Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Juárez police take refuge in fortress hotels to escape roaming cartel hit teams

"One dead cop a day," promises Juárez Cartel, which may have infiltrated police

Truly, Baghdad is like a laid-back desert resort compared to Ciudad Juárez on the U.S. border. Open season has been declared on law enforcement there.

Twice in January I've reported on bloody attacks against municipal police officers in Juárez, who are bearing the brunt of drug cartel hit men gone wild. Yesterday I posted on a morning commando assault against a local police station, carried out by 10 machine gun wielding sicarios. Those stories are linked below.

Mexican drug cartels "more cautious" in U.S., but still present a threat, Senate told

Intelligence chief also warns there is risk for U.S. citizens and officials in Mexico

James R. Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today that although drug cartels are present in the United States, it's unlikely that the level of violence experienced by Mexico will cross the border. Joining Clapper at the hearing was retired general and C.I.A. Director David Petraeus. But both men agreed that the international drug trade and related criminal enterprises present a threat to the United States which must not be underestimated.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Will trail in Argentine prostitution ring case once again lead to Mexico's INM?

Opinion - Possibility of Mexican immigration involvement should not be excluded

Mexico's immigration department is called the National Institute of Migration (INM). It has a checkered history. The agency has been criticized for unwarranted delays in processing visas and other paperwork, and for bureaucratic ineptness. But other allegations have been far more sinister.

Argentine woman prepares to tell all on her father - and his business associates - in sex, human trafficking ring

"Ex-spy" supposedly controls the sex-for-hire racket in Cancún . . .

The daughter of a former Argentine spy will travel to Mexico City this week to hang out the dirty laundry on her father, a former agent of that country's state intelligence service. If her claims are true, more than a few must be sweating in anticipation, including government officials in both countries.

Lorena Martins, 35, plans to testify before the Special Commission Against Human Trafficking of Mexico's lower legislative body, the Cámara de Diputados, which is roughly equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives. She says that her father, Raúl Martins, who once worked as an agent for Argentina's Secretaría de Inteligencia del Estado (State Intelligence Dept.), runs a prostitution ring which "imports" women to Mexico.

Police are now primary targets of brazen daytime attacks in Ciudad Juárez

Heavily armed cartels launch commando assaults - only blocks from U.S. territory

January has been a bad month for municipal police in the border town of Ciudad Juárez, just across the river from El Paso, Texas. Juárez easily remains the most dangerous city in Mexico, and the second most deadly metropolis in the world (link below). As of Friday (Jan. 28), seven police officers had been assassinated by drug traffickers and organized crime groups in this month alone.

The latest victims were a married coupled, both police officers, who were executed Friday morning while driving to work. Witnesses said they were attacked by two young gunmen who managed to escape. One hundred shell casings were recovered at the scene.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mitt Romney talks tough on U.S. drug demand: "It's time we take responsibility for killing people by our drug usage"

Romney speaks out in Miami, and admits that roots of Latin drug war are in U.S.A.

Mitt Romney earns an A+ for comments he made Friday while speaking to the Hispanic Leadership Network in Miami, just three days before the Florida primary. The Republican candidate had this to say:

"It's time that the United States takes responsibility for the pain and suffering and torture and murders that are occurring throughout Latin America. If I'm elected president, I'll work very aggressively (to get out a message) to our young people: stop using drugs, because you're killing people. I want them to understand that tens of thousand of persons are being murdered because of drug usage in this country. We're not setting a good example, and that must change," said the former Massachusetts governor.

Romney's comments were quoted today in Mérida's Diario de Yucatán, which cited another Spanish language account of the candidate's speech as its source.

Hugo Chávez opines on Mitt Romney

As former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appears to close in on the Republican presidential nomination, here's a reminder of how the man in Caracas feels about him: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/10/hugo-chavez-lashes-out-at-mitt-romney.html.

Hugo Chávez has but nine months to live, predicts Spanish newspaper ABC

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez may have surpassed 2.5 million Twitter followers (he so reported today), but if the Spanish newspaper ABC is correct, those loyal fans could soon be in for a big disappointment.

