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.

Friday, August 12, 2011

'Hand With Eyes' leader caught

Oscar Osvaldo Garcia Montoya, "El Compayito," the presumed leader of the "Hand With Eyes" ("Mano con Ojos") kidnapping group with a five-thousand peso reward for his capture, was arrested at a safe house in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City on Thursday morning.
Columnist Katia D'Artigues Beauregard, writing in El Universal, explains the group's unusual name as "the bloody way they executed their victims" (last item in the column), while reports that the name was a way of frightening small-time drug dealers who did not wish to join the organization's ranks.
Magdalena Santiago of El Sol de Toluca unveils the accusations against Garcia Montoya. He is charged with committing 300 executions and ordering 300 more, and of leading a cartel that controlled narcotics distribution in five places, including the capital city. Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, secretary-general of justice for Mexico State, said that "El Compayito" struck out on his own after the arrest of the Beltran Leyva brothers, creating a cartel that "was characterized by the extreme violence in which it decapitated its victims."
Castillo Cervantes also said that "El Compayito" had received military training in both Mexico and Guatemala, including by the elite "kaibiles" troops of the latter country -- and deemed his arrest a palpable strike by the forces of Gov. Enrique Pena Nieto, a potential successor to the Mexican presidency.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

2 found hanging from bridge in Nuevo Leon

In the latest grisly discovery in Nuevo Leon, the bodies of two young men were found hanging by their feet from a bridge this morning.
The gruesome find occurred in the municipality of Allende, about 60 kilometers south of Monterrey, at 5 a.m. El Universal has the story, as does El Norte (registration required). The latter newspaper has a photo of the crime on its website.
Corrupt cops in NL?
The other element to this story is that the military were the first at the scene because the police in Allende are under investigation for a different crime: the kidnapping, murder and mutilation of two 24-year-old half-sisters, who were relatives of the Secretary of Social Development for Nuevo Leon, Aurora Cavazos.
The number of policemen arrested stands at about 13 or 14. El Porvenir links the police with the drug cartel Los Zetas, adding that some are accused of receiving thousands of pesos each month from the cartel, and that some were in contact with a leader of the cartel, known only by the nickname "El Loco."
A blow to Los Zetas
It should also be noted that the authorities continue to move against suspected cartel leaders. Valdemar Quintanilla Soriano, "Adal," an alleged financial mastermind of Los Zetas, is now in custody after being arrested by the military in Saltillo, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon en Linea reports.
"Adal" is accused of having close ties with Los Zetas leaders Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, and of paying off authorities.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cops nab Acapulco cartel leader

Moises Montero Alvarez has a distinctive nickname: "El Koreano." He also has an allegedly distinctive criminal background as a leader of the "Independent Cartel of Acapulco" (CIDA, in Spanish).
Montero Alvarez is now in custody after his capture in Acapulco, Guerrero, on Monday morning.
Some in the press are treating this delicately. El Universal refused to use his full name, calling him "Moises N," whereas El Sur de Acapulco used not only his full name, but also his nickname.
Why the discrepancy? Maybe it's fear of the crimes he is charged with, which include kidnapping and murder of federal policemen.
Both El Universal and El Sur said that CIDA has used the port of Acapulco as a battleground. El Sur reported ties between CIDA and another criminal mastermind, Edgar Valdez Villareal ("La Barbie"), and an antagonism between CIDA and the Beltran Leyva cartel. El Universal has "Moises N" explaining that his crimes were committed due to a power struggle with a rival group, "La Barredora."