Monday, June 30, 2008

The drug war just across the border

We can give $1.6 billion to Mexico to fight this war but I don't think it's going to make a difference. The corruption is too widespread. One suspects a lot of it will be siphoned off by the very people we are hoping to fight.

Somehow I've missed the "heads in ice-coolers" part of this story up till now. Interesting twist on a now-common tactic in the MexiDrugWar: beheading.

Is Mexico more dangerous than Iraq now? At some point the decreasing violence in Iraq line and the increasing violence in Mexico line will cross.

Clarence Page
June 29, 2008
As if our military didn't have its hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, the head of the Minuteman Project border security group seems to think Minutemen might make good narcotics cops.

Minuteman co-founder Jim Gilchrist suggested in recent radio interviews that the U.S. give Mexico 12 months to corral its criminal drug cartels and rising violence, particularly in border towns such as Juarez and Tijuana—or deploy the U.S. Army to do the job.

That's the Minutemen. Their remedies for the drug war next door sound simplistic, but at least they're paying attention.

While most of us north of the border have been absorbed with our presidential sweepstakes and other happenings, our southern neighbor has exploded into the full-scale drug violence previously associated with Colombia or Peru.

For now, we're not sending troops, just money. The Senate last Thursday approved a $1.6 billion, three-year package of anti-drug assistance to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Known as the "Merida Initiative," it includes $400 million for military equipment and technical assistance for Mexico's anti-drug fight. The bill was passed earlier by the House and President Bush is expected to sign it.

Mexico's government cheered the bill because it waters down proposed restrictions that would have required Mexico to change the way it handles allegations of human rights abuses by its military. Mexican leaders threatened to reject the money if there were too many restrictions on their sovereignty.

But the omission brought jeers from Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, such as the Friends of Brad Will, founded in the name of a freelance New York journalist who was shot and killed while shooting video of a teachers strike in Oaxaca two years ago. A native of Chicago's North Shore, Will was 36.

His final video shows protesters hurling rocks and captures the sounds of gunshots, along with a shout: "Stop taking photos!" A shot is heard whizzing toward Will. He was struck in the abdomen and once in the right side.

Within days, state authorities took two men into custody, a local town councilor and his security chief. But they were released less than two months later. A state judge ruled that they were not close enough to have shot Will.

No further suspects were brought in. Publicity eventually helped nudge federal authorities into taking the case over, but they have not made much more progress. Capturing his own killing on video did not save Will from becoming one of thousands of casualties related to drugs or politics in Mexico in recent years.

Twenty-one journalists have been killed in Mexico, seven of them in direct reprisal for their work, since 2000, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, of which I am a board member. Seven others have disappeared in the last three years.

"Mexico is not at war," said Joel Simon, executive director of CPJ. "And yet it is one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press."

But that's only a sliver of the thousands of drug-related murders of non-journalists in Mexico. By various counts, more than 4,000 people—including some 500 local, state and federal police officers—have been killed in the 18 months since President Felipe Calderon launched his campaign against the drug gangs.

Gang wars have escalated in recent years over smuggling routes to the United States and over control of local police forces. Among other particularly grisly touches, drug gangs in the northern state of Durango recently have left severed heads with warning notes attached in coolers by the side of the road.

Journalists such as Francisco Ortiz Franco, co-editor of the Tijuana newsweekly Zeta, have been killed for aggressively covering corruption and drug trafficking. At age 50, Franco was fatally shot in front of his children on a downtown Tijuana street.

Cases like his led to a meeting between President Calderon, who has sent federal troops in to bring peace to some towns, and CPJ board members, including me, in Mexico City June 9. Among other press freedom reforms, Calderon agreed to work toward laws that would protect speech and press freedoms at the federal level, not just the states, where corruption is more rampant.

With hundreds of millions of Washington anti-drug dollars still pending at the time, Calderon had ample reason to speak in glowing terms about human rights reforms. Now he needs to follow his talk with action—and Americans need to keep an eye on how well our money is being used.

The drug war just across the border --

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Pharr man found tortured, shot dead in Reynosa[South Texas/Mexico]

Going to these border towns to get drunk is like taking a vacation in the Gaza Strip. Not a very bright thing to do.

McALLEN - A local resident was found wrapped, tortured and shot execution-style in Reynosa on Friday, according to a Mexican news report released Sunday.

Ramiro Torres Hernández, 24, - a manager of a Burger King in McAllen - was found inside an abandoned vehicle's trunk in a rural field heading toward Rio Bravo in Ejido El Porvenir, El Universal wire service reported.

Tamaulipas state police identified Torres as a Pharr resident.

His visibly tortured body was wrapped in a blanket inside the trunk of a white 2000 Buick sporting Texas license plates, El Universal reported. He had been shot in the head.

Reynosa resident Javier Hernández García, 45, identified Torres as his nephew.

