Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Focus on U.S.-Mexico Cooperation Ignores Differing Interests in Drug War

One of the best detailed articles to appear anywhere on this topic. Reposted here in full.

Patrick Corcoran | 26 Mar 2008
World Politics Review Exclusive

TORRÉON, Mexico -- The Merida Initiative is a billion-dollar anti-drug aid package that only a kindergarten teacher could love: The results are not important, just the mere idea that the United States and Mexico are cooperating makes it worthwhile. The focus on the two countries overcoming their prickly past and learning to play nice ignores the fact that their interests in the war on drugs are not the same. What solves Mexican problems won't necessarily work on American ones, and what works for Washington could make things a lot worse south of the Rio Grande. The increased commitment and cooperation promised by the Merida Initiative can't change that.

The Mexican drug problem lies not in the consumption of cocaine, marijuana, or meth (though drug abuse is rising here), but rather in the incredible influence American users have indirectly bestowed upon the Mexican cartels, and the latter's tendency to solve problems and send messages with dead bodies. The United States has the opposite problem. There are no scandals about the nexus of political power and drug traffickers. Drug gangs are a general nuisance, a lethal danger in some communities, but the state is not threatened by cartels. Americans snort, smoke, and inject too much, but the nastiest symptoms of the drug wars rage south of the border.

The number of drug-related killings in Mexico has steadily increased over the past decade, topping out last year at around 2,500. Drug dealers wage war openly in border cities like Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana. Ricardo Ravelo, the dean of Mexican journalists on the narco beat, has estimated that half of the nation's cops are allied with the drug cartels. (Half!) With the possible exception of the mid-1990s, Mexico has never seemed so vulnerable to drug traffickers as it has over the past two years.

The scale of the violence reflects the degree to which drug trafficking has invaded Mexico's economy. The various cartels (the industry is in a constant state of flux, but most experts count about a half-dozen major cartels, with the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels being the most dominant) generate billions of dollars of revenue; nearly every expert agrees that the cartels' revenues exceed $10 billion annually, and some estimate a much greater total. One analyst, Samuel Gonzalez of the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, estimates the drug trade's slice of Mexico's economic pie at 4 percent. That 4 percent is no less active than legitimate money. Drug income reinvents and reproduces itself in the purchases of restaurants, cars, houses, and everything else such business brings with it. As Ravelo detailed in his 2005 book "Los Capos," many cities (your author's Torreón prominently included) rely on drug trafficking as a vital economic crutch.

Although its leaders might like to pretend otherwise, Mexico would suffer drastic economic consequences if the drug trade came to a screeching halt. The abrupt removal of 4 percent of the nation's economic activity would be equal to a severe recession. While Mexican society wants to rid itself of the cartels, it wouldn't sacrifice its economic well-being to do so. The late Jesús Blancornelas, Ravelo's legendary predecessor as the foremost chronicler of the drug trade, includes a revealing anecdote in his book "El Cártel:"

[Sinaloa Governor Juan Sigfrido Millán] remembered the first action of the army against the drug trafficking, called Operation Condor, and it was headed by José Hernández Toledo with great vigor. The effects were immediate: he weakened the mafias, but then something unexpected happened, according to the memory of Governor Millán: the automobile distributors, the real estate executives, the bank managers, and certain businessmen began to complain because of the drop in their sales or cash flow. "The economy plummeted," remembered the governor.

Hernández Toledo resisted and even scolded the businessmen eager for him to ease up, and Sinaloa remained relatively calm as long as the army was nearby. Eventually, though, the operation was weakened, and the cartels went right back to work along the state's long Pacific coast.

The consequences resulting from a too-sharp decline in drug trafficking wouldn't be strictly economic. Even if the Mexican government manages to reduce cartels' capacity to traffic drugs, the men running the organizations won't simply go get jobs selling insurance. Those not arrested or killed will probably branch off into other criminal fields, like bank robbery or kidnapping. Something like this has happened in the past five years or so in Tijuana, where the famous Arellano Felix cartel has been gravely debilitated. The cartel's erstwhile members have made the city increasingly unpleasant, if not uninhabitable. Since a kidnapping is more of a public nuisance than a peaceful drug transaction, separating criminal gangs from their sources and shutting down their smuggling routes is not a necessarily positive development in terms of public security.

