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Everything you need to know about the Mexico-United States border

(HISTORY CHANNEL) — By Christopher Klein

The border between the United States and Mexico stretches for nearly 2,000 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and touches the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Rio Grande runs along 1,254 miles of the border, but west of El Paso, Texas, the boundary lacks a natural geographic barrier except for a small stretch along the Colorado River.

Approximately 700 miles of barbed wire, chain link, post-and-rail and wire mesh fencing has been erected along the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. Border Patrol also utilizes thousands of cameras and underground sensors as well as aircraft, drones and boats to monitor the boundary.

After winning its independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico stretched as far north as the Oregon Territory. The secession of Texas in 1836, however, marked the beginning of the loss of Mexican territory that would become the present-day U.S. Southwest.

The War with Mexico

U.S. President James K. Polk captured the White House in 1844 on a pledge to fulfill America’s “Manifest Destiny” to stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Relations with Mexico deteriorated after the United States annexed Texas in 1845. When Mexico refused an American offer to purchase California and New Mexico for $30 million, Polk dispatched 4,000 troops into land north of the Rio Grande and south of the Nueces River claimed by both countries.

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Rise of new cartel leading to more violence, USD study shows

(SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE) — By Sandra Dibble

Mexico’s strategy of targeting top organized crime figures, or kingpins, for arrest and extradition has led to the spread of a new crime syndicate and driven up homicide numbers in many parts of the country, according to a new policy brief by the University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico project.

The report, titled “The New Generation: Mexico’s Emerging Organized Crime Threat,” focuses on the rise of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (New Generation Cartel Jalisco), commonly known as CJNG.

The group’s recent and rapid expansion across Mexico has been accompanied by high levels of violence, the report states, with a countrywide record of 29,000 homicides in 2017.

The rise of the CJNG also has come with the growing availability of methamphetamine in the United States and other major consumer markets, according to the report. And while methamphetamine is the primary source of income, the group has moved into heroin trafficking as well, it states.

Authors Lucy La Rosa, a USD graduate student, and USD professor David Shirk, the Justice Project’s principal investigator, say that the Guadalajara-based CJNG has benefited from the weakening of the Sinaloa Cartel’s grip in regions across Mexico, including Tijuana and its ability to forge alliance with local drug organizations.

“The CJNG has successfully taken advantage of a series of power vacuums resulting from the disruption of leadership structures in Mexican organized crime groups,” the report states.

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Cancún: from tourist beach paradise to hotbed of Mexico’s drug violence

(THE GUARDIAN) — The Playamed hospital is an unremarkable two-storey building on a quiet street lined with red-blossomed flame trees, just a few minutes’ drive from the white-sand beaches and all-inclusive resorts of Cancún’s hotel zone.

Recently, however, it was the setting for an incident underlining the relentless spread of Mexico’s drug war to cities previously best known as beach holiday destinations.

Four gunmen burst into a private room at the clinic last week, where they shot dead Alfonso Contreras Espinoza and his wife. Known as “El Poncho”, the murdered man was reputed to be the local boss for the Gulf cartel, and had been released from a local prison to receive treatment for a leg problem.

Investigators discovered a bag of white powder under his leg and a scale, suggesting that Contreras had been dealing from his sickbed.

On a recent morning, hospital officials declined to comment on the brazen attack. Paramedics standing in the shade outside looked away or stared into their smartphones when asked about the incident.

Not so long ago, Cancún sparkled as the crown jewel of Mexico’s Mayan Riviera. But rampant corruption, chaotic development and a string of murders have all tarnished the resort city’s reputation.
From glamour to gunfire: the tourist city of Acapulco torn apart by violence
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Other tourist hotspots have also been caught in Mexico’s red tide: Acapulco, once the country’s most glamorous beach spot, is now the setting for relentless gang violence; late last year, the bodies of six men were left hanging from bridges near Los Cabos on the Baja California peninsula. Earlier this month, a Mexican thinktank named Los Cabos the world’s most dangerous city outside a war zone.

The problems of Mexico’s resort cities mirror those of the country, which last year suffered its most murderous year in memory.

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The big reason Mexican cartel violence is on the rise, according to the Pentagon’s top intelligence officer

(TASK & PURPOSE) — By Christopher Woody

2017 ended as Mexico’s most violent year in recent memory, with 25,339 homicide cases — more than during the peak year of inter-cartel fighting in 2011.

Crime and violence have steadily increased in Mexico over the past three years, and the bloodshed over the past decade has come despite, and often because of, the Mexican military’s and federal police’s presence in the streets.

Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 23, Army Gen. Robert Ashley, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described a key trend that has contributed to the violence.

Asked what threats U.S. officials saw in Mexico and how the situation there had changed over the past decade, Ashley told the committee what has “transpired over the last couple of years is you had five principal cartels; we alluded to the number of captures [of cartel leaders] that had taken place, over 100. Those five cartels have kind of devolved into 20, and [as] part of that outgrowth, you’ve seen an increase in the level of violence.”

The dynamic Ashley described — the removal of criminal leaders leading to fragmentation of their groups and further violence — has been recognized as a failing of the “kingpin strategy” pursued, with strong U.S. backing, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed troops to confront domestic insecurity in 2007.

‘What’s happening, it’s like ants’

The kingpin strategy targets high-profile criminal leaders, with the idea that their capture or death will weaken their organization.

Ashley noted that under Peña Nieto, Mexico has brought down more than 100 high-profile cartel figures — among them Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (twice), Knights Templar founder Servando “La Tuta” Gomez (captured because his girlfriend brought him a cake), and Hector Beltran Leyva and Alfredo Beltran Guzman, both of whom lead of the Beltran Leyva Organization, an erstwhile Sinaloa cartel ally.

But the hoped-for security gains haven’t materialized.

“What actually happens is that if you take out the head of organization and it creates power vacuums and leads to … both internal schisms and encroachment … and creation of new spaces for other actors that can come, until we see a multiplication effect, or a proliferation, of smaller, regional groups,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in late 2016.[READ MORE]

In Mexico, vigilantes arise in violent regions

(ABC) — Fed up with police corruption and drug gang violence, a number of communities in the southern Mexico state of Guerrero and neighboring areas have formed citizen police groups.

Effectively vigilante outfits with no allegiance — and often outright hostility — to elected authorities, they are grassroots attempts by locals to rein in lawlessness in some of the areas most wracked by killings, kidnappings, extortion and other malfeasance.

Such forces have multiplied in recent years as Guerrero has become more violent. The state saw 2,318 homicides last year as criminal gangs battled for territory or killed to intimidate victims.

For these citizen cops, being on duty can mean manning an impromptu roadblock to search vehicles for contraband, monitoring bars for nefarious activities or watching over rudimentary police stations complete with jail cells.

Patrolling on foot or in the back of a pickup truck, they are often armed with just rifles — a far cry from the high-caliber weapons used by Mexico’s drug cartels, police and military.http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/ap-photos-mexico-vigilantes-groups-policing-towns-53463621

Mexican cartels pushing more heroin after U.S. states relax marijuana laws

(USA TODAY) — CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — As more U.S. states legalize the use of marijuana, Mexico’s violent drug cartels are turning to the basic law of supply and demand.

That means small farmers, or campesinos, in this border state’s rugged Sierra Madre who long planted marijuana to be smuggled into the United States are switching to opium poppies, which bring a higher price. The opium gum harvested is processed into heroin to feed the ravaging U.S. opioid crisis.

“Marijuana isn’t as valuable, so they switched to a more profitable product,” said Javier Ávila, a Jesuit priest in this region rife with drug cartel activities.

Laws allowing marijuana in states like Colorado, Washington and California are causing shifts in the Mexican underworld that have also led to increased violence as the cartels move away from its cash cow of marijuana to traffic more heroin and methamphetamines.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics show that marijuana seizures fell by more than half since 2012, while heroin and methamphetamine seizures have held steady or markedly increased.

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Journalists are fleeing for their lives in Mexico. There are few havens

(LA TIMES) — By Kate Linthicum

During sleepless nights in an immigrant detention center in Texas just north of the border, Emilio Gutierrez Soto has had a lot of time to think. Shivering on a flimsy mattress under thin sheets, 54-year-old Gutierrez finds himself circling back to the same question: Was it worth it?

Was it worth writing those articles critical of the Mexican military? Was it worth having to flee Mexico after receiving threats against his life?

Many miles away, in a teeming Mexican metropolis, Julio Omar Gomez is not confined behind bars, but might as well be.

Since last spring, Gomez, 37, has been living under state protection in a cramped, anonymous apartment many miles from home. He typically only leaves for appointments with his psychologist, who is treating him for anxiety and post-traumatic stress.

Gomez, too, wonders whether his journalism was worth it. Was exposing government corruption in his home state of Baja California Sur worth the three attacks on his life? Was it worth having to send his children into hiding?

