Local investigators have reported for several years that drug cartels were stealing oil from PEMEX facilities in northern Mexico. And it turned out they were. The U.S. government has subsequently prosecuted several U.S. residents who either bought or helped sell crude oil and petroleum products Mexican criminal gangs filched and then smuggled into the U.S. So it isn’t news that the Mexican cartels have stolen or extorted natural resources and then sold them. Last year there were a couple of reports that a drug cartel (probably La Familia) was involved in a silver mining operation in western Mexico. Now there are reports that Los Zetas cartel may be involved in coal mining operations in Coahuila state. The government has reportedly sent a task force of mining inspectors to Coahuila to investigate the allegations. One report indicated that federal government investigators believe individuals in the Coahuila state government, which runs a state-owned electrical power company, have been involved in buying coal from Zetas-controlled mining operations. (Austin Bay)
January 6, 2013: Between January 4-6, some 26 people died in drug gang-related violence (16 in Chihuahua state on the Texas border and six in Sinaloa state).
January 5, 2013: Police uncovered a 300 meter-long drug smuggling tunnel running from Mexicali to its California sister city, Calexico. The tunnel was over ten meters below ground and sported a lighting system and what investigators called a sophisticated ventilation system.
January 3, 2013; Soldiers killed 12 cartel gunmen in what defense officials called a running gunfight in Zacatecas state (north-central Mexico). The firefight took place on a 50 kilometer-long stretch of highway. The gunmen were riding in vehicles and refused to stop when soldiers ordered the vehicles to halt.
December 30, 2012: This time they were waiting. Mexican Marines reported that they killed four cartel gunmen in Vera Cruz state who tried to snatch the dead body of a slain Lost Zetas cartel commander. Marines killed Zetas commander Angel Enrique Uscanga on December 29. The gunmen tried to re-take Uscanga’s body, in an action similar to the theft of the body of Los Zetas senior commander Heriberto Lazcano (killed in October 2012, and cartel gunmen stole his corpse from a mortuary).
December 26, 2012: A U.S. website is claiming that several thousand Mayan Indians associated with the Zapatista movement of the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) marched on Maya apocalypse day December 21. This report remains unconfirmed but it is a great story. Allegedly, the Maya marched out of the Chiapas jungle and followed routes similar to those Mayan EZLN members used on January 1, 1994. That Maya protest was directed at the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Legendary Zapatista leader Sub-Commandante Marcos was said to have issued a statement. Yes, Marcos is still around and he still wears a mask. It seems he also prefers to be called by his nickname, El Sup, which is supposed to be short for sub-commandante,
December 25, 2012: A group of cartel gunmen attacked El Platanar de Los Ontiveros in Sinaloa state (western Mexico) on Christmas Eve. The gunmen killed nine residents of the town and then tossed their bodies out on to an open field. Police attributed the attack to the gang war being waged in Sinaloa between the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas. Officials said that the pro-Zetas gunmen may have been part of a gang that was once an element of the Beltran-Leyva cartel.
December 21, 2012: The Knights Templar drug cartel has reportedly told the new presidential administration that it will lay down its weapons if the new government will stop violent crime in Michoacan state (the Knights Templar’s home territory). The gang portrays itself as the defenders of the area. The Knights split from La Familia cartel in early 2011.
December 20, 2012: The government won’t touch this subject but some Mexican groups claim that 20,800 people have disappeared in Mexico since the Cartel War began in 2006, including 1,200 children under the age of 11. Another estimate holds that that 24,000 people were missing since 2000, and that around 16,000 bodies have been discovered but not identified.
December 19, 2012: The government’s announcement that proposed gendarmerie force could grow to 40,000 surprised many security analysts. Though that figure had appeared early in the presidential campaign, Mexico’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, said during the campaign that his proposed paramilitary police force (Gendarmeria Nacional) would have 10,000 officers. However, on December 17, senior defense officials returned to the 40,000 figure. In other words, the new gendarmerie would be a small army – and a force potentially in competition with the Mexican Army and Mexican Navy. Gendarme units are what security specialists call formed police units (FPU). Formed police units are policemen armed with military grade weapons and trained for military-type operations. They deploy in military formations – squads, platoons, companies, and occasionally as battalions. Local police usually respond as a single officer or in pairs (eg. one squad car with two officers or three or four squad cars, each with two officers). The gendarme units, however, have police (ie, peace officer) enforcement authority, which military units will not necessarily have. Several NATO nations, France, Italy, and Turkey in particular, make extensive use of gendarme units. Italy’s Carabinieri played a key role in the battle against Communist terrorist groups in the 1970s. Turkey’s gendarmes have been very active in Turkey’s guerrilla war against the Kurdistan Workers Party. Ostensibly, the proposed Mexican gendarmes would operate like the Carabinieri and be able to field what are essentially very large SWAT teams to fight drug cartel gunmen. The new Mexican administration made that argument when it argued that the new gendarme force would fill in a security gap between police forces and the military and would relieve the military of having to fight a war against criminal gangs. To many analysts, however, this looked like political rhetoric. Mexico’s federal police (Federales) already have paramilitary police units and that the new gendarme force would be replicating already existing Federales capabilities. So why not just beef up the Federales? The answer to that was that Pena can't say that because he wants the media to think he has a new idea. Other analysts argued that he would simply be taking military units and camouflaging them as police units. Pena did acknowledge that his force would likely rely on recruits from the Mexican Army and the Mexican Navy’s Marine force. A 40,000 man gendarmerie looks more than a bit like three light infantry divisions relieved of their artillery and re-cast as military police battalions. (Austin Bay)
December 18, 2012: The newly elected government believes that there are over 80 small to medium-sized drug cartels now operating in Mexico. The government is making the argument that attacking the major cartels has not destroyed their capacity but has simply caused the cartels to fragment into smaller gangs.
