August 18, 2008

With the world fixated on Vladimir Putin's expansionist exploits in Georgia, a different sort of assault against a democracy south of the U.S. border is getting scant attention. But it is equally alarming.

Mexico is engaged in a life-or-death struggle against organized crime. Last week six more law enforcement officials were killed in the line of duty battling the country's drug cartels. This brings the death toll in President Felipe Calderón's blitz against organized crime to 4,909 since Dec. 1, 2006.  A number of the dead have been gangsters but they also include journalists, politicians, judges, police and military, and civilians. For perspective on how violent Mexico has become, consider that the total number of Americans killed in Iraq since March 2003 is 4,142.

Kidnapping and armed robbery numbers have also soared. In Tijuana, a kidnapping epidemic has provoked an exodus of upper-middle-class families across the U.S. border in search of safety.

As this column has pointed out many times, one reason that security has so deteriorated in the past decade is the demand in the U.S. for illegal narcotics, and the U.S. government's crackdown on the Caribbean trafficking route. Mexican cartels have risen up to serve the U.S. market, and their earnings have made them rich and well-armed.

The victims of last week's killing spree include the deputy police chief of the state of Michoacan and one of his men, a detective in the state of Chihuahua, and a deputy police chief in the state of Quintana Roo. As of July, 449 police and military officers have died in the Calderón offensive, further underscoring the price Mexico is paying for the U.S. "war on drugs." But the costs go well beyond the loss of life.

 
AP 
Doctors hold banners during a demonstration against a recent wave of crimes and kidnappings in Tijuana, Mexico.
In a developed country like the U.S., prohibition takes a toll on the rule of law but does not overwhelm it. In Mexico, where a newly revived democracy is trying to reform institutions after 70 years of autocratic governance under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the corrupting influence of drug profits is far more pernicious.

According to Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, part of the explanation for the kidnapping surge can be traced to the success of the government's squeeze on the drug runners. He told me in February that he expected the pressure to produce a fragmentation of the cartels, turf wars and an increase in other criminal activities to replace shrinking profits in drug trafficking.

If true, the kidnapping spree might be a sign that Mr. Medina Mora's strategy is working. But when federal investigators recently fingered Mexico City police in the kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Fernando Martí, the son of a wealthy entrepreneur, Mr. Medina Mora's theory lost some credibility. Rather than being the work of demoralized criminals, kidnapping, in the capital anyway, appears to be just one business run by a well-oiled machine with institutional links.

Ricardo Medina, a leading Mexican opinion writer and the editor of El Economista, the country's top financial daily, told me on Thursday the case shows that "independent of the shooting war on drugs there is the problem of institutions being infiltrated by criminals and corrupted."

Even captured criminals often go free, Mr. Medina says, and all branches of government share responsibility for this crisis of impunity. It is true that judges can be intimidated or bribed. But it is also true, for example, that under Mexican law kidnapping is not a federal crime, and therefore must be handled by local authorities. Often victims do not want to press charges because there is a perception that the local police and local governments are in on it.

That perception has been strengthened in the Martí case, but the problem of impunity is hardly new. As Mr. Medina wrote in El Economista on Friday, "impunity is in view of everyone, day after day. We all see it even to the point of smiling ironically or shrugging our shoulders."

Why hasn't this problem been tackled? One possible explanation in Mexico City is that the district police and the rest of the district's bureaucracy represent an important constituency for the ruling Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD). If the PRD's base prefers the status quo, there is a high political cost to challenging it.

Drug profits going to organized crime only complicate the matter. Writing in the latest issue of the Milken Institute Review, former U.S. foreign service officer Laurence Kerr takes a page out of U.S. history. "America has been in Mexico's shoes: flush with the bounty of illegal liquor sales, organized crime thoroughly penetrated the U.S. justice system during Prohibition. As long as Americans willingly bury Mexican drug traffickers in greenbacks, progress in constraining the trade is likely to be limited." Regrettably, Mexico's institutional reform will also be limited and the death toll will keep climbing.

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com

 
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« Reply #89 on: August 20, 2008, 07:05:00 PM »

Violence in Juarez Persists
The bloody turf battles that have been waged for the better part of this year in the northern state of Chihuahua — and in the border city of Ciudad Juarez in particular — continued this past week. The usual cadence of violence in the state was punctuated by two particularly brutal incidents. In the first, eight men armed with assault rifles fired shots at the outside of a drug rehabilitation clinic in Juarez, then entered the building and opened fire again, killing eight people and wounding six others. In the second, at least 13 people — including a 1-year-old child — were killed when a dozen armed men entered a dance hall in Bocoyna, Chihuahua state, and fired indiscriminately at about 100 people celebrating a family gathering. Details of the family’s identity were not released, making it difficult to assess why the family would have been targeted.

The attack on the drug rehab center follows a similar attack during the previous week that left two dead. If the attacks were designed as intimidation to ensure a market of addicts for local distribution of narcotics, it is more likely that a local street gang would have conducted them — as they would have more to lose than would major drug trafficking cartels with markets north of the border. It is also possible, however, that those managing the clinics engaged in other activities detrimental to a cartel or local gang, or refused to cooperate with a local cartel presence. Regardless, the confluence of various criminal groups in the Juarez area and their struggle for control of the city will ensure that incidents like this continue.

Sinaloa Cartel Activities in Central America
Authorities in Costa Rica announced this past week the arrest of a Cuban-American and a Costa Rican believed to control overland drug trafficking routes in Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua for the Sinaloa cartel. Authorities seized more than 600 pounds of cocaine from a warehouse during the arrest. The capture follows the seizure earlier this past week in Nicaragua of more than 1.5 tons of cocaine that belonged to a then-unidentified Mexican cartel, as well as the arrest of several Mexican nationals in Panama in possession of more than 150 pounds of cocaine. Authorities do not know how long the cartel had operated the route, but suggested that the Mexicans had only recently arrived in Central America. Reportedly, a lack of trust on their part drove them to more closely oversee the smuggling operation.

The increasing presence of Mexican drug traffickers in Central America is a shift that we have observed over the past year, as maritime and airborne routes to Mexico have become more difficult to use without detection. Several details of these most recent investigations offer keen tactical insight into how drugs are moved from South America to Mexico. Drugs on the route detected in this case, for example, enter Costa Rica via highway through an international port of entry and are kept several days in a safe-house near the border. The shipment is then transported overland across the entire country, entering Nicaragua on horse or on foot at a remote part of the international border. The shipment is then carried to the inland Lake Nicaragua, where is it picked up by boat and transferred to another vehicle as it continues on to Honduras.

Besides these tactical details, this incident offers an opportunity to consider the overall state of the drug trade. It is a testament to the current power of Mexican cartels in general that it is the Mexican groups — and not Colombian groups or others — that have extended their reach into Central America. This reach will not only prove useful for drug trafficking purposes, but also probably will be exploited for delivering drugs to the emerging consumer markets in much of Latin America. The shifts in cartel activity are also a testament to improvements in Mexican aerial and maritime interdiction.

Federal Police on Strike
Several hundred federal police agents in four states carried out a brief work stoppage Aug. 15, demanding additional days off, better pay and more powerful weapons. The strikes — which were carried out by agents assigned to Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, and Tabasco states — left some airport posts in Guanajuato and highway checkpoints elsewhere temporarily abandoned. The Aug. 15 strikes appear to have been a response to the announcement from Mexico City this past week that federal agents would no longer accrue vacation days, therefore making more agents available for duty. The strikes also follow a demonstration this past week by more than 700 federal agents attending a training academy in San Luis Potosi who walked out of class in protest of lax security at the academy. (Several agents have been kidnapped and ambushed in recent weeks while attending the academy.)