In June 2011 Chávez admitted that he has cancer, but he repeatedly refused to disclose the type. He was operated on by Cuban doctors last summer, and returned to the island several times for multiple rounds of chemotherapy. After his last treatment he pronounced himself cured (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/10/hugo-chavez-says-hes-clean-cancers-gone.html). Chávez said that he was tired and weakened from the procedures, but predicted that he would soon be ready to hit the campaign trail. Venezuela's presidential election is October 7.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Eight executed on Monterrey street

Nuevo León state has already recorded 98 murders this month; Monterrey will implement special security operation to counter increasing drug cartel violence

Monterrey, capital of Nuevo León , is an important commercial and industrial center in northern Mexico. The city proper has a population of over one million, but the metropolitan area, which includes many surrounding towns, is home to more than four million people.

Monterrey is about 100 miles south of the U.S. border, and unfortunately for its residents, it lies squarely on the path of major northbound drug routes. Those routes are in dispute between two of the country's most powerful drug cartels, Los Zetas and Cártel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel). The city has been the scene of much violence in recent months, including a daytime arson attack against the Casino Royale last August which left 52 people dead (http://mexicogulfreporter-supplement.blogspot.com/2011/11/monterrey-casino-attack-leaves-53-dead.html).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Brutalized bodies of two men found in Cancún - one a Yucatán native

Is the work of Los Zetas, or perhaps Los Pelones, a harbinger of coming attractions?

Cancún, Quintana Roo -- The bodies of two adult males, one of which had been cut into multiple pieces and placed in a black plastic bag, were found yesterday (Jan. 25) in an abandoned vehicle in this resort city on the famed Riviera Maya.

The gruesome discovery was made about 10:30 a.m., when a market area watchman noticed a foul odor coming from a nearby Ford Explorer which carried no tags. He called police, who quickly located the remains. One victim was upright in the backseat, and the other, decapitated and cut into pieces, was in the plastic bag. Both bodies were in an advancing state of decomposition. The seated victim had been shot at least once in the chest. Forensic experts believe the men were killed Monday afternoon (Jan. 23).

The man whose body had been placed in the bag was identified by his wife as Herbert Antonio Baeza May, 27, originally from Yucatán. There are no arrests or suspects, but Cancún police say the executions are an obvious gangland "adjustment of accounts."

"We're facing a time bomb, and the time bomb is in Europe - Felipe Calderón

Mexico assumes leadership of G-20 at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

"We're still trapped in a four or five year economic crisis, the worst in living memory. We have a time bomb, the bomb is in Europe, and we are working together to deactivate it before it explodes over all of us. It is in these difficult circumstances that Mexico has assumed the presidency of the G-20, the first Latin American country to lead this group. We will try to build consensus in order to restore economic stability and growth, strengthen global financial institutions and establish financially-inclusive mechanisms which redirect paths towards sustainable growth, social justice and respect for the environment."
President Felipe Calderón, G-20 World Economic Forum, Jan. 26, 2012

Peña Nieto slips while López Obrador rises in separate presidential preference polls

Leftist candidate could prove to be an irritating party spoiler

Just over two weeks ago I reported on a January 2-6 survey conducted by the respected Mexican pollster Parametría, showing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto with a huge lead in the race for Mexico's presidency. I wrote:

"Peña Nieto has 94% name recognition and a 78% approval rating. When asked which party they would likely vote for, 49% of respondents selected PRI (Peña Nieto), 28% chose PAN (its nominee will be selected Feb. 5), and 23% picked PRD (Andrés Manuel López Obrador), which is usually referred to as the "far left" option." I thought Peña Nieto might be unstoppable (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/pri-and-pena-nieto-may-be-unstoppable.html). But a lot has changed in the last three weeks, and it probably doesn't cheer the PRI frontrunner.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Accused Zeta killer of U.S. ICE agent returns to D.C. federal court for hearing

Judge warns prosecutors that Mexico must cooperate fully in turning over evidence

Washington, D.C. -- A member of Mexico's powerful and most feared drug cartel, Los Zetas, returned to federal district court here this morning for the first of what will likely be dozens of pretrial hearings in the months ahead.

