Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mexican Villages dig moats to repel bandits

CUAUHTEMOC, Mexico — Little town, big hell.

That proverb about turmoil in small communities has never seemed truer than in this gangster-besieged village and a neighboring one in the bean fields and desert scrub a long day’s drive south of the Rio Grande.

That proverb about turmoil in small communities has never seemed truer than in this gangster-besieged village and a neighboring one in the bean fields and desert scrub a long day’s drive south of the Rio Grande.

Since right before Christmas, armed raiders repeatedly have swept into both villages to carry away local men. Government help arrived too late, or not at all.

Terrified villagers — at the urging of army officers who couldn’t be there around the clock — have clawed moats across every access road but one into their communities, hoping to repel the raids.

“This was a means of preservation,” said Ruben Solis, 47, a farmers’ leader in Cuauhtemoc, a collection of adobe and concrete houses called home by 3,700 people. “It’s better to struggle this way than to face the consequences.”

But shortly after midnight last Sunday, villagers said, as many as 15 SUVs loaded with pistoleros attacked nearby San Angel, population 250, and kidnapped five people. Four victims were returned unharmed a few days later. The fifth hostage, a teenage boy, was held to exchange for the intended target the raiders missed, villagers said.

“We have support of the federal forces,” said an official of the dirt-street village. “Security is what we’re lacking.”

After the earthworks were dug in both villages, volunteers manned checkpoints at the remaining open entrances. Those sentinels, however, were removed when it was decided they couldn’t stop a serious attack, anyhow .

“We aren’t able to confront this sort of thing,” Solis said. “We have a few shotguns, some .22 rifles, a few pistols — nothing compared to what they have.”

President Felipe Calderon’s war on Mexico’s drug gangsters has met with mixed success since he began deploying about 45,000 soldiers and federal police after assuming office in December 2006. The federal forces have been able to defeat the gunmen in open combat but unable, so far, to extinguish the bloodshed or the crime.

Narcotics-related violence killed at least 6,000 people last year and looks likely to match that toll again by Christmas. Kidnappings, extortions and bank robberies are on the rise in many cities and even in rural flyspecks like Cuauhtemoc and San Angel.

Though still far less serious, the troubles faintly echo those of a century ago when Cuencame township, which includes Cuauhtemoc and San Angel, suffered massacres and guerrilla attacks in the lead-up to the Mexican Revolution.

Most of Mexico’s violence these days isn’t politically inspired, but the gangsters’ hit-and-run tactics often mirror those of an insurgency. Government forces frequently find themselves without adequate manpower to be everywhere at once.

“This is really the job of the federal government,” Solis said of his town’s efforts at self-defense. “But they don’t have enough men to keep up. There is delinquency wherever you go.”

Fear of the Zetas
Like others across central and western Mexico, many in and around these villages assume their tormentors are the Zetas, gunmen aligned with the Gulf Cartel, based in Matamoros and other cities bordering South Texas.

Government officials blame much of Mexico’s violence on wars between gangs like the Zetas, whose founders were army deserters, for control of smuggling corridors, local drug sales and other rackets.

Solis said he and other townspeople suspect those who raided Cuauhtémoc in early February, kidnapping the 23-year-old son of a bean-and-grain trader, are simply “bad characters from the area who have just taken the Zeta name.”

Fear of the Zetas borders on hysteria in this corner of Durango state, residents and officials agreed. Village boys playing with toy trucks have taken to shouting “here come the Zetas” when staging chases, Solis said.

When a rumor started March 10 in a town nearby that scores of Zetas were planning to attack, stores in the area closed, classes were canceled and people fled.

“A psychosis prevails across the whole region,” said Isidro Aguilar, the police chief of Guadalupe Victoria, a market town 25 miles from Cuauhtemoc, who otherwise denied that the area faces a crime plague. “There are people who are taking advantage of it.”

Still, people’s paranoia doesn’t mean someone’s not out to get them.

Gangsters have staged platoon-strength raids on towns in Chihuahua and other nearby states. Kidnappings have increased, as well as cold-call extortion attempts to even poor residents of the area.

A number of merchants, as well as two members of the city council, have been kidnapped in Guadalupe Victoria since late December, residents said. Ransoms, they said, have reached several hundred thousand dollars.

“No one knows who took them. No one knows anything,” said Gilberto Cabello, the head of the town’s merchants association. “Everyone is left wondering who is next.”

Defense left to the town
Not surprisingly, villagers in Cuauhtemoc and San Angel remain on edge, sharply eyeing strangers, careful not to say too much to outsiders.

“The less said about this, the better,” said a city hall official in Cuencame, the township seat. “It can be dangerous to say too much.”

Soldiers and federal police took up the defense of Cuauhtemoc and San Angel last week after the towns’ plight played on the front page of a Mexico City newspaper. But the patrols evaporated after a few days, leaving nothing but the ditches in the villagers’ defense.

“That’s the way it is,” said a sun-weathered Roberto Fuentes, who was helping build a sidewalk a block from one of Cuauhtemoc’s earthworks. “If the government doesn’t do it, we have to.

“Here, the people are defending the town.”

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mexican police force on strike after grenade attack | Reuters

This is completely appropriate in my estimation. The police alone can not stop the narco-terrorists, and are taking the brunt of their assaults. Hundreds of police have died, and not just those with gang connections.

Perhaps we should relocate troops from Iraq to Mexico, to work in conjunction with the Mexican Army to finally take these drug gangs apart. A failed Mexican state is sure to cause many, many more problems for the USA than a failed Iraqi state.
Not to mention the horrible problems it is causing the long suffering people of Mexico, the vast majority of whom are decent, hardworking individuals who only want to live a normal life.

The situation is rapidly deteriorating from 'horrible' to 'unsustainable nightmare'.

MEXICO CITY, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The entire local police force in a Mexican beach resort town walked off the job on Monday demanding better pay and benefits to compensate for the rising dangers they face from drug violence.

More than 300 municipal police officers in Zihuatanejo, a town on the Pacific coast north of Acapulco popular with foreign tourists, went on strike after grenades were lobbed at their offices over the weekend.

Some 6,000 people were killed last year in clashes between rival drug cartels and security forces that have escalated since President Felipe Calderon deployed some 45,000 soldiers and federal police around Mexico to clamp down on cartels.

More than 500 of those killed in last year's drug violence were police.

On Saturday, gunmen threw two grenades at the main police station in Zihuatanejo. While no one was killed, police say they are not adequately covered if a future attack is fatal.

"We are seeing a lot things here that we have never seen before. It is our job to serve the citizens, but we need assurances that our families will be protected if one of us is killed," a member of Zihuatanejo's municipal police told Reuters.

The police want to have direct talks with Calderon to request improved benefits and an increase in their roughly $350 (5,200 pesos) per month salaries before they go back to work. (Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; editing by Todd Eastham)

Mexican police force on strike after grenade attack | Reuters

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gunmen attack Mexican governor's convoy, kill bodyguard | Front page | - Houston Chronicle

You have to grudgingly respect the sheer brazeness of the narco-terrorists of Mexico. They have killed the head of the Mexican equivelant of the FBI, now they are attacking a Governor's motocade.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Gunmen have attacked a convoy carrying the governor of a violence-wracked border state, killing one of his bodyguards and wounding two other agents.

It was not clear if the attackers were targeting Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes Baeza, but he canceled a trip today to meet with federal officials in Mexico City about security problems in his state, where hundreds have died in drug-related violence in recent months.

Baeza said gunmen in two cars fired high-powered weapons at a vehicle two cars behind his in a convoy in the state capital, Chihuahua city, on Sunday night. The two wounded agents were in stable condition today and one of the attackers was hospitalized with a gunshot to the head. The other attackers fled.

The governor told a news conference shortly before midnight Sunday that he doesn’t know if the attackers were aiming for him: “We don’t want to speculate.”

But rich, heavily armed gangs battling for turf on the doorstep of the U.S. narcotics market have increasingly challenged the government on all levels, even ambushing troops sent to battle the cartels.

The convoy attack came two days after the police chief of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua’s biggest city, bowed to crime gang demands to resign because they threatened to kill at least one of his officers every 48 hours.

Reyes Baeza asked federal officials to investigate because he said the assailants fired high-powered weapons that Mexican law says can only be used by the military.

Federal officials say more than 6,000 people died in drug-related violence across Mexico last year, and no state suffered more than Chihuahua. Ciudad Juarez alone recorded 1,600 killings.

Gunmen attack Mexican governor's convoy, kill bodyguard | Front page | - Houston Chronicle

Monday, February 16, 2009

Gunmen kill 12 in Mexico, including 5 children

Gunmen kill 12 in Mexico, including 5 children
Published: 2/15/09, 2:06 PM EDT

TABASCO, Mexico (AP) - Gunmen have killed a state police officer and 10 members of his family, including five children, authorities said Sunday.

The shooting late Saturday also killed a street vendor in front of the house of state police officer Carlos Reyes, said Tabasco deputy prosecutor Alex Alvarez. Among the five children killed was a 2-year-old boy.

"It is confirmed that (the assailants) wanted to kill the state police officer but they killed his whole family," Alvarez said.

Alvarez said three other people were wounded the attack in the town of Monte Largo, near Mexico's border with Guatemala.

Police hadn't determined a motive for the attack but Alvarez said Reyes directed a car chase and raids on two homes on Wednesday that led to the death of three suspected gang members and the arrest of seven others.

In Mexico City, authorities on Saturday found the decomposing bodies of two women in the trunk of a car that had been abandoned for at least a week, the Reforma newspaper reported.