Hernández told authorities Torres arrived drunk in Reynosa on Wednesday at about 3 p.m. About an hour later, Torres went out to buy some more beer and never returned, El Universal reported the uncle as saying.

Mexican authorities were continuing their investigation late Sunday.

Pharr man found tortured, shot dead in Reynosa[South Texas/Mexico]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mexican Army Members Busted for Home Invasion and Murder (Phoenix, AZ)

Hopefully we will get more details later. Whether they are active Mexican Army, retired, ore merely drug gang militia it probably doesn't matter much to the people they were jacking up.

As BOTG has predicted and now sees, the border chaos is not limited to the Mexican side. It's not even limited to the border, it is spreading like a malignant cancer into our cities small and large.

Police reports show that three men arrested in a Phoenix home invasion and homicide Monday may have been active members of the Mexican Army.

While on the J.D. Hayworth show, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Mark Spencer said that the men involved were hired by drug cartels to perform home invasions and assassinations.

The Monday morning incident at 8329 W. Cypress St. resulted in the death of the homeowner. Between 50 and 100 rounds were fired at the house.

Spencer said a police officer told him that one of the men captured said they were completely prepared to ambush Phoenix police, but ran out of ammunition.

He added that all were all dressed in military tactical gear and were armed with AR-15 assault rifles. Three other men involved in the invasion escaped.

Click Here to listen to Mark Spencer's entire interview on the J.D. Hayworth show.

However, Phoenix Police have not confirmed the men were Mexican Army members.

Sgt. Joel Tranter said one suspect revealed that he had "prior military training," but "no credible evidence" that any of them were active in the military.

KFYI - "The Valley's Talk Station"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

5 Assassinated in Novolato

Mexico City, Jun 22 (EFE).- Police found the bodies of five people who were killed with AK-47 assault rifles in Novolato, a city in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, in an apparent settling of scores between organized-crime groups, prosecutors told Efe.

The bodies were found early Saturday lined up on the edge of an irrigation canal at the main entrance to the city's San Pedro neighborhood.

"The five bodies had the hands tied behind their backs and were betweeen 25 and 30 years" old, a spokesman for the Sinaloa Attorney General's Office said.

Police found 104 bullet casings from AK-47 assault rifles at the crime scene, leading investigators to conclude the victims were gunned down by organized-crime groups.

The bodies did not have any identification on them, but three of the victims were apparently reported missing on Friday, officials said.

"Two of every three homicides in this state are linked to organized crime due to the modus operandi," the Sinaloa Attorney General's Office spokesman said.

So far this year, there have been 395 murders linked to organized crime in Sinaloa, or about 2.2 per day.

Last week, gunmen believed to be working for organized-crime groups murdered a police officer in Sinaloa.

Officer Ricardo Beltran Villa was gunned down in Culiacan, where the government deployed 2,700 soldiers and federal agents last month in an effort to stem the wave of drug-related violence.

Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, is one of the cities most affected by drug trafficking in Mexico.

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 more than 2,700 people in 2007, and the death toll so far this year stands at some 1,700.

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, and has been a major headache for authorities and rival drug lords ever since.

Guzman, considered extremely violent, is one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and the United States, where the Drug Enforcement Administration has offered a reward of $5 million for him.

On May 10, officials confirmed the death of Edgar Guzman, one of the drug lord's six sons, in a shootout in Culiacan in which gunmen used grenade launchers and bazookas.

The killing of the Sinaloa cartel chief's son and the arrest soon after of his cousin, Alfonso Gutierrez Loera, 25, prompted analysts to predict a new wave of violence in Mexico.

Analysts, moreover, said Guzman has been waging a battle for control of the cartel with the Beltran Leyva brothers.

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.

Some 40 army and navy personnel, 30 federal police officers and about 200 state law-enforcement agents were killed last year, with most of the killings occurring in northern and southern Mexico, according to official figures.

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

Macro*World Investor

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ciudad Juarez: 3 police officers killed in gunbattle

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - Drug cartels are believed to be behind a series of banners hung Monday in this crime-ridden border city that blamed rival gangs for spiraling violence.

The six banners appeared along different avenues of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, city police spokesman Jaime Torres said. They were taken down immediately.

One of the banners blamed reputed Sinaloa drug-cartel chief Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman for the city's rising crime, including brazen daylight shootouts and increasing numbers of homicides.

"You know that before there wasn't this type of violence," the banner said.

Juarez, located in the northern state of Chihuahua and home base of the powerful Juarez drug cartel, has been among the hardest-hit cities in an explosion of violence across Mexico.

More than a dozen police officers have been killed in the city this year, and several bystanders, including a pregnant woman and a 12-year-old girl, have been killed in the crossfire.