Work stoppages, protests and walkouts have become common among state and local Mexican police forces over the past year, as an increase in cartel attacks on police has made the job too dangerous for officers to settle for the salary and working hours they signed on for. Strikes by federal police agents, however, are much less frequent — and their spread could potentially have a devastating impact on the government’s strategy in the cartel war. One clue as to how the government might react to expanded strikes can be drawn from an example we highlighted last week. Following the killing of four federal agents in Michoacan state, a federal police commander there alluded to agents’ concern for safety when he reassuringly announced the arrival of reinforcements and a “change in strategy” to prevent future targeting of agents. A more cautious approach to combating the country’s drug cartels is simply one option of many, which President Felipe Calderon’s administration are likely considering to prevent this latest headache from becoming a more pressing concern.





(click to view map)

Aug. 11
A group of alleged drug cartel enforcers verbally threatened reporters in the parking lot of a newspaper building in Nogales, Sonora state.
Three men driving along a highway in Durango state died when they were shot by men armed with assault rifles.
One person died and another was wounded when the vehicle they were traveling in failed to stop at a highway checkpoint in Sonora state. Authorities said the checkpoint — located just a few miles from a federal policy building — had been erected by an organized criminal group.
Authorities discovered the body of a police commander in Huaniqueo, Michoacan state, who was reported kidnapped several days before.
A deputy police chief in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo state, and his bodyguard died when they were shot outside the chief’s home.
Aug. 12
Federal authorities revealed that six officials in the anti-organized crime unit (SIEDO) of the federal attorney general’s office were arrested the previous week on charges of spying for the Beltran Leyva drug trafficking organization. An investigation that began several months ago based on military intelligence uncovered a Beltran Leyva counterintelligence ring inside SIEDO that was leaking classified information on cases and upcoming operations.
A deputy police chief in Tepalcatepec, Michoacan state, died when he was shot multiple times by armed men traveling in a vehicle.
Two federal police officers died during a firefight with armed men along a highway in Sinaloa state.
The body of an evangelical pastor who was kidnapped July 23 was found buried behind a safe-house in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The kidnappers initially demanded $200,000, but the family could only pay about $20,000.
Aug. 13
The charred body of an unidentified man who had apparently been shot multiple times was found in the tourist town of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco state.
Two owners of a shipping company were kidnapped simultaneously in separate incidents in Poza Rica, Veracruz.
Aug. 14
A group of approximately 20 armed men traveling in 10 vehicles evaded capture after a prolonged pursuit by police in Tijuana, Baja California state.
A firefight between military forces and armed men in Rincon de Romos, Aguascalientes state, left at least one soldier and two gunmen dead.
Authorities in Sonora state reported that a gunbattle between smuggling gangs in Cananea left one person dead and at least three wounded.
Aug. 15
Authorities in Aguascalientes state reported the kidnapping of four people, including the police chief of Tepezala, a judge and police commander in the state capital Aguascalientes.
A severed, blindfolded head was found in Ecatepec, Mexico state.
One person died and another was wounded in a firefight between alleged alien smuggling groups in Mexicali, Baja California state.
At least 25 homicides were reported in separate incidents in Chihuahua state during a 36-hour period.
Two police officers were wounded in an apparent assassination attempt in Puebla, Puebla state, during which gunmen fired more than 80 rounds. Some reports indicate the officers were bodyguards for a deputy state attorney general.
Aug. 16
Hit men suspected of having ties to a drug cartel opened fire on a family gathering in the town of Creel, Chihuahua state, near the U.S. border, killing 13 people. Masked gunmen fired on the dance hall where a family gathering was taking place. The Mexican government sent 160 federal police and soldiers to the town after the attack.
Aug. 17
A firefight between federal police and gunmen traveling in three vehicles along a highway in Colima state left at least one dead.
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« Reply #90 on: August 24, 2008, 07:49:36 AM »

SOURCE = http://www.khou.com/topstories/stori...f.5e63638.html

Mexican police chief slain 24 hours after replacing predecessor

03:15 PM CDT on Saturday, August 23, 2008, Associated Press

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- A northern Mexican town’s police chief was killed Friday just 24 hours after replacing a predecessor whose slaying had prompted the rest of the force to quit out of fear of drug gangs.

Jesus Blanco Cano’s bullet-ridden body was found at a ranch near the town of Villa Ahumada in Chihuahua state, about 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of El Paso, Texas, said Alejandro Pariente, a spokesman for the regional deputy attorney general’s office.

He had been beaten, blindfolded and his hands were tied behind his back. Twelve bullet casings were found at the scene.

Cano, 40, had been on the job for just a day. The previous police chief, two other officers and three residents were killed in May when 70 gunmen barged into Villa Ahumada, a town virtually taken over by drug gangs.

The rest of its 20-member police force quit in fear, forcing the Mexican military to take over. The town had slowly been recruiting new police and was without a police chief until Blanco took the job. The troops eventually left.

Mayor Fidel Chavez met Friday with state police, but nobody at this office could be reached for comment. Chavez had fled after the May attack, taking refuge in the state capital of Chihuahua City, but he returned after soldiers recovered the town.

Mexico’s powerful drug cartels have stepped up attacks against police in response to a military and police crackdown, beheading some officers and killing others outside their homes. Several towns and cities, particularly in the north, have struggled to hold together their police forces.

The mayor of Ciudad Juarez, a town just north of Villa Ahumada, announced a plan this week to recruit soldiers to replenish its depleting police force. Many police in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, have been killed after their names appeared on hit lists left in public. Others whose names appeared on the lists have quit.

Since taking office in 2006, President Felipe Calderon has sent more than 25,000 troops and federal police to retake drug hotspots across the country.

But homicides, kidnappings and shootouts have only increased. In Chihuahua state –home base of the powerful Juarez drug cartel— more than 800 people have been killed this year, a surge from less than 400 during the first half of 2007.
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« Reply #91 on: September 23, 2008, 11:08:50 AM »

Mexicans feeling pinch as income stream from U.S. slows

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Mexicans feeling pinch as income stream from U.S. slows
10:52 PM CDT on Monday, September 22, 2008
By LAURENCE ILIFF / The Dallas Morning News

DEMACÚ, Mexico – Luis Martínez went from being a successful Dallas businessman to a struggling alfalfa farmer in rural central Mexico because of a North Texas crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Now, that crackdown is squeezing towns across Mexico as immigrant unemployment grows in the U.S. and money sent home declines at a record rate.

The Oak Cliff resident of 20 years was deported after a traffic stop in Carrollton near his recycling workshop. Immigration officials said he had violated his residency by leaving the country without permission – to attend a funeral in Mexico – during the lengthy wait for his green card.

Now in the alfalfa fields of his boyhood, Mr. Martínez, 43, faces a fate similar to hundreds of thousands of his countrymen who have been deported or who returned home after losing their jobs: a massive loss of income.
"You make $10 an hour over there and $10 a day here in Mexico," said Mr. Martínez, who added that in addition to his recycling business he has Dallas property and pays U.S. taxes.

A growing number of deportations, along with rising unemployment, are forcing Mexicans to further tighten their belts as remittances sent home dropped by nearly 7 percent in July compared with a year earlier. That's the biggest one-month fall on record as measured by Mexico's central bank.