A city investigator told the newspaper that the women had been decapitated and the heads left inside a cooler in the back seat of the car.

He said one of the women had been arrested in 1999 for the kidnapping of nine relatives of an alleged drug dealer.

More than 6,000 people died last year in a wave of drug-related violence.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A New Weapon in the Cartel Arsenal: Hand Grenades

Grenades used in three recent attacks in Monterrey, Mexico, and Pharr, Texas, all originated from the same lot delivered from South Korea...

That the grenade used in the third attack reportedly came from Mexico indicates that in addition to the well-known path of weapons flowing from the United States into Mexico, arms also are flowing from Mexico into the United States.

The first of the three attacks targeted the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Mexico. In the second incident, again in Monterrey, gunmen attacked a local TV station on Jan. 12 in an attempt to intimidate the news agency into cutting back reporting on cartel activities. The feared group Los Zetas— which originally came from the ranks of Mexico’s special forces — reportedly was behind both attacks.

In the third attack, three Hispanic men on Jan. 31 tossed a grenade into a night club near Pharr, Texas — a Stratfor source has indicated might have belonged to the Bandidos motorcycle gang. The Bandidos have ties to Mexican cartels, as well as a reputation for violence.

The Bandidos gang and groups like it are known to have used improvised explosive devices like pipe bombs.

Mexico’s military is known to use South Korean grenades. High levels of corruption in Mexico make it very likely that members of the Mexican military sold the grenades to Los Zetas.

Gangs north of the border are known to collaborate closely with cartels in Mexico the flow of arms from south to north — specifically grenades — is a new discovery.

U.S. officials already have expressed concerns of being out-gunned by well-armed Mexican killing squads that use high-powered, automatic weapons. The addition of grenades to the arsenals of gangs north of the border represents even more of a threat to U.S. law enforcement.

Mexico, U.S.: A New Weapon in the Cartel Arsenal

Mexican gang violence kills 21

A drug gang kidnapped and killed six people near a town in the US-Mexican border region, prompting a series of gunbattles with soldiers that left 15 others dead.

The violence on Tuesday started when gunmen kidnapped nine alleged members of a rival drug gang in Villa Ahumada and later executed six of them along the PanAmerican highway outside of the town, 130km south of Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, said Enrique Torres, spokesman for a joint military-police operation in Chihuahua State.

Assailants later released three of the men, although their whereabouts was not immediately known, Torres said.

Soldiers later caught up with the gunmen and a series of shootouts ensued, leaving 14 alleged gunmen and one soldier dead on Tuesday, Torres said. Another soldier was wounded.

Mexico has been besieged by drug violence amid a two-year government crackdown. President Felipe Calderon said on Monday that more than 6000 people have died in drug-related violence.

Villa Ahumada, a town of 1500 people, was virtually taken over by drug gangs last year when gangs killed two consecutive police chiefs, and two officers. The rest of the 20-member force resigned in fear, forcing the Mexican military to take over for months until the town was able to recruit new officers.

The town’s mayor, Fidel Chavez, fled to the state capital for his own safety.

Also on Tuesday, Tijuana city police said emergency officials responding to a report of a car on fire found a sport utility vehicle engulfed in flames and two charred bodies inside.

And in Tepotzotlan, a small town outside Mexico City, two heads in coolers were found inside a car, according to an official with the Mexico state prosecutor’s office, who was not authorised to give her name. The heads were accompanied by a message threatening the municipal police chief. Decapitations have become commonplace in Mexico’s drug violence.

In other violence late on Monday, armed men forced their way into a Mexican prison in Torreon, then killed three prisoners by beating them and setting them on fire in a bathroom. The assailants also freed nine inmates before escaping, state prosecutors said in a statement on Tuesday.

Fighting between rival gangs left another two inmates dead on Tuesday at an overcrowded prison in central Mexico, said Carlos Gil Abarca, a spokesman for the prevention and rehabilitation office of the Mexico state government.

Mexican gang violence kills 21

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Dark Religion of the Santa Muerte | | El Paso · Las Cruces · Juarez

Yet another reason to vacation in Hawaii this year.

Tijuana mexico, 2006, four people are arrested and charged with murder.

Police say the four were drug smugglers, who turned on one of their partners. The victim, was tied to a chair. His captors wanted the money he had taken from them. They weren't happy when they found out he had spent it.

"This subject gets a saw and cuts off his leg, cuts off another leg, cuts off his arm. He's dead and then this girl gets the cutting saw and cuts off his head and takes his head and offers it up to Santa Muerte." says Robert Almonte, the head of the Texas Narcotics Officers Association.

Santa Muerte, the saint of death, was given the head as an offering.

"They never recovered the head and she kept insisting that Santa Muerte had it." says Almonte.

Two years later and 1,400 miles away, nearly 7,000 people gather on a street in Tapita, a barrio in Mexico City. It looks like your typical procession. Crowds of believers praying, bringing their sick for healing and their children for blessing. But, there is nothing typical about the object of their worship.

Again, it's Santa Muerte. The saint of death is not a real saint, recognized by the catholic church. That doesn't matter to her worshippers who blow marijuana smoke into her face to activate her power.

Depicted as a woman, she is nothing more than a skeleton, draped in cloth. But her increasing popularity and rise to god-like status among believers in Mexico is unprecedented.

Like most saints, Santa Muerte can be found as a figurine, attached to charms, on the ends of rosaries or on candles or clothing. She also has become a common sight as a tattooed image on the bodies of her followers.

Typically, she is depicted, holding either a globe, or a set of scales.

"The globe, the world is her domain. The scales of justice, that's what she is going to look at when she comes to get you after you die and that is going to determine whether she takes you to heaven or hell. Part of that determination is did you worship her, did you worship her properly." explains Almonte.

Almonte says Santa Muerte is drawing two distinct groups of followers.

The first, those in Mexico's poorest neighborhoods. Far more alarming, the second group, Mexican drug traffickers.

"You can pray to have a load of drugs smuggled in United States safely. You can pray for someone to get killed." says Almonte.

Among narcos, Santa Muerte is not simply a cultural icon. She is real power and real protection.

At the Webb County Jail in South Texas, inmates can be found praying at an altar that the Jail's director allowed them to set up. The altar is to Santa Muerte.

On the table, several pictures of the death saint. There are prayers written on notebook paper and around those prayers are offerings. Candy bars, soda, anything inmates can buy, they will offer.

These men, arrested on charges of drug trafficking, continue to ask for protection and help.

"The santa muerte influences people who want to justify a destructive way of living. The santa muerte is an outward symbol of their inner destructive lifestyle." says Father Arturo Banuelas, Pastor at St. Pius Catholic Church.

Banuelas is very familiar with the growing popularity of Santa Muerte. He is also very concerned about what it means for her so-called followers.

"When you get close to symbols of darkness then the things of darkness flow into your life like killing and violence and revenge." explains Banuelas.

He goes on to say that Santa Muerte is not some dark power from which drug traffickers are gaining strength and protection. She is actually a symbol of what is happening in their souls.

"All people have goodness inside themselves but sometimes they make choices to use the worst parts of the themselves and therefore create a system, create a structure, create a religious symbol that justifies not having to use their better side."

For many drug traffickers, the worship of Santa Muerte goes beyond simple offerings. Human offerings are also part of the equation.

"The Sinoloa Cartel were taken to a couple of public shrines in Nuevo Laredo last year and they were taken there by members of the Gulf Cartel and they were executed at the Santa Muerte shrine. So yeah, they wanted to execute them but why at the Santa Muerte shrine? I believe it was an offering to Santa Muerte at the same time." says Almonte.

In Juarez, we have no official record of killings associated with Santa Muerte but that doesn't mean they are not happening. Of the 1,600 murders in Juarez last year, there were two predominant kinds. First, the executions where someone is shot 300 times. Second, where bodies are found decapitated and stacked. In fact, in 2008 those decapitated and stacked bodies were found at least five different times.

September, 2008, Yucantan, Mexico, just outside of cancun. Eleven bodies are found, heads cut off, and the bodies stacked on top of each other. In a nearby field, police find a circle where there are eleven burned spots. Authorities believe the heads of the eleven victims were burned here. Days later, when police raid the homes of the men they say were involved they found shrines to Santa Muerte. Investigators believe that was also an offering to Santa Muerte.

Banuelas explains the human offerings this way. "Just cut off somebody's head and give it to the Santa Muerte and you think you're being religious and they are violating everything that is religious in their soul."

Only on 9: The Dark Religion of the Santa Muerte | | El Paso · Las Cruces · Juarez

Monday, February 02, 2009

Nuevo Laredo police arrest six in connection to "express" kidnappings on both sides of border

The trend of Mexico's troubles crossing the border is accelerating.

Nuevo Laredo police have arrested six men in connection to two kidnappings.
According to authorities the kidnappings have happened on both sides of the border.
Our Noraida Negron has the latest.
It’s a story you'll see only on eight.
They are called express kidnappers.
They take their victims to the nearest ATMs and take all of their money.
Then they ask the victims family for ransom money.
The Nuevo Laredo police department arrested six men in connection to these kidnappings.
And they were able to save one of their victims.
" Iniciamos con las investigaciones se logro recuperar a la muchachita."
Nuevo Laredo police commander says the 21-year-old was found after they investigated a report made by a family member.
The men are Francisco Gonzalez, Jose Manuel Briones, Oscar Omar Macias, Ezequiel Ortegon, Jesus Gonzalez and Juan Antonio Gutierrez.
" En entrevistas con estas personas se logro que nos confiaran..."
The commander says the men confessed to kidnapping the 21 year old and two others.
" Organize el de Jesus Garcia..."
According to their confessions they had kidnapped a man that worked at a hardware store and another man that worked at a pizza place in Nuevo Laredo.
The kidnappers did get ransom money for the kidnappings.
" Cuanto te dieron? 20 mil y por este? 70."
Allegedly the kidnappers got more than five thousand dollars for those other kidnappings.
Police also recovered part of that money and two vehicles that were allegedly used in the crimes.
" Se recuperaron 2 vehiculos que utilizaban en los hechos mas recientes."

