May 29, 2011: The government is complaining that only 60 percent of the Merida Initiative aid, promised three years ago by the US government, has been provided. Mexico wants more surveillance equipment and helicopters. A U.S. government spokesman, responding to the Mexican complaint, acknowledged that by 2012 only 75 percent of the aid will have been disbursed. As of April 2011, only three Blackhawk helicopters and eight observation helicopters had been provided via the Merida Initiative. Mexico has been promised another six Blackhawks as well as maritime surveillance aircraft. The Mexican government has increased defense spending by almost 25 percent since the Cartel War began in December 2006. However, that is still only some $4.9 billion a year, or slightly less than 0.5 percent of Mexicoís 2010 GDP. Critics in the U.S. contend that Mexico needs to up its defense spending to around one percent of GDP if it is going to defeat the drug cartels. There is another aspect to the spending issue that is often lost. It isnít simply increasing the number of soldiers, buying more helicopters and trucks (i.e., increasing mobility) and improving intelligence and surveillance. Increasing the pay of soldiers and national policemen reduces the threat of corruption.
May 28, 2011: Security forces killed 11 members of the La Familia drug cartel in a firefight at a ranch in Jalisco state (western Mexico), and arrested another 36 after the raid. The gang members at the ranch intended to launch an attack on another drug cartel group in the region, the so-called Knights Templar cartel (yes, thatís the organizationís name, you canít make this stuff up). The Knights Templar are described as a breakaway faction from La Familia. The police believe La Familia was involved in the recent shoot-down of a Mexican helicopter.
May 27, 2011: Some 2,000 people have fled inter-cartel fighting in Michoacan state (western Mexico). Several factions of the La Familia drug cartel are now at war with each other. One of the most contested areas is the town of Buenavista in Michoacan, where the fighting has left over 30 dead. Over the last several days soldiers and some marines have begun moving into the area in an attempt to re-establish government control. Another major confrontation took place May 26 near the town of Ruiz (Nayarit state, western Mexico). That gang battle apparently involved the Sinaloa cartel. The Sinaloa cartel has been battling both La Familia and Los Zetas in that state. The recent arrest of the Sinaloaís senior commander has rattled the powerful cartel. (See May 13 report.)
May 24, 2011: Marines seized a ton of cocaine which allegedly belonged to Los Zetas drug cartel. The seizure took place in Coahuila state (Texas-Mexico border). Five men were arrested and several automatic weapons were taken during the operation, including a grenade launcher.
May 22, 2011: Mexican police have put on display an armored pickup truck that the press has begun calling a narco-tank. Police found the armored pickup truck abandoned in Jalisco state. The pickup is very similar to trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles rigged out with what U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq call hill-billy armor. Steel plates protect the cab and reinforce the front of the truck.
Marines arrested a senior commander of Los Zetas in the city of Hidalgo (Coahuila state), on the highway between the towns of Piedras Negras and Nuev Laredo (both towns are on the Texas-Mexico border). The marines also seized several vehicles, weapons, and lots of ammunition.
May 19, 2011: Marines arrested four local police officers in Tamaulipas state (Texas-Mexico border state) on charges of kidnapping and extortion.
May 17, 2011: Police have placed 513 illegal migrants in detention. The migrants were found crammed into two tractor-trailer trucks headed for the U.S.. Authorities said the migrants came from Central America and from Asia (Japan, China, Nepal, and India). One truck held 273 people, the other 240. The trucks were stopped in Chiapas state, near the Guatemala-Mexico border. The government has beefed up inspections of trucks and border security along the Guatemalan border since the bodies of over 70 murdered illegal migrants were found in a mass grave in Tamaulipas state.
May 13, 2011: The army claimed that it had captured the senior commander of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Martin Beltran Coronel. Martin Beltran Coronel replaced Iganacio Coronel when he was killed in July 2010.