In the neighboring state of Sonora, one state police officer and two federal agents were killed in a running battle with dozens of gunmen that lasted several hours Sunday, Sonora Gov. Eduardo Bours said Monday. One of the gunmen was wounded.

President Felipe Calderon and top police officials say the increasing violence that has plagued numerous states across the country is the cartels' response to a nationwide, organized crime crackdown in which they have sent thousands of police and soldiers to drug hotspots, including Juarez.

Now: Mexican officials say cartels hung signs; 3 police officers killed in gunbattle | police, juarez, city :

Americans Missing in Mexico a Diplomatic Priority, Says Texas Congressman -- 06/17/2008

By Penny Starr Senior Staff Writer
June 17, 2008

( - The more than two dozen U.S. citizens who have disappeared in recent years in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, should be accounted for, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D.-Texas), told Cybercast News Service .

Cuellar said he believes U.S. law enforcement at the local, state, and federal level are "doing their best," but that Mexico is a sovereign nation and does not view solving these cases as a priority.

"The problem is the jurisdiction of another country," said Cuellar, whose constituency includes the border town of Laredo - Nuevo Laredo, Mexico is less than one mile away. "If it was people missing on this side, I think we would be talking about another story."

But in the case of Americans who traveled from Laredo to Nuevo Laredo and were never seen again, Cuellar said it is up to the Mexicans to solve these cases.

"How do you get the Mexican government to respond?" Cuellar said.

He then used the word "frustrated" to describe how he and the families whose relatives have disappeared feel as years pass without any concrete information about what happened to their loved ones. Although many of the cases are considered kidnappings by the FBI - as confirmed by the Bureau for -- without witnesses Mexican authorities consider these individuals as missing.

The U.S. State Department told Cybercast News Service that it does not make public the number of Americans who are kidnapped or missing aboard, a fact Cuellar finds unacceptable.

"I think that information should be available," Cuellar said. "I will be talking to the State Department about that."

Cuellar said he has made violence along the U.S.-Mexico border a priority in his two terms in Congress. But he said he became acutely aware of how many families had lost loved ones in Mexico when William Slemaker, who lives in Laredo, contacted his office in early 2005.

Slemaker's stepdaughter, Yvette Martinez, and her friend, Brenda Cisneros, went to Nuevo Laredo to see a concert on Sept. 17, 2004, and never returned home. As Slemaker searched for his daughter, he discovered that many other families had experienced the same kind of tragedy. With the help of friends, Slemaker started the Web site to draw attention to the dozens of Americans in Laredo who have gone missing in Mexico.

Cuellar said he has worked to try to bring attention to Slemaker's daughter and the missing relatives of other families, including writing letters to President Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nevada). Aside from acknowledging they had received the letters, nothing was done, Cuellar said.

Cuellar said he has also contacted Mexican President Felipe Calderon and has met with other high-ranking Mexican authorities, including Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, the Mexican attorney general, with no tangible results.

The most promising response, Cuellar said, came from U.S. Ambassador Antonio Garza, who about two years ago formed a joint task force consisting of U.S. and Mexican law enforcement personnel. The idea was to encourage cooperation to solve violence along the U.S.-Mexico border, including the cases of Americans who disappeared in Mexico.

To date, however, Cuellar could not say what the task force has accomplished.

"We're still waiting on an update on that," Cuellar said.

As for Slemaker, he admits his daughter made some bad decisions, including marrying a man who had been convicted and jailed on drug charges. But that does not mean his family is unaffected, including closure for his daughter's two young daughters, now 12 and 11, who he and his wife, Maria, are now rearing since their mother's disappearance.

Cuellar agreed and said that whether Americans missing in Mexico were involved in drugs or other illegal activities - or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - their families deserve respect.

"I want to do everything possible to get answers," Cuellar said. "They definitely have to give the families closure."

Americans Missing in Mexico a Diplomatic Priority, Says Texas Congressman -- 06/17/2008

Monday, June 16, 2008 - International Editor of the Year Award

Three brave Mexican editors recieve the "Editor of the Year" award after dying in the line of duty covering the Mexican drug wars.

Since 1975, has presented the International Editor of the Year Award to an editor or editors outside the United States whose work best exemplifies the principles of journalism.

In recognition of enterprise, courage and leadership in advancing the freedom and responsibility of the press, enhancing human rights and fostering excellence in journalism, our 2005-2006 choice honors three Mexican journalists posthumously.

Raúl Gibb Guerrero, Dolores Guadalupe García Escamilla and Alfredo Jiménez Mota gave the ultimate sacrifice in their pursuit of journalistic excellence and freedom of press. Their courage, tenacity, and dedication in covering sensitive subjects, especially drug trafficking, caused them to live in a danger zone of threats and violence, which ultimately led to their murders. They led three very separate lives, but had the love of their country and press freedom in common. - International Editor of the Year Award

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Three Girls Used by Mexican Drug Gangs as Shields, One Dies

deutsche presse via email, no url | 6/11/8

Posted on Wednesday, June 11, 2008 10:15:57 AM by NativeNewYorker

Mexico City (dpa) - A 12-year-old girl died in northern Mexico after alleged members of a drug gang forced her and two friends into a van, apparently using them as human shields in a shootout, Mexican media reported Wednesday.

