Mexico: Impunity

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September 23, 2016: . It sounds odd coming from a vicious drug gang, but a faction of Los Zetas cartel, the Grupo Bravo /Vieja Escuela Z faction, is accusing the mayor of Ciudad Acuna (Coahuila state) of corruption. Earlier this month Grupo Bravo claimed that Acuna’s mayor was protecting a rival drug gang. Grupo Bravo is fighting a turf war with Cartel Del Noreste (CDN). The accusation could be completely false though there is no doubt that the cartels have infiltrated the governments of many border cities and town, on both sides of the border. Coahuila state has a legacy of corrupt politicians with cartel links, but proving it in court is very difficult. There is also a problem Mexicans call “impunity.” Many of them think the January 2016 arrest of former Coahuila governor Humberto Moreira is an example of the depths of corruption in Coahuila and an example of “impunity” in action. In January 2016 Moreira was arrested in Spain on money laundering charges. Moreira had placed several hundred thousand euros in Spanish financial institutions, arousing the suspicion of local police. Spanish investigators claimed Moreira had links to Los Zetas cartel. He was later released on bond, after diplomatic intervention by the Mexican government. Moreira is a very important member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), President Enrique Pena Nieto’s party. Moreira's brother, Ruben Moreira, is Coahuila’s current governor. By all appearances, if you are a connected member of the political elite you can get away with crimes and behave with impunity. In February 2016 Humberto Moreira returned to Mexico.

Spanish authorities later dropped the case, or so the Mexican government believed. Spanish investigators, appalled at this blatant exercise of impunity had quietly shared evidence with their U.S. counterparts showing that Moreira apparently had ties to Los Zetas. The Americans pursued that and later, during a money laundering case tried in the United States prosecutors introduced evidence that while he was governor, Moreira and one of his aides helped the Zetas launder money through real estate and government contracts. This included selling coal mined by the Zetas to energy utilities. Moreira continues to deny all the charges and insists he is innocent. However, the U.S. has frozen some financial assets tied to Moreira. Is Moreira corrupt? He remains a free man in Mexico. (Austin Bay)

September 21, 2016: The government confirmed the death of a Spanish woman who had been kidnapped September 13. Maria Villar Galaz belonged to a prestigious Spanish family. She was being held for ransom. Her body was found in the city of Toluca (Mexico State).

Mexican security forces have discovered a van carrying a ten-foot long air cannon. U.S. authorities reported that the air cannon was used to shoot packages of marijuana over border fences near Douglas, Arizona. The air cannon could “deliver” projectiles weighing up to 27 kg (about 60 pounds) over the border fence.

September 19, 2016: Two Catholic priests in the city of Poza Rica (Veracruz state) were kidnapped early in the day. Their dead bodies were discovered along a road later in the day. Both clergymen were kidnapped while working in an impoverished neighborhood.

September 16, 2016: Today is Mexican Independence Day. On September 16, 1810 Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla urged Mexicans to rebel against Mexico’s Spanish ruling class. The day commemorates Hidalgo’s “grito de Dolores” (cry of Dolores). Hidalgo was in the town of Dolores when he called on Mexicans to recover their land and rights from the “Europe born” Spaniards (sometimes called peninsulares) who ruled the country. The small town of Dolores is located near Guanajuato city (Guanajuato state). Hidalgo and his revolutionaries resented the opulent lifestyles of the Spanish elites amidst Mexico’s poverty. Hidalgo himself was a crillo (creole), meaning he was of Spanish descent but born in Mexico. Hidalgo called on all native-born Mexicans (crillos, mestizos and indios) to rebel. He also promised land reform. (Austin Bay)

September 15, 2016: Authorities in Coahuila state reported that a group of cartel gunmen ambushed a bus and kidnapped 15 passengers. The bus had come from Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas state) and was headed for Coahuila. The gunmen ambushed the bus near the town of Nueva Ciudad Guerrero (Tamaulipas state). Police believe the gunmen belong to a Los Zetas cartel faction and intend to hold the passengers for ransom.

Protestors in Mexico City demanded that President Enrique Pena Nieto resign his office. The demonstration against Pena attracted several thousand people. Spokesmen criticized Pena’s failure to curb the power of drug cartels and his failure to end government corruption. Several demonstrators also demanded that the government action find out and publicize what really happened during the 2014 Iguala Massacre (when 43 student teachers were abducted and murdered.)

September 13, 2016: A federal prosecutor confirmed that the government is reexamining the roles played by federal police and Guerrero State in the 2014 Iguala Massacre. A new probe (described as a “broader” investigation) is exploring the possibility that the kidnapped student teachers were split into groups and taken to different paces, where they were murdered. Federal prosecutor have interviewed (or re-interviewed) 19 federal policemen and 39 state policemen who have knowledge of the incident. A witness claimed that two federal policemen saw corrupt Iguala municipal policemen stop the bus on which the students were travelling.

September 8, 2016: According to government figures, Mexico has 1,168 registered private security firms. In 2005 it had 175 but then the Cartel War began in December 2006. Industry experts believe that some 8,000 to 10,000 “wildcat” (unlicensed) security companies exist as well. Most of the licensed firms are either headquartered in Mexico City or in Guadalajara (Jalisco state).

September 7, 2016: Tamaulipas state officials have decided to postpone their plan to reinforce highway security operations. The officials said the police need additional training in order to be able to handle the threat posed by cartel gunmen operating along the state’s highways.

September 6, 2016: A police helicopter crashed in Michaocan state leaving the pilot and three police officers dead. Officials have not yet determined if the crash was an accident or if cartel gunmen shot it down.

A member of the Mexican legislature is calling on the government to “consider” revoking the country’s bilateral treaties with the United States. The legislator said he made the proposal as a response to American presidential candidate Donald Trump’s demand to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mexico and the U.S. have around 75 bilateral agreements. The legislator said that he really didn’t want to renegotiate the treaties, but he did not want NAFTA destroyed, either.

September 4, 2016: In the last month citizen activists in Veracruz State have found 75 hastily dug graves each containing at least three bodies. A spokesman demanded that several former state attorneys general and a former governor be called before the federal congress and be forced to testify as to what they know about the murders and grave sites. Meanwhile, another group in Veracruz State that is examining the 192 corpses recently discovered in a mass grave in Xalapa are locals who have been reported missing. This group determined that the state Attorney General’s office ordered the burials, However, the office did not properly identify the dead and made few (if any) attempts to identify the corpses.

September 3, 2016: Soldiers engaged cartel gunmen in several shootouts in and around Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas state) leaving 11 dead, one of them a civilian bystander. In one gun battle on a highway outside of the town eight gunmen died. Soldiers killed two gunmen in a firefight inside the city, which is where the civilian was killed.

August 30, 2016: The head of the federal police, General Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo, has been forced to resign based on the August 18 revelation that in May 2015 federal policemen had executed 22 members of the Jalisco New Generation cartel after capturing them in a shootout in Michoacan state. It is believed that Galindo is -- so far-- the highest-ranking security official in the current federal government to be forced from office due to this sort of police corruption. Mexicans have long complained that federal police often, quite literally, got away with murder.

August 29, 2016: The army reported that since 2000 it has suffered 718 dead in actions against organized criminal groups. The dead included 14 senior officers, 204 officers (presumably company-grade officers), one cadet and 499 enlisted soldiers. Since 2006, the government has used between 96,000 and 100,000 regular army soldiers and 37,000 federal police in its fight with drug cartels. As estimated 16,000 Mexican Navy marines have also been used.

 

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