April 4, 2012: Security officials are deeply concerned about drug cartel money corrupting the upcoming elections. Analysts argue that this is the route the powerful cartels are taking, that is, electing leaders who will leave them alone. Still, stories crop up in the Mexican, U.S., and Canadian press discussing the possibility of a drug cartel political take-over using violent means. A cartel would seize and hold territory against a counter-attack by the army. However, the question to ask is, if they buy a state governor and two-dozen mayors in the state and the new president decides he doesn’t want to use the military to fight the cartels, why bother with a shooting war? That’s why the 2012 presidential election matters to the cartels.
April 1, 2012: Former president Miguel de la Madrid died at the age of 77. De la Madrid was president from 1982-1988. He was a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PRI ran Mexico for 71 years, until 2000 when Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) was elected president.
March 31, 2012: Mexico is gearing up for its 2012 national election and the pollsters are busy handicapping the race. At the moment the PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, has anywhere from a 15 to 20 point lead over the PAN’s Josefina Vazquez Mota. One poll showed Pena with 47.5 percent of the vote to 30.2 percent for Vazquez. Vazquez is Mexico’s first major party female candidate for president. Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO) gets around 20 percent of the vote.
March 30, 2012: Police reported that suspected cartel gunmen invaded the home the police chief of Ocampo in Durango State and murdered him. The police chief had been previously wounded in a firefight with cartel gunmen.
March 27, 2012: It’s NAFTA, not NATO, but it does look a little bit like a North American NATO defense ministers meeting. Canada’s defense minister, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and both of Mexico’s senior defense secretaries met in Canada to discuss security issues. It was the first tri-lateral defense ministers' meeting for all three North American countries. The U.S. and Canada have held defense meetings for years, but this was the first time that Mexico officially participated in scheduled defense minister-level mutual security discussions. Mexico divides its defense minister functions. Mexico’s Secretary of Defense, General Guillermo Galvan, heads the Mexican Army (to include most ground and air forces). Mexico’s Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Mariano Saynez Mendoza, commands the Mexican Navy and Marines. The three countries agreed to increase their efforts to combat drug cartels, to include sharing intelligence and cooperating in land and sea missions to stop cartel operations. The ministers discussed the corrupting effects of drug cartel money on police forces. (Austin Bay)
March 26, 2012: Prosecutors in Nuevo Leon state reported a gunman arrested earlier in the month has confessed to murdering 25 people while employed by the Gulf cartel for six months. Ten of the people he murdered were taxi drivers. Gulf cartel commanders believed were working as informants for Los Zetas cartel. The gunman also participated in two grenade attacks on bars in the city of Monterrey, which killed three people.
March 25, 2012: Catholic Pope Benedict XVI, while visiting Mexico, met with the relatives of kidnap and murder victims. The Pope deplored the Cartel War’s violence and the destruction it has wrought on Mexican society.
March 24, 2012: U.S. counter-narcotics (DEA) agents conducting an undercover sting operation in Laredo, Texas shot and killed a suspect. The American agents were trying to arrest four men who had agreed to work for Los Zetas cartel as murderers for hire. DEA agents had posed as cartel members. The man who was killed was killed resisting arrest. Federal prosecutors identified two of the men involved as being American soldiers. One is currently on active duty (a sergeant) and one had recently left the service as a first lieutenant.
March 22, 2012: Soldiers arrested a police chief in the town of Huetamo (Michoacan State). Soldiers found cocaine and two hand grenades in the chief’s vehicle. He was also carrying pamphlets written by the Knights Templar cartel.
Federal police in Veracruz State killed a senior Los Zetas drug cartel commander (and former policeman), Enrique Delgado Fraire, who was believed to be in charge of Zeta operations in the southern half of Tamaulipas State.
March 21, 2012: The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has deployed six new shallow-draft boats for patrol duty along the Rio Grande and in shallow coastal waterways near the U.S.-Mexico border. The boats are armed with light machine guns (from four to six). Forty DPS troopers will be assigned to man the boats
March 19, 2012: U.S. investigators have learned that the cartel member who was the main target of the Operation Fast and Furious sting was actually arrested during the operation then released. Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta was detained for questioning in May 2010, some seven months after Fast and Furious began. He was detained in Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border. The vehicle he was driving had ammunition and nine cell phones (the multiple cell phones indicating that he used them to try to shake electronic surveillance). Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) agents quizzed him, gave him a contact telephone number, then released him. Celis Acosta was finally arrested in February 2011, after Operation Fast and Furious had ended. Fast and Furious involved smuggling guns from the U.S. into Mexico, with the intent of tracking the weapons and discovering senior cartel leaders. However, over 1,700 guns were purchased, smuggled, and then lost track of. Dozens have showed up at crime scenes in Mexico and a few in the United States. American congressional investigators characterize the operation as a debacle for U.S. law enforcement agencies.
March 18, 2012: The Knights Templar cartel once again announced that it will call a truce during Pope Benedict XVI’s tour of Mexico. Signs went up in seven towns in Guanajuato state. The Knights also operate in Michoacan State.