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Topic: Mexico (Read 277166 times)
Reply #250 on:
November 10, 2010, 08:58:41 PM »
The BBC has an article up on the gun-smuggling from the US to Mexico. In typically one-sided fashion, it mentions that guns seized from narcos in Mexico are often traced back to the United States, and that the ATF isn’t effectively fighting this problem.
For those without much knowledge on the subject, it gives the impression that there’s a flood of illegal guns being bought in the US across the counter legally, and then shipped into Mexico to fuel the gun crime there–blaming our “lax gun laws” for Mexico’s narco turf war violence.
First of all, let’s point out that Mexico has a narco problem because the US has a hard-on for drug prohibition, not because Americans can buy guns legally. I’ve often read that canard about drug buyers financing drug crime with their purchases, but the simple twofold truth is that a.) people will always desire and buy mind-altering substances, no matter what the law says, and b.) the War on Drugs serves as a price control mechanism and profit guarantee for dealers and traffickers.
Second, let’s look at that article a little more closely. The picture that accompanies it shows a bunch of 40mm grenade launchers along with ammunition. Looking at that, your average BBC reader could be lead to believe that those things are legal to buy and own freely in the US, and that they originated at a US gun show or gun store. Grenade launchers are, of course, illegal to own, purchase, or sell in the United States without a special registration and tax stamp. Grenade launchers are tightly controlled “destructive devices”, as is their ammunition. (Every single 40mm grenade is also classified as a DD, and subject to a $200 transfer tax per round. Each grenade must be individually registered with the BATFE, which makes them super-expensive and very rare to find in civilian hands.) Considering the difficulty and expense of obtaining a launcher and the ammo for it, never mind the fact that every single launcher and round is registered to an owner with the ATF, I guarantee that the 40mm launchers in that picture came not from the US, but from Mexican military armories.
Third, the language in the article isn’t quite misleading, but it omits a few facts. We are told that “the majority of guns confiscated by Mexico and submitted to the ATF for tracing do originate in the US <emphasis mine>.” What it doesn’t mention is that the majority of guns seized from Mexican narcos do not originate in the US. The Mexican Federales do not submit most of their seized guns to the ATF for tracing because they know their provenance already. Mexico uses a licensed version of the H&K G36 assault rifle, for example, and whenever one of those shows up, they know it didn’t walk out of a gun store in San Antonio. (They also use the licensed version of the H&K 40mm grenade launcher, which happens to look exactly like the weapon in the center of the picture.) So they only send the serial numbers of the non-domestic guns to the ATF, which is the minority of seized weapons. Reading the article over a quick latte, one could however get the impression that most of the crime guns in Mexico are traced back to the US, because they omit that information.
Lastly, even those guns that were bought in the US and then smuggled into Mexico for use by narcos didn’t get sold to Mexican nationals legally. Gun shops have to run federal background checks on every single gun purchase, and foreign nationals, with few exceptions, are not eligible to buy firearms in the United States. If a rifle made it from a legal buyer into the hands of a Mexican criminal, the person buying the rifle and then handing it to said criminal broke federal law. (Buying a gun for a non-eligible person is called a “straw sale”, and will get you ten years in Club Fed.)
Mexico has plenty of problems, but corruption (where and how do you think the narcos get Mexican military hardware?) and the economic incentives created by drug prohibition make up the lion’s share of those, not legal gun sales in the United States. You want to curb the flow of guns and stop the violence in Mexico, you stop guaranteeing those dealers and traffickers a 10,000% profit margin on some powdered plant product. Drug dealers don’t care about cocaine or “poisoning America’s children”, they care about profit. If you held a voter referendum on keeping or tossing drug prohibition, all the drug dealers in the country would vote to keep them illegal. Take away their price control system, and they’ll go the way of the booze runners of the Prohibition era.
But nobody’s going to do that, of course. Between asset forfeiture, inability to learn from the Prohibition, the suitability of drug laws to curb inconvenient liberties, and the millions on the payroll of drug task forces and agencies nationwide, that wouldn’t be good business. And civil liberties continue to take it in the pants.
Remember: a vote for drug prohibition is a vote for gun control. Without illicit substance turf wars, we wouldn’t even have NFA ’34, GCA ’68, or the 1994 Crime Bill. We wouldn’t have asset forfeiture, RICO, or any of the many other onerous laws that shackle our movements and make a mockery of the Bill of Rights. But point that out to a self-righteous dope prohibitionist, and you get the old saw about the damage drugs can do, and do you want to see schoolchildren legally light up crack pipes in front of the CVS at eight in the morning? It’s the same kind of arrogant paternalism that the gun banners display when they talk about how blood would flow in the streets if we removed all the restrictions on gun ownership and carry. “Well, I know that I wouldn’t abuse them, but I’m damned sure those peasants all around me couldn’t handle the liberty…”
Reply #251 on:
November 16, 2010, 10:18:19 AM »
Federal Deployment to Tamaulipas
The Mexican government is reported to have significantly augmented federal security forces in the northern Tamaulipas border region with a deployment of both Mexican army troops and Federal Police agents, bringing the number of federal security forces in the region to nearly 3,000. These forces, which have been arriving since Nov. 13, will be primarily deployed to the areas around Ciudad Mier, Camargo, Nuevo Guerrero, Miguel Aleman and Diaz Ordaz, or more generally in the rural stretch between the major metropolitan areas of Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo along the Tamaulipas-South Texas border. This deployment will be in addition to the Mexican Marine forces already deployed to the region, as well as the Mexican army operating in the military’s 7th and 8th zones, which are headquartered in Escobedo, Nuevo Leon and Reynosa, respectively. Additionally, there are reports that a Mexican special operations unit will be deployed from Mexico City to the Tamaulipas border region as well to conduct high-risk operations, possibly targeting high-value cartel targets. Military officials also have indicated that they will be establishing checkpoints in the region and will be inspecting 100 percent of both passenger and cargo vehicles.
Though the new deployment of federal forces to the area is sizable, the total number of federal forces in the region pales in comparison to other federal security operations, such as Coordinated Operation Chihuahua, which boasts close to 10,000 forces deployed primarily in northern Chihuahua. The Tamaulipas deployment also will allow particular branches of the military and Federal Police to have more specified roles in the operations. According to Mexican military officials, Mexican Marines will primarily be tasked with intelligence operations and to a lesser extent will conduct joint patrols with the army and Federal Police. The Federal Police will base the majority of their operations in more urban areas, including Reynosa, Matamoros and to a lesser extent Nuevo Laredo. Mexican army personnel will primarily be tasked with operations in the more rural areas, including checkpoints outside urban centers.
This deployment comes at a time when tensions between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas are high in large part due to the Nov. 5 death of Gulf cartel leader Antonio Ezequiel “Tony Tormenta” Cardenas Guillen. Tony Tormenta’s death set in motion a likely offensive on the part of Los Zetas to retake control of the Tamaulipas-South Texas border region lost earlier in the year to the Gulf cartel and their allies in the New Federation.
Los Zetas have made bold moves in battleground like Ciudad Mier, Camargo and Miguel Aleman. The group has all but taken over portions of these towns, forcing residents to flee in the wake of Tony Tormenta’s death. One such brazen takeover reportedly occurred Nov. 5 in Ciudad Mier, where alleged members of Los Zetas were reported to be running through the streets screaming that all the residents in the area must vacate the city or be killed. More than 300 people are estimated to have left the city reportedly seeking shelter in nearby Miguel Aleman, where at least two temporary housing settlements have been set up. It appears that Los Zetas are using both of these small towns as a staging area for a possible assault on the much larger Reynosa metropolitan area some 65-80 kilometers (40-50 miles) to the southeast.
The death of Tony Tormenta could not have come at a worse time for the Gulf cartel. The Gulf cartel was part of the New Federation alliance which included La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the Sinaloa Federation, but developments in the past three months have strained the relationship between the three, with the once-powerful alliance reduced to a non-aggression agreement between the Gulf cartel and its two former allies. LFM fell out of the Sinaloa Federation’s favor after attempting to move in on the methamphetamine production and trafficking market in Jalisco and Colima states after the death of Sinaloa No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal in July. LFM’s defense of its territory in its home state of Michoacan also has drawn Sinaloa’s ire. The Sinaloa Federation has been of little help to the Gulf cartel in recent months as Sinaloa has been dedicating large amounts of its resources and focus to the conflict in Juarez. The group traditionally has held very little influence in the Tamaulipas region.
Further leaving the Gulf cartel exposed, in the months leading up to the death of Tony Tormenta, Mexican federal security forces dealt a serious blow to cells associated with the Gulf cartel leader, arresting more than 50 operatives and making numerous weapons and cash seizures. This leaves the remaining Gulf cartel leader, Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla Sanchez, and the cells associated with him extremely vulnerable to any Los Zetas offensive.
With the increase in tensions and posturing between Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel along with the influx of Mexican federal security forces in the region, violence in the Tamaulipas border area is likely to escalate in the weeks to come. The deployment of more federal security forces increases the likelihood that they will come in contact with one of the two criminal groups operating in the region, resulting in firefights between criminals and security forces. Additionally, aside from the obvious risk of bodily harm from being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, this likely increase in fighting and along with the expanded presence of security forces will present significant disruptions to businesses and visitors in the region. Narco-blockades, a tactic both Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel use, create an elevated degree of risk of carjacking (especially for high-profile vehicles such as SUVs, trucks and tractor trailers) as well as logistical complications from the resulting traffic jams. Logistical issues also will arise from the 100 percent inspection rate at the military checkpoints that have been and will be established in the region and from the military personnel manning the checkpoints’ lack of training in interacting with civilians.
(click here to view interactive map)
Soldiers in Zapopan, Jalisco state, killed two men and arrested another during a firefight at a suspected methamphetamine lab. A passerby was injured during the incident.
Unidentified gunmen killed the police commander of the municipality of Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes state, as he drove near his home.
Police seized 531 kilograms (about 1,170 pounds) of marijuana from a steel shipment in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. Authorities said the drugs arrived from Leon, Guanajuato state. No arrests were made during the incident.
Security forces in Acapulco, Guerrero state, discovered the decapitated bodies of two police officers near the settlement of La Venta. The victims’ tongues had been removed and both bodies bore signs of torture.
Police discovered several body parts in a plastic bag floating in a sewage ditch in Ecatepec, Mexico state. Local residents called the police after spotting a dog carrying a human hand in its mouth.
Soldiers in Piedras Negras, Coahuila state, freed 10 kidnapped migrants and arrested six suspected kidnappers during a raid on a house.
Police in Puente de Ixtla, Morelos state, arrested a suspected associate of Edgar Valdez Villarreal. The suspect allegedly controlled drug trafficking routes through central Mexico.
Suspected LFM members hung banners in Zitacuaro, Maravatio and Ciudad Hidalgo, Michoacan state, stating the cartel’s alleged intent to disband and seek a truce with the government.
Officers from the state attorney general’s office discovered the bodies of two men in a house allegedly owned by the Beltran Leyva Organization in Bosques de Las Lomas neighborhood of Mexico City.
Soldiers arrested two municipal policemen in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state, for allegedly surveilling a security forces raid on a motel.
Unidentified gunmen fired at the offices of the El Sur newspaper in Acapulco, Guerrero state. No injuries were reported.
Unidentified attackers threw two grenades at the state security and roads offices in Gomez Palacio, Durango state. No injuries were reported in the attack.
Police found the body of a man in the trunk of an abandoned car in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The victim had been shot in the head.
Police in Santa Rosa, Morelos state, arrested three suspected high-ranking associates of Edgar Valdez Villarreal after a car chase that began in Oaxtepec, Morelos state, after the three suspects failed to stop at a police roadblock.
One suspected cartel gunman was killed in a firefight with soldiers in the Terminal neighborhood in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The shooting began when a convoy of suspected gunmen did not heed the soldiers’ order to stop.
Three severed heads were discovered outside a municipal government office in Chalchihuites, Zacatecas state. A message claiming the crime was revenge for a previous homicide in Chalchihuites was left near the heads.
Police arrested seven people suspected of working as lookouts for Los Zetas in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
Police discovered the bodies of two men and a woman hanging from a bridge in Tepic, Nayarit state. A message was discovered near the bodies.
The bodies of two unidentified men were found in the trunk of an abandoned car in the municipality of Cuautla, Morelos state.
Unidentified gunmen killed a Chihuahua state prison official as he drove with his son in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. The child was injured during the attack.
Police discovered five bodies in an orchard in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood of Acapulco, Guerrero state.
Five people were killed and eight were injured when a group of unidentified gunmen opened fire on patrons at a bar in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
Reply #252 on:
December 09, 2010, 10:49:12 AM »
Posiblemente si Uds no fueron desarmados eso habira ocurido antes ahora , , ,
Reply #253 on:
December 16, 2010, 08:51:03 AM »
Mexico and the Cartel Wars in 2010
December 16, 2010
Editor’s Note: This week’s Security Weekly is a heavily abridged version of STRATFOR’s annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels. The full report, which includes far more detail and diagrams depicting the leadership of each cartel along with our updated cartel map, will be available to our members on Dec. 20.
By Scott Stewart
Mexican Drug Cartels: Two Wars and a Look Southward
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
In our 2010 annual report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the dynamics among the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations, along with an account of the government’s effort to combat the cartels and a forecast of the battle in 2011. The annual cartel report is a product of the coverage STRATFOR maintains on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year. In response to customer requests for more and deeper coverage of Mexico, STRATFOR will also introduce a new product in 2011 designed to provide an enhanced level of reporting and analysis.
In 2010, the cartel wars in Mexico have produced unprecedented levels of violence throughout the country. No longer concentrated in just a few states, the violence has spread all across the northern tier of border states and along much of both the east and west coasts of Mexico. This year’s drug-related homicides have surpassed 11,000, an increase of more than 4,400 deaths from 2009 and more than double the death toll in 2008.
The high levels of violence seen in 2010 have been caused not only by long-term struggles such as the fight between the Sinaloa Federation and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (also known as the Juarez cartel) for control of the Juarez smuggling corridor but also from the outbreak of new conflicts among various players in the cartel landscape. For example, simmering tensions between Los Zetas and their former partners in the Gulf cartel finally boiled over and quickly escalated into a bloody turf war along the U.S.-Tamaulipas state border. The conflict has even spread to states like Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Tabasco and has given birth to an alliance between the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana (LFM) called the New Federation.
Last December, it appeared that Los Zetas were poised to make a move to assume control over much, if not all, of the Gulf cartel’s territory. The Gulf cartel knew it could not take on Los Zetas alone with its current capabilities so in desperation it reached out to its main rivals in Mexico — the Sinaloa Federation and LFM — for help, thus forming the New Federation. With the added resources from the New Federation, the Gulf cartel was able to take the fight to Los Zetas and actually forced its former partners out of one of their traditional strongholds in Reynosa. The New Federation also expanded its offensive operations to other regions traditionally held by Los Zetas, namely the city of Monterrey and the states of Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo and Veracruz.
This resulted in Los Zetas being pushed back on their heels throughout the country, and by June it looked as if Los Zetas’ days might be numbered. However, a chain of events that began with the July 28 death of Sinaloa Federation No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel served to weaken the alliance and forced the Sinaloa and LFM to direct attention and resources to other parts of the country, thus giving Los Zetas some room to regroup. The situation along the border in eastern Mexico is still very fluid and the contest between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of the region will continue in 2011.
(click here to enlarge image)
The death of Arturo Beltran Leyva in December 2009 in a Mexican marine raid led to a vicious battle between factions of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) for control of the group, pitting Arturo’s brother, Hector Beltran Leyva, against Arturo’s right-hand man, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. The war between the two BLO factions ended with the arrests of the leadership of the Valdez Villarreal faction, including La Barbie himself on Aug. 30, and this faction has been heavily damaged if not completely dissolved. Hector’s BLO faction adopted the name Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), or the South Pacific Cartel, to distance itself from the elements associated with Valdez that still clung to the BLO moniker. The CPS has aligned itself with Los Zetas against Sinaloa and LFM and has actively fought to stake a claim to the Colima and Manzanillo regions in addition to making inroads in Michoacan.
After being named the most violent organized-crime group in Mexico by former Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora in 2009, LFM has been largely a background player in 2010 and was active on two main fronts: the offensive against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation in northeastern Mexico and the fight against elements of the CPS and Los Zetas in southern Michoacan and Guerrero states, particularly around the resort area of Acapulco. LFM and CPS have been locked in a heated battle for supremacy in the Acapulco region for the past two years and this conflict shows no signs of stopping, especially since the CPS appears to have recently launched a new offensive against LFM in the southern regions of Michoacan. Additionally, after the death of Sinaloa leader El Nacho Coronel in July and the subsequent dismantlement of his network, LFM attempted to take over the Jalisco and Colima trafficking corridors, reportedly straining relations between the Sinaloa Federation and LFM.
LFM has been hard hit in the latter months of 2010, its losses on the battlefield amplified by the arrest of several senior operatives in early December. The Dec. 10 death of LFM spiritual leader Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno Gonzalez will further challenge the organization, and STRATFOR will be carefully watching LFM over the next several weeks for additional signs that it is collapsing.
Two former heavyweights on the Mexican drug-trafficking scene have continued a declining trajectory in 2010: the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization/Juarez cartel (VCF) and the Arellano Felix Organization/Tijuana cartel (AFO). The VCF continues to lose ground to the Sinaloa Federation throughout Chihuahua state, most notably in the Ciudad Juarez area. The VCF’s influence has largely been confined to the urban areas of the state, Juarez and Chihuahua, though it appears that its influence is waning even in its traditional strongholds (Sinaloa now appears to be moving narcotics through the Juarez smuggling corridor). Following a bitter war between two factions of the AFO, the organization is a shell of its former self. While the AFO faction under the leadership of Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano emerged victorious over the faction led by Eduardo “El Teo” Garcia Simental, who was a Sinaloa Federation proxy, it appears that Sanchez Arellano has reached an agreement with Sinaloa and is allowing it to move narcotics through Tijuana.
In the past, these sorts of agreements have proved to be temporary — one need only look at recent history in Juarez and the cooperation between Sinaloa and the VCF. Because of this, it is likely at some point that the Sinaloa Federation will begin to refuse to pay taxes to the AFO. When that happens, it will be important to see if the AFO has the capability to do anything about it.
The death of El Nacho Coronel and the damage-control efforts associated with the dismantlement of his network, along with the continued focus on the conflict in Juarez, forced the Sinaloa Federation to pull back from other commitments, such as its operations against Los Zetas as part of the New Federation. On the business-operations side, Sinaloa has made inroads in other regions and other continents. As noted above, the organization also has reportedly made progress in extending its control over the lucrative Tijuana smuggling corridor and is making significant progress in asserting control over the Juarez corridor.
Over the past few years, Sinaloa has gained control of, or access to, smuggling corridors all along Mexico’s northern border from Tijuana to Juarez. This means that Sinaloa appears to be the group that has fared the best over the past few years amid the intensifying violence. This would apply more specifically to Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and his faction of the Sinaloa Federation, which has benefited greatly by events since 2006. In addition to the fall of external foes like the AFO and Juarez cartels, he has seen the downfall of strong Sinaloa personalities who could have risen up to contest his leadership, men like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and El Nacho Coronel. Sinaloa members who attract a lot of adverse publicity for the federation, such as Enrique “El Cumbais” Lopez Acosta also seem to run into bad luck with some frequency. Additionally, STRATFOR sources continue to report a sustained effort by the Sinaloa Federation to expand its logistical network farther into Europe and its influence deeper into Central America and South America.
Some of the groups that have borne the brunt of the cartel wars, such as Los Zetas, the AFO and the VCF, have seen a decrease in their ability to move narcotics. This has forced them to look for other sources of income, which typically means diversifying into other criminal enterprises. A steady stream of income is important for the cartels because it takes a lot of money to hire and equip armed enforcer units required to guard against incursions from rival cartels and the Mexican government. It also takes money to purchase narcotics and to maintain the networks required to smuggle them from South America into the United States. This reliance on other criminal enterprises to generate income is not a new development for cartel groups. Los Zetas have long been active in human smuggling, oil theft, extortion and contract enforcement, while the VCF and AFO have traditionally been involved in extortion and kidnap-for-ransom operations. However, as these groups found themselves with their backs against the wall in 2010, they began to escalate their criminal fundraising operations. This increase in extortion and kidnapping has had a noticeable effect on businesses and wealthy families in several cities, including Monterrey, Mexico’s industrial capital. The wave of kidnapping in Monterrey even led to the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey ordering the departure of all minor dependents of U.S. government personnel beginning in September.
Some of the more desperate cartel groups also began to employ improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in 2010. The VCF has made no secret about its belief that the Federal Police are working for and protecting the Sinaloa Federation in Juarez. Following the July 15 arrest of a high-ranking VCF lieutenant, VCF enforcers from La Linea conducted a fairly sophisticated ambush directed against the Federal Police using a small IED hidden inside a car containing a cadaver that the attackers called in to police. The blast killed two Federal Police agents and injured several more at the scene. La Linea attempted to deploy another IED under similar circumstances Sept. 10 in Juarez, but Federal Police agents were able to identify the IED and call in the Mexican military to defuse the device. La Linea has threatened to use more and larger IEDs but has yet to follow through on those threats.
There were also three small IEDs deployed in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, in August. On Aug. 5, a substation housing the rural patrol element of the Municipal Transit Police was attacked with a small IED concealed inside a vehicle. Then on Aug. 27, two other IEDs placed in cars successfully detonated outside Televisa studios and a Municipal Transit Police station in Ciudad Victoria. The Ciudad Victoria IED attacks were never claimed, but Los Zetas are thought to be the culprits. The geographic and cartel-territorial disparity between Ciudad Victoria and Juarez makes it unlikely that the same bombmaker is responsible for all the devices encountered in Mexico this year.
To date, the explosive devices deployed by cartel groups in Mexico have been small, and La Linea and the Ciudad Victoria bomber did show some discretion by not intentionally targeting large groups of civilians in their attacks. However, should cartel groups continue to deploy IEDs, the imprecise nature of such devices will increase the risk of innocent civilians becoming collateral damage. This will be especially true if the size of the devices is increased, as La Linea has threatened to do. The cartels clearly have the skills required to build and deploy larger devices should they so choose, and explosives are plentiful and easy to obtain in Mexico.
The administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has dismantled several cartel networks and captured or killed their leaders in 2010, most notably Sinaloa No. 3 Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal and Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. While such operations have succeeded in eliminating several very dangerous people and disrupting their organizations, however, they have also served to further upset the balance of power among Mexico’s criminal organizations. This imbalance has increased the volatility of the country’s security environment by creating a sort of vicious feeding frenzy among the various organizations as they seek to preserve their own turf or seize territory from rival organizations.
Calderon has also taken steps to shift the focus from the controversial strategy of using the Mexican military as the primary tool to wage war against the cartels to using the newly reformed Federal Police. While the military still remains the most reliable security tool available to the Mexican government, the Federal Police have been given more responsibility in Juarez and northeast Mexico, the nation’s most contentious hot spots. Calderon has also planted the seeds to reform the states’ security organizations with a unified command in hopes of professionalizing each state’s security force to the point where the states do not have to rely on the federal government to combat organized crime. Meanwhile, the Mexican Congress has take steps to curb the ability of the president to deploy the military domestically by proposing a National Security Act that would require a state governor or legislature to first request the deployment of the military rather than permitting the federal government to act unilaterally.
The successes that the Calderon administration has scored against some major cartel figures such as La Barbie and El Nacho in 2010 have helped foster some public confidence in the war against the cartels, but disruptions to the balance of power among the cartels have added to the violence, which is clearly evidenced by the steep climb in the death toll. As long as the cartel landscape remains fluid, with the balance of power between the cartels and the government in a constant state of flux, the violence is unlikely to end or even recede.
This means that Calderon is at a crossroads. The increasing level of violence is seen as unacceptable by the public and the government’s resources are stretched to the limit. Unless all the cartel groups can be decapitated and brought under control — something that is highly unlikely given the government’s limitations — the only way to reduce the violence is to restore the balance of power among the cartels. This balance can be achieved if a small number of cartels come to dominate the cartel landscape and are able to conduct business as usual rather than fight continually for turf and survival. Calderon must take steps to restore this balance in the next year if he hopes to quell the violence and give his National Action Party a chance to maintain power in the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. In Mexico, 2011 promises to be an interesting year indeed.
Reply #254 on:
December 21, 2010, 11:46:43 AM »
IED attack on Police in Nuevo Leon
A small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated around 1 p.m. Dec. 17 inside a sport-utility vehicle outside the Zuazua Public Security Secretariat offices (the equivalent of a municipal police station) in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. In addition to destroying the vehicle, the blast injured at least three people and damaged several surrounding vehicles. A message attributed to the Sinaloa Federation and Gulf cartel addressed to “Zeta Police” was found shortly thereafter near the site of the explosion that read, “The state of Nuevo Leon does not guarantee the security of its citizens in the state, and more than a thousand kidnappings are not reported for fear of the authorities. Eleven more car bombs are waiting to be detonated to bring justice for the kidnapped, for the police and corrupt officials are aware.” Nuevo Leon authorities have been quick to say the claim of 11 more IEDs is false, but have offered little in the way of proof. Additionally, authorities have not officially said whether they believe area drug-trafficking organizations were involved in the attack, despite the very public message.
This attack is the year’s fifth successful deployment of an IED against a specified target in Mexico; one occurred in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, and three occurred near Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. While there has not been any indication as to the composition or exact size of the device, photographic evidence of the blast scene indicates that the device was relatively small and on the scale seen with other devices deployed in the country this year.
The enforcement arm of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) organization, La Linea, was responsible for the Juarez IED on July 15, and the group indicated after the attack that it would continue its “car bomb” campaign as long as the Federal Police continued to support the Sinaloa Federation, which the VCF accuses the police of doing. Despite these warnings, only one other IED was deployed in Juarez, a few weeks later, and the Mexican military was able to render it safe before it detonated. However, it appears from the message left near the scene and the geographic disparity between Juarez and Nuevo Leon that entirely different actors were responsible for the Dec. 17 incident.
The message falls in line with the strategy pursued by the New Federation alliance. In the spring, elements of the New Federation began taking the fight against Los Zetas to their stronghold in the Monterrey metro region, targeting not only Los Zetas members and operatives but also their support network in the region, including local politicians and local and regional police.
It remains to be seen whether the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf cartel will actually follow through with a sustained bombing campaign against law enforcement believed to be associated with Los Zetas. If the groups do follow through with their pledge to deploy 11 more IEDs, it would be a significant escalation in the tempo of these types of attacks. While IED attacks in the country thus far have been discriminating in their targeting, the imprecise nature of IEDs greatly increases the risk of civilian casualties.
Nuevo Laredo Prison Break
A prison break the morning of Dec. 17 at the Center for Social Readaptation (CERESO) in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, led to the escape of between 141 and 192 prisoners (the latest figure reported was 151). This is merely the latest in a string of prison breaks in Tamaulipas since January; the total number of prisoners having escaped in the state this year is more than 300.
In the Dec. 17 escape, the prisoners (reportedly both federal and local), working with complicit guards, were able to exit the prison facilities through a service entrance into waiting vehicles. Additionally, the prison director was reported missing the morning of Dec. 17. Multiple source reports indicate Los Zetas were the primary orchestrators of the escape, with some STRATFOR sources saying Los Zetas’ motivation was to augment their forces in the region. The prisoners were reportedly told that once released, they either must work for Los Zetas or be killed. Additionally, STRATFOR sources said the nephew of Los Zetas No. 2 Miguel “Z-40” Trevino Morales was one of the escapees from the CERESO unit.