Julián Zapata Espinoza was extradited from Mexico to the United States in December to face murder and assault charges. One of the most high-profile Zetas ever wanted by U.S. authorities, Espinoza is alleged to have participated in the execution of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jaime Zapata on Feb. 15, 2011. Zapata's partner, Víctor Ávila, was seriously wounded in the attack, which occurred on a major highway in Mexico's San Luis Potosí state. The two unarmed agents were on a routine business trip that day, traveling by car from Laredo, Texas to Mexico City. While in a government vehicle carrying U.S. diplomatic tags, a Zeta hit team of about 15 men forced them off the road. Zapata identified himself and Ávila as U.S. agents, at which time the gunmen opened fire with AK-47s. The motive for the attack remains unclear, although Espinoza, who was captured by Mexican soldiers eight days later, allegedly told authorities in this country that it was a "case of mistaken identity," and that the Zeta squad thought they were attacking a competing drug cartel. Espinoza has plead not guilty to the charges.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gingrich spews the same old Cold War rhetoric on Cuba; Ron Paul gets it right

La Guerra Fría ya terminó. Creo que hemos realzado a Castro por más de 40 años, le impusimos estas sanciones, y esto sólo ha servido para convertirnos en su excusa. El ahora puede atribuir la culpa de todo lo malo a Estados Unidos. Creo que llegó la hora de poner fin a este negocio del aislamiento -- Ron Paul, Jan. 23, 2012 (translation below)

During last night's debate between the Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum all tried to out tough-guy each other on Cuba. It proved little more than that they're utterly steamed and stewed to the core in Cold War ideology.

I didn't watch the debate live, but I've read several Spanish language accounts of it today, which summarize the Cuban affairs discussion as follows:

Romney was asked how he would react if he received a call as president, informing him of the death of Fidel Castro. He said that the first thing he would do is "thank heaven that Castro had been returned to his Creator." That kind of pep talk will of course be popular with hundreds of thousands of voters of Cuban origin, especially in Florida (where the debate was held in anticipation of the state's January 31 primary). But is it supposed to be a statement of a reasoned, diplomatic approach towards a nation which lies just 100 miles south of Miami, and with which sooner or later the United States must deal responsibly?

Peña Nieto admits: "I was unfaithful" - and bares all during newspaper interview

PRI presidential nominee has been busy in recent years: two wives, two girlfriends, and children by three women, but now he's "devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus"

*Updated Jun. 3, 2013*
Enrique Peña Nieto, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) nominee for president of Mexico and the man most likely to be elected on July 1, engaged in a bit of preemptive damage control recently. During an interview with Mexico City's influential El Universal, he fairly rolled around in the mud, tattling on himself enough to satisfy even the tabloids.

Peña Nieto's first marriage was to the late Mónica Pretelini Sáenz, with whom he had three children. Pretelini died suddenly on Jan. 11, 2007, during what is officially listed as an epileptic episode. There are rumors . . . but no, I'm not going there, at least not now.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Human Rights Watch, reloaded (yawn . . .)

Or, "Why HRW still doesn't get it"

If you're wondering why I haven't reported on HRW's latest blistering condemnation of alleged human rights violations by Mexican military forces in the 61 month old war against the drug cartels, it's because I've already thoroughly addressed those issues. The massive HRW exaggerations and distortions, regurgitated again amidst much fanfare during their international conference in Cairo this week, is a yawning repetition of themes they peddled last fall. Too bad those folks remain profoundly ignorant of the most elementary drug war facts.

Mexico's highest court upholds right of same-sex couples to marry, but only in some states

U.S. hasn't resolved the issue yet, due to far more complex legal questions

*Updates below*
Mexico City -- The issue has not yet reached the United States Supreme Court, but it's already been resolved by the Supreme Judicial Court of Mexico(SJCM). In a 7-4 decision today, the ministers, as they're called here, upheld a state law authorizing gay marriage which was passed in Mexico's Federal District in late 2009. Seven hundred same-sex couples legally formalized their unions in the District the following year.

Courts in two Mexican states, Jalisco (the capital of which is Guadalajara) and Baja California had raised constitutional challenges to the Federal District's recognition of same-sex marriage. But today a majority of the SJCM dismissed those challenges.

U.S. decapitations may be the handiwork of Mexican drug cartels, says news report

El Universal says that Hollywood case has hallmarks of Latin drug gang execution

*Update below*
On January 17 some people walking dogs in the hills above Los Angeles, close to the famous Hollywood sign, stumbled upon a severed human head inside a plastic bag. Authorities who responded to the scene with cadaver dogs soon located other body parts, including two hands and two feet, buried in a shallow grave. They're still looking for the torso. Over the weekend police announced that they had identified the male victim. They did not name him, but said that he was of European descent and in his 40s. Investigators believe the man was killed within 72 hours of the grisly discovery.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Murder of another taxi driver has Mérida police on alert in "immune City of Peace"

Mérida local news

The murder of a taxi driver in most Mexican cities might earn modest column space deep in the interior metro section. But in a state such as Yucatán, which many are convinced is all but immune to the ravages of the country's 61 month old drug war, such events get front page attention. The homicide rate here is about two per 100,000, considerably lower than in the United States (although more than Canada, where it's a mere 1.6).