The ideal scenario for Mexico would be the gradual replacement of the violence-prone supercartels with smaller and less ambitious drug trafficking groups that lack the means as well as the inclination to threaten the government. The drugs and the cash would keep flowing for the time being, but with less bloodshed. In time, Mexico could wean its economy off of its drug dependency. The Merida Initiative may be able to aid Mexico in this endeavor; Plan Colombia did coincide with the atomization of the Colombian drug trafficking organizations (apart from the guerilla groups and paramilitaries), and the baby cartels that dominate much of the landscape today are less menacing than was Pablo Escobar.

But based on the statements of American officials, no one is aiming for a reorganization of the Mexican cartels. In fact, it's hard to pin down exactly what the United States is aiming for. Officials talk admiringly about the Merida Initiative opening a new era of bilateral trust, but rarely do they link the rhetoric to concrete goals. Indeed, the entire thrust of American policy can be boiled down to one word: cooperation.

A few examples: the joint statement announcing the plan in October was titled, "A New Paradigm for Security Cooperation." Thomas Shannon, the State Department's top man in Latin America, told lawmakers in a congressional hearing, "The Merida Initiative would combine each nation's domestic efforts with broader regional cooperation to multiply the effects of our actions." John Negroponte, the State Department's No. 2, used an interview with Mexico's Televisa to strike the same themes: "[The Initiative] is a strategic cooperation between our two countries to fight this common problem." (In that one brief appearance, he used the magic word six other times as well.) The Barney-esque emphasis spans both sides of the border. Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa refused to call the Merida Initiative an aid package, opting instead for the friendlier "program of cooperation." A Google search of the words "Merida Initiative cooperation" yields more than 81,000 results.

What's missing in the comments above, and presumably the overwhelming majority of the 81,000 articles, is any articulation of objectives that goes beyond the one ubiquitous noun. The lack of complexity is partly explained by the fact that those quoted are government officials, and thereby incapable of speaking in anything other than broad platitudes. But even their platitudes reflect a lack of understanding. What they say about bilateral cooperation is true; a more trusting relationship would be great. The question is, to what end? More collaboration alone won't make an adequate solution to each nation's drug problem suddenly appear. Indeed, despite the enhanced relationship, it's a near certainty that for both nations a solution will remain out of reach.

There are three possible results of the Merida Initiative, none of which will satisfy both sides. The first is that despite some splashy takedowns of kingpins, nothing much changes, drugs continue entering the United States by the ton, and the cartels continue tormenting Mexico. The second is that, over the next five years, Mexico makes great strides in weakening the cartels and reducing the violence, and the bilateral pact is perceived as being a big part of that, but the drugs continue to flow northward through Mexico. The third, and least likely scenario, is that Mexico manages to reduce the drug trade to a shell of its former self and in five or 10 years is basically free of drug violence, thanks to in large part to the Merida Initiative.

The first two options, which will almost certainly end up being the actual result, are failures from an American point of view. The third option, which I wouldn't bet on even at 100 to 1 odds, could be even worse for Mexico. Whatever the end result, someone's walking away disappointed.

There are flaws with the plan's design -- for starters, there is way too much concentration on hardware, though Mexico's most immediate challenge is corrupt police -- but not even a perfectly conceived agreement could sweep under the rug the fact that the two countries want different results. Before sacrificing $1.4 billion to the altar of cooperation, both nations need to offer a more clear-headed analysis of this fundamental obstacle to bilateral drug policy.

Patrick Corcoran is a writer based in Torreón, Coahuila, in northern Mexico.

World Politics Review | Focus on U.S.-Mexico Cooperation Ignores Differing Interests in Drug War

Flood of Guns hits Mexico

Of course regular readers of Blog of the Gods know that much of the drug war is conducted among various law enforcement agencies in Mexico, so the claims made here don't ring entirely true. None the less there is no doubt that lots of guns are flowing south. Hey, it's one of the last things we make better than anyone else. Classic trade among nations, that.

