The army is continuing to take the lead in on-going operations in Michoacan state. In early May, 1,000 federal police were deployed to Michoacan to combat drug cartel violence and to reassure frightened communities. On May 20th the government reinforced the police with 2,000 soldiers and 2,000 marines. The increasing number of community defense units also spurred the government to act in force because the government tends to consider these groups vigilantes. State and federal officials acknowledge that many villages in Michoacan are threatened and local police are either unreliable or completely outgunned. In mid-May, before the military reinforcements, the government touted the fact that the Michoacan operation was a trial run of the new emphasis on police being used to combat drug cartel violence and organized crime. The government gave the overall command to an army general. The general’s mandate included exercising sole command of not only Mexican military units but federal, state, and local police forces in the operational area. The driving concept behind this command structure was to give the senior security commander the authority to use the security force best suited for a particular mission. If heavily-armed gunmen were encountered, they would be met with soldiers. If the mission involved neighborhood patrol or inspecting vehicles, state or local police officers would probably get the job.
The government has portrayed the new command as a window on the future. When he was campaigning for office last in 2012, current president Pena was highly critical of former president Calderon’s reliance on the military to fight the Cartel War. Pena kept hammering away at stopping crime and criminals. Pena had a political goal: he wanted to frame the Cartel War as a law enforcement problem. Candidate Pena continually made the point that combat soldiers are not trained to investigate crimes and do not know how to look for or handle evidence (chain of custody). Pena agreed that soldiers can provide security but when combating the drug cartels they should be the force of last resort. Pena’s critique tended to ignore the fact that Calderon had indeed used the military as a last resort, but favorable media rarely mentioned this fact. Pena also ignored the fact that Calderon’s government had put in place several judicial and police reform programs designed to produce trustworthy, honest, and competent police forces capable of replacing the military as the lead agency in the Cartel War. Pena made the creation of a national gendarmerie (paramilitary police force) a major campaign issue. Officers in his proposed gendarme force would be trained as police. However, the gendarmes would also be able to operate in “formed police units” – that is, the gendarmes could deploy as a mobile constabulary capable of conducting military-type area security operations, counter-terror patrols, and small-scale counter-insurgency operations.
Mexico may well create a gendarmerie but it now appears that Pena is acknowledging reality. The crisis in Michoacan state cannot wait. Three cartels, the Knights Templar, La Familia, and the Jalisco New Generation are engaged in a large-scale turf war. The cartels have also fought with several of the community militias (comunitarios, local volunteer defense groups). The situation in the state’s Tierra Caliente region (border area with Guerrero state) is particularly bad. The current operation is the first major military operation under the Pena administration. It appears that until the gendarmes arrive the military will continue to be the lead agency in the Cartel War. (Austin Bay)
June 23, 2013: The Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed that Benicio Lopez, a U.S. citizen arrested on June 13th in San Juan, Texas, is a senior member of the Gulf cartel. Lopez was born in Houston and grew up in the Texas town of Roma (on the Rio Grande River and the U.S.-Mexico border). Lopez began working his way up the Gulf cartel’s command chain when he ran the cartel cell’s in the Riberena district of the border city of Reynosa (Tamaulipas state). Reynosa is just south of the city of McAllen, Texas. Lopez later took control of Ciudad Miguel Aleman, which is directly across the Rio Grande River from Roma, Texas. Lopez uses the nom de guerre Commandante Veneno (Commander Venom).
June 19, 2013: Security personnel in the resort town of Playa del Carmen (Quintana Roo state) arrested a man who is on the FBI’s Ten most Wanted List.
June 13, 2013: Police arrested 12 people believed to be involved in the murder of 11 women in the city of Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua state) last year. The twelve will face murder and human trafficking charges. Police alleged that several of the individuals arrested were drug dealers and pimps.
June 11, 2013: Security forces freed over 270 people who were working as forced-laborers at a vegetable packing facility near the town of Toliman (Jalisco state). State prosecutors said the people were being held in slave-like conditions. Five facility managers are under arrest for human trafficking. Police reported that they became aware of the facility when a worker escaped.
