Category: Related News

Violence in Mexico hits 20-year high

(OCCRP) — Mexico witnessed a record-breaking number of homicides and murder investigations in May, according to government data.

Last month, 2,186 murders were committed surpassing 2011’s record, statistics that go back two decades show.

The number of murder investigations also peaked in May dating back to 1997. Several probes likely include multiple homicides.

“Pretty grim. Not shocking, because we’ve seen this for months,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said.

Mexico recorded 9,916 murders since the beginning of 2017, roughly a 30% increase over the same period last year, underscoring the country’s struggle to deal with escalating organized crime groups.

The deadliest state was Guerrero, in the south, a hotbed for Mexico’s war on drugs where 216 people were killed.

In the western state of Sinaloa 154 people were killed – the highest number in six years -due to violence driven by rival groups vying to fill the void left by the arrest and extradition of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Mexico launched a militarized offensive to fight drug trafficking in 2006. Since then, over 200,000 people have been presumed dead or missing as rival cartels wage war on each other and the army.

The country’s escalating violence has hit journalists especially hard claiming most recently the life of well-respected drug trafficking reporter, Javier Valdez Cardenas.

The ensuing conflict has further damaged President Enrique Pena Nieto’s popularity.

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Women kicked out organized crime in this Mexican town

(MY SAN ANTONIO) — More than 180,000 people have been killed in Mexico since then-President Felipe Calderon sent the army to fight organized crime groups in his native state of Michoacan in 2006.

But one small town in that state says it hasn’t had a homicide since 2011 because its residents – led by women – took up arms to kick out groups who had expanded from drug trafficking into illegal logging.

While overall in Michoacán, federal authorities say 614 people have been killed this year, a 16 percent increase from 2016, the people of Cherán say they’ve become immune to serious crime. They expelled the politicians and local police, and community members now patrol the area wearing uniforms emblazoned with the slogan “For Justice, Security and the Restoration of Our Territory.”

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Journalist’s murder underscores growing threat in Mexico

(BREITBART) — MEXICO CITY — The staff of the weekly newspaper Riodoce normally meets on Wednesdays to review its plans for coverage of the most recent mayhem wrought in Sinaloa state by organized crime, corrupt officials and ceaseless drug wars. But on this day, in the shadow of their own tragedy, they’ve come together to talk about security.

It’s important to change their routines, they are told. Be more careful with social media. Don’t leave colleagues alone in the office at night. Two senior journalists discuss what feels safer: to take their children with them to the office, which was the target of a grenade attack in 2009, or to leave them at home.

Security experts have written three words on a blackboard at the front of the room: adversaries, neutrals, allies. They ask the reporters to suggest names for each column — no proof is needed, perceptions and gut feelings are enough

Allies are crucial. In an emergency, they would need a friend, a lawyer, an activist to call.

The longest list, by far, is enemies. There are drug traffickers, politicians, business people, journalists suspected of being on the payroll of the government or the cartels, a catalog of villains who make the job of covering Mexico’s chaos perilous.

There is no respite from the violence, and as bodies pile up across the country, more and more of them are journalists: at least 25 since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, with at least seven dead in seven states so far this year. A total of 589 have been placed under federal protection after attacks and threats.

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Trump administration preparing Texas wildlife refuge for first border wall segment

(TEXAS OBSERVER) — by Melissa del Bosque

For at least six months, private contractors and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have been quietly preparing to build the first piece of President Trump’s border wall through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in South Texas.

The federally owned 2,088-acre refuge, often called the “crown jewel of the national wildlife refuge system,” could see construction begin as early as January 2018, according to a federal official who has been involved in the planning but asked to remain anonymous.

“This should be public information,” the official told the Observer. “There shouldn’t be government officials meeting in secret just so they don’t have to deal with the backlash. The public has the right to know about these plans.”

CBP plans to construct an 18-foot levee wall that would stretch for almost three miles through the wildlife refuge, according to the official. The structure would consist of a concrete base, which would serve as a levee, and be topped with a fence made of steel bollards, similar to a levee wall built almost a decade ago near Hidalgo, Texas. A second federal official confirmed these details to the Observer.

The official said that the Department of Homeland Security picked the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge as the first site for a border wall segment because it’s owned by the federal government, avoiding legal entanglements with private landowners. At least 95 percent of the Texas border is privately owned. As the Observer’s June cover story, “Over the Wall,” detailed, at least one-third of the 320 condemnation suits filed against landowners in 2007 are still pending.