JUAREZ, Mexico (CNN) -- A deadly trade is occurring along the U.S. border with Mexico, federal officials say -- a flood of guns, heading south, used by drug thugs to kill Mexican cops.

Authorities recently seized these .50-caliber bullets, already belted to be fed into a machine gun.

Mexico, guns are difficult to purchase legally. So, officials say, weapons easily purchased in the United States are turning up there.

"The same routes that are being used to traffic drugs north -- and the same organizations that have control over those routes -- are the same organizations that bring the money and the cash proceeds south as well as the guns and the ammunition," says Bill Newell, a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Police in Mexican border towns fear for their lives, and with good reason. Five high-ranking Mexican police officials have been killed this year in what Mexican officials say is an escalating war between police and drug cartels.

In Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, a police commander was gunned down in front of his home. The weapon used to kill Cmdr. Francisco Ledesma Salazar is believed to have been a .50-caliber rifle. The guns are illegal to purchase in Mexico but can be obtained just north of the border at gun shows and gun shops in the United States.

ATF special agent Tom Mangan says the .50-caliber rifle has become one of the "guns of choice" for the drug cartels. The weapon fires palm-sized .50-caliber rounds that can cut through just about anything.

Mangan showed CNN the power of the rifle on a gun range near Phoenix, Arizona. The weapon, a Barrett, was seized in an ATF raid. A round fired from 100 yards away tore through a car door and both sides of a bulletproof vest like those used by Mexican police.

"There's nothing that's going to stop this round," Mangan says.

The rifle was intercepted as it was being smuggled into Mexico. Mangan says investigators believe four others already had passed through the border.

The ATF has been trying to help Mexican police by cracking down on illegal purchases of guns and ammunition. Operation Gunrunner has led to several arrests and seizures of guns and ammo. But the operation has mainly shown just how big a problem exists, authorities say.

One recent seizure in a Yuma, Arizona, storage locker yielded 42 weapons and hundreds of rounds of .50-caliber bullets already belted to be fed into a machine gun-style weapon.

The guns confiscated included AK-47 rifles and dozens of Fabrique National pistols. The semiautomatic pistols fire a 5.7-by-28 millimeter round, which is technically a rifle round, according to the ATF. Newell says the round has a special nickname in Mexico. "It's called 'mata policias,' or 'cop killer,' " he says.

Mexican authorities along the border recently met with their counterparts in the United States, hoping more cooperation will lead to more arrests of criminals and fewer killings of Mexican police officers.

Guillermo Fonseca, Mexico's regional legal attaché for the West Coast, told CNN the violence in his country is "problem number 1" -- and police in his country are outgunned. Officers in Mexico lack heavy firepower, he says. With the presence of large-caliber weapons from the United States, drug cartels and criminals have the advantage in what he says is basically a war. Part of the solution, he says, is for the United States to give Mexico more information about who is selling these guns illegally in the United States. Then Mexico could go after the buyers.

"We have access to systems to trace guns that have been smuggled into Mexico, and that has worked very well," Fonseca told CNN. "We need more information about the people who are actually purchasing the guns. We need to prosecute those people, to convict those people. In our opinion, that's the next step we have to take."

Last year Mexican police confiscated 10,000 guns and $200 million in raids aimed at cracking down on border violence. Still, local police tread carefully, especially in neighborhoods controlled by the powerful drug cartels.

Officer Cesar Quitana patrols a dangerous barrio in Juarez, Mexico. He is armed with an M16 assault rifle -- a weapon that would be no match in a gunfight with drug lords.

"I think most of us feel scared just to bring this with us," he says, pointing to the rifle in the front seat of his patrol car. "But this is what we use to defend ourselves."

Sorry no link, got this on email.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mexican Police Find Four Burned Bodies

There are a lot of cities in Mexico that no one wants to enter, due to the completely out of control violence there.

EL PASO, Texas -- The killings in Juarez have spread outside of city limits and into other Mexican cities.

