Mexico: One Down, Too Many To Go

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January 24, 2016: The army and Federal Police (Federales) have begun a new operation in the southwest (Guerrero state) that focusses on Chilapa, Zitlala and Teloloapan. The army will build a new garrison in the region. Citizens are demanding more protection from armed groups. The problem escalated in mid-January when armed men blocked roads, killed three people and abducted 22. It is believed that the break-up of larger drug cartels has contributed to some of the new violence. An estimated 50 “drug factions” are active in Guerrero.

This violence illustrates the strong appeal of the gangster life in Mexico, where corruption and weak government institutions leads to high unemployment and lots of poverty and anger. The demand for cocaine in the U.S. is considered easy money, despite the risk of death or imprisonment.

January 23, 2016: Think of this as another economic casualty in the Cartel War. American financial regulators acknowledge that they are concerned about Mexican gangs and drug cartels laundering money through U.S. banks and financial institutions. This is not a new concern, but since 2014 there has been increasing evidence that some Mexican financial institutions have used correspondent relationships with their American counterparts to launder funds. A correspondent relationship often allows a Mexican institution to make deposits in dollars and then conduct further transactions in dollars. But where did the dollars come from? That’s hard to determine and American regulators want to know. Mexico receives a lot of legal remittances from Mexicans living in the U.S. Much of that money is legal. A lot of it gets deposited in Mexican banks. With the regulators paying more attention, U.S. banks have begun terminating accounts by Mexican customers because the compliance costs for these banks keeps increasing.

January 22, 2016: What was rumor is now official policy. President Pena said that Mexico will extradite Joaquin Guzman to the United States as soon as possible and told the Attorney Generals Office to speed up the extradition process. He also acknowledged that Guzman’s prison escape (July 2015) was an embarrassment. He added that Guzman’s re-capture on January 8 was the result of careful and consistent intelligence and police work. What he did not comment on was rumors that the cartel Guzman runs is already working on another effort to get their boss out of whatever Mexican prison he is in.

January 21, 2016: Violence attributed to drug gangs has increased in the northeast (Tamaulipas state), especially in the town of Ciudad Victoria and surrounding areas. This began after the army withdrew a battalion (at the end of December) that had taken over police duties from municipal police forces and was supplementing state and federal police forces. The army said it was simply rotating one battalion out and bringing another in but the new battalion has not arrived yet. Tamaulipas state police have taken on the police duties the army handled but it appears that there are not enough state police. Since January 1, cartel gunmen (believed to belong to Los Zetas cartel) have attacked State Police patrols and convoys. In one attack (Gonzalez municipality) four police officers were wounded. An army battalion usually has an authorized strength of around 700 soldiers.

January 19, 2016: According to the government, attacks on army units by organized criminal gang increased 156 percent in the three years since president Pena took over compared to the last three years of the previous president Calderon. However, complaints filed against the army have decreased 63.6 percent compared to 2012 (the last year of Calderon rule). The complaints include physical abuse and criminal activities by soldiers (e.g., theft). An army official pointed out that increased training (on avoiding mistreatment of civilians) played a major role in the reduction in complaints. Also, many soldiers now wear video cameras (body cams and helmet cams) when involved in anti-crime operations.

January 15, 2016: Officials are indicating that they may consider American requests to extradite drug lord Joaquin Guzman. This is a change from what was once a firm decision to try him in Mexico.

January 14, 2016: A team of cartel gunmen ambushed two Federal Police vehicles near the town of Cuidad Mante (Tamaulipas state). Two of the six policemen in the vehicles members of the Federal Police special intelligence division. A cartel would consider these intelligence officers to be high priority targets. The attack occurred on a highway leading to the city of Tampico. The six policemen escaped the ambush and fled into a brushy area. Three rapid reaction teams responded to the ambush, including a platoon of marines. The Navy reaction team included a helicopter. One report stated that the rapid reaction teams used GPS data from one of the police vehicles to move to the location. None of the attackers were located, but all six policemen were rescued. The attack has been attributed to a hit team called “Puma” which is employed by the Gulf cartel.