Last Thursday (Jan. 19) a taxi driver who regularly picked up fares at Mérida's bus station, known as the ADO CAME, disappeared. The CAME is a 10 minute walk southwest of the city's main plaza, which is teeming with locals and tourists alike 18-20 hours a day. Many visitors who travel to Mérida fly in to Cancún International Airport, and then take the ADO bus over to Mérida. The trip is four hours, cheap, and buses conveniently leave downtown Cancún for Mérida every hour on the hour (and more frequently during peak travel times). So almost everyone who travels to this city is familiar with the CAME station downtown.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Santiago Creel on Enrique Peña Nieto: "From an empty head, nothing comes"

PAN pre-candidate Santiago Creel was campaigning in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca today when he said of the short-on-specifics PRI nominee Enrique Peña Nieto: "He has an empty head, he's a hollow candidate, he brings nothing (to the race) and from nothing, nothing comes."
Last month Creel let the PRI candidate have it equally hard, when he opined: "Ignorance is a poor traveling companion, especially in route to Los Pinos." The reference was to Mexico's White House.

But Peña Nieto is taking all the nasty negativism in good stride. After all, the ancient Mayans predicted a PRI win in 2012: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/mayan-calendar-harbinger-of-pri-win-in.html.

Related posts:
Mexico's "Great Hope" in 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/pris-great-hope-enrique-pena-nieto.html;
"I'm not the lady of the house": http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/squabble-over-candidates-literary-gaff.html;
The "lightweight": http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/mexico-facing-tremendous-problems-with.html;
The "soap opera actor": http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/11/monster-in-dark-cave-and-soap-opera.html.

Image: The original Ken doll, by Mattell, 1961. Barbie needed a handsome boyfriend, and he was long-awaited by many a young girl. Best of all, he couldn't talk back . . .

What does Che Guevara have to do with Mercedes-Benz? Nothing, say outraged Cubans who threaten to boycott car maker

Advertising director of German luxury manufacturer may be looking for a new job

Ernesto "Che" Guevara (1928-1967) was an Argentine-born Marxist theoretician. A major figure in the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s, Guevara became an enduring icon for insurrectionists worldwide, especially those of the far left.

While living in Mexico City almost 60 years ago, Che met two young brothers named Fidel and Raúl Castro, joined their cause and sailed to Cuba aboard a leaky second-hand vessel christened Granma, with the audacious goal of toppling the U.S.-backed Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. Guevara became a prominent member of the insurgents and played a major role in the successful guerrilla war which ultimately deposed Batista. Years later, after freelancing in several far flung civil war hotspots, Guevara was captured and and executed by CIA-assisted Bolivian troops in a remote jungle region of that country. He remains a national hero in Cuba, as one of the founding fathers of the Castro regime. His picture is plastered all over Havana, and probably on more than a few college dorm walls as well (in my day, anyway, but perhaps Che's image has since been replaced with some other youthful symbol of rebellion and resistance to authority).

Adoption ring with Irish connection under investigation by Mexican strike force

Prospective parents could "rent" children on a trial basis for $40 a day

Guadalajara, Jalisco -- Federal prosecutors here are investigating a local ring which they say sold babies and children to Irish couples, ostensibly for legal adoption. The announcement was made this week by a spokesperson for the regional office of the Child Sex Crimes & Family Violence Unit of Mexico's Organized Crime Strike Force.

The investigation was launched January 9 after a woman preparing to hand over her two year old daughter was arrested. She led police to three other women who operated the ring, all of whom were taken into custody. A local law firm which served as the go-between between biological mothers and foreign couples is now said to be the primary focus of the ongoing criminal investigation.

Friday, January 20, 2012

PAN's Ernesto Cordero promises, "I'll get El Chapo Guzmán if I'm elected president"

Mexico's insecurity is the inheritance of 70 years of PRI rule, says candidate

Pulling out all the stops today to win his party's nomination, National Action Party (PAN) candidate Ernesto Cordero promised to deliver up Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, if he's elected the next president of Mexico on July 1.