Los Zetas have experienced several setbacks throughout much of 2010, with several regional plaza bosses and numerous operatives being killed or apprehended. However, developments in the last few months have weakened the Gulf cartel and the New Federation’s grip on Tamaulipas border region, and Los Zetas appear to be poised to regain some of their lost ground, particularly in the Reynosa and Matamoros regions. If the reported ultimatum for the freed prisoners is correct, this influx of forces for Los Zetas could provide the necessary resources to begin a campaign to retake these lost areas. However, the true number of prisoners that will actually go to work for Los Zetas remains to be seen; some likely will renege on their promise and slip back into Mexican society — only now with a bounty on their heads.
(click here to view interactive map)
Unidentified gunmen shot a man to death during a suspected kidnapping in the Jardines Universidad neighborhood of Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
The body of an unidentified person was discovered near Tlajomulco, Jalisco state. The body was wrapped in a blanket tied together with a string and had a bag over its head.
Four police officers were reportedly shot to death by a fellow police officer in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The attacker later committed suicide.
Police found a decapitated body in the trunk of a car in the Ejidos de San Agustin neighborhood of Chimalhuacan, Mexico state. The victim’s head had been placed on the trunk lid.
Two decapitated bodies were found on a soccer field in Huixquilucan, Mexico state.
In a recorded message released to a TV station, La Familia Michoacana (LFM) leader Servando Gomez Martinez called on his followers to continue fighting and called for more marches against the federal government. Gomez Martinez also confirmed the death of Nazario Gomez in Michoacan state during the week of Dec. 13.
The dismembered body of a man was found in several bags in Guadalajara, Jalisco state. A handwritten sign near the victim attributed the crime to the Jalisco Cartel, New Generation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the arrests of eight suspected members of LFM in Georgia and North Carolina. One of those arrested is believed to be the primary supplier of illegal drugs for LFM in Washington.
Unidentified gunmen shot and injured two police officers in Allende, Nuevo Leon state.
Authorities were alerted through an anonymous call about three boxes allegedly containing explosives that were placed near separate hospitals in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. The boxes contained clocks inside and were designed to give the appearance of being explosive devices.
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a police guard post in the Roma neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, but did not cause any injuries.
One suspected cartel gunman was killed and two bystanders were injured during a firefight between soldiers and gunmen in the La Estanzuela neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
Unidentified gunmen kidnapped two employees from the nightclub where they worked in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The victims were later discovered shot to death.
A decapitated head was discovered wrapped in cloth inside a bag outside a bar near Texcoco, Mexico state.
A car with explosives inside was detonated outside a police station in Zuazua, Nuevo Leon state. Approximately 151 inmates escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The director of the prison was reported missing after the escape.
Federal security forces arrested four police officers suspected of participating in an attack on other police forces in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state on Dec. 16. Ten other officers had been arrested Dec. 17 for their alleged participation in the attack.
An e-mail sent to news outlets by a group calling itself the “Ex-Mysterious Disappearers” announced that former legislator Diego Fernandez de Cevallos will be freed soon by his kidnappers.
Unidentified gunmen forced security personnel to pull back from a crime scene where a decapitated body was present in Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The gunmen reportedly arrived to recover the body.
Military authorities announced the seizure of a suspected methamphetamine lab in the municipality of Tuxpan, Jalisco state.
Authorities announced the arrest of suspected Colombian drug trafficker Jerson Enrique Camacho Cedeno in an unspecified part of Mexico. Camacho Cedeno is allegedly linked to Los Zetas.
Blog del narco
Reply #255 on:
January 11, 2011, 10:49:19 AM »
?Son de Mexico?
Reply #256 on:
January 13, 2011, 04:41:26 PM »
?Son estos soldados del ejercito mexicano?
Reply #257 on:
January 15, 2011, 12:46:31 AM »
Si, son de los GAFES : Grupo Aeromovil de Fuerzas Especiales (Air, Movil Special Forces)
Reply #258 on:
January 17, 2011, 02:58:21 PM »
He aqui un analysis sobre la situacion en Tiajuana:
Baja California state, with its lucrative port of entry into the United States in Tijuana, is among the most sought-after territory for Mexico’s drug cartels. For years the state was controlled by the Arellano Felix Organization until that group’s disintegration and the rise of perhaps Mexico’s most powerful cartel, the Sinaloa Federation. Learning from its past experience, the Sinaloa Federation has moved over the past year to decentralize control among autonomous cells in order to prevent any single faction from becoming too dominant, and breaking off to form its own rival cartel, which has already led to a more stable security environment in the region.
The criminal landscape in Mexico’s Baja California state has changed dramatically over the past year, and so have the internal workings of arguably the most powerful cartel in Mexico, the Sinaloa Federation. Dominated by the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO) in the 1990s and early 2000s, crackdowns by the Mexican government and internal divisions in the AFO led to the eventual rise of the Sinaloa Federation in Baja California in late 2010.
Taking its own experience with internal divisions into account, the Sinaloa Federation has adjusted its approach, decentralizing control and ensuring that no one faction becomes powerful enough to split from its parent organization and hold the lucrative Tijuana port of entry into the United States and its surroundings for itself. Despite the increase in organized criminal activity in the region over the past few months, this move has led to a more predictable security environment in the greater Baja California region — a drastic change from only a year ago.
Throughout the 1990s, Tijuana was controlled by the AFO, but a string of arrests and deaths of senior leaders of the groups — namely the Arellano Felix brothers, who made up the core leadership of the AFO beginning in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s — left the group’s operational capability severely diminished. Internal fighting between the faction loyal to the Arellano Felix brothers’ successor, Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano, and those loyal to the group’s top enforcer, Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental, led to a further degradation of the organization in the beginning of 2008. This conflict sparked incredible levels of violence in the region, until the Garcia Simental faction was dismantled by the Mexican Federal Police in January 2010. Out of desperation, Garcia Simental attempted to win back power by reaching out to the Sinaloa Federation for backing against Sanchez Arellano, knowing that the Sinaloa Federation had been trying to move into the lucrative Tijuana region for several years.
The strategy failed and the Garcia Simental faction was marginalized by Mexican security forces, but this left the AFO under Sanchez Arellano extremely weak, with only a few remaining cells still operating in the region. In the latter half of 2010, the Sinaloa Federation used the opening Garcia Simental had given it to solidify control over parts of western Baja California state, namely the Tecate and Mexicali regions, putting Sinaloa in prime position to seize Tijuana. The AFO knew it could not withstand another lengthy battle to retain control of its home territory against a much larger force with vast resources, and a deal was struck between the two organizations. The deal allows both organizations to operate independently and includes a nonaggression pact, securing for the Sinaloa Federation its long-awaited access to the lucrative port of entry into the United States.
As the Sinaloa Federation prepared to send its assets into the region in early 2010, it implemented a business plan for Tijuana that differed from its previous approach. Rather than have a traditional plaza boss who heads several cells and coordinates shipments of illicit goods across the border, the Sinaloa Federation sent numerous autonomous cells to work in the same area under the direction of Sinaloa No. 2 Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia. This information was finally made public by the Tijuana publication Zeta Tijuana (no association with the criminal organization Los Zetas) after it was able to obtain information from the interrogation of an aspiring Sinaloa cell leader in Tijuana, Jesus “El Tomate” Israel de La Cruz, who was arrested Jan. 4.
According to Israel de La Cruz, this new business structure with multiple autonomous cells working together was adopted after the Beltran Leyva brothers, who formed an important faction within Sinaloa, became too powerful and split from the Sinaloa Federation in 2008. A similar instance occurred with the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization in Juarez. This strategy is intended to prevent one cell leader from becoming too powerful, and therefore to keep them dependent on the parent organization, the Sinaloa Federation.
While this approach has generally stabilized the Tijuana region compared to the situation from 2008 to 2010, there is still some dissonance among the cells. A record 134-ton marijuana seizure in October 2010 resulted from a dispute between cell leaders over who was to smuggle which portion into the United States. Somehow, word of the massive shipment made its way to the Mexican military and law enforcement, resulting in the multimillion dollar seizure. After an enforcement sweep left numerous associates dead, business was back to normal.
Undoubtedly, there will be brief flare-ups of violence anywhere organized criminal activity is present — it simply comes with the territory of any illicit business — and there will be spikes in violence again in Tijuana. These two factors — Sinaloa’s decentralized approach, which prevents new rivals from springing up from within a cartel, and the agreement in place in Tijuana between the Sinaloa Federation and the AFO — have led to a more predictable operating environment not only for the cartels, but for the people and businesses of Tijuana, and have given the organizations operating in the area a set of rules to play by. That being said, historically, these types of agreements have been fleeting in nature, as they are often only followed as long as they are convenient to all parties involved. The question is not if the agreement will stay in place but how long it will prevail.
La Mentira de 90%
Reply #259 on:
February 10, 2011, 10:18:12 AM »
By Scott Stewart
For several years now, STRATFOR has been closely watching developments in Mexico that relate to what we consider the three wars being waged there. Those three wars are the war between the various drug cartels, the war between the government and the cartels and the war being waged against citizens and businesses by criminals.
In addition to watching tactical developments of the cartel wars on the ground and studying the dynamics of the conflict among the various warring factions, we have also been paying close attention to the ways that both the Mexican and U.S. governments have reacted to these developments. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects to watch has been the way in which the Mexican government has tried to deflect responsibility for the cartel wars away from itself and onto the United States. According to the Mexican government, the cartel wars are not a result of corruption in Mexico or of economic and societal dynamics that leave many Mexicans marginalized and desperate to find a way to make a living. Instead, the cartel wars are due to the insatiable American appetite for narcotics and the endless stream of guns that flows from the United States into Mexico and that results in Mexican violence.
Interestingly, the part of this argument pertaining to guns has been adopted by many politicians and government officials in the United States in recent years. It has now become quite common to hear U.S. officials confidently assert that 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican drug cartels come from the United States. However, a close examination of the dynamics of the cartel wars in Mexico — and of how the oft-echoed 90 percent number was reached — clearly demonstrates that the number is more political rhetoric than empirical fact.
By the Numbers
As we discussed in a previous analysis, the 90 percent number was derived from a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress on U.S. efforts to combat arms trafficking to Mexico (see external link).
According to the GAO report, some 30,000 firearms were seized from criminals by Mexican authorities in 2008. Of these 30,000 firearms, information pertaining to 7,200 of them (24 percent) was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing. Of these 7,200 guns, only about 4,000 could be traced by the ATF, and of these 4,000, some 3,480 (87 percent) were shown to have come from the United States.
This means that the 87 percent figure relates to the number of weapons submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF that could be successfully traced and not from the total number of weapons seized by Mexican authorities or even from the total number of weapons submitted to the ATF for tracing. In fact, the 3,480 guns positively traced to the United States equals less than 12 percent of the total arms seized in Mexico in 2008 and less than 48 percent of all those submitted by the Mexican government to the ATF for tracing. This means that almost 90 percent of the guns seized in Mexico in 2008 were not traced back to the United States.
The remaining 22,800 firearms seized by Mexican authorities in 2008 were not traced for a variety of reasons. In addition to factors such as bureaucratic barriers and negligence, many of the weapons seized by Mexican authorities either do not bear serial numbers or have had their serial numbers altered or obliterated. It is also important to understand that the Mexican authorities simply don’t bother to submit some classes of weapons to the ATF for tracing. Such weapons include firearms they identify as coming from their own military or police forces, or guns that they can trace back themselves as being sold through the Mexican Defense Department’s Arms and Ammunition Marketing Division (UCAM). Likewise, they do not ask ATF to trace military ordnance from third countries like the South Korean fragmentation grenades commonly used in cartel attacks.
Of course, some or even many of the 22,800 firearms the Mexicans did not submit to ATF for tracing may have originated in the United States. But according to the figures presented by the GAO, there is no evidence to support the assertion that 90 percent of the guns used by the Mexican cartels come from the United States — especially when not even 50 percent of those that were submitted for tracing were ultimately found to be of U.S. origin.
This point leads us to consider the types of weapons being used by the Mexican cartels and where they come from.
Types and Sources of Guns
To gain an understanding of the dynamics of the gun flow inside Mexico, it helps if one divides the guns seized by Mexican authorities from criminals into three broad categories — which, incidentally, just happen to represent three different sources.
Type 1: Guns Legally Available in Mexico
The first category of weapons encountered in Mexico is weapons available legally for sale in Mexico through UCAM. These include handguns smaller than a .357 magnum such as .380, .38 Super and .38 Special.
A large portion of this first type of guns used by criminals is purchased in Mexico, or stolen from their legitimate owners. While UCAM does have very strict regulations for civilians to purchase guns, criminals will use straw purchasers to obtain firearms from UCAM or obtain them from corrupt officials. It is not uncommon to see .38 Super pistols seized from cartel figures (a caliber that is not popular in the United States), and many of these pistols are of Mexican origin. Likewise, cartel hit men in Mexico commonly use .380 pistols equipped with sound suppressors in their assassinations. In many cases, these pistols are purchased in Mexico, the suppressors are locally manufactured and the guns are adapted to receive the suppressors by Mexican gunsmiths.
It must be noted, though, that because of the cost and hassle of purchasing guns in Mexico, many of the guns in this category are purchased in the United States and smuggled into the country. There are a lot of cheap guns available on the U.S. market, and they can be sold at a premium in Mexico. Indeed, guns in this category, such as .380 pistols and .22-caliber rifles and pistols, are among the guns most commonly traced back to the United States. Still, the numbers do not indicate that 90 percent of guns in this category come from the United States.
Additionally, most of the explosives the cartels have been using in improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Mexico over the past year have used commercially available Tovex, so we consider these explosives to fall in this first category. Mexican IEDs are another area where the rhetoric has been interesting to analyze, but we will explore this topic another time.
Type 2: Guns Legally Available in the U.S. but Not in Mexico
Many popular handgun calibers, such as 9 mm, .45 and .40, are reserved for the military and police and are not available for sale to civilians in Mexico. These guns, which are legally sold and very popular in the United States, comprise our second category, which also includes .50-caliber rifles, semiautomatic versions of assault rifles like the AK-47 and M16 and the FN Five-Seven pistol.
When we consider this second type of guns, a large number of them encountered in Mexico are likely purchased in the United States. Indeed, the GAO report notes that many of the guns most commonly traced back to the United States fall into this category. There are also many .45-caliber and 9 mm semiautomatic pistols and .357 revolvers obtained from deserters from the Mexican military and police, purchased from corrupt Mexican authorities or even brought in from South America (guns made by manufacturers such as Taurus and Bersa). This category also includes semiautomatic variants of assault rifles and main battle rifles, which are often converted by Mexican gunsmiths to be capable of fully automatic fire.
One can buy these types of weapons on the international arms market, but one pays a premium for such guns and it is cheaper and easier to simply buy them in the United States or South America and smuggle them into Mexico. In fact, there is an entire cottage industry that has developed to smuggle such weapons, and not all the customers are cartel hit men. There are many Mexican citizens who own guns in calibers such as .45, 9 mm, .40 and .44 magnum for self-defense — even though such guns are illegal in Mexico.
Type 3: Guns Not Available for Civilian Purchase in Mexico or the U.S.
The third category of weapons encountered in Mexico is military grade ordnance not generally available for sale in the United States or Mexico. This category includes hand grenades, 40 mm grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic assault rifles and main battle rifles and light machine guns.
This third type of weapon is fairly difficult and very expensive to obtain in the United States (especially in the large numbers in which the cartels are employing them). They are also dangerous to obtain in the United States due to heavy law-enforcement scrutiny. Therefore, most of the military ordnance used by the Mexican cartels comes from other sources, such as the international arms market (increasingly from China via the same networks that furnish precursor chemicals for narcotics manufacturing), or from corrupt elements in the Mexican military or even deserters who take their weapons with them. Besides, items such as South Korean fragmentation grenades and RPG-7s, often used by the cartels, simply are not in the U.S. arsenal. This means that very few of the weapons in this category come from the United States.
In recent years the cartels (especially their enforcer groups such as Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea) have been increasingly using military weaponry instead of sporting arms. A close examination of the arms seized from the enforcer groups and their training camps clearly demonstrates this trend toward military ordnance, including many weapons not readily available in the United States. Some of these seizures have included M60 machine guns and hundreds of 40 mm grenades obtained from the military arsenals of countries like Guatemala.
But Guatemala is not the only source of such weapons. Latin America is awash in weapons that were shipped there over the past several decades to supply the various insurgencies and counterinsurgencies in the region. When these military-grade weapons are combined with the rampant corruption in the region, they quickly find their way into the black arms market. The Mexican cartels have supply-chain contacts that help move narcotics to Mexico from South America and they are able to use this same network to obtain guns from the black market in South and Central America and then smuggle them into Mexico. While there are many weapons in this category that were manufactured in the United States, the overwhelming majority of the U.S.-manufactured weapons of this third type encountered in Mexico — like LAW rockets and M60 machine guns — come into Mexico from third countries and not directly from the United States.
There are also some cases of overlap between classes of weapons. For example, the FN Five-Seven pistol is available for commercial purchase in the United States, but the 5.7x28 armor-piercing ammunition for the pistol favored by the cartels is not — it is a restricted item. However, some of the special operations forces units in the Mexican military are issued the Five-Seven as well as the FN P90 personal defense weapon, which also shoots the 5.7x28 round, and the cartels are obtaining some of these weapons and the armor-piercing ammunition from them and not from the United States. Conversely, we see bulk 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm ammunition bought in the United States and smuggled into Mexico, where it is used in fully-automatic AK-47s and M16s purchased elsewhere. As noted above, China has become an increasingly common source for military weapons like grenades and fully automatic assault rifles in recent years.
To really understand Mexico’s gun problem, however, it is necessary to recognize that the same economic law of supply and demand that fuels drug smuggling into the United States also fuels gun smuggling into Mexico. Black-market guns in Mexico can fetch up to 300 percent of their normal purchase price — a profit margin rivaling the narcotics the cartels sell. Even if it were somehow possible to hermetically seal the U.S.-Mexico border and shut off all the guns coming from the United States, the cartels would still be able to obtain weapons elsewhere — just as narcotics would continue to flow into the United States from other places. The United States does provide cheap and easy access to certain types of weapons and ammunition, but as demonstrated by groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, weapons can be easily obtained from other sources via the black arms market — albeit at a higher price.
There has clearly been a long and well-documented history of arms smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border, but it is important to recognize that, while the United States is a significant source of certain classes of weapons and ammunition, it is by no means the source of 90 percent of the weapons used by the Mexican cartels, as is commonly asserted.
Stratfor: Calderon Security
Reply #260 on:
March 02, 2011, 11:01:08 AM »
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is visiting the United States March 2 and March 3. We thought it would be a good time to discuss the unique threat assessment that will be written pertaining to President Calderon’s visit.
Calderon’s visit comes at a very critical time with the confluence of issues that are taking place not only inside of Mexico, but in the United States, which makes this threat assessment much more difficult than any current head of state visiting. We’ve had the recent high-profile killings of Americans in Mexico such as David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the missionary killing and the recent Zeta killing of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent. You have the politics of the immigration issue, as well as the politics of guns, meaning the guns flowing into Mexico from the United States and the domestic politics of that issue in general. Another element that will be factored into the threat assessment, regardless of the likelihood of this occurring, would be the cartels’ ability to pay for high-priced mercenaries or assassins to carry out some sort of attack.
One other aspect that is also factored into the threat assessment is the radical fringe link to domestic groups of concern. Specifically the Secret Service will be calling their database looking for adverse intelligence on individuals that have surfaced in connection to the immigration or gun issue that may have made threats against public officials. This issue is a significant one on the heels of the shooting of the congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona. Another element that would be factored into the threat assessment would be president Calderon’s statements as recent as last week, where he raised the issue of drug consumption in the United States fueling cartel violence, as well as the United States government not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico.
Given all the concern surrounding Calderon’s visit to the United States, there will be an effort to minimize public exposure and at any kind of event that is open, you will find enhanced screening for firearms specifically to mitigate the risk from these unknown variables — such as another John Hinckley surfacing — that may not have raised the awareness of the secret service in Washington.
The “Above the Tearline” aspect is the politics of Calderon’s visit at this moment in time due to the confluence of events that have taken place, make this threat assessment much more complex, and also raises the risks to President Calderon.
Reply #261 on:
March 04, 2011, 10:01:38 PM »
Re: Stratfor: Calderon Security
Reply #262 on:
March 09, 2011, 01:49:14 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on March 02, 2011, 11:01:08 AM
. We’ve had the recent high-profile killings of Americans in Mexico such as David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the missionary killing and the recent Zeta killing of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent.
?Como se ve las acciones del BATF en Mexico?
Reply #263 on:
March 11, 2011, 12:57:14 PM »
Re: ?Como se ve las acciones del BATF en Mexico?
Reply #264 on:
March 11, 2011, 01:56:55 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on March 11, 2011, 12:57:14 PM
Esto reflexiona mal sobre los Estados Unidos. Como están los agentes aqui algo diferentes de la corrupcion vista en Mexico cuando las cosas como este pasan?
Hay algunas de ellos (BATF) que estan corruptos tambien por supuesto y por eso, es muy importante que cada uno de nosotros, somos incorruptos.
Last Edit: March 11, 2011, 02:00:04 PM by Zen Guerrilla
Reply #265 on:
April 20, 2011, 10:17:05 AM »
Agenda: Mexican Drug Cartels
April 15, 2011 | 2156 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:
Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart looks at the potential for an escalation of violence as Mexican drug cartels fight for power and control.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Colin: More than 230 American cities have now been affected by the presence of Mexican drug cartels. This weekend, Australia’s Crime Commission reported that the cartels have taken ahold of organized crime syndicates in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. In Mexico, the seemingly unstoppable violence continues. A few days ago we had the gruesome discovery of at least 116 bodies in mass graves near the city of San Fernando, just 100 miles away from the Texan border. And, perhaps as evidence of more violence to come, we have the erection of concrete car-bomb barriers outside the busy United States consulate in Monterrey.
Welcome to Agenda. Joining me this week to discuss Mexican security is Scott Stewart. Scott, let’s start with this latest security measure. Has this building been targeted before, and is there intelligence that it’s about to be hit by a large car bomb?
Scott: Well first of all yes, the U.S. consulate general in Monterrey has been targeted before by attacks but these have been attacks using hand grenades and small arms, and that’s something different from a large car bomb attack. At this point we don’t believe there is any imminent car bomb threat to that facility, or any other U.S. facilities in Mexico for that matter.
Colin: Why would a cartel want to escalate the battle and invite the further wrath of the United States?
Scott: The Mexican cartels certainly don’t shy away from violence. We see them regularly beheading and dismembering people. However they tend to try to target most of their violence against opponents of the fellow cartels or against government employees, and a lot of times the government employees that they target are actually working for opposition cartels. So there’s really a relation there between the targeting. We have not seen the Mexican cartels really get into widespread attacks against the public at large. They have really tried to target their violence. And in times where we have seen them have incidents where there’s been indiscriminate violence, or violence that has impacted negatively on their public image - things like the Falcon Lake shooting - we have seen the cartels come down hard on operatives that made those mistakes and that brought the heat down upon the cartel.
One thing to remember is that these cartels are not terrorist groups. They are really businesses, and they’re organized crime organizations. So their end is making money. That is their objective. And anything that gets in the way of that objective, bringing down massive heat upon them, is bad for business, and they try to shy away from that sort of activity.
Colin: Are the authorities making any progress in their fight against the cartels?
Scott: Well, I think it depends on how one defines progress. Certainly, they have been arresting the heads of certain cartels and they have been disrupting the operations of some of these cartels. For example, over the last five or six years, organizations such as the Arellano-Felix organization, which is also known as the Tijuana cartel; another organization, the Juarez Cartel or the VCF, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization; they’ve both been decimated. Likewise, we’ve seen the Beltran Leyva organization decapitated and split up. So, they’re making headway against certain organizations, but at the same time, the largest cartel, Sinaloa cartel, that is headed up by a gentleman by the name of El Chapo, “the short one,” Sinaloa has been getting stronger and stronger. And they are really becoming more of a regional hegemon in the cartel landscape. And right now, they control the border from Tijuana all the way over to Juarez, for the most part. And they are acting to increase their control over that area. So while certain cartels have been weakened, other cartels, like Sinaloa, have become stronger.
Of course, one other measure of progress against the cartels would be violence. And indeed, we have not seen violence come down at all. This fracturing, this splintering of these cartel organizations, has really led to more fighting. What happens is, when a cartel organization has very good control of an area - or what we call a plaza, a smuggling corridor - there’s generally peace in that area. But when they become weakened and another organization comes in and tries to take over there territory, that’s when you see the violence, that’s when you see the fighting. And of course the death toll then will increase. So as some of these organizations have been weakened, others have tried to move in. And that has escalated the violence.
Colin: How safe is it for a businessperson to go to Mexico now, and where should they avoid?
Scott: There are certain hotspots right now. Indeed, in Acapulco at this present time we have a three-way struggle for control of that city between three factions of the former Beltran Leyva organization. One that now calls itself the Cartel del Pacifico Sur, the South Pacific Cartel; another faction has gone on to form this independent cartel of Acapulco; and still another little faction has gone and they’re working with Sinaloa. And so you have these three organizations fighting each other for control of Acapulco, which generally in the past had been a very popular tourist resort.
Likewise, in the Northeast we see a lot of violence right now in places like Monterrey. And one of the reasons that Monterrey is so concerning is because it is really the industrial heart of Mexico. You have not only large Mexican corporations that are headquartered there, but also U.S. companies have gone down into Monterrey in order to manufacture. The things that make Monterrey attractive to businesses, the fact that they have good lines of communication and roads, and then of course lines of communication to the U.S. border to ship stuff, also makes it an ideal place to control as a drug organization. If you can control Monterrey, you can control the flow of a lot of goods and a lot of contraband to the border. So we really expect to see a lot of continued violence in the Northeast in the coming months.
Colin: Scott, thank you. Scott Stewart there, ending Agenda for this week.
Reply #266 on:
April 29, 2011, 04:53:00 PM »
Mexican drug cartels continue to war with one another and with the government. While the situation has long been fluid, the past 18 months have seen the Sinaloa Federation rapidly expand at the expense of other groups. The following are key events in the evolution of Mexico’s cartel landscape over the last four and a half years:
(click here to view interactive slideshow)
December 2006: Mexican President Felipe Calderon takes office, promising to fight back against drug cartels. His first two years in office show strong successes against the cartels, with large drug seizures and the capture of several organizations’ leaders. The government’s chief target is the Gulf cartel, the most powerful in Mexico.
December 2008: A two-yearlong campaign by the Calderon government against the Gulf cartel has left it crippled. The cartel’s enforcement arm, Los Zetas, splintered off in spring 2008 and now controls much of what used to be Gulf territory. The government’s success is a double-edged sword, however: The decline of the Gulf cartel has left a large power vacuum, encouraging other organizations — and factions within those organizations — to fight to increase their influence.
December 2009: As the government pressures powerful cartels, the situation in Mexico becomes more volatile and two distinct but interconnected wars begin to emerge: the government’s fight against the cartels, and the cartels’ fights between and among themselves. The geography of cartel influence does not change significantly, though one notable exception to this is the rise of the infamous La Familia Michoacana (LFM), which has captured media attention by marrying drug-trafficking activities to a pseudo-religious ideology.
May 2010: A major rift emerges in the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) after the death of leader Arturo “El Jefe de Jefes” Beltran Leyva. Two factions emerge, one under Arturo’s brother, Hector, and the other made up of elements of the BLO’s brutal enforcement wing and run by Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal.
December 2010: Tensions between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas also have boiled over into open war in the country’s east, with the Gulf cartel reaching out to its former rivals in Sinaloa as well as LFM to align under the name “New Federation” and pushing Los Zetas from one of their traditional strongholds, Reynosa, though not out of Nuevo Laredo or Monterrey. In its weakened state, Los Zetas began increasing operations outside the normal scope of drug trafficking, such as kidnapping for ransom, and giving rise to a trend that STRATFOR eventually would dub Mexico’s third war: that of the cartels on the Mexican public. Cartel-related violence in the country reaches new heights, with more than 11,000 deaths on record.
