Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Human rights fears raised; 7 found dead in Cuernavaca

As Mexico continues to prosecute its war against drug cartels, human-rights groups in the country are concerned over the government's conduct.
Representatives of 20 such groups voiced their concerns during a meeting of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -- a subgroup of the Organization of American States -- in Washington, DC on Tuesday, El Universal reported.
"In Mexico we are living under a state of emergency, but a state of emergency has not been decreed," said Marie Claire Acosta of the Network of Defenders of Human Rights and Families of Disappeared Persons in the Northern Mexican States.
Among the specific practices criticized by the human-rights groups were arbitrary detentions, torture and harassment allegedly committed by forces of the state -- including the military. Many of the accused violations occurred in the northern states of Mexico.
Representatives of the government were present at the meeting and vowed that the nation remains committed to human rights.
Felipe de Jesus Zamora, undersecretary of Legal Issues and Human Rights, said that "the struggle for security is the same as the struggle for human rights," and that the national strategy against organized crime employs a "strict respect" for human rights.
Seven dead in Cuernavaca
The press (including La Prensa and La Union de Morelos) is covering the horrific discovery of seven bodies -- six men and one woman -- in a car in Temixco (near Cuernavaca, Morelos) on Monday morning.
Reports state that a "narco-message" was found on a card among the slain, claiming that the victims had made anonymous calls to the military and threatening that the same fate would befall two captains -- "Barrales" and "Castillo." It was signed "El CDG."
The bodies were found inside a wheat-colored Honda Civic near the Hotel Paris Burgos in the Las Brisas estate. Their hands and feet were tied, and they showed signs of torture. The victims were apparently killed by gunfire. Four were in their 20s -- one was the son of the writer and poet Javier Sicilia -- and the other three were in their 40s. One report stated that the previous night, the victims left a party and went to a dive bar, "La Rana Cruda," after which they were tortured and assassinated and their bodies dumped at the hotel.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Baja California police chief slain

A Baja California police chief was killed in an ambush in Playas de Rosarito, near Tijuana, on Sunday afternoon.
Jose Carlos Ventura Isada was slain while at an intersection with his wife in his blue 2002 GMC truck. His wife was wounded in the assault; their children were unharmed. The family was in Rosarito to go shopping.
An automobile with tinted windows caught up to the truck and opened fire. The office of the Procurator General of Justice for Baja California has confirmed the assassination.
Ventura Isada was municipal police commander of the Primo Tapia station in Rosarito. He becomes the third policeman in the district to be assassinated in 2011 -- a year that is only three months old.
The attack took place in the Cross White neighborhood of the city.
Ensenada.net and La Jornada both have the story.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Two Transit officials slain in Linares

In a tragedy in Linares, two municipal transportation officials -- as well as the wife and young daughter of one of them -- were shot and killed by gunmen in Linares.
The two slain agents, identified as Javier Alvarez Hernandez, 32, and Raymundo Arevalo Mendez, 35, were shot on the Avenida Lampazos. Alvarez, who was on his day off, was driving a wine-colored sedan with his wife and two daughters and apparently encountered his colleague Arevalo in the latter's Patrol 122 car (you can see a photo of the cars plus the story on Nuevo Leon en linea).
The report says that Alvarez' car was apparently marked by the gunmen. The only one who escaped physical harm was Alvarez' younger daughter. Arevalo found the strength to go to his patrol car and communicate for assistance.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mexican media takes stand against narcoviolence

Members of the Mexican media have published an agreement that they will not shirk from covering the narcoviolence currently gripping the country.
The six-page document, available as a PDF through El Universal, was signed by a range of representatives of the mass media -- print, broadcast and Internet -- at the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City this morning. No government officials were invited or provided assistance, La Jornada reports.
The document reveals the media's stance as unequivocally against the drug cartels. Among the editorial positions taken by the agreement are to take a stand against the cartels -- "Under no circumstance should the media justify the actions and the arguments of organized crime and terrorism" -- and to avoid being an involuntary voice for them -- i.e., by not portraying the guilty or presumed guilty as "victims or public heroes." In some ways this puts the media behind the state -- most notably in the editorial position of not interfering with law-enforcement operations. The media signatories to the agreement vow not to disseminate information that would jeopardize state policies or personnel engaged in the struggle against the cartels.
This is a 180-degree turn from, say, the devil-may-care disclosures of WikiLeaks ... or even the recent reportage of US newspapers like The New York Times. Yet it is understandable. "According to the international organizations that are the most well-versed in this issue, Mexico is one of the riskiest countries for practicing journalism or the freedom of the press" as a result of organized crime, the agreement states, adding that "Today, the freedom of expression is threatened."
That said, the press is trying to stay as objective as it can. The agreement includes a reminder of the media's function to take note of any actions of the state that might go outside the law or violate human rights. It also asks signatories to remember that those detained by the state, however odious the accusations are against them, are innocent until proven guilty.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pascual, Feeley critiques anger Mexico

