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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #400 on: February 25, 2014, 10:39:31 AM »

For our foreign readers, know that this comes from Pravda on the Hudson, which has a distinct bias against people being armed:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/25/world/americas/vigilantes-once-welcome-frighten-many-in-mexico.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140225
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« Reply #401 on: March 04, 2014, 03:49:56 PM »

http://www.epicdash.com/mexican-drug-lords-home-raided-even-incredible-horrifying-ever-imagined/
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« Reply #402 on: March 05, 2014, 06:27:04 PM »

Gnarliest thing I've seen yet... a 13 year old kid working as an assassin for the cartel, caved the guy's head in with a hammer, took out his brains, and filled it with chopped tomatoes. Nothing surprises me anymore.
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Singing in the rain...
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« Reply #403 on: March 05, 2014, 06:29:15 PM »

That, or arresting one of my own partners for working as an assassin in the cartel.  It all goes on. I get a sense of not fearing anything anymore, because you know, you're already dead and no one, not even the law is untouchable, and well.. life is cheap. GM.... I'm still not dead.
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« Reply #404 on: March 18, 2014, 02:58:06 PM »


Opponent of Mexico’s Cartels Is Detained in Vigilantes’ Deaths

By DAMIEN CAVEMARCH 12, 2014

Photo
Hipólito Mora, who is from the southwestern state of Michoacán, has become well known in Mexico in connection with the vigilante movement. Credit Ulises Ruiz


MEXICO CITY — Hipólito Mora often said that he started the first self-defense group in the Mexican state of Michoacán to end the boundless cruelty of the Knights Templar cartel — the killing, the extortion, and the monopolistic control it exerted over local lime growers.

Now, a little over a year later, Mr. Mora, 58, whose ever-present cowboy hat and national commentary have made him the public face of Mexico’s vigilante movement, is accused of the very same offenses.

He was detained on Tuesday as a suspect in the death of two men working with a rival self-defense group, Mexican authorities said, heightening fears that what began as a citizen push for peace is now morphing into another layer of violent conflict over money and power in a region that has been out of control for years.

“Mora’s arrest tells us about the risks of vigilantes, acting according to their own standards,” said Rául Benítez Manaut, a security analyst at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. But, he added: “They are in a state where justice is a very relative thing; they are used to living in a context where justice dos not exist.”

The arrest is already being questioned by Mr. Mora’s allies. On the Facebook page that has become the group’s main forum, several people defended him, contending that he was a victim of a conspiracy because he had accused many of the other self-defense groups — including the group with the two men who were found dead Saturday in a burned-out pickup truck — of being infiltrated by the Knights Templar and other drug gangs.

“The arrest of Hipólito Mora is a mistake,” said Father Gregorio López, a local Roman Catholic priest. “He is the only one not corrupted by criminals.”

Mr. Mora and his men in the village of La Ruana have long had a testy relationship with the self-defense forces in the neighboring town of Buenavista, which are led by Luis Antonio Torres Gonzalez , known as “El Americano.” In December, Mr. Mora could often be heard on his cellphone arguing with the Buenavista leadership over deals they had made related to local lime groves.

Those groves, the heart and cash register of the local economy, have been crucial in Michoacán’s self-defense movement from the beginning. In December, Mr. Mora said he decided to form his group in early 2013 after a lime-packaging plant controlled by the Knights Templars refused to accept limes picked by his son. The cartel, he said, had gone too far, extorting pickers and limiting how much was packaged for export in order to drive up prices.

The goal of his self-defense group, he said, was to create a better, more just economy for his town and others. In mid-December, when a government helicopter arrived in a La Ruana pasture to take Mr. Mora to Mexico City to speak with top government officials, he carried in his shirt pocket a list of requests, including money for a university.

By that time Mr. Mora was already a well-known symbol of what he calls “the movement,” with his comments found almost daily in Mexican newspapers. But his fame soared a few weeks later when President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a $3.4 billion plan in Michoacán for job creation, education, health, infrastructure and pensions.

The government plan included efforts to work with self-defense groups, and together they have had some success against the Knights Templar. Vigilante groups control about 15 of Michoacán’s townships, and high-profile arrests and killings of gang suspects have risen.

On Sunday, Mexican authorities said they had killed Nazario Moreno González, the head of the Knights Templar cartel, also known as the Templarios.

But with some success and its spoils, the rivalry between Mr. Mora and Mr. Torres seems to have intensified. A few months ago, Mr. Mora always waved when Mr. Torres drove by in his black Range Rover — seized from a Knights Templar leader, Mr. Mora said.

More recently, Mr. Mora has suggested that too many of Mr. Torres’s colleagues have questionable loyalties. Critics of Mr. Mora have accused him of holding onto lime groves taken from the Knights Templar, rather than returning the land to its rightful owners. Both men have rejected the accusations.

Mexico’s broader question of which groups are clean, and which are criminal, has been impossible to answer. American officials say they believe some groups are receiving weapons and support from different drug gangs, but that it is hard to prove where groups fall on the spectrum of honest to corrupted.

The conflict between Mr. Mora and Mr. Torres is simply the most obvious sign of the problem. On Monday, the Mexican government sent hundreds of police and soldiers to La Ruana to try to mediate between the two men.

“We cannot permit this kind of confrontation to occur,” said Alfredo Castillo, the federal government’s envoy to Michoacán. On Wednesday, he added that Mr. Mora refused to turn over members of his group suspected of the killings, and that there was evidence suggesting Mr. Mora knew about them in advance and may have consented.

Experts warn that the longer the battle between vigilantes goes on, the greater the risk of increased violence and frustration with the government’s inability to establish a lasting peace.

“The government should be very careful,” said Mr. Benitez, the security analyst. “They can’t start arresting vigilantes indiscriminately, because people expect them to arrest Templarios, not vigilantes.”

Paulina Villegas contributed reporting.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #405 on: April 17, 2014, 09:17:09 PM »

Editor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the first quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the second quarter of the year. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

During the first quarter of 2014, Mexican authorities managed to kill or capture a substantial number of high-level leaders of Mexican organized criminal groups, including top Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera on Feb. 22 at a hotel in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. In an unusually high tempo of operations, the Mexican military managed to capture several other Sinaloa leaders who operated under Guzman or Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia, another top-tier Sinaloa Federation leader. By the beginning of 2014, the Sinaloa Federation was already struggling to adapt to a series of significant leadership losses during the last quarter of 2013. Its losses during the first quarter of 2014 thus compound its pre-existing problems.

Meanwhile, the efforts of federal troops and the self-defense militias in Michoacan resulted in the death or capture of the bulk of the Knights Templar's top-tier leaders. Since the second half of January 2014, three out of four of the most prominent Knights Templar leaders have been eliminated, as have many of their lieutenants.

The arrest of Guzman is not likely to alter any of the trends during the second quarter addressed in our 2014 annual cartel report. By contrast, the massive losses for the Knights Templar in such a short period will likely trigger substantial shifts in organized crime dynamics in Michoacan, including the expansion of old or the creation of new, smaller criminal groups into the void left by the Knights Templar. Given that the Knights Templar were expanding domestically and internationally up to the end of 2013, the impact of successful federal operations against the group could be felt beyond southwestern Mexico. This is particularly likely in northeastern Mexico, where the Knights Templar helped the Gulf cartel defend its territory from Los Zetas. If this evolution does not occur during the second quarter, it probably will later in 2014.
Michoacan

Federal authorities could not have racked up such rapid successes against Knights Templar leaders during the first quarter were it not for the presence of self-defense militias in Michoacan state. The self-defense militias first emerged in February 2013 and have since expanded their operations to more than 26 of Michoacan's 113 municipalities (and over half the state's geographic area). Even so, Mexico City has decided it cannot tolerate the existence of well-armed and widely operating militias willing to supplant government authority.

At the end of 2013, self-defense militias in Michoacan had already expanded into nearly a dozen municipalities as part of a strategy of ejecting the Knights Templar from specific areas and then holding onto the newly won territory. With the expansion, the militias challenged government authority in many towns by taking charge of public safety, often detaining local law enforcement authorities whom the militias viewed as having links to the Knights Templar. The growing presence of the militias presented yet another substantial security challenge for Mexico City in the state, particularly as the militias expanded around the transportation routes surrounding the port city of Lazaro Cardenas. Rising levels of organized crime-related violence, the continued expansion of well-armed militias into much of the state and disruptive violence such as the Oct. 27 attacks on Federal Electricity Commission installations in Michoacan prompted several deployments of federal police and the Mexican military to Michoacan throughout 2013 (in addition to drawing international media coverage of Michoacan's security woes).
Cities With Self-Defense Groups
Click to Enlarge

In January 2014, Mexico City created the Commission for Security and Integral Development in Michoacan, led by Alfredo Castillo, to oversee its security strategy in Michoacan, coordinate federal and state security forces and purportedly address political, social and economic issues in the state. One of the commission's first actions was to bring the various militias, operating in a coordinated manner, into an agreement with the federal and state government Jan. 27. Among other things, the self-defense groups agreed to integrate with federal troops by joining the Rural Defense Corps, a longtime auxiliary force of the Mexican army. In addition, the agreement provided Mexico City with greater oversight over the inner workings of the militias and their leadership. However, no substantial integration of militia members into the Rural Defense Corps had occurred by the end of the first quarter.

By contrast, the agreement did succeed in fostering a great deal of cooperation between the militias and federal troops with regard to targeting the Knights Templar. The combined efforts of the self-defense militias and federal troops against the Knights Templar yielded substantial gains. The day of the agreement, federal troops captured Dionisio "El Tio" Loya Plancarte, the first of the top Knights Templar leaders to fall in the first quarter. On March 9, the Mexican military killed Nazario "El Chayo" Moreno Gonzalez, the founder of the Knights Templar, in Tumbiscatio, Michoacan state. Moreno's death occurred as a result of substantial militia operations in the city just days before. On March 31, top leader Enrique "El Kike" Plancarte Solis was killed during a military operation in Colon, Queretaro state. Of the Knights Templar's best-known leaders, only Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez remains at large.
Municipalities With Self Defense Groups
Click to Enlarge

Significantly, the spread of the militias in Michoacan has greatly hindered the group's mobility in the state. This greatly diminished the operational capabilities of the Knights Templar during the first quarter, lessening its hold over profitable criminal activities in the state. And this in turn has created a power vacuum, allowing smaller independent crime groups, including the remnants of the Knights Templar, to emerge. (The second quarter will likely see these lower-tier groups continue to emerge.)