This after police said 4 cops were found dead and burned in the city of Palomas, Mexico, Friday.

The owner of the “Los Lamenots” ranch found the bodies and made the call to authorities.

The violence has gotten so bad, officials have advised for no one to enter the city.
Mexican Police Find Four Burned Bodies - News Story - KFOX El Paso

Gunmen kill 5 in attack on Mexico police | Reuters

The drug wars rage in Mexico City, too. How sad for Mexico.

MEXICO CITY, March 22 (Reuters) - Suspected drug cartel gunmen killed five people in an attack on a police station in central Mexico and during their subsequent escape, authorities said on Saturday.

At least six masked, heavily armed men raided the police station in the town of Jerecuaro, in the state of Guanajuato, on Friday, shooting and killing two police officers and a secretary.

Making their escape in sport utility vehicles, they gunned down another two police officers on a nearby highway, state authorities said.

Police later found one of the gunmen dead of a gunshot wound in one of three abandoned bullet-riddled vehicles that also contained hand grenades, assault rifles, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, cocaine and police uniforms.

State police said the attack might have been a reprisal for a recent crackdown on drug cartels.

President Felipe Calderon has deployed thousands of soldiers and federal police to hot spots across Mexico, where cartel violence has killed more than 500 people so far this year, according to media, and left more than 2,500 dead in 2007.

In the Gulf coast state of Veracruz on Saturday, gunmen attacked a military checkpoint on a highway, killing one soldier before escaping, the army said in a statement.

More than 20 people were found dead in Mexico on Friday in violence linked to drug cartels, media reported. (Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Gunmen kill 5 in attack on Mexico police | Reuters

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mass grave unearthed in midst of Mexico's drug war - Los Angeles Times

Mass grave unearthed in midst of Mexico's drug war

By Marla Dickerson and Richard Marosi, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
March 15, 2008
MEXICO CITY -- Authorities in Ciudad Juarez said Friday that they had uncovered the remains of 33 people buried in the yard of an abandoned property, a mass grave believed to be linked to the city's violent drug trade.

The grisly discovery surfaced as part of a recent government crackdown on narcotics traffickers in this city across the border from El Paso that has been gripped by a spasm of drug-related killing unseen in years. Authorities said the Juarez drug cartel might be involved in the deaths.

The same area attracted worldwide attention for the violent deaths of hundreds of women and girls beginning in the early 1990s. Many of the cases remain unsolved.

Acting on an anonymous tip, federal police on March 1 began excavating a weedy lot hidden behind a cinder-block wall in a low-income neighborhood on the city's west side. Day one yielded six corpses. It took law enforcement nearly two weeks to uncover the other remains, working with sniffer dogs, shovels and a backhoe.

EARLIER FIND: Authorities excavate nine bodies recently from a yard in the border town of Ciudad Juarez. Officials believe that and the latest discovery to be the result of an almost routine effort by drug traffickers to reprimand members in their ranks.
The remains of 33 people are found in a shallow grave on an abandoned property in the border town of Ciudad Juarez.

All but three of the victims were men. Some were dismembered. Forensics experts said some of the corpses may have been buried for as long as five years. Police confirmed the body count Friday.

The discovery stunned neighbors in the normally tranquil La Cuesta neighborhood.

"We never imagined we were living across from a tomb," said one neighbor, who like others interviewed declined to be named for fear of reprisal.

It's the second such find in less than a month. Federal authorities unearthed nine bodies buried in the yard of a Ciudad Juarez home in late February after a drug bust.

Security experts say the discovery of old graves is a result of recent government efforts to strike hard at Mexico's drug cartels. Military and federal police have been deployed to Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and other trafficking hot spots across the country, a strategy that has resulted in some major drug and weapons seizures as well as some high-profile arrests.

This week, Gustavo Rivera Martinez, an alleged leader of the Arellano Felix cartel, was nabbed in Cabo San Lucas by federal agents. Mario Montemayor Covarrubias, identified by Mexican news media as a key leader of a kidnapping cell of the cartel, was arrested in Tijuana earlier this month after a seven-hour shootout with authorities.

