Extortion is on the rise. During January-August of this year over 5,300 extortion attempts were reported in Mexico. If the trend continues, 2013 will have over 8,000 reported incidents of attempted extortion, which is roughly twice the total number of reported attempts in 2007. But the officially reported extortion attempts drastically understates the threat. Security officials believe only about ten percent of extortion attempts are reported. Ironically, the government attributes the rise in extortion directed at businesses to successful police and military operations against the larger criminal cartels that have fragmented these organizations. Essentially, gunmen and street operatives are out of work so they turn to kidnapping, robbery, and extortion. The tourist industry is particularly vulnerable to threats of kidnapping, vandalism, arson, and robbery but multinational businesses are also reporting an increase in criminal threats. Food wholesalers have told the police that gangsters threaten to burn their warehouses and delivery vehicles. Trucking companies report that the gunmen threaten to steal their vehicles or burn them.
October 17, 2013: An explosion at a natural gas facility near the capital left 6 dead. This is the third such fatal accident in oil and gas facilities in the last 2 years. These incidents have left 50 people dead, many more injured, and a lot of property damage. The cause is corruption and mismanagement in the state owned energy company (Pemex) and a small number of privately owned companies that monopolize distribution of oil and natural gas products in Mexico (like Grupo Tomza, which owned the facility that exploded today). Fixing this problem has proven extremely difficult.
October 13, 2013: The U.S. Senate passed a bill to implement an oil and gas drilling agreement with Mexico. The agreement governs offshore drilling along the countries’ maritime boundary. Mexico ratified the agreement in 2012.
October 12, 2013: Since 2011, some 220 Americans have been murdered in Mexico. That includes 40 in the city of Tijuana and its environs. In addition, 8 were killed in and around Mexicali, 6 in Nogales, 29 in Ciudad Juarez, and 11 in Nuevo Laredo. An estimated 220 Americans have been murdered in Mexico during that time period.
October 9, 2013: 3 police officers and four Jalisco New Generation cartel gunmen were killed in a four-hour long firefight in the city of Tepatitlan (Jalisco state). 4 officers were also wounded in a battle that began when local police surprised the group of gunmen (armed with rifles and grenades). As the battle dragged on the local police called for state police reinforcements. State police arrested one gunman after the battle and retrieved 9 rifles, including a 12.7mm (.50 caliber) sniper rifle.
October 8, 2013: The government has arrested 18 people allegedly involved in a criminal group which committed 7 murders and 4 kidnappings in the city of Acapulco (Guerrero state). Unfortunately, 13 of the people under arrest are federal police officers.
October 7, 2013: President Enrique Pena Nieto pledged to restore peace to Michoacan state. Pena also promised that the federal government would help the state build new roads and infrastructure. For example, the government will expand the main highway from Jilotepec to Atlacomulco to 4 lanes. The Mexican Army is continuing its operations against criminal cartels in the state. Pena praised the army’s efforts to end the bloodshed in Michoacan state. The Mexican Army’s extended security operation in Michoacan is extremely complex, politically and militarily. The Jalisco New Generation cartel is fighting a turf war with the Knights Templar cartel in Michaocan, Jalisco, and Guerrero states, with Michoacan being the main battlefield. Many villages in Michoacan and Guerrero have formed their own community defense militias. The rural villagers have told the military and many reporters that they do not trust the local and state police forces, who are poorly trained and often corrupt. The rural villagers say they do respect the Mexican Army. The army, however, tends to distrust the community defense organizations, regarding many of them as vigilante organizations. Though it does not have the troops to place a garrison in every village that is threatened by cartel gunmen, the army has promised to provide more protection to vulnerable rural villages.
October 4, 2013: The Guatemalan government announced that Mexican security officers arrested Eduardo Villatoro, a Guatemalan drug gang commander who is believed to have ordered the June 2013 mass murder of 8 Guatemalan policemen in the town of Salcaja (Quetzaltenango district). Villatoro’s gunmen kidnapped a ninth policeman and tortured him to death. Villatoro was arrested in the city of Tuxtla Guiterrez (Chiapas state). The June 2013 atrocity in Guatemala shocked the country, for several reasons. Investigators concluded that the drug gang attacked the police office because 1 of the policemen had tried to steal money from the gang. So far Guatemalan police have arrested 14 other people prosecutors believe were involved in the attack in Salcaja.
October 2, 2013: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has estimated that the Sinaloa cartel now supplies the city of Chicago and the northern Illinois area with 80 percent of the regions cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines. The street value of the Sinaloa cartel’s product in Chicago alone is around $3 billion a year. The Sinaloa cartel is regarded as being Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel.
October 1, 2013: A non-governmental organization reported that local self-defense militias (also known as armed citizen self-defense groups or community self-defense forces) are operating in 9 of Mexico’s 31 states.
September 29, 2013: Cartel gunmen in the city of Cuernavaca (Morelos state) killed 4 people and wounded 4 others in an attack on a local bar. The gunmen rode motorcycles to the establishment, launched their attack, and then fled. In the city of Fresnillo (Zacatecas state) gunmen murdered 3 people in a small grocery store. Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel are fighting a turf war in Fresnillo.
September 27, 2013: Police found 3 severed heads in a traffic circle near the town of Los Reyes (Michoacan state). A note from a drug gang was found with the heads. A drug gang and community self-defense force from a village near Los Reyes recently fought a battle. The villagers now report that the gangsters have threatened members of the self-defense force.