In the weeks following the March 31 death of Plancarte, the federal commission overseeing Michoacan's security developments called for the disarmament of the militias because, the commission said, the Knights Templar had largely been defeated. Self-defense militia movement spokesman Jose Mireles rejected calls to disarm, citing the persistence of the Knights Templar under Gomez and other lower-level bosses.

The federal government then set a deadline of May 10 for the militias to voluntarily disarm or face forced disarmament. In response, the militia movement threatened blockades. Various militias could erect these, presumably on major roads in Michoacan, should the federal government not satisfy militia demands. These include the release of 100 incarcerated militia members, the killing or capture of remaining Knights Templar members in the state, the restoration of the rule of law in Michoacan and the recognition of the self-defense militias' right to exist.

The commission and militia leaders from 20 municipalities struck a new deal April 14. Though the agreement followed a recent ultimatum by the federal government that the militias voluntarily disarm by May 10 or have federal troops forcibly disarm them, the new deal's 11 points do not call for a total disarmament. Instead, the militias accepted an offer to be incorporated into a Rural State Police body beginning May 11. Under the terms of the deal, self-defense militias will turn in "high-caliber" weapons. The deal calls for all remaining militia arms to be registered with the federal government. The April 14 agreement also allows militia members to join the Rural Defense Corps, just as the agreement signed Jan. 27 did.

According to Security and Integral Development Commissioner Alfredo Castillo, the agreement means that self-defense militias in Michoacan will disappear by May 11. Whether the agreement will actually produce that outcome remains unclear, given that it allows the self-defense militia members to continue to bear arms and does not specify just how the militias will be formally integrated into government-controlled security forces. Moreover, divisions within the militia movement could threaten the viability of the April 14 agreement.

The April 14 agreement highlights the federal government's intent to halt the expansion of vigilante groups in Mexico. The challenge to governmental authority apparently has been deemed greater than the benefits the militias bring of reducing the need for military involvement in the fight against drug-trafficking organizations.

To this end, Mexico City has sought to bring the militias to the bargaining table. But implementing any deal will face a challenge from increased divisions among the militias. Although at present the militias mostly act in concert, the movement comprises various militias operating in towns among dozens of municipalities.

Internal discord has already emerged, albeit currently isolated to a few personalities within the militias. Since the beginning of 2014, various self-defense militia leaders have accused one another of belonging to organized crime and have said that organized crime is infiltrating their groups. Though such claims are impossible to verify, their existence underscores concerns among self-defense militias that their members may be interested in taking over criminal enterprises left by the power vacuum that emerged from the Knights Templar's decline. If these concerns become reality, the government will face an even more fractured militia landscape during negotiations for their incorporation into federal forces.

If the broader movement fractures during the second quarter, the likelihood of any negotiated settlement between the militias and the government greatly diminishes, given the lack of any coordinated leadership. However, divisions within the militia movement would pose a diminished threat to Mexico City. If the movement remains largely intact yet fails to honor the April 14 agreement, it is possible that Mexico City would still delay any efforts to disarm the militias during the second quarter. This would provide more time for the militias to fragment, thus reducing their collective ability to challenge state authority while obviating the need for any military confrontation. However, such a decision would risk further proliferation of the militias, bringing in more weaponry and bolstering their ranks. The longer Mexico City allows the militias to expand without any permanent resolution that brings the militias fully into the fold or disarms them, the greater the threat militias will pose to government authority.

In the second quarter, the fracturing of organized crime in Michoacan will likely lead to more organized crime-related violence as these smaller groups move, hampering federal and state government bids to improve security in the state. And although Knights Templar operational capabilities in Michoacan have declined, the group will still retain a substantial presence in the state during the second quarter. Violence between rival criminal organizations and between criminal organizations and the self-defense militias will combine with the continued presence of the Knights Templar to keep the state unstable.

Editor's Note: The full version of our quarterly cartel update is available to clients of our Mexico Security Monitor service.

Read more: Mexico's Drug War: Substantial Changes Seen in Michoacan | Stratfor
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elf-Defense Groups in Mexico's Michoacan State
Media Center, Image
April 17, 2014 | 1057 Print Text Size
Self-Defense Groups in Mexico's Michoacan State
Click to Enlarge

Since the second half of January 2014, three out of four of the most prominent Knights Templar leaders have been eliminated, as have many of their lieutenants. Federal authorities could not have racked up such rapid successes against Knights Templar leaders during the first quarter were it not for the presence of self-defense militias in Michoacan state. The self-defense militias first emerged in February 2013 and have since expanded their operations to more than 26 of Michoacan's 113 municipalities (and over half the state's geographic area). With the expansion, the militias challenged government authority in many towns by taking charge of public safety, often detaining local law enforcement authorities whom the militias viewed as having links to the Knights Templar.

Mexico City has decided it cannot tolerate the existence of well-armed and widely operating militias willing to supplant government authority, which led to the government and militia leaders from 20 municipalities striking a new deal April 14 to resolve their status. Though the agreement followed a recent ultimatum by the federal government that the militias voluntarily disarm by May 10 or have federal troops forcibly disarm them, the new deal's 11 points do not call for a total disarmament. Instead, the militias accepted an offer to be incorporated into a Rural State Police body beginning May 11. Under the terms of the deal, self-defense militias will turn in "high-caliber" weapons. The deal calls for all remaining militia arms to be registered with the federal government. The April 14 agreement also allows militia members to join the Rural Defense Corps, just as a previous agreement reached Jan. 27 did.

According to Security and Integral Development Commissioner Alfredo Castillo, the agreement means that self-defense militias in Michoacan will disappear by May 11. Whether the agreement will actually produce that outcome remains unclear, given that it allows the self-defense militia members to continue to bear arms and does not specify just how the militias will be formally integrated into government-controlled security forces. Moreover, divisions within the militia movement could threaten the viability of the April 14 agreement.

« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 09:22:27 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #406 on: April 30, 2014, 07:13:01 AM »

Mexico: Mayor Detained in Organized Crime Investigation

By PAULINA VILLEGASAPRIL 29, 2014


The mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas, the city with Mexico’s second-largest port, has been detained as part of an investigation into allegations that he is involved in organized crime, as Mexico struggles to regain control of a region under the thumb of a powerful criminal gang. The gang, the Knights Templar, had so infiltrated the port, in the Pacific Coast state of Michoacán, that the military took it over last year. The arrest of the mayor, Arquímedes Oseguera, on Monday came a day after five people were killed on the outskirts of Lázaro Cárdenas when vigilante groups clashed with gunmen who they suspected were criminals. Mexico this week plans to begin to disarm the vigilantes and restore state authority.
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« Reply #407 on: May 23, 2014, 10:54:33 PM »

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2637789/Threatening-cartel-billboards-warning-police-choose-silver-lead-come-complete-hanging-mannequins-appearing-Texas.html

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Texas/2014/05/20/Former-Border-Patrol-Union-Only-Cartels-Benefit-From-Border-Monument
« Last Edit: May 23, 2014, 11:11:16 PM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #408 on: June 17, 2014, 05:49:19 PM »

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jun/17/feds-armed-mexican-troops-police-jump-border/
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #409 on: July 07, 2014, 12:29:58 PM »

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/immigrants-from-latin-america-and-africa-squeezed-as-banks-curtail-international-money-transfers/?_php=true&_type=blogs&emc=edit_th_20140707&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193&_r=0
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« Reply #410 on: July 15, 2014, 06:10:50 PM »

15 July 2014
MEXICO – Audit puts PAN party’s status at risk

National Electoral Institute (INE) data released on 11 July 2014 from June shows that the National Action Party (PAN) has just 222,928 members, after discovering that 48,704 registrations were duplicates. This puts PAN at risk of losing its status as a national political party, as electoral law dictates that a recognized national political party have a minimum number of members equivalent to 0.26 percent of the population, or approximately 219,608 citizens. The INE will now crosscheck the registrations of the other political parties and, if necessary, request that citizens express their final preference.
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« Reply #411 on: July 21, 2014, 02:46:50 PM »

http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/07/21/it-is-a-horrifying-place-to-be-glenn-reflects-on-his-visit-to-the-rio-grande-river-with-louie-gohmert/
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« Reply #412 on: July 21, 2014, 09:17:30 PM »

second post of the day

ditor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the second quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the third quarter. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto aggressively pursued a strategy of targeting top organized crime leaders throughout Mexico in the second quarter -- and not just in Michoacan, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, the states that the country's major criminal groups call home.


In Michoacan, Mexico City achieved substantial success against organized crime in the first half of 2014. Self-defense militias and Mexican authorities have dismantled most of the senior leadership of the Knights Templar. Only Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez remains at large.

Federal forces also continued to inflict significant leadership losses on organized crime groups in Sinaloa, particularly the Sinaloa Federation. The arrest of top Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera on Feb. 22 capped the government's successes in Sinaloa. The Mexican military on June 23 also arrested Fernando "El Ingeniero" Sanchez Arellano, one of the primary leaders of another criminal group in Sinaloa (despite its brand name), the Tijuana cartel.

Mexico City announced a renewed campaign against organized crime in Tamaulipas on May 13, highlighting its intent to crush the leaderships of all organized crime groups in their respective domains. Successes mounted just days after the announcement: Already, federal forces have arrested or killed several significant Gulf cartel and Los Zetas bosses. And at least so far, the campaign against organized crime in Tamaulipas has not distracted the government from its pursuit of crime bosses elsewhere.

Successfully targeting crime bosses in Mexico does not ensure improved security over the long term. It also does not guarantee the collapse of any group. For example, the arrest of Zetas leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales on July 15, 2013, did not appear to meaningfully affect Los Zetas' capabilities or operations.

Opportunities for new crime bosses to emerge or expand their control will remain as long as vast quantities of highly profitable drugs are flowing through criminal territories and other highly profitable criminal activities are proliferating. If Mexico City is to translate its recent successes into enduring security improvements, it will have to continue to pressure crime bosses and strengthen the government institutions that maintain the rule of law.

Economic Incentives

It is more than just a desire to end the drug-related violence that motivates Mexico City's recent campaigns against organized crime in Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Michoacan. The Mexican government is also protecting its own economic interests. Not only do Mexican criminal groups traffic drugs into the United States, but they are also increasingly engaged in the theft of hydrocarbon products, as well as illegal mining and illegal logging.

In Michoacan, the Knights Templar had enjoyed an increasing share of shipments of illegally mined ore to China until the second quarter. Meanwhile, the theft and sale of hydrocarbon products by these groups has grown throughout Mexico. Criminal groups in Tamaulipas in particular have an extensive reach into Mexico's energy resources: Groups have stolen gasoline from Petroleos Mexicanos' pipelines, trucks and even directly from refineries, then sold it on the street for less than half the official price.