April 2011: Violence continues to rise in all parts of the country. The Sinaloa Federation continues to expand its territory north and east, taking over areas formerly under the influence of the Carrillo Fuentes Organization and the Arellano Felix Organization. With the help of Sinaloa, the Gulf cartel has been able to repel offenses from Los Zetas in Reynosa and Matamoros, though the Zetas are proving resilient. LFM appeared to implode in January, but now a large subset of the former LFM seems to have simply rebranded itself as the “Knights Templar.” Its size and capabilities remain unclear.
Stratfor: Texas is not Mexico
Reply #267 on:
May 19, 2011, 12:37:59 PM »
By Scott Stewart
As one studies Mexico’s cartel war, it is not uncommon to hear Mexican politicians — and some people in the United States — claim that Mexico’s problems of violence and corruption stem largely from the country’s proximity to the United States. According to this narrative, the United States is the world’s largest illicit narcotics market, and the inexorable force of economic demand means that the countries supplying the demand, and those that are positioned between the source countries and the huge U.S. market, are trapped in a very bad position. Because of this market and the illicit trade it creates, billions of dollars worth of drugs flow northward through Mexico (or are produced there) and billions of dollars in cash flow back southward into Mexico. The guns that flow southward along with the cash, according to the narrative, are largely responsible for Mexico’s violence. As one looks at other countries lying to the south of Mexico along the smuggling routes from South America to the United States, they too seem to suffer from the same maladies.
However, when we look at the dynamics of the narcotics trade, there are other political entities, ones located to Mexico’s north, that find themselves caught in the same geographic and economic position as Mexico and points south. As borderlands, these entities — referred to as states in the U.S. political system — find themselves caught between the supply of drugs flowing from the south and the large narcotics markets to their north. The geographic location of these states results in large quantities of narcotics flowing northward through their territory and large amounts of cash likewise flowing southward. Indeed, this illicit flow has brought with it corruption and violence, but when we look at these U.S. states, their security environments are starkly different from those of Mexican states on the other side of the border.
One implicit reality that flows from the geopolitical concept of borderlands is that while political borders are clearly delineated, the cultural and economic borders surrounding them are frequently less clear and more dynamic. The borderlands on each side of the thin, artificially imposed line we call a border are remarkably similar in geographic and demographic terms (indeed, inhabitants of such areas are often related). In the larger picture, both sides of the border often face the same set of geopolitical realities and challenges. Certainly the border between the United States and Mexico was artificially imposed by the annexation of Texas following its anti-Mexico revolution as well as the U.S. annexation of what is now much of the U.S. West, including the border states of Arizona, California and New Mexico, following the Mexican-American War. While the desert regions along the border do provide a bit of a buffer between the two countries — and between the Mexican core and its northern territories — there is no geological obstacle separating the two countries. Even the Rio Grande is not so grand, as the constant flow of illicit goods over it testifies. In many places, like Juarez and El Paso, the U.S.-Mexico border serves to cut cities in half, much like the Berlin Wall used to do.
Yet as one crosses over that artificial line one senses huge differences between the cultural, economic and security environments north and south. In spite of the geopolitical and economic realities confronting both sides of this borderland, Texas is not Mexico. The differences run deep, and we thought it worthwhile this week to examine how and why.
Same Problems, Different Scope
First, it must be understood that this examination does not mean to assert that the illicit narcotics market in the United States has no effect on Mexico (or Central America, for that matter). The flow of narcotics, money and guns, and the organizations that participate in this illicit trade, does have a clear and demonstrable impact on Mexico. But — and this very significant — that impact does not stop at the border. This illicit commerce also impacts the U.S. states north of the border.
Certainly the U.S. side of the border has seen corruption of public officials, cartel-related violence and, of course, drug trafficking. But these phenomena have manifested themselves differently on the U.S. side of the border.
In the United States there have been local cops, sheriffs, customs inspectors and even FBI agents arrested and convicted for corruption. However, the problem is far worse on the Mexican side, where entire police forces have been relieved of their duties due to their cooperation with the drug cartels and where systematic corruption has been traced all the way from the municipal mayoral level to the Presidential Guard, and even to the country’s drug czar. There have even been groups of police officers and military units arrested while actively protecting shipments of drugs in Mexico — something that simply does not occur in the United States. And while Mexican officials are frequently forced to choose between “plata o plomo” (Spanish for “silver or lead,” a direct threat of violence meaning “take the bribe or we will kill you”), that type of threat is extremely rare in the United States. It is also very rare to see politicians, police chiefs and judges killed in the United States — a common occurrence in Mexico.
That said, there certainly has been cartel-related violence on the U.S. side of the border with organizations such as Los Zetas conducting assassinations in places like Houston and Dallas. The claim by some U.S. politicians that there is no spillover violence is patently false. However, the use of violence on the U.S. side has tended to be far more discreet on the part of the cartels (and the U.S. street gangs they are allied with) than in Mexico, where the cartels are frequently quite flagrant. The cartels kill people in the United States but they tend to avoid the gruesome theatrics associated with many drug-related murders in Mexico, where it has become commonplace to see victims beheaded, dismembered or hung from pedestrian walkways over major thoroughfares.
Likewise, the large firefights frequently observed in Mexico involving dozens of armed men on each side using military weapons, grenades and rocket-propelled grenades have come within feet of the border (sometimes with stray rounds crossing over onto the U.S. side), but these types of events have remained on the south side of that invisible line. Mexican cartel gunmen have used dozens of trucks and other large vehicles to set up roadblocks in Matamoros, but they have not followed suit in Brownsville. Cities on the U.S. side of the border are seen as markets, logistics hubs and places of refuge for cartel figures, not battlefields.
Even when we consider drug production, it is important to recognize that the first “super labs” for methamphetamine production were developed in California’s Central Valley, not in Mexico. It was only pressure from U.S. law enforcement agencies that forced the relocation of these laboratories south of the border. Certainly, meth production is still going on in many parts of the United States, but the production is being conducted in mom-and-pop operations that can produce only relatively small amounts of the drug, usually of varying quality. By contrast, Mexican super labs can produce tons of meth that is of very high (almost pharmacological) quality. Additionally, while Mexican cartels (and other producers) have long grown marijuana inside the United States in clandestine plots of land, the quantity of marijuana the cartels grow inside the United States is far eclipsed by the industrial marijuana production operations conducted in Mexico.
Even the size of narcotics shipments changes at the border. The huge shipments of drugs that are shipped within Mexico are broken down into smaller lots at stash houses on the Mexican side of the border to be smuggled into the United States. Then they are frequently broken down again in stash houses on the U.S. side of the border. The trafficking of drugs in the United States tends to be far more decentralized and diffuse than it is on the Mexican side, again in response to U.S. law enforcement pressure. Smaller shipments allow drug traffickers to limit their losses if a shipment is seized, and using a decentralized distribution network allows them to be less dependent on any one link in the chain. If one distribution channel is rolled up by the authorities, traffickers can shift their product into another sales channel.
Not Just an Institutional Problem
Above we noted that the same dynamics exist on both sides of the border, and the same cartel groups also operate on both sides. However, we also noted the consistent theme of the Mexican cartels being forced to behave differently on the U.S. side. The organizations are no different, but the environment in which they operate is very different. The corruption, poverty, diminished rule of law and lack of territorial control (particularly in the border-adjacent hinterlands) that is endemic to the Mexican system greatly empowers and emboldens the cartels in Mexico. The operating environment inside the United States is quite different, forcing the cartels to behave differently. Mexican cartels and drug trafficking are problems in the United States, but they are problems that can be controlled by U.S. law enforcement. The environment does not permit the cartels to threaten the U.S. government’s ability to govern.
A geopolitical monograph explaining the forces that have shaped Mexico can be found here. Understanding the geopolitics of Mexico is very helpful to understanding the challenges Mexico faces and why it has become what it is today. This broader understanding is also the key to understanding why the Mexican police simply can’t be reformed to solve the problems of violence and corruption. Certainly, the Mexican government has aggressively pursued police reform for many years now, with very little success. Indeed, it was the lack of a trustworthy law enforcement apparatus that led the Calderon government to turn to the military to counter the power of the Mexican cartels. This lack of reliable law enforcement has also led Calderon to aggressively pursue police reform. This reform effort has included unifying the federal police agencies and consolidating municipal police departments (which have arguably been the most corrupt institutions in Mexico) into unified state police commands, under which officers are subjected to better screening, oversight and accountability. Already, however, there have been numerous instances of these “new and improved” federal- and state-level police officers being arrested for corruption.
This illustrates the fact that Mexico’s ills go far deeper than just corrupt institutions. Because of this, revamping the institutions will not result in any meaningful change, and the revamped institutions will soon be corrupted like the ones they replaced. This fact should have been readily apparent; the institutional approach has been tried in the region before and has failed.
Perhaps the best example of this failure was the “untouchable and incorruptible” Department of Anti-Narcotics Operations, known by its Spanish acronym DOAN, which was created in Guatemala in the mid-1990s. The DOAN was almost purely a creation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The concept behind the creation of the DOAN was that corruption existed within the Guatemalan police institutions because the police were undertrained, underpaid and underequipped. It was believed that if police recruits were carefully screened, properly trained, well paid and adequately equipped, they would not be susceptible to the corruption that plagued the other police institutions in the country. So the U.S. government hand-picked the recruits, thoroughly trained them, paid them generously and provided them with brand-new uniforms and equipment. However, the result was not what the U.S. government expected. By 2002, the “untouchable” DOAN had to be disbanded because it had essentially become a drug trafficking organization itself and was involved in torturing and killing competitors and stealing their shipments of narcotics.
The example of the Guatemalan DOAN (and of more recent Mexican police reform efforts) demonstrates that even a competent, well-paid and well-equipped police institution cannot stand alone within a culture that is not prepared to support it and keep it clean. In other words, over time, an institution will take on the characteristics of, and essentially reflect, the environment surrounding it. Therefore, significant reform in Mexico requires a holistic approach that reaches far beyond the institutions to address the profound economic, sociological and cultural problems that are affecting the country today. Indeed, given how deeply rooted and pervasive these problems are and the geopolitical hand the country was dealt, Mexico has done quite well. But holistic change will not be easy to accomplish. It will require a great deal of time, treasure, leadership and effort. In view of this reality, we can see why it would be more politically expedient simply to blame the Americans.
Read more: Corruption: Why Texas is Not Mexico | STRATFOR
WSJ: Mexican Paradox
Reply #268 on:
May 30, 2011, 06:53:28 PM »
Last week, gun battles between warring drug cartels in the central Mexican state of Michoacán lasted three days, brought down a police helicopter, caused a small flood of refugees, and took an as-yet undetermined toll in lives.
It's almost a surprise the story made the news at all. "The conflict was slow to get out because local media in states like Michoacán have largely stopped covering the carnage on orders from drug gangs," reported The Journal's David Luhnow and José de Córdoba on Friday. More than 20 reporters have been killed in Mexico since the drug wars began in earnest in 2006. Last year, Mexico tied Iraq, and was second only to Pakistan, in journalist fatalities.
Then there is the numbing regularity with which news of drug-related atrocities dominates the international media's coverage of Mexico. The decapitation of 27 Guatemalan farm hands by the Zetas gang two weeks ago. The 146 corpses discovered in April in mass graves in the state of Durango. The hanging in March of five victims from bridges in the resort town of Mazatlan. The apparently deliberate killing in February of U.S. immigration officer Jaime Zapata (and the shooting of his partner) on a highway north of Mexico City.
And on, and on, and on.
Yet a funny thing happened on the way to Mexico becoming another failed state. To wit, the "failed state" boomed.
In 2010, a year when there were more than 15,000 drug-related killings (up by nearly 60% from the year before), the economy grew by 5.5%—the fastest rate in a decade. The Mexican peso appreciated against the dollar. Inflation was essentially flat. Foreign reserves rose to $113 billion. Twenty-two million tourists visited the country. Trade with the U.S. reached an all-time high of nearly $400 billion. In Ciudad Juárez, where 3,000 people were killed last year, the maquiladora industries added some 20,000 jobs. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line declined to 47.4% in 2008 (the last year for which the World Bank has data) from 63.7% a decade earlier. Literacy rates surpassed 90%. Life expectancy continues to rise to near-First World levels.
In the U.S., sociologists are puzzling over the paradox of falling crime rates in an era of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. The Mexican paradox appears to be the reverse.
Then again, what most people consider a paradox is simply the crash of reality against our own unexamined clichés and preconceptions.
Consider the idea that crime in Mexico is out of control. The homicide rate in Mexico (about 12 per 100,000 in 2009) was more than twice that of the U.S. (five per 100,000) but well below Brazil's rate of 20.5 in 2008, to say nothing of the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it's about 50. In Mexico City, home to some 20 million people, the murder rate actually fell over the last decade. In 2009, it was about one quarter of the rate in Washington, D.C.
So how shall we define "out of control"? And what shall we make of the fact that the vast majority of the victims of Mexico's drug wars are themselves members of drug gangs? "They constitute a portion of population, that is worse than useless in any community," said Abraham Lincoln about the gamblers of Vicksburg in 1838. "And their death, if no pernicious example is set by it, is never a matter of reasonable regret with anyone." Something similar might be said of the drug cartels in their current orgy of mutual annihilation.
Then there's the idea that Mexico would have been better off had it never picked a fight with the cartels. I grew up in that Mexico, in which a corrupt and authoritarian government made its peace with—and took its cut from—the cartels.
That Mexico, built on conspiracies of silence and fear, could not survive the country's transition to democracy. It's no surprise that, even now, in the fifth year of his presidency and after 34,612 deaths, Felipe Calderón has an approval rating of 54%. Mexicans have no shortage of misgivings about his methods, but not many are proposing a viable alternative to taking the cartels head on. And by "viable," that means something other than the fantasy of expecting Ron Paul to win the presidency and end the war on drugs. Not that libertarians will ever stop proposing that utopia as their sole idea in what otherwise amounts to a feckless counsel of despair.
Last week I asked former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe whether Mexico can defeat the narcos. "Colombia is a typical case demonstrating that we can win," he answered—with the statistics to prove his case. He stressed that the key to winning was what he called a "permanent pedagogy" to convince people that the war on the cartels is "a necessary fight, not a partisan cause."
Mr. Uribe rescued Colombia from a plight far worse than what Mexico confronts today. But the central challenge is the same: how to establish a rule of law that has the legitimacy of consent and the courage of its convictions. Doing just that was Mr. Uribe's achievement, and it remains Mr. Calderón's challenge. Not much of a paradox here. Mexico's current prosperity is the bet that its market-friendly policies won't soon be betrayed by a government that can be cowed or seduced by criminals.
Ataques a Casinos en Monterrey
Reply #269 on:
June 14, 2011, 11:55:47 AM »
Another significant facet of Monterrey’s strategic value to the cartels made the news May 25 when four casinos were robbed. Heavily armed gunmen reportedly emptied out the cashier cages at Casino Hollywood, Casino Royale, Casino Red and Casino Miravalle Palace, all in the same general area between Monterrey proper and the westside city of San Pedro Garza Garcia.
Los Zetas are currently fighting with the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels for Monterrey. The Zetas hold the city, but the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels want to take it because it sits astride intersecting smuggling corridors for drug and human trafficking. But that is only part of the story. The greater Monterrey area has about three dozen casinos, most of the more than 40 casinos in northeast Mexico. To an extent that no other business sector can be, large casino operations are essential to laundering the billions of dollars generated by Mexico’s cartels. Clearly, the tit-for-tat operations in which Gulf and Zetas elements target each other’s vital support networks appear to have been elevated to a higher level with bigger stakes.
Mexican media have indicated that “millions” were taken in the heists, but no source has quantified how much money was taken or whether the currency was in pesos or U.S. dollars. Furthermore, the reports have offered confusing or conflicting information about the order in which the heists occurred, so much so that a sequence may not be easily determined. In this situation, however, such tactical details are less important than the larger implications of the apparently well-coordinated heists.
Last January, the Casino Royale was the scene of an apparent effort to eliminate two high-profile members of the Juarez cartel who were gambling in the casino. Gunmen entered the establishment and started firing hundreds of rounds, but the reported targets got away — and later were apprehended by authorities. Almost as an afterthought, one online report mentioned in its last sentence that “in the confusion” the casino’s cashier cage was robbed and all of the casino’s security-camera tapes disappeared. STRATFOR has found no direct link in the media between the January shooting-robbery and the May robbery at Casino Royale. But we find the events more than coincidental. In all likelihood, the first heist in January was a test run for the coordinated multi-casino robberies conducted May 25.
Certainly, U.S. interdiction efforts have put a financial strain on all of the Mexican cartels, making casino robberies a tempting proposition, but the successful theft of millions of dollars or pesos may only have been a bonus on top of the larger reward of hitting a rival cartel at a vulnerable spot: its money-laundering operations.
Two years ago, Monterrey was something of a neutral zone where all top cartel families made use of the affluent stability and superior schools and medical care. In late January 2010, however, Los Zetas started consolidating their hold on the city after declaring open war on their former parent organization, the Gulf cartel. Last summer, after taking losses on the border at Reynosa and Matamoros, Los Zetas retreated to Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. In Monterrey, the Zetas forces were entrenched for about two weeks when Hurricane Alex roared into the Rio Grande Valley and catastrophic flooding demolished huge sections of the city’s transportation arteries — effectively pulling up the drawbridge behind the Zetas.
Despite the heavy Zetas presence, Monterrey’s longer history as relatively neutral ground means that the casinos robbed May 25 were likely laundering funds for any number of drug trafficking organizations. The Zetas’ control of the Monterrey metropolitan area does not equate to exclusive use of its black market infrastructure, and dozens of large casinos have far more strategic worth as money-laundering operations than they do as extortion targets.
On the Quiet Coahuila Front
With the exception of Torreon and Saltillo, Coahuila state has been fairly quiet in Mexico’s cartel wars. The state is sparsely populated, lacks high-volume interstate highway arteries and remains largely undisputed Los Zetas territory. But several recent events along with an increasing Mexican military presence could point to a coming change in Coahuila’s security conditions.
According to official government news releases and confirmed by STRATFOR sources in the region, there has been a gradual increase in the deployment of military assets to Coahuila and in military activities in 2011. Mexican marines seized just over a ton of cocaine at a ranch northwest of Monclova on May 24. Then on June 1, Mexican army personnel found 38 narcofosas, or hidden graves, in the village of Guerrero, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of Piedras Negras. It is not yet clear how many victims were disposed of at the Guerrero site — the meter-deep pits contained thousands of bits of charred human bones, metal buckles, buttons, and other personal items, and three 55-gallon drums also were found in which human bodies had been cremated. Also on June 1, the Mexican military uncovered a large cache of firearms and munitions on a farm in Nadadores, including 161 weapons and 92,039 rounds of ammunition of various calibers.
By no means are these recent events in Coahuila unique for Mexico, but the increase in military personnel and operations in the sparsely populated state is notable. As that military presence grows, STRATFOR expects significant clashes between Los Zetas and Mexican troops over the next few months. In Mexico, cartels have demonstrated that they will absorb a low level of losses as “the cost of doing business.” However, losses can reach a point where they are no longer acceptable to an organization, and violent countermeasures tend to result. In the quieter areas of Coahuila, particularly in the western and northern parts of the state where the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have not bothered to contest Zetas control, Los Zetas may soon respond to the Mexican government’s inroads with direct and violent action against the military.
(click here to view interactive map)
Unidentified people asphyxiated a man and abandoned his body in a vacant lot near the Francisco Madero avenue in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The victim was tortured and beaten before being killed.
Soldiers arrested four men in Acapulco, Guerrero state, for transporting a dismembered body in the trunk of a car. A fifth suspect managed to escape. The men had been stopped at a military roadblock but attempted to flee and crashed into another car.
Unidentified gunmen in the Dale neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, shot and killed Fernando Oropeza, the former deputy director of a low-risk prison. Oropeza had resigned from his post after a clandestine bar was discovered at the prison.
Two people were killed and one was injured in a firefight between suspected members of drug trafficking gangs in the Region 233 neighborhood of Cancun, Quintana Roo state. The incident reportedly began when six members of a criminal gang arrived at a food vendor’s stall and opened fire on several members of a rival group identified only as “LGD.”
Relatives of journalist Noel Lopez identified his body among those found in a mass grave in Chinameca, Veracruz state. Lopez had last been seen headed to Soteapan on March 8.
Unidentified gunmen in the Jardines de Oriente neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, opened fire on a municipal police vehicle, killing a police officer.
Federal police officers arrested Candido Ramos Perez, the suspected head for Cartel Pacifico Sur of the Cuernavaca “plaza” in Morelos state, during vehicle inspections on the Cuernavaca-Mexico City highway near the southern boundary of the Federal District. A suspected cartel lookout riding in Ramos Perez’s vehicle also was arrested.
Military authorities announced the seizure of 161 firearms and 92,039 rounds of ammunition reportedly belonging to Los Zetas in the municipality of Nadadores, Coahuila state.
Security guards at the Sinaloa state government palace in Culiacan discovered a severed head and hands on the building’s exterior stairs. A preliminary report stated that the victim could be a state police officer.
The Mexican prosecutor general’s office announced the seizure of two large containers holding 80 barrels of monomethylamine, a precursor used to manufacture chemical drugs, at container-ship facilities in Manzanillo, Colima state. Another 80 barrels were seized from a separate ship, bringing the total amount of precursors seized to 34,848 kilograms.
Soldiers arrested Jorge Hank Rhon, a former mayor of Tijuana, Baja California state, during a raid in response to a citizen complaint. Approximately 50 firearms were seized from Rhon’s house.
Federal police announced the arrest of Victor Manuel Perez Izquierdo, the head of Los Zetas in Quintana Roo state, during an operation in Cancun. Ten other members of Los Zetas were arrested along with Perez Izquierdo. Authorities said the operation resulted from the arrests of 10 Zetas in Cancun on May 28.
Military authorities announced the seizure of four armored vehicles and 23 tractor-trailers during raids on vehicle workshops in Reynosa and Camargo, Tamaulipas state.
Unidentified gunmen shot and killed the municipal police commander of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, in the San Angel neighborhood as he headed to his house.
Police in the Mitras Norte neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, discovered the bodies of two men hanging from a pedestrian bridge. Signs bearing undisclosed messages to members of a criminal group were found near the bodies.
Unidentified people abandoned a taxi with a dismembered body outside a police station in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. A message found in the vehicle included a threat to the mayor of Guadalupe, warning that she would be next.
Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Casino Attacks in Monterrey | STRATFOR
Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 03:31:11 PM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #270 on:
June 14, 2011, 03:31:40 PM »
Narco gangster reveals the underworld-Houston Chronicle
Narco gangster reveals the underworld
Cartels have taken cruelty up a notch, says one drug trafficker: kidnapping bus passengers for gladiatorlike fights to the death
By DANE SCHILLER
June 13, 2011, 12:26AM
The elderly are killed. Young women are raped. And able-bodied men are given hammers, machetes and sticks and forced to fight to the death.
In one of the most chilling revelations yet about the violence in Mexico, a drug cartel-connected trafficker claims fellow gangsters have kidnapped highway bus passengers and forced them into gladiatorlike fights to groom fresh assassins.
In an in-person interview arranged by intermediaries on the condition that neither his name nor the location of his Texas visit be published, the trafficker also admitted to helping push cocaine worth $5 million to $10 million a month into the United States.
Law enforcement sources confirm he is a cartel operative but not a fugitive from pending charges.
His words are not those of a federal agent or drawn from a news conference or court papers.
Instead, he offers a voice from inside Mexico's mayhem — a mafioso who mingles among crime bosses and foot soldiers in a protracted war between drug cartels as well as against the government.
If what he says is true, gangsters who make commonplace beheadings, hangings and quartering bodies have managed an even crueler twist to their barbarity.
Members of the Zetas cartel, he says, have pushed passengers into an ancient Rome-like blood sport with a modern Mexico twist that they call, "Who is going to be the next hit man?"
"They cut guys to pieces," he said.
The victims are likely among the hundreds of people found in mass graves in recent months, he said.
In the vicinity of the Mexican city of San Fernando, nearly 200 bodies were unearthed from pits, and authorities said most appeared to have died of blunt force head trauma.
Many are believed to have been dragged off buses traveling through Mexico, but little has been said about the circumstances of their deaths.
The trafficker said those who survive are taken captive and eventually given suicide missions, such as riding into a town controlled by rivals and shooting up the place.
The trafficker said he did not see the clashes, but his fellow criminals have boasted to him of their exploits.
Killing 'for amusement'
Former and current federal law-enforcement officers in the U.S. said that while they knew Mexican bus passengers had been targeted for violence, they'd never before heard of forcing passengers into death matches.
But given the level of violence in Mexico — nearly 40,000 killed in gangland warfare over the past several years — they didn't find it tough to believe.
Borderland Beat, a blog specializing in drug cartels, reported an account in April of bus passengers brutalized by Zeta thugs and taunted into fighting.
"The stuff you would not think possible a few years ago is now commonplace," said Peter Hanna, a retired FBI agent who built his career focusing on Mexico's cartels. "It used to be you'd find dead bodies in drums with acid; now there are beheadings."
Even so, Hanna noted, killing people this way would be time-consuming and inefficient. "It would be more for amusement," he suggested. "I don't see it as intimidation or a successful way to recruit people."
Hidden behind designer sunglasses and a whisper of a beard, the trafficker interviewed by the Houston Chronicle talked at a restaurant's back table. He had silver shopping bags filled at Nordstrom, but seemed anything but a typical wealthy Mexican on a Texas shopping trip.
As a condition of the interview, he asked that he be referred to only as Juan.
He has worked as a drug-trafficker in Northern Mexico for more than a decade, he said, but has grown tired of gangsters running roughshod over each other and innocent civilians.
Juan, who has worked with the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, the two major drug organizations that control territory along the South Texas-Mexico border, said that back home, he sleeps with a semiautomatic rifle by his bed and a handgun under his pillow.
"It is like the Wild West. You can carry a gun and you are Superman," he said of gangsters and killing at will. "Like everybody says, it is out of control now. We have to put a stop to it."
A recent U.S. Senate report contends the Zetas are the most violent of Mexico's cartels. Its members are believed to be responsible for the recent killing of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who was shot on a Mexican highway.
'They brag about it'
Just on Thursday, authorities in Mexico said they arrested members of the Zetas and seized 201 automatic weapons, 600 camouflage uniforms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition.
"I am not defending the Sinaloa or the Gulf Cartel," Juan said of the Zetas' main rivals. "I earn more money with the Zetas, but I know the (crap) they do," he said. "They brag about it."
With the recent killing of the ICE agent and perhaps other attacks, the Zetas also are breaking the golden rule for Mexican traffickers: Don't kill Americans, he said. It brings too much heat.
If the Zetas are crushed, violence will lessen, he said, and Mexico's older cartels will go back to the older way of doing business - dividing up territory and agreeing not to clash with each other.
Death toll has exploded
Mike Vigil, a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was the chief of international operations, said Mexican gangsters used to understand that violence should be used sparingly.
"They love brutality," Vigil said of the Zetas. "They do not care whether you are a police officer, a trafficker or an innocent bystander.
"The drug-trafficking organizations are eventually going to have to deal with the Zetas."
The death toll has exploded since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006 and dispersed military troops throughout the country to fight the cartels. The resulting battles have wrought carnage among local politicians, soldiers, gangsters and civilians alike.
As for the military, Juan said, "They are not helping," noting that the soldiers, like the gangsters, seem to kill whoever they want.
He also discussed some of the finer points of drug trafficking.
Checkpoints no problem
"We don't hide it," he said, telling stories of openly off-loading tractor-trailer rigs of cocaine in parking lots. "These are not lies. Everybody in Mexico knows it."
Even the checkpoints Mexican officials operate along the highways between Central Mexico and the border do not pose much of a problem, Juan said.
