Mexico: The Cartel War Is Still A War


June 21, 2014: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has informed the U.S. Congress that since January 1, 2004, there have been 152 incidents when armed Mexican military or law enforcement personnel have crossed the Mexico-U.S. border into U.S. territory. A total of 525 armed Mexican security personnel were involved in the 152 incidents. DHS also reported that in another 148 incidents, unarmed Mexican security personnel crossed the border. That is a total of 300 incidents involving what DHS called unauthorized incursion. In 81 of these incidents, physical or verbal contact was made with U.S. security personnel (mostly U.S. Border Patrol agents). 131 of the border crossers were detained in the incidents where border crossers made physical contact with U.S. personnel. After investigation, the Mexican personnel were released to Mexican authorities. The U.S. Congress has several reasons to make these statistics public. The U.S. government is trying to get the Mexican government to free U.S. Marine Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi, who has been in a Mexican jail since early April. He entered Mexico by car, driving through an official port of entry. However, he had a firearm in his vehicle – a firearm that is legal in the U.S. but not in Mexico. Tahmooressi contends that having the firearm on board was inadvertent and that he was not gunrunning.

June 20, 2014: Security forces discovered a mass grave in rural Veracruz state (eastern Mexico). So far forensic investigators have found 31 corpses in the grave, seven women and 24 men. The grave site is near the Oaxaca state border. Authorities believe the dead are victims of the turf war between Los Zetas cartel and the Gulf cartel. A Mexican Navy marine unit is guarding the grave site.

June 19, 2014:  The government is concerned that rural landowner cooperatives (ejidos) will object to new oil and gas development plans. Though Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX, the national oil company) executives claim they work closely with ejidos and are not concerned, in the past, many ejidos have objected to mining operations on or near their farmland. In 2002 a very powerful ejido stopped the government from building a new airport near Mexico City. Though members of ejidos may be very culturally conservative, many ejidos tend to align with the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). The PRD opposed modernizing PEMEX and allowing the national oil company to sign development contracts with private commercial companies. Ejidos may be small, but as a group they can be quite powerful. For example, ejidos control around 40 percent of the land in Veracruz state.

June 18, 2014: Governor Fausto Vallejo of Michoacan state has resigned citing poor health. Vallejo has had health problems. However, his political problems, which are many, recently got worse when media published pictures of Vallejo’s son meeting with a senior member of a drug cartel. Vallejo is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

June 17, 2014: Police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil arrested Jose Diaz Barajas. Prosecutors said Diaz Barajas, who is a Mexican national, runs an international methamphetamine trafficking operation for a Mexican drug cartel. He faces charges in the U.S. on methamphetamine smuggling.  Diaz Barajas was in Brazil to watch World Cup soccer matches.

June 14, 2014: U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas has asked the U.S. government to help Mexico secure Mexico’s southern border. Cuellar noted that Mexico faces a surge of illegal migrants from Central American countries, especially Guatemala and El Salvador. The migrants move through Mexico and try to enter the U.S. Cuellar believes that helping Mexico secure its southern border will ultimately benefit the U.S. by limiting the number of illegal migrants.

June 11, 2014: Security personnel have now seized over $70 million worth of iron ore belonging to the Knights Templar cartel and stockpiled in Michoacan state. The cartel acquired some of the ore through robbery and extortion. However, the cartel has also operated mines in the state. Within the last two weeks, security personnel have shut down two Knights Templar mining operations near the Michoacan town of Arteaga. Police seized 36 heavy vehicles are the two sites and over 98,000 metric tons of iron ore.

June 8, 2014:  Former Mexican president Felipe Calderon launched the Cartel War in December 2006. He immediately faced relentless and scathing criticism for using the Mexican military as his chief anti-cartel security force. Calderon was quite direct as to why and pointed out that the Mexican military could be trusted to take the fight to the criminal gangs and also fight effectively. The military had the firepower, discipline and organization that the federal police lacked.  Moreover, the Mexican people respect their military and regard it as one of the most honest institutions in a national government riddled with corruption.  Calderon was a member of the center-right National Action Party (PAN). In the 2012 presidential campaign, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Pena Nieto painted Calderon as something of a warmonger who had militarized a criminal problem. Pena used some of the same rhetoric Americans heard in the 2004 and 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns regarding U.S. president George W. Bush’s decision to wage a “war on terror.” However, in 2014 Pena’s administration is touting its operations against drug cartels in Michoacan state as a major security success. The Mexican Army led these operations, supporting national police. Why? Because local and state police in Michoacan were either corrupt or overwhelmed. The Knights Templar cartel had taken control of seaports in the state. The Mexican Navy now oversees the Michoacan port of Lazaro Cardenas. Now the government is employing a similar strategy in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon states. It looks like President Pena has learned that former President Calderon knew what he was doing when he chose the military as the lead agency in the Cartel War. The Pena Administration is focusing on forging cooperative links between the military and national police with local law enforcement. Calderon wanted to do that as well, but the situation from 2006 to 2011 was dire. Though Pena won’t quite say it, his response to the terrible situation in Michoacan state demonstrates that the Cartel War is still a war. (Austin Bay)

June 7, 2014: Security personnel in Michoacan state arrested a Knights Templar commander, Pedro Naranjo Garcia. State prosecutors believe Naranjo once worked directly for the Knights Templars’ now deceased senior commander, Nazario Moreno.  Naranjo is accused of murdering a family of 15 people in August 2013 in the town of Tumiscatio.

June 6, 2014: Federal security personnel killed five suspected cartel gunmen in a firefight in the town of Altamira, Tamaulipas state (northern Mexico).   Security personnel said the gunmen fired on them as they responded to a report that an unknown group was attempting to barricade the Tampico-El Mante Highway. The federal force found two farm tractors burning in the middle of the highway. Security personnel killed four gunmen who were in a pickup truck. The other was killed near the roadblock. The federal force recovered a grenade launcher, two hand grenades, a shotgun, two assault rifles, and ammunition. The federal force was operating as part of the Tamaulipas Coordination Group (state-federal security task force). 


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