If you recognize these men Nuevo Laredo police want you to call the police department and make a report against them.
Police fear there may be other victims out there.
Another man that participated in these kidnappings is still on the run... And police are looking for him.

Updated: Nuevo Laredo police arrest six in connection to "express" kidnappings on both sides of border | KGNS | Local

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Mexico vacation became a disaster

By Debra Smith
Herald Writer

ARLINGTON -- Robert Hood left for a fishing trip along the coast of Mexico, and when he finally returned, he was never the same.

Mexican police arrested Hood on arson charges after someone set fire to a fishing shack near where he was staying in San Felipe. Hood, a World War II veteran with a spotless record, languished for days in a filthy, crowded Mexican prison in 1982.

Hood was eventually released after a barrage of bad press from both sides of the border began to hurt tourism.

He came home 50 pounds lighter and was broken emotionally, said his son, Gary Hood of Stanwood. His father talked of hearing other prisoners being tortured and beaten. The prison was so crowded, his father spoke of sleeping standing up.

"It changed my dad," Hood said. "He became reclusive, not as happy. He was like a prisoner of war."

Hood can't help but be struck by the apparent similarities in his late father's case and that of Edward Chrisman, 88, who is being held in a Mexican prison, the Carcel de Mexicali in the state of Baja California Norte.

Edward Chrisman, a longtime resident of Arlington, was wintering in Yuma, Ariz., when he decided to take a quick trip across the border with his grandson, Gary Chrisman Jr. Mexican police arrested both men the same day, Jan. 8, saying the pair tried to pay young girls to pose nude for photos.

The Chrisman family maintains the men are innocent. The family said Gary Chrisman Jr. stopped at a convenience store for a soda and, while there, asked a mother if he could take photos of her daughters. He'd been taking photos of Mexican culture all day with a new camera. The mother granted permission and he gave her $25. He snapped head shots of the two fully-clothed girls and left the store. Edward Chrisman never even went into the store.

Family members were asked by an intermediary to pay $2,000 to the prosecuting attorney "to make the situation disappear," Shannon Perkins, Edward Chrisman's granddaughter, said. The payment was not made.

The pair has been held in a crowded Mexicali prison as their family members travel across the border daily trying to get them released. They fear Edward Chrisman, who apparently has contracted pneumonia at the prison, won't survive the ordeal.

Trial could be months away.

About 400 Americans are detained in Mexican prisons at any time, said Charles Smith, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana. His office monitors the Baja peninsula in Mexico, where the Chrismans are being held. Of all Americans arrested on foreign soil, one in five is arrested in Baja California.

U.S. has little recourse

When Americans hear about cases such as the Chrismans, they want to know why the U.S. government can't do something to help. The U.S. Consulate only has the authority to monitor conditions of American prisoners. No other agency or U.S. politician can do much more.

While in Mexico, "You are subject to the same judicial system as the people living in Mexico," Smith said.

And Mexico is no place to get tangled up with the law.

Human rights organizations report problems with overcrowded prisons, corrupt officials and human rights abuses for both prisoners and victims.

Americans won't find that mentioned on Mexico's tourism Web site.

A chasm exists between Mexican law and how justice is meted out, according to a 2007 report from Amnesty International.

Individuals are sometimes detained on the basis of obviously flawed or spurious evidence, often well beyond the country's legal limits allowed for pretrial detention, the organization found. Others are denied access to adequate legal advice at precisely the point when they are most at risk for torture and other abuses.

Joe King, a former U.S. Customs special agent who worked in San Diego, has a more blunt assessment.

"It's a dump," said King, who now teaches about terrorism and organized crime at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "The prisons are all rat traps and they're all corrupt."

King has worked in law enforcement internationally, including undercover in Northern Ireland and Beirut, Lebanon.

When it comes to Mexico, "The only way I'd go back there is if I were a hostage," he said.

He said it's common for cars with American license plates to get pulled over in Mexico. It happened to him regularly.

"Who are you going to shake down, a local guy who knows you or your cousin? Or somebody who is not likely to complain?" he said.

It's not unheard of for Americans to become entangled with the Mexican judicial system without cause, said David Shirk, a University of San Diego professor involved in the Trans-Border Institute. The research institute advocates for changes in the Mexican judicial system.

"We do see cases of predatory behavior by law enforcement who are trying to extract bribes, especially by tourists in cases where they can extract material gain," he said.

However, Shirk said he doesn't see how police would gain by improperly detaining the Chrismans.

Holes in the system

The concept of Mexico's legal system is similar to that in many European countries. Unlike the U.S. model, two sides do not vigorously compete in front of a neutral court.

In Mexico, a prosecutor gathers evidence and then presents it to a judge, who decides if there is enough evidence to move forward with a trial, he said. It's presumed the court is engaged in finding truth. Until recently, the Mexican court system was less public and relied heavily on slow-moving rulings made in writing.

A legal system like Mexico's works markedly better in Spain and France, where there is well-developed legal infrastructure, Shirk said. Mexico doesn't have the professionals needed to support the system, and that results in backlogs, delays and little ability to determine if someone should be released on bail.

More than 40 percent of prisoners in Mexico have never been convicted of a crime, Human Rights Watch reported in its 2009 World Report. These prisoners are held in pretrial detention, often waiting years for a trial. Inmates frequently are subject to abuses, including extortion by guards.

In 2008, Mexico passed constitutional reform to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Jorge Vargas, a law professor at the University of San Diego, said he receives calls from all over the U.S. seeking his counsel on cases like the Chrismans' ordeal.

"My impression is sometimes the information you get from families is objective and sometimes it's rather exaggerated," he said.

Many Americans arrested by Mexican police are quick to cry corruption, he said.

"In some cases, the Americans aren't truthful and the system is not that lousy," said Vargas, who has worked as an attorney for the Mexican government and in international law for the United Nations.

American prisons have serious problems too, including racial disparities, gangs, drugs, murders and other violence within penitentiary walls.

Harsh conditions

The Chrisman family has been told it may be months before the cases against Edward Chrisman and his grandson go to trial.

The family fears that Edward Chrisman's health is failing.

He appears pale, weak and dehydrated, said his son, Gary Chrisman Sr. The family learned from a prison doctor he's being treated for pneumonia and extreme insomnia. Prison officials moved him to a section for the elderly where conditions are better, including warm showers and a bed with a mattress.

Earlier, Edward Chrisman was kept in a small, concrete cell with dozens of other men. He had to sleep on a metal bed frame with no mattress. That's where his grandson remains.

Mexican prisons generally are overcrowded and often unsanitary, Shirk said. The quality and quantity of food served is often poor. Prisoners have to buy virtually everything they need, including blankets and clean clothing, Shirk said.

On the other hand, Mexican prisoners often have more freedoms behind the walls than in American institutions. Some prisons feature mini-villages where prisoners can set up taco stands. Inmates are allowed conjugal visits.

Still, Mexican prisons are harsh places for the elderly, Shirk said.

"His family has cause to be concerned," he said.

In 1982, it was bad publicity, not the law, that set Gary Hood's father free.

"These border towns need tourists spending their dollars," Hood said. "Even in that short period of time, it was bad enough the mayor and the police chief made things happen."

Hood grew up in the California border town of Chula Vista, south of San Diego, but you won't catch him setting foot in Mexico.

"I wouldn't go to Mexico if they paid me a billion dollars," he said. "My dad was never the same."

HeraldNet: Mexico vacation became a disaster


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mexico man 'dissolved 300 bodies'

Even by Mexican crime standards this is horrific.

A man arrested by Mexican police says he disposed of 300 bodies for a drugs gang over the past decade by dissolving them in chemicals.

Santiago Meza, called the "stew maker", said he was paid $600 (£440) a week to dissolve the bodies of murdered rival gang members in caustic soda.

He was presented to the media by the Mexican army after being arrested on Thursday near the city of Tijuana.

Over 700 people died in the US border city last year in an ongoing drugs war.

The Mexican army says it believes Mr Meza's claims are true.

"They brought me the bodies and I just got rid of them," Mr Meza told journalists at a construction site where he disposed of the bodies over a 10-year period. "I didn't feel anything."

The 300 corpses were said to belong to murdered rivals of Mexican drug kingpin Teodoro Garcia Simental, who is battling for control over drug trafficking routes through Tijuana, after defecting from the powerful Arellano Felix cartel.

Mr Meza was quoted by AP news agency as saying that he "would apologise" if he could speak to relatives of the victims.

Mexico's drug violence has surged and grown more gruesome in recent years, particularly in the northern border cities of Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Also on Friday, two human heads were found inside coolers near police stations in the central Guanajuato state, officials said. The heads were accompanied by a note threatening allies of the "La Familia" drug cartel.