Although some analysts question how the remittances are measured and suggest some may have made it back to Mexico under the central bank's radar, they agree that the effects of immigrant unemployment and deportations are increasingly being felt from Dallas to Demacú.
"Hispanic unemployment is likely to go up all the way to December before it comes down," said Manuel Orozco, who is head of a remittance project at the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington.

Of the 500,000 Hispanics who have lost their jobs since January 2007, he estimates 60,000 are illegal immigrants from Mexico. Some have been forced to take jobs that pay much less. "I have interviewed migrants, and they tell me they lost a job in construction at $15 an hour and now are washing dishes for $7 an hour," he said.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities are deporting Mexican immigrants at a rate not seen in 50 years, including more than 208,000 "removals" from the U.S. interior in the current fiscal year, which ends this month.
"Deportations are a serious matter that has an effect on the money flows [to home countries]," Mr. Orozco said.

Because about 90 percent of immigrant earnings stays in the U.S., the deportations and job losses affect both sides of the border, authorities say."It means that the money not being sent back is not being generated here," said David J. Molina, an economics professor at the University of North Texas. "To a large extent, I would argue that that slowdown is not good for either side of the border."

But some differ. Jean Towell, Dallas president of Citizens for Immigration Reform, said falling remittances illustrate two things.
"It does show that enforcement, plus the economy, are working together to make it harder for the illegal aliens to stay in the country," she said. "For the people who receive remittances, of course, it's a bad thing. They rely on that since their country doesn't seem to be able to take care of the economy well enough so that people have a sustained rate of living."

In Demacú and in Dallas, the tough times for immigrants in the U.S. are felt house by house.
While Mr. Martínez toils in alfalfa fields, his wife is in Dallas. In Demacú, his 82-year-old mother, Gregoria, used to receive a little money each month from a nephew, but that's gone. Mr. Martínez's sister Julia said she too has lost income from children in the U.S., but she's not sure if it's because of hard times or because they have gotten married and moved on with their lives.

Another sister, Edith, said the children she teaches in elementary school depend on remittances from relatives in the U.S., but while the amount may have fallen, the money continues to flow like always, which encourages further immigration.

"These kids want to follow in the footsteps of their fathers – to leave, so they can build a house back home and have a car," she said.

Mr. Martínez said he is making the best of the family alfalfa business, looking for new markets and new ways to boost the slim profits. Maybe he'll be able to send money to the U.S. someday, he joked.
"I'm used to hard work, so it's not so bad," he said during a break from raking dry alfalfa into piles and lifting them into a truck. "Imagine if I had worked in an office."

And it's not just the lost money that he needs to put his daughters through school. It's his lost life in Dallas since his return to Mexico.
"It's very difficult. It's 20 years you have been gone, and when you come back, your friends are not here," Mr. Martínez said.

The stalled construction projects around Demacú are a clear sign, he said, that times are getting tougher for immigrants in the U.S.
"This town has maybe 50 or 60 young people that are working over there, and they have projects that are going on here, construction of houses and stuff like that, but because so many people there are being taken out of the country, it's affecting us a lot," said Mr. Martínez.

He called Dallas a city with "a small-town spirit" and the United States "a nation blessed by God." For those, and many other reasons, he is working his way back through the immigration service while hoping U.S. policies toward immigrants become more tolerant.

"We have hope something will happen in the U.S.A., something that can give us the opportunity to go back and keep working over there," he said. "I spent 20 years of my life in that country, so that means I am part of that country."

Staff writer Dianne Solis in Dallas contributed to this report.
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tankerdriver
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« Reply #92 on: September 27, 2008, 10:14:48 AM »

North American Union - It's Coming
By William H. Calhoun

 
If you have not read the news in a few months, you may be unaware: there are plans to create a North American Union, whereby Mexico, the United States and Canada will eventually become a single country, with a single currency and a single superhighway system.

Construction on the NAFTA Superhighway, encompassing I-69 and directed by NASCO, has already begun in two states. It will run from central Mexico, through the middle of the United States, through Kansas City, and up into Canada. It will be four football fields wide, off limits to most Americans, and run by foreign companies.

The mechanism to implement the NAU is the SPP (Strategic and Prosperity Partnership of North America), which was settled between President Bush, President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin during their March 2005 summit meeting in Waco, Texas. Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice has been instrumental in setting the SPP plans in motion. The North American Union will modeled after ultra-liberal European Union, and put in place by administrative regulations under the SPP umbrella.

Outraged by this plan, four patriotic Congressmen (Reps. Virgil H. Good, Walter B. Jones, Ron Paul, and Tom Tancredo) have introduced H. Con. Res. 487, which states that "the United States should not engage in the construction of a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Superhighway System or enter into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada." In the last few weeks, patriot Americans from all over the United States have been telephoning their Congressmen demanding that H. Con. Res. 487 be put to a vote and passed in 2007.

Nevertheless, cheerleaders for the Bush Administration deny that any plans for a North American Union exist. Neocon Michael Medved says that "there's no reason at all to believe in the ludicrous, childish, ill-informed, manipulative, brain dead fantasies about a North American Union. The entire chimera has been conjured up to scare people over nothing...."

If there are no plans for a North American Union, then why did four of the most patriotic Congressmen see it necessary to introduce H. Con. Res. 487? And if it is not real, then what would H. Con. Res. 487 harm? Legislation preventing a "chimera" certainly cannot present any danger. Why are neocon Trotskyites like Medved becoming so emotionally unstable over a bill to prevent a "chimera"?

To any discerning mind, plans for a North American Union do exist. One only need to look at the wording of SPP documents, or look at the NASCO website. It has been set in motion. As Cicero famously said, "patere tua consilia non sentis, constrictam iam horum omnium scientia teneri coniurationem tuam non vides?"

How have we come to this place? The NAFTA agreement can be seen as the beginning, which the wisest recognized as a disaster from day one. Historically, conservatives have opposed free trade, and they should. It is destroying our economy, it is undermining our sovereignty, and it is national suicide. Many in the GOP, however, have been "neoconned" on this issue.

To see the connection between free trade the dissolution of the USA under the North American Union, only need to read Karl Marx. On Jan. 9, 1848, in "On the Question of Free Trade," Marx said, "...in general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade."

Notice, Marx's celebration of the breaking up of "old nationalities." Such a statement is similar to GW Bush's claim that the USA is not an "actual place," but an "idea." Neocons celebrate this Marxist notion of a "propositional nation," because it removes the historic prerequisites of nationhood: borders; a common language, history and genealogy; blood and soil; kith and kin; and genophilia (instinctive attachment to family and tribe).

It is thus that GW Bush and others have so adamantly supported the third-world invasion of American, and why many predict that the 700-mile fence will not be built. The U.S.-Mexico border must be abolished for the implementation of the North American Union.

It is all about profit and cheap labor, and big business adamantly supports the prerequisite of the North American Union: the third-world invasion of America. During the Cold War, big business sided with many conservatives to oppose Marxism. Now, however, most large corporations side with the internationalist Left.

In the 1950s, when our country was invaded, President Eisenhower responded with "Operation Wetback" and deported around a million invaders in a single year. Today, however, politicians say they are unable. Rather, they are unwilling.

