U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is changing its tactics. Instead of focusing on stopping the goods moved by smuggling gangs, SOUTHCOM will disrupt the criminal command operations that control the flow of smuggled goods. The criminal command "network operations" could link to terrorist networks. There is evidence that this has happened in Venezuela and perhaps Argentina. SOUTHCOM says the change could be viewed as a switch from a tactical focus to a more strategic focus. Goods moved illegally run the gamut, from drugs like heroin and cocaine, to exotic animals, to various types of plants (to include smuggled fruits), precious metals and human beings. SOUTHCOM, other U.S. security agencies and nations they work with regularly interdict shipments. Occasionally the organized criminal groups that run the smuggling operations are decimated (which has occurred in Mexico). However, they regenerate. U.S. and Canadian demand for illegal drugs is the major reason, but it is not the only reason. The endemic corruption, weak judiciaries and poorly trained security forces that plague many Central and South American nations is another. The new "strategic focus" will stress programs that "build partnership capacities", which is SOUTHCOM jargon for helping regional nations address those problems. (Austin Bay)
August 31, 2017: The Mexican government offered to help Texas recover from the effects of Hurricane Harvey and Texas accepted the offer. The Mexican aid could include soldiers experienced in disaster relief, vehicles, food, medicine, water and portable showers. Domestic hurricane relief and recovery and other humanitarian operations are designated Mexican military missions. In American states, state National Guard units handle this rather than the active duty army.
August 29, 2017: Cartel gunmen in Rio Bravo (Tamaulipas state, near the Texas border) tried to assassinate a minor city official. The intended victim escaped by ramming his own armored SUV into a city building that housed the mayor's office. Police arrived on the scene and fought off two gunmen. Authorities believe the gunmen belong to a Gulf Cartel faction.
Seven people were murdered in the resort city of Acapulco (Guerrero state). Authorities believe the crimes were gang-related.
August 28, 2017: A California resident has pled guilty to building a smuggling tunnel across the Mexico-U.S. border. Habib Mujica, a resident of Calexico, California, was arrested in May of this year after returning from Mexico. He had spent six years in prison in Mexico for smuggling weapons. U.S. security personnel discovered his tunnel in 2011. He could spend another 40 years in prison.
August 26, 2017: U.S. authorities detained 30 illegal migrants who tried to enter the U.S, through a tunnel in San Diego. Most (23) of the people arrested were Chinese nationals. The other seven were citizens of Mexico.
August 25, 2017: The EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) has officially renounced violence. This isn't exactly news. In 2014 leader Subcommandante Marcos indicated that the EZLN's long-running, low-casualty confrontation in Chiapas was over. That confrontation began New Years Day 1994 with a spectacular raid by masked Mayan fighters. Marcos also announced he was changing his nom de guerre to Subcommandante Galeano, to honor a deceased Zapatista fighter. The EZLN has now made common cause with the National Indigenous Congress and intends to work with it in electoral politics. Earlier this year the EZLN endorsed Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez in the 2018 presidential election even though Mrs. Patricio is a member of the EZLN. She is a left wing activist and an indigenous healer from the Nahua ethnic group (a Mayan group). The EZLN still controls several small villages in the vicinity of San Cristobal de las Casas (Chiapas state). (Austin Bay)
August 23, 2017: A court in Jalisco state sentenced former Guadalajara cartel senior leader Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo to 37 years in prison for his role in the murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique Camarena, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1985.
Soldiers fought cartel gunmen in the town of Rio Bravo (Tamaulipas state, on the Texas border). Witnesses heard an extended exchange of automatic weapons fire. One of the gunmen may have been manning a light machine gun. The troops did not suffer any casualties. However, one civilian bystander was injured.
August 22, 2017: The government admitted that a journalist from Veracruz state who was under government protection has been murdered. Candido Rios Vazquez was the ninth Mexican journalist murdered in 2017.