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US-Mexico drug tunnels evolving amid increased border security

(KPBS) — By Jean Guerrero
The inside of the

Photo by Jean Guerrero

Under the corrugated steel plates that divide the U.S. and Mexico in Otay Mesa, dozens of clandestine cross-border tunnels slash through the soil.

As President Trump looks to build new barriers along the border, criminal organizations in Mexico are improving the tunnels they use to smuggle people and drugs under the border fence – making them smaller and maintaining a high level of sophistication, featuring electricity and railways.

Smuggling tunnels vary in shape and size, but generally fall under one of these three categories, according to U.S. Border Patrol:

— Rudimentary tunnels, or “gopher holes,” are cheaply made and stretch short distances, maybe 50 feet. They are used to smuggle humans or small quantities of drugs under the border.

— Interconnecting tunnels exploit existing municipal infrastructure, linking up with storm drains and sewer lines. They are used to smuggle humans and drugs under the border.

— Sophisticated tunnels can stretch for long distances (the longest ever found was equivalent to the length of eight football fields) and are often equipped with lighting, electricity, ventilation, water pumps, railways and more. They are used to move large volumes of drugs under the border.

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US government confirms connection between Mexican drug cartels and ISIS

(PANAM POST) — By Elena Toledo

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress that a “very different approach” will be implemented for fighting Mexican drug cartels and other transnational criminal groups from now on.

Tillerson, who spoke of connections between Mexican crime groups and the Islamic State, told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives that the United States and Mexico are now concentrating on the “supply chain of how drug trafficking, human trafficking and other criminal activities are conducted in a cross-border manner.”

“This is a comprehensive effort that we have been promoting, with the cooperation of our Mexican counterparts,” he said. “I think they will see a very different approach to how we attack the cartel problem.”

Tillerson was questioned by Texas State Rep. Michael McCaul about whether he shared concerns with National Security Secretary John Kelly regarding the connection between “criminal networks and terrorist networks.” Kelly had previously said “cartels share ties with terrorist networks, with the possibility of smuggling not just drugs or people, but dirty bombs.”

To this, Tillerson responded that the the connections are certainly there, including with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which, he said, “is part of our global effort to deny funding to terrorists.”

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Mexico’s war is hell. It’s next door. It’s getting worse. Why?

(DAILY BEAST) — Wars are not won by targeting the enemy’s generals and leaving their ground forces intact. That’s not a military campaign; it’s not even a serious strategy.

As Tolstoy notes in War and Peace, the French would still have gone on to invade Russia, even if someone had bumped off Napoleon.

And the same rule applies to fighting organized crime groups. You can’t defeat them by just busting top-dog mobsters, while allowing their armies of henchmen to grow and take over the countryside. Somebody always moves up, and from an historical perspective (here’s looking at you, Prohibition), such trickle-down tactics appear futile.

The powers that be in Mexico, however, would have you believe otherwise.

Our southern neighbor is now home to the second deadliest conflict zone in the world after Syria, according to a recent survey. Although there is some debate about the metrics used in that study, there’s no question that, as of now, the Mexican government is losing the fight against the cartels.

And there’s a good reason for it: The so-called “Kingpin Strategy” employed by military and police in their fight against the cartels has proven itself almost as effective as holding a pocket magnifier over a termite den under a hot sun. You might focus on and fry a few that way, to be sure, but the rest will go right on happily devouring your house.

A Lack of “Pax”

So far, 2017 has been a very rough year for Mexican crime fighters. The regional security plan established by President Enrique Peña Nieto in 2013—which divided the country into five zones and included large-scale military deployments—seems to have backfired. Violence is up by as much as 60 percent in the region that includes Sinaloa, where the crime syndicate formerly run by Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán is based. And homicides have increased sharply in each of the other four security zones as well.

As opposed to previous spikes in violence, which tended to be localized, the first five months of this year have seen a nationwide rise in murders—putting it on track to be the worst year for drug war mayhem since such records started to be kept in 1997.

So what’s behind the surging death tolls?

“Throughout the drug war the Kingpin Strategy has been the primary tool of the Mexican government in counter narcotics operations,” David Shirk, director of the Justice in Mexico program, tells The Daily Beast.

“The effect of that strategy has been to cause internecine conflicts among criminal organizations that are vying to fill the leadership vacuum,” Shirk says.

