The U.S. military continues to expand its training support for Mexico. In 2013 the U.S. spent $15 million versus $3 million in 2009. When the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, won the presidential election, some of the old line PRI members suggested that Mexican military forces did not need any help from the U.S. They were playing on old hardline nationalist emotions. But that did not happen because the threats the country faces are real. Mexico and the U.S. share numerous security concerns, beginning with organized crime and terror threats. Military forces are also active in multi-lateral exercises. For example, Mexican Navy ships and marines trained with seven other nations as part of the UNITAS-Partnership of the Americas 2014 multinational exercise (August 11-22).
August 28, 2014: A U.S. federal court in Laredo, Texas sentenced Richard John Medina to eight years in prison. Medina was convicted on charges of smuggling weapons and explosives (grenades) to Los Zetas cartel.
August 26, 2014: The government announced that it will begin cracking down on illegal migrants (most of them from Central America) who are riding on railroad freight cars. Mexican transportation officials acknowledged that the problem is getting out of control.
August 22, 2014: The government officially announced the formation of the Mexican gendarmerie. The new federal paramilitary police force is much smaller than the one President Enrique Pena touted when he ran for office. At one time he said the force would deploy 40,000 gendarmes. The new force has 5,000 gendarmes. It is also part of the federal police and not a separate organization. Security officials intend to use the force to protect key infrastructure (mines, oil and gas facilities, etc.).
August 21, 2014: U.S. security agents (including DEA agents) tracked and arrested a group of men near Pharr, Texas. The men were carrying large bundles of marijuana. The suspects told the agents that they had been forced by members of the Gulf cartel to carry the drugs across the border. The suspects said that the cartel gunmen had told them if they carried the drugs the cartel would make sure they could stay in the U.S. with family members. An armed guide had been with the group but he escaped. Presumably the armed guide was a cartel gunman.
August 17, 2014: Security officials have noted an increase in the number of hand grenade attacks by cartel gunmen. A senior Gulf cartel member recently arrested in Mexico City was carrying a fragmentation grenade. Authorities reports that the cartels have been buying hand grenades in Central America. Some of the grenades come from military weapons stocks in El Salvador and Nicaragua. During the 1980s, both countries experienced long-running civil wars. Military fragmentation grenades command decent prices on the black market. Investigators believe cartels have paid up to $500 for a fragmentation grenade.
August 15, 2014: Police in Michoacan state have arrested the mayor of Huetama on charges of ordering a murder and extorting money from city employees. Prosecutors said that Ms. Dalia Santana took up to 20 percent of her employees’ salaries and gave the money to the Knights Templar cartel.
August 13, 2014: Preliminary statistics indicate the murder rate in Mexico has dropped in the last year. The statistics were compiled beginning in the month President Enrique Pena took office. The national statistics office recorded 22,732 during the period. That’s a 16 percent drop from the 27,200 murders in 2011. That’s a fall from 22 per 100,000 people to 18.4. Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa have murder rates of about 20 per year per 100,000. North Africa is 5.9 and North America is 3.9. Europe is 3.5 and Asia is 3.1.
August 11, 2014: Federal prosecutors confirmed they have charged Rodrigo Vallejo with obstructing justice and withholding evidence. He is the son of former Michoacan state governor Fausto Vallejo, who is suspected of corruption.
August 10, 2014: Gunmen in the city of Hueyapan (Verzcruz state) murdered three people and wounded two others. The victims were attending a children’s birthday party when the gunmen attacked with AK-type assault rifles, which is typical of cartel gunmen. A three-way turf war is going on in Veracruz state, pitting Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel, with the Jalisco New Generation cartel a sometimes Zetas ally. Security officials also report that a faction of the Familia Michoacana is now operating in Veracruz state.
August 8, 2014: The government claimed that it has badly damaged a criminal group which has been stealing oil and oil products from Pemex. Simultaneous police raids occurred in Jalisco and Queretaro states and in the capital, Mexico City. Five suspects were arrested and numerous vehicles and firearms seized. Large scale oil thefts have plagued Mexico for a decade. The government is seeking private investment in the energy industry and the investors have said the government must address the theft problem.
August 6, 2014: Two illegal migrants were arrested in Willacy County, Texas on charges of murdering a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The agent was murdered on August 2. He was off-duty and fishing with his family near the town of Santa Monica.
August 5, 2014: Federal security officers in Mexico City arrested a senior member of the Gulf cartel operating in the city of Tampico (Tamaulipas state). The officers arrested Jose Ivan Chao Llanes in a Mexico City hotel. He was taking a vacation in the city and was arrested while carrying a hand grenade.
August 4, 2014: Jalisco state prosecutors reported that the mayor of Ayutla, a small mountain village in the state, has been murdered by cartel gunmen.