The trick, he confided, is to send someone in advance to bribe a commander so a drug load won't be bothered.
"It is better to tell them," he said. "It will cost you more if they catch it."
Tries not to be flashy
As for how he's been able to survive a decade, Juan said the secret is not being greedy or flashy enough to draw attention from other gangsters, who these days show no hesitation to cut down rivals.
He said he can quickly size up in a bar or cafe who is likely to be a trafficker, from the money they spend to the way they talk, sit or eat.
"You can tell in a restaurant or anywhere - that guy is moving dope," Juan said.
Other keys to longevity in the business: knowing your place in the Mexican underworld's hierarchy and not giving the impression you are making more money or interested in taking a chunk out of another gangster's livelihood.
"You keep doing the work you do," Juan said. "Stay at your level."
Reply #271 on:
June 16, 2011, 06:56:32 AM »
New Mexican President, Same Cartel War?
June 16, 2011
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Criminal Cartels
Mexico In Crisis: Lost Borders and the Struggle for Regional Status
By Scott Stewart
We talk to a lot of people in our effort to track Mexico’s criminal cartels and to help our readers understand the dynamics that shape the violence in Mexico. Our contacts include a wide range of people, from Mexican and U.S. government officials, journalists and business owners to taxi drivers and street vendors. Lately, as we’ve been talking with people, we’ve been hearing chatter about the 2012 presidential election in Mexico and how the cartel war will impact that election.
In any democratic election, opposition parties always criticize the policies of the incumbent. This tactic is especially true when the country is involved in a long and costly war. Recall, for example, the 2008 U.S. elections and then-candidate Barack Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration’s policies regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. This strategy is what we are seeing now in Mexico with the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) criticizing the way the administration of Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the National Action Party (PAN), has prosecuted its war against the Mexican cartels.
One of the trial balloons that the opposition parties — especially the PRI — seem to be floating at present is the idea that if they are elected they will reverse Calderon’s policy of going after the cartels with a heavy hand and will instead try to reach some sort of accommodation with them. This policy would involve lifting government pressure against the cartels and thereby (ostensibly) reducing the level of violence that is wracking the country. In effect, this stratagem would be a return of the status quo ante during the PRI administrations that ruled Mexico for decades prior to 2000. One other important thing to remember, however, is that while Mexico’s tough stance against the cartels is most often associated with President Calderon, the policy of using the military against the cartels was established during the administration of President Vicente Fox (also of PAN), who declared the “mother of all battles” against cartel kingpins in January 2005.
While this political rhetoric may be effective in tapping public discontent with the current situation in Mexico — and perhaps obtaining votes for opposition parties — the current environment in Mexico is far different from what it was in the 1990s. This environment will dictate that no matter who wins the 2012 election, the new president will have little choice but to maintain the campaign against the Mexican cartels.
Changes in the Drug Flow
First, it is important to understand that over the past decade there have been changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States. The first of these changes was in the way that cocaine is trafficked from South America to the United Sates and in the specific organizations that are doing that trafficking. While there has always been some cocaine smuggled into the United States through Mexico, like during the “Miami Vice” era from the 1970s to the early 1990s, much of the U.S. supply came into Florida via Caribbean routes. The cocaine was trafficked mainly by the powerful Colombian cartels, and while they worked with Mexican partners such as the Guadalajara cartel to move product through Mexico and into the United States, the Colombians were the dominant partners in the relationship and pocketed the lion’s share of the profits.
As U.S. interdiction efforts curtailed much of the Caribbean drug flow due to improvements in aerial and maritime surveillance, and as the Colombian cartels were dismantled by the Colombian and U.S. governments, Mexico became more important to the flow of cocaine and the Mexican cartels gained more prominence and power. Over the past decade, the tables turned. Now, the Mexican cartels control most of the cocaine flow and the Colombian gangs are the junior partners in the relationship.
The Mexican cartels have expanded their control over cocaine smuggling to the point where they are also involved in the smuggling of South American cocaine to Europe and Australia. This expanded cocaine supply chain means that the Mexican cartels have assumed a greater risk of loss along the extended supply routes, but it also means that they earn a far greater percentage of the profit derived from South American cocaine than they did when the Colombian cartels called the shots.
While Mexican cartels have always been involved in the smuggling of marijuana to the U.S. market, and marijuana sales serve as an important profit pool for them, the increasing popularity of other drugs in the United States in recent years, such as black-tar heroin and methamphetamine, has also helped bring big money (and power) to the Mexican cartels. These drugs have proved to be quite lucrative for the Mexican cartels because the cartels own the entire production process. This is not the case with cocaine, which the cartels have to purchase from South American suppliers.
These changes in the flow of narcotics into the United States mean that the Mexican narcotics-smuggling corridors into the United States are now more lucrative than ever for the Mexican cartels, and the increasing value of these corridors has heightened the competition — and the violence — to control them. The fighting has become quite bloody and, in many cases, quite personal, involving blood vendettas that will not be easily buried.
The violence occurring in Mexico today also has quite a different dynamic from the violence that occurred in Colombia in the late 1980s. In Colombia at that time, Pablo Escobar declared war on the government, and his team of sicarios conducted terrorist attacks like destroying the Department of Administrative Security headquarters with a huge truck bomb and bombing a civilian airliner in an attempt to kill a presidential candidate, among other operations. Escobar thought his attacks could intimidate the Colombian government into the kind of accommodation being in discussed in Mexico today, but his calculation was wrong and the attacks served only to steel public opinion and government resolve against him.
Most of the violence in Mexico today is cartel-on-cartel, and the cartels have not chosen to explicitly target civilians or the government. Even the violence we do see directed against Mexican police officers or government figures is usually not due to their positions but to the perception that they are on the payroll of a competing cartel. There are certainly exceptions to this, but cartel attacks against government figures are usually attempts to undercut the support network of a competing cartel and not acts of retribution against the government. Cartel groups like Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) have even produced and distributed video statements in which they say they don’t want to fight the federal government and the military, just corrupt officers aligned with their enemies.
This dynamic means that, even if the Mexican military and federal police were to ease up on their operations against drug-smuggling activities, the war among the cartels (and factions of cartels) would still continue.
In addition to the raging cartel-on-cartel violence, any future effort to reach an accommodation with the cartels will also be hampered by the way the cartel landscape has changed over the past few years. Consider this: Three and a half years ago, the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) was a part of the Sinaloa Federation. Following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008, Alfredo’s brothers blamed Sinaloa chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, declared war on El Chapo and split from the Sinaloa Federation to form their own organization. Following the December 2009 death of Alfredo’s brother, Arturo Beltran Leyva, the organization further split into two factions: One was called the Cartel Pacifico del Sur, which was led by the remaining Beltran Leyva brother, Hector, and the other, which retained the BLO name, remained loyal to Alfredo’s chief of security, Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. Following the August 2010 arrest of La Barbie, his faction of the BLO split into two pieces, one joining with some local criminals in Acapulco to form the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA). So not only did the BLO leave the Sinaloa Federation, it also split twice to form three new cartels.
There are two main cartel groups, one centered on the Sinaloa Federation and the other on Los Zetas, but these groups are loose alliances rather than hierarchical organizations, and there are still many smaller independent players, such as CIDA, La Resistencia and the CJNG. This means that a government attempt to broker some sort of universal understanding with the cartels in order to decrease the violence would be far more challenging than it would have been a decade ago.
Even if the government could gather all these parties together and convince them to agree to cease hostilities, the question for all parties would be: How reliable are all the promises being made? The various cartels frequently make alliances and agreements, only to break them, and close allies can quickly become the bitterest enemies — like the Gulf cartel and its former enforcer wing, Los Zetas.
We have heard assertions over the last several years that the Calderon administration favors the Sinaloa Federation and that the president’s real plan to quell the violence in Mexico is to allow or even assist the Sinaloa Federation to become the dominant cartel in Mexico. According to this narrative, the Sinaloa Federation could impose peace through superior firepower and provide the Mexican government a single point of contact instead of the various heads of the cartel hydra. One problem with implementing such a concept is that some of the most vicious violence Mexico has seen in recent years has followed an internal split involving the Sinaloa Federation, such as the BLO/Sinaloa war.
From DTO to TCO
Another problem is the change that has occurred in the nature of the crimes the cartels commit. The Mexican cartels are no longer just drug cartels, and they no longer just sell narcotics to the U.S. market. This reality is even reflected in the bureaucratic acronyms that the U.S. government uses to refer to the cartels. Up until a few months ago, it was common to hear U.S. government officials refer to the Mexican cartels using the acronym “DTOs,” or drug trafficking organizations. Today, that acronym is rarely, if ever, heard. It has been replaced by “TCO,” which stands for transnational criminal organization. This acronym recognizes that the Mexican cartels engage in many criminal enterprises, not just narcotics smuggling.
As the cartels have experienced difficulty moving large loads of narcotics into the United States due to law enforcement pressure, and the loss of smuggling corridors to rival gangs, they have sought to generate revenue by diversifying their lines of business. Mexican cartels have become involved in kidnapping, extortion, cargo theft, oil theft and diversion, arms smuggling, human smuggling, carjacking, prostitution and music and video piracy. These additional lines of business are lucrative, and there is little likelihood that the cartels would abandon them even if smuggling narcotics became easier.
As an aside, this diversification is also a factor that must be considered in discussing the legalization of narcotics and the impact that would have on the Mexican cartels. Narcotics smuggling is the most substantial revenue stream for the cartels, but is not their only line of business. If the cartels were to lose the stream of revenue from narcotics sales, they would still be heavily armed groups of killers who would be forced to rely more on their other lines of business. Many of these other crimes, like extortion and kidnapping, by their very nature focus more direct violence against innocent victims than drug trafficking does.
Another way the cartels have sought to generate revenue through alternative means is to increase drug sales inside Mexico. While drugs sell for less on the street in Mexico than they do in the United States, they require less overhead, since they don’t have to cross the U.S. border. At the same time, the street gangs that are distributing these drugs into the local Mexican market have also become closely allied with the cartels and have served to swell the ranks of the cartel enforcer groups. For example, Mara Salvatrucha has come to work closely with Los Zetas, and Los Aztecas have essentially become a wing of the Juarez cartel.
There has been a view among some in Mexico that the flow of narcotics through Mexico is something that might be harmful for the United States but doesn’t really harm Mexico. Indeed, as the argument goes, the money the drug trade generates for the Mexican economy is quite beneficial. The increase in narcotics sales in Mexico belies this, and in many places, such as the greater Mexico City region, much of the violence we’ve seen involves fighting over turf for local drug sales and not necessarily fighting among the larger cartel groups (although, in some areas, there are instances of the larger cartel groups asserting their dominance over these smaller local-level groups).
As the Mexican election approaches, the idea of accommodating the cartels may continue to be presented as a logical alternative to the present policies, and it might be used to gain political capital, but anyone who carefully examines the situation on the ground will see that the concept is totally untenable. In fact, the conditions on the ground leave the Mexican president with very little choice. This means that in the same way President Obama was forced by ground realities to follow many of the Bush administration policies he criticized as a candidate, the next Mexican president will have little choice but to follow the policies of the Calderon administration in continuing the fight against the cartels.
Reply #272 on:
June 22, 2011, 09:06:15 PM »
Vice President of Tactical Intelligence Scott Stewart looks at the implications of the arrest of drug cartel leader Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas or “El Chango.”
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
In today’s Dispatch we’re going to be looking at the arrests yesterday in Aguascalientes State, of Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, “El Chango” (the monkey), the leader of one of the factions of the La Familia Michoacana cartel.
To understand what the arrest of El Chango means, we have to really go back and look at the flow, or really the context, of what has been happening with the Mexican cartels over the last year. A year ago this time, the La Familia or, as we call them, “LFM,” (La Familia Michoacana), the LFM cartel was an up-and-coming cartel, it was rising in power and prominence, and it had banded together with two other powerful cartel groups, the Sinaloa Federation and the Gulf Cartel, to assist them in their battle against the Zetas and their allies.
Now one of the things that we’ve seen happen over the years with the Mexican cartels is that when any one figure — especially in the Sinaloa Federation — gets too powerful, they have a tendency to run into accidents, and that’s what we saw happen last July. There was a gentleman by the name of Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, “El Nacho.” Ignacio Coronel had an issue with the authorities, was taken out, and this created a vacuum in Jalisco and Guadalajara. Now at this time what happened is we had the LFM cartel saw that vacuum of power that was started by the removal of Ignacio Coronel, and they decided to move in and try to assume control of Jalisco and Guadalajara. This then initiated a war between the Sinaloa Federation and the LFM for control of this very lucrative place. As LFM began fighting with Sinaloa, we saw Sinaloa Federation becoming really dominant and getting the upper hand in that fight, and that struggle culminated in the death, late last year, of the leader of the LFM, a guy by the name of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, “El Mas Loco,” (the craziest one).
Following the death of El Mas Loco, what we saw happen was that it devolved into two different organizations that were basically coalescing around different powerful leaders — lieutenants of El Mas Loco. The first of these lieutenants was Jose Mendez Vargas, “El Chango.” The second one was Servando Gomez, “La Tuta,” (the teacher). La Tuta’s faction began using the name the Knights Templar. The other organization — the faction that formed around El Chango — kept using the name La Familia. So over the last few months, as these organizations have formed up, we’ve seen them locked in a very bloody battle for control of Michoacan. So over the next weeks and months we’re going to be watching for indications of which way this is going to be going: whether or not this LFM faction will be able to stay united, whether they’ll be able to be able to fend off the offensive of the Knights Templar, and whether or not they could become more closely allied with Los Zetas.
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Reply #273 on:
June 28, 2011, 11:40:08 AM »
El Chango’s Arrest
The leader of a faction of La Familia Michoacana (LFM) — the faction that continues to use the LFM name — was arrested June 21 without incident in Aguascalientes state in central Mexico. At the time of his arrest, Jose de Jesus “El Chango” Mendez Vargas and his branch of the LFM were under heavy pressure from the other LFM faction, known as the Knights Templar (KT) and led by Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez, as well as from Mexican authorities and the Sinaloa Federation.
Mendez Vargas’ arrest clearly is a short-term blow to his faction of LFM, but it is too early to tell if it will result in the end of the group. More important, it is unclear what effect it will have on the battle for control of the drug flow through Michoacan state.
Mendez Vargas’ faction of the LFM is the weaker of the two currently fighting for control of the LFM territory and business. In fact, STRATFOR sources and media reports indicate that Mendez Vargas’ faction was losing the battle against the Knights Templar. Mendez Vargas’ forces had experienced some significant losses in the weeks prior to his arrest, and banners posted by the Knights Templar alleged that Mendez Vargas was so desperate that he had even reached out to his former enemies in Los Zetas for assistance.
Presently, it appears that the Knights Templar has placed itself in a position to assume control of the LFM empire. The Knights Templar is a local organization with local support, and many of its members have a long history of close ties to the community. However, after being weakened by the fight with Mendez Vargas’ faction, it is not altogether clear if the Knights Templar will have the strength to fend off a renewed push by its enemies in the Sinaloa Federation. It is also possible that the remnants of Mendez Vargas’ organization will become even more closely aligned with Los Zetas, which will allow the Zetas to expand their presence in Michoacan by working through locals. All this means that the capture of Mendez Vargas may have removed one cartel leader, but it will likely do little to quell the violence in the state.
Troops in Tamaulipas
Around 2,800 Mexican soldiers deployed during the week of June 19 to 22 cities in Tamaulipas state along the U.S.-Mexico border. The objective of the deployment is to put the military in charge of security operations in the state while stamping out corruption in local police forces. After relieving all officers of duty, the military will conduct interviews and drug tests on new officers to determine who will receive further training and continue in law enforcement. Many of the officers who are not rehired likely will begin working for the cartels.
The military has taken control in Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and San Fernando, border towns that saw violence increase just last week, along with the state capital of Victoria. An audacious raid in Matamoros by Los Zetas on June 17 looked to be an indication that the violence was only going to get worse in Tamaulipas. In this context it is not surprising that the Tamaulipas state government felt the need to ask the federal government for help.
The government position is that the presence of the military in Tamaulipas will lead to a decrease in violence. However, statistics on murders in Juarez, Chihuahua state, where the military took control in early March 2009, are evidence that military deployments do not necessarily correlate with a reduction in violence. In 2008, prior to the deployment, there were 1,600 murders in Juarez attributed to organized crime, according to Spanish newspaper Diario Universal. In 2009, the number went up to 2,650. The attorney general’s office in the state’s northern zone reported 3,200 murders in 2010, and as of June 15 there were already 1,500 murders on record for 2011.
The military cannot be everywhere at once, and it would take far more than 2,800 soldiers to secure the entire state of Tamaulipas. Cartels know the military presence will not last forever, so while there occasionally can be direct conflicts, more often the cartels will hunker down and wait for the military to leave or simply strike where the military has no presence.
Also, the Mexican military cannot risk being in a location too long because it faces the same corruptive forces that continually destroy the police departments. The longer the military comes in contact with those forces, the harder it is to guarantee soldiers are not being corrupted. The value of the military is that it has long been kept separate from the drug war and therefore has not been the focus of the cartels’ corruption efforts. This is already changing, and authorities must be careful with using the military to fight the war.
Another issue is that populations tend to tire of the presence of soldiers, who lack the police skills and training necessary to manage a civilian population. An extended deployment increases the chances of an incident that could upset the locals, and at the very least it is a hindrance to civilians’ daily lives.
The arrival of the military in Tamaulipas state is not a guarantee of security and tranquility. Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel are currently locked in a brutal battle for control of the northeast. The way they fight their battle may be altered a bit due to the presence of the military, but we believe that based on the experience of past military deployments in places such as Juarez, the violence between the two groups will continue despite the deployment.
(click here to view interactive map)
A journalist, his wife and son were found murdered in their house in Veracruz, Veracruz state. The journalist, the second murdered in the state this month, wrote about crime and politics for the newspaper Notiver.
Five bodies were found throughout Michoacan state with a narcomanta on each claiming responsibility on behalf of the Knights Templar.
The police chief in Morelia, Michoacan state, was detained for possession of drugs and weapons for military use only.
More than three tons of methamphetamine and precursor chemicals were found in an industrial area of El Marques, Queretaro state.
A cache of weapons and military tactical gear, including camouflage uniforms, were found in Coneto de Comonfort, Durango state.
The burned bodies of three traffic cops were found on the street in Guadalupe, Chihuahua state.
Eight suspected members of the Knights Templar were detained in Piedras de Lumbre, Michoacan state. Among the detained were the group’s leaders in Tuxpan and Zitacuaro, Michoacan state.
A man’s body was found in Jesus Maria, Aguascalientes state, with a narcomanta alluding to the detention of Mendez Vargas, the LFM head who was detained by police the previous day.
A group of marines was ambushed by unknown gunmen in Panuco, Zacatecas state, leaving one marine dead.
The police chief in Praxedis G. Guerrero, Chihuahua state, and her family were attacked and held at knifepoint during a robbery in the state of Chihuahua.
The municipal police chief of Ciudad Isla, Veracruz state, Ricardo Reyes Alvarez, was attacked by gunmen. The police chief was killed and three others were injured in the attack.
Three individuals working for the criminal organization led by Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal were detained in Tlaltizapan, Morelos state. The suspects were arrested with two kilograms (more than four pounds) of marijuana, one kilogram of cocaine and firearms.
A group of suspected extortionists opened fire on an escort vehicle in the convoy of Julian Leyzaola Perez, the municipal security chief in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. One attacker was injured in the ensuing firefight.
Seven individuals suspected of belonging to a gang of kidnappers operating in Pachuca and Mineral de la Reforma were detained in Hidalgo state. The individuals are responsible for at least two kidnappings and one murder.
Seventy-eight Central American migrants were detained at a railway station in Irolo, Hidalgo state. Among the migrants were Hondurans, Salvadoreans, and Guatemalans.
Ninety-one police officers were arrested in Tlaxcala, Tlaxcala state, on charges of robbery and collusion among public officials.
Four Salvadorans were arrested in San Salvador, El Salvador, in connection to the August 2010 massacre in San Fernando, Tamaulipas state, that left 72 immigrants dead. The Salvadorans were responsible for transferring undocumented migrants to Mexico.
Approximately 60 undocumented migrants were kidnapped by armed men in Veracruz. The migrants were on a freight train headed from Oaxaca to Veracruz when the train was stopped by three vehicles parked in its path.
Eleven graves containing human remains were found in Nuevo Leon by the Mexican army.
The Mexican government announced the deployment of around 2,800 Mexican troops to Tamaulipas to take charge of public safety and counter corruption within the police force.
Mexican Federal Police captured alleged Los Zetas leader Albert Gonzalez Pena, aka “El Tigre,” in Xalapa, Veracruz state. He was responsible for moving drugs farther into northern and central Mexico and was also linked to various other criminal activities in Veracruz state.
Nine women from the Institutional Revolutionary Party were assaulted and received death threats allegedly due to political affiliations in Pachuca, Hidalgo state. The attackers are allegedly working for the campaign of a rival candidate.
Seven bodies were found in the municipalities of Ixtapaluca and Valle de Chalco, Mexico state. A message from LFM was left with them.
Reply #274 on:
July 07, 2011, 04:58:05 PM »
Some know, I've been spending most of my time in Mexico. Last weekend, there were several people killed. So much so that my girlfriend didn't want to risk going to Aguas Calientes for a weekend due to the danger on the roads.
Here is an interesting link with lots of news.
You have to speak Spanish to understand it, but many of you do. Actually....just looked and they have a translate button for those of you that don't speak Spanish. Enjoy.
Reply #275 on:
July 08, 2011, 06:45:36 PM »
Como decia Porfirio Diaz hace un poco mas de cien anos atras "Pobre Mexico, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca a los Estados Unidos." Que tristeza ver tanto muerte tan feo.
Reply #276 on:
July 10, 2011, 05:26:46 PM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on July 08, 2011, 06:45:36 PM
Como decia Porfirio Diaz hace un poco mas de cien anos atras "Pobre Mexico, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca a los Estados Unidos." Que tristeza ver tanto muerte tan feo.
Exacto.... Tu conosces la gente Mexicana bien Guro y muchos de ellos eran gente muy, muy buena.... tan triste....exactamente asi.
Reply #277 on:
July 10, 2011, 10:53:17 PM »
Mexico tiene muchos lugares muy hermosos. Esta Rico en petroleos y de muchas cosas mas. Desafortunada mente estamos pasando muchas cosas malas Que a mi me hace en no ir para Mexico. LLO viivo a trieinta
minutos de la frontera a San Luis Sonora. Yo lla ni intento en ir para alla, ni riesgo a mi familia en ir y llevarlos. Como dije el terror Que esta pasando en Mexico esta causando mucho miedo. Ojala algun dia eso se acave.
Reply #278 on:
July 11, 2011, 01:19:29 PM »
Quote from: jcordova on July 10, 2011, 10:53:17 PM
Mexico tiene muchos lugares muy hermosos. Esta Rico en petroleos y de muchas cosas mas. Desafortunada mente estamos pasando muchas cosas malas Que a mi me hace en no ir para Mexico. LLO viivo a trieinta
minutos de la frontera a San Luis Sonora. Yo lla ni intento en ir para alla, ni riesgo a mi familia en ir y llevarlos. Como dije el terror Que esta pasando en Mexico esta causando mucho miedo. Ojala algun dia eso se acave.
Me parece tambien.... solo que yo no tengo otra opcion a este momento.
Mexico.... nuestra Mexico tienen bastante lugares bonitas como Chiapas, Michocan, Xilitla y Real de 14.... y los pin__e Zetas se aflictan los todos... Yo odio ellos con mas que palabras.
Muchos de los Americanos no saben de Mexico, la gente, las cosa buenas, su cultura....solo de la noticias que estan malo.
Me voy a regresar manana a las 1000 horas.
Suerte JC... Cuidate....no se pero creo que su trabajo tambien muy peligroso, y necitamos cada uno que tienen la fuerza de combatir los malos. Me voy a rezar para ti.
Haste la junta companero.
Reply #279 on:
July 11, 2011, 01:25:41 PM »
Reply #280 on:
July 20, 2011, 12:01:31 AM »
Knights Templar-Orchestrated March in Michoacan
In Apatzingan, Michoacan state, a large protest materialized July 13 in which the drug-trafficking organization Los Caballeros Templarios (aka the Knights Templar or KT) figured prominently. Demonstrators carried signs supporting the cartel and protesting the presence of federal security forces in Michoacan. This was not the first time that a cartel has orchestrated a “popular protest” in Mexico. Los Zetas, the Sinaloa Federation and the Juarez cartel are known to have contrived public demonstrations to enhance their public image. What makes the KT-engineered protest in Apatzingan interesting is that the cartel leadership seemed so adamant about the turnout and timing.
In three recorded telephone conversations believed to have been released to the media a day after the march, a mid-level KT leader insisted that all residents and business owners in Apatzingan participate and warned that those who did not would be “fined.” The KT organizers arranged for food and drink to be served to the marchers and ensured that the Mexican press would cover the event. We find the recorded conversations interesting not so much for their content — which was revealing — but because of their sourcing. Who recorded them and put the tapes in the hands of the Mexican media outlet Milenio Television? What was the purpose?
However the recordings were obtained and whatever their intent, they do suggest two possible motives for the KT to organize the July 13 protest. First, there is a good possibility that the prearranged presence of the Mexican press made the march the kick-off event of a propaganda campaign in Michoacan to pressure the federal forces to leave. Another possible motive is misdirection. The federal forces have been targeting the Knights Templar as well as La Familia Michoacana, and the increased federal presence may be hampering KT smuggling activities; the group is reportedly having difficulties receiving shipments of methamphetamine precursors and moving the finished product north to the border to generate revenue.
In one of the recorded discussions, an apparent boss ordered an underling to mobilize all of the people in Apatzingan and march immediately. When the underling said arrangements had already been made for the protest to begin, the boss relented. Timing was obviously an issue, so the question arises: Why stage the protest now? It could be that the KT needed to create a diversion — make a lot of noise, protest the federal presence, require that every resident participate, ensure that the country’s national press would be present with cameras.
We may not end up developing all the facts, but a well-publicized public protest could be an effective way to ensure that the bulk of the federal forces in the state are focused on — or removed from — one particular area of Michoacan.
Prison Break in Nuevo Laredo
On July 15, 59 prisoners believed to be members of Los Zetas escaped from the federal prison in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. Immediately before their escape, a large fight broke out that resulted in the deaths of seven inmates, all believed to be members of the Gulf cartel. Following the escape, it was determined that the prison’s warden was missing.
This was not the first time that a large group of inmates had broken out of the federal prison in Nuevo Laredo; the last major escape occurred in December 2010 and involved 151 escapees, all believed linked to Los Zetas. Nor is this particular prison an anomaly: A year ago in Gomez Palacio, Durango state, Zeta assassins left the prison in street clothes, driving official prison vehicles and armed with prison guards’ weapons. After killing 17 people attending a birthday party, the gunmen returned to the prison, gave the weapons back to the guards and re-entered their cells. It was later determined that they had conducted such operations from the prison on two previous occasions in 2010.
Mexican authorities have tried rotating prison staff and spending more money on training, but so far it has had little long-term effect. Many incarcerated cartel operatives, especially those who have leadership positions, seem to be able to get out of prison almost any time they wish. Until these problems are corrected, the federal effort in the cartel war can only be a qualified success.
Ambush in Sinaloa
On July 16, a convoy carrying members of Grupo Elite, a special operations unit of the Sinaloa state police, was ambushed on a highway near Guasave, Sinaloa state, in an area that has been hotly contested by cartels this year. The personnel were travelling in officially marked but unarmored trucks when they were attacked, and 10 members of the unit as well as one civilian were killed.
