Mexico: The War In The Countryside

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April 5, 2014: The government has asked community defense groups (local defense militias) to either disarm or gain official status as a legitimate security force. Though the government statement focused on community defense organizations in Michoacan state, the requirement to gain official status is nation-wide. Last year the government indicated that official status would be recognition as a rural defense group. The government has established a federal Rural Defense Corps (essentially a restructuring and revival of the old Rurales defense organization) that will be trained, equipped and supervised by the military.  The government has said, repeatedly, that the military and federal police will arrest members of community defense militias who continue to carry weapons.  For example, in January 2014 senior security officers said that the military and federal police would not tolerate civilians carrying unauthorized weapons in Michoacan state. In the field, however, that command guidance has been haphazardly enforced. The military and police have, on occasion, cooperated with local defense groups. The government claims that the military now has the upper hand in Michoacan state and the military and federal police are now able to local protection. However, many rural communities in Michaocan doubt the claim. Several local militias continue to man barricades on roads leading into their towns and villages. The barricades were built to stop attacks by cartel gunmen in armored SUVs.

April 3, 2014: A U.S. federal court in Laredo, Texas sentenced an American citizen, Arturo Gonzalez, to prison for attempting to smuggle over 600 AK-47 assault rifle magazines to Mexico.  Gonzalez owns a sporting goods and firearm store in Laredo.

April 2, 2014: Mexican and American officials have concluded an investigation into the January 2014 confrontation between Mexican soldiers and U.S. Border Patrol agents. On January 26 two armed Mexican soldiers entered U.S. territory. U.S. Border Patrol agents confronted the soldiers and ordered them to return to Mexico. The soldiers refused. The U.S. agents drew weapons and called for reinforcements.  No shots were fired. 35 minutes later the two Mexican soldiers retreated. Mexican authorities initially said that the two intruders were not soldiers. However, the investigation proved otherwise. The two soldiers were participating in a counter-narcotics operation and inadvertently crossed the border.

March 31, 2014: Marines killed a senior Knights Templar cartel commander, Enrique Plancarte, in an operation in Queretaro state. Plancarte is believed to be one of the cartel’s top four commanders. Meanwhile, in Michaocan state, security forces arrested a local defense militia commander in the town of Yurecuaro on charges of murdering a rival political leader, the mayor of the town of Tanhuato, The official statement referred to the local defense force as a vigilante force. The alleged murder occurred on March 22.

March 27, 2014: Security forces in Michoacan state arrested eleven gangsters who were allegedly masquerading as a local defense militia. The government alleged that a criminal gang based in the town of Ziracuaretiro (western Michoacan state) had disguised itself as a local defense militia. The arrests follow government statements that security forces have evidence that some members of the Knights Templar cartel are attempting to join local defense groups in order to hide from the military and police. When arrested, the gang members were wearing white tee shirts with local defense militia markings.  Local defense militias often wear white tee shirts with a popular slogan and the name of their community (an informal uniform). The gang had 22 weapons in its possession (12 rifles and ten pistols). The gang also had a vehicle. However, many members of legitimate local defense groups also carry two weapons each. The legitimate militiamen carry an assault rifle (an illegal weapons) and also carry a pistol or shotgun (which are legal weapons).

March 22, 2014: Drug cartel penetration of legitimate farming operations and vegetable and fruit export businesses is now receiving more major media attention. Evidence of cartel extortion and take-over attempts is at least two years old. In 2013 farmers in Michoacan state complained to the government of extortion demands (for “protection”) and outright theft of vegetable and fruit shipments by Knights Templar gunmen. The Knights Templar had also muscled in on mineral mining operations in the state.  Mexico exports many agricultural products to the U.S. Citrus fruits and avacadoes are particularly valuable exports.

March 26, 2014: A member of a Chicago, Illinois gang associated with the Sinaloa cartel pled guilty to drug trafficking charges in a U.S. court.  The American criminal is allegedly an associate of Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin Guzman, who is now in prison.

March 25, 2014: A business security company now rates Mexico as the fifth (after Venezuela, Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti) most dangerous country in Latin America. The rating is based on homicide rates and incidents of other violent crimes such as kidnapping.

March 18, 2014: Security officials in Michaocan state announced the arrest of a senior Knights Templar commander. Authorities said Manuel Plancarte Gaspar was arrested earlier this month when security forces stopped a stolen vehicle in which he was travelling. Plancarte Gaspar is wanted on more than drug trafficking charges. Authorities believe he has murdered kidnapped children and sold their organs for transplanting.

March 15, 2014: Though the government continues to tout the arrest of Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin Guzman, security officials are acknowledging that the cartel is continuing its international operations. Ismael Zambada, Guzman’s number two, has been in charge of day to day operations for several years. Zambada ran the cartel when Guzman was in prison (1993-2001). That said, media continue to speculate on reports that the cartel faces a power struggle involving Zambada and other senior cartel commanders. The rivals include Fausto Isidro Meza Angulo who operates in the city of Guasave (Sinaloa state) and two of Guzman’s sons.

March 13, 2014: Forensic experts in the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) have confirmed that the man killed by security forces on March 9 is Nazario Moreno Gonzalez. The experts used fingerprint and DNA evidence.

March 9, 2014: The government claimed that marines and federal police killed Knights Templar senior leader  Nazario Moreno Gonzalez in a firefight near the town of Tumbiscatio (Michoacan state). The problem is, Moreno Gonzalez was supposedly slain in 2010. However, his body was never found and identified.

 

 

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