Organized crime has resorted to unprecedented violence to intimidate informants and police. Dozens of people have been killed in drug-related slayings this year in Ciudad Juarez, authorities have said. Drug violence has claimed at least 70 victims in Tijuana. Some have been mutilated and left with gruesome messages warning informants not to cooperate with law enforcement. Police officers have been gunned down in their homes in front of their families.

In January, gunmen stormed the home of Tijuana Deputy Police Chief Margarito Saldana Rivera, 43, killing him, his wife and his two daughters, ages 12 and 20. Hours earlier another high-ranking officer and his deputy were shot as they sat in their car at a busy intersection. The attacks were believed to be in retaliation for the officers' helping foil the robbery of an armored car.

This week, gunmen also killed an immigrant safety officer as he patrolled a dangerous migrant-smuggling neighborhood near the border in Tijuana.

Organized crime's violent reaction shows that the latest crackdown is working, experts say.

"I'm inclined to believe that they are sticking with a confrontational policy that leads to these kinds of gun battles and high-profile shootouts," said Robert Donnelly, the coordinator of the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute. In contrast, experts said the 42 bodies unearthed at the two locations recently in Ciudad Juarez didn't appear to be part of the recent campaign of retribution, but a clandestine, almost routine, effort on the part of drug traffickers to reprimand members in their ranks.

"If you have a problem with a distributor or someone who's selling the drugs, you don't file a lawsuit against him. You just kill him," said Jorge Chabat, a security expert at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City. "It's a way of establishing discipline."

Seasoned observers of Ciudad Juarez's drug wars said the latest discovery had a decidedly old-school flavor, if only because the killers took the trouble to bury the bodies. Since the 1990s, drug enforcers have evolved from dumping bodies in shallow graves to hiding them in car trunks to wrapping them in blankets to simply leaving them where they drop, said Louie Gilot, who writes about border affairs for the El Paso Times.

"In the past they'd be somewhat discreet, but they're getting bolder and bolder," Gilot said. "Now they just kill them in front of people in broad daylight."

Residents of Pedregal Street, where the 33 corpses were unearthed, said there was very little coming-and-going at the abandoned property. It consisted of little more than a small garage-type structure and a weed-choked lot surrounded by a cinder-block wall and a solid, locked metal gate that blocked their view.

One neighbor recalled strangers entering occasionally on weekends, and smelling the smoke of their barbecue.

"A lot of guys went in, but it was very quiet," the neighbor said. "We never saw luxury cars or anything suspicious."

Another remembered heavy vehicles entering with what neighbors thought might be loads of produce.

"We saw trucks and trailers entering with fruit. At least that's what we thought it was."

Mass grave unearthed in midst of Mexico's drug war - Los Angeles Times

Drug cartels terrorize Mexico border region

"Drug traffickers are waging a terror campaign. The security of the nation is at stake." Yes, that's what is going on. So far the response, from either side of the border, has been completely inadequate to the scale of the problem.

Drug cartels terrorize Mexico border region

TIJUANA, Mexico — The killers prowled through Loma Bonita in the pre-dawn chill.

In silence, they navigated a labyrinth of wood shacks at the crest of a dirt lane in the blighted Tijuana neighborhood, police say. They were looking for Margarito Saldana, an easygoing 43-year-old district police commander. They found a house full of sleeping people.

Neighbors quivered at the crack of AK-47 assault rifles blasting inside Saldana's tiny home. Rafael Garcia, an unemployed laborer who lives nearby, recalled thinking "it was a fireworks show," then sliding under his bed in fear.

In murdering not only Saldana, but also his wife, Sandra, and their 12-year-old daughter, Valeria, the Loma Bonita killers violated a rarely broken rule of Mexico's drug cartel underworld: Family should remain free from harm. The slayings capped five harrowing hours during which the assassins methodically hunted down and murdered two other police officers and mistakenly killed a 3-year-old boy and his mother.