Drug-related violence claimed 5,700 lives across Mexico last year, more than double the number of victims in 2007.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Mexico man 'dissolved 300 bodies'

Friday, January 23, 2009

Several injured in Matamoros prison riot | matamoros, injured, prison - Breaking News - Brownsville Herald

The first prison riot on BOTG in several years. It is interesting that prisioners have guns, and would rather use them to kill each other and settle gang scores than escape. Go figure?

MATAMOROS - At least two people are dead and dozens are injured during a riot at a Matamoros prison.

A Mexico City news agency says the riot started this morning at Centro de Readaptacion socieal (Cereso) de Matamoros, located in the community of Santa Adelaida on the out-skirts of Matamoros.

The riot began at 9 a.m. when a fight broke out between a group of inmates armed with guns. An hour later, authorities had not been able to enter the prison. At the time prison director Pedro Benavides said no one had been killed in the shooting.

The Brownsville Herald has learned two inmates are dead and 36 others were hurt. Their injuries are unknown.

Relatives of the inmates have been outside the prison, waiting to learn about the fate of their loved ones.

Several injured in Matamoros prison riot | matamoros, injured, prison - Breaking News - Brownsville Herald

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Heads Found In Ice Box As Police Battle Drug-Related Violence In State Of Chihuahua

More beheading. More police officers killed. Not a good start to the new year.

Three heads have been found in an ice box in a town in Mexico, near its border with Texas.

Mexican troops are fighting a drugs war

They were found about 30 miles from Ciudad Juarez, in the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua, the state that sees most of the country's brutal drug violence.

A headless body was also found dumped in a dirty canal a few miles away and officials said the body might belong to one of six policemen kidnapped over the weekend.

Mexican police and soldiers are battling a wave of drug-related violence across the country, particularly in northern border areas, with more than 5,300 killed last year.

Four of the officers' heads were found earlier.

Hitmen cut off Commander Martin Castro's head and left it in an ice cooler in front of the local police station.

Statement from Mexican officials

On Monday, the head of a police chief was found in another ice cooler.

The police commander was abducted on Saturday, along with five other police officers and a civilian, only five days after starting his job.

"Hitmen cut off commander Martin Castro's head and left it in an ice cooler in front of the local police station," said state justice authorities.

Six bodies in police uniforms bearing signs of torture and gunshot wounds were also found on Monday, officials said.

The federal government two years ago launched a clampdown on drug-related violence, involving the deployment of around 36,000 troops across the country.

Mexico: Heads Found In Ice Box As Police Battle Drug-Related Violence In State Of Chihuahua | World News | Sky News

Mexico violence felt in North Texas

To imagine that Mexico can collapse into narco-anarchy and it will not effect the USA is naive in the extreme. Expect to see much more of this north of the border in the coming years.

The violence south of the border is staggering, and it's crossing the border and spreading fear in some North Texas homes with ties to Mexico.

The daily headlines in Mexico's newspapers are a bloody wake up call. The death tolls are rising every day. More than 5,500 murders were reported in 2008, and more than 1,600 of those were in Juarez just south of El Paso.

There were also more than 1,000 kidnappings, 65 of which ended in death.

As the violence grows, so are the numbers of North Texans who are being touched by the crimes.

"Thank God we are a poor family," said Jose Galvez, a North Texas resident. "We don't have the things in old Mexico that would make somebody be interested in taking somebody."

Galvez said he checks on his family in Mexico every month. His relatives have never been a target, but he said the violence hits close to home.

"It breaks you because these are people that you know, not necessarily relatives, but people you talk to," he said.

Extortion is at the center of many of the kidnappings and violence.

"I have known of at least three families where one of their loved ones has been taken," Galvez said. "And luckily, in those two cases, the loved one has been returned."

News 8 tried to reach victims, many expressed concerns of being targeted once again.

Meanwhile, Galvez said the gangs are doing their homework.

"They study and they know each of the family members," he said. "They are looking for ways or people that would have something valuable that they can exchange in return."

History professor John Chavez, from Southern Methodist University, said Mexico's crackdown on drug cartels has fueled even more crime.

"Those who used to be employed by the cartels are losing work, illegal work, and they are consequently becoming common crooks," he said.

Innocent families with no ties to the drug war have been targets, which has led some with money to buy safety across the border in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

"Even some in the middle class and the upper class in Mexico are moving temporally to the U.S. side," Chavez said.

The United States and Mexico are keeping an eye on the violence, and Galvez said he is as well.

For now, he is holding back on visiting his relatives.

"You want to go see them," he said. "It hurts because you don't know what you are going to encounter."

Mexico violence felt in North Texas | Texas Cable News | | News for Texas | Local News: TV

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ten killed across Mexico in Christmas Eve drug violence

CIUDAD JUAREZ (AFP) -- Ten people, including a police officer, were killed across Mexico in the hours before Christmas, in the latest spasm of violence in the country's brutal drug war, officials said on Friday.

Officials said the body of Javier Coapango, coordinator of public security for a town just outside Mexico City, was found dumped along the side of a road on Christmas eve. He had been kidnapped on December 17.

Another man was fatally shot in southern Mexico, while eight other corpses were found in the north, near the country's border with the United States, authorities said.

A state Justice Department official who was not authorized to be quoted by name said the bodies were discovered by a farmer.

The bodies were found near the town of Tuxtla Chico, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of another border settlement where Mexican and Guatemalan drug traffickers engaged in a series of gunbattles that killed 17 people last month.

Feuding drug cartels have engaged in a brutal battle for dominance, with more than 5,300 people have been killed this year across Mexico.

The rampant violence comes despite the deployment of 36,000 troops across the country.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008


I don't recall hearing the term "narco-terrorist" but it is a good one. Nice to see some more detailed reporting on the ins and outs of the cartels. In the past such reporting has proved dangerous to those reporting it.

December 27, 2008 - 11:27 p.m.
NUEVO LAREDO – One of the most ruthless drug cartels in history owns Nuevo Laredo, and its sights are set on controlling a highway that leads straight to Victoria.

After years of fighting in the streets, just three hours southwest of Victoria, the public violence is suddenly calm. At first glance, the Laredo corridor appears peaceful again.

Hidden beneath this 18-month lull, however, a sinister story surfaces. The brutal Gulf Cartel seized control of a border city, strangling public confidence with murder, terror, extortion, corruption and kidnapping.

Nuevo Laredo newspaper reporters, threatened with murder, no longer cover the streets, which are still rife with violence.

After winning a three-year war against a rival, the Gulf Cartel operates unimpeded. With ownership of a lucrative entry port, the cartel is focused on controlling U.S. Highway 59, which winds to your back door.

Documentary filmmaker Rusty Fleming spent three years on the border and in Mexico to chronicle the violence. For the first time, Fleming agreed to revisit the Laredo corridor to show firsthand what’s at work in this lucrative entry port.

He agreed to again travel deep into Nuevo Laredo – to city corners held by the Gulf Cartel. Three Advocate journalists visited eerie cartel shrines, the locations of kidnappings and the home of an assassinated police chief.

Signs of the cartel violence that some say is headed Victoria’s way linger everywhere in this once-peaceful Mexican city.

Victoria Advocate - Narco-Terrorists

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

8 bodies found in plastic bags in southern Mexico

It is hard to keep track of all the carnage. I think the 5,300 dead number is on the low side though. Not sure why the obsession with beheading. Did they learn that from the Jihadis? Hanging heads on a Christmas tree is certainly grim.

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico — Eight bodies were found stuffed in plastic garbage bags and dumped on a rural road near the Guatemalan border in an area plagued by drug violence, authorities in southern Chiapas state said Tuesday.

The victims have yet to be identified, but police believe they may include Mexicans, Guatemalans or Colombians.

A state Justice Department official who was not authorized to be quoted by name said the bodies were discovered by a farmer. At least one had bruises and marks indicating he may have been tortured.

The bodies were found near the town of Tuxtla Chico, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) south of another border settlement where Mexican and Guatemalan drug traffickers engaged in a series of gunbattles that killed 17 people last month.

Brutal slayings by drug cartels are on the rise in Mexico, and officials estimate that more than 5,300 people have died in organized crime-related slayings this year.

On Sunday, the decapitated bodies of eight army soldiers were found along an urban boulevard in the southern state of Guerrero.

In a press statement on Tuesday, Mexico's Defense Department slammed what it called "inappropriate and hurtful" comments on the soldiers' deaths.

While the department did not specify what had offended it, one Mexican newspaper ran an editorial cartoon Tuesday titled "December Decorations" that showed the hand of a drug trafficker hanging severed heads with military-style haircuts on a Christmas tree as if they were ornaments.

8 bodies found in plastic bags in southern Mexico | World | - Houston Chronicle

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

4 Police Gunned Down in Mexico Border Town

Not only are the killers brazen, but they are obviously so sadistic that the think noting of making a joke of killing someone. According to the story "Another victim, identified as Gerardo Padilla, 25, had been decapitated; a Santa Claus hat was on his head, which had been placed between his legs."

One would say they need to bring in the Army, but they have and the narcotraficantes just decapitated 14 of them, as well. (See previous blog posting.)

4 Police Gunned Down in Mexico Border Town
List of 28 police officers threatened by name in list attached to 4 dead bodies.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO -- Four municipal police were killed and one wounded in simultaneous attacks at various locations in this violent metropolis just across the border from El Paso, Texas, authorities said.

The attacks occurred around midnight Sunday when cartel hit men fired shots at a police substation inside Ciudad Juarez General Hospital, a security cabin at a residential community, a police station in the southwestern part of the city and a patrol car near one of the U.S.-Mexico border crossings.