August 20, 2017: Recent government statistics confirm what everyone already knows: the resort city of Acapulco is a very dangerous place. Over the time period January through July 2017, Acapulco witnessed 483 homicides -- the official figure. That is down about ten percent from 2016 but it is still jaw dropping. Media recently reported over 1,800 businesses in the Acapulco area had closed due to the rampant violence. Bad? Of course. But it Tijuana is worse, in terms of 2017 corpses. So far, 714 people (at least) have been murdered in Tijuana. In 2017 Tijuana might supplant Acapulco as Mexico's deadliest city. Acapulco was definitely first in 2016. By some counts it was tops in 2014 and 2015 as well. Why the terror? In Acapulco the problem isn't just drug cartels, it's neighborhood gangs. Some two dozen heavily armed local gangs operate in Acapulco. Now, note the caveat: deadliest city. What is the deadliest place? Great question. It could be the town of Tecoman in Colima state. In early July Mexican media claimed Tecoman had topped Acapulco as the most homicidal municipality. It's a technicality but the murders are real. Tecoman has a murder rate of around 100 per 100,000 residents versus Acapulco’s 75 per 100,000. The Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel are fighting a turf war over Colima state. Colima state's seaport, Manzanillo, is a choice route for smuggling drugs and other goods to Asia and Australia. Location location location. (Austin Bay)
August 16, 2017: Gunmen in the Cartel Del Noreste faction of the Los Zetas cartel murdered a man and hung his corpse on a highway overpass in the city of Matehuala, San Luis Potosi. A message on the body indicated the man's murder related to an on-going turf war for control of the town.
August 14, 2017: Four people were murdered in Acapulco.
August 12, 2017: Security forces seized over 40,000 liters (10,000 gallons) of tainted liquor in raids on 31 resorts, restaurants and tourist hang outs. The January 2017 death of a tourist from Wisconsin --which was due to contaminated alcohol-- spurred outrage in the United States. Most of the tourist facilities were in the cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
August 11, 2017: Police have arrested a woman believed to be a senior leader in a large organized criminal gang which has operations in the resorts of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Leticia Rodriguez Lara (nom de guerre is “Dona Lety”) has connections with several cartels, including Los Zetas and the Sinaloa cartels. Her gang has recruited former members of the Gulf and Zetas cartels.
August 9, 2017: Police in Coahuila state arrested a cartel gunmen in the city of Piedras Negras. The gunman could have operated a one man drug smuggling operation. On his vehicle the authorities recovered five assault rifles, a 9mm automatic pistol, a revolver and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition. They seized 25 marijuana blocks, nine bags of cocaine and some crystal meth. The vehicle also had two hydraulic presses (for packaging drugs) and three bill counting machines.
August 6, 2017: Cartel gunmen murdered three people and wounded two more in San Jose del Cabo (Baja California Sur state). The violence took place on a tourist beach.
Authorities in Zacatecas state (northern Mexico) have discovered a mass grave with at least 14 bodies. Investigators reported the bodies had been dismembered and mutilated
August 4, 2017: The federal Attorney General's Office's investigation into the surveillance scandal continues. Media report investigators are looking into the targeting of two civil rights lawyers after they criticized the government's investigation of the 2015 murders of political activist Nadia Vera and journalist Ruben Espinosa. Both were critics of Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte, who is now in jail and facing a range of felony charges. According to media sources (not the government), someone tried to penetrate the lawyers' digital communications devices and computers using a cyber surveillance program called Pegasus. A total of 21 people were targeted by the software. Some of the individuals targeted were involved in investigations related to the 2014 Iguala Massacre. Pegasus is a product of a company called the NSO Group. The government has admitted it has purchased NSO software but continues to deny that it has used it as a surveillance tool to illegally spy on Mexican citizens. (Austin Bay)
August 3, 2017: Government statistics for June 2017 indicate it was the bloodiest month in two decades. Here's the official figure: 2,234 homicides. The official figure for the entire country, January to the end of June 2017: 12,155 homicides.
August 2, 2017: The El Salvadoran gang MS-13 has vigilante nemesis: La Sombra Negra, which is Spanish for The Black Shadow. U.S. and Mexican sources report that report that La Sombra Negra operatives are hunting MS-13 gang members in El Salvador. The group may also be active in Mexico.
July 28, 2017: A U.S. court convicted Los Zetas drug cartel gunmen of murdering an American Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent and wounding another agent. The murdered ICE special agent as Jaime Zapata. He was slain on February 15, 2011. So far seven Zetas gunmen have been convicted for participating in the murder.