The brutality of what unfolded in the overnight hours of Jan. 14 and early Jan. 15 is a grim hallmark of a crisis that has cast a pall over the United States' southern neighbor. Events in three border cities over the past three months illustrate the military and financial power of Mexico's cartels and the extent of their reach into a society shaken by fear.

More than 20,000 Mexican troops and federal police are engaged in a multi-front war with the private armies of rival drug lords, a conflict that is being waged most fiercely along the 2,000-mile length of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The proximity of the violence has drawn in the Bush administration, which has proposed a $500 million annual aid package to help President Felipe Calderon combat what a Government Accountability Office report estimates is Mexico's $23 billion-a-year drug trade.

A total of more than 4,800 Mexicans were slain in 2006 and 2007, making the murder rate in each of those years twice that of 2005. Law enforcement officials and journalists, politicians and peasants have been gunned down in the wave of violence, which includes mass executions, such as the five people whose bodies were found on a ranch outside Tijuana this month.

Like the increasing number of Mexicans heading over the border in fear, the violence itself is spilling into the United States, where a Border Patrol agent was recently killed while chasing suspected traffickers.

"The situation is deteriorating," said Victor Clark, a Tijuana human rights activist and drug expert. "Drug traffickers are waging a terror campaign. The security of the nation is at stake."

More than 1,900 miles southeast of Tijuana, the city of Reynosa stretches along the Rio Grande across from south Texas. This is Gulf cartel country, a region dominated by the cartel's private army, Los Zetas. Their arsenal befits a military brigade, exceeding those of some Mexican army units.

Led by Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, Los Zetas are a highly disciplined mercenary squad composed of former elite Mexican troops, including officers trained by the U.S. military before they deserted. The group has become an obsession of Calderon's administration, which has sent more than a thousand troops to Reynosa and neighboring cities.

Soldiers crowd the slender canal bridges that crisscross Reynosa, stopping drivers at random and staring across the cityscape with their fingers on the triggers of heavy weapons.

The tense atmosphere has led to mistakes. On Feb. 16, soldiers fatally shot Sergio Meza Varela, a 28-year-old with no apparent ties to the drug trade, when the car he was riding in did not stop at a checkpoint.

"You're scared to leave your house," Alejandra Salinas, Meza's cousin, said outside the family tire shop. "We're just in the way."

In Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, the growing Sinaloa cartel is fighting rivals over smuggling routes. But in Reynosa, police say, only Mexican soldiers threaten the Gulf cartel's control.

To prepare for battle, Los Zetas have stocked safe houses with antitank weapons, assault rifles, grenades and other heavy weapons, including some that Mexican law enforcement authorities believe once belonged to the U.S. Army.

"How can I fight them?" asked Juan Jose Muniz Salinas, Reynosa's police chief. "It's impossible."

The mounting evidence that cartels have infiltrated many border police forces has prompted drastic action. In Reynosa, soldiers disarmed the entire police force in January, leaving them without weapons for 19 days while ballistics tests were conducted. Police officers, who make $625 a month, were also forced to provide voice samples for comparison with recordings of threats made over police radios.

"It wasn't worth it," said Muniz Salinas, the police chief. "They come after us, but it's other authorities that are really involved. Look at the state police, the federal police and the military."

One of every two police officers murdered in Mexico today is directly involved with drug gangs, according to estimates by police officials, prosecutors and drug experts.

Tijuana's new police chief, Jesus Alberto Capella, nicknamed "Tijuana Rambo" because he fought his way out of an assassination attempt shortly before taking office, estimates that 15 percent of the city's 2,300 police officers work for drug cartels, earning a monthly stipend as bodyguards, kidnappers or assassins. In Baja California alone, Mexican justice officials estimate that 30 percent of the local and federal police force is on a cartel payroll.

"We have the enemy in our house," Capella said.

In response, authorities in Baja California and several other border states have begun giving police polygraph tests. The questions range from the innocuous to queries such as "Have you ever worked with a drug trafficker?"

Rommel Moreno Manjarrez, Baja California's attorney general, said in an interview that out of every 1,000 officers tested, 700 fail.

