When the central bank announced two months ago that it was concerned presidential candidate Donald Trump would renegotiate or possibly eliminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a media flurry erupted. The government and Mexico’s business community know NAFTA is vital to the Mexican economy and a major reason why unemployment in Mexico under four percent. The U.S. has benefited as well, as has the third partner, Canada. Trade between the U.S. and Mexico is now valued around $540 billion a year. That makes Mexico Number Three, behind Canada and China on the U.S. trade list. The initial media clamor has faded but political pushback by the government has not. In mid-May the government indicated that it intended to conduct a “pro-active” program of information and political outreach to American political leaders, business leaders and opinion leaders. The program seeks to engage members of the U.S. Congress, scholars, businesspeople and media groups. One major message is obvious: Mexico is America’s third largest trading partner.
May 27, 2016: Lawyers for Sinaloa cartel senior commander Joaquin Guzman announced that they will fight his extradition to the U.S. to stand trial. The Foreign Ministry approved extradition to the U.S. earlier this month.
Marines rescued a kidnap victim who was being held in the city of Matamoros (Tamaulipas state, across the border from Brownsville, Texas). Gunmen working for the Gulf Cartel kidnapped the man May 21. State authorities described the kidnapping as a ransom kidnapping. Marines noticed suspicious behavior by two men in an SUV. The marines pursued the SUV. The gunmen abandoned the SUV. Marines found the kidnap victim tied and gagged in the vehicle. Mexico has one of the highest rates of kidnapping in the world, but this is not reflected in official statistics. That’s because most kidnappings are not reported and those that are often involve a celebrity or someone newsworthy. These kidnappings are often solved, while most are not. The main reason for the unreported kidnappings is that the cartels are involve. Some cartels derive up to half their income from kidnapping, often of illegal migrants headed for the United States. The cartels don’t want publicity, just the money. That prevents most cartel related kidnapping to remain unreported.
May 25, 2016: The government announced that it intends to reduce reliance on military forces to combat criminal organizations and perform domestic security functions. The current government came into office promising to reduce the role of the armed forces in the Cartel War. However, it quickly learned it could not. Other security organizations were not up to the task. The new government policy acknowledges that Mexico must pursue a “holistic” anti-crime program which suggests that the military will continue to play a role.
May 24, 2016: Tiny Colima state is experiencing a surge in violence as a turf war between the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) escalates. The cartel turf war began in September 2015 but has intensified this year. Homicide statistics tell the story. There were 206 murders in Colima from January 1, 2016 through the end of April 2016. The total number of murders in the state in 2015 was 189. Gaining complete control of the port city of Manzanillo is regarded as the chief objective of both cartels. Manzanillo is Mexico’s major Pacific seaport. Colima lies between Jalisco state and the Pacific Ocean. It is Mexico’s smallest state in terms of size and population.
May 23, 2016: Authorities have begun exhuming bodies from a mass grave near the town of Tetelcingo (Morelos state). So far investigators have determined that 116 bodies lie in the grave.
May 22, 2016: Canada announced it is discussing participating in a UN peacekeeping operation in Colombia. The Canada-Mexico participation would be a joint operation. The proposed peacekeeping operation would police a peace settlement between the Colombian government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). FARC is also a drug army.
Six people died in night clubs in Veracruz State. Three gunmen entered a night club in the state capital, Xalapa and murdered four people. Authorities believe the murders were cartel-related crimes. Police killed two gang members in a night club in the town of Orizaba. In Veracruz State the Jalisco New Generation cartel is fighting a turf war with a faction of Los Zetas cartel.
May 20, 2016: The Foreign Ministry has approved the extradition of Sinaloa cartel senior commander Joaquin Guzman to the U.S. This is a policy reversal for the current government, though the current attorney general has favored extradition of high-profile cartel leaders. After Guzman’s escape from prison in July 2015 the government came under heavy political pressure to ensure Guzman remained in jail once he was recaptured. Imprisoning him in the U.S. serves that purpose. Guzman was recaptured in January 2016. The Foreign Ministry noted that it may take several months for the actual extradition to take place. Guzman’ attorneys said they would appeal the decision. Guzman is currently in a federal prison in Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua State).
May 18, 2016: American media report that a man who witnessed some of the violence associated with the September 26, 2014 Iguala massacre has sought political asylum in the U.S. Carmelo Ramirez Morales has applied for political asylum in Minnesota. Morales said that local police in Iguala threatened him when he tried to provide information about the incident the morning after it occurred. He also said that the Army detained him after the incident.
May 16, 2016: It is believed the military has reinforced its units in and around the city of Acapulco. There has been another surge in gang warfare in the city. The thinking is that the military wants to increase security patrols during the summer tourist season.
May 14, 2016: A Mexican civilian court has ordered the government to free the last three soldiers being held on murder charges stemming from a 2014 incident. The court said it could find no evidence that the three soldiers had committed murder, been involved in a cover-up, or had altered evidence. Families of the murder victims can appeal the decision while prosecutors cannot. The incident was the June 2014 clash in a warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya (state of Mexico) where 22 of the alleged criminals (drug suspects) died in a shootout. One soldier was wounded. The federal Human Rights Commission conducted an investigation that concluded that 12 and perhaps 15 of the dead had been executed. Investigators also believed they found evidence of an attempt to cover up the crime. In October 2015 a military court acquitted six of seven soldiers who faced military breach of discipline charges. Government critics call the Tlatlaya incident another example of “impunity” in Mexico’s justice system whereby government officials, the military, the wealthy and well-connected escape responsibility for crimes and injustices.
May 12, 2016: U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found 636 kg (1,400 pounds) of marijuana concealed in a shipment of coconuts on a truck that crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Agents found the shipment using a dog team.
May 9, 2016: A federal court has determined that Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin Guzman can be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial. The Foreign Ministry now has 30 days to make a decision.
May 7, 2016: Media blowback continues throughout the country over an independent panel’s claim that the government impeded investigation of the Iguala Massacre. The government’s failure to extend the panel’s mandate is called a mistake. The investigation is not over because too many questions remain unanswered about the mass murders of September 2014 in the town of Iguala (Guerrero state).
May 6, 2016: Outside Huatabampo (a town in Sonora State) soldiers discovered that a tractor-trailed truck which crashed near a military checkpoint was carrying 25 tons of marijuana. The truck driver saw the checkpoint, swerved onto a side road to avoid the soldiers but lost control of the vehicle and crashed. Drugs spilled from the vehicle’s trailer. Soldiers also recovered two kilos of methamphetamine.
May 5, 2016: The nation celebrated Cinco de Mayo, a holiday commemorating Mexico’s 1862 victory over occupying French forces at the Battle of Puebla.
May 3, 2016: Security forces rescued three Mexican-Americans from Dallas, Texas who were kidnapped in Tamaulipas in mid-April. Security forces determined that a criminal gang were holding the three victims in a camp near the town of Ciudad Victoria and raided the camp. The gang leader was killed during the raid while two other gang members were arrested. The three Texans belonged to the same family and were attending a funeral in Mexico. They said gunmen ambushed them on the Victoria-Zaragoza-Tampico Highway. The gunmen then demanded a ransom to secure their release.
May 2, 2016: A new study indicates that changes in the judicial system will take at least 11 years to become thoroughly understood and systematized. The previous government began implementing an accusation-based justice system. The system also improves defendant access to legal representation. The system was supposed to be fully implemented by June 2016. That deadline won’t be met. The study also noted that police forces still need more training on conducting thorough investigations. They must improve evidence gathering techniques and insuring evidence is properly protected (chain of evidence).