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Mexico: Bringing Back The Bad Old Days
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December 7, 2012: Of the 37 major drug cartel commanders who appeared on the government’s 2009 list of top organized crime figures, 68 percent (25) have been apprehended or killed. President Felipe Calderon’s administration called this the kingpin strategy, which was designed to disrupt cartel operations. Incoming president Enrique Pena Nieto says his administration will no longer focus on attacking drug cartel command channels but will focus on protecting Mexican citizens and reducing the level of violence. Pena Nieto has said that he intends to use police forces to battle the crime syndicates, rather than use the military as the primary counter-cartel force, as Calderon did. However, until the police are up to the task, the Mexican Army and Mexican Navy will continue to take the lead in the Cartel War. Many Mexicans remember that for decades the PRI party (which the new president belongs to) kept the cartels quiet by making deals to allow the criminals to operate without interference (in return for bribes).

December 5, 2012: A U.S. government board, investigating the notorious Fast and Furious gun-walking operation, recommended that four senior Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATF) managers face disciplinary consequences for their roles in the scandal. The BATFE managers identified were tasked with supervising the operation.

Senior prosecutors in Sinaloa state claimed that investigators had found evidence that the beauty queen who was killed in a firefight on November 24 between Mexican Army soldiers and a group of Sinaloa cartel gunmen had fired a weapon at the soldiers. Prosecutors said that investigators found gunshot residue on the body of Maria Susana Flores Gamez, which indicated she had fired the AK-47 rifle found beside her. Investigators employed a sodium rhodizonate test to look for lead gunshot residue (explosive primer and propellants) on a suspected shooter’s hands, exposed skin, and clothing. If detectives find a lot of residue, that indicates that the person was either shooting a weapon or very near a weapon when it was discharged. The test is not totally conclusive evidence that someone fired a weapon, but if investigators find significant amounts of residue on a person’s hands and upper body (face, forearms, etc) that is a strong indication that the person was bearing or handling a discharged weapon – and therefore probably firing the weapon. The Sinaloa prosecutor’s office did not provide details of the test results.

December 4, 2012: One of Mexico’s most notorious criminals accused former President Felipe Calderon of trying to negotiate a peace pact among Mexico’s drug cartels. Edgar Valdez Villareal, known as La Barbie, was a senior commander in the Beltran Leyva cartel and is anything but a credible source. Valdez is about to be extradited to the U.S. to face drug smuggling charges. Valdez also claimed that he gave the head of Mexico’s Public Security Secretary, Genaro Garcia Luna, money in 2002. Valdez claimed that he is in jail because he refused to join the peace pact.

December 2, 2012: Police in the city of Torreon (Coahuila state, northern Mexico) found the bodies of nine murdered people. Seven of the bodies had been mutilated. Police called the murders the result of a drug gang turf war in the city.

December 1, 2012: President Felipe Calderon handed over his office to Enrique Pena Nieto. Pena Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won a contested victory in this year’s national election.

November 28, 2012: Security officials said that they are investigating the possibility that the 14 federal police officers arrested on November 9 were working for an organized crime syndicate (drug cartel). The 14 are charged with attempting to murder two U.S. CIA agents and a Mexican Navy captain. Four federal police commanders have now been charged with making false statements and attempting to hinder the investigation. Since the arrests were made there have been charges in the media that the policemen are being railroaded by the government. On November 18, the Attorney General’s office publicly rejected what had been the official police account of the incident, that the federal officers had been investigating a kidnapping. A senior state prosecutor said that the investigation had confirmed that the officers were not investigating a kidnapping. The prosecutor alleged that evidence gathered since the incident showed that the federal police officers had conducted a targeted attack on the U.S. embassy vehicle. Moreover, all gunfire at the scene came from the federal police officers. The CIA agents did not return fire.

November 26, 2012: U.S. security agents in Texas arrested two men on charges of attempting to smuggle weapons to a Mexican drug cartel. One of the men was arrested in a vehicle in Roma, Texas. Police reported that the vehicle had five assault rifles, four hand grenades, a grenade launcher, and ammunition. Both of the men are suspected of having links to Los Zetas cartel.