The Dept. of Justice says the cartel easily dominates narcotics trafficking and distribution in the U.S. (producing marijuana within the country), and on January 10 the government again labeled Guzmán as "the world's biggest drug dealer. He escaped from a Mexican prison in January 2001 and remains free more than 11 years later. Cordero, a finance expert who emphasizes that his tactical approach towards the cartels would be to "follow the money," believes that El Chapo will ultimately be brought down by tracking his bank records internationally.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Peace Corps exits Honduras in face of rising drug violence, skyrocketing murders

Washington - The United States Peace Corps announced Tuesday (Jan. 17) that it had pulled 158 volunteers out of Honduras while it reviews the security situation in a country feeling the full brunt of the international narcotics trade. All of the volunteers have left, and have been placed on indefinite administrative leave. The decision was made in December.

A spokesperson for the National Autonomous University of Honduras in the capital city of Tegucigalpa told CNN, "It is unfortunate that in the country right now - given the situation of insecurity, violence and crime that every day increases - international organizations are pulling back their aid and personnel."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mexico facing "tremendous problems with mediocre candidates," says literary giant

Prize winning writer lashes out, accusing Felipe Calderón of diversionary tactics and calling Enrique Peña Nieto an intellectual "lightweight"

Carlos Fuentes is an internationally recognized novelist who has won numerous prizes for his many literary achievements. He's also one of Mexico's most popular writers. When it comes to Mexican politics Fuentes is not afraid of speaking out, as he did last fall in New York (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/11/renowned-mexican-novelist-offers-harsh.html). Yesterday he was even more blunt during a televised interview with CNN's Carmen Aristegui in Mexico City.

"What alarms me so much this year is that I see the problems we have here and the candidates we have here," Fuentes told Aristegui. "Between the challenges we're facing and the politicians there is an enormous gap." Mexico is confronting "extremely grave" domestic and international issues, said Fuentes. "We're trapped in a terrible situation, with tremendous difficulties and very mediocre candidates."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In first debate, PAN candidates agree on one thing: Mexico must avoid PRI's return

U.S. "staying out" until it's all over, says Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano

Mexico's three National Action Party (PAN) candidates met for their first much- hyped debate in Mexico City today, and all agreed on one thing: anything would be better than a return to PRI days.

The PAN hopefuls, Josefina Vázquez Mota, Santiago Creel and Ernesto Cordero, disagreed on details but were firmly united in arguing that a victory by Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) nominee Enrique Peña Nieto would represent a disastrous step backwards for Mexico.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cancún easily # 1 choice of U.S. travelers

Orbitz Worldwide, the Chicago-based internet travel agency, has reported that Cancún on Mexico's Riviera Playa (Quintana Roo state) was the premier travel destination of U.S. citizens in 2011. The Cancún Visitors and Convention Office announced that the city has once again captured the award for America's Top Travel Destination, beating out London, Paris and San Juan, Puerto Rico, all highly popular with U.S. tourists.

"Ten reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free" - by George Washington Univ. law professor Jonathan Turley

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing -
Edmund Burke, Irish orator (1729 - 1797)

If you read nothing else today, spend the few minutes it will take to examine this excellent op-ed analysis in last Friday's (Jan.13) Washington Post, by George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley. Turley, a well known legal commentator, is above all politics. He doesn't advocate for Republicans or Democrats, for liberals or conservatives, or for anyone in between. He writes with simple eloquence, asking two core questions: what has happened to the 224 year old American constitution - once a model for the entire free world - and how can the United States continue to lecture other countries about their human rights obligations while it goes stealthily about enacting draconian "national security" laws which would make the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves - all with the acquiescence of its citizens?

Canadian murdered on Pacific coast - but lingering questions and mystery remain

Victim was Iraqi born, naturalized in Canada; he was shot nine times in the head with .45 caliber handgun, but robbery was not the motive; Mexican government says he was not a tourist, and asks Canada for investigative help

*Updated Jan. 17*
A Canadian national has been found dead in Culiacán, in Mexico's northwestern Sinaloa state, reports the Milenio network today.