According to media reports, the convoy had just finished providing security for the chief of the Ministry of Public Security in Sinaloa state, Francisco Cordova Celaya, at an appearance in Los Mochis. (Cordova Celaya was not with the convoy, having departed Los Mochis by helicopter.) Though there is not yet any evidence to indicate this, the intent of the ambush may have been to kill Cordova Celaya.
Most notable about the ambush are the topographic features of the site. In other cartel ambushes seen over the past two years, geography has offered obvious tactical advantages for the ambush team such as high ground, roadblock-created kill zones, existing fighting positions, protective cover and limited visibility. In this case, the highway is in flat, level terrain, with two lanes in each direction separated by a “k-rail,” a low concrete partition common to many highways around the world. Other than the k-rail, which is high enough to prevent vehicles from crossing it and heading in the opposition direction, photographs and video of the scene show no other cover from which to conduct an effective ambush.
How, then, were cartel gunmen able to surprise a group of highly trained, well-armed law enforcement personnel traveling in multiple trucks and having excellent visibility and fields of fire? If a stationary roadblock were used, the Grupo Elite officers would have seen it well in advance and been able to take adequate measures to avoid or deal with the attackers. Similarly, a rolling roadblock, in which attacking vehicles box in the target vehicle while moving and force it to slow down, stop or crash, would have been easy to detect, and with multiple vehicles in the convoy such a tactic would have been difficult to pull off.
We suspect that a ruse was used to get the convoy to slow or stop voluntarily, such as a staged accident scene. Whatever it was that stopped the police convoy, it appears that security protocols were not followed and situational awareness was minimal at best. Even for well-trained security forces travelling in numbers, complacency can kill.
(click here to view interactive map)
Thirteen individuals were charged in a July 8 shooting at a bar in Valle de Chalco, Mexico state, that left 11 people dead. The shooting was a result of fighting between the Knights Templar and La Familia Michoacana.
Five members of Los Zetas were arrested in Ixcan, Peten, Guatemala, including a Mexican national. The arrests were the result of an ongoing investigation of a massacre that killed 27 people in Peten.
A lieutenant of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Luis Fernando Bertolucci Castillo, was arrested in the Dominican Republic. During the lieutenant’s interrogation he revealed the Sinaloa Cartel’s attempt to use the Dominican Republic as a base for drug-smuggling operations.
Two police officers were killed by residents of San Crisobalito in the municipality of San Andres, Chiapas. The police were following a man who was accused of stealing a vehicle. When the police entered San Cristobalito they were detained by residents then thrown into a ravine that was more than 200 meters deep.
A grenade thrown from a moving vehicle exploded at an Institutional Revolutionary Party office in Saltillo, Coahuila.
The public security director in Tuzantla, Michoacan state, was reported missing. His vehicle was found empty in Benito Juarez.
Five police officers were arrested in Mexico state for the June 26 execution of eight individuals in Valle de Chalco, Mexico state.
Five minors were killed after playing a soccer game in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. The bodies of the youth were found inside a truck.
Javier Beltran Arco, an alleged leader of Knights Templar also known as “El Chivo,” was arrested in Apatzigan, Michoacan.
A protest march organized by the Knight Templar was held in Apatzigan, Michoacan. A man identified as “Pantera” organized the march in response to federal troop deployments in the area.
Five vehicles that were replicas of typical police vehicles in the area were seized in San Luis Potosí.
Mexican authorities discovered a 300-acre marijuana plantation in Baja California, thought to be the largest cultivated marijuana operation ever found in Mexico.
Roadblocks and firefights involving the Mexican navy were reported in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
A firefight between armed groups in Torreon, Coahuila, left four people dead and two injured.
Fifty-nine prisoners, many of whom were thought to be Los Zetas, escaped from a federal prison in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Seven inmates thought to be members of the Gulf cartel were killed before the escape.
A convoy made up of members of the state police unit Grupo Elite was ambushed while traveling along a highway in Guasave, Sinaloa. At least 10 police officers were killed.
Mexican soldiers discovered 114 kilograms of cocaine in a truck in Sonora.
A firefight between two groups in south Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, lasted for 45 minutes and included the use of high-powered rifles and grenades.
The Mexican army captured a Los Zetas leader, Cristobal “El Golon” Flores Lopez, in Anahuac, Nuevo Leon. El Golon is thought to have trafficked drugs from northern Mexico into the United States for the last eight years.
Read more: Mexico Security Memo: A Diversionary Protest by the Knights Templar? | STRATFOR
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July 20, 2011, 12:07:31 AM »
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Mexican Drug War 2011 Update
April 21, 2011 | 1214 GMT
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STRATFORRelated Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Editor’s Note: Since the publication of STRATFOR’s 2010 annual Mexican cartel report, the fluid nature of the drug war in Mexico has prompted us to take an in-depth look at the situation more frequently. This is the first product of those interim assessments, which we will now make as needed, in addition to our annual year-end analyses and our weekly security memos.
In the first three months of 2011, overall violence across Mexico continued to rise. The drug cartels are fighting for control of lucrative ports of entry along the U.S. border and strategic choke points in the interior of Mexico — urban crossroads on both major and minor smuggling routes. These crossroads include cities like Ciudad Victoria, San Luis Potosi, Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Durango, Torreon, Saltillo and Chihuahua. Some of them are important because they straddle vital north-south routes running along the coastlines. Others have strategic value because they sit on major highways that serve as direct routes through the interior of the country, from various points on the Pacific coast to ports of entry on the Texas border. And along that border, the control of plazas that have border crossings is being hotly contested from Juarez to Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico.
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The Gulf cartel, still battling its former enforcer arm Los Zetas, is holding on to Matamoros, a vital Gulf asset. With the Sinaloa Federation’s help, the Gulf cartel has repelled Zeta offensives both at Matamoros and Reynosa but has not displayed the force necessary to push Los Zetas out of Monterrey. Los Zetas, suffering the loss of 11 mid- to upper-level leaders and plaza bosses, continue to fight their primary war with the Gulf cartel while training and assisting allied cartels in Juarez, Tijuana and Acapulco.
The Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) cartel is managing to keep Sinaloa forces at bay in Juarez but has lost its outlying territories in Chihuahua state as well as its primary drug supply line from Chihuahua City. Sinaloa’s effective blockade of Juarez has begun to choke off VCF’s supply and revenue flow. VCF is not yet out of the game, but it is limping noticeably. Another cartel on the decline — a shadow of its former self — is the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO, aka the Tijuana cartel). AFO has very little territory left that it holds alone and is now subservient to the Sinaloa Federation, to which it pays for the right to access the California ports of entry.
The Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS) and the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA), both of which comprise splinter factions of the former Beltran Leyva Organization, are battling each other for control of Acapulco’s seaport. CPS is the more successful of the two, with its territorial control stretching north along the Gulf of California coast into Sonora state, though smuggling corridors up the coastline are regularly disputed by the Sinaloa Federation.
After what seemed to be the sudden death of La Familia Michoacana (LFM) in January, it is now apparent that a portion of LFM of undetermined size has rebranded itself as the Knights Templar, which emerged on the scene in mid-March. Other members of LFM continue to operate under that name. This development is very new and it is not clear yet who the Knights Templar leaders are, how many are in the new group, what kind of relationship they have with their former brethren in LFM and what, if any, relationship either group has with the Sinaloa Federation. A great deal likely depends on the willingness of Sinaloa and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera to allow LFM or the Knights Templar to re-establish their former infrastructure and smuggling routes.
As for the Sinaloa Federation, it is now the regional hegemon in the western half of Mexico and is actively expanding its territory. Currently there are Sinaloa forces helping the Gulf cartel battle Los Zetas in the northeast, slowly strangling the VCF in Juarez, running the show in Tijuana and fighting for supremacy in Acapulco. Wherever there is a conflict in Mexico between or among a cartel’s current or former factions, you will find Sinaloa’s helpful hand. And in every case Sinaloa is gaining territory. While internal strife and external pressure from the Mexican military and federal law enforcement agencies have weakened all of the other cartels, the Sinaloa Federation has proved impervious to the turmoil — and it is growing.
In the next three to six months, STRATFOR expects Sinaloa to lead the pack in the fights for Acapulco and Durango. However, Sinaloa has so much going on around Mexico that Guzman may redeploy some of his fighters — from regions already solidified under his control, such as Tijuana — to Durango and Acapulco to facilitate quicker, more decisive victories there. STRATFOR anticipates an even greater level of violence in Juarez as Sinaloa’s chokehold tightens, and we expect to see a major push by Los Zetas to recover control of Reynosa, where the Gulf cartel will lose its hold if Sinaloa pulls fighters from there to fight elsewhere. Los Zetas are highly likely to hold onto Monterrey in the near term, absent a major government push or a massive effort by Gulf and Sinaloa, which is unlikely at this point but cannot be ruled out.
The CIDA may fade out completely in the next three to six months, with its remaining territory and assets likely split between the CPS, aided by Los Zetas, and Sinaloa. As for the Knights Templar, STRATFOR expects to see it pick up where LFM left off in December, though re-establishment of its methamphetamine production probably will be gradual.
Current Status of the Mexican Cartels
Los Zetas have had setbacks over the last three months — reduced territory, captured or killed regional leaders, internal control issues — but the organization appears to be able to absorb such losses. Los Zetas have maintained control of their strongholds in Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo as well as the key Gulf of Mexico port of Veracruz, despite the best efforts of the Gulf cartel and elements of the New Federation. STRATFOR sources indicate that the Gulf cartel maintains constant surveillance of all roads leading to Matamoros, making a Zeta move in that direction difficult at best and at this point unlikely. It is more likely that Los Zetas will make a concerted effort to retake Reynosa in the coming months.
Since the beginning of 2011, actions by the Mexican military and federal police have resulted in the loss of at least 11 mid- to upper-level Los Zetas leaders, including Flavio “El Amarillo” Mendez Santiago, one of the original founding members, captured by federal police in Oaxaca on Jan. 18. One of seven Zeta gunmen killed Jan. 25 by Mexican soldiers during a running gunbattle through the Monterrey metropolitan area was identified only as “Comandante Lino,” who is believed to have been the top Zeta leader in Nuevo Leon state.
STRATFOR has heard rumors of a split between Los Zetas leader Heriberto “El Lazca” Lazcano Lazcano and No. 2 leader Miguel “Z-40” Trevino Morales. However, we have not been able to confirm this or determine if the attrition of secondary leaders was affected — or caused — by such a division.
One of the most significant events involving Los Zetas since December 2010 was the Feb. 15 attack against two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The motivation for the attack remains unclear, but viewed against documented Zeta operational behaviors and priorities, it clearly was not consistent with the top leadership’s doctrine and past practices. There has been much speculation regarding the attackers’ motives, but a planned and sanctioned attack against U.S. officials would be certain to bring the full weight of the U.S. government onto the perpetrators, and that is not something the top Zeta leadership would want to invite. This suggests the possibility that lower-level regional leaders either lost control of their operational cells or actually condoned and/or ordered the attack.
Regarding the possibility of neglected control, the erosion of Zeta forces through battle, targeted assassination and capture has been high over the past year. There have been numerous indications that recent Zeta recruits have tended to be younger and less experienced than those who joined prior to 2010. The attrition in leadership has also resulted in leaders who are themselves younger and less experienced. Such a mix may be creating conditions in which young men equipped with vehicles and weapons but with little discipline or oversight are left to their own devices.
A number of mid-level Zeta leaders came from military and law enforcement backgrounds and had received some level of institutional training and education. But many of them likely do not grasp the gravity — or even know about — an incident 26 years ago, when the Guadalajara cartel kidnapped, tortured and killed Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. In response, the U.S. government orchestrated the annihilation of the Guadalajara cartel in a massive offensive called Operation Leyenda. It is possible that certain midlevel Zetas, lacking knowledge or appreciation of that operation, may not be aware of the potential repercussions of an attack on known U.S. government personnel.
If that is the case, there may be a few sporadic attacks on U.S. government agents in the coming months. But unless such events go unanswered by U.S. agencies, thereby lending the cartels a sense of impunity, it is doubtful that more than a handful of such attacks will occur.
To some extent, out-of-control gunmen within Los Zetas are a self-solving problem. Rash actions by low-level Zetas can and do trigger the occasional harsh “house cleaning,” in which the transgressors, on the orders of top-level leaders, are either killed or betrayed to authorities to send a message to the rest of the organization. Either way, the internal problem weakens the cartel and reduces both its numbers and its organizational efficacy, and it is unlikely that the internal punishment of wayward Zetas protects the organization as a whole from the consequences of their actions.
Los Zetas’ current organizational dynamics suggest that we are likely to see more unsanctioned operations such as the ICE and Falcon Lake shootings. This obviously has implications for U.S. law enforcement personnel and innocent bystanders. Such operations also will continue to induce internal culling of the elements responsible for such attacks. In all likelihood, this internal pressure, when combined with external pressures brought against Los Zetas by their cartel rivals, the Mexican government and American authorities, will continue to take a heavy toll on the cartel. And as losses are replaced with younger and less-experienced operatives, ongoing violence and destabilization will likely erode Los Zetas’ power.
Since late January, the Gulf cartel has been solidifying its hold on Matamoros. As both a northbound smuggling route into the United States and an inbound supply port for receiving waterborne shipments, Matamoros is vital to the Gulf cartel’s survival. The organization is not down for the count, but it continues to be weakened and dependent on its allies in the Sinaloa Federation to protect it from Los Zetas. With Los Zetas in control of the port of Veracruz, Matamoros serves as the cartel’s primary resupply point for Colombian cocaine, Central American arms shipments and other logistical operations. Certainly, Gulf cartel logistics are not constricted solely to that corner of Mexico, but seaport access enables large-volume resupply that minimizes the losses inherent in land routes through hostile areas.
Though Gulf cartel control encompasses Matamoros and Reynosa, both smuggling plazas with vital ports of entry on the border, the ownership of that territory has been contested. On Jan. 29, Los Zetas launched a sizable offensive that they had prepared in advance by placing resupply caches in and around Matamoros shortly after Antonio “Tony Tormenta” Cardenas Guillen was killed last November. Several weeks of heavy fighting flared up in Matamoros and to the south and west, as Zeta fighters hit Gulf cartel groups and Mexican military units took on both cartels. Smaller fights broke out along the border northwest to Nuevo Laredo as well as southward between Matamoros and Monterrey.
The fighting died down toward the end of February, and the Gulf cartel took the opportunity to ramp up revenue streams and restock. According to STRATFOR sources, cocaine seizures by U.S. law enforcement agencies rose steadily from mid-February to late March in the Rio Grande Valley portion of the south Texas border zone — a significant increase of high-value/low-volume contraband. To offset losses from the early February Zeta offensive, the Gulf cartel tried to bring in substantial revenue very quickly.
The upswing in cocaine smuggling corresponded with the lull in cartel battles and the need for quick cash. According to a Jan. 11 U.S. Department of Justice report on illicit drug prices, wholesale cocaine prices in the area were approximately $25,000 per kilogram (more than $11,000 per pound) versus $440 to $660 per kilogram for marijuana. There is no way to calculate the ratio of contraband seized to the total contraband smuggled in any given area at any given time, but various STRATFOR sources have made conservative estimates of 1:10 to 1:12 (seized to total smuggled). Since approximately 348 kilograms (767 pounds) of cocaine were seized between the last week of February and April 1, a reasonable extrapolation of the expected revenues — after the loss of the seized cocaine — would be $87 million.
The Gulf cartel leadership does not appear to have taken as big a loss as the Los Zetas leadership did in the first quarter. On March 4, however, authorities arrested Gustavo “El 85” Arteaga Zaleta and Pablo Jesus “El Enano” Arteaga Zaleta in Tampico, Tamaulipas. The brothers were wanted on charges of kidnapping, extortion, and arms and drug trafficking for the Gulf cartel in the states of Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosi. Secretariat of Public Security intelligence reports indicate that Gustavo Arteaga Zaleta is a former municipal policeman from Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas, and was the “jefe de plaza” (plaza boss) in El Ebano, San Luis Potosi.
The loss of two Gulf cartel leaders over the past few months does not appear to have adversely affected the organization, though as a whole the cartel continues to be stretched thin. With federal forces occasionally entering the fray and Los Zetas seeking any weaknesses to exploit, the Gulf cartel is engaged in a large, bloody game of “whack-a-mole” in which its dual opponents further stretch its resources — augmented though it may be by Sinaloa elements.
While the Gulf cartel has held its territory and successfully repelled a Zeta offensive this past quarter, it has not been able to wrest Monterrey, Veracruz or Nuevo Laredo away from Zeta control. In northeast Mexico, the battle lines have not shifted, there are no clear winners and the violence will continue for the foreseeable future.
The Sinaloa Federation remains the largest and most cohesive of the Mexican cartels. Under the leadership of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, Sinaloa has been steadily making inroads into the territories of other cartels, friend and foe alike. This expansion has been seen in Durango, Guerrero (specifically Acapulco and its vital seaport) and Michoacan states as well as Mexico City. Because it has remained a cohesive organization and maintained widely diversified revenue streams — from narcotics to avocados — the Sinaloa Federation stands to benefit most from the chaos across Mexico.
Only two significant members of the Sinaloa leadership were captured during the first quarter of 2011. The first was Cesar “El Placas” Villagran Salazar, arrested by army troops on Feb. 12. Villagran Salazar is alleged to be a key operator for Guzman in northern Sonora and coordinator of Sinaloa drug shipments for distribution across the border into Arizona. The second, on March 18, was Victor Manuel “El Senor” Felix, who is presumed to be a relative and confidante of Guzman and runs one of the cartel’s financial networks.
According to a STRATFOR source, the Mexican government’s current priority is getting the violence under control, not eliminating the cartels. It is a pragmatic approach. While some of the cartels may be breaking up or in the process of being absorbed, it is not possible at this point to eliminate them all — or to stop the trafficking of narcotics. Systemic corruption at all levels of government, well-entrenched for many years, turns a blind eye to cartel activities at best and enables them at worst. Apparently, the Mexican government has decided that the best course of action in this environment is to wage a war of attrition, taking out the low-hanging fruit and letting Sinaloa do the rest.
Extreme levels of violence are not in the best interests of cartels, whose primary goal is to make money. When violence goes up, revenue goes down. As the largest and most widespread Mexican cartel — incapable of being eliminated in the current environment — the Sinaloa Federation likely will continue to be relatively impervious to government efforts. It also is the organization most likely to assume the dominant position in the cartel landscape, which would enable it ultimately to impose a forced reduction in the cartel violence. Sinaloa could use its dominance to keep weaker groups in line, which would suit the government’s purposes.
As Sinaloa has steadily gained influence and territory over the past several years, its competition has been fragmenting. The destabilization that began in 2006 with Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s anti-cartel campaign thoroughly upset the cartel equilibrium and created power vacuums. With the possible exception of Los Zetas, the fragmentation and power vacuums have weakened or destroyed cartels while Sinaloa has either been unaffected or strengthened as the primary beneficiary. Even those elements within the Sinaloa Federation that were neutralized — the Beltran Leyva brothers and Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal — were elements that posed a potential challenge to the leadership of Sinaloa head Guzman.
In the case of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), once a part of the Sinaloa Federation, the remaining Beltran Leyva brother Hector (see section on Cartel Pacifico Sur below) believes that Guzman betrayed his brothers and used the government to remove a potential challenger — the BLO. This was borne out by events in the first quarter of 2011, when Sinaloa expanded into the territories of cartels that were fragmented or floundering such as its New Federation allies La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA). “Divide and conquer” works, even when a third party causes the fragmentation, and Guzman knows this well.
As was discussed in STRATFOR’s 2010 annual cartel report, the death of Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno Gonzalez in a shootout with federal authorities on Dec. 9, 2010, was a blow to LFM. Moreno was a charismatic and compelling leader, around whom grew a curious blend of religious cult, merciless killing machine and highly specialized drug-trafficking organization. Without Moreno’s centrally focused leadership, the bands of LFM killers fractured and seemed to engage in directionless violence in late December and into January.
LFM continued to devolve with the loss of its methamphetamine labs to government takedowns (and probably efforts by other cartels as well). As with the territorial grabs in other parts of Mexico, LFM’s leaderless cells did not hold onto the bulk of the cartel’s smuggling routes but likely lost them to regional hegemon Sinaloa. At this point in the degeneration of the organization, it is likely that the faithful core of Moreno’s followers saw the need to reorganize or rebrand the group in order to reunify its scattered elements. Such an effort at organizational self-preservation would require a particular sort of leader to fill the void left by Moreno’s death.
As with most charismatic pseudo-religious organizations and their inherent strongman leadership, there was a fiercely loyal cadre of lieutenants who surrounded Moreno. From that group alone will be found a successor who will be followed, since most of the LFM rank and file will align themselves only with someone who has complete faith in Moreno’s teachings. In the chaos of last December, following Moreno’s death, the two top members of his inner circle were rumored to have fled the country. STRATFOR has been unable to confirm the rumor (or, if it is true, whether they have returned), but the two — Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez and Jose Jesus “El Chango” Mendez Vargas — are the prime candidates to replace Moreno and bring the elements of LFM back together. They fit the mold for being the most likely to succeed in the reconstitution and rebranding of the group.
LFM announced its dissolution in January. Authorities and analysts dismissed the announcement and waited to see what evolved. The wait was not very long. On March 17, banners appeared in multiple cities and villages in Michoacan that proclaimed the presence of a previously unknown group — Los Caballeros Templar, aka the Knights Templar.
The new name may have triggered a few chuckles in some agencies — and objections from members of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, which traces its origins to the original Knights Templar, an order of Christian knights formed to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land during the First Crusade. There is some parallel to the religion-centric LFM, with its stated goals of protecting the people of Michoacan from criminal elements, including corrupt government officials.
Banners announcing the emergence of the Knights Templar in Michoacan read: “To the people of Michoacan, we inform you that starting today we will be carrying out here the altruistic activities previously realized by La Familia Michoacana. We will be at the service of the people of Michoacan to attend to any situation that threatens the safety of Michoacanos. Our commitment is to: keep order; avoid robberies, kidnappings, extortion; and protect the state from possible (interventions) by rival organizations. — The Knights Templar.”
The Knights Templar banners bore the same type of message and tone as previous LFM banners, which suggests that the activities of the Knights Templar in the next few months will likely be consistent with documented LFM activities. This development is recent, and information regarding the composition of the group, its leadership and its relations with remnant LFM cells and the Sinaloa Federation is very sparse. STRATFOR will continue to monitor events in Michoacan over the next quarter, paying particular attention to the emergence of the Knights Templar leadership and the reconstitution of LFM alliances and business, enforcement and smuggling operations. It is too soon to know whether the former LFM partnership with the Sinaloa Federation will be reinstituted.
Cartel Pacifico Sur
The groups that evolved from the factions of the BLO no longer are recognizable as such. The BLO split into two separate groups, with an unknown number of BLO operatives electing to return to the Sinaloa Federation rather than join either of the two new drug-trafficking organizations.
The first of these two independent groups, Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS), centers around Hector Beltran Leyva and is allied with Los Zetas. During the first quarter of 2011, CPS demonstrated an addition to its skill set: the use of an improvised explosive device (IED) placed in a car in Tula, Hidalgo state, with an anonymous call to local law enforcement to lure victims to the booby trap. The small device detonated on Jan. 22 when one of the vehicle’s doors was opened, injuring four police officers.
Though no one claimed responsibility for the IED, a connection can be made that suggests CPS involvement. Last summer, STRATFOR discussed the use of an IED in a car in Juarez in which the first responders were targeted and killed following an anonymous call regarding a wounded police officer. That IED is believed to have been detonated by members of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes cartel (VCF, aka the Juarez cartel). In both the Juarez and Tula bombings, the devices used were small, composed of industrial hydrogel explosives and placed in vehicles to which local police were lured by some ruse.
The common denominator is likely Los Zetas. Though the cities of Juarez and Tula are about 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) apart, and the Juarez cartel and CPS do not share assets, both organizations are allied with Los Zetas — and Los Zetas have members with military demolitions training. In the coming months, STRATFOR will be watching for any other indicators that this connection has led to other permutations in CPS tactics previously not associated with the BLO.
Independent Cartel of Acapulco
The second group that broke off from the BLO is the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (Cartel Independiente de Acapulco, or CIDA). This group is still evolving and information about it remains rather muddled. At this point, STRATFOR has identified CIDA as a large part of the BLO faction loyal to Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal. Since Valdez Villarreal was arrested in September 2010, his faction has apparently become somewhat marginalized. Some CIDA members came from La Barbie’s faction, some did not. There are also some former LFM elements in the CIDA as well as a handful of miscellaneous Acapulco street thugs and miscreants. There continues to be sporadic violence attributable to, or claimed by, the CIDA, but there is mounting evidence that the organization is fading from the picture in some areas.
That said, the CIDA is not giving up without a fight. STRATFOR sources recently indicated that the group is locked in a battle with CPS for control of the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos state. Sources say CPS gunmen currently control the east side of Cuernavaca and CIDA operatives control the city’s west side. Particularly dangerous areas are the Jiutepec sector on the city’s southeast side and the Carolina neighborhood on the west side.
According to Mexican media reports, federal police arrested Benjamin “El Padrino” Flores Reyes, one of the suspected top CIDA leaders, on March 6 in Acapulco, Guerrero state. Flores Reyes reportedly controlled the distribution of drugs, managed the cartel’s lookout groups and is said to have reported directly to cartel chief Moises “El Koreano” Montero Alvarez.
The CIDA was aligned with LFM and the Sinaloa Federation, and until late last year it was most likely in control of the Acapulco plaza and seaport. The disbanded LFM, reincarnated into the Knights Templar, probably has not provided any help to the weakened CIDA, and Sinaloa has likely taken full advantage of the chaos and helped itself to the Acapulco plaza. STRATFOR has asked its sources which cartel controls the Acapulco seaport itself, and while conditions are sufficiently murky to prevent any definitive answers, the working hypothesis is that the port is also in the hands of Sinaloa.
Currently, the CIDA is at war with former ally Sinaloa, likely triggered by Guzman’s move to take CIDA territory after the arrest of Valdez Villarreal. The CIDA appears to be taking a beating on that front. During President Calderon’s visit to Acapulco last month, five dismembered bodies were found in front of a department store on Farallon Avenue in Acapulco. The discovery was made about an hour after Calderon opened the 36th Tourist Marketplace trade fair in the International Center of Acapulco. Pieces of two of the bodies were scattered on the ground near an abandoned SUV, and body parts from the other three were found in plastic bags inside the vehicle. Messages left at the scene said the victims were police officers killed by the Sinaloa Federation because they worked with the CIDA.
The outlook for the CIDA over the next three to six months is not promising. Unless something occurs to revitalize the group, such as a successful escape from prison by Valdez Villarreal, the CIDA may fade into obscurity within the year. Certainly the next three months will be telling.
Arellano Felix Organization
Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Arellano, nephew of the founding Arellano Felix brothers, is still in control of the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO, aka the Tijuana cartel), though the group is only a shadow of its former self. Little changed in the cartel’s condition in the first quarter of 2011 from how it was described in the 2010 annual cartel report. Sinaloa’s “partnership agreement” with the AFO has relegated the once-mighty Tijuana cartel to vassal status, with the bulk of its former territory and all of its smuggling avenues across the border now controlled by the Sinaloa Federation. The AFO now pays Sinaloa for access to its former territory.
Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization
The Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization (VCF, aka the Juarez cartel) is holding on. Though STRATFOR has previously reported that the VCF was hemmed in on all sides by the Sinaloa cartel, and essentially confined to the downtown area of Ciudad Juarez, recent reports from STRATFOR sources indicate that this is not quite the case. The VCF retains control of the plaza and the border crossings in Juarez, from the Paso Del Norte port of entry on the northwest side to the Ysleta port of entry on the west side of town. However, the VCF’s territory is significantly diminished to the extent that it no longer controls the city of Chihuahua, which is now held by Sinaloa, as is the rest of Chihuahua state and the border zone on both sides of Juarez/El Paso.