January 13, 2016: The government will expand the investigation into the Iguala Massacre (September 2014). It is alleged that the mayor of Iguala (Guerrero state) and his wife helped corrupt police and a local drug gang murder 43 students. The massacre has become a national symbol of government corruption and incompetence. The expanded investigation will include new search efforts to find the students’ remains. So far the remains of one victim have been positively identified. It will be interesting to discover just what constitutes an expanded search. Since late September 2014, the government claims that around 600 search operations have been conducted. In October 2015 the government created a special investigation unit to conduct and coordinate search efforts.

January 11, 2016: Data indicate that since 2008 there has been no net migration of people from Mexico to the United States. In other words the out-flow of returning Mexican immigrants is equal the in-flow of new immigrants.

In Guerrero state an armed group broke into an elementary school and kidnapped five teachers.

January 10, 2016: Mexican media are harshly criticizing American actor Sean Penn for secretly interviewing Sinaloa cartel senior commander Joaquin Guzman. Penn interviewed Guzman for a magazine article. A Mexican actress who is a friend of both men arranged the interview. The accusations leveled at Penn range from grandstanding, to callous disregard for the victims of the evil crimes Guzman has committed, to giving the drug lord undeserved publicity.

January 9, 2016: Did the allure of Hollywood do him in? Mexico’s Attorney General said that investigators became aware of contacts between Sinaloa cartel senior commander Joaquin Guzman and movie producers. These contacts eventually led to Guzman’s recapture on January 8 by marines. Guzman wanted to make a movie about his own life. The “line of investigation” generated by the movie contacts led investigators and marines to an upscale neighborhood in the coastal town of Los Mochis.

In Guerrero state an armed group blocked a road, killed three people and abducted 22 others.

The U.S. wants to extradite recently recaptured drug lord Joaquin Guzman to the United States for trial. In late 2015 Mexican officials said that when he was recaptured he would be tried in Mexico.

January 8, 2016: On the west coast (Sinaloa state) marines re-captured escaped fugitive and drug lord Joaquin Guzman. Marines are considered elite and they constantly prove that by resisting bribes and threats and carrying out difficult missions. Guzman escaped from a maximum security federal prison in July 2015. Guzman was found hiding out in Los Mochis, a resort town on the coast. The marines raided an expensive home in which they believed Guzman was hiding. A firefight erupted between the marines and cartel gunmen. Guzman may have been in the house when the raid started. A government official said that marines captured him at a nearby hotel after the marines pursued him there. An official said that the marines definitely captured Guzman alive and uninjured. To put that in context, there was a lot of media speculation after Guzman’s escape that the government would not take him alive and risk another escape. There was also some speculation that Guzman would go down fighting. Well, so much for that speculation. The shootout, however, was deadly. Five cartel gunmen were killed and one marine wounded in the firefight at the house. Marines arrested six more cartel gunmen. They also seized two armored vehicles (likely armored SUVs), one pistol, eight rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. The arsenal included two .50 caliber sniper rifles. These powerful weapons can stop lightly armored vehicles and can be used against low-flying helicopters. One of the other six rifles was an assault rifle with an attached 40 mm grenade launcher.

January 4, 2016: Police arrested three people in connection with the murder of the new mayor of the town of Temixco (Morelos state). Two other suspects died in a firefight with police. Mayor Gisela Mota was murdered January 2 after being sworn in the day before. Temixco is a suburb of the city of Cuernavaca where two drug gangs are fighting a turf war.

December 29, 2015: Carlos Rosales Mendoza, one of the founders of La Familia cartel has been killed. His body was discovered on a toll highway in western Mexico (Morelia state). La Familia is also known as La Familia Michoacana. The bodies of three other men were found with that of Rosales Mendoza. All four had been tortured before being killed.

 

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