Mexico: Cartel Capers Gone Wrong


April 4, 2016: The independent panel hired by the government to investigate the Iguala Massacre will end its work by the end of April. The Iguala Massacre occurred in September 2014 when 43 students at a teachers college near Iguala (Guerrero state) were kidnapped and murdered by local police and a drug cartel. The mayor of Iguala and his wife were central figures in the crime and both are in jail. In 2015 the independent panel disputed the government’s claim that the students’ bodies were burned in a dump outside a village near Iguala. The government then hired the panel to continue its investigation of the crime. The Iguala Massacre remains a cause celebre in Mexico. It has become a symbol of national disgust with political corruption and crime. So far the courts have been reluctant to indict much less prosecute those responsible for Iguala and other massacres.

April 3, 2016: Security forces freed 19 illegal migrants being held in a house in Reynosa (Tamaulipas state, across the border from Texas). Twelve of the migrants were from El Salvador, one from Guatemala, and two from Honduras. The other four were Mexican. Human traffickers were preparing to move the migrants into the US.

April 1, 2016: The government refuses to help illegal migrant children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (the nations of Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle). In 2015 Mexico detained 35,704 children from the three countries. Only 56 were given refugee status. The rest were returned to their native countries.

March 31, 2016: A Mexican reporter filmed two drug smugglers wearing backpacks climbing a fence along the Mexican border near Nogales, Arizona. The smugglers stopped climbing and returned to Mexican territory when they noticed they were being filmed. The smugglers’ backpacks likely contained drugs. The fence is six meters (20 feet) high. The reporter said a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle was in the area.

March 28, 2016: Federal police in Oaxaca state arrested Juan Manuel Alvarez, one of the Sinaloa cartel’s chief money launderers. Soldiers assisted the Federales in the operation. Alvarez is known to have worked with Sinaloa commander Joaquin Guzman and it is believed that since 2004 he laundered over $4 billion in cartel funds. Prosecutors have evidence he used a network of companies and currency exchange offices to launder $350 to $400 million a year.

March 24, 2016: American police discovered a 400-meter long tunnel underneath the Baja California-California border. The tunnel ran from a restaurant in Mexicali (Baja California Ttate) to a house in Calexico, California that was built in December 2015. The house is 100 meters from the Mexican border. It is the twelfth tunnel discovered under the California border since 2006.

March 22, 2016: Police arrested a man identified as the Sinaloa cartel’s chief hitman. Marco Tulio Carrillo Grande was arrested in the town of Rosarito (Baja California state). He is a former police officer in the city of Tijuana. According to the government Carrillo Grande has been directing the Sinaloa cartel side of the turf war with the Arellano Felix and Jalisco New Generation cartels. Carrillo Grande was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of working with drug traffickers but was released.

March 21, 2016: Cartel gunmen have begun attacking tortilla shops in Guerrero state. They are also targeting workers and people who supply tortilla shops. The cartels are muscling in on the industry for several reasons. First, it is a legitimate industry, a place to use and launder cartel cash. Second is that tortilla shops could serve as drug distribution points. Most of the attacks are in the southern portion of the state. Several have occurred in the city of Acapulco. In the city of Chilpancingo, two cartels, Guerreros Unidos (involved in the Iguala Massacre) and Los Rojos, are fighting a turf war for control of tortilla shops. (Austin Bay)

March 18, 2016: Several firefights erupted between security forces and Gulf cartel gunmen in the city of Reynosa (Tamaulipas state). Soldiers were conducting a series of raids in one neighborhood in an attempt to seize a Gulf cartel regional commander. Federal police also participated in the operation. One of the raids led to what police described as a “rolling shootout” on a main thoroughfare, the Boulevard Hidalgo.

March 17, 2016: It appears that that 2015 was Mexico’s "most violent year" ever for Mexican journalists and members of the media, There were 397 documented incidents of violence against media workers, a 22 percent increase over 2014. Seven 2015 incidents were homicides. Other incidents included acts of physical intimidation, physical assault on individual people, death threats and armed attacks on media outlets. Article 19 accused public officials of being involved in about half of the incidents. Drug cartels and other criminal organizations were responsible for the rest.

March 15, 2016: Mexico City declared a pollution emergency today. Authorities restricted the use of vehicles and told residents to remain indoors as much as possible. The subways were free to all users (the subways are regarded as a “pollution-free” transport system). This was the capital city’s first pollution emergency in over ten years.

March 14, 2016: Security forces in Mexico City arrested a Gulf cartel commander, Cleofas Alberto Martinez Gutierrez, who is believed to be the second in command of the Reynosa and northern Tamaulipas state region.

March 13, 2016: Security forces in the city of Reynosa engaged Gulf cartel gunmen in an early morning (4:30 AM ) firefight, leaving ten gunmen dead after three hours of shooting. Soldiers, marines and federal police participated in the operation that led to the firefight. Four security personnel were injured in a vehicle accident during the incident.

March 11, 2016: An Mexican actress involved in arranging a meeting between Sinaloa cartel senior commander Joaquin Guzman and American actor Sean Penn has accused Penn of fabricating an incident he included in a story he wrote about his interview with Guzman. Penn claimed in his story that soldiers let the convoy carrying him pass through a roadblock even though they identified one of Guzman’s sons in the convoy. Actress Kate del Castillo said that this didn’t happen because the convoy did not pass a military checkpoint.

March 9, 2016: Here’s a story about the downside of being good. Security forces in Jalisco state announced the arrest of 13 members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel. The gang members are accused of using threats and physical intimidation to force potential employees of a security firm to become drug dealers or hitmen. It turns out the security company, Segmex, was a fake. The cartel had created the company and used it to attract recruits. Segmex said it was seeking employees with law enforcement experience or who had served in the military. Job seekers would respond, believing they were dealing with a legitimate company. Then the gunmen would begin threatening the best qualified prospects. Security forces made the arrests during a series of raids in two towns, San Juan de Los Lagos and Lagos de Moreno. (Austin Bay)

March 8, 2016: Cartel gunmen hijacked a passenger bus and abducted 24 illegal aliens on board. The illegal migrants were traveling from Tampico (Tamaulipas state) to Monterrey (Nuevo Leon state). Their ultimate destination was the United States, via border city of Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas state). The kidnappings occurred near the town of Altamira. Security forces found the abducted illegal migrants and freed them.


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