Organized crime's exploitation of Mexico's hydrocarbon resources is one of the principal forces pushing the new campaign in the northeast. As Stratfor noted in its second quarterly cartel update, the recent surge in violence in Tamaulipas was mainly because of the collapse of the Tampico Gulf cartel faction and the continued Gulf cartel factional fight for control of Reynosa. However, Mexico City has thus far targeted virtually all organized crime groups based in Tamaulipas -- from Los Zetas to the various Gulf cartel factions -- and government operations have extended into Guanajuato, Mexico, Nuevo Leon and Veracruz states.

The long-term consequences of Mexico's high-value target campaign are difficult to forecast. Security improvements -- where there have been any -- as a direct result of military and law enforcement operations in the most violent areas of the country have been modest. Those operations have, however, accelerated the trends Stratfor underlined in its 2014 cartel annual update.

In northwestern Mexico, the series of arrests of high-level Sinaloa Federation leaders has further balkanized organized crime in states such as Sonora, Baja California and Sinaloa. In north-central Mexico, La Linea has re-emerged in Chihuahua without resorting to the levels of violence seen when the Sinaloa Federation initially pushed into the state and challenged it. The picture in Mexico's northeast is still hazy, especially given the recent operations in Tamaulipas. Nonetheless, the combination of escalated turf wars among Gulf cartel factions and the government's targeting of crime bosses from Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel will accelerate the organizational shifts Stratfor noted in its 2014 cartel update.

Changes in Tamaulipas and the Northeast

The collapse of the Tampico faction of the Gulf cartel during the first quarter, leaving no major group in control of organized crime in the city of Tampico, marked the beginning of substantial shifts in organized crime in the northeast. In addition to Tampico, Reynosa and Ciudad Victoria saw renewed organized crime violence. Gulf cartel factions fought each other for control of Reynosa, and Los Zetas continued to face off with security forces in Ciudad Victoria. However, because Tampico lies on drug smuggling routes into the United States and is a hub for the theft of hydrocarbon products, it is almost a given that a group such as Los Zetas or another Gulf cartel faction will vie for control. Competing groups could launch a direct incursion, or they could sponsor one of the old Tampico faction's successor groups.

Areas of Cartel Influence in Mexico



As Stratfor detailed in the first quarterly update, a shift of control in Tampico could affect the landscape of organized crime in all of northeastern Mexico. We did not, however, predict the sweeping federal operations targeting all major criminal groups in Tamaulipas that began in May. Sharp increases in violence and subsequent military operations are not new to Tamaulipas. Since 2003, the state has experienced a series of bloody criminal turf wars followed by substantial military and law enforcement operations. The turf wars reflect the state's value to organized crime. Given its location on the Lower Rio Grande, Tamaulipas offers access to U.S. ports of entry where contraband can be smuggled into the United States. This has made Tamaulipas one of the major regional bases for organized crime in Mexico. The various major groups based there, namely, Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel factions, collectively operate in roughly half of the country.

The operations that reshaped the security environment in Tamaulipas in the second quarter will continue at least into the third quarter. Fighting between gunmen and military forces has increased in multiple areas of Tamaulipas, particularly Reynosa, Tampico and Ciudad Victoria, though the increased troop presence in hot spots in the state has diminished intercartel violence.

The wide net Mexico City has cast in targeting crime bosses from groups based in Tamaulipas reveals that the government's ambitions go beyond simply quelling cartel violence in the state. Numerous Tamaulipas crime bosses have been caught, many after fleeing the state. The number of crime bosses fleeing Tamaulipas only to be arrested in their new refuges stands out. These include Gulf cartel boss Juan Manuel "Juan Perros" Rodriguez Garcia, apprehended May 25 in Nuevo Leon state; Los Zetas leaders Juan Fernando "El Ferrari" Alvarez Cortez and Fernando "Z-16" Magana Martinez, both apprehended in May in Nuevo Leon; Luis Jimenez Tovar, Los Zetas' plaza boss for Ciudad Victoria, arrested July 3 in Leon, Guanajuato; and Gulf cartel boss Juan Zarate "El Sheyla" Martin Chavez, apprehended June 18 in Mexico state. The high volume of fugitives from Tamaulipas suggests that the crime bosses fear this security operation more than major ones in the past, such as the operation launched against Los Zetas in 2011 and the one targeting the Gulf cartel in 2012.

Violence stemming from the turf wars between rival criminal groups in Reynosa and Tampico slowed in the last few weeks of the second quarter, supplanted by fighting between authorities and criminal gunmen. While organized crime groups will continue fighting one another in Tamaulipas, the heightened number of federal troops and aggressive targeting will continue to limit their ability to fight one another in the third quarter.

It is highly likely that more Gulf cartel and Los Zetas leaders will fall this quarter, though it is uncertain whether Mexico City will apprehend the senior leaders of Los Zetas, such as leader Omar "Z-42" Trevino Morales, brother of former leader Miguel Trevino Morales. The faction of the Gulf cartel based in Matamoros, a town where the family of former Gulf leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen still has considerable power, has weathered the federal operations the best. As a result, this faction could expand its reach onto the turf of other Gulf factions in the second half of the year.

Editor's Note: The full version of our quarterly cartel update is available to clients of our Mexico Security Monitor service.
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« Reply #413 on: August 23, 2014, 08:45:26 AM »

Mexico Unveils New Police Force
Scaled-Down Unit Aims to Protect Mine and Farm Operations
By Dudley Althaus and José de Córdoba
WSJ
Aug. 22, 2014 3:57 p.m. ET

Members of the newly formed gendarmerie march in unison during an inaugural ceremony at the Federal Police headquarters in Mexico City. Associated Press

MEXICO CITY—Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto inaugurated a new unit of the federal police force—a scaled-down version of what was initially planned as a larger, independent gendarmerie—that aims to protect key parts of the economy, like mining operations and farms, from drug gangs.

The new 5,000-strong force, modeled after similar units in France, Spain, Chile and elsewhere, was a key element of Mr. Peña Nieto's public security strategy during his 2012 presidential campaign. Having criticized former President Felipe Calderón's use of the army and navy to take on drug gangs, Mr. Peña Nieto and his team envisioned a new 40,000-strong force, with recruits drawn largely from the military, which would answer to civilian authorities and allow the army to return to the barracks.

The smaller force will instead be another unit of the Federal Police. Critics said the new force was too small and would leave the bulk of the fight against the cartels to Mexico's army and navy.

The original plan for the gendarmerie was opposed by the military, which spearheaded the bloody, unresolved campaign against organized crime, according to some analysts. Tens of thousands of Mexican troops still patrol the country's hot spots, including many of the states just south of the U.S. border.

"It was planned to be a very ambitious police force, separate from the federal police as well as the army. But there was a lot of infighting between the army, the navy and the federal police," said Raúl Benítez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

That left Mr. Peña Nieto's team struggling with how to fulfill a campaign promise without losing face, some analysts said.

"This is a police force in search of a mission," said Alejandro Hope, who served as a senior official in Mexico's civilian intelligence agency under Mr. Calderón. "It has a political logic, not a security one."

Gendarmes combine civilian policing with military discipline and organization. They act as a national police in France, its former colonies and other European countries as well as in Chile, Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America.

As many as 100,000 Mexicans have died or disappeared since late 2006 as rival criminal gangs battle one another and security forces for territorial domination. The violence has eased this year in many former hot spots; government statistics show a 15% drop in murders so far this year compared with the same period in 2013.

Even in its reduced form, Mexico's gendarme force will increase the number of federal officers involved in actual field operations by nearly a fifth, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, who as National Security Commissioner oversees the federal police. The gendarmes will be a seventh division of the now 41,000-strong force.

The idea is to provide "greater quantitative and qualitative reaction capacity to the federal police," Mr. Rubido said. "The goal is public peace…to protect family, school and work spaces."

Mr. Rubido cited key farm areas in Tamaulipas state, bordering Texas, and in west central Michoacán state as two examples of where gendarmes might deployed should producers be threatened by those states' vicious gangs. He also pointed to a recent rash of kidnappings in the tourist town of Valle de Bravo, near Mexico City, as the sort of problem the gendarmes will handle.

The new force won't be used to protect particular companies, Mr. Rubido said, but will provide security for regions where murder, extortion, kidnapping and theft have disrupted economic and community life.

Mexico's gendarmes have undergone both law enforcement and military training aimed at forging a "sense of discipline, of corps, of belonging," Mr. Rubido said. Rank-and-file officers are young men and women—the average age is 28—with slightly older commanders drawn from federal police ranks, he said.

Half the new officers have completed high school and a fifth have university degrees. The officers' net monthly starts at $1,100, which Mr. Rubido said "isn't a bad salary by the police standards in our country."

Apart from their operational duties, the gendarmes are intended to bring in "new blood to refresh the daily work of the federal police," Mr. Rubido said.

The federal police are widely considered the best trained and most trustworthy of Mexico's civilian security forces. But they account for less than a 10th of the 440,000 police officers nationwide, most of whom serve with undertrained, outgunned and often corrupt municipal and state forces, according to Mr. Benítez and other analysts.

The new force would prove a step forward if it is "able to create a niche space where you have noncorrupt police," Mr. Benítez said. "It will depend on the commanders chosen to head the Gendarmería."
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« Reply #414 on: August 26, 2014, 03:57:49 PM »

Mexico Unveils New Police Force
Scaled-Down Unit Aims to Protect Mine and Farm Operations
By Dudley Althaus and José de Córdoba
WSJ
Aug. 22, 2014 3:57 p.m. ET


The smaller force will instead be another unit of the Federal Police. Critics said the new force was too small and would leave the bulk of the fight against the cartels to Mexico's army and navy.

The original plan for the gendarmerie was opposed by the military, which spearheaded the bloody, unresolved campaign against organized crime, according to some analysts. Tens of thousands of Mexican troops still patrol the country's hot spots, including many of the states just south of the U.S. border.


A couple of things; the author/s doesn't/don't know a whole lot or intentionally wrote a biased article.

The military is less than pleased because it will be taking about 40 million dollars (the amount to spent on the Gendarmería), and they're bent.

The military and Fuerzas Federales and Fuerzas Estatales will all be forking over people to man it. It isn't operational yet but will be in full swing within a year.

Not every state gets to send troops. We here are sending 1500 elements with additional elements coming from three other states.

