Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reflections on the Peace Caravan

Mexican poet Javier Sicilia and his Peace Caravan have concluded their journey to protest the ravages of the drug war.
Sicilia, who lost his only son in March, almost 80 days ago, led the caravan, which marched from June 4-10 and included about 500 people: mothers, wives and children of people slain or disappeared in the narcoviolence. They traveled thousands of kilometers, across 12 Mexican states and the US border, from Cuernavaca to El Paso, Texas.
Leading the coverage is El Universal, which has heartwrenching stories from caravan participants.
One woman, Maria Herrera, lives in Michoacan, the territory of the "La Familia" cartel. Four of her sons have disappeared -- first two on one occasion, then two more. She said, "I don't know if they are alive, if they are eating. On their birthdays, I can't cry." She said that her sons are "innocent, good people." It was unclear if she was the same person as caravan member "Maria Herrero Magdaleno" described by La Jornada columnist Luis Hernandez Navarro, who also lost four sons in two separate incidents -- one in 2008 in Guerrero, the other in 2010 in Veracruz.
Meanwhile, Maria del Carmen Carlos Herrera, who lives in Coahuila, home of the "Los Zetas" cartel, told El Universal that her husband, Rafael Ibarra Bernal, was kidnapped, reportedly by Los Zetas, in Ramos Arizpe on April 2; she does not know if he is alive or dead. He was the pastor of a Christian church. She said that the president of Ramos Arizpe, Ramon Oceguera, told her not to waste time because the authorities cannot and will not do anything.
Sicilia ended the caravan by calling for a binational effort between Mexico and the US to combat drugs, La Cronica de Hoy reported, adding that the poet said that the US has "a high responsibility" for the narcoviolence. Sicilia also stopped in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, last Thursday to sign a 70-point plan calling for the Mexican army to disengage from the struggle and for a more human-rights based approach.
In La Jornada, Hernandez Navarro assesses the legacy of the caravan. He calls it "an act of justice," adding, "For the victims of the war on narcotrafficking, the caravan has won both the right to speak and the legitimacy of their discourse." He reported that these victims include both women and indigenous people, and called the drug war "absurd."

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mexico to launch anti-crime offensive Monday

Mexico will deploy 310,000 policemen in a weeklong push to combat crime next week, El Universal reported.
Beginning on Monday and concluding on Sunday, June 19, this National Security Operation will focus on a range of crimes, from kidnapping to belonging to a criminal group to car theft to driving with tinted windows or no license plates. Marcelo Ebrard, the head of a national governors' association, said that the wide array of crimes targeted constitute 65 to 70 percent of the crimes that have citizens worried.
The operation was decided upon in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, at the end of May, El Porvenir reported.
Nowhere in the list of crimes are drugs mentioned ... but it seems that the government is using an approach similar to that of New York City under the Rudolph Giuliani administration, when former police commissioner William Bratton used the cops to target smaller crimes as a way to stop larger crimes.
Measures that the government will take next week include using small cameras on public transit vehicles such as subway trains. You can see the cameras in a video on the El Universal website. On Monday, June 20, the government will assess what it has accomplished.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Big drug bust in Coahuila

The press is reporting the seizure of uniforms, weapons and (in an apparently separate raid) drugs in the states of Coahuila and Nuevo Leon, with El Universal calling the weapons and uniforms "presumed property" of the drug cartel Los Zetas. Periodico Zocalo has a smaller story that does not mention Los Zetas.
In photos from El Universal and Periodico Zocalo, you can get an idea of the enormous stash -- about 200 weapons and 500 uniforms -- uncovered by the Navy in Villa Union, Coahuila. Five people were arrested in the raid, and they, along with the arms and uniforms, were presented to the media on Thursday. A Navy spokesman, Rear Adm. Jose Luis Vergara, told El Universal that the weapons would presumably have been used by criminal personnel of Los Zetas.
Meanwhile, last month, authorities found separate stashes of cocaine on the Colombia-Monterrey highway in Nuevo Leon. The stashes, totaling about 200 kilos of cocaine, were also presented to the media on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Military: Indigenous women used for drug transport

Two indigenous women from the state of Nayarit were arrested and charged with transporting opiates in Mazatlan on Monday, the Sinaloan press reported.
El Sol de Mazatlan cites military sources who say that drug gangs are now using such indigenous women as "mules" (people who transport drugs).
The two women, Marina and Elvira Lopez, were found with almost 28 kilograms of opiates and about 33,000 pesos. El Debate reports that the drugs were found in a coffee-colored handbag between two seats, as well as in a black bag under a seat.
El Sol reports that the women said they did not know they were carrying drugs. They boarded a bus from La Mesa del Nayar on Sunday afternoon that was stopped at a Villa Union military checkpoint. El Sol added that the women told authorities that each of them was paid 3,000 pesos to transport the goods.
You can see a soldier standing beside a red-clothed table with at least 10 packets of the white substance, plus an additional amount beside the packets, in a photo on the El Sol website. The El Debate website has a photo of the bus.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Ex-Tijuana mayor in hot water

Former Tijuana mayor Jorge Hank Rhon was arrested on Saturday and charged with links to organized crime after authorities allegedly discovered a stash of illegal weapons, El Universal reports (with video).
Hank and 10 members of his security detail were taken into custody, and the length of their custody was doubled from 48 to 96 hours. A member of the Undersecretary of Specialized Investigation into Organized Crime told La Jornada that there are discrepancies in the statements of the 11 individuals.
The arrests were made after the authorities received a report of armed persons in the Hipodromo neighborhood of Tijuana.
The 11 people arrested by members of the Army had an alleged arms stash of 88 firearms, over 40 of them high-caliber, and 9,298 cartridges, in a possible violation of the Federal Firearms and Explosives Law.
Grisly discovery on Monterrey bridge
The bodies of two men were found hanging from a bridge in Monterrey on Sunday. Their identities were unknown and reports of their ages differ; but the gruesome photos in both El Porvenir and La Prensa clearly depict what was done to them (one of them had his leg amputated).
Reports also cite narcomessages left on the bodies of the slain, who were discovered around 6 a.m. local time. La Prensa attributes the deaths to a bloody clash between two drug cartels -- Los Zetas and their former allies, the Gulf Cartel -- that has consumed the states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.