April 24, 2012: The Mexican Army had 56,886 desertions since the Cartel War began in late 2006. While 10,154 deserters were punished, 23,694 remain unaccounted for. If this seems like a very large figure, it is less than the previous five years (2000-2005) when 106,813 soldiers deserted. The government has raised military pay and tried to improve facilities and services for the military. The desertion rate still presents a political problem for the government since the military has become the chief security force in the Cartel War. However, a 50 percent drop in the desertion rate over a five year period is remarkable.
April 22, 2012: Ten gunmen attacked a bar in Chihuahua City (Chihuahua state) and killed 15 people. Two of the victims were reporters.
April 20, 2012: Retired General Mario Acosta Chaparro was murdered in Mexico City. Acosta was shot in the head, three times, execution-style. Acosta was once convicted on charges of providing protection to a senior commander in the Juarez cartel but was subsequently cleared of the charges and released after serving seven years in prison.
April 18, 2012: Soldiers arrested the mayor of Chinameca (Veracruz State) as he was traveling with a group of armed Los Zetas cartel gunmen.
April 17, 2012: The U.S. is winding down the 19-month long deployment of 1m200 National Guard soldiers assigned to help patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. The contingent will be cut back to 300 troops. The military will continue to provide helicopter support and surveillance aircraft. The 300 remaining National Guard soldiers will support the aircraft and assist in intelligence assessment.
April 14, 2012: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate said that he intends to expand the Mexican federal police forces. The expanded Federales would operate as paramilitary force and assume many of the missions now conducted by the Mexican military in the Cartel War.
April 10, 2012: Gunmen murdered seven taxi cab drivers in a suburb of Monterrey (Nuevo Leon State). Taxi drivers and services have been subjected to extortion demands by criminal syndicates. Police have also reported that some taxi drivers have served as scouts or intelligence sources for drug cartels.
April 9, 2012: A U.S. Border Patrol agent was arrested in El Paso, Texas on charges of conspiring to buy weapons and ammunition for Mexican criminal gangs. The agent, Ricardo Montalvo, was also suspected of agreeing to help smuggle the weapons and ammo from the U.S. into Mexico. Montalvo allegedly bought nine AK-47s and several thousand rounds of ammunition.
April 5, 2012: Juarez drug cartel member Jose Antonio Acosta-Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison by a U.S. federal court. Acosta-Hernandez was identified as a senior enforcer in the Juarez cartel’s La Linea group. He has been linked to some 1,500 murders. He was specifically tied to the March 2010 murders of three people who worked with the U.S. consulate office in Ciudad Juarez.
April 4, 2012: Soldiers killed Francisco Medina Mejia, a senior commander in the Los Zetas drug cartel. Medina was also known as Commander Quemado (his nickname was El Quemado, the Burned One). Medina was the suspected mastermind of the August 2011 attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey, which left 52 people dead. Soldiers claimed they encountered a convoy of two vehicles carrying Medina and several other Zetas members traveling on the highway between Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas state) and Piedras Negras (Coahuila state). Both are border towns in northern Mexico. The soldiers reported that they were conducting routine checks along the road and that the Zetas fired on them first. Three other Zetas died in the shootout, in addition to Medina. Soldiers recovered eight assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Media reports on this incident provided little information on the military operation and the firefight. Chance encounters do occur and that is how the incident is being portrayed. The army regularly sets up traffic checkpoints and roadblocks on routes frequented by cartel gunmen. Soldiers often erect hasty (random) roadblocks on other routes in order to surprise the cartelistas. Apparently the army had set up a checkpoint and Medina’s convoy just ran into it. This is one of the pay-offs of random roadblocks and checkpoints – the army and police earn their luck. Still, intelligence on the whereabouts of senior cartel leaders has improved dramatically. The number of convictions of senior cartel leaders is a crude but incontestable metric, though a metric that is much further along in the legal process than police and military intelligence gathering and surveillance. In the weeks following the casino attack the government vowed that it would not only catch the men who committed the crime but the leaders who planned it and ordered it. Medina was the leader the government concluded planned the casino attack. It was also believed that at least three other leaders were involved in ordering the attack. Medina thus had sufficient culpability to rate an all-out man hunt. In the Cartel War an all-out effort includes recon drones and electronic surveillance as well as detectives with informants and soldiers sweeping neighborhoods. To use the jargon, he attracted heat. (Austin Bay)
April 3, 2012: Four Mexican citizens whose alleged torture cases have been presented to the U.N. have links to members of the Sinaloa cartel. When the four men were arrested in 2009 (in Baja California) they were holding a hostage. Soldiers also seized 21 weapons and over 14,000 rounds of ammunition when they arrested the men. The families of the suspects claim that the soldiers wore masks (hoods) and tortured the men. The military denies the families’ allegations.
April 2, 2012: A U.S. federal court sentenced drug lord Benjamin Arellano Felix to 25 years in prison. Arellano Felix also forfeited $100 million in illegal profits. The sentence and forfeiture were part of a plea bargain arrangement.