Some of the greatest traitors in American history are right before our eyes: GW Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Sam Brownback, Linda Chavez, Alberto Gonzales, Carlos Gutierrez, Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, John Edwards, Harry Reid, Linda Sanchez, Robert Menendez, Luis Gutierrez, Solomon Ortiz, and the list goes on and on. These miscreants have chosen Mexico, multicultural political correctness, and big business over hard-working Americans. They have betrayed Middle America.

And what can be done to stop this North American Union (aka, treason)?

Call and write your Congressmen, and demand a real patriotic President in 2008, like Duncan Hunter or Tom Tancredo.

We are under attack - both from within and without. Prepare for the oncoming madness! Stop the North American Union! Stop the third-world invasion!



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
William H. Calhoun is a writer, paleoconservative, poet-warrior in the classical sense, farmer on his ancestral estate, and graduate of the University of Chicago. He can be reached at williamhcalhoun@yahoo.com

alan@newsblaze.com


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tankerdriver
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« Reply #93 on: September 27, 2008, 10:49:24 AM »

http://www.applian.com/flvplayer/liveleak.php

I don't think we heard the last of this. It will be repackaged, put on a new coat of paint, and back on the agenda! With little or no media coverage at all, most people are not even aware of this!
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« Reply #94 on: October 05, 2008, 09:52:09 PM »

Bullet Proof Clothes In Mexico

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By Marc Lacey
Published: October 6, 2008

MEXICO CITY: Exclusive clothing boutiques line Avenida Presidente Masarik here. A Burberry coat? A Corneliani suit? A Gucci scarf? Have enough pesos, and they are yours.

But tucked on a leafy side street in the Polanco neighborhood is a shop unlike the others, one whose bustling business says much about the dire state of security in this country. At Miguel Caballero, named after its Colombian owner, all the garments are bulletproof.

There are bulletproof leather jackets and bulletproof polo shirts. Armored guayabera shirts hang next to protective windbreakers, parkas and even white ruffled tuxedo shirts. Every member of the sales staff has had to take a turn being shot while wearing one of the products, which range from a few hundred dollars to as much as $7,000, so they can attest to the efficacy of the secret fabric.

"If feels like a punch," a salesman said of the shot to the stomach he received.

Just who is willing to fork over thousands of dollars for these chic shields? Customers include Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, not to mention assorted royalty, movie stars and other VIP's.

As Mexico grapples with an increase in drug-related violence, sales are steadily on the rise, the company said, though it declined to provide precise figures.

Those who duck into the private boutique, passing first through a metal detector, run the gamut.

There is the surgeon who finishes work at the hospital late and feels vulnerable while walking through the parking lot to his car. Now, that potential burglar can take a shot at him with a .38-caliber revolver, a 9-millimeter pistol or a submachine gun and still not pierce his lightweight, heat-resistant and quite fashionable coat.

There is the newspaper distributor who has scores of employees who collect papers from him in the wee hours of the morning to drop at doorsteps across the capital. He stopped at the boutique the other day for a jacket that can keep him in business even if someone tried to knock him off and take the rolls of cash he carries around.

There is the bullfighter who is scared not of bulls but of bullets and consequently ordered a matador's suit that can withstand gunfire.

Then there are Mexican politicians and business executives, some who have received threats and others who want to supplement their existing security measures, which in many cases already include bulletproof cars, home alarm systems, round-the-clock bodyguards and panic buttons.

"What we offer is one more chance at life," said Javier Di Carlo, the marketing manager, as he showed off the top-of-the-line Black collection in a private fitting room. "We don't want people to say to the criminal, 'Shoot me.' Nobody should feel like Superman. But if the criminal does shoot, we give our customers a chance to run away."

There is a whole lot of shooting going on in Mexico today. Every day, the papers are full of victims, bodies lying out in grotesque poses with bullet wounds all about. Some are garden-variety crime victims, but the drug cartels that control much of the Mexican countryside are behind the overwhelming majority. They pay off politicians and police officers and act as shadow governments in town after town along their transit routes. Cross them, and they do not hesitate to pull the trigger.

The rash of drug violence, together with a surge in kidnappings for ransom, has shaken everyday Mexicans. Ask a stranger for directions on the street these days, and fear is the first emotion that crosses the person's face. He or she might recover enough to describe how to go this way or that.

Studies have shown that more and more anxious Mexicans are pouring their money into defensive measures. Families and businesses across Mexico invest $18 billion in private security measures, a recent study by the Center for Economic Studies of the Private Sector found. Some people are trying to get their hands on weapons, which are tightly regulated here but widely available on the black market. To some, bulletproof fashion is the logical next step.

Still, not everybody is lining up. Jon French, a former State Department official who now runs a security company in Mexico City, said he considered the bulletproof luxury items more about ego than anything else. Most of the killings that fill the front pages — there have been 3,000 this year alone — are drug traffickers killing rivals, he pointed out.

"Certain members of the well-to-do class here have a tendency to be ostentatious," French said. "You see it in their bodyguards and chase cars. Some of this is so while at the country club they can talk about how protected they are. Now they can say, 'Look, I'm wearing body armor!' "
But Caballero, who opened the Mexico store two years ago and has since expanded with branches in Guatemala City, Johannesburg and London, counters by telling of his loyalty club program for clients. Called the Survivor's Club, it is open to anyone whose life was saved by wearing one of his protective garments. Its rolls, he said in a telephone interview from Bogotá, are on the rise.

To lower the chance that he is outfitting the bad guys, Caballero runs background checks on customers, checking their names against lists of fugitives compiled by the United States and Mexican governments. He points out that the clothing is not designed for the kind of warfare that is breaking out in some parts of Mexico, where drug assassins have used rocket launchers and grenades to wipe out rivals.

A bulletproof polo shirt is meant more to repel random street violence, of the kind that seemed as if it just might break out just around the corner from Caballero's shop the other day.

Fernando Arias Carmona, a salesman, wore one of the protective leather coats while he sat at a café on Masarik being photographed. People looking on inquired into what was the fuss was about. When told that Carmona's fashionable jacket was bulletproof, a man at the next table reached into his own jacket and said, "Let me test it out."

Fortunately, though, the man pulled out only with his fingers in the shape of a pistol.

Then, looking at the coat again, he said, "I want one of those."
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« Reply #95 on: October 08, 2008, 12:14:30 PM »

Mexico Security Memo: Oct. 6, 2008
Stratfor Today » October 6, 2008 | 2034 GMT
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
More Murders in Tijuana

Tijuana saw a dramatic increase in violence over the past week. A total of 64 people were killed in cartel-related violence in the northwestern border city between Sept. 26 and Oct. 5, making the week the most violent for Tijuana in recent memory. Tijuana was the deadliest city in Mexico during the first quarter of 2008, with firefights and kidnappings a common occurrence. But this past summer was a relatively quiet one for Tijuana, perhaps because of military deployments there in May or because of an agreement between the warring factions.

The latest round of murders was particularly public and gruesome. Bodies with signs of torture were stacked next to a primary school and most had their tongues cut out. Later in the week, six bodies were discovered elsewhere in the city dissolving in barrels of sulfuric acid. Nearly every body was accompanied by a message to “El Ingeniero,” or Fernando Sanchez Arellano, the leader of the fractured Arellano Felix Organization (AFO). The Baja state attorney general’s office says members of the Sinaloa federation are behind the killings.

Fractured and weakened by arrests, the AFO is not in a position to hold the lucrative Tijuana plaza. Just to the north lie San Diego and Los Angeles, California, the two cities that drive the huge cocaine market in southern California. With the AFO weakened, it appears that the Sinaloa federation has been able to poach on its territory.

