Mexico: Head Shot

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November 18, 2011: The government continues to investigate the November 11 helicopter crash which killed the nation’s top crime fighter, the Interior Secretary. The government has requested help analyzing forensic evidence gathered at the crash site (near the city of Chalco). French and U.S. accident investigators have provided some additional expertise. The official statements continue to emphasize pilot error and perhaps instrument failure, but the big worry in everyone’s mind remains assassination. The interior secretary is a prime target for drug cartels who want to intimidate the security officials they cannot corrupt.

November 16, 2011: U.S. police seized 17 tons of marijuana after they discovered another tunnel beneath the Mexico-California border. The tunnel is about 400 meters in length and connects a warehouse in Tijuana (Baja California) to a similar facility in San Diego. It was about one and a half meters in height and a meter wide.

The federal attorney general’s office said that it will attempt to extradite six people on gun smuggling charges. The suspects are currently in U.S. custody. There are apparently at least two cases involved, one of which is not drug-related. The official government statement did not expand on the extradition requests and did not mention the failed U.S. Fast and Furious gun smuggling sting operation.

November 15, 2011: He’s back. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka AMLO) announced that he will run for president on the PRD ticket. Lopez Obrador has never conceded the 2006 election. He said in 2006 that he was cheated and would serve as a shadow president. A recent poll showed that he might get around 30 percent of the popular vote.

November 13, 2011: Mexican soldiers arrested a senior commander of the Knights Templar cartel in an operation carried out in Michoacan state. The troops seized Juan Gabriel Orozco Favela near the state capital, Morelia. Orozco Favela is accused of ordering or carrying out 21 murders in June 2011. The victims were also tortured and their bodies dumped in and around Morelia.

November 11, 2011: The Interior Minister and seven other people died when their helicopter crashed near the city of Chalco (not far from Mexico City). The Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Human Rights was also killed in the crash. The Interior Minister is basically the number two leader (behind the president) in the Cartel War, so he is a prime target for assassination by the cartelistas. Two other cabinet-level secretaries have died in aircraft accidents since 2005, and both crashes were later determined to be accidents.

November 9, 2011: Mexican and U.S. authorities reported that several people saw a group of armed gunmen cross the U.S.-Mexico border after a shootout with Mexican troops. The gunmen crossed near the town of Escobares (south Texas). Several local and state SWAT teams responded to the report. The intruders quickly returned to Mexico. The likely explanation is that a group of cartel gunmen were trying to evade Mexico soldiers. The event remains under investigation.

November 8, 2011: The U.S. Attorney General told Congressional investigators that certain information previously released about the Bureau and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) gun smuggling sting operation, Fast and Furious, had inaccuracies. The operation was set up to identify cartel operatives acquiring the guns and use that lead to identify senior leaders in the cartels. The guns were bought in the U.S., and then smuggled into Mexico. On December 14, 2010 a U.S. Border Patrol agent was murdered with one of the weapons. An early report by the U.S. government claimed that the U.S. government had not allowed weapons to go into Mexico; in fact, it had, and that was what Fast and Furious entailed. An estimated 1800 weapons entered Mexico through the BATFE operation.

November 6, 2011: Security forces in Tijuana captured a senior leader of the Arellano Felix drug cartel. Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha had been involved in a shootout with a rival member of the gang. Over the last three years the government has put a lot of pressure on the Arellano Felix cartel and according to the government it is fracturing. However, the Sinaloa cartel is also operating in Tijuana.

November 3, 2011: In the wake of the exposure (and failure) of the U.S. Fast and Furious gun smuggling sting operation, other U.S. anti-cartel operations are coming under increased scrutiny. Mexican authorities argue that the U.S. anti-drug operations, however well intentioned, amount to assaults on Mexican sovereignty. The U.S. police agencies take the position that some Mexican investigatory bureaus are corrupted and the corrupt cops pass details of undercover ops on to the drug bosses. Mexican authorities acknowledge off the record that they have benefited from information gathered by U.S. undercover agents who have infiltrated the cartels without the knowledge of Mexican security organizations. Infiltration does not have to occur in Mexico, since the gangs have networks in the U.S. and Central America, so there is a tiny bit of diplomatic cover. U.S. authorities have indicated that undercover counter-drug agents contributed to the U.S. intelligence effort to stop a would-be terror plot tied to an Iranian-American who is suspected of being an Iranian agent. The terror plot involved an attempt to hire gunmen from Los Zetas cartel to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. The Mexican government can legitimately complain about the U.S. ignoring Mexican sovereignty (and it does). The U.S. can also claim that it is pursuing legitimate intelligence operations related to U.S. national security (and it is).

 

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