The victim, whose name, age or sex have not been released, sustained two bullet wounds to the head, according to Milenio. Preliminary indications are that the Canadian was a tourist vacationing in the area. The motive may have been robbery.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Guatemalan army joins drug war - "We have to neutralize organized crime," says new president day after swear-in

Felipe Calderón anti-cartel strategy adopted by Mexico's neighbors to the south

Only one day after being sworn in as Guatemala's new president, Otto Pérez Molina has ordered his nation's armed forces to assume the leading role in confronting drug traffickers who now threaten the security of the entire country. MGRR reported on the very dangerous situation in Guatemala earlier today.

Is Enrique Peña Nieto already backing away from key drug war pledge?

News analysis - Oh those inconvenient campaign promises . . .

Last November, PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto made a week long trip to Washington and New York, to shake hands and give speeches (in Spanish, since the man doesn't speak English -- or at least well enough to do it in a public forum). In reality, this was the candidate's official "coming out" in the U.S. capital, and a chance to chat privately with some of those he'll be dealing with if elected later this year. If inside-the-Beltway gossip can be trusted, few in the government or Congress (on either side of the aisle) look forward to dealing with a man who many view as a political and intellectual welterweight.

"If cartel violence is not contained in Mexico, the drug war could threaten U.S. national security and even survival of the Mexican state" - CNN, January 15, 2012

CNN has a special feature report today on Mexico's drug war -- they refer to it as an "essay" -- with the above subtitle. I won't try to summarize it, but I recommend it to my readers. I was pleased to see that everything it says confirms in detail the now almost 500 posts I have filed on this Blog since I opened it Sept. 5, 2011. There are also some excellent photos in the piece, which is in English. Here's the link: http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/15/world/mexico-drug-war-essay/index.html?hpt=hp_c1.

The suggestion that Mexico is on the brink of being a failed state has been stated before by others, but it is extreme hyperbole, in my opinion. Mexico is not involved in a civil war, its internal political institutions are alive and well, and 80 million citizens will go to the polls on July 1 to select their next president. A post I filed just last week points out that almost half of the organized crime executions in 2011 occurred in just 2.4% of Mexico's national territory (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/47515-have-died-in-mexicos-five-year.html#more). Yes, in regions Mexico is very dangerous, but the drug war is highly localized and does not directly threaten most of the country, at least in a physical sense.

"Almost bankrupt" Guatemala calls for U.S. help in combatting drug cartels, forced labor, sex trafficking

New president was accused of human rights violations during brutal civil war

*Updates below*
Otto Pérez Molina, a 61 year old former military officer who was accused of torture and human rights abuses in the 1980s, was sworn in yesterday as the president of Guatemala. Pérez Molina was elected last November with 54% of the vote.

In his inauguration speech before a crowd of about 5,000, the new president promised to confront aggressively the narcotics and human trafficking which he said had brought Guatemala to the brink of "economic and moral bankruptcy." He called upon Mexico, Colombia and "especially the United States to assume a greater degree of responsibility in the fight against international drug cartels."

Guatemala, on Mexico's southern border, is a desperately impoverished nation of 14 million where half live below the poverty line, and 40% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Josefina Mota continues polling strong in advance of Feb. 5 PAN primary selection

National Action Party candidate appears to be particularly popular with business

Mexico's National Action Party (PAN) is the only one which has yet to select its 2012 presidential standard bearer. It will do so Feb. 5 when the PAN primary is held. The primary is an internal survey of registered party members, not an election open to the general public. The three PAN contenders will have their first national debate next Tuesday, Jan. 17, which will be closely watched by voters and other candidates alike.

Mayan calendar a harbinger of PRI win in 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto says in Mérida

The man who would be president has Mayan prophecies behind him - so he claims

If you Google any combination of the words "Mayan, prophecy, 2012," you're likely to get tens of thousands of hits. Books, articles and websites abound on end-of-the-world prognostications supposedly left behind by the Yucatán's earliest settlers more than 1,500 years ago. The year 2012 is undeniably a critical one in the Mayan calendar, and it's virtually guaranteed to boost tourism in this state in the months just ahead. But while some await the occurrence of cataclysmic events allegedly predicted to occur at the end of this year, others emphasize that the Mayans merely wrote of the beginning of a new era in human existence, rather than something catastrophic. Mexico's leading presidential candidate is betting on that, too. And he plans to play a big role in it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Top Zeta leader arrested; linked to 50 murders, including U.S. ICE agent in 2011

"Zeta-44" was third from the top in cartel hierarchy, and ordered hit on U.S. agents

Mexico's National Defense Secretary today announced the arrest of Luis Jesús Sarabia Ramón, said to be number three in Los Zetas' national leadership. Sarabia Ramón, also known as Zeta-44, was captured Jan. 11 "without a shot being fired," according to security forces.