As we have discussed in previous cartel reports, VCF second-in-command Vicente Carrillo Leyva has been in Mexican federal custody since his arrest in Mexico City in 2009. He is the son of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, founder of the cartel, and nephew of the current leader (and cartel namesake) Vicente Carrillo Fuentes. On March 15, Carrillo Leyva was formally charged with money laundering, which diminishes the possibility of his eventual release. Given how long he has been detained and the foibles of the Mexican legal system, Carrillo Leyva may yet be released, but it seems doubtful at present.
In the absence of Carrillo Leyva, his right-hand man, Juan “El JL” Luis Ledezma, has been acting as the No. 2 in the organization, running the cartel’s operations and those of its enforcement arm, La Linea. But one of the other high-ranking VCF leaders has been taken out of the mix. On Feb. 22, Luis Humberto “El Condor” Peralta Hernandez was killed during a gunbattle with federal police in Chihuahua City, which removed the leader of the network holding open the cartel’s supply lines. As it stands now, STRATFOR sources indicate that most of the contraband seized by law enforcement on the U.S. side of the border with Chihuahua state is owned by Sinaloa, not the VCF, though the percentage remains unclear.
The VCF is surrounded by Sinaloa-held territory. Barring an unlikely reversal of Sinaloa’s fortunes, such as a massive operation by Los Zetas/VCF with all their allied gangs that successfully routs Sinaloa, the VCF is facing slow strangulation as its supply lines close and its revenue streams dry up. This will not happen overnight or even within the next three months, but as the noose tightens we can expect violence in Juarez to skyrocket beyond its current record-breaking level because the VCF will not go quietly.
In the short term, the inability to move narcotics will cause the VCF to continue to seek operational funding through other means, such as kidnapping, extortion, alien smuggling and cargo theft. We have seen indications of that with a couple of recent nightclub shootings that are thought to have been associated with VCF extortion rackets. As hard as it might be to imagine, the violence in Juarez may actually get worse.
Read more: Mexican Drug War 2011 Update | STRATFOR
Los Zetas almaciendo armas para deshacer las eleciones de 2012?
Reply #282 on:
July 21, 2011, 09:24:38 AM »
Last Edit: July 21, 2011, 09:29:03 AM by Crafty_Dog
Reply #283 on:
July 26, 2011, 12:32:55 PM »
From a very reliable source:
Juárez authorities were dealing with a riot at the Cereso prison late Monday night, a police spokesman said. Multiple gunshots heard from inside the prison. Soldiers, state and federal police officers were deployed to the prison. It is unknown if anyone was injured. The Norte newspaper reported on its website that some prisoners may have been disguised as security guards and were heavily armed during a possible escape attempt .At the same time, authorities were also dealing with a burning car on Norzagaray boulevard and a shootout between gunmen and federal police on Eje Vial Juan Gabriel.
Reply #284 on:
July 29, 2011, 07:00:45 AM »
!Hijos de la gran , , ,!
Reply #285 on:
July 29, 2011, 03:29:53 PM »
U.S. Taxes Bought ATF Guns for Cartels; Holder Lied
Written by Alex Newman
Tuesday, 12 July 2011 16:00
As the scandal surrounding the Obama administration’s operation to put high-powered guns in the hands of Mexican drug cartels continues to grow, new revelations suggest that American taxpayers might have actually paid for the weapons through the stimulus bill and multiple agencies. On top of that, Attorney General Eric Holder apparently lied about his knowledge of the scheme.
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (still known as ATF) is facing growing pressure after whistleblowers exposed “Project Gunrunner” and “Operation Fast and Furious” to public and congressional scrutiny. It turns out many of the guns shipped to Mexican crime syndicates with ATF permission have ended up at crime scenes on both sides of the border. And at least three of the weapons were involved in the slaying of U.S. federal agents.
But despite the Obama administration’s frantic efforts to cover up and minimize the fiasco while demonizing guns, the furor continues to grow. And more federal agencies are now coming under scrutiny for their roles in the plot.
Acting ATF boss Kenneth Melson (standing right in picture above), recently threatened with contempt of Congress charges for obstructing the investigation, revealed a startling new twist to investigators late last week. At least some of the criminals supposedly being armed with ATF permission for “investigations” were actually working for the FBI and the DEA — unbeknownst to the ATF. Or so the story goes.
Melson may have been pressured by the Department of Justice not to disclose details of the operation, and some members of Congress believe he was being set up as a fall guy to avoid investigations of higher-ups. But in testimony last week, the embattled ATF boss claimed his agency was not aware of the other agencies’ involvement because information was not properly shared.
His recent statement sparked a widening of the congressional investigation, according to a source close to the probe cited in the San Francisco Gate. "We know now it was not something limited to just a small group of ATF agents in Arizona," the congressional source explained.
Members of Congress leading the inquiry into the scandal are getting very suspicious. "The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayer dollars from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities," wrote Rep. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in a letter to Attorney General Holder.
“It is one thing to argue that the ends justify the means in an attempt to defend a policy that puts building a big case ahead of stopping known criminals from getting guns,” they added. “Yet it is a much more serious matter to conceal from Congress the possible involvement of other agencies in identifying and maybe even working with the same criminals that Operation Fast and Furious was trying to identify.”
Even more explosive was a recent statement by one of the founders of a top Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas. In a taped interrogation released to the public, Jesús "El Mamito" Aguilar told Mexican police earlier in July that his crime syndicate was getting weapons directly from the U.S. government. Similarly, a top operative in the Sinaloa drug cartel explained to a federal court earlier this year that he was trafficking drugs with permission from the U.S government.
Beyond the question of whether or not the U.S government has been deliberately aiding gun and drug trafficking, however, there’s still more. Top administration officials — and even Obama himself — have made headlines in recent days after reportedly getting caught in blatant lies.
Attorney General Holder, for example, is under intense fire. He told Congress in May of this year that he had “probably” learned about the government’s involvement in gun running only in “the last few weeks.”
But a couple of years ago, he was bragging about the scandalous program by name during a speech in Mexico. “My department is committing 100 new ATF personnel to the Southwest border in the next 100 days to supplement our ongoing Project Gunrunner,” he boasted to an anti-gun crowd outside of Mexico City in 2009.
Similarly, Obama said he neither approved nor had knowledge of the program to arm the cartels. But the so-called “stimulus” bill, which the President signed, contained an explicit appropriation of tens of millions of dollars in funding for the scheme.
“The evidence suggests that [Border Patrol] Agent [Brian] Terry's death was financed by the president's stimulus package with the full knowledge and support of Attorney General Holder,” charged the Investor’s Business Daily in a scathing editorial entitled "The Stimulation of Murder" about the ATF program. “President Obama needs to man up about Gunrunner and either take responsibility for this tragedy or admit, under oath if need be, that even he didn't know what was in the stimulus bill.”
Critics of the administration have for weeks been raising the possibility that federal officials may have been deliberately arming the cartels for ulterior motives. But even as the gun trafficking scandal explodes, the Obama administration is making good on threats to impose more unconstitutional restrictions on Americans’ Second Amendment rights by executive decree.
As the public outcry over the federal gun smuggling operations intensifies, blame will eventually be pinned on someone. The media frenzy has been steadily growing for months as new revelations continue to shock observers. Where it will all end, however, remains to be seen.
Fragmentacion de los narcos
Reply #286 on:
August 05, 2011, 10:57:25 PM »
Blurring the lines
Reply #287 on:
August 07, 2011, 11:11:05 AM »
En mi opinion hay que tener en cuenta que el NYTimes es aliado a Presidente Obama; osea no esta' 100% digna de fe:
WASHINGTON — The United States is expanding its role in Mexico’s bloody fight against drug trafficking organizations, sending new C.I.A. operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.
The United States is assisting Mexican police forces in conducting wiretaps, running informants and interrogating suspects.
In recent weeks, small numbers of C.I.A. operatives and American civilian military employees have been posted at a Mexican military base, where, for the first time, security officials from both countries work side by side in collecting information about drug cartels and helping plan operations. Officials are also looking into embedding a team of American contractors inside a specially vetted Mexican counternarcotics police unit.
Officials on both sides of the border say the new efforts have been devised to get around Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating on its soil, and to prevent advanced American surveillance technology from falling under the control of Mexican security agencies with long histories of corruption.
“A sea change has occurred over the past years in how effective Mexico and U.S. intelligence exchanges have become,” said Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States. “It is underpinned by the understanding that transnational organized crime can only be successfully confronted by working hand in hand, and that the outcome is as simple as it is compelling: we will together succeed or together fail.”
The latest steps come three years after the United States began increasing its security assistance to Mexico with the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative and tens of millions of dollars from the Defense Department. They also come a year before elections in both countries, when President Obama may confront questions about the threat of violence spilling over the border, and President Felipe Calderón’s political party faces a Mexican electorate that is almost certainly going to ask why it should stick with a fight that has left nearly 45,000 people dead.
“The pressure is going to be especially strong in Mexico, where I expect there will be a lot more raids, a lot more arrests and a lot more parading drug traffickers in front of cameras,” said Vanda Felbab-Brown, a counternarcotics expert at the Brookings Institution. “But I would also expect a lot of questioning of Merida, and some people asking about the way the money is spent, or demanding that the government send it back to the gringos.”
Mexico has become ground zero in the American counternarcotics fight since its cartels have cornered the market and are responsible for more than 80 percent of the drugs that enter the United States. American counternarcotics assistance there has grown faster in recent years than to Afghanistan and Colombia. And in the last three years, officials said, exchanges of intelligence between the United States and Mexico have helped security forces there capture or kill some 30 mid- to high-level drug traffickers, compared with just two such arrests in the previous five years.
The United States has trained nearly 4,500 new federal police agents and assisted in conducting wiretaps, running informants and interrogating suspects. The Pentagon has provided sophisticated equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters, and in recent months it has begun flying unarmed surveillance drones over Mexican soil to track drug kingpins.
Still, it is hard to say much real progress has been made in crippling the brutal cartels or stemming the flow of drugs and guns across the border. Mexico’s justice system remains so weakened by corruption that even the most notorious criminals have not been successfully prosecuted.
“The government has argued that the number of deaths in Mexico is proof positive that the strategy is working and that the cartels are being weakened,” said Nik Steinberg, a specialist on Mexico at Human Rights Watch. “But the data is indisputable — the violence is increasing, human rights abuses have skyrocketed and accountability both for officials who commit abuses and alleged criminals is at rock bottom.”
Mexican and American officials involved in the fight against organized crime do not see it that way. They say the efforts begun under President Obama are only a few years old, and that it is too soon for final judgments. Dan Restrepo, Mr. Obama’s senior Latin American adviser, refused to talk about operational changes in the security relationship, but said, “I think we are in a fundamentally different place than we were three years ago.”
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A senior Mexican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, agreed. “This is the game-changer in degrading transnational organized crime,” he said, adding: “It can’t be a two-, three-, four-, five- or six-year policy. For this policy investment to work, it has to be sustained long-term.”
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The New York Times
Several Mexican and American security analysts compared the challenges of helping Mexico rebuild its security forces and civil institutions — crippled by more than seven decades under authoritarian rule — to similar tests in Afghanistan. They see the United States fighting alongside a partner it needs but does not completely trust.
Though the new United States ambassador to Mexico was plucked from an assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, the Obama administration bristles at such comparisons, saying Mexico’s growing economy and functioning, though fragile, institutions put it far ahead of Afghanistan. Instead, administration officials more frequently compare Mexico’s struggle to the one Colombia began some 15 years ago.
Among the most important lessons they have learned, they say, is that in almost any fight against organized crime, things tend to get worse before they get better.
When violence spiked last year around Mexico’s industrial capital, Monterrey, Mr. Calderón’s government asked the United States for more access to sophisticated surveillance technology and expertise. After months of negotiations, the United States established an intelligence post on a northern Mexican military base, moving Washington beyond its traditional role of sharing information to being more directly involved in gathering it.
American officials declined to provide details about the work being done by the American team of fewer than two dozen Drug Enforcement Administration agents, C.I.A. officials and retired military personnel members from the Pentagon’s Northern Command. For security reasons, they asked The New York Times not to disclose the location of the compound.
But the officials said the compound had been modeled after “fusion intelligence centers” that the United States operates in Iraq and Afghanistan to monitor insurgent groups, and that the United States would strictly play a supporting role.
“The Mexicans are in charge," said one American military official. “It’s their show. We’re all about technical support.”
The two countries have worked in lock step on numerous high-profile operations, including the continuing investigation of the February murder of Jaime J. Zapata, an American Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
Mexico’s federal police chief, Genaro García Luna, put a helicopter in the air within five minutes after receiving a call for help from Mr. Zapata’s partner, the authorities said. Then he invited American officials to the police intelligence center — an underground location known as “the bunker” — to work directly with Mexican security forces in tracking down the suspects.
Mexican officials hand-carried shell casings recovered from the scene of the shooting to Washington for forensics tests, allowed American officials to conduct their own autopsy of the agent’s body and shipped the agent’s bullet-battered car to the United States for inspection.
In another operation last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration and a Mexican counternarcotics police unit collaborated on an operation that led to the arrest of José Antonio Hernández Acosta, a suspected drug trafficker. The authorities believe he is responsible for hundreds of deaths in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, including the murders of two Americans employed at the United States Consulate there.
While D.E.A. field officers were not on the scene — the Mexicans still draw the line at that — the Americans helped develop tips and were in contact with the Mexican unit almost every minute of the five-hour manhunt, according to a senior American official in Mexico. The unit, of about 50 officers, is the focus of another potentially ground-breaking plan that has not yet won approval. Several former D.E.A. officials said the two countries were considering a proposal to embed a group of private security contractors — including retired D.E.A. agents and former Special Forces officers — inside the unit to conduct an on-the-job training academy that would offer guidance in conducting operations so that suspects can be successfully taken to court. Mexican prosecutors would also work with the unit, the Americans said.
But a former American law enforcement official familiar with the unit described it as one good apple in a barrel of bad ones. He said it was based on a compound with dozens of other nonvetted officers, who provided a window on the challenges that the Mexican police continue to face.
Some of the officers had not been issued weapons, and those who had guns had not been properly trained to use them. They were required to pay for their helmets and bulletproof vests out of their own pockets. And during an intense gun battle against one of Mexico’s most vicious cartels, they had to communicate with one another on their cellphones because they had not been issued police radios. “It’s sort of shocking,” said Eric Olson of the Woodrow Wilson Center. “Mexico is just now learning how to fight crime in the midst of a major crime wave. It’s like trying to saddle your horse while running the Kentucky Derby.”
Reply #288 on:
August 18, 2011, 09:40:08 AM »
The Buffer Between Mexican Cartels and the U.S. Government
August 17, 2011
By Scott Stewart
It is summer in Juarez, and again this year we find the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization (VCF), also known as the Juarez cartel, under pressure and making threats. At this time in 2010, La Linea, the VCF’s enforcer arm, detonated a small improvised explosive device (IED) inside a car in Juarez and killed two federal agents, one municipal police officer and an emergency medical technician and wounded nine other people. La Linea threatened to employ a far larger IED (100 kilograms) if the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) did not investigate the head of Chihuahua State Police intelligence, whom the VCF claimed was working for the Sinaloa Federation.
La Linea did attempt to employ another IED on Sept. 10, 2010, but this device, which failed to detonate, contained only 16 kilograms of explosives, far less than the 100 kilograms that the group had threatened to use.
Fast-forward a year, and we see the VCF still under unrelenting pressure from the Sinaloa Federation and still making threats. On July 15, the U.S. Consulate in Juarez released a message warning that, according to intelligence it had in hand, a cartel may be targeting the consulate or points of entry into the United States. On July 27, “narcomantas” — banners inscribed with messages from drug cartels — appeared in Juarez and Chihuahua signed by La Linea and including explicit threats against the DEA and employees of the U.S. Consulate in Juarez. Two days after the narcomantas appeared, Jose Antonio “El Diego” Acosta Hernandez, a senior La Linea leader whose name was mentioned in the messages, was arrested by Mexican authorities aided by intelligence from the U.S. government. Acosta is also believed to have been responsible for planning La Linea’s past IED attacks.
As we have discussed in our coverage of the drug war in Mexico, Mexican cartels, including the VCF, clearly possess the capability to construct and employ large vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) — truck bombs — and yet they have chosen not to. These groups are not averse to bloodshed, or even outright barbarity, when they believe it is useful. Their decision to abstain from certain activities, such as employing truck bombs or targeting a U.S. Consulate, indicates that there must be compelling strategic reasons for doing so. After all, groups in Lebanon, Pakistan and Iraq have demonstrated that truck bombs are a very effective means of killing perceived enemies and of sending strong messages.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for the Mexican cartels to abstain from such activities is that they do not consider them to be in their best interest. One important part of their calculation is that such activities would remove the main buffer that is currently insulating them from the full force of the U.S. government: the Mexican government.
Despite their public manifestations of machismo, the cartel leaders clearly fear and respect the strength of the world’s only superpower. This is evidenced by the distinct change in cartel activities along the U.S.-Mexico border, where a certain operational downshift routinely occurs. In Mexico, the cartels have the freedom to operate far more brazenly than they can in the United States, in terms of both drug trafficking and acts of violence. Shipments of narcotics traveling through Mexico tend to be far larger than shipments moving into and through the United States. When these large shipments reach the border they are taken to stash houses on the Mexican side, where they are typically divided into smaller quantities for transport into and through the United States.
As for violence, while the cartels do kill people on the U.S. side of the border, their use of violence there tends to be far more discreet; it has certainly not yet incorporated the dramatic flair that is frequently seen on the Mexican side, where bodies are often dismembered or hung from pedestrian bridges over major thoroughfares. The cartels are also careful not to assassinate high-profile public figures such as police chiefs, mayors and reporters in the United States, as they frequently do in Mexico.
The border does more than just alter the activities of the cartels, however. It also constrains the activities of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. These agencies cannot pursue cartels on the Mexican side of the border with the same vigor that they exercise on the U.S. side. Occasionally, the U.S. government will succeed in luring a wanted Mexican cartel leader outside of Mexico, as it did in the August 2006 arrest of Javier Arellano Felix, or catch one operating in the United States like Javier’s oldest brother, Francisco Arellano Felix. By and large, however, most wanted cartel figures remain in Mexico, out of the reach of U.S. law.
One facet of this buffer is corruption, which is endemic in Mexico, reaching all the way from the lowest municipal police officer to the presidential palace. Over the years several senior Mexican anti-drug officials, including the nation’s drug czar, have been arrested and charged with corruption.
However, the money generated by the Mexican cartels has far greater effects than just promoting corruption. The billions of dollars that come into the Mexican economy via the drug trade are important to the Mexican banking sector and to the industries in which the funds are laundered, such as construction. Because of this, there are many powerful Mexican businessmen who profit either directly or indirectly from the narcotics trade, and it would not be in their best interest for the billions of drug dollars to stop flowing into Mexico. Such people can place heavy pressure on the political system by either supporting or withholding support from particular candidates or parties.
Because of this, sources in Mexico have been telling STRATFOR that they believe that Mexican politicians like President Filipe Calderon are far more interested in stopping drug violence than they are in stopping the flow of narcotics. This is a pragmatic approach. Clearly, as long as there is demand for drugs in the United States there will be people who will find ways to meet that demand. It is impossible to totally stop the flow of narcotics into the U.S. market.
In addition to corruption and the economic benefits Mexico realizes from the drug trade, there is another important element that causes the Mexican government to act as a buffer between the Mexican cartels and the U.S. government — geopolitics. The Mexico-U.S. relationship is a long one that has involved considerable competition and conflict. The United States has long meddled in the affairs of Mexico and other countries in Latin America. And from the Mexican perspective, American imperialist aggression, via the Texas War of Independence and the Mexican-American War, resulted in Mexico losing nearly half of its territory to its powerful northern neighbor. Less than a century ago, U.S. troops invaded northern Mexico in response to Pancho Villa’s incursions into the United States.
Because of this history, Mexico — as with most of the rest of Latin America — regards the United States as a threat to its sovereignty. The result of this perception is that the Mexican government and the Mexican people in general are very reluctant to allow the United States to become too involved in Mexican affairs. The idea of American troops or law enforcement agents with boots on the ground in Mexico is considered especially threatening from the Mexican perspective.
A Thin Barrier
While Mexican sovereignty and international law combine with corruption and economics to create a barrier to assertive U.S. intervention in Mexico’s drug war, this barrier is not inviolable. There are two distinct ways this type of barrier has been breached in the past: by force and by consent.
An example of the first was seen following the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. DEA special agent Enrique Camarena. The DEA was not able to get what it viewed as satisfactory assistance from the Mexican government in pursuing the case despite the tremendous pressure applied by the U.S. government. This prompted the DEA to unilaterally enter Mexico and snatch two Mexican citizens connected to the case. Because of his involvement in the Camarena case, Honduran drug kingpin Juan Matta-Ballesteros was also rendered from his home in Honduras by U.S. government agents.
As a result of the U.S. reaction to the Camarena murder, the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization at the time, was decapitated, its leaders — Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero — all arrested and convicted for their part in ordering the killing. The tremendous pressure applied to Mexican authorities by the U.S. government to arrest the trio, coupled with the fear that they too might be rendered, ultimately led to their detention, although they did maintain sufficient influence to ensure that they were not extradited to the United States.
The Guadalajara Cartel also lost its primary connection to the Medellin cartel (Matta-Ballesteros) as a result of the Camarena case, and the cartel was eventually fractured into smaller units that would become today’s Sinaloa, Juarez, Gulf and Tijuana cartels. The Camarena case taught the Mexican cartel bosses to be careful not to provoke the Americans to the point where it will bring the full power of the U.S. government to bear upon their organizations (a lesson recently demonstrated by the unilateral U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan).
But in addition to unilateral force, sometimes the U.S. government can be invited into a country despite concerns about sovereignty. This happens when the population has something it fears more than U.S. involvement, and this is what happened in Colombia in the late 1980s. In an effort to influence the Colombian government not to cooperate with the U.S. government and extradite him to the United States, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellin Cartel, resorted to terrorism. In 1989 he launched a string of terrorist attacks that included the assassination of one presidential candidate, the bombing a civilian airliner in an attempt to kill a second presidential candidate and several large VBIED attacks, including the detonation of a 1,000-pound truck bomb in December 1989 targeting the Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS, Colombia’s primary national intelligence and security service) that caused massive damage in the area around the DAS building in downtown Bogota. These attacks had a powerful impact on the Colombian government and Colombian people and caused them to reach out to the United States for increased assistance despite their concern about U.S. power. The increased U.S. assistance eventually led to the death of Escobar and the systematic dismantling of his organization.
The lesson in the Escobar case was: Do not push your own government or population too far or they will turn on you and invite the Americans in.
So, in looking at the situation in Mexico today, there are indeed cartel organizations that have been hit hard. Over the past few years, we have seen groups such as the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Arellano Felix Organization, the VCF and Los Zetas heavily damaged. Many of these groups, particularly the VCF, the Arellano Felix Organization and Los Zetas, have been forced to resort to other criminal activity such as kidnapping, extortion and human trafficking to fund their operations. However, they have not yet undertaken large-scale terrorist attacks. The VCF tiptoed along that line last year, with La Linea’s small-scale IED attacks, as did the Gulf cartel, but these groups were careful not to use IEDs that were too large, and La Linea never employed the huge IED it threatened to. In fact, the overall use of IEDs is down dramatically in 2011 compared to the same period last year — despite the fact that explosives are readily available in Mexico and the cartels have the demonstrated capability to manufacture and employ them.
It is also important to recognize that in the past couple of years, when the United States has become heavily interested in attacks linked to the Mexican cartels, the cartel figures believed to be responsible for these actions have been arrested or killed. This has happened in cases such as the March 2010 murders of three people with ties to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, the September 2010 murder of David Hartley on Falcon Lake, the February 2011 murder of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent Jaime Zapata, and even the previously mentioned July 27 threats against U.S. interests in Juarez. This means that the chances of a cartel such as the VCF getting the United States directly involved without the cartel being directly impacted are probably quite slim. In other words, if the VCF attacks the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, it can expect to be targeted directly by the U.S. and Mexican governments, instead of the governments focusing on other cartel players in the city, such as the VCF’s rival, the Sinaloa Federation.
As noted in our last cartel update, we anticipate that in the coming months the Mexican government campaign against Los Zetas will continue to impact that group, as will the attacks against Los Zetas by the Gulf cartel and its criminal allies. We also anticipate that the aforementioned Sinaloa pressure against the VCF in Juarez will not diminish. Nor will Mexican government pressure: We have seen reports that Luis Antonio Flores (also known as El Comen 2 or El Tarzan), El Diego’s replacement as the leader of La Linea, was arrested Aug. 16. However, we have seen nothing that would indicate that this pressure will cause these groups to lash out in the form of large-scale terrorist attacks like those associated with Pablo Escobar. Even when wounded, these Mexican organizations have shown that they seek to maintain the buffer protecting them from the full power of the U.S. government.
Reply #289 on:
August 23, 2011, 11:43:45 AM »
Gunfight at a Soccer Match in Torreon
A gunfight erupted in Torreon, Coahuila state, at around 8 p.m. on Aug. 20, after a three-vehicle convoy of gunmen reportedly crashed through a security checkpoint outside the Territorio Santos Modelo soccer stadium. No one was killed or seriously injured during the shootout. Security forces closed the doors of the stadium — likely preventing the deaths of fans who might have panicked and run out into the gunfight — and established a security cordon around the facility.
Adelaido Flores Diaz, the director general of public security in Torreon, confirmed that the gunmen were targeting a Public Security Patrol, rather than the stadium or the fans therein. Stray bullets did enter the stadium. The gunmen evaded arrest by using caltrops (small, four-pointed spikes used to deflate vehicle tires) to slow pursuing authorities. Their truck was found abandoned and containing three high-caliber weapons and two grenades.
(click here to enlarge image)
The shootout in Torreon illustrates the role geography plays in Mexico’s drug trafficking operations — a role of which cartel leaders keenly understand the importance. Cartels must not only move contraband into and out of the country, but also across it. Situated in central Mexico at the intersection of a couple of major highways, Torreon is a critical hub for cartels moving product to northern Mexico and, eventually, into the United States. Control of Torreon helps facilitate the movement of product from Mexico’s Pacific coast across the country to smuggling corridors, such as Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Juarez, on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Because cartels understand the importance and vulnerability of their own supply routes, such gateway cities have become hotly disputed territory. Los Zetas and the Sinaloa Federation have been fighting for control of Torreon for some time, and members of one or both of those groups were very likely among those involved in the shootout. We can expect to see continual violence in the city as the Zetas and Sinaloa continue to vie for unfettered control of transit routes. Unfortunately for Torreon, its geographic location predisposes it to such violence and increases the psychological impact of “terror,” which STRATFOR has previously addressed.
Indeed, aside from the geographic issue, there is also a notable psychological component to the incident in Torreon. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Mexico, often used as a means to escape the realities of daily life. In a country where the populace does not often have much reason for optimism — corruption is rampant and violence, often grotesque and public, is commonplace — fans can always cheer for their home team and take pride in their city when victorious. While Torreon is unlikely to stop hosting soccer matches altogether, the psychological impact of the Aug. 20 gunfight is an affront to a cherished pastime. It signifies a permeation of violence into every aspect of Mexican life and robs Torreon’s citizens of a respite from news of prolific violence, making a return to normalcy seem all the more remote.
Moreover, the game was a high-profile event, airing not only in Mexico but also the United States, and a number of fans documented the episode on cameras and phones. (None of the fans actually recorded anything but the sounds of the gunfire. During the live telecast, the game’s announcers discussed what was happening, who was responsible and how to escape.) Such publicity serves as a reminder that while Mexico’s war on drugs directly affects comparatively few — those in cities such as Torreon — the violence it causes can be seen by anyone with an Internet connection.
