Another high ranking government official is being investigated for a fishy deal involving a commercial contractor. The new scandal is also a political problem for president Pena because it looks a lot like the “gift house” scandal that involves his wife. Pena allegedly received favors from a building private contractor. The details involving finance minister Luis Videgaray follow a typical pattern. Videgaray has personal ties to a contractor who handles numerous government construction projects. Videgaray supposedly purchased a luxury vacation home shortly after taking office. However, investigators have discovered that Videgaray got ownership of the house a year before he wrote a check to pay for it. Moreover, Videgaray wrote the check after the federal comptroller’s office had launched an investigation of his relationship with the contractor. For many Mexicans, this another example of embedded corruption in the political system. And they are tired of it. (Austin Bay)
August 29, 2015: Sinaloa cartel drug lord Joaquin (“El Chapo”) Guzman is still being active sought after his embarrassing July 11 escape from a high security prison. In the last week several police raids in Guzman’s home state of Sinola on the west coast led to the confiscation of 33 high-end automobiles and motorcycles as well as dozens of illegal weapons and other items. Some believe Guzman is hiding somewhere in Sinola where he has many supporters and employees. But Guzman could be anywhere and is adept at avoiding detection and capture. It’s not just Mexico that is looking for Guzman but also the U.S. America is now offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Guzman. It is believed that the Americans are also using their international intelligence resources to detect if Guzman gets out of Mexico. The U.S. has also announced it will extradite and prosecute Guzman if he is taken alive. Mexico had previously refused to extradite Guzman and that was believed due to bribes. That is a tactic many high-end criminals have used successfully before. Mexican prisons are much easier to escape from than their American counterparts. In fact the American “supermax” prisons have never suffered an escape.
August 28, 2015: The government warned officials in the state of Texas that it would sue if Texas refuses to give birth certificates to the children of illegal immigrants born in Texas. The government has already filed a supporting brief in a case where illegal immigrant parents are suing some Texas counties for denying birth certificates to their children.
August 26, 2015: Security forces in the north (Coahuila state) raided a ranch and several other properties operated by the Zetas cartel. Police seized nine quarter horses, several horse trailers and several trucks. The Attorney Generals Office said that the Zetas use buying and selling expensive horses as a way to launder money.
August 24, 2015: A truck driver arrested in Texas on drug smuggling charges told U.S. investigators that the Gulf Cartel had forcibly loaded his truck with illegal drugs. The gunmen then told him if he did not drive the drugs into the U.S. they would kill his family. The driver was caught trying to cross the international bridge connecting Reynosa to the US. His truck had approximately 11 kilos (25 pounds) of methamphetamines.
On the east coast (Veracruz State) a teacher at the University of Veracruz was found murdered (beaten to death). On August 17 a student at the school was found shot dead on board a vehicle as he was going home. At the moment authorities attribute the murders to attempted theft. However, the murders follow the unsolved murder of political activist Nadia Vera, who was also a student at the university. Vera was slain in Mexico City along with journalist-photographer Rueben Espinosa. The state government is acknowledging that citizens are angry about the its failure to solve the murders, Espinosa and Vera were both investigating Veracruz state’s governor, Javier Duarte, and had accused Duarte of threatening them. Duarte is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), President Pena’s ruling party.
August 21, 2015: Attorney General’s Office and media investigators allege that the May 2015 Michoacan state gun battle between federal police and Jalisco New Generation cartel gunmen may have involved extrajudicial killings. The shootout took place near Tahuato and occurred after New Generation gunmen launched several attacks on security forces. According to one investigator, of the 42 dead gunmen, 23 had suffered fatal wounds that look like execution shots. The wounds are in the head or from shots fired straight into the chest. These are not typical gunfight wounds. One corpse had no bullet wounds. The contusions indicated the gunman had been beaten to death. Police seized 43 weapons after the fight. Investigators claimed that only 12 of the weapons had been fired. One federal officer died in the gun battle. So the scenario is this. There was a gun fight, but it did not last very long. The Federales then rounded up the surviving gun men and killed them.
August 20, 2015: In the north a court in Chihuahua State convicted five La Linea cartel hit men of murder. The men conducted a murder for hire raid in Ciudad Juarez in 2013 where they murdered three people. The gunmen told prosecutors the cartel paid them $60 a week. Authorities describe La Linea as a splinter cartel that is still fighting a turf war with the Sinaloa cartel.
August 19, 2015: Critics are accusing the government of failing to quickly investigate the July 31 murder of journalist Ruben Espinosa. He and four women (including political activist Nadia Vera) were murdered in Mexico City. Espinosa was involved in investigative journalism projects in Veracruz State, one which was targeting Veracruz governor Javier Duarte. One group that seeks to protect journalists points out that 88 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000. Since 2010, the year Javier Duarte became governor of Veracruz State, 14 journalists have been murdered in the state. Here is another troubling statistic cited by critics: in 2012, 98 percent of the murders committed in Mexico were not solved. To an emerging majority of Mexicans, the unsolved murder statistic is indicative of what is frequently called the culture of impunity. That means crooked police and officials cover for criminals. (Austin Bay)
August 18, 2015: Two months ago president Pena’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) proudly claimed victory in legislative elections. However, since then the government has had a rough time. Everyone knows that on July 11 the Sinaloa cartel’s senior commander Joaquin Guzman escaped from a high security prison. Except the security there was not so high. The public and major media have focused their scorn on Pena. Guzman’s escape exemplifies government security failures. The public also suspects bribery was involved. The murder of journalist Rueben Espinosa has also outraged the public.