Two officers were killed at the hospital, one inside the patrol car and the fourth at the Aldama precinct house, the city's Public Safety Office said.

In response to these attacks, the municipal police instituted a rule on Monday requiring officers patrol the city in caravans of between two and four vehicles.

Separately, authorities said that on Monday they found four bodies a few meters (yards) from the Juarez command post of the Chihuahua state police, together with a message threatening 28 police officers by name.

The bodies were handcuffed and had their eyes blindfolded. Another victim, identified as Gerardo Padilla, 25, had been decapitated; a Santa Claus hat was on his head, which had been placed between his legs.

Ciudad Juarez is Mexico's most violent city, accounting for 1,400 of the more than 5,400 gangland murders reported nationwide so far this year.

Authorities attribute the carnage to battles over smuggling routes to the United States and internal power struggles within Mexico's powerful drug cartels.

Since taking office, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to nearly a dozen states in a bid to crush the cartels.

The operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to the drug gangs' ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors.

Latin American Herald Tribune - 4 Police Gunned Down in Mexico Border Town

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Nine men decapitated in Mexico drug violence

gIt is quite extraordinary that the drug gangs have taken to this level of gruesome violence and intimidation. One usually expects criminals to mind their business, but in Mexico they seem intent on challenging the social order.

MEXICO CITY, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Mexican police found nine decapitated bodies on Sunday in a city near the tourist resort of Acapulco, and at least some of the victims might have been soldiers who were battling against powerful drug gangs.

The bodies of the men, which were marked with signs of torture, were left on the side of a highway, while their heads were stuffed in a plastic bag found outside a shopping center, police in the state of Guerrero told Reuters.

Local media reported that nine soldiers were abducted on Saturday as they left a regional military base near the city of Chilpancingo, about an hour north of Acapulco. An army spokesperson could not confirm that the victims were soldiers.

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and federal police since 2006 to take on cartels that move cocaine and other drugs into the United States.

A note left with the severed heads warned that more authorities would be decapitated, the state police said. The state police chief said some of the victims were soldiers, Reforma newspaper reported.

Calderon's offensive has helped fuel a major increase in drug violence. More than 5,300 have died so far this year, over twice as many as in 2007, according to the attorney general's office. (Reporting by Jason Lange and Armando Tovar, editing by Philip Barbara)

Reuters AlertNet - Nine men decapitated in Mexico drug violence-police

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Friday, December 12, 2008

In Mexico, Cartel Assassins of Increasing Skill

Not a glimmer of hope anywhere in this story. The bad guys are winning, the good guys are dying.

In Mexico, Cartel Assassins of Increasing Skill -

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- The hit was fast, bold, lethal. Jesús Huerta Yedra, a top federal prosecutor here, was gunned down last week in a busy intersection 100 yards from the U.S. border in a murder of precise choreography.

In Mexico's chaotic drug war, attacks are no longer the work of desperate amateurs with bad aim. Increasingly, the killings are being carried out by professionals, often hooded and gloved, who trap their targets in coordinated ambushes, strike with overwhelming firepower, and then vanish into the afternoon rush hour -- just as they did in the Huerta killing.

The paid assassins, known as sicarios, are rarely apprehended. Mexican officials say the commando squads probably travel from state to state, across a country where the government and its security forces are drawing alarming conclusions about the scope and skill of an enemy supported by billions of dollars in drug profits.

"They are getting very good at their jobs," said Hector Hawley Morelos, coordinator of the state forensics and crime laboratory here, where criminologists and coroners have been overwhelmed by more than 1,600 homicides in Juarez this year. "The assassins show a high level of sophistication. They have had training -- somewhere. They appear to have knowledge of police investigative procedures. For instance, they don't leave fingerprints. That is very disturbing."

Alejandro Pariente, the spokesman for the attorney general in Chihuahua state, said, "They are called organized crime for a very good reason. Because they are very organized."

In Ciudad Juarez, a tough industrial city across the river from El Paso, where 42 people have been killed in the last week, the morgue serves as a grim classroom for the study of drug violence along the border.

In an interview last week, a busy coroner in the forensics lab spoke while performing an autopsy. A dozen dead men awaited final exams, sprawled on metal tables, their bodies pebbled with fat bullet holes, open eyes staring at fluorescent bulbs. The men were all eventually classified as "organized crime" homicides, which account for the majority of deaths in Ciudad Juarez, the most violent city in Mexico.

On Monday, federal Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said there have been 5,376 drug-related killings this year in Mexico, double last year's number. Later that evening, Victor Hugo Moneda, who led Mexico City's investigative police agency, was killed in an ambush as he was exiting his car at his home in the capital. The assailants, using a car and motorcycle, fired 22 shots, according to police.

In the Juarez morgue, the three walk-in freezers are filled to capacity with more than 90 corpses, stacked floor to ceiling, in leaking white bags with zippers. After a few months, those who are not identified are buried in a field at the city cemetery at the edge of the desert.

"The patterns that we often see with organized crime homicides are high-caliber weapons, multiple wounds, extreme trauma," said Alma Rosa Padilla, a chief medical examiner, who completes as many as five full autopsies each day. "They don't go to the hospital."

One U.S. anti-drug law enforcement officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he works in Mexico, said, "The Mexican army has had a problem with deserters. So have the police, including special anti-crime units. They are now working for the other side."

More than a dozen top Mexican law enforcement officials have been detained recently for allegedly working for the drug cartels, including Noé Ramírez Mandujano, the nation's former top anti-drug prosecutor. He was arrested last month on suspicion of accepting $450,000 in exchange for sharing intelligence with traffickers.

According to information released Thursday by the Mexican congress, more than 18,000 soldiers have deserted the Mexican army this year. In the last three years, 177 members of special-forces units have abandoned their posts, and many went to work for organized crime.

Recently, Chihuahua Gov. José Reyes Baeza said that hired gunmen who have been arrested confessed that they carried out executions for 1,000 pesos per killing, about $75.

Weapons pour over the border here from Texas, bought illegally from street gangs or legally at sporting goods stores in the United States. Last month, the Mexican army made the largest seizure of illegal firearms and military-type weapons in more than two decades, uncovering a cache of 540 rifles, 165 grenades and 500,000 rounds of ammunition in a house in Reynosa, just across the border from McAllen, Tex.

According to Mexican officials, rifles stolen from Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army post in El Paso, end up on the streets of Juarez. At the forensic laboratory, the ballistics team pulled out a dozen weapons, including AK-47s, AR-15s, M-16s and other military-grade arms.

"I think that the government is simply overwhelmed. The cases are coming in fives and tens now, and it is probably very hard to keep up," said Tony Payan, an expert on the drug trade and professor at the University of Texas in El Paso. "The government is on the defensive. The thugs have the upper hand here. They probably perfect their techniques faster than the government can find the experts or the resources to combat them."

Huerta's murder was a bold strike. He was the second-ranking federal prosecutor in the state. Recently, the 40-year-old lawyer was handed the case of slain journalist Armando Rodríguez, a veteran police reporter at El Diario newspaper who was killed by a gunman in front of his house last month in Ciudad Juarez. The reasons behind Huerta's killing remain unknown.

When forensic investigator David García and his partner arrived in their white van 15 minutes after the shooting on the afternoon of Dec. 3, the municipal police were marking the perimeter of the crime scene with yellow tape and the first soldiers were arriving to stand guard.

The sunny, broad intersection of Arizona Street and Boulevard Pope John Paul II abuts the Rio Grande and is a five-minute drive from a main bridge into El Paso. Easily visible across the river was a picket line of U.S. Border Patrol vehicles.

Huerta was riding in the passenger seat of a new silver-colored Dodge Journey SUV with Texas plates, which had stopped at a red light. The car was driven by a secretary at the prosecutor's office, Marisela Esparza Granados. When García arrived, the splintered windshield wipers on the vehicle were still struggling to operate.

The intersection around the Dodge was littered with spent shells. García and his partner, who carry clipboards but no weapons, methodically photographed the scene and collected 85 casings, all in the caliber consistent with the account some witnesses told police -- that two hooded men from two vans pulled in front of the Dodge and opened fire with AK-47s.

The criminologists at the forensic lab were struck by several details. First, they suspected that Huerta was followed by at least one, and perhaps several, chase vehicles, which would have helped the gunmen get into position to ambush Huerta. They knew the car Huerta would use and his route, the investigators said.

Second, the criminologists were impressed with the precision, speed and audacity of the attack.

When it rolled to a stop at the traffic light, Huerta's vehicle was surrounded by other cars at a crowded intersection. But no other vehicles were hit by stray bullets. Later, Hawley, the lab coordinator, pointed out the tight pattern of gunfire pocking the SUV's windshield.

"You see they hit where they aim. He was the target. Not her," Hawley said. The assassins concentrated their fire directly at Huerta, who was not wearing a bulletproof vest. "If they know they're wearing a bulletproof vest, they ignore the chest and shoot the head," he added.

The autopsy revealed that Huerta had been struck at least 40 times, most in the chest. The passenger seat of the SUV was soaked with blood. The secretary, Esparza, was struck only three times, though a neck wound was fatal.

In the crime laboratory, the shell casings were examined by the ballistics team and recorded. The bullets are almost always from the United States. The assassins do not trust bullets made in Mexico, Hawley said, adding, "The American bullets are better."

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Indiscriminate drug killings sow terror in Mexico - Yahoo! News

It just keeps getting worse. So much for cheap beer in TJ.

TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) – Gunmen are deliberately killing innocent people with random shootings at bars, restaurants and shopping malls in the city of Tijuana in a new scare tactic that takes Mexico's drug war to new depths.

Hit squads have killed at least 50 people, including around 10 children, since October in an escalation of violence in public places that security officials say is akin to terrorism.

The indiscriminate attacks, including shootings in cinemas, pool halls and restaurants, appear to be an attempt by the weakened Arellano Felix cartel to show security forces and rival gangs that it is still a force despite setbacks.

In one recent attack, gunmen in body armor and armed with assault rifles stormed into Tijuana's popular Crazy Banana pool hall and opened fire on customers, killing four men and a woman.

"We were playing pool and these masked men came in shouting and started firing at everyone," said day laborer Juan Miguel at the scene, wiping blood from his head after the attack. He declined to give his surname.

"Anyone close to them was immediately killed," he said.

City police say none of the pool hall victims appeared to have links to drug gangs, a marked change from drug killings across Mexico this year when hit squads have gone after specific targets even if they also clumsily killed others.

"In fact, we don't see a clear target in any of the recent killings of this kind. We cannot rule out that these are terror-style acts," said Juan Salvador Ortiz, a deputy prosecutor for Baja California state, home to Tijuana.

Police and anti-drug experts believe Tijuana's Arellano Felix organization, which has been hurt by the arrests of former leaders and a turf war with other gangs, is behind the shootings as it desperately tries to hold its ground.

Under a nationwide clampdown on drug gangs, President Felipe Calderon has sent thousands of soldiers and federal police to Baja California since January 2007, complicating life for the Arellano Felix clan that became notorious and made a fortune in the 1990s for smuggling cocaine into California, one of the world's top drug markets.

Soldiers have made big drug seizures and captured more Arellano Felix leaders but have failed to stop the violence.

"The Tijuana turf is too valuable to lose. They are doing this to stay in the city, to show their power and ridicule the authorities," said Victor Clark, a drug trade expert at San Diego State University, of the public shootings.

"Empty streets make it easier for them to operate."


Drug killings throughout Mexico have skyrocketed this year, scaring off investment and prompting the United States to send hundreds of millions of dollars to help its southern neighbor.

The number of fatalities has more than doubled to nearly 5,400 people so far this year and 2009 could be even worse, Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said on Monday.

The army has warned people in Tijuana to stay indoors as much as possible, angering city residents.

"We cannot live locked up. They are the ones who should be behind bars," Tijuana's Archbishop Rafael Romo told Reuters.

The new scare tactics come amid a shocking level of violence in Tijuana, once a freewheeling city serving tequila, sex and medicine to Americans crossing over from San Diego.

Tijuana has seen more than 700 people killed this year in drug-related violence as Mexico's most-wanted man Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, a prison escapee who leads a cartel from the Pacific coast state of Sinaloa, tries to gain control.

The rival Gulf cartel and its armed wing, the Zetas, has joined the fight, fanning out from its home turf across the border from Texas.

The three biggest gangs are using horrifying methods to outdo each other, beheading victims, cutting up bodies, dumping them in barrels of acid and even storming hospitals to finish off targets they had left wounded but clinging to life.

In the first major attack on civilians, suspected drug gang members threw grenades into a packed crowd celebrating Mexico's independence day in September in the western city of Morelia, killing eight people and wounding more than 100.

Indiscriminate drug killings sow terror in Mexico - Yahoo! News

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Mexican drug cartels infiltrating Guatemala (gang shootout - 18 dead)

Like a cancer spreading through a body the naroctrafficantes are extending their reach both North and South. The American law enforcement has some ability to temper this, does Guatemala?

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (CNN) -- Mexican narcotraffickers are gaining an increasing presence in Guatemalan territory.

That was made clear Sunday, when at least 18 people were killed in a face-off between members of a local cartel and a Mexican cartel in a frontier zone between Mexico and Guatemala.

"The hypothesis we have is clear, and it is that several cartels here that are operating in Guatemalan territory already have certain alliances with Mexican cartels, specifically the alliances that have been made for the passage of drugs," said Marlene Blanco Lapola, chief of the National Civil Police.

At the crime scene, police found vehicles that were registered in Tamaulipas, a state in northeast Mexico, and documents that indicate the Mexican origins of some of the dead.

According to authorities, pressure that Mexico has exerted on these groups could have led them to use nearby Guatemalan territory instead.

"We are studying the arrival of many Mexicans, specifically members of the Zeta group, who have wanted to come to take advantage of the Guatemalan territory, a situation that we -- as authorities -- will not permit," Blanco said, referring to one group of narcotraffickers.

According to one political analyst, this week's killings are an example of the globalization of crime. He believes that conditions in Guatemala made the country ripe for the establishment of such groups.

"It's no secret to anybody that the institutions in our country are weak, that they lack human and technical resources," said the analyst, Manuel Villacorta.

"Without doubt, organized crime is taking advantage of these evident levels of vulnerability that the Guatemalan institutions present," Villacorta said.

Experts point out that two other events of similar violence have occurred this year in Guatemala, underscoring the fact that the groups feel they are free to act with impunity.

Mexican drug cartels infiltrating Guatemala -

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Monday, December 08, 2008

26 Killed in Mexico Drug Violence Over Weekend

Wow, worse than normal, which is a sad thing to say.

CHILPANCINGO, MEXICO -- At least 26 people were killed in Mexico over the weekend in separate incidents, including 10 who died in a shootout between soldiers and gunmen in Guerrero state and five murdered at a bar in Ciudad Juarez.

Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, is considered the country's most violent city, with more than 1,400 murders reported this year.

Gunmen burst into Alamo's bar in Juarez early Sunday and opened fire, killing five people and wounding four others.

This was the second attack of this type in less than two weeks. On Nov. 28, gunmen murdered eight men at a seafood restaurant in the border city, which is in Chihuahua state.

A couple and a man were shot to death in separate incidents while driving in Ciudad Juarez.

Three bodies were also found in Juarez, including one dumped in a soccer field and two others in the city's southeast section.

The victims, who were between 25 and 30, were wrapped in blankets and their hands and feet had been tied, a trademark of the gunmen who work for Mexico's drug cartels.

In Tecate, a city in the northwestern state of Baja California, two people were gunned down and a third wounded in a shooting on Saturday night.

Army troops, meanwhile, battled gunmen in a series of clashes in Palos Blancos, a town in the southern state of Guerrero.

A soldier and nine gunmen were killed in the running gunbattles, which lasted about half a day and also involved police.

Soldiers, along with federal, state and municipal police officers, responded when a shootout started between rival gangs, the Public Safety Secretariat said.

When they arrived at the scene, the security forces were greeted by gunfire and engaged the gunmen in the series of shootouts, which also left two police officers wounded.

The gunbattles started at around 3:00 a.m. Sunday and did not end until about 2:00 p.m.

After the shooting ended, police conducted a search and found a body in an abandoned vehicle, and seized 10 other automobiles, 14 rifles, five pistols and two hand grenades.

The crime scene in Palos Altos has been cordoned off by some 400 soldiers and police officers.

In Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, two heads and a threatening message were found in a bucket near the Technical Institute.

Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes into the United States.

Armed groups linked to Mexico's drug cartels murdered around 2,700 people in 2007 and 1,500 in 2006, with the death toll this year already at more than 5,000, according to press tallies.

The majority of the killings have occurred in the states of Chihuahua, Baja California and Sinaloa.

Experts say that Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations are the Tijuana cartel, the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel. Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Juarez and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.

Tackling the problem of drug-related violence, according to experts, is a major challenge both because of Mexico's notoriously corrupt security forces and because honest police officers are fearful of taking on the heavily armed drug mobs.

Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to nearly a dozen of Mexico's 31 states in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.

The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels' ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking prosecutors.

The Attorney General's Office recently began investigating its own staff, particularly the SIEDO organized crime unit's members and the Federal Investigations Agency, Mexico's equivalent of the FBI.

As part of the probe, begun after a protected informant revealed links between drug cartel kingpins and police, a dozen high-ranking officials, including erstwhile drug czar Noe Ramirez, have been arrested.

The initial investigation concluded that Ramirez received $500,000 a month for sharing intelligence with drug lords.

Latin American Herald Tribune - 26 Killed in Mexico Drug Violence Over Weekend

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Rescued Immigrants claim kidnapping, rape, torture

The border is a dangerous place for all sides of the triangle, smugglers, the smuggled and law enforcement. It seems like the real fix has to be made in Mexico (and further south).

The Monitor
Jeremy Roebuck
Dec. 2, 2008

EDINBURG — Mario Olivares Cifuentes thought he understood the risks of illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tales of migrants drowning in the Rio Grande or succumbing to the oppressive South Texas sun spread frequently among those hoping to make the trek.

But for Olivares, a Guatemalan migrant, the real danger emerged only after passing those natural perils.

For almost a day, he and 20 of his countrymen were allegedly kidnapped, tortured, raped and held for ransom in a stash house east of Edinburg before federal agents rescued them last week.

Their purported tormentors — a group of Mexican nationals believed to have abducted the immigrants from another smuggling organization — are set to appear before a federal judge today. (Wednesday)

"These are just some of the many risks that illegal immigrants face when crossing illegally," said Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño, whose office has since joined the investigation.

U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered the 21 Guatemalan nationals on Nov. 25 packed in a cramped mobile home near the intersection of Tower and Texas roads. But as they interviewed the group of men and women a more harrowing picture of the conditions they had lived through emerged.

