Mexico: No One Is Safe

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December 20, 2017: Mexico's long-term drop in the birth rate may be good economic news -- we will know in about thirty years. Mexico's current birth rate is children 2.2 per woman. In 1960 is was around 6.7 (an estimate, no one is quite sure what it was but 6.7 is close and more than six per mother is huge). Rising education levels and the country's increasingly productive domestic economy factor into the seven-decade drop in the birth rate. Why has the domestic economy improved? Hard core Mexican nationalists don't want to admit it, but the North American Free Trade Agreement forced the economy to modernize. Long term, the improved economy and stable population growth will mean fewer Mexicans will seek work in the U.S. What does this mean for the Cartel War? Not much, at least not directly. The drug cartels have moved into extortion rackets, robbing the nation's more productive businesses. That's why the government needs to focus on the nation's corruption and crime problem as a corruption-crime problem, not as a drug war. Former president Felipe Calderon tried to do that but corruption is harder to deal with than drug cartels. (Austin Bay)

December 17, 2017: In the west (Nayarit state) cartel gunmen hung three dead bodies from a highway overpass near Tepic. A banner spread across the bodies promised there would be future attacks in the state. Authorities report that the Beltran Leyva and Sinaloa cartels are fighting a turf war for control of Nayarit state. Investigators believe the murders were committed by Los Mazatlecos, a small, independent cartel operating in Nayarit state. Los Mazatlecos is allied with Beltran Leyva.

December 16, 2017: Progress continues on a major natural gas pipeline project that will linking U.S. gas fields with Mexico. CFE, Mexico's state-run electric utility expects a new 269 kilometers long pipeline running from a gas production "hub" and compression station in Nueces County, Texas, to Mexico. The pipeline runs through the Brownsville, Texas area. CFE expects the pipeline will begin carrying gas in October 2018. It will have a capacity of around 2.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

December 15, 2017: Mexico's Senate passed the new Law of Internal Security which gives the military new security powers and affirms that the military is the central operational organization in the Cartel War. The new law has many critics, but supporters argue all it does is legalize what the military has been ordered to do for 11 years. It was 11 years ago this month that the Calderon government sent the military into Michoacan state in an attempt to end the violence stirred by drug cartels. The advocates contend the new laws will resolve certain constitutional issues regarding the use of the military in domestic crime fighting operations. The president is given clear authority to authorize the use of military forces in an anti-crime operation. They point out that the military is currently conducting anti-cartel operations in 27 of Mexico’s 32 states. In 2012 when Enrique Pena became president, the military was operating in six states. That is more than a bit ironic. Pena said he was going to "demilitarize" the drug war. He found out the military was the only instrument that worked. Critics, however, argue the military will become more unaccountable. The Iguala Massacre of September 2014 is only one of many complaints about military irresponsibility and misbehavior. Opponents of the new legislation point out that in the time frame January 2012 to August 2016, citizens filed 5,541 complaints the military brutality. (Austin Bay)

The U.S. government has formally asked for the extradition of former Tamaulipas state governor Eugenio Hernandez who served from 2005 to 2010. The U.S. wants to try him money laundering and fraud charges that he was indicted for in 2014. Mexico arrested Hernandez this year on embezzling charges.

December 12, 2017: In the west (Michaocan state) the town of Tancitaro calls itself Mexico's avocado capital. The country is the world's biggest producer of avacados. The government estimated Mexico sold two billion avocados in the U.S. in 2016. Drug cartels, however, have attempted to extort money from avocado growers and take over production and transportation operations. In response Tancitaro formed its own community defense force to protect its citizens and its avocado business. The force operates as a municipal public security agency and has already earned a media nickname, the Avocado Police. Except it isn't a police force, not really. Everyone who serves in Tancitaro's force is either from the town or the immediate vicinity -- in other words, the citizens know the individuals serving in the group are reliable and are defending their own homes and interests. The force is responsible to the mayor and works with the municipal police. One of its primary missions is manning checkpoints throughout Tancitaro and protecting local businesses and farmers, which is one reason avocado growers provide some of the money supporting force operations. Businesses and citizens in the area gave money to buy body armor and weapons for individuals serving in the force. However, members of the force avoid carrying weapons openly. The mayor has told media that everyone in the force works in a job connected to the avocado business. So far no one in Tancitaro has called the public security force a "vigilante" organization. Why did the town organize this group? Municipal police were outgunned by cartel gang members and federal authorities (federal police and military) could not provide constant security. A local volunteer group not only provided useful reinforcements for the police and also attracted a lot of media attention. Both of these factors discourage the cartels, who are then tempted to seek a less risky venture.