US diplomats' lack of confidence in Mexico's ability to win the narco wars is coming back to haunt the American embassy.
The Mexican press is detailing not only the rise and fall of former US Ambassador Carlos Pascual, but also the indiscretions of fellow American diplomat John Feeley. Pascual has already resigned in the wake of the WikiLeaks scandal, while Feeley's confidential cables are being trumpeted in the Mexican newspapers.
El Universal depicts Pascual as a man who upset not only President Calderon, but also the Mexican political establishment, listing four politicians who were peeved by the ex-ambassador: foreign minister Patricia Espinosa, Mexican ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, ex-minister Rosario Green and Sen. Carlos Navarrete. Green and Navarrete were concerned enough to speak of a "foreign invasion" and it seems that Calderon followed the political winds.
As for Feeley, he is facing both favorable and unfavorable winds. El Universal mentions that he has the support of ex-US Ambassador Tony Garza. However, La Jornada is quick to pounce on Feeley for his criticism of the Mexican army and politicians that became public via WikiLeaks.
Feeley slammed the army multiple times, saying among other things that it was reluctant to pursue the leaders of drug cartels and "risk-averse." He also spoke freely about politicians, saying that Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan Galvan was seeking to declare a state of emergency to help the military against the cartels ... and questioning the merits of the past and present Procurators General, Eduardo Medina Mora and Arturo Chavez Chavez.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bad news for US ambassador, Mexican police

Salvador Garcia Soto has an amusingly titled column ("Adios, Pascualito, adios!") in El Universal about the resignation of Carlos Pascual Lus, the US ambassador to Mexico.
Pascual, whom Soto tweaks for calling Mexico a "failed state," was a casualty of his indiscreet comments revealed by WikiLeaks. Soto seems happy to see him go, tying him to such demonstrations of US power as the drone aircraft it has sent into Mexico. The "Snakes and Ladders" columnist also describes the resignation as a "caramel" to Mexican President Felipe Calderon from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Yet he also describes the resignation as something brought about not only by "Pascualito's" loose tongue ... but also by the White House perception that he did not do enough to combat the threat of the Mexican drug cartels.
Meanwhile, El Diario de Juarez has cited a report that blames the Mexican crime-fighting forces for making things worse in what it describes as the battleground that Ciudad Juarez has become in the narco wars.
Covering a period that began in 2008, the report makes for grim reading as it details instances of corrupt police, army and law-enforcement agency officials committing crimes that include homicide, drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.
The lawyer Salvador Urbina Quiroz calls such corruption one of the fundamental factors causing the current crisis in Ciudad Juarez, and Leticia Chavarria of the city's Medical Committee says that rogue government officials have led to minimized results over the last three years.
Among the highest-level instances of alleged corruption is the case of Saulo Reyes Gamboa, a former top-ranking official of the Municipal Public Security Secretariat from 2004-07. He was arrested in the US city of El Paso, Texas, and accused of drug trafficking.
The list of those arrested also includes two officials -- a ministry agent and a technician from the office of the state of Juarez' former Procurator General of Justice -- who were arrested by soldiers who found them with a stash of marijuana and weapons in a residential area. The list also includes the two federal policemen accused of

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sources of drug cartels' illegal arms

