Mexico: Send In The Marines


August 24, 2012: Security officials are continuing to respond to the very public murders of three federal policemen in late June as they were preparing to arrest another federal officer suspected of working for a drug cartel. The suspect and another allegedly corrupt officer shot and killed their fellow policemen in Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport. Earlier this month security officials transferred 348 airport policemen in what was described as a massive attempt to insure that the airport police force is reliable. The government said the newly assigned officers had all gone through very intensive background checks. The public still wants to know why the two killers managed to escape from the airport. The two killers, Daniel Cruz Garcia and Zeferino Morales Franco, have evaded arrest, though their supervisor, who is also suspected of having ties to drug cartels, was arrested in July. The two suspects have contacted various Mexican journalists. They claim they are clean and that they are targets of a police conspiracy because they were about to reveal that drug cartels had thoroughly corrupted the airport police.

August 21, 2012: The Supreme Court ruled that part of the military’s Code of Military Justice is unconstitutional. The court declared that giving the military jurisdiction over all crimes committed by members of the military while on duty oversteps military authority. Crimes committed by members of the military against civilians should be tried in civilian courts. The ruling extends another Supreme Court decision on crimes by the military made earlier this month. The court is responding to claims of human rights abuses by the military. Several human rights groups argued that guilty soldiers either receive light sentences for crimes committed against citizens or completely escape punishment when they are judged in military courts.

August 20, 2012: The government believes increased pressure on Los Zetas cartel has damaged the organization’s command structure. Some media dispute this and point out, correctly, that Los Zetas has extended its drug operations throughout northern, eastern, and southern Mexico. Still, reports are cropping up that there is a power struggle within Los Zetas. The Zetas may be splitting into two or more factions. It appears that two Zetas groups are now fighting for control of San Luis Potosi state and Zacatecas state as well. No one knows for sure but other cartels factionalized after sustained attacks by the police (Beltran-Leyva for example).

August 19, 2012: It was a bloody weekend. In Torreon (Coahuila state, northern Mexico) six people were killed in drug-related violence connected to the gang war between the Sinaloa and Los Zetas cartels. Twelve people were murdered by gunfire in Acapulco (Guerrero state), though police said they did not yet have evidence that connected the murders to drug gangs. 

August 18, 2012: Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua State) had 48 homicides during July. Police determined that 40 of the murders were related to drug trafficking. This marks a huge drop in the homicide rate in the city. In 2010, Ciudad Juarez averaged 260 murders a month.

Soldiers freed 77 illegal migrants who had been held by a Mexican criminal gang in the town of Reynosa (Tamaulipas state). The troops reported that a patrol tailed a suspicious vehicle to a large house and their unit launched a raid. The illegal migrants were Central Americans and the gang had promised to smuggle them into the U.S..

August 17, 2012: Police arrested eight people allegedly involved in the murders of three photo-journalists and one of the journalist’s girlfriends. The murders occurred in Veracruz state in early May and the bodies were mutilated by the killers. The murders sparked a great deal of concern by Mexican media. Police said the suspects belong to the Jalisco New Generation gang, which is an ally of the Sinaloa Cartel.

August 12, 2012: Marines shot and killed four gunmen who attacked their convoy in the city of Cordoba (Veracruz state). The ambush took place at around 7:00 AM as the convoy passed through Cordoba’s La Posta district. The firefight continued for a half-hour. The attackers used automatic rifles and fragmentation grenades. The Marines did not identify the gunmen’s cartel but Veracruz state (Mexico’s third-most populous) is a battleground state involving Los Zetas, the Gulf cartel, and the Sinaloa cartel.

An Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) member, recently elected mayor the town of Matehula (San Luis Potosi state), and his campaign manager were murdered in a drive-by slaying. The town of Matehula and San Luis Potosi state have seen an increase in cartel violence. There are reports that Los Zetas have moved part of their operation into the state. On August 9, police discovered a truck packed with 14 dead bodies (killed in Coahuila state) outside the city of San Luis Potosi.

August 8, 2012: The Supreme Court ruled that a colonel, charged with abusing civilians, can be tried in a civilian court. It's long been pointed out that military courts often fail to punish soldiers for physical abuse and other crimes committed against civilians.

August 7, 2012: Police raided a house in Mexico City’s upscale Coyoacan neighborhood. One suspect died in the resulting gunfight. The police then arrested three other people in the house. Two were identified as Colombian citizens and one was an Israeli.

August 6, 2012: A federal court ruled that four senior Mexican Army officers will stand trial on charges of bribery and corruption. The four officers allegedly provided information and protection to the Beltran-Leyva cartel. The officers were arrested in May. Two of the men are retired generals and one is a retired lieutenant-colonel. The other officer is still on active duty, general Roberto Dawe Gonzalez.

August 3, 2012: The Army revealed that it had arrested Jose Ricardo Barajas Lopez, a senior Los Zetas drug cartel operative allegedly involved in the grisly murder of 49 people in Nuevo Leon state in May. The bodies of the 49 victims were mutilated and then on May 13 were dropped around the town of Cadereyta. Signs and banners left near the bodies proclaimed that the dead were members of the Gulf cartel who had been executed by the Zetas. Soldiers arrested Barajas in the town of Santa Catarina and reported that he had an automatic rifle and communications gear with him. Barajas was one of the Los Zatas who escaped form the Apodaca prison in a major jailbreak last February. Police suspect that corrupt guards were involved in the jailbreak.

August 2, 2012: Mario Villaneuva, a former PRI governor of Quintana Roo state (on the Yucatan peninsula), pled guilty in U.S. federal court to money-laundering charges on behalf of the Juarez cartel traffickers. He was extradited to the U.S. from Mexico in 2012. Villaneuva allegedly laundered money from 1993 to 2001. He was governor of the state from 1993 to 1999. Villaneuva told the U.S. court that he also helped the cartel ship cocaine through his state, by providing logistics assistance as well as police protection of cartel operations. Villaneuva was connected to a Lehman Brothers investment officer who was convicted of money laundering in 2005.

A U.S. federal court in Austin, Texas sentenced two members of the La Familia cartel for drug smuggling. The two (Jose Luis-Jaimes Jr. and Pedro Jaimes-Castrejon) directed what prosecutors described as cartel cells operating in the Austin area and in Texas. The cells helped move drugs (primarily cocaine and precursor chemicals for methamphetamines) from Mexico to Texas and then distributed them to other states in the U.S.. The Texas cells were connected to another cell located in Alabama.

August 1, 2012: Marines killed six gunmen in two firefights in the city of Xalapa (capital of Veracruz state). The gunmen belonged to Los Zetas cartel. Marines seized five AR-15 assault rifles, ammunition, and several grenades after one of the firefights.

July 27, 2012: Marines arrested a senior Los Zetas commander, Mauricio Guizar Cardenas, in the town of Huejotzingo (Puebla state). Guizar coordinated Zetas operations in several states, including Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Veracruz, Chiapas, and Campeche. The marines have played a key role in a major operation run by Mexican naval intelligence against Los Zetas targets in central and southern Mexico. A marine unit participating in the operation captured a senior Zetas cartel member in the city of Puebla on July 23. William de Jesus Torres Solorzano was described as an associate of Guizar. Torres allegedly coordinated Zetas operations on the Mexico-Guatemala border. That area has seen increasing drug-related violence. The counter-cartel operation also led to the arrest of another Zetas commander in Mexico City on July 25, and the arrest of two Zetas in the city of Xalapa (Veracruz state). The two men arrested in Xalapa were moving cartel money. Another cartel money transport team was apprehended in Mexico City on July 24.





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