"All of the aliens claimed they had been constantly terrorized by their captors," said Guadalupe Sanchez, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in an affidavit filed in the case.

According to Sanchez' affidavit, the migrants were guided to an Hidalgo stash house Nov. 24 after crossing the Rio Grande with a group of coyotes.

But within an hour of their arrival, five armed men burst into the building and abducted them. The men guided the Guatemalans to another location, where they reportedly turned their weapons on their victims.

The men threatened the immigrants' lives if they could not secure ransoms from family members in the United States and abroad, the Guatemalans later told agents.

Olivares reported being tied up overnight and beaten by the men, according to court filings. Three other women said they were taken into back rooms and raped by their captors.

ICE agents arrested the five purported kidnappers soon after the stash house raid.

Andres Perez Moshan, 26; Humberto Alvarez Cheo, 20; Roberto Salinas Martinez, 23; and Euclides Moreno Dominguez, 26; all face federal human smuggling charges. The fifth - a 16-year-old juvenile - is being held as a witness in the case but has not been charged with a crime.

Two of the men - Perez and Moreno - will also face state charges of aggravated sexual assault for alleged attacks on the woman.

It was not clear Tuesday whether any of the suspects had retained or had attorneys appointed for them.

If convicted on all charges, the men could face 10 years in federal prison. Those charged with rape also face the possibility of a life sentence in a state facility.

Fifteen of their alleged victims remain in ICE custody pending their return to their home country. Six others - including the three purported rape victims — are being held in the United States to testify in the ongoing criminal case.

"Crimes perpetrated on illegal immigrants like this happen much more frequently than people realize," the sheriff said. "Most of the time, they go unreported."

News: Rescued immigrants claim kidnapping, rape, torture | rescued, claim, torture - News -

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Monday, December 01, 2008

12 Gunmen Kill 8 at Restaurant along Texas Border

Not much to give thanks for in Ciudad Juarez this weekend. It is difficult to imagine how hard life must be there now.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - Over 40 Murders Reported this Week

New details on a deadly discovery across the border from El Paso. This morning police in Ciudad Juarez say at least 12 masked gun men opened fire inside an upscale seafood restaurant and killed at least eight people. The attack comes a day after seven men were found executed in a school soccer field in an upper class neighborhood in Juarez.

In all, 40 murders were reported over the holiday week along the border near El Paso. Police say the men were armed with AK-47 and fired off more than 100 rounds.

New Details: 12 Gunmen Kill 8 at Restaurant along Texas Border

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Police Get Death Threats from Drug Cartels with Funeral Flowers in Mexico

No end in sight. The recent firings of corrupt police are theoretically good, but now you have 500 angry-expolice. Did they get their uniforms back?

TIJUANA, MEXICO -- Gunmen suspected of working for organized crime groups killed three men in the Mexican border city of Tijuana, while another group of hired guns left funeral wreaths with threats aimed at police chiefs in the northern city of Hermosillo, officials said.

Mario Arnulfo Meza Reyes, 27, and Jose de Jesus Perez Castañeda, 28, were gunned down on a street in Tijuana's Libertad neighborhood, the Attorney General's Office in Baja California state, where the border city is located, said.

The body of an unidentified man who had been shot in the head was found in Tijuana's La Morita II district, the AG's office said.

Over the weekend, gunmen killed more than a dozen people in Tijuana, and some 650 people have been murdered in the border city, which is near San Diego, California, this year.

In Hermosillo, the capital of neighboring Sonora state, police found six funeral wreaths at different locations bearing threats against police commanders, the Sonora AG's office said.

The threats were signed by "Los Zetas," a group of army special forces veterans and deserters who initially worked as hitmen for the Gulf cartel and took over the criminal organization when its leaders were arrested.

"The 'narcowreaths' were left by unidentified individuals at different public places in the city during the early morning hours" of Monday, the AG's office said, without identifying who the threats were made against.

Mexican drug cartel gunmen use different methods to intimidate officials and rival traffickers, such as leaving threatening messages on bodies or in public places.

Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.

Armed groups linked to Mexico's drug cartels murdered around 2,700 people in 2007 and 1,500 in 2006, with the death toll this year already at more than 5,000, according to press tallies.

The majority of the killings have occurred in the states of Chihuahua, Baja California, where Tijuana is located, and Sinaloa.

Experts say that Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations are the Tijuana cartel, which is run by the Arellano Felix brothers, the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel. Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Juarez and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.

The Sinaloa organization is the oldest cartel in Mexico and is led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.

Tackling the problem of drug-related violence, according to experts, is a major challenge both because of Mexico's notoriously corrupt security forces and because honest police officers are fearful of taking on the heavily armed drug mobs.

Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to nearly a dozen of Mexico's 31 states in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.

The goal of the operation was to regain control of territory controlled by Mexico's drug cartels. EFE

Latin American Herald Tribune - Police Get Death Threats from Drug Cartels with Funeral Flowers in Mexico

Monday, November 24, 2008

Drug cartel gunmen ambush police in Culiacan, killing five officers.

More serious madness down Old Mexico way.

Reporting from Culiacan, Mexico -- The fourth corpse pulled from the bullet-shattered pickup truck didn't have the benefit of a body bag. Only the face was covered (with a useless bulletproof vest). The victim's red shirt was even redder, soaked with blood. His bare arm hung limply from a gurney as he was lifted to a wagon from the morgue, the toes of his boots pointed skyward, at odd angles.

He was one of five federal and state police agents killed in a brazen shootout Wednesday night on the city's prominent Emiliano Zapata Boulevard. The officers were ambushed by gunmen in three vehicles who opened fire at an intersection outside an enormous casino called Play.

The shooters escaped. Police, emergency workers and soldiers converged on the scene, as the casino's blue and purple neon lights blinked garishly over the dead men slumped in the cab and bed of the pocked pickup. In all, 10 people were killed in Sinaloa state during a 24-hour period ended Wednesday night, a deadly slice of the burgeoning Mexican drug war. Nationwide, more than 4,000 people have been killed this year, according to Mexican media reports, many of them law enforcement agents doing battle with powerful drug gangs.

Sinaloa, a fertile state on the Pacific coast, has long been at the center of Mexico's drug trade. It has become a hub of violence since President Felipe Calderon dispatched an army of soldiers and federal police to take on some of the biggest drug lords.

The alarming level of violence -- shootouts and kidnappings almost every day -- has sown panic and fear among a normally resilient citizenry.

"To live in Culiacan is a risk," said Javier Valdez, a journalist and writer who hours before the killings addressed university students about the dangers of working here. "There is a psychosis -- you breathe it, live it, smell it, sweat it."

This week, grenades were hurled at the offices of Culiacan's largest-circulation newspaper, El Debate. Although no one was hurt, the act was widely seen as a message of intimidation.

The slain police agents (seven have been killed here in seven days) were part of a unit dedicated to cracking down on the rampant streets sales of cocaine, marijuana and other narcotics. They were ambushed a couple of blocks from their headquarters, shortly after they dropped off a suspect. Two other federal police officers with the agents were seriously injured.

After the bodies were taken away and investigators from a variety of agencies (some mistrustful of each other) did their work, a tow truck operator began the task of hauling away the agents' vehicle, riddled by scores of high-caliber bullets, its tires flattened.

Suddenly, a white Honda Civic sped up, wheels screeching to a stop after somehow managing to penetrate police cordons. Three women and two men jumped out. They were relatives of one of the agents.

"Mi hijo! Mi hijo!" screamed one woman. "My son, my son!"

They cried and flailed their arms; one of the men, a brother perhaps, beat the hood of his car with his fists. "Oh, no, no, no," he moaned.

"Silence!" an officer in charge commanded. "Ladies, calm yourselves."

"You don't understand," one of the younger women cried back.

"Yes, ma'am, I do," he said.

Behind them, the tow truck cranked and wheezed as it heaved the pickup onto its flatbed.

Inconsolable, the family left for the morgue, one of dozens that have sprung up here and do brisk business.

The tow truck left as well, taking away its own casualty. At the ambush site, the air smelled of spilled gasoline. Three investigators in rubber gloves picked up spent shells, scattered for many feet, filling several plastic bags.

Drug cartel gunmen ambush police in Culiacan, killing five officers. - Los Angeles Times: "MEXICO UNDER SIEGE
Another bloody night in Sinaloa, Mexico"

Two Texas Tech employees gunned down in Juarez

Given the number of bullets fired into the car I see two possibilities: either they had come to the attention of the Juarez criminals somehow (dealing, pissing them off) or it was case of mistaken identity based on the car. Given the car had US license plates, the latter seems unlikely. So I am suspecting there is a lot more to this than a harmless shopping trip gone wrong. But, hey, anything can happen in Mexico.

EL PASO -- The violence in Juarez hits home over the weekend as two Americans are gunned down.

Officials with the Juarez Municipal Police confirmed two Americans -- a man and a woman -- were gunned down this afternoon in the Colonia Cuatro Siglos near the intersection of Hermanos Escobar and Rafael Perez Serna.

They were identified as Roberto Martínez and Ruth Velasco. Police estimated Martinez's age as being between 55 and 60 years and that of Velasco as being in between 35 and 40 years.

Investigators determined Martinez was driving the KIA Amanti and Velasco was his passenger. More than 50 bullet casings were found near the vehicle.

El Diario de Juarez reports another woman and a child were also in the vehicle -- which had New Mexico plates -- during the incident but were not hurt.