Authorities say that in late 2010, Sarabia Ramón was named Zeta boss of the Mexican states of Coahuila, Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosí. He is alleged to be responsible for as many as 50 executions, as well as kidnappings and extortions of business owners. He was also dispatched to Nuevo León and Tamaulipas to take on the Zetas' primary rival in those states, the Gulf Cartel. The government claims Sarabia Ramón was respected within Zeta ranks because of his aggressiveness and brutality in dealing with enemies. In addition to his moniker of Z-44 he was sometimes referred to as El Diablo ("The Devil"). His arrest will have an "important debilitating affect on Los Zetas," said a spokesman.

First there was Wide Receiver, then Fast and Furious, and now - "White Gun"

ATF had another "guns gone walking" plan, but forgot to tell Congress - and Mexico

The Los Angeles Times broke this story in its yesterday's (Jan. 12) edition. I have written many posts in recent months on the two secret U.S. arms sales programs which came to light early last year, but now it appears a third one is surfacing as well. All of them involved the deliberate trafficking of assault weapons, ammunition and military ordnance to Mexican drug cartels. A U.S. congressman says that at least 200 people have been killed by the weapons, and Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress last year that many more will likely die in the years ahead.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wikileaks suspect bound over for trial; will likely face general court martial this year

Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning, the man who may have longed to be a woman, is one step closer to an Army general court martial today. Pvt. Manning, 24, was arrested in 2010 and charged with multiple offenses under the armed forces military code, including the unauthorized delivery of classified materials and "collaborating with the enemy." Manning is accused of turning over tens of thousands of sensitive documents to Wikileaks, an organization which publishes, online, information received from anonymous whistleblowers. He faces life imprisonment if convicted. I posted on this interesting case in December, which you can read here: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/did-man-behind-explosive-wikileaks.html.

Mexico is home to 5 of the 10 most violent cities in the world; Juárez loses 1st place

Most violent city on earth is in Honduras; Ciudad Juárez falls to second place
Update Jan. 6, 2013 - Juárez homicides dropped dramatically in 2012

*Update below*
Five of the 10 most violent cities in the world are in Mexico, says the director of the private Citizens Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice in this country. They are Juárez, Acapulco, Torreón, Chihuahua and Durango. Ratings were based upon 2011 murders per 100,000 residents.

Top honors went to San Pedro Sula in Honduras, which had 159 homicides per 100,000. It narrowly beat out Ciudad Juárez, which had 148 murders per 100,000 in 2011.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

47,515 have died in Mexico's five year drug war, says the country's Attorney General

Official death count released today by Procuraduría General de la República

Under increasing public pressure for the delivery of drug war specifics, Mexico made it official earlier today: 47,515 people have died in the 61 month old conflict. The disturbing tally did not distinguish between known or suspected members of criminal organizations, security forces and civilians. The government had not released a formal aggregate death count for the drug war, which began in December 2006, since January 2011. Several days ago Milenio news service reported that its calculations showed just under 50,000 persons have been killed, and that estimate appears to have been not far off the mark. The much awaited disclosure is sure to provoke new debate about the wisdom and effectiveness of the highly controversial "National Security Strategy" of president Felipe Calderón, as it's called, all the more so as Mexico prepares to elect a new leader July 1.

U.S. confirms: El Chapo Guzmán is world's biggest drug trafficker - and # 1 target

The U.S. confirmed yesterday -- as if it were needed -- that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán ("Shorty") is the most powerful narcotics trafficker in the world. He and his business associates are prime targets of several federal law enforcement agencies, and he's on Interpol's most wanted list.

The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division of the Treasury Dept., has frozen the property of three men it alleges are business associates of Guzmán. Two of them are Mexicans, said to be relatives of El Chapo, and the third is a Colombian drug boss. The press announcement did not indicate where the men are, or the nature or amount of the frozen assets. OFAC said in a released statement that Guzmán, who escaped from a Mexican prison in January 2001 and has been on the lam for over 11 years, is more powerful even than was Pablo Escobar, the infamous Colombian drug lord killed in 1993. The three men named yesterday were targets of the Narcotics Kingpin Act, which focuses on identifying associates and operatives of international drug traffickers.