This is a very good thing. I am very much looking forward to this.
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« Reply #415 on: August 27, 2014, 09:52:03 AM »

Good input DDF.
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« Reply #416 on: September 02, 2014, 01:26:42 PM »



http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/world/americas/billboard-drives-home-extent-of-corruption-as-schools-suffer.html?emc=edit_th_20140902&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=49641193
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« Reply #417 on: September 03, 2014, 08:30:49 AM »

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's state of the union address Tuesday offered key insights into Mexico's direction over the next few years. Among the high points of the speech were reforms in the Mexican energy sector that ended the state's monopoly on hydrocarbons production. Pena Nieto's speech also touted reductions in the nation's homicide rate over the past year.

With the legislative hurdles cleared, Mexico will use the next few years to implement reforms achieved in 2013 and 2014. The energy reform in particular portends an increase in Mexican oil output and government revenue over the next decade. Mexico will also continue using federal authorities, including the newly formed gendarmerie, to counter the violence generated by organized crime. However, these are short-term political moves in Mexico's larger geopolitical narrative, in which Mexico's economic future will remain inextricably connected to the United States, and Mexico City will continue searching for ways to mitigate ongoing competition between drug trafficking organizations.

To a large degree, Pena Nieto will focus his presidency on maintaining the steady economic growth of the past 20 years. Since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, Mexico's real gross domestic product climbed by about $383 billion to more than $1 trillion. This growth, which placed Mexico second in Latin America in terms of GDP and 15th in the world, primarily rose due to the advantages gained by Mexico's proximity to the United States. Mexico has defined its economic strategy around these advantages, which include short transport distances to the world's largest consumer market and Mexico's relatively low wages compared with the United States -- low wages that have spurred investment into manufacturing (with the United States being a leading investor) for decades. NAFTA accelerated this trend, and nearly 80 percent of Mexican exports worth some $300 billion went directly to the United States in 2013. Although Mexico is attempting to eliminate tariff barriers with like-minded trading partners in the burgeoning Pacific Alliance, its trade flows will remain overwhelmingly focused on its neighbor to the north.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

This long-term economic focus northward will define Mexico's immediate economic moves. Over the next several years, Mexico will continue building out its natural gas pipeline network to take advantage of the U.S. role as a major natural gas producer and supply Mexico's growing industrial base and electricity generation. Because the pipelines that import U.S. natural gas into Mexico are operating near full capacity, Mexico will add three additional pipelines to its grid over the next two years. Mexican state-owned energy firm Petroleos Mexicanos is planning five additional pipelines in upcoming years. Together, these lines will add nearly 55.9 billion cubic meters per year to Mexico's existing pipeline import capacity.

Mexico will also focus heavily on implementing the centerpiece of its reform drive, namely, energy reform. Much of Pena Nieto's political legacy rests on successfully securing meaningful foreign investment into Mexico's oil sector. To this end, the government will auction 169 oil blocks in May 2015. There are growing indications that Pemex is willing to make the necessary moves to restructure the firm to become more competitive. A successful auction is unlikely to bear fruit until several years down the road, but it would set Mexico's deteriorated oil sector on the path toward recovery.

Pena Nieto will also continue dealing with the ongoing violence from Mexico's drug war, an unwelcome inheritance from his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. Mexico remains one of the last destinations in the cocaine supply chain to the lucrative U.S. market, and this role will not change soon. Despite rising cocaine traffic through the Caribbean, the vast majority of cocaine shipments from South America still pass through Mexico -- and thus into the hands of the numerous drug trafficking organizations competing there for dominance over supply routes northward. This violence, which spiked sharply in the years after Calderon sent federal forces directly after drug trafficking organizations in 2006, has remained a challenge for the Mexican government. The government will continue to try to contain the violence associated with criminal competition, and the U.S. interest in stemming the flow of drugs through the U.S. border is unlikely to wane in the coming years.

Despite a major U.S. interest in countering drug flows north, Mexico will likely enjoy significantly less success on the security front. There are simply too many people within criminal organizations and institutions benefiting from the drug trade for its effects to be reduced through law enforcement pressure alone. Although several major drug traffickers were captured during Pena Nieto's term, including Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera and Los Zetas leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, the elements remain in place for continued cartel wars across Mexico. The lucrative profit margins available to Mexican drug traffickers will keep spurring competition over supply routes and gateways into the United States. Though the names of individuals and organizations involved in the trade over the next several years will change, the overall dynamic of drug trafficking organizations exporting cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the United States will not. With local police forces highly penetrated by narcotics traffickers, Pena Nieto will continue to rely on the military and other federal security bodies to stem ongoing violence, but setting up lasting law enforcement institutions will prove elusive.

Despite its lasting role in the drug trade, Mexico's future for the remainder of Pena Nieto's tenure looks bright. Reductions in U.S. consumer demand notwithstanding, the country is well-positioned to continue to benefit from high levels of foreign direct investment and trade with the United States. If successful, the energy reform will provide significant revenue flows for both the central government and private firms by the decade's end. Overall, Mexico is set to continue its trajectory toward securing its position as a Latin American economic power.

Read more: The Mexican President's State of the Union Suggests a Bright Future | Stratfor
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« Reply #418 on: October 17, 2014, 07:48:17 AM »

ditor's Note: This week's Security Weekly summarizes our quarterly Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of the third quarter of 2014 and provide a forecast for the fourth quarter. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

The Mexican government continued its string of arrests of high-level crime bosses during the third quarter of 2014. Since Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in 2012, leaders of crime syndicates from across Mexico have been falling to federal troops with unusual frequency, including top-tier bosses from Sinaloa, Michoacan and Tamaulipas states, beginning with the arrest of Los Zetas top leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales in July 2013. It has become clear that the Pena Nieto administration is leaving no organized crime group free from government pressure. This trend will dominate the evolution of Mexico's organized crime landscape in the fourth quarter.
Significant Arrests

With the exception of Trevino, troops focused primarily on northwestern crime bosses operating under the Sinaloa Federation's umbrella in the last half of 2013 and well into the first half of this year, most notably with the February arrest of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera. Over the past three months, federal forces turned their sights to an alliance consisting of the Juarez cartel, Los Zetas and remnants of the Beltran Leyva Organization, a grouping poised to supplant the declining Sinaloa Federation.

On Aug. 9, federal troops captured Enrique Hernandez Garcia, a Beltran Leyva Organization operator and the reported point of contact for the three allied cartels. Hernandez's brother, Francisco (aka "El 2000") is a high-level Beltran Leyva member who played an integral role in providing support to Beltran Leyva Organization remnant groups in Sonora state using gunmen from Los Zetas and the Juarez cartel. Federal troops in northern Sinaloa state also aggressively pursued the Beltran Leyva Organization successor group Los Mazatlecos in the third quarter.

But the alliance's most noteworthy leaders, such as top boss Fausto "El Chapo Isidro" Meza Flores, managed to evade capture until Hector "El H" Beltran Leyva was arrested Oct. 1 in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato state. Hector, the brother of Beltran Leyva Organization founders Alfredo and Arturo Beltran Leyva, was the most senior Beltran Leyva Organization operator to be captured or killed since the December 2009 death of Arturo during a firefight with Mexican marines. Federal forces built on this success by capturing Juarez cartel chief Vicente Carrillo Fuentes on Oct. 9 in Torreon, Coahuila state.

Federal forces also proceeded with operations in Tamaulipas state during the past quarter, where they continued to find substantial success in targeting leaders of the various Gulf cartel-aligned gangs. Farther south, federal troops are actively pursuing the Knights Templar in Michoacan state, though that group is a shadow of what it once was, with Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez its sole remaining top leader.

Each time a high-level leader is captured or killed, the question of succession naturally arises. The consequences of each succession vary widely from group to group. For example, the arrest of Trevino had a low organizational impact on Los Zetas, while massive, violent organizational splits occurred within the Beltran Leyva Organization and the Sinaloa Federation after the January 2008 arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva. Since the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva happened less than a month ago, the extent of the fallout from each remains to be seen. Regardless of how things play out, the typically cohesive structures of Mexican cartels will continue to dissolve, creating a balkanized organized criminal landscape.
The Gulf Cartel Splinters

The Gulf cartel is perhaps the most obvious example of this devolution. Before 2010, the cartel was one of the two most powerful criminal organizations in Mexico, along with the Sinaloa Federation. Either directly or through alliances, it controlled nearly half of Mexico.

In 2010, however, Los Zetas split from the Gulf cartel, leaving the latter with just a portion of its former territory. By 2011, the Gulf cartel had split into two competing factions: Los Rojos and Los Metros. The following year, after several leadership losses at the hands of federal troops, the cartel broke down further into at least three factions in Tamaulipas, while a Los Zetas splinter group known as the Velazquez network emerged, rebranding itself as the "Gulf cartel."

The original Gulf cartel has continued to fragment to the extent that numerous, oft-competing groups -- all of them largely referred to as factions of the Gulf cartel -- sometimes can be found operating in the same neighborhood of a given city. Despite this decentralization, under the management of these various factions, organized criminal activity in Tamaulipas state has continued apace.

In the second and third quarters of 2014, two of the factions collapsed into subfactions. The Gulf cartel faction in Tampico fell apart between April and May, sparking a sharp increase in violence in southern Tamaulipas state prior to the start of sweeping security operations in May. Later, after several leadership losses, the Rio Bravo faction -- one of two factions competing for control of Reynosa -- effectively collapsed. Its rival, which operated in towns just west of Reynosa with ties to the Velazquez network, also suffered several leadership losses at the hands of rival groups and the authorities. Now, organized crime-related violence in Tampico and Reynosa resemble conflicts between powerful street gangs more than past conflicts between Mexican transnational criminal organizations.

If government pressure persists, Mexico's other criminal organizations -- even cartels such as Los Zetas that have retained considerable power and a cohesive structure -- will meet the same splintered fate as the Gulf cartel. For these groups, fragmentation is a natural result of prolonged and consistent government pressure. Not all splits will spark new conflicts, however, since newly independent subgroups may decide to cooperate, as has been the case with some Beltran Leyva Organization subgroups and Gulf cartel factions like those in Matamoros and Tampico. Moreover, even though Tamaulipas state now contains numerous distinct criminal groups, the opportunities for illicit profit that gave rise to the Gulf cartel in the first place will remain. The successor groups will continue the criminal operations.
Setbacks for Sinaloa, Opportunities for Rivals

Though the Sinaloa Federation's current woes began to emerge in 2012, the decentralization of the cartel did not become obvious until 2014. The cartel has not devolved into competing crime groups in the same fashion as the Gulf cartel, but Sinaloa's regional crime bosses have increasingly demonstrated their autonomy from top-tier leaders in areas such as Sonora and Baja California states, particularly Tijuana.