Last year, reporters and photographers turned up dead in Mexico at a rate of about one per month, making it the most dangerous country in the world for journalists after war-torn Syria. They were some of the country’s most fearless investigators and sharp-tongued critics, shot down while shopping, while reclining in a hammock, while driving children to school. In January, 77-year-old opinion columnist Carlos Dominguez was waiting at a traffic light with his grandchildren when three men stabbed him 21 times.

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From Cancun to Los Cabos, tourists scared off Mexico’s beaches

(CHRON) — In the spring break capital of Cancun, Mexico, hotel occupancy has tumbled 10 percent this year. As bad as that is, over in Los Cabos, on the tip of the Baja California peninsula, it’s worse.

The airport serving Cabo San Lucas and its lesser-known sister city, San Jose del Cabo, is looking emptier these days. And hotel guests have canceled 35,000 nights of bookings over the next year – collectively a decade’s worth of visits for a single traveler.

At a time when the weaker peso should be luring American travelers in droves, many are staying away, spooked by a wave of violence that’s come dangerously close to tourist hot spots. Gunmen opened fire at a Cancun nightclub in November, and a cooler with two human heads was found on Cabo San Lucas’s main hotel strip in June.

But the biggest blow came on Aug. 22, when the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning advising tourists to steer clear altogether.

“Group tourism automatically went down the moment the warning hit,” said Carlos Gosselin, head of the hotel association for Cancun and Puerto Morelos. Many insurance companies likely won’t even consider offering coverage in areas under advisory, hurting conventions and events in the area, he said.

Mexico is reinforcing security in popular tourist spots to get the State Department to revise its views, and companies including Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International are spending millions to make guests feel safer. Their motivation is clear: Barclays estimates that a drop in tourism could wipe out as much as 0.5 percentage point from Mexico’s gross domestic product growth this year.

“Lower tourism activity will definitely have an impact on growth,” said Marco Oviedo, head of Latin America economic research at Barclays. “External tourism is one of the most important sources of income in the current account.”

Mexico gets about $20 billion a year from tourism. With murders quadrupling in Los Cabos and doubling in Cancun this year, a chunk of that revenue may be at stake. Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, is the destination of a third of all the nation’s international tourists.

In Los Cabos, local and federal authorities are teaming up with hotels, time-share companies and the airport operator to step up the area’s security.

The group is spending $50 million to increase surveillance cameras to cover the 20-mile main stretch that includes hotels, restaurants and public beaches. A new military facility, paid for in part by the private sector, will be built near a highway to respond to any activity spotted on the cameras. It is set to open in the second quarter of 2018.

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Mexican cops seize luxury ranch tied to border narco-governor

(BREITBART) — by Ildefonso Ortiz and Brandon Darby

Agents with the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office raided a luxury ranch tied to a former cartel-linked governor who is the target of an ongoing embezzlement and money laundering investigation.

Authorities raided a luxurious ranch tracing back to former Tamaulipas Governor Eugenio Hernandez. The agents also searched for two yet-unnamed individuals who are targets of the ongoing investigation against the former politician. The pair were not found during the raid.

State authorities arrested Hernandez last week in the state capital of Ciudad Victoria on warrants charging him with one count of embezzlement and one count of money laundering. The case against Hernandez is linked to the purchase of a large piece of state-owned coastal property that, according to authorities, he purchased for one percent of the property’s fair market value.

Since carrying out the arrest, authorities seized the large tract of property and raided a luxury ranch registered to one of the shell companies used by Hernandez. The property boasts a pool, tennis court, various buildings, and warehouses, as well as a rodeo arena.

The former politician is currently listed as a fugitive by the U.S. Department of Justice on multiple money laundering charges. Hernandez is wanted by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as well.

Despite his fugitive status in the U.S., Mexican authorities did not move against Hernandez–who lived with complete impunity–until Tamaulipas state authorities arrested him. The action by state authorities follows last year’s landslide election win by current governor Francisco Cabeza de Vaca, who is from the National Action Party (PAN). Under Cabeza de Vaca’s term, investigators discovered that former PRI Governor Egidio Torre provided state cops as bodyguards to Hernandez and another fugitive cartel-linked governor, Tomas Yarrington.

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India to completely seal its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh

(GREATER KASHMIR) — India’s Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said that government wants to completely seal Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh, adding that technology will also be used to curb infiltration where fencing is not possible.

Addressing Border Security Force agents near Nowshera, Singh said that government is working to completely seal the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

“We wish to completely seal our borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh,” he said.

Singh also shared his views on some vulnerable points of border and said that some areas on border are uncovered where fencing is not possible and we have to find technological solutions of such stretches.

Singh also termed Border Security Force as first wall of Defense and said that after army, BSF is India’s power and BSF men work in all conditions.

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