In October 2011 the U.S. Dept. of Justice reported that Guzmán's Sinaloa Cartel totally dominates the U.S. drug trade. http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/10/sinaloa-cartel-of-el-chapo-guzman.html. But the question on both sides of the border remains: just where is Shorty?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Revenge attack against Ciudad Juárez police patrol leaves one dead, five injured

Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua -- In this deadly border town just across the Rio Bravo from El Paso, Tex., armed gunmen launched a retaliation attack against a city police patrol this morning, killing its commander and injuring several other persons. The attack occurred in the city's main business district, where drug sales and extortion of small business owners are common.

Cartel use of child drug mules on the rise

Kids 11-17 are offered up to $500 for each trip; more for kidnapping and other crimes

In October MGRR reported on the drug cartels' extensive recruitment of children along the Texas border, who are used to transport narcotics into the U.S. below the radar. Mexican drug cartels recruit Texas school kids, says Dept. of Public Safety. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says that such activity increased precipitously in the last quarter of 2011, with San Diego a hot spot for recruitment of the young mules.

Monday, January 9, 2012

PRI and Peña Nieto may be unstoppable, latest presidential preference poll shows

A presidential preference poll taken last week and reported this evening by CNN suggests that Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and its 2012 nominee Enrique Peña Nieto enjoy an overwhelming lead at this stage of the pre-campaign. The formal campaign opens March 30, and Mexican voters will elect their next president July 1.

13 found executed in Michoacán state; victims remain unidentified, unclaimed

The bodies of 10 adults and three minors, all males, were found about 5:00 a.m. today at a gas service station in the town of Zitácuaro in Mexico's southwestern Michoacán state. Police say a narcomensaje, or executioner's warning, was found near the victims, each of whom had been shot in the head. The bodies were partially clothed, bore signs of torture and were left piled on top of one another.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mexican presidential election 2012 - news clips and sound bites on the campaign trail

If you think American politicians call each other names, read this post

Enrique Peña Nieto "knows nothing about this country," said Manuel Andres López Obrador, pre-campaigning in Yucatán over the weekend (the real thing isn't permitted under Mexican federal election laws until March 30). The PRD candidate made similar remarks last November, when he called his PRI opponent a "soap opera actor" and "part of that group seeking privileges for the few." (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/11/monster-in-dark-cave-and-soap-opera.html).

Mexican journalist deaths continue to rise: 75 since 2000, 9 in 2011 - and 2012's first

Mexico's first reported death of a journalist in the new year occurred Friday afternoon (Jan. 6) in a town about 25 miles from Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo León. Reporter Raúl Régulo Garza Quirino, who worked for La Última Palabra ("The Latest Word"), was chased down by armed gunmen who shot him on a city street about 5:00 p.m., and then took his car. Authorities have not suggested a motive or named suspects. Nearby Monterrey is a city of considerable violence, with a heavy presence of the Los Zetas drug cartel.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

University of British Columbia student, boyfriend found murdered in Oaxaca state

Gruesome murder details disclosed in CBC interview with victim's former husband, who discovered both bodies buried on an isolated Oaxaca beach; area is frequented by Latin drug runners and human traffickers, he says

According to the British Columbia tabloid The Province, "Ximena Osegueda Magana, 39, and her boyfriend Alejandro Honorio Santamaria, 38, went missing on December 14. Their bodies were found on a beach in Huatulco, Oaxaca, later that month." Osegueda Magana was a Mexico City native. She was Ph.D candidate at UBC in the department of French, Spanish and Italian studies, and was focusing on colonial Latin American literature. She had earned both undergraduate and master's degrees at McGill University in Montreal.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Despite narco violence, Quintana Roo resorts boom - the most popular Mexican and Latin American destinations

MGRR regularly reports on organized crime violence in Mexico's Riviera Maya, also known as the Caribbean Gold Coast. There was plenty to report last year, in all the major tourist hot spots -- places like Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel and Isla de Mujeres. But crime concerns evidently haven't had much impact on foreign travelers. While many local businesses are feeling the pinch, mainly due to rampant extortion of commercial enterprises, it appears that most tourists know or care little of the powerful drug cartels and gangs like Los Zetas and Los Pelones.