December 11, 2017: Chihuahua state authorities reported that within the last week cartel gunmen have executed two municipal police chiefs. In Casas Grandes the police chief was killed when his vehicle was ambushed by cartel gunmen. The chief of Cuauhtemoc was shot in the back of his head while eating in a restaurant.

December 9, 2017: Ricardo Anaya, president of the National Action Party (PAN) resigned his party position. He said he intends to seek the PAN nomination for president and run for president in 2018. The announcement comes a day after (December 8) the PAN, the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the small Citizens Movement party agreed to form a coalition against the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and far left candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO) and his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). AMLO, a one-time PRD presidential candidate, left the PRD and formed his own party. The election will be held in July 2018. The PAN/PRD coalition is calling itself "For Mexico in Front." The new coalition is significant because all three participating parties have agreed to support the same candidate for president. Mexican pollsters think Anaya is the likely candidate though the PRD's Miguel Angel Mancera (mayor of Mexico City) is a possibility. The likely PRI candidate is former finance minister Jose Antonio Meade. One recent Mexican opinion poll had AMLO leading the 2018 presidential race with Anaya a close second.

December 8, 2017: In the north (Tamaulipas state) seven gunmen believed to belong to La Vieja Guardia /La Vieja Escuela Los Zetas cartel faction were killed in a shootout with a police task force. Security forces found the cartel gunmen in a training base that had rather sophisticated living quarters.

December 5, 2017: Both the DEA and Texas state security officials report that Los Zetas cartel has split into two antagonistic factions that are now separate drug trafficking organizations. One faction is called the Old Guard/Old School Zetas (La Vieja Guardia, also called Vieja Escuela) and the other one Northeast Cartel (Cartel del Noroeste). In early 2016 there was some talk of a deal to end the split. However, the turf war the factions have waged over Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas state) has been so vicious, bloody and sustained that authorities have concluded the split is permanent. Meanwhile, as the Zetas spin-offs kill one another, the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG) has moved into border towns in Mexico and Texas.

December 1, 2017: Based on the numbers from January 1 to November 1, the government now estimates there will be between 25,000 to 26,000 homicides in Mexico this year. The figure for January through October is 20,878 murders. Based on the number of homicide cases under investigation, 2,371 suspected homicides were committed in October. Sometimes the totals fluctuate slightly as investigations proceed. But under any circumstance, October 2016 was a horror. If the number holds up it may set a new record for homicides in a single month.

November 28, 2017: No one is safe and violence is pervasive. That seems to be the national reaction to the November 20 murder of Adolfo Lagos Espinosa, vice president of the Televisa media conglomerate and CEO of its telecommunications division. Lagos was riding his bicycle outside of Mexico City (near Teotihuacan) when gunmen tried to rob him. He was shot in the stomach and died. Now police believe his own bodyguard may have shot him accidentally in the confusion. It appears the attempted robbery was not premeditated. The gunmen thought Lagos looked like someone out on the street and he was worth robbing. That may or may not prove to be accurate, but that's the way the murder is being interpreted politically. It has stoked nation-wide outrage, at lot of the outrage focused on President Pena. The fact another national figure was murdered on the same day added more political fuel. Criminals murdered Silvestre de la Toba Camacho, president of Baja California Sur state's human rights commission. That job involves being a state-wide ombudsman for detecting and investigating bad behavior by anyone, but particularly security forces and the criminal organizations that are responsible for most of the murders, rapes, robberies and other mayhem. De la Toba was killed in the resort city of La Paz (also the state capital). Police have concluded that del la Toba was assassinated -- definitely premeditated. That is no consolation. Critics of the government argue that Lagos' murder demonstrates that criminal violence is rampant and the government has lost control. Even a multi-millionaire with a bodyguard isn't safe from street violence. The complaint ties into public disgust with corruption. The public has concluded criminals believe they won't be caught and prosecuted.

 

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