Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pena Nieto program aims to pre-empt violence

With a country shaken by the narco wars, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced a new program that seeks to prevent violence before it begins.
Pena Nieto inaugurated the "National Program for the Social Prevention of Violence and Delinquency" in Aguascalientes on Tuesday, La Jornada reported.
The program will involve nine Cabinet members -- including the Governing Secretary, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, who is in charge of it -- and a cost of almost $120,000 pesos. It will make its initial imprint in 251 communities that spend 20 percent of municipal funds on security. These communities include 147 municipalities, two sections of the Federal District (Mexico City) and seven metropolitan zones. Part of the program's work will dovetail with the National Crusade Against Hunger.
Other cabinet departments involved are Social Development; Public Education; Health; Economy; Communication and Transportation; Labor and Social Security; Agricultural, and Regional and Urban Development.
The program's policies include working with youth, addicts and the poor, with the aim of "prevention of violence and delinquency, promoting respect for human rights and the culture of law, facilitating civic participation and achieving the integral development of youth and their environment," La Jornada reported.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Royale: Victim of cartels, or corrupt officials?

Raul Rocha Cantu, majority owner of the doomed Casino Royale in Monterrey, has reported being shaken down for extortion. But who was doing the extorting -- drug cartels, or government officials?
The authorities and media are exploring this question. Vanguardia paints the attack on the Royale as the result of a showdown between two cartels: The Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.
Vanguardia reports that casino owners in Monterrey paid Los Zetas a monthly sum of up to $50,000, and that this raised the ire of the rival Gulf Cartel, which ordered the casinos in May to stop the payments.
Other newspapers, including Milenio and El Universal, report that government officials are also suspected of extorting the Royale, and that they raised the ante from $40,000 to $140,000.
Rocha fled to Miami, fearing for his safety, after his casino was torched by a group of attackers on Aug. 25, leading to 52 deaths.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Monterrey casino attack: An analysis

Now we have a new tragedy in Mexico: The attack on a Monterrey casino on Thursday afternoon that has claimed at least 61 lives. What can we ascertain so far?
  • The 8-9 armed attackers were brazen enough to drive up to the Casino Royale on San Jeronimo Avenue in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, in four vehicles (a grey sedan, a white Mini Cooper, a grey Equinox and a black Chevrolet S10) -- practically blocking an entrance from the road -- and get out from their cars, torch the casino with gasoline, reenter their vehicles and make their getaway as smoke began clouding a security camera. It took them about two minutes to burn down the casino.
  • The dead include 35 women and 8 men. "There were a series of cadavers that could not be identified," El Universal reported. Ten people have been wounded.
  • The authorities, including Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, consider the attack as a strike by organized crime, although they did not want to specify which criminal group was suspected.
  • President Felipe Calderon called the perpetrators "true terrorists" and also blamed the US illegal-drug market for causing such strife in Mexico and Latin America in general.
  • There is a disturbing trend of violence directed against the many casinos of Monterrey, which are reportedly linked to a turf war between two drug cartels: The Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. In fact, the Casino Royale was one of four gambling houses attacked by an armed group on May 25, and weapons were reportedly found inside on Thursday.
  • The Casino Royale should not have been open in the first place. Mayor Fernando Lorrazabal had ordered a municipal closure of 12 casinos, including the Royale, in May. Enrique Hernandez Navarro of the CYMSA (Conexiones y Mangueras S.A. de C.V.) Corporation, which owns the Royale, had lobbied to keep it open -- and gotten the OK from a magistrate.

Calderon blames 'terrorists,' US drug market for casino tragedy

Mexican President Felipe Calderon condemned the "true terrorists" who burned down a Monterrey casino on Thursday, causing over 50 deaths, and criticized illegal drug users in the US as indirectly responsible for the calamity.
In a televised address lasting almost 20 minutes, the president called the US "friends and neighbors" but said it is also responsible for the casino attack, and that American levels of drug consumption -- and the weapons trafficking it entails -- are causing strife not only in Mexico, but across Latin America as well.
"Mexico cannot be the port of access," he said.
As for those who torched the casino, he said, "It is evident that we are not facing common criminals, we are facing true terrorists."
The president also offered a significant reward for any information leading to the capture of the individuals involved in the attack.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Could Mano con Ojos leader walk?

Did the authorities move too soon against Oscar Osvaldo Garcia Montoya, alleged leader of the "La mano con ojos" drug gang?
Mauricio Blancas Valerio, of the Central Investigations Agency, sounds doubtful of the feds' case. Garcia Montoya was arrested on Aug. 11 for alleged connections with 600 killings. He reportedly planned to kill the secretary of the State of Mexico, Alfredo Castillo. In addition to homicide, he is charged with narcotics distribution in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City. Now he sits in the maximum-security prison of Altiplano.
Yet Blancas Valerio said that the government only has "allegations, not direct proof to take penal action against him." He also said: "The simple fact that the gentleman responds to the nickname 'La mano con ojos' is not sufficient for the Public Minister to tell a judge, 'Look, this man participated because the 'cartulina' (message left near an assassination victim) said 'La mano con ojos,' and he responded to this nickname."

San Fernando massacre: 1 year later

One year ago, Mexican authorities made a grisly discovery in San Fernando, Tamaulipas. A total of 72 migrants were massacred, allegedly by the drug cartel Los Zetas. The authorities would eventually find 193 bodies in the "narcofosas" of San Fernando.
Two suspects in the mass killings remain at large: Salvador Alfonso Martinez Esobedo, "La Ardilla," and Ramon Ricardo Palomo Rincones, "El Coyote." "La Ardilla" was cited as a presumed leader of a cell of Los Zetas.
The Secretary-General of the Republic (PGR) is offering rewards for both men: 15,000 pesos for "La Ardilla," 10,000 for "El Coyote." The authorities have detained 82 others for possible connections with the killings. Yet Fernando Batista Jimenez of the National Human Rights Commission criticized the PGR's handling of the case.
So far, the authorities have been able to return just 26 of the dead to their families in different states of the country, and one to Guatemala.
Of the 72 migrants slain, 58 were men and 14 were women, coming from nations to the south such as Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Ecuador.
The human rights commission described a wave of violence against migrants, noting that there were at least 214 reported mass kidnappings of migrants between April and September 2010 with 11,333 victims.
Rene Zenteno, undersecretary of population, migration and religious affairs in the Governing Secretary's office, called the San Fernando killings "one of the most lamentable affairs in the history of the country."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

'Mano con Ojos' planned deadly strike

We now know quite a bit about the alleged crimes committed by Oscar Osvaldo Garcia, presumed leader of the criminal group "La Mano con Ojos" (The Hand With Eyes), who was captured last Thursday:
  • He planned to kill the secretary-general of justice for the state of Mexico, Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, even telling him that in a videotaped interview; and his syndicate dates back to 2010 and included 50 members working in about 60 stores, processing about two kilos of cocaine per week.
  • He identified himself as participating in the murder of five members of an Ajusco family on Oct. 5, 2010, and is accused of committing 300 killings total in northern and central Mexico and ordering 300 more executions;
  • His group's rivals included the "Cartel del Central" or "Cartel del Hongo," whom he fingered as the ones behind the kidnapping of former Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos.
It was in the video confrontation with Castillo Cervantes where "El Compayito" comes off as most fearsome, bobbing his head, smiling, and telling the secretary-general that he had planned to kill him.