August 16, 2015: Sinaloa cartel drug lord Joaquin (“El Chapo”) Guzman’s attorney claimed that “foreign mercenaries” have entered Mexico with the mission to seize or kill his client. The attorney indicated that the mercenaries would take Guzman to the U.S. for trial. Guzman escaped from a Mexican prison in July.
August 15, 2015: Security forces reported that a police officer stopped a kidnapping attempt along a highway in the east (Tabasco State). The alleged kidnappers killed the officer and fled. A vehicle chase ensued and the kidnappers killed two more pursuing police officers. Other pursuing policeman, however, shot up the criminals’ vehicle and it crashed into a ditch. The five gunmen in the vehicle died.
August 14, 2015: The U.S. is revising a four-decade old ban on oil exports to Mexico. The U.S. government will now permit limited sale of American crude oil to Mexico. Several months ago the Mexican government suggested the U.S. change its policy so Mexico could swap heavy crude for light U.S. crude. Light crude is easier to refine into premium fuels.
August 12, 2015: Since early July security forces (a mix of Mexican Army soldiers and police) have increased their presence in the southwestern city of Chilapa (Guerrero State). The town is on a major smuggling route. In May members of the Rojos gang entered the city, ostensibly to kill members of a rival gang, the Ardillos. The Rojos kidnapped several people, who are still missing. The gangs are examples of splinter gangs (or factions) that form when a cartel is damaged. At one time the area was regarded as Beltran-Leyva cartel turf. Residents of the town, however, complain that security forces have yet to arrest any gang members though they are still in the area. Residents fear the gangs killed the kidnap victims. The government said that it is still investigating.
Two men pled guilty in U.S. court to charges of using a drone aircraft to smuggle heroin. On April 28 the two men attempted to retrieve a drone with 12.7 kg (28 pounds) of heroin where it landed near California Highway 98. The drone took off from the Mexican side of the border in Baja California State. It crossed the border near Calexico, California. A U.S. Border Patrol surveillance camera caught the two men retrieving the aircraft and they were arrested. The Border Patrol believes cartels have acquired drones that can fly pre-programmed routes using Global Positioning Satellite coordinates. There are several types of small drones that can fly from eight t0 30 kilometers (five to 20 miles), depending on the weight of the cargo. The drones can be customized. In July 2014 the U.S. DEA said that the use of drones was rising dramatically. The DEA estimated that there 150 drug bearing drone sorties a month. (Austin Bay)
August 9, 2015: Miguel Angel Jimenez, the leader of a citizen’s organization that has spearheaded the search for the bodies of the Iguala Massacre’s 43 student victims has been found murdered near his hometown, Xaltianguis (Guerrero state). Jimenez was a taxi driver and was found in his taxi with a bullet in his head. His murder will be another political problem for the government. Many Mexican citizens do not believe the government is thoroughly investigating the September 2014 murders.
August 7, 2015: It is widely assumed that Monterrey businessman Carlos Slim is the richest man in Mexico. A recent media report claimed that he is worth $70 billion. This is equivalent to 6.3 percent of Mexico’s annual GDP.
August 5, 2015: The United States offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of recently escaped cartel boss Joaquin (“El Chapo”) Guzman.
August 4, 2015: The Gulf cartel is conducting an information warfare campaign. The cartel has placed nearly three-dozen photos showing cartel gunmen and weapons on a blog. The goal is to intimidate rival gangs and civilians.
August 2, 2015: President Pena is facing more accusations of potential bribery and questionable contract deals. Investigators have documents which may show that Pena helped his friend, contractor Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantu, successfully win government contracts. The contracts were awarded when Pena was governor of the state of Mexico.
August 1, 2015: The body of photo-journalist Proceso Magazine was discovered in an apartment in Mexico City along with four women were also found murdered there. The murders were apparently committed on July 31. One of the murdered women was identified as Nadia Vera, a political activist and critic of Veracruz governor Javier Duarte. The victims had had their hands tied behind them and showed signs of being tortured by their murderers.
July 31, 2015: A judge has ordered that four soldiers face charges of murdering seven people in the town of Calera (Zacatecas state) on July 7. The four soldiers were assigned to the 97th Infantry Battalion.
A federal court said that the government would extradite Sinaloa cartel drug lord Joaquin Guzman to the U.S. if and when he is recaptured. Guzman escaped on July 11 from a Mexican prison.
July 30, 2015: A rioting crowd which included medallion (licensed) cab drivers attacked a group of Uber drivers outside the Mexico City airport. Some crowd members threw eggs at the Uber vehicles. Others used rocks and clubs to threaten Uber drivers, hit their vehicles and knock off side mirrors. A least one vehicle had its rear window destroyed. The cab drivers demanded a complete halt to the use of application-based smartphone rideshare services in Mexico City. The licensed drivers had held a previous protest demonstration in downtown Mexico City on July 28. At least ten Uber vehicles were damaged during that protest.
July 26, 2015: Prosecutors leading the investigation of the Iguala Massacre reported that over the last ten months (October 2014 to May 2015) searchers have found 129 bodies in some 60 unmarked grave sites throughout Guerrero state. None of these new remains are connected to the September 2014 murders of 43 student teachers (Iguala Massacre) in and around the city of Iguala (Guerrero state).