November 24, 2012: A 22-year old woman who won a major beauty pageant in Sinaloa state this year was killed in a firefight between Mexican Army soldiers and Sinaloa cartel gunmen. The firefight was a running firefight that began when gunmen opened fire on an Army patrol. The soldiers chased the gunmen for several hours and finally trapped them near the town of Mocorito (Sinaloa state). Security officials said that they have not yet determined whether or not the beauty queen, Maria Susana Flores Gamez, participated in the gunfight but they were certain she was traveling with the drug gang gunmen. Two gunmen were killed in the firefight and four were captured. Two soldiers and another civilian were also killed in the firefight. The Mexican Army reported that its soldiers also seized six vehicles and several weapons.

November 23, 2012: Police in Guadalajara arrested one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals. Joe Luis Saenz was wanted on warrants for murder and rape in California. Authorities said that he may have been working for a Mexican drug cartel.

November 20, 2012: President Felipe Calderon dedicated a monument in Mexico City to the 205 Mexican Army soldiers and Mexican Navy marines who have been killed since 2001, while fighting drug cartels and drug traffickers.

November 17, 2012: The body of María Santos Gorrostieta, the former mayor of Tiquicheo (Michoacan state), was discovered after she had been missing for three days. Police said she had been tortured and beaten to death. The former mayor had twice been targeted for assassination by criminal gangs in the state. Santos Gorrostieta was regarded as a national heroine.

November 15, 2012: The Knights Templar cartel has sent President Felipe Calderon a farewell message. The Knights draped banners over roads and buildings in three states which said the crime gang wished the soon-to-be-former president and his family a good life in retirement. The banners were left in Guerrero, Michoacan, and Guanajuato states. Michoacan state is the center of Knights Templar operations. The Knights Templar began as a faction of La Familia cartel, which is also based in Michoacan.

Investigators with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have testified in a trial in El Paso that Marco Antonio Delgado, a Texas lawyer who is facing money-laundering charges, was an ICE informant. However, he was also running money-laundering operations about which ICE had no knowledge. Delgado is accused of trying to launder over $600 million in drug money.

November 14, 2012: Police discovered five dead bodies in an abandoned car in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec. A message from the Gulf cartel was also found in the car. The people were killed as an example to rival drug gangs.

November 13, 2012: The heads of state of Honduras, Belize, and Costa Rica joined President Felipe Calderon in asking the United Nations to examine illegal drug policies and how they affect Central America. The request came after two U.S. states voted to legalize marijuana. Calderon has argued that the U.S. government should explore ways to either reduce American consumption of illegal drugs or find a way to stop criminal organizations from making massive amounts of money smuggling and selling the illegal drugs. The latter would entail some form of decriminalization. Calderon has said that the U.S. drug money in Mexico gives the criminals tremendous political and economic power. (Austin Bay)

Marines arrested a man prosecutors have identified as the senior Los Zetas commander in the city of Saltillo (Coahuila state). The Zetas call a local city commander the city chief or city captain. The man used two different names: Mario Arturo Zurita Berrones and Adrian Hernandez Sanchez. He was arrested less than a week after authorities arrested his predecessor, Said Omar Juarez. Omar Juarez was arrested on November 7.

November 10, 2012: Security officials in Nuevo Leon state reported that they had arrested 24 members of the Gulf cartel. Seven of those arrested told interrogators that they had once worked for Los Zetas cartel as gunmen. All 24 Gulf cartel members are accused of murder. At the moment they are implicated in at least 48 homicides.

November 9, 2012: National security police are continuing to investigate the August 24 attack on two U.S. CIA case officers and a Mexican Navy captain who was accompanying them. Fourteen Mexican federal police officers have been arrested in connection to the incident. Police and prosecutors now call the incident an ambush and therefore a case of attempted murder. All three men, the two Americans and the Mexican officer, were targets. This is a complete about face. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, government officials described it as a case of mistaken identity. Prosecutors now say that the rogue policemen involved in the attack had taken off their uniforms and were driving in civilian vehicles when they attacked the U.S. embassy sport utility vehicle in which the CIA officers and naval officer were traveling. The embassy vehicle, however, was armored. The rogue policemen fired on the armored SUV with AK-47 rifles, none of which were issued to the officers. After the attack the would-be assassins returned to a police station and put on their police uniforms.

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