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Journalists bear invisible scars of Mexico’s drug war

(RAPPLER) — CHILPANCINGO, Mexico – After drug cartel thugs kidnapped him and threatened to burn him alive, Mexican journalist Jorge Martinez was so traumatized he couldn’t leave the house.

He and 6 colleagues were returning home after covering a police operation in the violent southern state of Guerrero on May 13 when some 100 masked gunmen from La Familia cartel hijacked their cars.

The narcos ended up letting them go after about 15 minutes. But it took Martinez, 44, two weeks to go outside again.

“Maybe it’s just nerves, but I feel like people are following me,” he almost whispered into the phone at the time, afraid to come out for an interview.

Two days after the kidnapping, another journalist – noted crime reporter and Agence France-Presse contributor Javier Valdez – was shot dead in broad daylight in the state of Sinaloa, scene of some of Mexico’s most brutal drug violence.

It was one of the highest-profile attacks targeting journalists in Mexico – a country where the phenomenon has become almost banal.

Journalists face harrowing risks to cover the bloody wars between Mexico’s rival cartels and the army, which have left a trail of tens of thousands of mangled bodies and hundreds of mass graves in their wake.

Reporters take their lives in their hands when they write anything that could be perceived as threatening, or even unflattering, by narcos or the corrupt government officials in bed with them.

Watchdog group Reporters Without Borders ranks Mexico as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists after Syria and Afghanistan.

Since 2006, when the government first sent the military to fight the cartels, nearly 100 journalists have been killed, more than 20 have disappeared, and more than 200 have been assaulted by drug traffickers.

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Drug Lord now available in Spanish: El zar de la droga

(DRUGLORD.COM) — El zar de la droga es la biografía de Pablo Acosta, narco mexicano que contruyó uno de los más poderosos imperios en la historia del narcotráfico mundial. También es la historia de la corrupción, violencia sin límite y opulencia del infernal mundo de los narcotraficantes.

Acosta convirtió a Ojinaga, Chihuahua, en el mayor “depósito” de cocaina del mundo occidental, desde donde abastecía la demanda de toda la Unión Americana. El zar de la droga revela los orígenes de este poderoso delinquente, su ascenso, contactos, métodos de intimidación, forma de operar y sus crímenes.

El zar de la droga es un reportaje periodístico absolutaments cierto e impresionante que a usted lo estremecerá.

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Drug War Turned Mexico Into World’s Deadliest Conflict Zone After Only Syria

(NEWSWEEK) — By Sofia Lotto Persio

Mexico’s drug war has created the second deadliest conflict area in the world after only Syria, according to a global survey.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) reported that the six-year war in Syria is the world’s deadliest conflict zone for the fifth consecutive year, causing an estimated 50,000 casualties in 2016. The Armed Conflict Survey 2017, the IISS annual summary of conflicts and casualties worldwide published on Tuesday, found that the war on drugs plaguing Central America has received ”scant attention.”

In Mexico, 23,000 people died in the fight against drug cartels in 2016. In other, smaller Central American countries battling cartels, including El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, another 16,000 have been killed.

“The death toll in Mexico’s conflict surpasses those for Afghanistan and Somalia. This is all the more surprising, considering that the conflict deaths are nearly all attributable to small arms. Mexico is a conflict marked by the absence of artillery, tanks or combat aviation,” John Chipman, IISS chief executive and director-general, said in the statement.

Just 10 conflicts accounted for more than 80 percent of the fatalities worldwide, according to the report. In order, the countries affected are: Syria, Mexico, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, South Sudan and Nigeria.

The rate of homicides in Mexico fell between 2011-14, but it began increasing again in 2015, to the point that it has decreased the life expectancy for men in the country by three years. According to IISS researcher Antonio Sampaio, the arrests and killings of top leaders in major cartels like the Los Zetas, infamous for their brutality and mass decapitations, contributed to the dip in violence. But new groups have emerged, adopting similarly brutal strategies for territorial expansion and control.

One of these is the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, which grew from a small, local criminal group in 2013 to rivaling Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel in terms of resources and territory. “The cartel is pursuing a sustained strategy of hyper-violent criminality, designed to scare local people, deter rivals (including the state) from attempting territorial grabs and maximise the incentives for businesses to pay extortion taxes,” Sampaio noted in an article on IISS’ website.

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