Mexico: The Vigilantes Were Right


May 3, 2014: The army began registering weapons carried by self-defense militia groups in western Michoacan state. Military and government civilian officials have argued since mid-March that security forces have demonstrated that they will act to defend Michoacan towns and villages. Government officials point to the arrest of corrupt mayors and large-scale arrests of cartel gunmen throughout the state by police and soldiers. The military has also recognized that many of the complaints of inadequate security made by militia members were accurate. Militia members who register their weapons will be allowed to keep them. However, they are still not allowed to carry assault rifles in public.

April 30, 2014:  The government announced that Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX, the national oil company) is moving toward contracting with private sector energy companies. For a long time this was forbidden but last year the government succeeded in passing energy reform legislation. PEMEX will soon begin putting out drilling contracts and production licenses for public bid. PEMEX will accept the bids which offer the best economic returns. Though this may not sound controversial, in Mexico it is. The left-wing party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) remains firmly against private sector involvement in oil, gas and energy operations. Without help from private firms PEMEX faced continued decline (in oil production) because the political appointees running PEMEX had, for decades, proved unable to operate the oil fields efficiently. Many other countries have faced the same problem and solved it by contracting commercial firms to do what the bureaucrats could not. 

April 29, 2014: Security forces seized a freighter containing 68,000 tons of illegally-mined iron ore. The freighter had just left Lazaro Cardenas (Michoacan state). The government believes the ship was carrying iron ore belonging to the Knights Templar cartel. The ship was taken to the nearby port of Manzanillo.

Cartel gunmen in armored SUVS fought a series of gunbattles with federal police and other security forces in Reynosa (Tamaulipas state, across the border from McAllen, Texas).  The running firefights left 14 dead.  Ten of the dead were cartel gunmen. The violence began gunmen ambushed two federal policemen. The other two people killed were civilians caught in the crossfire.

April 28, 2014: Security forces arrested Arquimides Oseguera, the mayor of the seaport city of Lazaro Cardenas (Michoacan state). The navy seized control of the seaport last Fall after allegations that the Knights Templar cartel had corrupted port officials, was using the seaport for large-scale smuggling operations and was extorting money from honest businesses in the region.  Oseguera belongs to the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). He became mayor in 2012 and is accused of bribery and conspiring with criminal organizations.

April 23, 2014: Soldiers seized a weapons cache in the city of Reynosa (Tamaulipas state) that contained 41 rifles, 22,000 round of ammunition and two grenades.

April 22, 2014: Soldiers arrested 44 Knights Templar gunmen after a firefight in the town of Huetamo (Michoacan state, near the Guerrero state border). The gunmen had invaded the city and tried to pose as a self-defense militia. The Army reported that its soldiers supported a genuine community self-defense militia in the firefight with the gunmen and quickly detected the deception. Four people were wounded in the firefight.

April 21, 2014: Extortion and theft by criminal cartels has raised fruit prices in Mexico and the U.S. Bad weather damaged Mexico’s latest lime crop but the lime shortage made stealing lime shipments or threatening lime growers a more attractive operation for criminal gangs. The U.S. gets around 90 percent of its limes from Mexico. Limes used to cost $15 a shipping case but the current price is between $90 and $100 a case.

April 17, 2014: The U.S. State Department approved the sale of 18 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and support equipment to Mexico. The price tag is around $680 million. Support equipment include 7.62 mm light machine guns.

April 16, 2014: Security forces arrested a senior commander in the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, Arnoldo Villa Sanchez. The government claims he is one of the top narcotics bosses in Mexico. Police also arrested Uriel Chavez Mendoza, the mayor of the city of Apatzingan (Michoacan state). Self-defense militia groups in Michoacan had complained about Chavez Mendoza and claimed that one reason they took up arms was because the government refused to arrest corrupt politicians. The self-defense militias accused Chavez Mendoza of supporting the Knights Templar cartel. Looks like the local defense groups were right.

April 10, 2014:  Federal and state police in the state of Tamaulipas arrested ten cartel gunmen after a series of shootouts in the cities of Ciudad Madero and Tampico. The federal and state police were operating as part of the Tamaulipas Coordination Group (joint task force). The firefights in the two port towns left between 25 and 30 people dead. Security officials said the firefights reflect a Gulf cartel internal power struggle. Officials attribute the power struggle to the arrest of Gulf cartel commander Javier Garza in February.


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