As Stratfor predicted in an Aug. 12 Mexico Security Weekly, the breakdown of the Sinaloa Federation has created opportunities for crime bosses under the Juarez-Los Zetas-Beltran Leyva Organization alliance to absorb territories or criminal operations, through either violent takeovers or business deals with individual Sinaloa lieutenants. Such was the case in southern Sonora state in 2012, when Sinaloa lieutenant Sajid Emilio "El Cadete" Quintero Navidad waged war on another Sinaloa lieutenant, Gonzalo "El Macho Prieto" Inzunza Inzunza, before then allying with Trinidad "El Chapo Trini" Olivas Valenzuela, the leader of a Beltran Leyva Organization remnant group.
Fourth-Quarter Forecast

The Juarez-Beltran Leyva Organization-Los Zetas alliance will begin adjusting to the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva in the fourth quarter. Possible reactions include withdrawal from the alliance or further splits within its constituent parts. Rather than substantial adjustments like these during the fourth quarter, however, the members of the alliance are more likely to work to hold together. This could see subgroups such as La Linea of the Juarez cartel and Los Mazatlecos of the Beltran Leyva Organization become the alliance's points of contact for their respective groups. Should the arrests of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes and Hector Beltran Leyva diminish the overall capabilities of their respective criminal organizations, Los Zetas may take charge of the general direction of the alliance given that the cartel has, by far, the widest reach of any of the three members.

The likelihood of increased violence resulting from the third-quarter arrests alone is slim. While there is a small chance that these captures will weaken the alliance -- or create that perception among its rivals -- no rival organizations are currently capable of mounting an interregional offensive. The Sinaloa Federation, for example, is too fragmented. Northwest Mexico, Chihuahua state and the Bajio region are the areas most likely to see a deterioration of security related to the shift in alliance dynamics this quarter. But any resulting violence probably will be isolated to areas where regional crime bosses operating under an umbrella group like the Sinaloa Federation will face off with alliance-affiliated bosses for control of relatively small territories. Any such fighting in the fourth quarter is unlikely to draw in Mexico's larger entities.

The Mexican government will continue pursuing criminal leaders throughout the country in the fourth quarter. It has become increasingly apparent that the Pena Nieto administration is intent upon continuing to flatten the structure of organized crime as a whole in Mexico. This means that more, albeit much less powerful, criminal bosses will emerge nationwide. New security concerns can arise with such a trend, since there will be more leaders fighting one another and participating in criminal activities targeting business interests and bystanders. But the crime bosses behind such violence will be far more vulnerable to government pressure than their predecessors, given the relative weakness of the new crop -- though to keep them in check the government will need to help Mexican states strengthen their public safety institutions.

Editor's Note: The full version of our quarterly cartel update is available to clients of our Mexico Security Monitor service.

Read more: Mexico's Drug War: Criminal Groups Splinter as Bosses Fall | Stratfor
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« Reply #419 on: October 31, 2014, 10:48:56 AM »


Summary

The legislature of the Mexican state of Guerrero approved an interim governor Oct. 26 to replace former Gov. Angel Aguirre, who resigned Oct. 23 amid rising political tumult following the disappearance in Iguala of 43 teaching college students known as normalistas. Aguirre's own political party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution, pushed him to resign to protect its political fortunes in its stronghold of Guerrero. As Aguirre was resigning, masked protesters in Mexico City prepared to take over the television station of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where they later broadcast a video demanding that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto locate the missing normalistas, whom the protesters alleged municipal police kidnapped on the orders of the mayor of Iguala.

The unrest in Guerrero is the latest manifestation of Mexico City's historical struggle to control the territories on its southwestern periphery, including Chiapas, Michoacan, Guerrero and Oaxaca states. The deserts, mountains and plateaus that begin outside Mexico City make for a large geographic territory difficult to control and integrate economically, leading to a substantial socio-economic divide between the core and the periphery, especially in Mexico's southwestern states. Their proximity to Mexico's core increases Mexico City's sensitivity to unrest there, given the risk of demonstrations spreading to the capital. Whether the current unrest will cause significant disruptions outside Guerrero remains to be seen. But either way, it has shined a spotlight on Mexico's ongoing struggles with political corruption, organized crime-related violence and the disparities between the urban core and rural periphery, publicity that could frighten off investors and disrupt Mexico City's security strategy.
Analysis

The Sept. 26 incidents began when a group of normalistas from the Raul Isidro Burgos rural normal school in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state, reportedly traveled to Iguala to steal buses to use in a demonstration on the anniversary of the Oct. 2, 1968, massacre of student demonstrators in Mexico City. According to the attorney general of Mexico, the mayor of Iguala ordered the municipal police to halt the normalistas. At some point, the police opened fire on two separate groups in Iguala that they thought consisted of normalistas and allegedly kidnapped 43 of them. The detainees were subsequently turned over to the Guerreros Unidos, a criminal group with which the mayor of Iguala and his wife reportedly have links. Shortly thereafter, normalistas began demonstrations in the state capital, Chilpancingo, and soon began garnering support from the broader teaching sector in the country's southwest, which was behind disruptive teacher protests in Mexico City in 2013.
Bad Publicity

The most immediate challenge to Mexico City -- unwanted attention on the insecurity within its borders -- is less serious than the struggle to control its periphery, but it is unwelcome nonetheless. Given the advent of energy reform, Mexico is now eagerly awaiting the foreign investment needed to jump-start its energy sector, but it fears that violence and unrest could scare off onshore investment. Though nationwide violence has gradually declined since its peak between 2010 and 2012, the always-restive Mexican southwest contains some of the highest levels of criminal violence in the country and the weakest local governments.

The emergence of the self-defense militias in Michoacan state and their war with the Knights Templar criminal group have served as a strong reminder to outsiders of the persistent difficulties of enforcing the rule of law in southwestern Mexico. The Sept. 26 incidents have done so as well.
Mexico's Geopolitical Subregions
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The unrest scaring off investors could get even worse if community-organized police, anti-government militants or the rural teachers of Mexico's powerful national teachers' unions join forces with the normalistas.
Community Police

The federal government has struggled to assert its authority over much of the rural areas of Guerrero state, and the state government has had even more difficulty. Because of the federal and state governments' inability to provide sufficient public safety to rural Guerrero, large geographic portions of the state populated by rural indigenous communities contain community police forces, civilian militias currently organized under one of two coordinating bodies that serve as de facto public safety institutions for the rural communities.

Guerrero's community police are not inherently anti-government. Their demands often include calls for a greater federal security presence in their respective areas, and they often dialogue and coordinate with the state and federal governments. Community police efforts focus on preventing organized crime from preying on community members, but unlike Michoacan's self-defense militias, they have not mounted military-style campaigns.

Even so, there are strong ties between Guerrero's community police and the rural teaching sector, including normalistas. In the 2013 teacher protests, Guerrero's community police assisted in the logistics required to transport teachers from Oaxaca and Guerrero to Mexico City. Continued unrest in Guerrero could draw community police into demonstrations, encourage a geographic expansion of their operations, or trigger a new armed conflict between organized crime and community police -- all of which would further threaten stability and Mexico City's authority in Guerrero. Still, the community police will be hesitant to do anything that would provoke a strong military response from Mexico City.
Insurgents

The poor economies, weak governing institutions and relative isolation from the core in Mexico's rural southwest have also created an environment suitable for various insurgencies that Mexico City has had to deploy military forces to quell at various times. Since the 1990s, several low-level Marxist guerrilla groups have emerged in Guerrero state. The most notable is the Popular Revolutionary Army, to which a number of attacks against federal troops and hydrocarbon pipelines during the 1990s and 2000s were attributed.

Whether any of these groups -- which have not given signs of meaningful activity since at least 2007 -- continue to operate remains uncertain, but normalistas in Guerrero share ideological affinities with them. Several communiques purportedly from the Popular Revolutionary Army and its suspected splinter groups have been disseminated in Mexican media outlets backing the normalistas and condemning the Guerreros Unidos. Aside from the communiques, however, no indicators of a new wave of guerrilla attacks in Guerrero have emerged.
Teachers' Unions

A more realistic threat to Mexico City arising out of the Sept. 26 unrest is that the broader educational sector will join forces with the normalistas. The lack of central authority in the southwestern states has given institutions including teachers' unions a significant degree of autonomy, freedom they jealously guard from government encroachment. The educational reforms Pena Nieto signed into law in February 2013 were taken as an existential threat to this autonomy. Resistance to the reform culminated in disruptive demonstrations in Mexico City whose participants primarily hailed from southwestern states and included normalistas from Guerrero.

Anti-government sentiment among southwestern teachers' unions remains strong, and could well expand once more in support of the normalistas. If it did, the demonstrations could reach the point of disrupting daily activity outside Guerrero, as did the 2013 teacher protests.
Iguala and Pena Nieto's Security Strategy

One of the key parts of the Pena Nieto administration's national security strategy has been transforming organized crime-related violence and public safety in general from a national security issue to a law enforcement issue. This move has involved transitioning away from using troops to patrol the streets under the reasoning that the military is a poor substitute for law enforcement and attracts unwanted attention to the country's security woes.

Mexico City will therefore be hesitant to expand the role of federal troops in Guerrero. But the growing unrest -- which has led to substantial destruction of government facilities in the state -- will likely necessitate an expanded military presence in Guerrero, undermining Pena Nieto's current security strategy.

How much the military presence in Guerrero state expands ultimately depends upon how much the unrest grows. While the pro-normalista demonstrations in Guerrero will likely see continued (and even stronger) support from the education sector and even from groups like the community police, the duration of this support will be limited by the participating groups' separate agendas. Either way, the unrest sparked by the Sept. 26 incidents has served as a stark reminder of Mexico's geopolitical challenges.

Read more: Normalista Unrest Highlights Mexico's Geographic Challenge | Stratfor
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« Reply #420 on: November 17, 2014, 03:36:59 PM »

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Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Nov. 16, 2014 6:18 p.m. ET
95 COMMENTS

What do the September disappearance of 43 university students from the custody of local police in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and new allegations of federal corruption in the awarding of public infrastructure contracts have in common? Answer: They both show that Mexico still has a huge problem enforcing the rule of law.

The two developments have sparked a political crisis that could sink Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) President Enrique Peña Nieto ’s ambitious reform agenda if he doesn’t take quick and decisive action to restore confidence.

Until now the president has been able to ignore Mexico’s legendary lawlessness. He has been riding an international wave of excitement around the opening of the energy sector, with few questions asked. But unless he wants to make common cause with the hard left—which thinks it has him on the ropes because of the missing students—he needs to admit his mistakes, purge his cabinet and make the rule of law job No. 1.

