Mexico: The Key Battle Rages On


September 1, 2009:  Things are getting so hot along the Mexican border that some of the drug cartels are moving much of their smuggling operations to Guatemala, where they have built several hundred airstrips in the jungle. It takes several weeks to manually clear the trees and brush, for an airstrip that is used once to pick up and fly drugs north to the United States. The local land owner is then paid to bring in some cattle to make it look like the operation was all about creating pasture for the animals. But there are so many of these airstrips that the U.S. apparently picked them up via satellite photos. Further investigation revealed the drug smuggling connection.

August 31, 2009: Oil smuggling by the Gulf cartel was one signal this summer that Mexico's drug cartels are becoming more classic organized criminal syndicates. A combined U.S. and Mexico investigation led to the arrest of an American oil company executive who was handling "the front end" of a crude oil smuggling ring. Now more reports are cropping up of Mexican cartels running traditional "mob operations" (as in the Mafia). Reports of business extortion in Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua state) are not new, but reports from several western Mexican states indicate that the cartels are running classic "extortion" rackets on small businesses. (Like, pay us or we burn your store.) A government report said that intimidation against local officials (like mayors) had increased.

August 29, 2009: Corn is a huge political issue in Mexico. A corn shortage means a tortilla shortage will follow, and the tortilla is a staple food, particularly for Mexico's numerous poor. In 1994 the Zapatista rebels in Chiapas protested many government policies, but one of their complaints included a rise in the price of tortillas due to an impending reduction in price subsidies. In 2007, rising corn prices contributed to left-wing agitation in Oaxaca state. Now the government is considering importing more corn. What is described as “the worst drought in six to seven decades” has damaged agriculture in northern and central Mexico, and the Mexican corn crop has withered. The US Department of Agriculture estimates Mexico will import nine million metric tons of corn from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010.

In the Pacific coast town of Navolato, a drive by shooting left eight dead. Turned out that the killers were part of a vigilante group seeking to wipe out large gangs of car thieves that had moved into the area.

August 25, 2009: Gunmen armed with AK-47 automatic rifles killed 17 people in Ciudad Juarez. One of the people murdered was a police officer. Currently the government deploys 8,500 soldiers and federal police in the city. Ciudad Jurarez however, is simply too attractive a geographic and information warfare target for the cartelistas. Juarez is a huge city on the U.S. border, so it is a geographic “drug corridor” to the U.S. and Canada. It is also directly in the cameras of American television stations. The cartels want a constant bloodbath in Juarez because they believe American media will regard the bloodbath as a Mexican government failure. The fact is, Mexico is at war. The government decided it would fight the cartels, which had become deeply embedded in northern Mexico's economic and judicial structures. The cartels are betting that rampant murder, intimidation and media reports of the violence will deal the government a psychological defeat. When the military withdraws, then the cartels will return to business as usual. So far the government has responded by increasing the pressure. The government regards Ciudad Juarez as a major battle against the cartels.

August 22, 2009: President Felipe Calderon cut his own pay and the pay of other senior officials by ten percent. With the recession damaging Mexico's economy, the president said the government needed to lead by example.

Suspected cartel gunmen killed a Mexican Army officer and one another man in a Ciudad Juarez bowling alley.

August 21,2009: The government legalized possession of small amounts (“personal use amounts”) of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Federal prosecutors stated the new law has an anti-corruption dimension. Corrupt police have extorted money from addicts by threatening prosecution if they did not pay bribes. Possession of five grams or less of marijuana and a half gram of cocaine is now permitted.

August 20, 2009: The US Justice department indicted 43 members of the Sinaloa drug cartel. The indictment said the Sinaloa cartelistas “established smuggling corridors” form Mexico into the US. “A network of affiliated distributors (In the US) then sold the drugs.

A member of the Guerrero state legislature was murdered by cartel gunmen in the town of Chilpancingo. The legislator was a member of the PRD and was considering running for state governor.

August 18, 2009: The government reported a total of 33 people were slain in gang-related violence in northern Mexico. Eight people were murdered in a Ciudad Juarez bar (The 77 Club) when gunmen opened fire with automatic rifles. According to police, two of the men slain in the bar lived in El Paso, Texas. Six other people were murdered in the town of Praxedis when a group of masked gunmen attacked the house in which they were staying. Unofficially, at least 1300 people have been killed in drug gang violence in Ciudad Juarez since the beginning of 2009. Some 244 were murdered in Ciudad Juarez in July 2009.





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