December 17, 2012: Mexico’s new Interior Secretary attacked the administration of former president Felipe Calderon, by claiming that though the budget for security operations had doubled, crime had increased. He also said that the proposed gendarme force may eventually grow to 40,000 policemen. Until now the new force was supposed to consist of 10,000 gendarmes, which would be formed into 15 gendarme units (ie, battalion-sized units). A spokesman for the administration also said that Mexico would be split into five regions for internal security planning purposes. What the five regions will be has not yet been made public.
December 15, 2012: Marines continue to attack the Zetas cartel’s extensive radio communications network. In late 2011, the navy began releasing more information about Los Zetas radio communications system. In 2012, several reports discussed the cartel’s communication system as it functions in the city of Monterrey, where the cartel uses street observers (sometimes cab drivers) to watch for the police and military, as well as keep tabs on rival drug gangs. The Monterrey system is an example of the cartel’s local radio network in action. In Vera Cruz state the Marines discovered a state-wide network, or regional communications system, that integrated local communications networks. Mexican security officials later said that police and military investigators had discovered a radio repeater system which connected the Zetas’ eastern radio network (ie, Verz Cruz state) with southern Mexico and cartel members operating near the Guatemalan border.
December 14, 2012: U.S. prosecutors have charged 30 members of La Familia cartel with a variety of drug smuggling and drug-related criminal felonies. So far 15 of those charged have been arrested in the U.S. by law enforcement agencies. Most of those arrested were living in four counties in southern California: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, and Orange counties.
December 12, 2012: The British HSBC Group (a major international bank) agreed to a plea bargain deal with U.S. Justice Department officials. HSBC was accused of laundering money for Mexican cartels and handling illegal transactions on behalf of Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Myanmar (Burma). The bank group forfeited 1.25 billion dollars in laundered drug money and will pay over six hundred million dollars in additional and the Trading with the Enemy Act.
A U.S. court sentenced a man who had purchased weapons in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Fast and Furious gunwalking operation fiasco to 57 months in prison. Two of the weapons the convicted man bought ended up at the scene of the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
December 7, 2012: Security officials in the state of Tamaulipas (northern Mexico) found the bodies of three murder victims in two vehicles. The victims were slain by the Gulf cartel.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials said that a nation-wide drug operation named Below the Beltway had resulted in the arrest of 3,780 criminals. The DEA’s Special Operations Division ran the operation. It involved several federal agencies as well as state and local police forces.
December 2, 2013: One day after the swearing in of Enrique Pena Nieto as Mexico’s new president, the new administration’s information war is in full swing. And who is the enemy? It appears to be former president Felipe Calderon and his administration. Stories appeared in U.S. and Mexican media that seemed to blame the loss of life in the Cartel War on the Calderon Administration’s decision to fight it. The stories tended to soft peddle, or completely ignored, the fact that Mexico’s well-financed criminal syndicates were already killing themselves and innocent people when Calderon decided to use the Mexican military to stop the gangs from slicing Mexico into gang-run duchies. Pena is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PRI is masterful at information attacks. Security analysts who believe the PRI will not seriously battle the drug cartels (and this is an indirect way of arguing that the PRI is irredeemably corrupt) anticipated the assault on Calderon’s legacy.
December 1, 2012: Enrique Peña Nieto was inaugurated as Mexico’s president. During the campaign Pena touted a new plan to defeat the drug cartels. Pena’s new plan emphasized better government planning, improved coordination among government security, police, and intelligence agencies, spending more money on social development and crime-prevention programs, and doing a better job of protecting human rights. Pena’s inauguration marked the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PRI controlled Mexico 71 years until the National Action Party’s (PAN) Vicente Fox won the presidency in 2000.