According to a 17-page report issued Wednesday by the Mexican Embassy in Washington, the missing students were political activists. They had entered the town of Iguala in Guerrero to “forcefully borrow two private buses” for a journey to Mexico City for demonstrations.

The embassy says police opened fire on the students and that in the melee that ensued six civilians died. The students arrested were handed to a local crime cartel. Gang members allegedly confessed to killing the young men and burning their bodies. The governor of Guerrero has resigned. The mayor of Iguala, his wife, 36 municipal police officers and more than 35 other individuals are under arrest.

The governor and the mayor are both from the left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). But teachers unions and the hard-left former mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador are now trying to destabilize the Peña Nieto government by linking it to the disappearance of the students. Last week the militants seized town halls, attacked government buildings, blocked roads and burned cars in at least three states.

The good news is that few issues have united Mexican civil society like the disappearance of the students and the violent response of the extreme left. There is little sympathy for Mr. López Obrador. The public’s top priority is the rule of law.

To re-establish the rule of law at a time when criminals have so much power is a tall order. U.S. drug policy and the American appetite for narcotics have conspired to overwhelm law enforcement in many places in Mexico. Mr. Peña Nieto can make a start if he demonstrates that the state can handle this investigation with transparency. But he will have to go much further.

To show that Mexico is committed to ending impunity and to improving public security, the president should use his influence to push for the full implementation of the new criminal code mandating that all federal and state judicial systems move, by 2016, to the oral accusatorial system, away from Mexico’s traditional written, inquisitional system.

Monterrey lawyer Ernesto Canales founded the civic group Renace (Spanish for “rebirth”) in 1994 to work for this reform in his home state of Nuevo León. In an interview in New York in the spring he told me that the change will “mean an increase in substance over formality in public trials and an increase in transparency. It will also raise the odds that judges actually know what’s going on in their courtrooms.”

Sounds important. Yet congressional approval of the federal regulations necessary to complete the reform is moving at a glacial pace, and the judiciary is in no hurry to comply. Many of the 32 states have yet to make the transition.

Everyone knows why: The oral system will challenge the traditional use of the criminal-justice system as a profit center for the state. In that tradition the accused can either pay or do time. Culpability is beside the point, and there is no need for competitive police salaries, forensics or transparent protocols to ensure accountability and communication among municipal, state and federal authorities.

This works well for the establishment, and Mr. Peña Nieto has not wanted to spend the political capital to change things. Becoming the champion of a reform that originated with civil society is now his best option to restore his credibility.

The president also has to deal with the drip, drip of allegations that his government is in the habit of trading contracts for kickbacks. Investors might forgive real or perceived transgressions if he fires his discredited ministers and agrees to a new bidding process for infrastructure contracts that puts his team at arm’s length. The center-right National Action Party (PAN), which wants to see the successful opening of the energy market, may be willing to help if it can be assured that the PRI will keep its hand out of the cookie jar.

That’s a lot to ask of the PRI, but Mr. Peña Nieto’s promise to transform Mexico depends on it.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com
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« Reply #421 on: November 24, 2014, 04:43:35 PM »

Summary

Violent protests calling for the return of 43 students missing from Iguala, in Guerrero state, and criticizing the government's perceived insensitivity and mismanagement of the case will continue in Guerrero and in other parts of Mexico. Though the demonstrations do not pose an immediate threat to the central government, they could undermine local governments and the federal government's authority at the local level.

The federal government's reach is particularly weak in Mexico's southwest. There are large geographic areas in several states in the region where communities enjoy partial autonomy, making it easier for citizens to challenge federal authority altogether. The unrest in Guerrero is fostered by feeble state and municipal institutions, which, in a cyclical process, become impaired even further with each additional bout of disorder. Mexico City fears it could lose all authority in the region except for military and federal police operations. While this fear is valid, it is unlikely that such a high degree of unrest would spread to the capital unless organizers achieve a massive increase in coordination and in civil participation.
Analysis

On Nov. 10, demonstrators in Acapulco overpowered federal riot police and overran the airport, blocking all of its entrances. On Nov. 12, students from Mexico's traditionally left-wing rural teaching colleges — known as normalistas — blocked the entrance to the international airport in Morelia, forcing those already inside to use the building's back door. Soon after, students in Mexico City announced that they would hold even more protests Nov. 20 to support the missing normalistas.

Large demonstrations linked to the missing normalistas have taken place all over the country, but the most violent protests have been focused in the southwestern states, including Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas. Unrest in the southwestern region has shown little sign of abating, posing a considerable threat to state and municipal governments in the area. Protesters have repeatedly torched government buildings throughout the southwest region to demonstrate against what they see as an ineffective and corrupt government. They say Mexico's judicial system and its security forces, especially at the local level, have struggled to implement democratic reforms after being shaped by 70 years of semi-authoritarian rule.
Protests Could Spread

For now, coordination between organizers in southwestern states and those in Mexico City and in other parts of the country has been limited, but that could change. Demonstrators from the southwest — affiliated with the normalistas and teachers' unions — have organized three groups of protesters to tour the country and converge on Mexico City for Nov. 20 protests. If the normalista and teachers' groups are able to cooperate with the Mexico City organizers and significantly escalate the demonstrations, the Mexican government will find it difficult to manage prolonged unrest in multiple areas using non-violent means. However, the different tactics and approaches employed by the organizers may make such cooperation difficult.
Mexico's Normalista Protest Threaten to Spread
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Protests in Mexico City have differed in character and intensity from those in the southwest. The demonstrations in Mexico City have been organized and carried out primarily by student groups from various universities in the city. Though these protests have attracted by far the most participants of any normalista-linked demonstrations outside of Guerrero, they have mostly been peaceful, with the exception of a few incidents. In contrast to the demonstrations in the southwest, it is clear that most of the protesters in Mexico City do not condone violence or vandalism and that a radical minority is responsible for the violence that has occurred in the city. In fact, on Nov. 8, demonstrators stopped masked individuals attempting to vandalize the exterior of the attorney general's headquarters in Mexico City.

The Mexican government is intentionally being light-handed in its dealings with protesters, and authorities released all but one of the activists arrested for vandalizing the attorney general's offices. With the arrival of protesters from the southwest in Mexico City, however, officials will be on high alert for violent tactics mirroring those used in the southwest.

Mexico City is well equipped to deal with large demonstrations, which are a regular occurrence in the city, and the government is well aware that violently repressing them will only exacerbate tensions and add impetus to the protests. Thus, Mexico City is working to avoid confrontation at all costs. The violent repression of the infamous Tlatelolco protests in 1968 is still fresh in the minds of Mexicans, especially those in the capital city, and the irony that the missing normalistas were raising funds to attend a demonstration commemorating the anniversary of the massacre is not lost on the public.
Is Guerrero the Next Michoacan?

Despite President Enrique Pena Nieto's efforts to surmount the country's security problems through economic reforms and increased coordination of security forces, the federal government is struggling to maintain its authority. Mexico is seeing rising unrest among an increasingly disillusioned population, especially in southwestern states. The emergence of autodefensas, or civilian militias, in Michoacan is the most extreme recent example of such a challenge to the federal government. Although the Mexican government has contained that movement — partly by incorporating the groups into the state apparatus — the resulting tenuous security environment requires continued intervention by the federal government and adds to the general unrest in the region.

The primary participants in the Guerrero demonstrations have been Guerrero state normalistas and members of a local teachers' union. The two groups likely have organizational ties and have been aligned in their protests against a 2013 federal education reform, making them natural partners in the current round of protests. The groups have proven themselves capable of coordinating large demonstrations and clearly intend to draw further attention to their cause by creating as much disruption to state governance and daily life as possible. So far, their only demands are the return of the missing normalistas and justice for the students and their families. However, the organizers could angle for negotiations with state and federal leaders in the future to increase their influence in regional politics.
Mexico's Geographic Challenge

Overt challenges to government authority in the southwestern states will give rise to a number of economic and security issues, and Mexico City will attempt to defuse the situation by arresting cartel leaders and local politicians in Iguala. The mayor and his wife are charged with masterminding the disappearances. Both are currently in federal custody, but the city's police chief, also allegedly involved, is still on the run. The federal government has been unusually open about the existence of collusion between local officials and criminal elements in this case, and it must make a convincing effort to rid the state of corrupt politicians and establish alternative rule to prevent the rise of armed civilian groups. To this end, the government will expand military and federal police operations in the southwest, but this expansion of security operations can only be maintained for a limited time before Mexico City must resort to alternative tactics.

Although protests are likely to continue in the coming weeks, the demonstrations are unlikely to pose an existential threat to Mexico City's government. However, the pressure on the central government could mount significantly if protesters in Mexico City and the southwest are able to coordinate their organizing efforts and garner increased public participation.

Throughout the country, the federal government must balance its security measures to create the impression that it is in control, but without cracking down on citizens in a way that would invite accusations of authoritarianism. If the security response in Guerrero is too weak, armed citizen groups could emerge to fill the void. However, if the response is too strong, it will add to discontent and encourage additional protests. There will be more high-profile arrests in connection to the students' disappearances, and reforms to local governments and security forces will also be made. The key factor to watch will be any coordination between organizing groups during the Nov. 20 protests. Such cooperation could signal a significant shift in tactics and incite a different response from the government.

Read more: Mexico's Normalista Protests Threaten to Spread | Stratfor
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« Reply #422 on: January 15, 2015, 01:13:06 PM »


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Mexico's Drug War: A New Way to Think About Mexican Organized Crime
Security Weekly
January 15, 2015 | 09:00 GMT Print Text Size

Editor's Note: This week's Security Weekly is a condensed version of our annual Mexico drug cartel report, in which we assess the most significant developments of 2014 and provide a forecast for 2015. The report is a product of the coverage we maintain through our Mexico Security Memo, quarterly updates and other analyses that we produce throughout the year as part of the Mexico Security Monitor service.

By Tristan Reed
Mexico Security Analyst

Since the emergence of the Guadalajara cartel in the 1980s as one of the country's largest drug trafficking organizations, Mexican organized crime has continued to expand its reach up and down the global supply chains of illicit drugs. Under the Guadalajara cartel and its contemporaries, such as the Gulf cartel, led by Juan Garcia Abrego, a relatively small number of crime bosses controlled Mexico's terrestrial illicit supply chains. Crime bosses such as Miguel Angel "El Padrino" Felix Gallardo, the leader of the Guadalajara cartel, oversaw the bulk of the trafficking operations necessary to push drugs into the United States and received large portions of the revenue generated. By the same token, this facilitated law enforcement's ability to disrupt entire supply chains with a single arrest. Such highly centralized structures ultimately proved unsustainable under consistent and aggressive law enforcement pressure. Thus, as Mexican organized crime has expanded its control over greater shares of the global drug trade, it has simultaneously become more decentralized, as exemplified by an increasing number of organizational splits.