"It's impossible for the narco to succeed without the help of the police," he said. "The success that the narco has been having is because of the police."

Original Story Here

Mexican police chief requests asylum in New Mexico 

More proof, if any is needed, that the situation in Mexico remains grim. The police are overmatched by the drug gangs.

DEMING, N.M. (AP) - The police chief of a Mexican border town has requested asylum in the United States, where he told authorities his two officers have fled and he does not know their whereabouts.
The Luna County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Border Patrol say Emilio Perez of Palomas came to the port of entry at Columbus late Tuesday night, requesting political asylum.

The agent-in-charge of the Border Patrol station in Deming, Rick Moody, says Perez is in the protection of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

Authorities have reported an increase in drug-related violence in Palomas, where at least four people have been fatally shot in recent weeks. - Mexican police chief requests asylum in New Mexico 

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Migrant kidnappings by Mexican cops on the rise

Mexican officials prey on Central American refugees while their government insists we treat every illegal like a well loved child. Mexico- heal thyself.

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Cases of corrupt Mexican police kidnapping undocumented Central American migrants for ransom as they travel overland to the United States are on the rise, a United Nations official said on Saturday.

Jorge Bustamante, the U.N.'s special investigator for migrant rights, said extorting ransoms from migrants could be more lucrative for unscrupulous police than working for drug smuggling gangs.

"They kidnap migrants, ask them for information, relatives' phone numbers; then they extort money from the families," Bustamante said, presenting the conclusions of a week-long study of how undocumented migrants are treated in Mexico.

Bustamante told a news conference both federal and local police were involved in kidnapping rackets on Mexico's northern and southern borders. "It's an abuse and it's increasing," he said.

Tens of thousands of poor Central Americans make the long trek north through Mexico each year on their way to cross the U.S. border illegally. Many are mistreated and forced to pay bribes by both criminal gangs and police.

Bustamante said he met a Salvadoran man in the southern Mexican city of Tapachula who said his wife was still missing after police recently abducted and held the couple.

"It's a big business that involves everyone from taxi drivers to police chiefs. It's a business whose profits rival those of drug trafficking," Bustamante said.

Bustamante, who was invited to carry out his study by the Mexican government, criticized Mexico for doing little to improve the lot of migrants on its territory while at the same time demanding better treatment from the United States of illegal Mexican migrants there.

(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Eric Walsh)

Migrant kidnappings by Mexican cops on the rise: U.N.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Mexico Seizes Arsenal, Drugs in Tijuana

Thank goodness it was only a 'brief shootout'. That's nice for a change.

By LUIS PEREZ – 11 hours ago

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Soldiers seized assault rifles, grenades, marijuana and bulletproof vests bearing police insignia after a brief shootout in the Mexican border city of Tijuana.

No one was wounded in the overnight exchange of fire with three suspects hunkered down in a house in La Mesa district, army Gen. Sergio Aponte Polito told reporters Friday.

Troops seized 91 assault rifles — some with butts of gold and ivory — along with 18 grenades, the bulletproof vests and more than 880 pounds of marijuana, Aponte Polito said. The three suspects, aged 25 to 33, were arrested.

The bust followed weeks of bloody confrontations along the U.S.-Mexico border between Mexican security forces and alleged drug cartel gunmen.

On Tuesday, army troops fought a seven-hour gunbattle with suspects who were hiding in a house in an upscale neighborhood of Tijuana.

When soldiers finally stormed the house, one person was found dead and two others were arrested. Several assault rifles, shotguns and police uniforms were also found.

Also Friday, police commander Ricardo Rodriguez was shot dead in a city plaza by gunmen who opened fire with assault rifles from a moving car, state police director Daniel Camarena said.

Rodriguez was killed a day after three mutilated bodies were dumped outside the offices of the federal Attorney General's office in Oaxaca.

And in the border state of Tamaulipas, soldiers arrested six police officers who allegedly received payoffs from members of the Gulf cartel, Mexico's Defense Department said in a statement.

Associated Press: Mexico Seizes Arsenal, Drugs in Tijuana