February 10, 2008:
The Army had a big
week in its war on the cartelistas (drug gangs). The army conducted an
operation in Tamaulipas state that led to the capture of five men and a large
weapons cache. The cache was found on a ranch and included plastic explosive,
hand grenades, bullet-proof protective vests, 80 sets of military uniforms, 89
rifles and 83,000 rounds of ammunition.
The army also found nine tons of marijuana on the ranch and several
vehicles, one equipped with bullet-proof glass. The troops found what amounts
to a supply dump for a company-sized unit capable of launching limited mobile
operations. A police station in a small town would be quickly overrun by a
force of this size and this well-armed.
February 9, 2008: A Mexican Army senior
officer commanding troops in Baja California state confirmed that the drug
cartels are trying to bribe Mexican soldiers. The officer said that drug gang
members are trying buy-off the military so they can continue shipping drugs. Soldiers
reported that they are offered money, drugs, and prostitutes. The government
raised military pay in early 2007, in part to reward integrity in the armed services. The military has
reported that it has arrested a number of gang members who had city and state
police radios. That was another indicator that the gangs had corrupted local
police forces. The army is now running several police departments in Baja
February 6, 2008: President Felipe
Calderon said that the government will eventually reduce the military's role in
the war on drug cartels. The key is reform of police forces so that the
participation of the army in the fight against crime will become less and less
necessary. The president was responding to increasing international criticism
of his administrations reliance on the Army in its battle with heavily armed
drug gangs. The UN (U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights) has criticized
Calderon's use of the military, arguing that the use of the military increases
the possibility of human rights violations.
February 4, 2008: Farmers are once
again complaining about corn prices. In late January several thousand farmers
and demonstrators marched in Mexico City. The farmers and their supporters want
the Mexican government to "renegotiate NAFTA" to protect farm crop prices in
Mexico. Why is this a problem? Corn prices and NAFTA were two key political
issues raised Sub-Commandante Marcos in the 1994 Zapatista rebellion.
February 2, 2008: The media have
produced their own death toll for "drug cartel related violence" in 2007. That
figure is 2795 deaths.
February 1, 2008: U.S. commanders in Ft
Bliss put the Mexican city of Juarez off limits to American troops. The "off
limits" designation is only "for a short term." Rising violence is the reason.
In January 2008 Juarez had 30 murders. Juarez is across the border from El
Paso, Texas, where Ft Bliss is located.
January 23, 2008: There has been an upsurge of drug-related violence
in Mexico City. Authorities said one of the big indicators was the arrest of 11
members of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico City on January 22. The gang
members are suspected of attempting to organize a "high-level assassination" in
Mexico City. The house where the gang members were captured were stocked with
grenades, automatic rifles, and bullet-proof vests. Authorities described the
group as a "hit team." However, their equipment also suggests the hit team had
some of the capabilities of a small military-type special operations
force. Mexico City has also increased
the number of police operating at its international airport in order to stop
drug trafficking through that facility.
January 15, 2008: The army claims that
an anti-Army demonstration in the town of Culiacan (November 2007) was staged
by drug cartels. The army asserts that the Sinaloa drug cartel paid
demonstrators from $50 to $200 to participate in the demonstration. Remember,
this is an allegation by the Mexican Army. But could the cartelistas buy
demonstrators? Why not. A media campaign (information warfare) might slow down
the army. From the cartel leaders' perspective, it's worth a try.
January 10, 2008: Authorities said that
they plan to begin inspecting all private airplane flights from Central and
South America. The inspections will be conducted by special counter-drug
January 8, 2008: The government
reported that it had arrested 10 people involved in a January 7 shootout in the
town of Rio Bravo. Three of the suspects are described as U.S. residents.