Sinaloa’s presence in Tijuana is nothing new. Its battles with members of the AFO earlier this spring are what led to military deployments there in May. Although it is too soon to tell, Sinaloa may be mounting a fresh offensive in Tijuana after concentrating on the city of Juarez during the summer. This is notable because Juarez has been relatively quiet for the past couple of weeks. Although murders still occur there every few days, this is not nearly as frequent as in some weeks in the summer, when 30 to 40 murders was the norm.

Opening up a second front in Tijuana raises the question of the future of Juarez. While the violence there will undoubtedly continue, if Sinaloa is shifting its focus to a weakened Tijuana, it could signal that some kind of deal has been struck in Juarez. Stratfor received information at the end of September indicating that the situation in

Juarez would be resolved in a very bloody fashion. While large-scale violence did not materialize, the resolution might have.

Argentine Arrests in Paraguay
On Oct. 1, Jesus Martinez Espinoza, the presumed leader of a Sinaloa cartel cell in Argentina, was arrested on charges of passport falsification and possession of ephedrine, along with two other Mexican nationals, in a hotel in Asunción, Paraguay. Martinez Espinosa was wanted in Argentina for leading a group of Mexican drug traffickers that reportedly operates several methamphetamine labs in Buenos Aires. According to Argentine press reports, Mexican nationals with ties to the Sinaloa cartel have begun to take over the local methamphetamine market in Buenos Aires. The high-profile murder of a Buenos Aires pharmacist who reportedly supplied the Mexican nationals with Indian ephedrine (a precursor ingredient to methamphetamine) brought a lot of media attention to the issue, prompting the Argentine government to act.

Over the past two months, the Argentine government has led a crackdown on the distribution and production of synthetic drugs throughout the country, and especially in Buenos Aires. The vast majority of those arrested have been Mexican nationals. According to investigators in Paraguay, it looks as though synthetic drugs are manufactured in Argentina, smuggled across the border into Paraguay then shipped to Mexico for ultimate distribution in the United States.

The connection between the Mexican nationals in Argentina and the Sinaloa cartel remains unclear. There are conflicting reports about whether the Mexicans are under direct orders from the senior Sinaloa leadership or if they are just a franchise backed financially by the Sinaloa cartel. Either way the presence of Mexican nationals actively involved in the synthetic drug market in Argentina further indicates that Mexican drug traffickers are spreading their involvement over the continent. The murder of the pharmacist was a way of making their presence known.





(click to view map)

Sept. 29
Catalino Ortuño Duarte, a Party of the Democratic Revolution candidate for the Guerrero state congress, was shot in the back and killed as he was travelling through the village of El Naranjo in Guerrero State.
The Mexican Chamber of Commerce threatened not to pay taxes to Ciudad Juarez because city authorities are unable to ensure the security of organized trade. The Mexican Chamber of Commerce also began negotiations with the FBI to advise local businesses on security measures.
Eighteen people were killed in Tijuana, and the bodies of 12 victims were dumped in a vacant lot next to a primary school.
The counselor of the National Chamber of Road Freight in Veracruz state reported that over the past three years assaults on the state and federal highways in the state have risen 25 percent.
Two 17-year-olds were shot to death in Zapopan, Guadalajara state, when their red Corvette was intercepted by three assailants in a silver Suburban.
The Mexican navy seized a shrimp boat carrying four tons of cocaine in the Gulf of Tehuantepec. The boat, which left from Mazatlan, Sinaloa, was being escorted by an unknown number of speed boats which fled the area when the navy appeared.
A gun fight between two rival groups of drug traffickers in Cajeme, Sonora state, left three dead.
Sept. 30
The secretary of public security in Tijuana announced the seizure of 19 firearms, four vehicles and several uniforms that had been stolen from various Mexican law enforcement agencies.
Six bodies were found dissolving in three different barrels of sulfuric acid in Tijuana. Two other bodies were discovered in barrels of acid later in the day.
Thirty armed commandos stormed a private airstrip in Navolato, Sinaloa state, subdued a local policeman who was guarding the airstrip and stole five Cessna airplanes that reportedly had been seized by the Mexican military in counternarcotics operations earlier in the year.
The attorney general of Guatemala said Guatemala is in favor of the Mexican prosecution of Daniel Perez Rojas, reportedly the number two of Los Zetas, and that Guatemala supports his extradition, which has been requested by Mexican authorities.
Oct. 1
Argentine police conducted some 11 raids on various hotels in Buenos Aires, searching for eight Mexican nationals involved in trafficking ephedrine.
The bodies of two males reported missing Sept. 26 were found on the La Costerita highway with several bullet wounds and signs of torture.
Federal agents arrested eight suspected members of the Gulf cartel at a restaurant in the Juarez colony of Mexico City.
President Felipe Calderon sent a reform package to the Mexican congress in an attempt to overhaul the country’s security apparatus.
Oct. 2
Paraguayan authorities arrested three Mexican citizens and seized five kilos of ephedrine at the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport.
Ten people were murdered in Chihuahua state, four in Ciudad Juarez. The death toll in Ciudad Juarez alone for the year stands at 1,075, with more than 1,400 people killed in Chihuahua state during the same period.
A police officer was shot four times in Navolato, Sinaloa state, but his life was spared thanks to his bullet proof vest.
Eight bodies were dumped in a vacant lot in an industrial Park in Tijuana, Baja California state. The bodies showed signs of torture and their faces were wrapped in duct tape.
A group of armed men set fire to five buildings and kidnapped two people in the northern part of Chihuahua state.
One person was killed and one injured as a group of gunmen attempted to kidnap a father and his son in the San Pedro municipality of Nuevo Leon.
Oct. 3
The manager of a television station in Juarez, Chihuahua state, was detained by the military for driving an armored truck.
Three people were killed in attacks in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
Four bodies were discovered near Vicente Guerrero, Durango state, near the border with Zacatecas.
Five bodies were discovered in the Guadalupe Victoria colony of Tijuana, two of which had been decapitated.
Oct. 4
The mayor of Ixtapan, Mexico state, a common weekend getaway for Mexico City residents, was executed. Los Zetas are the lead suspects.
Narcomessages appeared in Oaxaca offering rewards for the capture of Jesus Mendez Vargas and Enrique Tlacaltel and saying that members of La Familia participated in the Sept. 15 grenade attacks in Morelia, Michoacan.
Eight bodies were discovered in various parts of Tijuana, two of which had been decapitated. Narcomessages were found nearby.
Oct. 5
Some 7.2 million pills of pseudoephedrine were seized at the airport in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, in a shipment from Calcutta, India.
Víctor Manuel Álvarez, a lieutenant in the Beltran Leyva Organizations, will be extradited to the United States on charges of possession with intent to distribute five kilograms of cocaine.
Two men were killed in Sonora at different locations. One was shot to death in Nogales by two gunmen and the other was gunned down in Hermosillo as he was driving his jeep.
A 30-year-old man was gunned down in his Chevrolet truck as he was driving down the Boulevard Insurgentes in Tijuana. The man was accompanied by a woman who was wounded and transported to a local hospital.
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« Reply #96 on: October 20, 2008, 11:34:21 AM »

Mexico: Commercial Paper and a Tortured Budget
Stratfor Today » October 18, 2008 | 1555 GMT

ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images
Mexico’s 50-peso notesSummary
The security situation in Mexico has been dire for some time. Now the global financial crisis threatens to push the country into uncharted territory as the government struggles to prop up the economy while fighting a war against some of the wealthiest and most organized criminals in the world.

