The Catholic Church in Mexico has officially accused government authorities of “collusion” with organized criminal gangs to facilitate pipeline fuel theft. The Archdiocese of Mexico said that people working for the national oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), government officials and some businesspeople are involved in a massive theft operation that costs the government from $780 million to one billion dollars a year. It may be worse. Other analysts estimate PEMEX may lose $1.5 billion a year to fuel theft. Organized theft is a particular problem in Puebla state, but it occurs throughout the country, which is one reason the Catholic Church weighed in on the issue. Earlier this spring the army began operations specifically targeting pipeline taps and fuel theft. This led to a major firefight between soldiers and oil thieves in early May. The new anti-fuel theft security strategy includes increased patrols of pipelines but also targeting individuals who purchase and sell stolen fuel. In April police and other security forces raided several gas stations suspected of selling stolen fuel. Fuel theft is also known as fuel siphoning.
May 28, 2017: The Zapatistas (Zapatista National Liberation Army, EZLN) are now a political party and will run a candidate in the 2018 presidential election. Allied with the Mexican National Indigenous Congress, the Zapatistas have nominated Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez. She describes herself as a practitioner of traditional (pre-European) medicine.
May 26, 2017: In the west (Michoacan state) a municipal police chief and two bodyguards were ambushed on a major highway and managed to escape. Since September 2016, five local and state police officers have been killed and several others wounded in similar highway ambushes in Michaocan state.
May 24, 2017: In 2016 the government spent around $966 million on internal and national security. That is the openly acknowledged figure and actual spending was probably higher by 20 percent or more. That figure is roughly twice as much as the government spent in 2014 and 2015 ($496 million and $445 million, respectively). However, analysts concerned about corruption and lack of transparency in government, note that the legislature only earmarked $42 million for “public and national security.” The government says the specific expenditures are a national security secret. Some of the funds may have been moved money from the Army and Navy and were used to fund operations.
May 20, 2017: The government acknowledged that it expects U.S. counter-narcotics assistance aid in 2018 to be reduced by about 40 percent.
May 19, 2016: The U.S. and Mexico have agreed to discuss a new regional security approach with Central American countries who are the primary sources of illegal migrants who pass through Mexico on the way to the U.S.
May 17, 2017: President Pena and his chief security officials have promised to devote more security resources to protect journalists who confront physical threat. Pena said the special prosecutor's office will be tasked with investigating crimes against journalists. Pena called a special cabinet meeting after several hundred journalists gathered on May 16 in front of the Interior Ministry in Mexico City and protested the murder of journalists throughout the country. The latest victim was murdered on May 15 and was the sixth journalist murdered in the last three months. Critics of Pena claim investigative journalists in Mexico are targeted because the government isn’t serious about investigating crimes committed against them. Many of these investigative journalists are government critics and also investigate government corruption. (Austin Bay)
May 15, 2017: On the west coast (Sinaloa state) reporter Javier Valdez was found murdered in the town of Culiacan. Valdez specialized in covering organized crime and narcotics trafficking. He was murdered in broad daylight one block from his newspaper’s office.
In the north (Tamaulipas State, near the Texas border) police discovered a large tunnel underneath a prison in the city of Reynosa. The escape tunnel was not finished. However, drugs and tools were hidden in the tunnel.
May 13, 2017: Fuel spilled by thieves ignited and killed four Pemex workers near the town of El Mango (Veracruz state). PEMEX reported it had to temporarily halt use of the pipeline the thieves had tapped. PEMEX transports gasoline and diesel in the pipeline
May 10, 2017: Some analysts are claiming that Mexico is now the second most deadly conflict in the world, behind Syria. That is open to debate. The analysts focus on casualty figures in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016 17,000 people were killed in Afghanistan and 16,000 in Iraq. Mexico’s Cartel War had 23,000 fatalities during 2016. Adjusting for population size the Mexican fatalities are less than half those suffered in Afghanistan or Iraq.
May 8, 2017: In the last week two rival Gulf Cartel factions have killed 20 people in a series of gun battles in and around the city of Reynosa (Tamaulipas state). The two factions are fighting for control of a narcotics trafficking route running through Reynosa and into Texas. (Reynosa is just south of the city of McAllen, Texas.) Authorities have brought in Army and Navy personnel as reinforcements.
May 7, 2017: The army is continuing its operations in Guerrero state to destroy opium poppy fields. A current operation is targeting fields in the mountains controlled by the Los Viagras crime gang.
May 4, 2017: Four soldiers and six gunmen died in a firefight in Puebla state, near the town of Palmarito. The gunmen are suspected of belonging to a gang that steals petroleum products from pipelines. The military reported that the gunmen opened fire on an army patrol that was investigating fuel thefts. The gunmen also attempted to hide behind a group of women and children, using them as human shields. The soldiers did not initially return fire. In that exchange the gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded another. Police and military reinforcements were sent into the area to hunt the gunmen. In a second firefight, gunmen in armored vehicles killed two soldiers and wounded nine. The military killed six gunmen. The army was conducting an operation intended to stop fuel theft (also called fuel siphoning) by organized criminal gangs.
May 3, 2017: Five Texas sheriffs with links to Mexican cartels have served or are serving prison time for corruption and facilitating narcotics trafficking. The five were sheriffs in three counties which border Mexico: Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr counties.
May 2, 2017: Security forces in Mexico City captured Damaso Lopez Nunez, a senior commander in the Sinaloa cartel. Lopez Nunez has been called the successor to Joaquin Guzman, who is now in jail in the U.S. Lopez Nunez is also wanted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. Media reported that Lopez Nunez was spotted in a Mexico City restaurant and authorities were tipped off to his presence.
May 1, 2017: An Army court has sentenced eight soldiers to long prison sentences for collaborating with Los Zetas cartel. The soldiers were paid Los Zetas to provide information about military operations. The court was an official court martial and the trial was conducted in Veracruz state. One other soldier was charged but he was acquitted. Authorities initially arrested 16 soldiers. Seven men were granted special protection after investigators learned that they may have been coerced into confessing to the crimes.
Navy personnel got into a firefight with a criminal gang near San Jose del Cabo (Baja California Sur state). Seven gang members were killed. One member of the naval unit (an officer) died in the incident. Security forces seized weapons, drugs and vehicles belonging to the gang members.
April 30, 2017: An Army motor patrol of 15 soldiers traveling in two vehicles was ambushed by a criminal gang near the town of La Grulla (Chihuahua state). Soldiers killed seven gang members in the resulting firefight.
A U.S. court has sentenced four people to prison for their role in a failed July 2016 kidnapping near Ennis, Texas. The three people were identified as cartel operatives living illegally in the U.S. The three individuals attempted to collect on a drug trafficking debt. The failed kidnapping led to a gun battle. Javier Martinez, identified as the cartel cell leader, received a sentence of 40 years. Jose Cardenas Aguirre received 27 years. Two other cell members received lesser sentences.