March 16, 2012: Mexico and the U.S. have agreed to begin conducting joint military training exercises. U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) will conduct exercise Ardent Sentry 2012 beginning May 2. Officials describe the exercise as a joint U.S.-Mexico simulation involving military support for civilian agencies in a natural disaster, in this case a hurricane. Ten or 12 years ago an openly-revealed exercise involving the Mexican and U.S. militaries would have been a surprise and subject of harsh political criticism, especially in Mexico, given Mexican historical suspicions of the U.S. military. However, Northcom has had Mexican liaison officers (from the Mexican Army, Navy, and Air Force) operating with its staff for several years and that has been covered in the Mexican press. The U.S. provides Mexico with security intelligence information and by now everyone knows it. Northcom has indicated it may begin conducting exercises which involve U.S., Canadian, and Mexican air and naval forces responding to illegal (criminal) activities. This sort of activity suggests Northcom may be considering a maritime and air narcotics smuggling scenario. Given the two nations’ common concerns with the Cartel War, this scenario makes sense, and everyone who thinks about it knows it. Note that an air-sea counter-drug smuggling exercise is not all that different from any kind of counter-smuggling or anti-infiltration operation. A common scenario in U.S. counter-terror exercises has terrorists attempting to smuggle in a weapon of mass destruction or place a WMD in a maritime cargo container and blow up the freighter carrying it once it reaches a U.S. port. If you can stop the narco-trafficker’s cargo container or aircraft, you can stop the terrorist’s as well. (Austin Bay)
March 12, 2012: A number of Mexican human rights activists have gone into exile to avoid attacks from drug gang members and also repression by Mexican security forces. El Paso, Texas has become a safe haven as well as a transit point for human rights activists seeking asylum in the U.S.
March 9, 2012: Mexican Army headquarters (SEDENA) announced that its soldiers had arrested Erick Valencia (nom de guerre El 85) and his second-in-command, Otoniel Mendoza (aka Tony Montana). Valencia heads the Jalisco New Generation cartel. Soldiers surrounded Valencia’s headquarters. They seized 30 weapons, ammunition, and fragmentation grenades.
March 7, 2012: State investigators in Nuevo Leon state discovered three grave sites near the city of Monterrey. So far 16 bodies have been found there. The dead are thought to have been killed in drug cartel-related violence.
A gunfight erupted between police and cartel gunmen in the town of Piedras Negras (Coahuila state). One police officer was killed and six people were wounded. Police have not determined if the gunmen belonged to a drug cartel. However, the police recovered several military weapons after the gunfight including automatic rifles, grenade launchers, and rocket-propelled grenades.
March 5, 2012: The Gulf Cartel is using an increasing number of women in its operations. Women have carried out several assassinations on behalf of the cartel. Several women also manage cartel financial operations.
March 2, 2012: It is not news that police and intelligence services believe Mexican cartels have global connections. Their western hemisphere connections are well known, particularly in Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru. From time to time officials mention suspected links to Balkan and Middle Eastern drug traffickers. Australia now claims that the Sinaloa cartel is trying to extend its reach into Australia and the Pacific, especially in smuggling cocaine. The reason is demand and Sinaloa is prepared to meet it. Australian cocaine use doubled from 2010 to 2011.