Indeed, the arrest of Felix Gallardo in 1989 and of colleagues such as Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo a few years prior led to the breakdown of the Guadalajara cartel by 1990. Thanks to geographic factors, however, Mexican organized crime was destined to increasingly dominate the global illicit drug trade, soon even eclipsing the role Colombian drug traffickers played in supplying cocaine to the huge and highly lucrative retail markets in the United States. As international law enforcement effectively dismantled the powerful Colombian cartels and stymied their maritime trafficking routes through the Caribbean in the 1980s and 1990s, Mexican crime groups became the cornerstone for any trafficking organization wishing to profit from the high U.S. demand for illicit drugs. Given that the United State's only land border to the south is shared with Mexico, Central and South American organizations had no choice but to cooperate with Mexican crime groups if they wished to transport drugs northward over land and across the nearly 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) U.S. border, an area with a centurieslong history of smuggling.

The remnants of the Guadalajara cartel took advantage of the regional geography to expand their own smuggling operations, leading to the creation of seemingly new criminal organizations such as the Juarez cartel (led by the Carrillo Fuentes family), the Tijuana cartel (led by the Arellano Felix family) and what would eventually become known popularly as the Sinaloa Federation (led by a number of traffickers, most famously Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera). Operating as autonomous crime syndicates, the fragments of the Guadalajara cartel expanded their respective supply chains and overall share of the illicit drug markets in the United States and overseas. But the continued Balkanization of Mexican organized crime that began with the collapse of the Guadalajara cartel would accompany the collective expansion of Mexican crime groups up and down the illicit drug supply chains across the globe.

By 2010, the criminal landscape in Mexico differed greatly from that in 1989. Numerous crime groups, some with small but critical niches, controlled drug trafficking operations in Mexico. Even so, a few cohesive crime groups still dominated the Mexican drug trade, particularly the Juarez cartel, the Tijuana cartel, the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa Federation. Each group sought to expand its share over the drug trade, hoping to achieve the pre-eminence of their collective predecessor, leading to violent turf wars. Each group, however, faced internal divisions, leading to further Balkanization in parallel to the turf wars.

2010 marked a rapid acceleration in crime group decentralization, with each of the four dominant groups suffering a series of internal splits. This phenomenon also afflicted their eventual successors, giving rise to the present exceptionally complex map of crime groups. As Stratfor highlighted in its April 2013 cartel quarterly update, the trend of Balkanization will not likely end even if specific crime groups such as Los Zetas momentarily defy it by continuing to expand. Now in 2015, this trend has created an organized criminal landscape where it is no longer sufficient to monitor Mexican organized crime by focusing on individual groups. Instead, one must focus on the regional umbrellas that lead the vast majority of Mexican crime groups. We have therefore had to change the way we think and write about Mexican organized criminal networks, a change made visible in the radical alterations we have made to our popular cartel map.
The Regions

In 2014, as has been the norm each year since 2010, Mexican organized crime underwent substantial devolution because of continued turf wars and pressure by law enforcement and the Mexican military. The regional challenges and leadership losses the Sinaloa Federation experienced in 2013 continued, particularly with the arrest of top leader Guzman Loera. Along with leadership losses, the lower-tier structures of the Sinaloa Federation — such as the subgroups operating in Chihuahua, Sonora and Baja California states — exercised increasing autonomy from the cartel's remaining top-tier crime bosses. Meanwhile, at the beginning of 2014, the remaining Gulf cartel factions in Tamaulipas state devolved further into numerous gangs. Some cooperated in the same cities, while others waged particularly violent campaigns against one another. In Michoacan state, the Knights Templar were all but dismantled, with Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez the sole remaining founding leader. Numerous crime groups, all based in the same Tierra Caliente region of southwestern Mexico from which the Knights Templar (and the La Familia Michoacana organization it once fell under) emerged, filled the void that opened in Michoacan as a result of the rapid decline of the Knights Templar.

Though continued Balkanization of Mexican organized crime creates an increasingly confusing map, three geographic centers of gravity of cartel activity exist at present: Tamaulipas state, Sinaloa state and the Tierra Caliente region.
Mexico's Drug War: A New Way to Think about Mexican Organized Crime
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With the Mexican organized crime landscape continuing to suffer new fractures, it is marked now by newly independent groups headed by leaders who previously had participated in the same criminal operations as their new rivals. Many of these new crime bosses were born and raised in the same communities — in many cases even sharing family ties — and thus leveraged similar geographic advantages in their rise in power.

The Guadalajara cartel exemplifies this trend. Despite its name, which it received because its leaders had hideouts in the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco state, nearly all of its leaders hailed from Sinaloa state. The cartel also relied on the geography of Sinaloa state to expand its illicit profits, which largely came from the concentration of marijuana and opium poppy cultivation in the Sierra Madre Occidental and from coastal routes for drug trafficking. The city of Guadalajara provided cartel leaders a large cosmopolitan area in which to hide while they rapidly expanded their international operations. When the cartel split, successors such as the Tijuana and Juarez cartels were in fact managed by criminal leaders originating from Sinaloa who continued to leverage some aspect of the state's geography, if they were not in fact still tied to communities there.

Until the early 2000s, Sinaloa-based organized crime dominated the vast majority of organized crime activities in Mexico, particularly drug trafficking routes. Only the Tamaulipas-based Gulf cartel remained as a major independent group, using drug trafficking routes along Mexico's east coast to push drugs into the United States through Nuevo Laredo, one of the most lucrative trafficking points in Mexico. Tamaulipas-based organized crime soon expanded its geographic reach, first via the Gulf cartel and then through Los Zetas, which split from the Gulf cartel in 2010. This trend led to a seemingly polarized criminal landscape by 2011, with organized crime in Mexico breaking down along a Sinaloa-Tamaulipas divide. By 2012, the Sinaloa- and Tamaulipas-based criminal camps each faced internal divisions, with individual groups in each region beginning to form alliances with groups in the other. Nonetheless, the behavior and evolution of each group was still driven by geography more than any form of ties to groups in the opposing region.

Thus, when Los Zetas split from the Gulf cartel in 2010, despite becoming known as a new or independent crime group, the collective operations and trends of Tamaulipas-based organized crime did not change: The same players were in place managing the same criminal activities. Similarly, the ongoing expansion of Tamaulipas-based organized crime — countering the spread of Sinaloa-based organized crime — did not stop, but instead it continued under Los Zetas' banner. It should be noted that the Gulf cartel, which had been immediately weakened relative to Los Zetas, did in fact ally with the Sinaloa Federation. But even so, with Los Zetas the most powerful Tamaulipas-based crime group, the Sinaloa Federation continued facing immense competition for territory from the east.

Within a given regional criminal camp, alliances and rivalries can form overnight with immediate effects, while crime bosses can quickly switch sides without necessarily causing a shift in operations. For instance, the now-detained Tamaulipas-based crime boss, Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez, first emerged within the Gulf cartel as a member of Los Zetas, then still a Gulf subgroup. When Los Zetas broke away, Velazquez sided with it. In 2012, however, Velazquez and his faction went to war with then-Los Zetas top leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, allied with some Gulf cartel factions and publicly rebranded his network as a part of the Gulf cartel. In Cancun, Quintana Roo state, where the Velazquez network oversaw local criminal activities, Los Zetas members overnight became Gulf cartel members without any preceding conflict.

In 2012, the main Sinaloa- and Tamaulipas-based crime groups suffered from ongoing internal fights and leadership losses at the hands of government troops. After the Velazquez network split from Los Zetas, Mexican marines killed top Zetas leader Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano during an operation. Meanwhile, the Sinaloa Federation faced growing challenges in its own northwest dominion from other Sinaloa-based groups such as Los Mazatlecos and a resurgent La Linea, and certain regional crime groups outside Sinaloa state that supported the Sinaloa Federation began fighting one another, including Los Cabrera and Los Dannys in Torreon, Coahuila state. The struggles in both regional crime camps in 2012 permitted the emergence of a third dominant regional camp based in Tierra Caliente, home to groups such as the Knights Templar, the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, La Familia Michoacana and Guerreros Unidos.

Tierra Caliente, which means "hot lands," is a rural lowland area surrounded by mountainous terrain that was initially heavily valued by drug traffickers for marijuana cultivation, though for several years now it has produced primarily methamphetamines and heroin. The value of the region for organized crime increased along with the growth of the port of Lazaro Cardenas in Michoacan, making the state a key bridge between Mexico's coast and the interior — and a key port for smuggling narcotics and chemical precursors used in regional drug production.

Most groups in Tierra Caliente originated in the 1990s, when regional organized crime was but an extension of criminal groups based in Sinaloa and Tamaulipas states. In the early 2000s, Sinaloa- and Tamaulipas-based groups, most notably the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf cartel, began a series of nationwide turf wars that included bids for control over the Tierra Caliente region. Two prominent groups emerged from the wreckage: the Milenio cartel, which operated under Sinaloa Federation crime boss Ignacio "El Nacho" Coronel Villarreal, and La Familia Michoacana, which was supported by the Los Zetas branch of the Gulf cartel. (La Familia Michoacana first referred to itself as La Empresa.) The conflict between these groups reverberated throughout the Tierra Caliente region, ushering in other turf wars that continue today.

But the relative weakening of Sinaloa and Tamaulipas organized crime in 2012 enabled Tierra Caliente-based groups to expand — both domestically and internationally — independently as they exploited the substantial geographic advantages of the Tierra Caliente for their criminal operations. Though numerous turf wars between regional groups continued after 2012, as a whole, Tierra Caliente-based organized crime expanded geographically thanks to the efforts of groups such as the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and the Knights Templar. Turf wars that emerged or escalated within Tierra Caliente in 2012, most notably the Knights Templar against the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion and Guerreros Unidos against Los Rojos, have become some of the most violent disputes in Mexico, either directly or indirectly causing the Mexican government's greatest security concerns in 2015.
2015 Forecast

The Mexican government had notable success targeting the top leadership of various criminal groups in 2014. Several senior bosses from each of the principal regional organized crime camps in Mexico were captured or killed during targeted operations involving federal troops. These successes accelerated the Balkanization of each camp while greatly shifting the balance of power among individual crime groups. The results of the government's efforts in 2014 will lead to a reorganization of each regional camp in 2015, as well as maintaining, if not accelerating, the tempo of the decentralization of organized crime in Mexico. It is likely that Balkanization will lead to new regional camps in 2015 as crime groups in geographic areas formerly controlled by outside crime bosses become entirely independent, focusing on and leveraging their own respective areas.