June 10, 2013: Mexican security officials and U.S. police believe that the Sinaloa cartel has operatives in 75 U.S. cities. The figure is credible. In March 2013, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) released its annual state security estimate, Threat Overview 2013. That report listed Mexican narcotics trafficking organizations as the biggest security threat confronting Texas. The DPS said that six of Mexico’s eight most powerful cartels operate in Texas: the Sinaoa, Beltran-Leyva, Los Zetas, Gulf, Juarez, and La Familia (Michoacana). Los Zetas and La Familia have the most wide-spread, active, and entrenched operations. The cartels have de facto operational areas. Beltran-Leyva operates along the Texas Gulf Coast. Sinaloa and Juarez operate in western Texas. Gulf, Los Zetas, and La Familia operate in central and eastern Texas, with the Interstate 35 corridor as the central spine of operations. IH-35 runs from Laredo, Texas to Canada and it is sometimes called the NAFTA interstate. Like legitimate trucking companies, the cartels develop regional hubs. Dallas and Fort Worth are in the IH-35 corridor and Texas police and sheriffs departments say that the Dallas-Fort Worth area has become a cartel smuggling and operational hub. San Antonio, at the junction of IH-35 and IH-10, is also a hub. Several years ago the FBI and DEA reported that Mexican cartels were developing partnerships with local gangs in the U.S. and that Southern California and Texas were not the only locales. The cartels were establishing relationships with gangs in Chicago and in the eastern U.S. The cartels have established partnership operations with gangs in every major Texas city. Local gangs outside of the big cities can still be a major link in a cartel’s international supply chain. In late April and early May, police in Central Texas (along the IH-35 corridor between San Antonio and Dallas) arrested regional gang members with direct connections to Los Zetas cartel. Police identified individuals arrested in the April operation as members of the Mexican Mafia and Tango Blasts gangs. One of the individuals arrested had 13 kilos of cocaine and $1 million in cash. (Austin Bay)
June 9, 2013: Mexico City police are continuing to investigate the May 26th mass abduction from a Zona Rosa club. Investigators now believe that the kidnapping of 12 people is related to a gang war going on in the Mexico City neighborhood of Tepito. The gang war is being waged by the Tepis and Union gangs. Both gangs are based in Tepito. Video footage from street cameras examined by investigators show the abductees being led into several small cars two at a time. The kidnappers do not wear masks and they do not appear to be carrying weapons. The video undermines the statement of an alleged witness who claimed heavily armed men put the abductees in an SUV. Police believe the abductees knew their kidnappers.
Gunmen attacked a prison in the city of La Union (Guerrero state, western Mexico). The gunmen killed two guards, wounded another, and then freed nine prisoners. One prisoner, who was not among those freed in the prison break, was wounded in the assault.
June 8, 2013: A poll of Mexican companies revealed that 42 percent of the companies said that security had improved in the last year. Another 42 percent said that the security situation had not changed in the last year, while 13 percent reported that the security situation had gotten worse. Several companies which said the situation had deteriorated cited increased corruption as the cause for deteriorating security. Only two percent of the companies reported that they had shifted corporate operations from Mexico to another country because of the poor security situation. In responding to a question about corruption, 36 percent said that extortion was increasingly a problem. The business group said that only 16 percent cited extortion as a problem when it conducted the poll in 2011.
June 6, 2013: Soldiers freed 165 kidnap victims who were imprisoned in a house in the town of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (Mexico-Texas border, across from McAllen, Texas). Most (150) were Central Americans and said they were on their way to the U.S. Of the others 14 people were Mexicans and one was from India.
June 5, 2013 Mexico City police have arrested three suspects in the May 26th mass kidnapping incident, where 12 people were taken from a night club. Two waiters from the club were arrested. The third suspect is a woman who police believe is involved in the crime. The crime initially stymied police investigators. Then a man who claims he witnessed the kidnappings told police that masked, heavily armed men entered the bar. At gunpoint they forced the 12 abductees to leave the bar and climb into SUVs waiting in the street. The informant said he was in the bar but avoided the kidnappers and ran. Investigators said they are examining video taken by 12 surveillance cameras located on the streets near the club. The club is located near Paseo del Reforma, one of the city’s main avenues, Police now believe that two Mexico City drug gangs may be involved in the crime. Several of the abductees live in Mexico City’s Tepito barrio, which is an impoverished area where criminal gangs have a lot of power. Investigators have determined that the fathers of two of the kidnapped men are currently in prison. The imprisoned men are senior members of gangs which are based in Tepito. The mass kidnapping concerns the national government, for many obvious reasons. A daylight mass kidnapping in the national capital is a bold criminal act. It is also another attack on Mexico’s tourist industry. The kidnapping happened in Zona Rosa, an entertainment district and one of the country’s premier shopping districts.
June 4, 2013: China’s president visited Mexico as part of a visit to several western hemispheric nations. Mexico’s president visited China in April. The two countries are discussing trade and investments. China is already Mexico’s second largest trading partner. The U.S. is first. Mexico’s trade gap with China is enormous. Mexico sold China $5.7 billion in goods and services. China sold Mexico $57 billion. Mexico wants China to increase its investments in the country.
June 3, 2013: Security personnel in Guerrero state discovered the bodies of three missing left-wing political activists. Five other activists remain missing. The group disappeared on May 30th after participating in a protest to support local farmers. Two of the recovered bodies were riddled with bullet wounds. The third activist was probably beaten to death. One of the dead was a senior member of Guerrero state’s Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). Investigators said they are not certain that the murders had a political motive. Two drug cartels are fighting a turf war in the area and the political activists may have been caught in the crossfire.
May 26, 2013: Police reported that gunmen kidnapped 12 people in a bar in Mexico City’s chic Zona Rosa district. The kidnappings occurred in daylight before noon. Seven men and five women were abducted. Police said they have found no definite motives for the kidnappings.