Several months ago the national oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) announced that it would be taking steps to combat organized criminals stealing and smuggling fuel and other petroleum products. PEMEX officials and government investigators have evidence that both the Zetas and the Gulf drug cartels have engaged in fuel theft. The most common means of theft is tapping a PEMEX pipeline carrying refined fuels. Hijacking fuel trucks is another method. The criminals hijack trucks carrying refined products or crude oil. PEMEX has increased the number of security personnel at key pipeline facilities. Recently the company announced that it would halt the shipment of refined products by pipeline. Unrefined fuel (crude oil) will flow through the pipelines to regional refineries to be processed. In late 2014 PEMEX estimated that criminals had stolen the equivalent of 7.5 million barrels of oil (worth over a billion dollars), most of it from pipelines.
March 4, 2015: Authorities reported that federal security forces arrested (in a suburb of Monterrey) Los Zetas commander Omar Trevino Morales (nom de guerre Z-42). Prosecutors charged him with possessing illegal weapons and participating in organized criminal activity. That makes two cartel leaders in one week.
February 27, 2015: Security forces in Michoacan state arrested (in the city of Morelia) Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, the senior commander of the Knights Templar cartel. Gomez has run the cartel for two decades. Prosecutors said that Gomez is the highest-ranking cartel chieftain arrested since security forces arrested the Sinaloa cartel’s senior commander Joaquin Guzman in 2014.
The Attorney General of Mexico, Jesus Murillo, announced that he will resign from his position. Murillo has faced intense criticism for what the public regarded as his disinterested response to the Iguala Massacre.
February 26, 2015: The anti-corruption bill favored by the government passed the lower house of Mexico’s congress. The bill creates a special prosecutor position to confront government corruption and investigate public officials suspected of corruption. Unfortunately, the Mexican president continues to face scathing criticism for his relationships with government contractors, including one who built a house for his wife. Many Mexican citizens are saying “we’ll believe the government is serious about corruption when we actually see it’s serious.” So far the president has refused to apologize for his questionable relationships with political donors and government contractors. He says he did nothing wrong. The September 26, 2014 Iguala Massacre of 43 student teachers adds to the perception of endemic government corruption. The students were handed over to their executioners by local police, at the direction of Iguala’s mayor and his wife.
February 25, 2015: Protestors in Acapulco (Guerrero state) confronted police over the death of protestor who was killed during a violent demonstration that occurred on the evening of February 24. The protestors carried machetes and bats. Investigators reported that an autopsy concluded that the protestor killed on February 24 was crushed as the demonstrators fought with police.
February 22, 2015: Mexican Army soldiers killed five drug cartel gunmen in a firefight near the town of San Fernando (Tamaulipas state). San Fernando is about 75 miles south of Matamoros (Texas-Mexico border). The soldiers were conducting a motorized (wheeled) patrol on a highway when they spotted a suspicious pickup truck. Gunmen in the vehicle began shooting at the soldiers. The Gulf and Zetas cartels are engaged in a turf war in Tamaulipas state.
February 19, 2015: Some 200 protesting student teachers threw Molotov cocktails (firebombs) at the headquarters office of the Mexican Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion (city of Chilpancingo, Guerrero state). Authorities reported no one was injured in the attack. The assault only lasted a few minutes and the attackers then returned to their school, which is located in the town of Tixtla. The student teachers were protesting the Iguala Massacre. They contend the Mexican Army failed to protect the student teachers who were murdered in the massacre.
February 17, 2015: The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced the state will double the amount of money it spends on border security. The state currently spends around $12 million a month to deploy Texas Army National Guard soldiers along the border. Abbott made his pledge in his annual State of the State speech, but the pledge follows several reports that Texas security officials believe Mexican drug cartels are the biggest security threat Texas faces. U.S. and Texas security experts are concerned that the turf war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas could spill across the border. Two factions of the Gulf cartel are now fighting one another in Tamaulipas, a faction based in Reynosa (Los Metros) and a faction in Matamoros (Los Ciclones).
February 13, 2015: The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances has asked the government to investigate the participation of Mexican state forces in the disappearance of Mexican citizens. An “enforced disappearance” is one that investigation determines involved the arrest or abduction of people by state security agents (usually police or soldiers). According to some estimates 22,600 Mexicans have disappeared in the last eight years and half of the disappeared remain unaccounted for.
February 12, 2015: In the United States a federal court opened a sealed indictment which charged 32 people with money-laundering on behalf of the Sinaloa drug cartel. The 32 people were either Mexican or American citizens. The money-laundering scam involved selling gold for cash. Cartel operatives purchased gold and scrap gold. Some of the purchases were made from Chicago-area jewelers. The gold was then sent to other operatives in California and Florida for melting and refining. The refined and reformed gold was then sold and the proceeds sent to Mexico. Half of the accused are already under arrest and the rest are fugitives. Some of the fugitives are believed to be hiding in Mexico.
February 11, 2015: Osiel Cardenas, Jr. has pled guilty to charges that he attempted to smuggle weapons and ammunition to Mexico. He is the son of Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, former Gulf Cartel commander in northeastern Mexico. He was arrested in December 2014 in Brownsville, Texas.
February 7, 2015: The federal attorney general’s office announced that it will permit the release of Sandra Avila Beltran. She was serving a five-year prison sentence for money-laundering charges involving the Sinaloa Cartel. She has served part of her current sentence. A federal judge recently ruled that the government had prosecuted her for crimes for which she had already been convicted and served time.
February 6, 2015: Police have found 61 bodies in a crematorium near the city of Acapulco. The bodies had been there for several months. Police investigated after residents reported a terrible smell. Investigators said that the bodies were likely those of people murdered in drug cartel-related violence.
Mexican Army soldiers in Tamaulipas state chased a suspected Zetas cartel scout (lookout) into a warehouse near the Mexico-Texas border. Inside the soldiers discovered a hidden machine shop for adding armor to vehicles. A Mercedes Benz sedan and 12 SUVs and pickups were also found inside the warehouse.