Analysis
The Mexican government issued $3.9 billion in guarantees for Mexican commercial paper Oct. 17, Reuters reported. The move follows failed attempts by the Mexican cement company Cemex and Mexican units of American automakers to issue some $76 million in bonds. These developments are a sign of troubled times as Mexico feels the effects of the global financial crisis. The Mexican government had already injected $8.3 billion into the markets to prop up the peso. Putting all this money forward will strain an already-tortured government budget that is dependent on a failing oil industry and must support a critical war against drug cartels.

The most vulnerable aspect of the Mexican economy is its exposure to the declining U.S. market — particularly in Mexico’s export sector. Over 80 percent of Mexico’s exports go to the United States, and the emerging U.S. recession is sure to throw this trade relationship into chaos.

Mexico is also heavily linked to the U.S. economy through remittances. Mexicans working in the United States send approximately $24.3 billion per year back home — or about 3 percent of the gross domestic product. Declines in reported remittance rates have already been reported throughout Central American states, which rely heavily on these wealth transfers. As the U.S. economy shrinks, and competition for low-wage positions increases, illegal immigrants will be pushed out of the job market, and remittances to Mexico will decline even further.

Finally, Mexico is highly exposed to the financial crisis because of the shrinking pool of global credit and the growing number of nervous investors. On the one hand, this has caused a rapid devaluation of the Mexican peso as investors rapidly pull capital from third-world markets and dump it into safer markets (i.e., the U.S. dollar). On the other hand, we have seen the results of a rapidly shrinking pool of international credit as wealth has disappeared, banks have stopped lending and investors have panicked.

This has manifested itself in Cemex’s inability to issue corporate paper, which has been a serious cause for concern in Mexican business circles. Mexico’s banks are particularly vulnerable to shrinking global capital. About 80 percent of its banking sector is controlled by foreign entities, which means that 80 percent of domestic credit is subject to the whims of the international credit pool. Any serious threat to such a large portion of the banking sector could cause a collapse of the banking system.

But the economic situation is not the only threat to Mexico’s stability. Mexico is deeply embroiled in a war against violent drug cartels that control substantial portions of the country. The death toll in 2008 alone has risen to over 3,100 and appears likely to hit 4,000 by the end of the year. And the war is not free. The government’s ability to respond effectively to an economic crisis while funding a massive military and law enforcement effort is low — and the scarcity of funds could loosen public support for the cartel war as people look to solve their basic economic needs.

Moreover, a downturn in the economy will only exacerbate the security situation in Mexico. As jobs in the United States become scarce, many of the illegal Mexican migrant laborers there will be left jobless. Many will return to Mexico, where employment opportunities are no better. There is already some anecdotal evidence that reverse illegal migration into Mexico has become much more noticeable. The return to Mexico of thousands of unemployed young workers will flood the Mexican labor market.

There is no question that increased poverty and unemployment will contribute to a worsening security situation in Mexico. Ordinary criminal activities such as theft will likely increase, which could boost organized crime. Options in the legitimate economy will be few, but the underground economy — in drugs or other inelastic commodities — could flourish during a downturn. Indeed, a declining economy will make the cartels the only game in town, and rising unemployment will provide them with an excellent recruiting opportunity.
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« Reply #97 on: October 28, 2008, 06:53:34 AM »


Mexican cartels dominate the Americas

As the most powerful drug trafficking force in the region, Mexican organized crime has spread far beyond the country in search of supplies for drugs to meet US demand, Sam Logan writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Sam Logan for ISN Security Watch


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Assassinations related to drug trafficking in Mexico are on pace to pass 4,000 this year. By any count, violence in Mexico is at historical highs, and it is bad for business. Since the end of 2007, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon increased government pressure on organized crime, both the Sinaloa and the Gulf cartels have reached beyond Mexican boundaries to source supplies, secure trafficking routes and kill rivals.

Heavy pressure on Colombian drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) opened the door for Mexicans to control a greater share of the cocaine supply chain. They now control cocaine routes out of Colombia from Andean ports to wholesale points well inside the United States. But pressure on supply routes and other areas of operation inside Mexico has forced these DTOs abroad. Guatemala, Peru and Argentina are a natural fit - corruption thrives and there is little to no government presence on borders and in many pockets of the country.

As Mexican criminals reach beyond their country to expand control over various drug-trafficking routes in the Americas, they bring a decades old violent brand of business - money or a bullet. Honor and pride push them further to kill anyone who cheats or betrays. Beyond the blood is a trail of dirty money that further corrupts, where Mexican DTOs have been linked to the electoral campaign of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Argentina.

"Mexican drug traffickers go into locations where there are no laws or regulations," Michael Sanders, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington DC, told ISN Security Watch.

With billions of dollars to spend, little serious competition and a de facto presence in a number of countries, it is not a far stretch to consider that Central and South America have already become their domain.

The release valve

Pressure in Mexico has forced DTOs there into Guatemala, a neighboring Central American country that serves as a release valve, where they operate alternative supply routes with little trouble from the local government.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom publicly claimed on 5 September that his office and residential space was bugged by at least seven listening devices. Days later, few were surprised to learn one of his top intelligence officers, Gustavo Solano, was behind the espionage. Colom blamed the breech in security on the powerful influence of organized crime. Analysts believe the information gathered from the listening devices was sold to members of Los Zetas operating in Guatemala.

At least 300 members of Los Zetas operate in eight of Guatemala's 22 departments, according to Guatemalan news reports and a 17 October article in Mexican daily El Universal. The Guatemalan National Police believe there is a concentration of Mexican organized crime along the Guatemalan-Mexico border in the Peten department, on the country's stunted Caribbean coast, and placed in strategic locations on the borders with Honduras and El Salvador.

A 25 March shoot-out in the Guatemalan department of Zacapa left 11 dead, most of them Guatemalan criminals. Authorities believe the Zetas, formerly the military arm of the Gulf Cartel, consolidated power in the Central American country on that day, taking control over an old Gulf Cartel supply route that since at least 2004 has taken advantage of low altitude air space between two mountain ranges with no radar coverage to bring in planes. Most of this activity today is concentrated in the Sayaxche municipality of Peten, conveniently located on the border with Mexico and just miles away from a well-paved Mexican highway that leads north into the Mexican state of Chiapas, another area closely controlled by Los Zetas.

The other focus of Calderon's government offensive, the Sinaloa Cartel, has taken heavy losses due to the presence of thousands of soldiers in the states of Michoacan, Sinaloa and Sonora, the DTO's primary areas of operation.

Members of this cartel - once considered run solely by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman - in the past few years have branched into the methamphetamine business. The Sinaloa Cartel and other, smaller Mexican DTOs, now supply at least 80 percent of all methamphetamines consumed in the US according to the DEA's Sanders.

To launder proceeds from the sale of cocaine and meth (also known as "crystal" or "ice"), members of the Sinaloa Cartel have worked through front companies in Panama to move money back into Colombia where they are constantly pushing for more control up the supply chain.

"The Mexicans are in Colombia to purchase cocaine directly from coca labs to lower their costs," Roman Ortiz, director of Security and Post-Conflict Studies with Bogota-based Ideas for Peace Foundation (FIP), told ISN Security Watch in a recent phone interview.