Violence in Acapulco
On Aug. 17, two bus drivers and an assistant driver were killed in separate incidents in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The first incident took place on the Acapulco-Mexico highway at an area known as La Llave de Agua, where a bus driver and his assistant were found dead in their bus, near a number of shell casings. In the second incident, a female driver was found shot and killed in her bus on the Avenida Adolfo Ruiz Cortines.
The violence in Acapulco is a result of its strategic geographic location. The port is a natural coastal harbor and provides excellent shelter. It has become an important port, not only for legitimate economic enterprises, but also for the drug industry. Though far smaller than Lazaro Cardenas, it is still a critical hub for the import of precursor chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine, and of cocaine that arrives at port from Colombia. It also straddles the Pacific coastal highway, which traverses nearly the entire country. Acapulco is currently being fought over by several different criminal groups. One of these is the Independent Cartel of Acapulco (CIDA), which consists of a faction of the former Beltran Leyva Organization that was loyal to Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal and that joined with local Acapulco criminals to form CIDA. This group has long been locked in a bloody war with the Sinaloa cartel and the Cartel Pacifico Sur, which is headed by Hector Beltran Leyva.
As cartel infighting continues to escalate, so too does violence against transportation employees. This violence can occur for many reasons. The first is extortion. Like other businesses, many bus companies and taxi companies are forced to pay “taxes” to the criminal organizations that control the city in which they operate. Failure to pay these organizations frequently results in violence. Conversely, in a city where various groups are vying for control, one group can target a business that it believes is providing financial support to a rival organization. This leaves businesses facing a deadly situation: Failure to pay may result in death, while paying one cartel over others invites reprisal from rival cartels.
Finally, some transportation workers serve as “halcones” — a name given to those working to supply street-level information to various cartels. Certainly not all of those working in the transportation industry work for the cartels, but those who do are vital assets of their respective intelligence apparatuses. They have an inherent cover story and the ability to access different areas of a city (bus drivers even have scheduled, predictable routes). Cartels, therefore, have every incentive to target those halcones they believe to be on the take of their rivals.
As violence continues in the struggle to control Acapulco, it will impact bystanders as well as those supporting the various combatants.
(click here to view interactive map)
A decapitated body was hung off a bridge in Huixquilucan, Mexico state, with a narcomanta from La Mano con Ojos. The message stated that the decapitated individual thought the La Mano con Ojos organization was disjointed and decided to work for himself. The message follows the arrest of Oscar Osvaldo “El Compayito” Garcia Montoya, the former leader of the group.
Police seized 2 tons of marijuana in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, after an armed individual was spotted discarding a package in the presence of police. No arrests were made.
Federal police arrested the presumed successor to the leader of La Linea, Jose Antonio “El Diego” Acosta Hernandez. He was arrested in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. “El Coman 2,” who operates under the aliases Luis Antonio Flores Diaz and Jose Antonio Rincon, replaced Acosta after his arrest on July 29.
The Mexican army killed eight gunmen traveling in a three-vehicle convoy in Michoacan state’s Tacambaro region. As the army patrol approached, two of the vehicles sped away while the third engaged in a gunfight with the soldiers.
Gunmen shot and killed Francisco Torres Ibanez, the intermunicipal police commander of Veracruz-Boca Del Rio, while he was on patrol in Veracruz, Veracruz state.
A severed pig head was discovered in a cooler at a university in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, with a note stating that the pig head was for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The message was signed “El Coman 2.”
During a reconnaissance operation, Mexican authorities seized a drug lab in Chilchota, Michoacan state, containing approximately 1 ton of chemical precursors.
Federal police seized approximately 116 kilograms (256 pounds) of marijuana from a vehicle in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state.
Five coolers containing severed human remains were found throughout Acapulco, Guerrero state. The identities of the victims and the killers remain unknown.
Multiple narcomantas were posted throughout Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, criticizing Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Some of the banners were critical of the lack of reporting of clandestine graves in Durango and accused Calderon of a cover-up.
Ten Los Zetas members were killed when the Mexican army approached a safe house in Agualeguas, Nuevo Leon state. At least 20 gunmen escaped during the fight.
The Mexican army detained 10 members of the group Comando Del Diablo, in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The arrests were a result of an investigation conducted after members of the group left coolers with human remains in Acapulco on Aug. 17.
The mayor of Zacualpan, Mexico state, was found dead in Teloloapan, Guerrero state. He was kidnapped Aug. 19 after he and his bodyguards were attacked by gunmen.
A gunfight erupted between police and gunmen in Torreon, Coahuila state. The gunfight occurred outside of a soccer stadium where a game was being played.
Nine dead bodies with multiple gunshot wounds were found along a highway near Mora, Nayarit state. The bodies were found with their hands bound.
After stopping traffic and firing gunshots, gunmen hung a narcomanta off a bridge in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, addressed to Calderon and state Gov. Rodrigo Medina. The narcomanta warned of an upcoming prison escape at the Apodaca prison in Nuevo Leon.
Three human heads were discovered in a plastic bag along a busy street in Acapulco, Guerrero state. The authorities have not dismissed the possibility that the heads belong to headless corpses found in Acapulco on Aug. 19.
Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Violence Shows Strategic Value of Torreon, Acapulco | STRATFOR
Reply #290 on:
August 26, 2011, 10:39:46 AM »
MONTERREY – Two dozen gunmen burst into a casino in northern Mexico on Thursday, doused it with gasoline and started a fire that trapped gamblers inside, killing 53 people and injuring a dozen more, authorities said.
The fire at the Casino Royale in Monterrey, a city that has seen a surge in drug cartel-related violence, represented one of the deadliest attacks on an entertainment center in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.
El Los Angeles Times ahora esta' diciendo que murieron entre 40 and 50 personas
Reply #291 on:
August 26, 2011, 11:05:16 AM »
Quote from: Crafty_Dog on August 26, 2011, 10:39:46 AM
MONTERREY – Two dozen gunmen burst into a casino in northern Mexico on Thursday, doused it with gasoline and started a fire that trapped gamblers inside, killing 53 people and injuring a dozen more, authorities said.
The fire at the Casino Royale in Monterrey, a city that has seen a surge in drug cartel-related violence, represented one of the deadliest attacks on an entertainment center in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.
El Los Angeles Times ahora esta' diciendo que murieron entre 40 and 50 personas
Yo eso lo vi... horrible.
Es increible que Mexico hay tan muchas personas buenas, pero tambien, tanto cosas malos.... por eso necitamos cazar cada persona que estan hacienden las cosas mas feas, por que la mayoria de la gente no se pueden por sus mismos.
Operaciones del ejercito Mexicano en los EU?!?
Reply #292 on:
August 31, 2011, 06:07:40 AM »
Mexico - President Calderon calls for U.S. action following attack in Monterrey
Following the attack on Casino Royal, which killed more than 50 in Monterrey on 25 August 2011, Mexican President Felipe Calderon addressed the nation on 26 August 2011, condemning the attacks and calling them acts of terrorism. Calderon placed some blame on the United States, citing the fact that the U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of drugs and leading weapons retailer, stating that these activities finance the criminal activity plaguing Mexico. Calderon implored both the U.S. President and Congress to take action to prevent the transfer of profits from drug sales back to Mexico and also to curb the criminal sale of high-powered assault rifles.
MARC: Pues hay que hablar con nuestro Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, and Firearms con respeto al ultimo frase.
Mexico - U.S. increases role in war against drugs in Mexico
The United States is expanding their role in the war on drugs in Mexico, allowing Mexican authorities to stage cross border helicopter raids in the U.S., in addition to staging drones to eavesdrop on cartel’s cell phone communications and to capture video of drug processing labs and smuggling units. While U.S. authorities maintain these are not joint operations, rather Mexican operations staged in U.S. territory, cooperation is increasing despite historical tensions between the two nations.
MARC: !Eso me parece increible,; no tengamos ninguna noticicia al respeto aqui!
Monterrey casino firebombing
Reply #293 on:
August 31, 2011, 10:36:25 AM »
Above the Tearline: Reconstructing the Monterrey Arson Attack from Surveillance Footage
August 31, 2011 | 1347 GMT
Click on image below to watch video:
Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton demonstrates how video surveillance footage is used to reconstruct the recent arson attack in Monterrey, Mexico.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
In this week’s Above the Tearline, we’re going to show you how agents utilize video surveillance tape to reconstruct the crime using the recent casino fire in Monterrey, Mexico, as an example.
Let’s take a look at the first video, which takes place before the crime occurs. This is surveillance footage at a gas station, and you see the suspects have purchased gas that they have placed in the back of this pickup truck in these white barrels. Note that you could digitally enhance this and get a very good tag number. You also can get a make and model the vehicle, and notice the distinct clothing and attire on this one suspect on the right. And you’re going to have a good date time stamp as when this truck pulls out of the gas station.
This is our second video surveillance tape, and notice the truck that was at the gas station pulling out onto a public highway in Monterrey. So you’re going to be able to sync up the time of the gas purchase when the vehicle pulls out on the highway. I want you to note this vehicle up in the corner. It’s a mini — a white mini with black markings. It rolls in behind the pickup truck along the same route. This vehicle will subsequently show up at the crime scene as well.
Before I roll the tape here, you will see a third vehicle rolling in behind the mini that subsequently shows up at the crime scene as well. So you have the truck leading the convoy; you have the mini; and now you have a third vehicle in the mix right here. You’ll see a fourth vehicle that subsequently shows up at the crime scene as well.
Our next video is taken from a security camera at the casino. Notice you’ll have the first, second and third suspect vehicles already pulled up into the parking lot, and it will be quickly followed by a fourth vehicle — right here — that I’m going to show you. Now you have all four of the vehicles seen on the highway, and you have the truck that had purchased the gasoline earlier in the videotape on the scene. You’ll see the suspects start to deploy out. As we roll the videotape, you’ll see individuals carry the cans of gasoline from the bed of the truck into the actual casino. Notice here also the countersurveillance elements here. You’ll have the security arm of the cartel members — in this case believed to be Zetas — on the scene of the attack site. They’re watching. They’re looking for cops, no doubt. You’ll see the first mini — these guys are getting kind of antsy; they’re wanting to move on. You’ll see the black smoke start to billow, and, pretty soon, the actual video footage is going to be obscured completely by the smoke billowing out.
Let’s take a look at a photograph from the crime scene from a different perspective. The video surveillance camera that we had seen where the video was shot was up in this area shooting downward. You can see the upward turn of the driveway. So the suspects came in from this direction and pulled this way. You’ll see the windows that had been broken, probably by the fire department for ventilation to let the smoke clear.
The Above the Tearline aspect with this video footage is the significant value that security videotape has to help you piece together the elements of the crime. There is also the tactical ramifications. You know they’re going to have additional attacks tomorrow or the next day in Mexico, and the police and the military can study this to learn the Zeta methodology when they go to carry out a similar attack down the road.
En su defensa, El Vicentillo acusa a los EUA
Reply #294 on:
September 08, 2011, 09:02:58 AM »
Suspect Accuses U.S. of Aiding Mexican Cartel: Unlikely, but Clever Defense
September 7, 2011
By Scott Stewart
Many people interested in security in Mexico and the Mexican cartels will turn their attention to Chicago in the next few days. Sept. 11 is the deadline for the U.S. government to respond to a defense discovery motion filed July 29 in the case of Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, aka “El Vicentillo.” El Vicentillo is the son of Ismail “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, a principal leader of the Sinaloa Federation. While not as well-known as his partner, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, El Mayo nevertheless is a very powerful figure in Mexico’s cartel underworld, and one of the richest men in Mexico.
The Mexican military arrested El Vicentillo in March 2009 in an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood. Grand juries in Chicago and Washington had indicted El Vicentillo on drug smuggling charges, prompting the United States to seek his extradition from Mexico. Upon his February 2010 extradition, it was decided he would first face the charges pending against him in the Northern District of Illinois. According to the Justice Department, El Vicentillo is “one of the most significant Mexican drug defendants extradited from Mexico to the United States since Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the accused leader of the notorious Gulf Cartel, was extradited in 2007.”
The Zambada legal team’s July 29 motion caused quite a stir by claiming that the U.S. government had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Federation via the group’s lawyer, Humberto Loya Castro, in which El Chapo and El Mayo would provide intelligence to the U.S. government regarding rival cartels. In exchange, the U.S. government would not interfere in Sinaloa’s drug trafficking and would not seek to apprehend or prosecute Loya, El Chapo, El Mayo and the rest of the Sinaloa leadership — a deal reportedly struck without the Mexican government’s knowledge.
The allegations generated such a buzz in part because they came so soon after revelations that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Justice Department had permitted guns illegally purchased in the United States to “walk” into Mexico in an operation called “Fast and Furious.” Marked differences separate the two cases, however, making the existence of any deal between Sinaloa and the U.S. government highly unlikely. Accordingly, the government will likely deny the allegations in its impending response. Even so, the July 29 allegations still could prove useful for El Vicentillo’s defense strategy.
A History of Seizures and Arrests
The many seizures and arrests during the period El Vicentillo’s attorneys allege the truce was in effect — which the motion says began no later than January 2004 — are the first factor undermining the allegations. For example, in February 2007 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced the culmination of “Operation Imperial Emperor,” a 20-month investigation directed against the Sinaloa Federation that resulted in 400 arrests and netted 18 tons of drugs and $45 million in cash. In 2009, the DEA announced the conclusion of “Operation Xcellerator,” a multiagency counternarcotics investigation that involved the arrests of more than 750 alleged Sinaloa Federation members and confederates across the United States over a 21-month period and the seizure of 23 tons of narcotics and $53 million in cash.
The Northern District of Illinois indictment of El Vicentillo and other Sinaloa leaders contains a long list showing that the U.S. government seized thousands of kilograms of cocaine and more than $19 million in cash in the district alone from 2005 to 2008.
And these are just a few examples of Sinaloa’s losses during the time the DEA allegedly turned a blind eye to the cartel’s smuggling activities. Based on the size and scope of these Sinaloa losses in manpower, narcotics and cash, it is hard to imagine that anyone affiliated with that organization honestly thinks the DEA gave Sinaloa a pass to traffic narcotics.
It’s the Politics, Stupid
The second element militating against the allegation that the U.S. government entered into an agreement with the Sinaloa Federation is politics. Such an agreement would be political suicide for any attorney general or DEA administrator and the president they served were it ever disclosed. And as anyone who has worked inside the Beltway knows, secrets are very hard to keep — especially because of the length of time alleged by the defense in this case and because the period spanned multiple U.S. administrations involving two political parties.
Not only are such secrets hard to keep at the top levels of an administration, they are tough to keep at the street level, too. Notably, the first information about Fast and Furious came from rank-and-file ATF special agents incensed that guns were being allowed to walk. These agents leaked information regarding the program to reporters. The same dynamic certainly would have emerged among street-level DEA, FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who had spent their careers attempting to stem the flow of narcotics. These agents would not have just sat by and watched narcotics shipments walk into the United States. Thus, if a long-standing relationship between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation really existed, the story most likely would not have emerged first from a Mexican drug trafficker.
And U.S. attorneys certainly take political considerations into account. They do not like to lose high-profile cases and enjoy much prosecutorial leeway, meaning they can decline cases they are likely to lose. The U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois is Patrick Fitzgerald, who is no stranger to high-profile cases. He served as the special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, and he oversaw the prosecution of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. As an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, Fitzgerald was involved in the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and members of the Gambino crime family.
It is highly unlikely a U.S. attorney of Fitzgerald’s experience would have pushed for such a high-profile case had he known of an agreement between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation. Instead, he could have sat back and allowed the U.S. attorney in Washington to take the first crack at El Vicentillo — and deal with the fallout. That Fitzgerald pressed to prosecute this case suggests no deal existed — as does the fact that the U.S. government pressed so hard for his extradition; why would a government seek an extradition that would cause major embarrassment?
When taking politics into account, it is also critical to remember the looming 2012 U.S. elections. Republican lawmakers have hammered the Obama administration over Fast and Furious, holding several high-profile congressional hearings on the subject. The Obama administration and congressional Democrats certainly have investigated the Zambada defense team’s allegations. Any truth to the allegation that the Bush administration had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Federation almost certainly would have prompted high-profile hearings by Democratic lawmakers in the Senate to reveal the truth — and to offset negative publicity from Fast and Furious.
That no hearings publicizing the allegations have been forthcoming is very revealing. The issue of publicity itself points toward another potential motive for the defense claims.
Legal Dream Team II
Wealthy defendants naturally seek the best representation money can buy, and that has held true in this case. Court filings indicate that El Vincentillo has retained a host of high-profile criminal defense attorneys, including New York attorneys Edward Panzer and George Santangelo, who have previously defended John Gotti and other members of the Gambino crime family; Los Angeles lawyer Alvin Michaelson, who has represented defendants such as former Los Angeles Mafia boss Dominic Brooklier; and Tucson defense attorney Fernando Gaxiola, a Spanish-speaking attorney who has worked several high-profile cases related to border crime.
A defense attorney’s prime objective is to sow doubt regarding a defendant’s guilt in the minds of jurors. In high-profile cases, big-money attorneys begin that task well ahead of trial with potential jurors. One means of accomplishing this is with a court motion certain to attract much media attention — like a motion claiming that the U.S. government allowed the Sinaloa Federation to smuggle tons of narcotics into the United States. Such charges also put the question of government integrity on trial.
The legal memorandum filed in support of the discovery motion in the present case stands out not only because it mistakenly refers to El Vicentillo’s father as “Ismael Zambada-Niebla” several times instead of consistently using his real name, Ismael Zambada Garcia, and incorrectly refers to the defendant as “Vicente Jesus Zambada Niebla,” but also because of its focus. It is very general, providing few details regarding the alleged agreement between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Federation. It does not identify a single person who allegedly met with Loya or El Vicentillo and who claimed to speak on behalf of the U.S. government.
Normally, high-level confidential informants must sign detailed agreements delineating the criminal activities in which they are allowed to engage, in accordance with the attorney general’s guidelines on the use of such informants. Typically, such authorizations run for 90-day periods, and the respective law enforcement agency is tasked with exercising careful supervision over the informant’s activities. The process described in the defense memorandum sharply deviates from this typical U.S. law enforcement practice, with the Sinaloa leadership allegedly receiving free rein and immunity for years.
It is certainly possible that members of the Sinaloa Federation provided information to the U.S. and Mexican governments about the activities of rival drug cartels. El Chapo is well-known for using governments as a tool against his enemies, and even against potential rivals within his own organization like Alfredo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal. Still, it is quite unlikely the Sinaloa leadership ever had a working source relationship with the DEA.
Large portions of the discovery request also focus on obtaining documents from the Fast and Furious hearings, and the defense team appears to be attempting to establish that if the U.S. government was willing to let guns walk in Fast and Furious, it also would be willing to let narcotics walk into the United States. In the words of the defense memorandum:
Essentially, the theory of the United States government in waging its “war on drugs” has been and continues to be that the “end justifies the means” and that it is more important to receive information about rival drug cartels’ activities from the Sinaloa Cartel in return for being allowed to continue their criminal activities, including and not limited to their smuggling of tons of illegal narcotics into the United States.
In practical terms, however, the concept behind Fast and Furious was quite different from the allegations made by El Vicentillo’s defense. The idea behind Fast and Furious was to allow low-level gunrunners to walk so law enforcement could trace the big players for subsequent arrest. In Fast and Furious, ATF agents never dealt with high-level gun dealers or cartel leaders; such individuals were the target of the ill-fated operation. Fast and Furious also was not nearly as wide-ranging or as long-lived as the alleged deal with the Sinaloa leadership. It also did not promise immunity from prosecution to cartel leaders.
The two cases thus are starkly different. But if the press can be persuaded to equate the two and widely disseminate this view to the public over the next few months, the defense team may have an easier time sowing a reasonable doubt in the minds of potential jurors. El Vicentillo’s trial begins in February 2012, which means that any publicity surrounding the case could reach potential jurors. And even if the government shows they are false, the allegations are likely to have a long shelf-life among conspiracy-minded individuals and Internet sites. As such, they will continue to be useful in El Vicentillo’s defense efforts.
Stratfor: Zeta comms disrupted, more
Reply #295 on:
September 13, 2011, 12:28:27 PM »
Zetas Communications Network Disrupted in Veracruz
The Mexican navy on Sept. 8 dismantled a communications network used by Los Zetas throughout Veracruz state. Among the equipment seized were mobile radio transmitters, computers, radio scanners, encryption devices, solar power cells and as many as seven trailers that served as base stations, according to media reports. A spokesman for the Mexican navy said some 80 individuals have been arrested over the past month in connection with the operation, itself the result of months of work by naval intelligence officers.
Los Zetas have been known to utilize more sophisticated communications networks than other cartels, due in large part to the organization’s origins in military special operations. The Zetas needed to augment sparse communications in some areas they control, and the Veracruz network likely was for the purpose of “off the grid” communications. Since cellphones are relatively easy for authorities to monitor, Los Zetas have sought to diversify their telecommunications capabilities, a fact of which Mexican authorities are aware.
It is possible that the seizure of this communications equipment means the navy is preparing to launch operations to push the Zetas out of the Veracruz port region. Indeed, a navy spokesman said the immediate result of the operation was the disruption of the Zetas’ “chain of command and tactical coordination.” If the navy is about to engage the Zetas in Veracruz, dismantling the Zetas’ communications network would be one of the first moves it would make.
There is not yet enough evidence to conclude with certainty that an operation is in the works, but STRATFOR will continue to watch for signs of increased military operations against the Zetas in Veracruz.
Hand Grenade Attacks in Rio Bravo
On Sept. 10, armed men in an SUV and an accompanying car reportedly threw five hand grenades at two businesses in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas state, killing two people. Beginning at 2:30 p.m., the assailants lobbed three grenades at a bar on the city’s east side, an unnamed police official said; one of the grenades failed to detonate. A few minutes later, unidentified men threw two grenades at a strip club in downtown Rio Bravo, causing the building to catch fire and injuring three people.
It is unclear who conducted the attacks, but they are believed to be the work of Los Zetas, who are engaged in a turf war with the Gulf cartel in the wider region. At present the Gulf cartel controls the Rio Bravo plaza, but Los Zetas have been known to “heat up” a plaza — increase attacks to soften their target — prior to an offensive, as was the case in Matamoros in mid-June.
The targets are significant in that they are “legitimate” businesses. Businesses can serve as money-laundering hubs for cartels and thus are not immune to attack. Also significant is that the attacks occurred during daylight hours. While violence in Mexico is unpredictable and by no means limited to nighttime hours, there is a general sense that the goings-on of a normal day are spared from targeted violence. Incidents such as the Sept. 10 grenade attacks show that this is not always the case.
If the Zetas did not conduct the attacks, they could be a symptom of infighting within the Gulf cartel. The recent death of Samuel “El Metro 3” Flores Borrego, the Gulf cartel’s Reynosa plaza boss and overall No. 2, suggests rifts are forming within the cartel. Rio Bravo can expect to see reprisal attacks regardless of who is responsible.
U.S. Citizens as Couriers for Money, Guns
Mexican authorities arrested seven individuals Sept. 7 in Piedras Negras, Coahuila state, and confiscated firearms, ammunition, radio communication equipment, two vehicles and the equivalent of $600,000. The Ministry of National Defense has not disclosed the identities or nationalities of those arrested, but local and state media have reported that they are all U.S. citizens.
It is not uncommon for a cartel to use individuals with U.S. citizenship as couriers. These individuals have unfettered access to the United States and, while highly visible due to their frequent border crossings, they may receive less scrutiny from border security. Therefore, U.S. citizens are useful in moving guns and money south into Mexico (but they are less useful coming north, as security checks are more robust when coming from Mexico to the United States). This is particularly true in an area such as Coahuila state, where authorities have recently uncovered several large weapons caches.
The corridor of Piedras Negras and its sister city in the United States, Eagle Pass, thus is valuable not as a route to smuggle drugs north but as a route to move guns and money south. (A lack of drug-smuggling routes makes the area desirable territory, so the Zetas are the only ones operating there.) As recently as Sept. 7, in a separate incident from the seven arrests, Texas law enforcement stopped a van with Texas license plates that was carrying 14 assault rifles, a sniper rifle and more than 500 assault rifle magazines.
But the incident in which seven U.S. citizens were arrested, if true, is interesting because those arrested reportedly only had enough weaponry to protect the money they were transporting. This means they were not moving guns but cash, most likely proceeds from drug sales in the United States, the beneficiaries of which are Los Zetas.
(click here to view interactive graphic)
The Mexican military dismantled a drug lab in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, containing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of methamphetamines and chemical precursors.
Mexican authorities attempted to stop a stolen vehicle traveling on a road in Cadereyta municipality, Nuevo Leon state. The vehicle, along with two accompanying vehicles, refused to stop, leading authorities on a chase that turned into a gunfight in which four gunmen were killed.
Gunmen in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, shot and killed two women traveling in a vehicle with Texas license plates. The four-year-old daughter of one of the women survived the attack.
Federal police arrested four members of Los Aztecas in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, including a leader of the group.
A criminal group sent a message to the Department of Education in Acapulco, Guerrero state, demanding a percentage of the salaries of teachers who matched certain criteria. The message also demanded identification information on teachers in the city.
Gunmen attacked a deputy traveling in his vehicle in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco state. During the attack, the deputy left his vehicle and was subsequently hit by a semitrailer.
Mexican authorities arrested a U.S. citizen in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. The individual was charged with trafficking weapons from the United States for the Sinaloa cartel.
Three members of Los Zetas were arrested in a neighborhood of Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state, while attempting to kidnap an individual. One of the members arrested was in charge of the “halcones” (Zetas lookouts) in Nuevo Leon.
The Mexican Attorney General’s Office identified 18 Los Zetas operators who were involved in the attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, that killed 52 people. The Mexican government is offering a reward of 15 million pesos ($1.2 million) for information leading to the arrest of each individual.
Mexican soldiers seized approximately 2.5 tons of marijuana after receiving a tip on the existence of a drug camp in Cerro del Borbollon, Durango state. Soldiers also found a vehicle with Baja California license plates.
Federal police killed seven gunmen during a firefight in Villanueva, Zacatecas state. A conflict with the gunmen had erupted earlier when two federal police officers were kidnapped in the area.
Authorities announced that an operation conducted throughout Veracruz state resulted in the dismantling of a Los Zetas telecommunications network. More than 80 members of the cartel were arrested, and a variety of communications equipment was seized, including solar power cells, high-powered transmitters, encryption devices and secure radio communication systems.
A drug courier transporting 1 kilogram of cocaine was arrested at Mexico City International Airport after authorities discovered the drugs. The individual’s itinerary indicated he was flying to Rome via Madrid.
The Knights Templar posted a narcomanta over a bridge in Zamora, Michoacan state, offering a 500,000-peso reward for information leading to the location of the Los Zetas members listed on the banner.
The Mexican military seized approximately 9 tons of marijuana, 51 firearms and 8,000 rounds of ammunition hidden in a cave near Reynosa, Tamaulipas state.
Unidentified men threw five hand grenades in two separate locations in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas state. The first incident involved gunmen traveling in a vehicle who threw three grenades at bar, and the second attack involved an individual who tossed two grenades at a strip club. The attacks killed two people.
The Mexican military captured Veronica Mireya “La Vero” Moreno Carreon, Los Zetas’ plaza boss for San Nicolas de los Garza, Nuevo Leon state. Also know as “La Flaca,” she was discovered to be the plaza boss after she was arrested while traveling in a stolen vehicle.
Reply #296 on:
September 20, 2011, 05:47:11 AM »
An internet friend's comments begin this post:
This pretty much confirms what I already suspected - the Calderon administration is more interested in teaming up with Obama to infringe on the rights of U.S. citizens than in getting answers on this debacle. I think it's safe to say they have little to no interest in seeing this solved, "breach of sovereignity" or not.
Mexico still waiting for answers on Fast and Furious gun program
Top Mexican officials say the U.S. kept them in the dark. One official was stunned to learn that the cartel hit men who killed her brother had assault rifles from Fast and Furious in their arsenal.