Margaret Althoff-Olivas, a spokeswoman for Thomason Hospital, knew Martinez and VElasco and confirmed they both worked for Texas Tech Medical Center. Martinez was a military veteran, she added.

"These were two very caring and very competent healthcare professionals and our hearts absolutely ache. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families. They were part of our family. They will be greatly missed. This should not have happened. Their loss is absolutely devastating to so many. I hope whoever did this is caught," she said. El Paso, Las Cruces - Weather, News, Sports - Two Texas Tech employees gunned down in Juarez

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ciudad Juarez Journalist Shot Dead

Another sad story of journalists being killed in Mexico. Attempting to cover the drug wars is dangerous.

(AP)CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - A crime reporter in the violent Mexican border city of Juarez was killed Thursday, adding to dozens of journalist deaths in a country where newspapers are so fearful, many refuse to cover drug violence.

Armando Rodriguez had covered crime for 10 years in Ciudad Juarez, working for El Diario newspaper.

He was shot several times as he sat warming up his car outside his home.

A special federal prosecutor in charge of journalist killings will investigate the death in the city across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Officials did not immediately have any suspects or motive.

Mexico has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, in part because drug gangs target reporters whose stories detail their activities.

Many reporters refuse to put their bylines on stories, and many newspapers have stopped covering the drug gangs altogether.

With Rodriguez's death, 24 journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, at least seven of them in direct reprisal for their reports on crime, and seven others have disappeared since 2005, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Rodriguez's death shows the need for Mexico to do more to protect the media, said the committee's Carlos Lauria.

"Mexico needs to break the cycle of impunity in crimes against journalists," he said.

Drug-related killings are soaring as cartels battle each other for lucrative routes used to deliver cocaine, marijuana and other illegal drugs to consumers in the United States.

President Felipe Calderon is cracking down and the cartels have responded with a vengeance, more than 4,000 people have been killed so far this year, more than 1,000 in Ciudad Juarez alone.

Corruption is widespread, reaching as high as the federal Attorney General's office, and the drug gangs often control more than the drug trade, extorting money from business leaders and even teachers.

On Wednesday, an anonymous banner appeared at the door of a public Ciudad Juarez kindergarten, threatening to attack the schoolchildren if the teachers don't hand over their Christmas bonuses.

Classes were immediately suspended as police decided what security measures to take.

Also Thursday, state police said at least one gunshot was fired outside the U.S. Consulate in the northern city of Monterrey, the third attack on the building in less than two months.

One of the bullets cracked the glass of Isais Perez's nearby fruit cart.

"I was going to take out some oranges to cut them up, and I heard the shot," he said.

"I didn't see a car, but it was loud. I went to buy a cigarette, and when I got back, I saw the impact."

In separate incidents last month, an unexploded grenade was tossed at the consulate and gunshots were fired, prompting officials to suspend visa services.

In the northwestern city of Culiacan, at least three of 27 kidnapped farm workers were safely released on Thursday.

It was still unclear why the group was abducted.

Assailants rousted the farmworkers from bed before dawn Monday at a vegetable farm just outside Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, then drove off with the group in a caravan of sport utility vehicles.

The three farm workers released told police they were driven to a mountainous area, fed for three days and then dropped off by the side of a highway and given 100 pesos each for a bus back to Culiacan.

The workers were blindfolded for part of the journey, so they couldn't tell authorities exactly where they had been.

Prosecutors believe the rest may also have been released and are trying to contact them to investigate the case further.

In the border city of Tijuana, meanwhile, three people were gunned down Thursday and police discovered a decomposing human head left near a hardware store.

Laredo Morning Times - - > News

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Burned, cut-up body left at Mexican police station

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- Seven people are dead after a string of gruesome attacks in the Mexican border city of Juarez.

State police say a man's burned and headless body was found dumped in front of a police station. His severed hands lay next to his body, each holding kitchen lighters. A note left behind was directed to the Aztecas drug gang.

Police later found two men and two women executed in a sport utility vehicle parked outside a Social Security clinic. And a woman's body was found stuffed in a black trash bag.

Police chased a truck that opened fire on a state vehicle, causing a car crash that killed a bystander and injured four others.

All of the deaths were Monday. Police are investigating.

Now: Burned, cut-up body left at Mexican police station | police, body, left :

Friday, November 07, 2008

In Mexico, beheaded man hung from overpass

In Mexico, beheaded man hung from overpass


Associated Press

A beheaded man was hung from an overpass Thursday, a gruesome display even for this northern border city long used to drug-related violence.

Shortly after the grisly sighting about 5 a.m., police found the victim's head in a black bag in a nearby plaza, said state police spokesman Alejandro Pariente.

Pariente said the body was wearing black jeans, a red T-shirt and white sneakers, and was handcuffed. A banner apparently directed at rival drug-gang members was hung next to the corpse.

The victim's father identified the 23-year-old man.

Elsewhere, masked men gunned down two police officers in a convenience store in Chihuahua City, the capital of Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, said Eduardo Esparza, spokesman for the state attorney general's office. After the killing Wednesday evening, assailants left a toy pig next to the bodies. Two shoppers also were wounded.

On Tuesday, a man wearing a pig mask was found hung in a residence in Ciudad Juarez. Near the body was a message threatening to do the same to others. Police believe the message was from drug gangs.

Drug violence has been escalating across Mexico and cartels have turned to increasingly gruesome methods to send a message to their rivals and police. Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, has registered one of the highest murder rates in the country, with more than 1,000 people killed so far this year.

Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Police chief, 3 detectives gunned down in Mexico | World | - Houston Chronicle

More top law enforcement officers getting shot dead in Mexico. How sad for everyone involved.

MEXICO CITY — Gunmen killed a state police chief in the border city of Nogales and three police detectives in central Guanajuato state, as a wave of drug-related violence batters Mexican security forces, authorities said Monday.

In Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, authorities on Monday found the bullet-riddled bodies of six men in a vegetable warehouse along with more than 100 shell casings from assault rifles.

The bodies of three other men were found in a sport utility vehicle on a Tijuana street on Sunday. All had apparently been shot to death.

On Sunday night, Sonora state police chief Juan Manuel Pavon Felix was shot dead as he entered a hotel with his bodyguard and other officers, according to a statement from the state investigative police office.

Pavon had just finished directing police operations in the city, the statement said.

In Guanajuato, the state attorney general reported that gunmen killed three state police detectives on Monday at a restaurant near the border with the violence-plagued state of Michoacan, where drug cartels have been fighting bloody turf battles.

Scores of soldiers and police officers have been killed in escalating drug violence across Mexico.

On Monday, the government announced that a lawyer who has worked for the country's intelligence and national security agency, Rodrigo Esparza, has been named the new commissioner of federal police.

His predecessor, Gerardo Garay, resigned last week amid allegations that drug gangs have infiltrated senior levels of crime-fighting agencies.

Police chief, 3 detectives gunned down in Mexico | World | - Houston Chronicle

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mexican Toddler Killed While Fleeing Shootout With Mother (21 Dead in 24 Hours)

More dangerous than Iraq now? This is an amazing article.

TIJUANA, Mexico — Four men were shot dead in front of a crowd at an amusement park, a toddler died after the car he was traveling in crashed during a gunbattle, and a businessman was killed after leading a protest against violence, officials said Thursday.

All together, 21 people died during 24 hours across Mexico, which is waging a fierce battle against drug traffickers and other criminal gangs.

In Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, the four men were shot inside a go-cart rental at the Xtreme amusement park Wednesday night, said Alejandro Pariente, a spokesman for the local prosecutor's office. The park had been filled with teenagers, bicycling through obstacle courses, skating and rappelling.

Police had no suspects and had not disclosed possible motives for the shootings.

Elsewhere in the city, a used car salesman was shot to death while driving down a main boulevard hours after leading hundreds of other business owners in a protest against kidnappings and extortion, Pariente said.

The protesters had gathered at the Treasury Department's local offices, threatening to close their businesses or stop paying taxes if they did not receive police protection. One protester, who refused to give his name because he feared for his safety, said hundreds of business owners have been targeted by extortioners who demand up to US$500 a week for "protection" against crime. Others have been kidnapped for ransom.

In Tijuana, a 1-year-old boy was killed when the car he was riding in crashed as the driver tried to flee a gunbattle late Wednesday between police and three armed men, officials in the state prosecutor's office said. The toddler, who had been sitting in his mother's lap, died from the impact of the crash.

Two men were taken into custody after the shooting, and one officer was wounded.

Two other people were found dead early Thursday in Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, California, including a badly burned corpse left in a trash bin.

Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez have both seen nearly daily killings as Mexico is swept up in a wave of drug-related bloodshed. Officials blame the violence on cartels fighting over lucrative smuggling routes.

Elsewhere in northern Mexico, 10 gunmen were killed in running battles with state police in the city of Nogales, across the border from Nogales, Arizona, according to a police statement.

The fighting started when assailants in a car opened fire on police searching another vehicle. The police fired back, killing one of the armed men and injuring another.

The rest of the gunmen fled in both cars, at one point hurling grenades at the police pursuing them. One of the fleeing cars crashed into a wall, killing three gunmen. Three gunmen in the other car were killed in a subsequent shootout with the police, and others died at local hospitals.

Outside the northeastern city of Monterrey, meanwhile, a soldier, the director of a security firm and third man were found stabbed to death alongside a highway Wednesday, officials from the prosecutor's office said. At least 10 soldiers have been found dead in Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is located, in the past two weeks. - Mexican Toddler Killed While Fleeing Shootout With Mother - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News