Mexican DTOs, likely members of the Sinaloa Cartel, are active in Peru for the same reason, as recent violence in Peru suggests Mexican organized crime has joined with what the Peruvian government calls the Shining Path to spur coca leaf and poppy production in the country's highlands.

Backup in the Andes

By 15 October, a number of alleged Shining Path attacks left 17 people dead, 15 of them soldiers. Analysts in Peru believe these attacks may be related to the presence of Mexican DTOs who have hired back country militants to protect their supply routes out of the mountains, especially in the Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica and Junin provinces of Peru - provinces where the Shining Path has caused trouble in the past.

Peru is considered South America's number two source for cocaine and poppy, the raw material source for heroin. Poppy fields, grown at high altitudes in Peru for opium collection, have been considered an illicit cash crop since 2005, when the Peruvian National Police announced the presence of some 5,000 acres of poppy flowers cultivated at over 15,000 feet in the country's southern highlands.

Between January and October 2008 the National Police registered seizures of 103 kilograms of opium paste, indicating the continued presence of poppy cultivation. Over roughly the same period, Peruvian police seized some 20 tonnes of cocaine, worth over US$2 billion according to Reuters and local reports.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime concluded in its 2007 Andean coca survey that production in Peru is up by four percent in Peru, compared to five percent in Bolivia and 27 percent in Colombia.

In early September, Peruvian police seized three tonnes of cocaine hidden in 200 separate bumpers used by boats to prevent damage when docking. At the time of the seizure, a concurrent operation in eight separate points in Lima netted 30 men (some of them Mexican) and Peruvian police believe were working directly for the Sinaloa Cartel, according to a 6 September article in Peruvian daily El Comercio.

South American ephedrine supply

When the Mexican government passed a law on 2 July making all cold medicines that use ephedrine and pseudoephedrine illegal, methamphetamine traffickers, in need of the same precursor chemicals to cook their drugs, were forced to look south.

Not weeks after the Mexican law came into effect, Argentine police arrested on 18 July nine Mexicans and one Argentine who had rented a luxury residence in the Buenos Aires suburbs to cook methamphetamines. A month later, authorities discovered a warehouse where tanks of ephedrine were stored. The meth lab and ephedrine storage tanks were directly linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.

At the top of the Argentine methamphetamine racket was Jesus Martinez Espinoza, an operator with the Sinaloa Cartel who traveled to Argentina to secure a source of ephedrine for methamphetamine production locally in Argentina and abroad in Mexico. He relied on three Argentine men, including Sebastian Forza, who had deep connections in the pharmaceutical industry, as his principal suppliers of ephedrine.

"Argentina can legally import 37 tonnes of ephedrine," the DEA's Sanders told ISN Security Watch, adding, "in 2006 Argentina imported 5 tonnes of ephedrine, and in 2007 Argentina imported 26 tonnes." Still 11 tonnes under the legal limit.

When Martinez's scheme began to unravel in mid July, his local connections had to go. All three Argentine businessmen disappeared on 7 August. Their bodies were found six days later in a ditch outside of Buenos Aires. Forza and the other two were handcuffed and sprayed with bullets. The triple homicide shocked Argentines, who are not accustomed to such assassination-style murders. The news catalyzed a massive investigation that led to Martinez's arrest in Asuncion, Paraguay, just hours before he was to board a flight to Mexico.

Investigations into Forza's past found a long line of bounced checks and deep debt. One of his former associates killed himself. And along with one of the other men allegedly killed by Martinez's men, Forza contributed as much as US$118,000 to the electoral campaign of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Taking over

Over the course of 2008, Mexican organized crime has been tied not only to the triple-homicide in Buenos Aires and the bugging of the office and bedroom of the Guatemalan president, but also to the deaths of five Mexican men, found with their throats slit in Birmingham, Alabama; the kidnapping of a six-year-old boy in Las Vegas, Nevada; and possibly violence in the Peruvian high country.

Between the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels, Mexican organized crime has proven ties with local operators in a list of countries from the US south through Central and South America, including Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Paraguay and Argentina.

"When considering methamphetamines, Mexican organized crime is the strongest in the region," Sanders said, pointing out that the countries in Latin America with relaxed chemical import regulations will likely become targets for Mexican DTOs in the future.

"South America has become increasingly part of [Mexico's] hunting grounds, and Guatemala is already deeply involved," Bruce Bagley, chairman of the Department of International Studies at the University of Miami, told ISN Security Watch adding, "these guys are not deterred by borders."

The only other criminal organization that has had this breadth of reach and disregard for national sovereignty was the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Billions more in profits, and potentially thousands more operatives with no political ideology, poise Mexican drug traffickers to become the region's next major security challenge.

Today these criminal groups represent the number one threat to national security in Mexico. Tomorrow, other countries such as Guatemala, Peru and Argentina may make the same claim.
 
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« Reply #98 on: October 28, 2008, 06:55:27 AM »

second post of the morning
=========
MEXICO CITY -- In what could be one of Mexico's worst cases of drug-related
corruption in a decade, Mexican officials alleged that a drug cartel
infiltrated the highest levels of Mexico's attorney general's office, paying
people there as much as $450,000 a month to get sensitive information about
antidrug activities.

The Sinaloa cartel, based in Mexico's western Sinaloa state, may even have
placed a mole inside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City who fed the drug lords
information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to a
copy of an arrest warrant reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and reported
earlier by Mexican newspaper El Universal.

View Full Image


Agency France-Presse/Getty Images
Mexican police with alleged members of a drug cartel arrested in Mexico City
this month.



"We are currently investigating this issue along with our Mexican
counterparts," a DEA spokesman said.

Two senior Mexican antidrug officials were arrested in recent weeks in
connection with the scandal and charged with crimes related to drug
trafficking, officials said on Monday. At the time of his arrest in early
October, one of the men, Fernando Rivera, was deputy director general of
intelligence at the attorney general's organized-crime unit. Officials said
Mr. Rivera was the main liaison between the attorney general's office and
the Mexican army in coordinating antidrug efforts. The other person arrested
was Miguel Colorado, the technical coordinator of the antidrug unit. His
duties included assigning federal agents to various raids against drug
cartels.

Lawyers for the men couldn't immediately be identified; in Mexico, most
court trials are closed to the public until a verdict is issued, making
contact with defendants and identifying their lawyers difficult.

Many federal agents have died during raids in the past few years, and others
have been murdered by cartel hit men, officials say.

In total, some 35 officials from the organized crime unit have been arrested
and are being investigated, officials said. Officials said they had dubbed
the continuing investigation "Operation Clean-Up."

The scandal reflects the difficulty of President Felipe Calderón's efforts
to crack down on Mexico's drug cartels. Mexico is the main trans-shipment
point for cocaine entering the U.S., U.S. and Mexican officials say, and is
widely seen as having overtaken Colombia's drug war in importance. So far
this year, an estimated 3,700 people have died in violence from the drug
war, most of them involved in the drug trade, according to counts kept by
Mexican news organizations.

Since taking office in November 2006, Mr. Calderón has deployed tens of
thousands of soldiers to different parts of Mexico to wrest back control of
areas under the cartels' sway. But since the crackdown, the number of deaths
related to drug violence has increased, according to the Mexican government.

