February 29, 2012: Has NAFTA benefited Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.? A recent U.S. and Mexico trade report pointed out that Mexico-U.S. trade has increased five-fold since 1994 and 1995. (NAFTA was established in 1994.) Bilateral trade was around $460 billion in 2011. Mexico bought over 13 percent of U.S. global exports, worth almost $200 billion ($197 billion according to one source). This makes Mexico the U.S.’s second biggest export market and third biggest trading partner. Canada is America’s largest trading partner, followed by China. In 2011, China bought around $105 billion in U.S. goods.
February 27, 2012: The U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security announced that the U.S. would continue to support Mexico’s war on drug cartels. The Mexican and U.S. governments both rejected allegations that the Cartel War is a failure.
February 26, 2012: The government estimated that youth gang activity in Nuevo Leon state has doubled since 2009. The government attributed this to the influence of Los Zetas cartel.
February 25, 2012: Colombian security forces arrested 35 people allegedly connected to Mexican drug cartels, especially the Sinaloa cartel. The arrested belong to a gang named Los Galeano. The gang supplies Mexican cartels with cocaine and cocaine-production chemicals. The gang is associated with Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Colombian government also said the Venezuelan government conducted its own raids on Los Galeano members in the city of Caracas. Colombian and Venezuelan police seized a total of 25 aircraft.
February 22, 2012: When the recession hit U.S. officials began reporting a decline in illegal immigrants from Mexico. There weren’t as many jobs in the U.S. The Mexican economy has been improving over the last year so as the U.S. economy picked up illegal immigration didn’t rise. Despite the Cartel War and U.S. travel warnings the tourist industry has revived, and in Mexico tourism is an important industry. It’s one reason the government gets angry when the U.S. State Department issues travel warnings. President Felipe Calderon has also tried to modernize and liberalize the Mexican economy as part of his systemic reform agenda. Calderon argues that over time liberalization will make a difference by expanding the Mexican economy and increasing wealth. For the U.S. that should translate into a further reduction in illegal immigration. However, another factor also plays a role in declining illegal immigration. A lot of illegal migrants who head north to look for jobs are in their late teens or early twenties. Mexican statisticians are now pointing out that Mexico has fewer young people than it did a decade ago. Birth rates began to decline in the 1980s. By one estimate there are now around 100,000 a year fewer people turning 18 than there were in the mid-1990s.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested an El Paso County (Texas) county commissioner on federal drug trafficking charges. Willie Gandara Jr. had served as a commissioner since 2008. He is also a candidate for the Texas state legislature. The DEA said that it was continuing a joint investigation involving other federal agencies, including the FBI and IRS. Gandera has been an outspoken critic of drug legalization and was quoted by an El Paso newspaper as declaring that drug legalization “is the coward practice of combating cartels, it is an insult to our men and women in law enforcement, and the laziest form of parenting our children and youth about the effects of drugs." Gandera’s father was indicted for corruption in 2010. The real story here is that cartel drug money corrupts U.S. politicians as well as Mexican politicians.
February 21, 2012: A stray 5.56mm caliber bullet fired during a shootout in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico struck a woman in El Paso, Texas. The woman was a Mexican national living in the U.S. Juarez police engaged heavily armed car thieves in a gun battle less than a half-mile from the Mexico-Texas border.
Security officials reported that gunmen armed with automatic rifles killed five taxi drivers in the city of Monterrey (Nuevo Leon state). The gunmen started firing at a line of taxi cabs which were waiting for passengers. Police speculated that the attack may have been conducted as part of a scheme to extort money from local cab drivers.
It’s a major embarrassment for President Felipe Calderon. Calderon’s sister, Luisa Maria Calderon, has been accused of attempting to buy votes in her failed run for governor of Michoacan state. Several Mexican radio stations have played a tape where a woman (allegedly Calderon) says she is going to buy votes in towns just like her opponent.
Feb 20, 2012: The National Action Party (PAN) presidential candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, is rising in election opinion polls. She now has the support of 32 percent of polled voters. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto, leads with 48 percent.
Investigators reported that nine prison guards admitted to helping Los Zetas members escape from prison in Apodaca (Nuevo Leon state). The escape occurred on February 19th and 44 prisoners died in the incident. At first police were led to believe it was a riot. But the violence proved to be a ruse to cover a jail break. Most of the prisoners who were murdered are thought to be members of the Gulf drug cartel, the Zetas main rival gang. Thirty members of Los Zetas escaped. Police are now holding 18 prison guards.
February 14, 2012: The U.S. government said that Drug Enforcement Administration investigators have evidence that Mexican drug cartels paid $4.5 million to the former governor of Tamaulipas state, Tomas Yarrington, and several of his PRI cohorts. The money bought political favors, according to the U.S. statement. Yarrington was governor from 1999-2004. After the U.S. announcement the PRI accused the U.S. of favoring the PAN in the July 2012 election.
February 13, 2012: The mayor of Ciudad Juarez said that the city is now housing many of its policemen in secured housing facilities (in one case a secured hotel). The reason: threats from drug gangs. The police will be allowed to keep their weapons with them. Eight policemen were slain in Juarez in January 2012.
February 12, 2012: Mexico’s defense secretary said that the military has made mistakes during the drug war but that those responsible for criminal actions have been punished. The statement came in response to accusations that the military justice system had let crooked soldiers evade justice.