By Ken Ellingwood, Richard A. Serrano and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
5:00 PM PDT, September 19, 2011
Reporting from Mexico City and Washington
Last fall's slaying of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of a Mexican state prosecutor, shocked people on both sides of the border. Sensational news reports revealed that cartel hit men had tortured Gonzalez, and forced him to make a videotaped "confession" that his high-powered sister was on the take.
But American authorities concealed one disturbing fact about the case from their Mexican counterparts: U.S. federal agents had allowed AK-47 assault rifles later found in the killers' arsenal to be smuggled across the border under the notorious Fast and Furious gun-trafficking program.
U.S. officials also kept mum as other weapons linked to Fast and Furious turned up at dozens of additional Mexican crime scenes, with an unconfirmed toll of at least 150 people killed or wounded.
Months after the deadly lapses in the program were revealed in the U.S. media — prompting congressional hearings and the reassignment of the acting chief of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — top Mexican officials say American authorities have still not offered them a proper accounting of what went wrong.
Marisela Morales, Mexico's attorney general and a longtime favorite of American law enforcement agents in Mexico, told The Times that she first learned about Fast and Furious from news reports. And to this day, she said, U.S. officials have not briefed her on the operation gone awry, nor have they apologized.
"At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted," Morales, Mexico's highest-ranking law enforcement official, said in a recent interview. "In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans."
Morales said she did not want to draw conclusions before the outcome of U.S. investigations, but that deliberately letting weapons "walk" into Mexico — with the intention of tracing the guns to drug cartels — would represent a "betrayal" of a country enduring a drug war that has killed more than 40,000 people. U.S. agents lost track of hundreds of weapons under the program.
Concealment of the bloody toll of Fast and Furious took place despite official pronouncements of growing cooperation and intelligence-sharing in the fight against vicious Mexican drug-trafficking organizations. The secrecy also occurred as President Felipe Calderon and other senior Mexican officials complained bitterly, time and again, about the flow of weapons into Mexico from the U.S.
Patricia Gonzalez, the top state prosecutor in Chihuahua at the time of her brother's 2010 kidnapping, noted that she had worked closely with U.S. officials for years and was stunned that she did not learn until many months later, through media reports, about the link between his death and Fast and Furious weapons.
"The basic ineptitude of these officials [who ordered the Fast and Furious operation] caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims," Gonzalez said.
Fast and Furious weapons have also been linked to other high-profile shootings. On May 24, a helicopter ferrying Mexican federal police during an operation in the western state of Michoacan was forced to land after bullets from a powerful Barrett .50-caliber rifle pierced its fuselage and armor-reinforced windshield. Three officers were wounded.
Authorities later captured dozens of drug gang gunmen involved in the attack and seized 70 weapons, including a Barrett rifle, according to a report by U.S. congressional committees. Some of the guns were traced to Fast and Furious.
Email traffic and U.S. congressional testimony by ATF agents and others make clear that American officials purposefully concealed from Mexico's government details of the operation, launched in November 2009 by the ATF field offices in Arizona and New Mexico.
In March 2010, with a growing number of guns lost or showing up at crime scenes in Mexico, ATF officials convened an "emergency briefing" to figure out a way to shut down Fast and Furious. Instead, they decided to keep it going and continue to leave Mexico out of the loop.
Communications also show that the U.S. Embassy, along with the ATF office in Mexico, at least initially, was also kept in the dark.
In July 2010, Darren Gil, the acting ATF attache in Mexico City, asked his supervisors in the U.S. about guns in Mexico but got no answer, according to his testimony before a U.S. congressional committee investigating the matter.
"They were afraid that I was going to either brief the ambassador or brief the government of Mexico officials on it," Gil said.
Part of the reason for not telling Mexican authorities, Gil and others noted, is the widespread corruption among officials in Mexico that has long made some U.S. officials reluctant to share intelligence. By late last year, however, with the kidnapping of Mario Gonzalez and tracing of the AK-47s, some ATF officials were beginning to tell their superiors that it was time to inform the Mexicans.
Carlos Canino, an ATF agent at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, warned headquarters that failure to share the information would have dire consequences for the U.S.-Mexican relationship.
"We need to tell them [Mexico] this, because if we don't tell them this, and this gets out, it was my opinion that the Mexicans would never trust us again," Canino testified to congressional investigators in Washington.
Atty. Gen. Morales said it was not until January that the Mexican government was told of the existence of an undercover program that turned out to be Fast and Furious. At the time, Morales said, Mexico was not provided details.
U.S. officials gave their Mexican counterparts access to information involving a group of 20 suspects arrested in Arizona. These arrests would lead to the only indictment to emerge from Fast and Furious.
"It was then that we learned of that case, of the arms trafficking," Morales told The Times. "They haven't admitted to us that there might have been permitted trafficking. Until now, they continue denying it to us."
In March, after disgruntled ATF agents went to congressional investigators, details of Fast and Furious began to appear in The Times and other U.S. media. By then, two Fast and Furious weapons had been found at the scene of the fatal shooting of a U.S. border agent near Rio Rico, Ariz.
As well, a second agent had been killed near the Mexican city of San Luis Potosi, sending the ATF hierarchy into a "state of panic," ATF supervisor Peter Forcelli said, because of fears the weapons used might have arrived in Mexico as part of Fast and Furious. So far, all the U.S. government has said in the latter case is that one of the weapons was traced to an illegal purchase in the Dallas area.
In June, Canino, the ATF attache, was finally allowed to say something to Atty. Gen. Morales about the weapons used by Mario Gonzalez's captors, thought to be members of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.
"I wanted her to find out from me, because she is an ally of the U.S. government," he testified.
Canino later told congressional investigators that Morales was shocked.
"Hijole!" he recalled her saying, an expression that roughly means, "Oh no!"
Canino testified that Fast and Furious guns showed up at nearly 200 crime scenes.
Mexican Congressman Humberto Benitez Trevino, who heads the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, said the number of people killed or wounded by the weapons had probably doubled to 300 since March, when he said confidential information held by Mexican security authorities put the figure at 150. The higher number, he said, was his own estimate.
A former attorney general, Benitez labeled the operation a "failure," but said it did not spell a collapse of the two nations' shared fight against organized crime groups.
"It was a bad business that got out of hand," he said in an interview.
Many Mexican politicians responded angrily when the existence of the program became known in March, with several saying it amounted to a breach of Mexican sovereignty. But much of that anger has subsided, possibly in the interest of not aggravating the bilateral relationship. For Mexico, the U.S. gun problem goes far beyond the Fast and Furious program. Of weapons used in crimes and traced, more than 75% come from the U.S.
"Yes, it was bad and wrong, and you have to ask yourself, what were they thinking?" a senior official in Calderon's administration said, referring to Fast and Furious. "But, given the river of weapons that flows into Mexico from the U.S., do a few more make a big difference?"
Still, Mexican leaders are under pressure to answer questions from their citizens, with very little to go on.
"The evidence is over there [north of the border]," Morales said. "I can't put a pistol to their heads and say, 'Now give it to me or else.' I can't."
Ellingwood and Wilkinson reported from Mexico City and Serrano from Washington.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times
Narcos amenazan periodistas esadounidenses (US journalists intimidated
Reply #297 on:
September 22, 2011, 07:31:04 AM »
Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton examines the emerging threat against journalists covering Mexican cartel violence along the border and the challenges of corroborating source information.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Mexico Security Memo: Zetas Communications Network Dismantled
As a forecasting company, we try to look at emerging threats. Intelligence surfaced this week over concerns for border violence against journalists that cover cartel violence from Mexico. In this week’s Above the Tearline, we’re going to examine the challenges of making sense of this kind of emerging threat, as well as how we go about attempting to corroborate or refute the information.
Being a journalist or an investigative reporter in Mexico is an extremely dangerous job. Organizations like Reporters Without Borders reports that there’s been 80 journalists killed in Mexico since 2000, and recently we had two female journalists found naked, bound and killed in Mexico City. The intelligence we received this week is from a very reliable source of STRATFOR that expressed very specific concern for this emerging threat against journalists inside the United States, especially those in close proximity to the border.
When STRATFOR receives a report like this from a reliable contact, we take great strides to attempt to corroborate or refute the data point, meaning we go about contacting our other sources in state and local and federal law enforcement, as well as foreign police, in this case, Mexico, in an effort to see what they may know about this concern and to seek out their assessment as to whether or not this could be a viable threat. One of the things that we did to connect the dots is, we have had over the years anecdotal information from various media contacts and investigative journalists of the exact same fear. We’ve had reports of journalists being relocated out of concerns surrounding this exact issue, and in essence protective security measures being taken by various media outlets to protect themselves from this kind of issue.
One of the other things we do in an effort to corroborate or refute a source report is, we’ll gather together the tactical team that puts together the Mexico Security Memo and discuss in great detail whether or not we think this is a viable threat and will unpack that threat to see if it makes sense or if it’s something that just is totally off the wall.
The Above the Tearline aspect with this video is the fear that the cartels have the capability to suppress the open source as to what’s taking place in Mexico or along the border and in essence shape the perception of what the cartels are doing. We have already seen this happen inside of Mexico. There has been a reduction of investigative journalists, we’ve had numerous killed and intimidated and if this threat is now coming across the border, this is an issue that most of us have to look at very closely and think about the ramifications of the spillover effect and the ability of the cartels to shape the news inside the United States.
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Possible narco hit on a PRI Congressman
Reply #298 on:
September 23, 2011, 04:41:53 PM »
Possible Cartel Hit on a Federal Lawmaker
On Sept. 17, the bodies of Mexican federal legislator Moises Villanueva de la Luz and his driver were found along a riverbank below a bridge in Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero state. The men had been missing since Sept. 4, when they disappeared following an Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) political event Villanueva de la Luz attended in his congressional district.
Shortly before his disappearance, Villanueva de la Luz had submitted a proposal to Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Attorney General Marisela Morales asking them to establish a special commission to investigate crimes against migrants, probably triggered by the discovery of several mass graves of migrants across Mexico and neighboring Guatemala over the past year. Though Mexican law enforcement authorities have not speculated on suspects in the case, and though his death may have been the result of some sort of personal or political dispute unrelated to the proposed migrant crimes commission, the cartels have been known to traffic and forcibly recruit (or sometimes kill) migrants, and may have been involved in Villanueva de la Luz’s killing in response to his attempt to investigate those crimes.
A report from the coroner’s office indicated that the men were executed by gunshots to the temple, and the bodies were found with no signs of torture. From the severe level of decomposition, the two men were likely killed shortly after they were kidnapped — they were also found wearing the same clothes they wore the day they disappeared. The location where they were discovered, on a riverbank below a bridge, could indicate that they were killed somewhere else and their bodies were quickly dumped from a vehicle off the bridge. According to the Guerrero state attorney general’s office, investigators have ruled out a kidnapping for ransom as the motive because Villanueva de la Luz’s family was never contacted about ransom demands.
Establishing a commission to investigate the abuse of migrants, a known cartel activity, may have been cause enough for Villanueva de la Luz to be targeted, but cartels have been known to attack lawmakers for a variety of reasons. In some instances, the cartels have tried to kill lawmakers known to be on the payroll of a rival drug cartel, or who have refused to cooperate with a cartel after being approached.
One other theory on Villanueva de la Luz’s death bears mentioning — though at this point it seems very unlikely. The PRI chapter in Guerrero state sent an official letter to local authorities suggesting the murder may have been politically motivated and demanded rural development secretary Socorro Sofio Ramirez Hernandez of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (who previously had held Villanueva de la Luz’s congressional seat) be detained for questioning. The PRI party chief said Ramirez had unsuccessfully pressured Villanueva de la Luz in the past to “subordinate him to his personal interests,” but provided no specifics. Given the ambiguity of the accusation from a single source, the relatively rare political violence between parties in Mexico and the fact that the state attorney general has said there is no evidence indicating Ramirez was involved, this seems an unlikely explanation for the congressman’s death.
If the killing was orchestrated by the cartels, there are a number of potential suspects. Los Zetas, due to their well-known role in trafficking migrants and sometimes forcibly recruiting them into their ranks, would be among the most hostile to an investigative body examining and publicizing their activities. Besides the large drug cartels, other, smaller criminal groups have been known to target migrants and would not have welcomed Villanueva de la Luz’s proposed commission. A STRATFOR source in U.S. federal law enforcement said that remnants of the defunct Beltran Leyva Organization are believed to be connected to the killing. One of those remnant groups, La Barredora, has been very active in nearby Acapulco, making statements threatening state-level political leaders in Guerrero state. It is also known to have connections to the Sinaloa Federation, currently Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking organization. The ties to Sinaloa mean La Barredora may act at the behest of the larger group and can easily take actions outside of the typical activities of the small-time gangs, like kidnappings for ransom, though Mexican authorities have already eliminated that as a possibility in this case.
Regardless of which cartel or criminal organization was responsible, the congressman’s death could have a chilling effect on other Mexican lawmakers with intentions to investigate anti-migrant crimes.
Teachers Killed in Guerrero State
Reports emerged Sept. 18 that a vehicle carrying four teachers was stopped and fired upon by gunmen in the town of Puerto Rico del Sur, Guerrero state. Three of the people in the car were killed, and the fourth was wounded. (A separate, conflicting story described the victims as three people, only one a teacher, who were attacked driving in a pickup truck in a nearby municipality.) The attack coincides with the closure of elementary and high schools across the state since the beginning of September after extortion letters were sent to school administrators.
The letters demanded the names, addresses, phone numbers, voter registration information and district payroll records for all teachers being paid more than 20,000 pesos (about $1,400) per month. It said that by Oct. 1, all teachers making more than that amount would be required to forfeit half of their monthly salary to the extortioner as well as half of their annual bonus, and threatened unspecified but “severe” consequences for noncompliance. According to a Mexican media report, the teachers’ union has said the teachers in the closed schools will not return to work until the government guarantees their safety.
While the extortion letter’s deadline has not arrived, it is possible that teachers refused to allow their information to be passed to the extortion group (the extortion letter demanded administrators provide the names of any teachers who refused and that they would address the matter). If all the occupants in the car were teachers, it seems unlikely that they were the victims of a random act of violence, and if the gunmen were connected to the extortion letter, they may have attacked the teachers before the deadline to reinforce fear and ensure compliance by the appointed time.
The Guerrero state prosecutor’s office reportedly denied any connection between the attack on the teachers and the known extortion threat, though it would obviously be reluctant to confirm a connection, given the potential for an attack against teachers to cause a panic and exacerbate the situation. Most cartels, and many of the smaller criminal organizations, have proven well to the Mexican population that threats rarely are hollow; intimidation related to the extortion threat appears to be the motive for the attack.
(click here to view interactive graphic)
Three “narcomantas,” or banners posted by drug cartels, were posted in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, and signed by the Carrillo Leyva brothers. The banners criticized the Mexican government and invited citizens to join the Juarez cartel.
Mexican authorities arrested an individual for smuggling 102 pellets of cocaine weighing a total of about 1.14 kilograms (2.5 pounds), in his stomach at the Mexico City International Airport. The individual had flown to Mexico City from Cancun, Quintana Roo state, and was destined for Spain.
Mexican authorities arrested seven members of the Gulf cartel in San Cristobal de la Barranca, Jalisco state.
Narcomantas signed by Los Zetas were left with two bodies hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The messages threatened anyone who uses social media networks to report on Mexican cartel activity.
Gunmen attacked the State Investigation Agency office in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The gunmen used high-powered rifles and at least one grenade.
About 70 Gulf cartel members entered Juchipila, Zacatecas state, in 22 trucks and stopped at the municipality’s headquarters. The members stayed in the area for approximately five hours, carrying rifles, grenades and grenade launchers. The Gulf members stated to observers they were in the area to “do a good cleaning.”
Gunmen in two separate incidents in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, attacked five transit officers. The attacks resulted in the deaths of three police officers and the kidnapping of another.
A bomb in a vehicle was detonated on a street in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state. No deaths were reported from the explosion.
Members of Knights Templar handed out flyers to citizens in Apatzingan, Michoacan state, warning of upcoming attacks by Los Zetas.
At least thirty narcomantas were posted in at least 10 municipalities of Michoacan state signed by the Knights Templar. The banners denounced Los Zetas and claim that the Knights Templar are protecting the citizens of Michoacan. Some of the cities with banners include Apatzingan, Morelia and Quiroga.
The Mexican military dismantled a drug lab in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. The military seized approximately 60 kilograms of methamphetamine, 2 liters (about half a gallon) of liquid methamphetamine, and chemical precursors.
Gunmen kidnapped a PRI party member in front of his home in Jose Azueta, Veracruz state. The individual was a leader of a municipal committee.
The body of PRI federal legislator Moises Villanueva de la Luz, was discovered in Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero state. The congressman and his driver had been missing since Sept. 4.
Mexican authorities captured six Los Zetas members in Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon state. One of the members was allegedly a lookout for the Casino Royale attack in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.
Three men were arrested in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, while attempting to post narcomantas. The contents of the banners were not released.
A member of the Sinaloa Federation, Jesus Hernandez Valenzuela, was arrested at a safe house in Tijuana, Baja California state.
A confrontation between rival criminal groups left at least eight dead in Nocupetaro, Michoacan state.
Mexican authorities discovered the bodies of five executed individuals in Ixtapaluca, Mexico state. Left with the body was a narcomanta signed by La Familia Michoacana, which claimed ownership of the area.
Reply #299 on:
September 29, 2011, 09:36:43 AM »
By Scott Stewart
The 2011 Pan American Games will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico, from Oct. 14 through Oct. 30. The games will feature 36 different sports and will bring more than 6,000 athletes and tens of thousands of spectators to Mexico’s second-largest city. The Parapan American Games, for athletes with physical disabilities, will follow from Nov. 12 to Nov. 20.
Like the Olympics, the World Cup or any other large sporting event, planning for the Pan American Games in Guadalajara began when the city was selected to host them in 2006. Preparations have included the construction of new sports venues, an athletes’ village complex, hotels, highway and road infrastructure, and improvements to the city’s mass transit system. According to the coordinating committee, the construction and infrastructure improvements for the games have cost some $750 million.
The preparations included more than just addressing infrastructure concerns, however. Due to the crime environment in Mexico, security is also a very real concern for the athletes, sponsors and spectators who will visit Guadalajara during the games. The organizers of the games, the Mexican government and the governments of the 42 other participating countries also will be focused intensely on security in Guadalajara over the next two months.
In light of these security concerns, STRATFOR will publish a special report on the games Sept. 30. The report, of which this week’s Security Weekly is an abridged version, will provide our analysis of threats to the games.
Due to the violent and protracted conflicts between Mexico’s transnational criminal cartels and the incredible levels of brutality that they have spawned, most visitors’ foremost security concern will be Mexico’s criminal cartels. The Aug. 20 incident in Torreon, Coahuila state, in which a firefight occurred outside of a stadium during a nationally televised soccer match, will reinforce perceptions of this danger. The concern is understandable, especially considering Guadalajara’s history as a cartel haven and recent developments in the region. Even so, we believe the cartels are unlikely to attack the games intentionally.
Historically, smuggling has been a way of life for criminal groups along the U.S.-Mexico border, and moving illicit goods across the border, whether alcohol, guns, narcotics or illegal immigrants, has long proved quite profitable for these groups. This profitability increased dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s as the flow of South American cocaine through the Caribbean was sharply cut due to improvements in maritime and aerial surveillance and interdiction. This change in enforcement directed a far larger percentage of the flow of cocaine through Mexico, greatly enriching the Mexican smugglers involved in the cocaine trade. The group of smugglers who benefited most from cocaine trade included Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero, who would go on to form a Guadalajara-based organization known as the Guadalajara cartel. That cartel became the most powerful narcotics smuggling organization in the country, and perhaps the world, controlling virtually all the narcotics smuggled into the United States from Mexico.
The Guadalajara cartel was dismantled during the U.S. and Mexican reaction to the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique Camarena by the group. Smaller organizations emerged from its remains that eventually would become the Arellano Felix Organization (aka the Tijuana cartel), the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization (aka the Juarez cartel), the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa Federation. The sheer number of major cartel organizations that came out of the Guadalajara cartel demonstrates the immense power and geographic reach the group once wielded.
Even after the demise of the Guadalajara cartel, Guadalajara continued to be an important city for drug smuggling operations due to its location in relation to Mexico’s highway and railroad system and its proximity to Mexico’s largest port, Manzanillo. The port is not just important to cocaine smuggling; it also has become an important point of entry for precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. For many years, the Sinaloa Federation faction headed by Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal was in charge of the Guadalajara plaza. Although Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco continued to be an important component of the cocaine trade, Coronel Villarreal became known as “the king of crystal” due to his organization’s heavy involvement in the meth trade.
Guadalajara remained firmly under Sinaloa control until the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) split off from Sinaloa following the arrest of Alfredo Beltran Leyva in January 2008. This caused the Beltran Leyva Organization to ally itself with Los Zetas and to begin to attack Sinaloa’s infrastructure on Mexico’s Pacific coast. In April 2010, Coronel Villarreal’s 16-year-old son Alejandro was abducted and murdered. Like the murder of Edgar Guzman Beltran, the son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the BLO and Los Zetas were thought to have been behind the murder of Coronel Villarreal’s son. In July 2010, Coronel Villarreal himself was killed during a shootout with the Mexican military in Zapopan, Jalisco state.
Coronel Villarreal’s death created a power vacuum in Guadalajara that several organizations attempted to fill due to the importance of Guadalajara and Jalisco to the smuggling of narcotics. One of these was La Familia Michoacana (LFM). LFM’s attempt to assume control of Guadalajara led to the rupture of the alliance between LFM and Sinaloa. (LFM has since fractured; the most powerful faction of that group is now called the Knights Templar.) The group now headed by Hector Beltran Leyva, which is called the Cartel Pacifico Sur, and its ally Los Zetas also continue to attempt to increase their influence over Guadalajara.
But the current fight for control of Guadalajara includes not only outsiders such as the Knights Templar and the CPS/Los Zetas but also the remnants of Coronel Villarreal’s network and what is left of the Milenio cartel (also known as the Valencia cartel) which has historically been very active in Guadalajara and Manzanillo. One portion of the former Milenio cartel is known as “La Resistencia” and has become locked in a vicious war with the most prominent group of Coronel’s former operatives, which is known as the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG). CJNG appears to have gotten the better of La Resistencia in this fight, and La Resistencia has recently allied itself with Los Zetas/CPS out of desperation.
In July, CJNG announced it was moving some of its forces to Veracruz to attack Los Zetas’ infrastructure there. This CJNG group in Veracruz began to call itself “Matazetas,” Spanish for “Zeta killers.” It is believed that the CJNG is responsible for the recent killings of low-level Zeta operators in Veracruz. Taken with the Los Zetas/La Resistencia alliance, the CJNG offensive in Veracruz means that if Los Zetas have the ability to strike against the CJNG infrastructure in Guadalajara, they will do so. Such strikes could occur in the next few weeks, and could occur during the games.
As illustrated by the recent body dumps in Veracruz, or the bodies dumped in Acapulco during Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s visit to that city in March, the Mexican cartels do like to perform a type of macabre theater in order to grab media attention. With the attention of the press turned toward Guadalajara, it would not be surprising if one or more cartel groups attempted some sort of body dump or other spectacle in Guadalajara during the games.
And given the ongoing fight for control of Guadalajara, it is quite likely that there will be some confrontations between the various cartel groups in the city during the games. However, such violence is not likely to be intentionally directed against the games. The biggest risk to athletes and spectators posed by the cartels comes from being in the wrong place at the wrong time; the cartels frequently employ fragmentation grenades and indiscriminate fire during shootouts with the authorities and rival cartels.
One of the side effects of the Mexican government’s war against the cartels is that as some cartels have been weakened by pressure from the government and their rivals, they have become less capable of moving large shipments of narcotics. This has made them increasingly reliant on other types of crime to supplement their income. Crime always has been a problem in Mexico, but activities such as robbery, kidnapping and extortion have gotten progressively worse in recent years. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2011 Crime and Safety report for Guadalajara, crimes of all types have increased in the city. Indeed, due to the high levels of crime present in Mexico, athletes and spectators at the Pan American Games are far more likely to fall victim to common crime than they are to an act of cartel violence.
The Mexican government will employ some 10,000 police officers (to include 5,000 Federal Police officers) as well as hundreds of military personnel to provide protection to the athletes and venues associated with the Pan American Games. But when one considers that the Guadalajara metropolitan area contains some 4.4 million residents, and that there will be thousands of athletes and perhaps in excess of 100,000 spectators, the number of security personnel assigned to work the games is not as large as it might appear at first glance. Nevertheless, the authorities will be able to provide good security for the athletes’ village and the venues, and on the main travel routes, though they will not be able to totally secure the entire Guadalajara metropolitan area. Places outside the security perimeters where there is little security, and therefore a greater danger of criminal activity, will remain.
When visiting Guadalajara during the games, visitors are advised to be mindful of their surroundings and maintain situational awareness at all times in public areas. Visitors should never expose valuables, including wallets, jewelry, cell phones and cash, any longer than necessary. And they should avoid traveling at night, especially into areas of Guadalajara and the surrounding area that are away from the well-established hotels and sporting venues. Visitors will be most vulnerable to criminals while in transit to and from the venues, and while out on the town before and after events. Excessive drinking is also often an invitation to disaster in a high-crime environment.
As always, visitors to Mexico should maintain good situational awareness and take common-sense precautions to reduce the chances of becoming a crime victim. Pickpockets, muggers, counterfeit ticket scalpers, and express kidnappers all will be looking for easy targets during the games, and steps need to be taken to avoid them. Mexico has a problem with corruption, especially at lower levels of their municipal police forces, and so this must be taken into account when dealing with police officers.
While traditional kidnappings for ransom in Mexico are usually directed against well-established targets, express kidnappings can target anyone who appears to have money, and foreigners are often singled out for express kidnapping. Express kidnappers are normally content to drain the contents of the bank accounts linked to the victim’s ATM card, but in cases where there is a large amount of cash linked to the account and a small daily limit, an express kidnapping can turn into a protracted ordeal. Express kidnappings can also transform into a traditional kidnapping if the criminals discover the victim of their express kidnapping happens to be a high net worth individual.
It is also not uncommon for unregulated or “libre” taxi drivers in Mexico to be involved with criminal gangs who engage in armed robbery or express kidnapping, so visitors need to be careful only to engage taxi services from a regulated taxi stand or a taxi arranged via a hotel or restaurant, but even that is no guarantee.
In addition to the threats posed by the cartels and other criminals, there are some other threats that must be taken into consideration. First, Guadalajara is located in a very active seismic area and earthquakes there are quite common, although most of them cannot be felt. Occasionally, big quakes will strike the city and visitors need to be mindful of how to react in an earthquake.
Fire is also a serious concern, especially in the developing world, and visitors to Guadalajara staying in hotels need to ensure that they know where the fire exits are and that those fire exits are not blocked or locked.
The traffic in Mexico’s cities is terrible and Guadalajara is no exception. Traffic congestion and traffic accidents are quite common.
Visitors to Mexico also need to be mindful of the poor water quality in the country and the possibility of contracting a water-borne illness from drinking the water or from eating improperly prepared food. Privately operated medical facilities in Mexico are well-equipped for all levels of medical care, and foreign visitors should choose private over public (government-operated) health care facilities. Private medical services can also stabilize a patient and facilitate a medical evacuation to another country (such as the United States) should the need arise.
In conclusion, the most dangerous organizations in Mexico have very little motivation or intent to hit the Pan American Games. The games are also at very low risk of being a target for international terrorism. The organizing committee, the Mexican government and the other governments that will be sending athletes to the games will be coordinating closely to ensure that the games pass without major incident. Because of this, the most likely scenario for an incident impacting an athlete or spectator will be common crime occurring away from the secure venues.
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