It should be noted that while each regional camp may experience substantial fragmentation in 2015 and lose control over criminal activities in specific geographic areas — such as the production of illicit drugs, extortion, fuel theft and kidnapping — this will not equate to an overall decline in international drug trafficking. In fact, each regional camp in Mexico will likely continue to expand its respective international drug supply chains to overseas markets such as Europe and Asia, as well as control of operations in South America.
Organized Crime in Sinaloa State

Sinaloa-based organized crime bore the brunt of targeted government operations in 2014, with the February capture of top Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, being the highest-profile incident. Each of the major Sinaloa crime groups suffered losses among its senior leadership. On June 23, authorities captured one of the top leaders of the Tijuana cartel, Luis Fernando Arellano Sanchez, in Tijuana. On Oct. 1, the Mexican army captured Hector Beltran Leyva, the leader of the Beltran Leyva Organization, at a restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato state. On Oct. 9, federal troops captured the top leader of the Juarez cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, in Torreon, Coahuila state.

In addition to these arrests, numerous lieutenants for these leaders and for other high-ranking Sinaloa crime bosses fell at the hands of authorities as well. Interestingly, none of the stated arrests altered the broader trends surrounding each group or triggered internal rifts that would likely have led to substantial escalations in violence, though organizational challenges such as those experienced by the Sinaloa Federation since 2012 were likely magnified. This dynamic suggests that the continued decentralization of each group had lessened the criticality of each major crime boss within his respective organization.

Barring unexpected leadership losses or internal splits within the Tierra Caliente- or Tamaulipas-based crime groups, Sinaloa-based organized crime will likely experience the most fragmentation in 2015. Over the past two years, the Sinaloa Federation has seen its subgroups act increasingly independent from the top-tier leadership, leading to internal wars — independent of the top leadership — among subgroups in areas such as the Golden Triangle and the surrounding region, as well as the Baja California Peninsula. Similarly, the arrest of Carrillo Fuentes and his key lieutenants in 2014 could trigger leadership changes in 2015 where the remnants of his organization fall under the control of crime bosses based strictly in Chihuahua state. Such fragmentation would mean that new regional criminal camps, likely based in Sonora, Chihuahua or Baja California states, would emerge from the geographic areas currently controlled by the Sinaloa camp.
Tamaulipas Organized Crime

The Gulf cartel as it was prior to 2010 no longer exists. Instead, two crime groups — Los Zetas and the Velazquez network — now largely dominate Tamaulipas-based organized crime. The former is now the most widely operating cohesive crime group in Mexico. The crime groups calling themselves the Gulf cartel and operating in areas of Tamaulipas retained by the old Gulf cartel after the 2010 split with Los Zetas are (with the exception of the Velazquez network) in fact a collection of numerous independent groups, all of which operate more like powerful street gangs than the far-reaching transnational criminal organization that was their former parent organization.

Though the rapid expansion of Los Zetas slowed significantly in 2012 as a result of internal feuds, the growing independence of Tierra Caliente-based organized crime and government operations, the group has largely continued to defy the Balkanization experienced by every other crime group in Mexico. This has been largely thanks to a sudden shift in its overall expansion strategy that emerged at the end of 2012, when the cartel began relying more on alliances than violent seizures of territory. Crime groups from other regional camps, such as some of the Beltran Leyva Organization successor groups and the Juarez cartel (and its former enforcer arm, La Linea), have given Los Zetas access to the supply of illicit drugs and to drug trafficking routes in territories held by Sinaloa-based groups. Since the Gulf cartel gangs in Tamaulipas state likely rely on revenues gained from allowing drugs to be trafficked through their territory and are significantly less powerful than Los Zetas, it is likely that at least some of these groups are now cooperating with Los Zetas. Such cooperation could even include the gangs purchasing narcotics from Los Zetas.

Los Zetas' expansion will likely resume in Mexico in 2015, with the presence of Los Zetas operators and activities emerging in the western half of Mexico. Despite this expansion, Los Zetas will not be saved from the Balkanization trend, meaning another significant split could emerge in 2015 — though the exact timing is difficult, if not impossible, to forecast — with portions of Los Zetas competing with one another, either economically or militarily. Though organizational splits do not necessitate violent competition, Los Zetas' extensive network of alliances with other regionally based crime groups, as well as the immense territory directly under the cartel's control, increases the likelihood of any major split triggering violent turf wars. Where violence erupts depends entirely on where the organization splits internally.

Editor's Note: The full version of our annual cartel report is available to clients of our Mexico Security Monitor service.

Read more: Mexico's Drug War: A New Way to Think About Mexican Organized Crime | Stratfor
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« Reply #423 on: January 21, 2015, 12:19:03 PM »

http://www.wsj.com/articles/mexico-leader-under-new-scrutiny-1421801571

by Juan Montes
Jan. 20, 2015 7:52 p.m. ET
12 COMMENTS

IXTAPAN DE LA SAL, Mexico—A few weeks after taking office as governor of the State of Mexico in late 2005, President Enrique Peña Nieto purchased a property in an exclusive golf club from a businessman who helped transform this sleepy town into a popular resort known for its Roman-style thermal baths.

Roberto San Román Widerkehr, the seller of the weekend residence and developer of an exclusive golf club here, also founded a local construction firm which went on to win more than $100 million in public-works contracts during Mr. Peña Nieto’s time as governor from 2005 to 2011, according to documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Since Mr. Peña Nieto became president in 2012, Mr. San Román’s firm has won at least 11 federal contracts, government records show, becoming a national player with business in several states. Before Mr. Peña Nieto came to power, the company had never won a contract directly from the federal government.

Mr. Peña Nieto’s spokesman denied any relation between the private transaction and the contractor’s success with government contracts. The San Román family didn’t respond to requests to comment. Mr. San Román died in 2010 after which his son took over the business.

But the transaction is another example of the extensive personal links between politicians and businessmen from Mr. Peña Nieto’s home state that led to accusations by politicians and others of influence peddling that are roiling his administration. The public outcry risks distracting the government from implementing economic overhauls and damaging his party’s support before midterm elections in June.
Several leading politicians from the State of Mexico, like the president, have homes at the Gran Reserva golf club. The red line above shows Mr. Peña Nieto's home. ENLARGE
Several leading politicians from the State of Mexico, like the president, have homes at the Gran Reserva golf club. The red line above shows Mr. Peña Nieto's home. Google

The Mexican leader has been on the defensive since November, when a team of Mexican investigative journalists revealed that a prominent government contractor from the State of Mexico, Juan Armando Hinojosa, built and held the title to a presidential family mansion in Mexico City.

It later emerged that Mexico’s finance minister, Luis Videgaray, also bought a home in another exclusive State of Mexico golf resort—along with a loan to finance the purchase—from Mr. Hinojosa, whose companies have won hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of public-works projects during Mr. Peña Nieto’s time as state governor and during his current administration.

The president’s office and Mr. Videgaray have denied any impropriety. Mr. Peña Nieto’s office said the leader’s wife bought the family mansion with her own earnings.

Mr. Hinojosa has declined to comment about either transaction and hasn’t made any public remarks on the matters.

Mr. Peña Nieto disclosed the transaction, at the Ixtapan Country Club Gran Reserva, when he purchased the 23,000-square-foot property, complying with requirements for Mexico’s public officials to file annual asset declarations. But the identity of the seller was unknown until now.

Presidential spokesman Eduardo Sánchez said the president bought the $372,000 home at market prices and the transaction didn’t represent any conflict of interest. “The relationship of Mr. Peña Nieto with some members of the San Román family goes back several decades,” Mr. Sánchez said, adding that the president bought the home as a weekend getaway in a town known for its balmy weather.

Local historians say that the San Románs form part of a dynasty that has played a prominent role in the development of Ixtapan de la Sal ever since Mr. San Román’s father obtained a federal concession in the 1940s to build a hotel and spa at the springs, 75 miles southwest of Mexico City.

Over generations, many members of the San Román family promoted the tourist and real-estate development of a town that became a preferred weekend destination for residents of Toluca, the state capital.

The club’s adjacent neighborhood is unofficially known as “Colonia de EPN”, the initials of the president’s name, part of a local tradition to name neighborhoods, roads and bridges after public servants and benefactors. The town’s main avenue is named Arturo San Román Chávez, in honor of the family’s patriarch who turned the springs of Ixtapan as one of Mexico’s most popular water parks.

The San Románs have long been close to senior members of Mr. Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Former Governor Alfredo del Mazo González, who has family ties with Mr. Peña Nieto, was for a time a shareholder of Inmobiliaria Club de Golf Ixtapan, the real-estate firm controlled by the San Románs, according to commercial records.

The State of Mexico, the country’s most populous, is a bastion of support for the PRI, which has never lost a gubernatorial election there since its creation in 1929. Business and politics have also been closely linked in the state. Mr. Peña Nieto has been friend of the San Románs for decades, Mr. Sánchez said. Members of the San Román family also attended Mr. Peña Nieto’s wedding in 2010.

At the golf resort, the cheapest house for sale—with 2,260 square feet—is on the market for $241,000 (3.5 million pesos), said a resort saleswoman. The cheapest plot of land of 4,305 square feet—is on sale for $88,000.

The San Románs, who founded their construction firm, Constructora Urbanizadora Ixtapan SA, in late 1998, rely on public contracts for the bulk of the company’s portfolio, according to its website. The company won some minor contracts in the State of Mexico under Mr. Peña Nieto’s predecessor.

Business picked up during Mr. Peña Nieto’s 2005-2011 term as governor, when it won $107 million in public works contracts across the state, including several roads and highways and part of a contract to build two hospitals in the towns of Amecameca and Chimalhuacán, according to government records.

It also won a contract to build a parking lot at the Toluca airport in the state capital. The federal government held a 25% stake in the company that operated the Toluca airport.

During Mr. Peña Nieto’s federal administration, the construction firm has won 11 federal contracts worth around $40 million. Six of those were no bid contracts. The company has been expanding its business to states far from Ixtapan de la Sal and the State of Mexico, such as Baja California Sur or Querétaro.

The spokesman for the president, Mr. Sánchez, said there was no favoritism involved and said all public tenders are awarded through a transparent process.

Write to Juan Montes at juan.montes@wsj.com
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