Yesterday's post cited the governor of the State of Juarez (Cesar Duarte Jaquez) blaming the United States for its role in allowing illegal arms to cross the border into Mexico. Today El Universal continues the conversation, asking: Where, exactly, do the cartels get their illegal arms?
The security consulting firm Sratfor cites three sources: Mexico, the US and the black market in Asia (such as China) and Latin America (such as Guatemala). It is the latter category that the firm describes as providing the deadliest weapons, such as rocket-powered grenades and automatic assault rifles. The firm also blames corrupt Mexican soldiers or deserters for providing such arms to the cartels. As for the cartels that use such heavy arms, the firm cites Los Zetas, Gente Nueva and La Linea.
Weapons that come from the US include 9-mm pistols as well as .45 and .40-calibers, plus .50-caliber rifles and semiautomatic assault rifles (AK-47s, M16s and FN57s). The smallest-caliber pistols, meanwhile, tend to be bought in Mexico.
So it seems that the US' role in the illegal arms trade is significant, but that Mexico, Asia and Latin America also play a role here.
Meanwhile, alleged drug gangs blocked off traffic in the Monterrey metropolitan area on Friday, minutes after an afternoon attack on police forces left one officer dead and another seriously wounded. The assassins shot at the police at least 25 times and apparently killed the driver of the police vehicle. El Universal has the story, via El Pulso.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Duarte calls out US in Ciudad Juarez

Today's news from Mexico begins with the governor of the state of Juarez calling out the United States for its role in illegal arms trafficking in its southern neighbor.
While the drug cartels in Mexico have generated headlines over the last few years, Gov. Cesar Duarte Jaquez said that illegal drug activity in the US is also strong and is responsible for maintaining a state of permanent war in Mexico.
Gov. Duarte, who delivered his remarks during an appearance in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez, also had strong words for the US government -- saying that it was not vigilant enough in preventing truckloads of thousands of illegal arms shipments from crossing the border into Mexico -- and urging his own country to be more energetic in this regard (he used the word "energetic" twice in his remarks).
Salvador Castro has the story in Norte Digital.
In an ironic twist, there is another drug-related story in Mexico with a US connection. This one comes out of the state of Baja California Sur and the private airport of Las Arenas in the city of La Paz. The man running a terminal at the airport, an American named Joseph Angelo Bravo, has a sketchy past: In 1994 he was sentenced to 87 months (7 years and 3 months) in prison in Nevada for conspiracy of cocaine trafficking; he also had to pay a $25,000 fine. The airport itself has a dubious past, as it was closed on Oct. 1, 2008 amid reports of people stealing aircraft, which were presumably used to transport narcotics.
The governor of Baja California Sur, Narciso Agundez Montano, could be in hot water for this happening under his watch (Agundez attended a reinauguration ceremony at the airport on Feb. 26). Articles 22-23 of the Mexican airport law prohibit persons with prison backgrounds from holding positions of authority -- such as the one Bravo now holds -- in airports.
Mexican news agencies have the story.
The Mexican press also has more on a suspect accused in the Feb. 15 homicide of Jaime Zapata, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent in Santa Maria. The suspect, Mario Jimenez "El Mayito (The Bobolink)" Perez, 41, is accused of working for the Los Zetas drug cartel. It also seems that he and the 15 others who were taken into custody on March 5 are suspected of providing armed protection to leaders of Los Zetas. Police found quite a stash on the suspects: 6 pistols of differing calibers, 114 plastic bags of cocaine and 15 bags of marijuana.
La Prensa has the story, as does El Universal.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mexican feds detain suspect in ICE agent's death

The main news out of Mexico today:
In San Luis Potosi, federal police have detained a man suspected in the drug-connected killing of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agent Jaime Zapata. The announcement came today out of the office of Secretary of Public Security (SSP) Genaro Garcia Luna.
The suspect, Mario Jimenez "El Mayito" Perez, is a 41-year-old man who was taken into custody on March 5 along with 16 others -- who have nicknames like "La Flaca" (The Skinny One) and "El Duende" (The Elf) and are also accused of having ties to Las Zetas. He is accused of being a financial operator for the drug gang Los Zetas.
Zapata was killed in an ambush in San Luis Potosi in February. However, the SSP's office did not provide specifics of just how El Mayito was connected to Zapata's death, according to Alfredo Mendez of La Jornada.
El Pulso (SLP) has the story as does El Universal.
In Aguascalientes, capital of the Mexican state of the same name. "El Sol del Centro" reports that organized crime members south of the city have killed a man who is apparently in his 40s, a taxi-cab driver, known as "El Gordo," and linked to organized crime. The killing occurred on the Panamericana highway. It is the 14th death linked to organized crime in Aguascalientes this year.