The emerging scandal may be one of the most serious instances of drug
corruption to emerge since 1997 when Gen. Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo was
arrested shortly after being named head of Mexico's antidrug agency. Gen.
Gutiérrez was convicted of being in the pay of drug lord Amado Carrillo
Fuentes, known as the "Lord of the Skies," who later died while undergoing
plastic surgery.

The scandal is likely to be a setback for deepening cooperation between
Washington and Mexico City in the war on drugs, observers say. Under the
"Merida Initiative," the U.S. government will provide Mexico with $400
million in equipment and training a year for the next three years. Both
sides have said cooperation is much better nowadays than in the past -- 
especially in the wake of the 1997 scandal.

Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said the scandal would lead to an
overhaul of how his agency recruits, trains, and checks on its employees.
Mr. Medina Mora suggested that the investigations could yet implicate more
high-ranking officials.

"The investigation continues and we do not rule out that there are other
people who could have taken part in crimes that will be called to account,"
Mr. Medina Mora said. An adviser to Mr. Medina Mora said he hoped with the
arrests, officials had cut out "70% of the cancer" in the institution.

The investigation started as far back as December, according to a Mexican
government official, when the names of some Mexican officials began
surfacing in documents seized during raids of drug gangs.

In late June and early July, a Mexican former U.S. Embassy employee in
Mexico City was arrested and later testified that he had passed along
critical information to the Beltrán Leyva gang, a key part of the Sinaloa
cartel, in exchange for money. The witness, code-named "Felipe," also
accused several high-ranking Mexican officials, including Mr. Rivera.

"Felipe" said in his testimony that on one occasion, he was paid $30,000
from a man code-named "19" who worked with the Beltrán Leyva gang in
exchange for providing information about coming arrests of cartel members.

Deputy Attorney General Marisela Morales said Monday that higher-ranking
officials got much more money than "Felipe." She accused Messrs. Rivera and
Colorado of receiving "payments from $150,000 to $450,000 a month" for
information that would enable the Beltrán Leyva drug cartel to avoid
"searches, investigations, and arrest warrants" as well as obtain
information about rival drug gangs.

Write to David Luhnow at david.luhnow@wsj.com
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« Reply #99 on: November 05, 2008, 10:54:39 AM »

October 18, 2008 | 1555 GMT
Summary
The security situation in Mexico has been dire for some time. Now the global financial crisis threatens to push the country into uncharted territory as the government struggles to prop up the economy while fighting a war against some of the wealthiest and most organized criminals in the world.

Analysis
The Mexican government issued $3.9 billion in guarantees for Mexican commercial paper Oct. 17, Reuters reported. The move follows failed attempts by the Mexican cement company Cemex and Mexican units of American automakers to issue some $76 million in bonds. These developments are a sign of troubled times as Mexico feels the effects of the global financial crisis. The Mexican government had already injected $8.3 billion into the markets to prop up the peso. Putting all this money forward will strain an already-tortured government budget that is dependent on a failing oil industry and must support a critical war against drug cartels.

The most vulnerable aspect of the Mexican economy is its exposure to the declining U.S. market — particularly in Mexico’s export sector. Over 80 percent of Mexico’s exports go to the United States, and the emerging U.S. recession is sure to throw this trade relationship into chaos.

Mexico is also heavily linked to the U.S. economy through remittances. Mexicans working in the United States send approximately $24.3 billion per year back home — or about 3 percent of the gross domestic product. Declines in reported remittance rates have already been reported throughout Central American states, which rely heavily on these wealth transfers. As the U.S. economy shrinks, and competition for low-wage positions increases, illegal immigrants will be pushed out of the job market, and remittances to Mexico will decline even further.

Finally, Mexico is highly exposed to the financial crisis because of the shrinking pool of global credit and the growing number of nervous investors. On the one hand, this has caused a rapid devaluation of the Mexican peso as investors rapidly pull capital from third-world markets and dump it into safer markets (i.e., the U.S. dollar). On the other hand, we have seen the results of a rapidly shrinking pool of international credit as wealth has disappeared, banks have stopped lending and investors have panicked.

This has manifested itself in Cemex’s inability to issue corporate paper, which has been a serious cause for concern in Mexican business circles. Mexico’s banks are particularly vulnerable to shrinking global capital. About 80 percent of its banking sector is controlled by foreign entities, which means that 80 percent of domestic credit is subject to the whims of the international credit pool. Any serious threat to such a large portion of the banking sector could cause a collapse of the banking system.

But the economic situation is not the only threat to Mexico’s stability. Mexico is deeply embroiled in a war against violent drug cartels that control substantial portions of the country. The death toll in 2008 alone has risen to over 3,100 and appears likely to hit 4,000 by the end of the year. And the war is not free. The government’s ability to respond effectively to an economic crisis while funding a massive military and law enforcement effort is low — and the scarcity of funds could loosen public support for the cartel war as people look to solve their basic economic needs.

Moreover, a downturn in the economy will only exacerbate the security situation in Mexico. As jobs in the United States become scarce, many of the illegal Mexican migrant laborers there will be left jobless. Many will return to Mexico, where employment opportunities are no better. There is already some anecdotal evidence that reverse illegal migration into Mexico has become much more noticeable. The return to Mexico of thousands of unemployed young workers will flood the Mexican labor market.

There is no question that increased poverty and unemployment will contribute to a worsening security situation in Mexico. Ordinary criminal activities such as theft will likely increase, which could boost organized crime. Options in the legitimate economy will be few, but the underground economy — in drugs or other inelastic commodities — could flourish during a downturn. Indeed, a declining economy will make the cartels the only game in town, and rising unemployment will provide them with an excellent recruiting opportunity.

========

November 5, 2008 | 0332 GMT

Mexican Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino died Nov. 4 when the plane he was traveling in crashed three minutes before it was scheduled to land at the Mexico City International Airport, according to an official statement.

The LearJet 45 crashed near a major intersection in the capital, and reportedly occurred when the plane was on a normal approach path to the airport, when it should have been flying at an altitude of almost 1,000 feet. Also reported dead in the crash is the former director of federal organized crime investigations, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos. The plane was traveling from San Luis Potosi state, where Mourino had attended the signing of a security agreement between several states. CNN and TV Azteca reported that eyewitnesses said the plane exploded in midair, but this has not been confirmed.

It is unclear at this point what caused the crash. El Universal has reported that this same plane had a mechanical problem in 2005; however, this says little, since the plane appears to have been functioning over the past three years. Weather seems to have played no role in the accident. While mechanical failure or pilot error are likely causes, it is important to consider the possibility that foul play was involved, especially considering the escalating violence in Mexico’s war against the country’s drug cartels. Indeed, the Mexican army appears to be examining the potential for sabotage, as it reportedly has secured the San Luis Potosi airport where the flight originated and has begun an investigation.

If this crash does turn out to have been an act of sabotage carried out by one of the cartels, the implications of such an attack would be tremendous. If (and we do emphasize if here) the cartels are behind this, such an attack would be a direct hit against Mexico’s central government. The government would be forced to respond, most likely by drawing in troops from the border regions where the army is currently fighting the cartels to the interior to secure Mexico and prevent it from becoming a failed state. Also, considering Mexico’s economic situation, Mexico City would be stuck trying to prevent insolvency while trying to provide security. With only so many resources, Mexico would have to make some hard decisions indeed.

This situation will need to be monitored to determine the cause of the crash. Signs that would indicate the Mexican government believes the plane was sabotaged are the shutting down of air traffic and the ordering of drastic troop redeployments.

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