The girl reportedly died on Monday in Ciudad Juarez, a violent city on the border with the United States. The girls were in a park when they were forced into the van. Later, they were used in a shootout with another vehicle.

The authorities presumed the drug gang attempted to use the girls as a shield, to keep at bay a rival group that was chasing them.

Around the abandoned van, police found 21 AK-47 bullet shells.

In the back seat they found the body of a girl. Her two friends were found alive, although one of them suffered non-life-threatening wounds.

The rival gang reportedly took the van driver, while another person travelling with the girls managed to escape.

Chihuahua state Governor Jose Reyes Baeza asked the central government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon ``to intensify the presence of security forces in the state'' to contain the ongoing wave of violence and prevent the deaths of more innocent people.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Crime wave forces Mexican upper-class residents to flee - People's Daily Online

Horrific details of the kidnapping wave. Focus on TJ buy Nuevo Laredo has has the same problem for years now, and it is seeping across the border.
A crime wave has led to an exodus of upper-class residents at Mexican border towns to flee to the United States to escape kidnappings and violence in Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.

Such migrations have become increasingly common in metropolitan areas along the U.S.-Mexico border, as the ongoing violence of a brutal drug war has disrupted lives in Mexican border towns like Tijuana and Nuevo Laredo, the paper said.

The Mexican government has sent more than 3,000 troops into Tijuana in the last 1 1/2 years, and on several occasions soldiers have shot it out with drug cartel gunmen on residential streets.

Real estate agents tell of clients with fingers missing, sliced off by kidnappers who sent them to relatives as proof the victims were alive.

Tijuana, which borders San Diego, about 80 miles (128 kilometers) south of Los Angeles, suffers more kidnappings than almost any other city outside Baghdad, the report said.

As the crime wave was mounting, most abductions are not reported to authorities, but victim support groups and others estimate the number in the hundreds in the last three to four years, according to the report.

Experts say the Mexican government's crackdown on drug cartels may have inadvertently intensified the problem.

With Tijuana's major organized crime group, the Arellano Felix drug cartel, ravaged by arrests and killings, cartel lieutenants have been turning more and more to kidnappings to supplement their dwindling drug profits, the report said.

Crime wave forces Mexican upper-class residents to flee - People's Daily Online

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Mexico Violence Brings Wounded Man To Thomason Hospital - News Story - KFOX El Paso

As regular readers of Blog of the Gods know Mexican drug fueds often extend from the street to the hospital where the woulded are given the coup-de-grace by their assassins. So the American hospital staff has done very well to take extra precautions.

Thomason Hospital was on lockdown Friday night after a patient arrived with ties to the violence in Mexico.

Administrators said they were on heightened alert and have asked the El Paso County Sheriff's Office to assist in security.

Outside the hospital, it's evident with sheriff's deputies on the campus, security is tighter.

Inside we're told all visitors must pass though screening, including metal detectors.

Hospital officials said the unidentified man was brought to Thomason with multiple gunshot wounds.

"Apparently the patient had been flown to Juarez from another Mexican community and then was taken to the Bridge of the Americas," said Margaret Althoff-Olivas, hospital director of communications.

Two women claiming to be the wife and sister of the victim said the victim is a sub-director at the Casas Grandes Police Department, just outside of Juarez.

But security at the hospital would not tell them much more than they told KFOX.

El Paso County sheriff's spokesman, Jesse Tovar, said, "I can't confirm or release exactly who he was, what was his role, what he did, what was he part of all. I can say is we're taking necessary measures for the security of the hospital staff patients and visitors."

For fear of death or further violence, the family declined to speak on camera, but they said the victim called Thursday at 8 p.m. telling them he had been shot and would be taken to El Paso in the morning for treatment where security was heightened.

"Unfortunately for our patients and visitors and staff we have had to put the hospital on lockdown." said Althoff-Olivas

Visitors to Thomason Hospital said they were either turned away or asked to go through a metal detector. Either way they said they were upset and this situation should be handled across the border.

"They need to be treated in Mexico actually. Honestly we pay tax dollars for this hospital, and they need to be treated over there, " said El Paso resident Kathy Green.

The hospital will remain on lockdown until further notice.

The Sheriff's Office won't say how many or where they will staff deputies.

"We have sufficient security in place to respond to any necessity the hospital may need, " said Tovar.

At this time the hospital will not release the man's name, age or information about his wounds or care.

Mexico Violence Brings Wounded Man To Thomason Hospital - News Story - KFOX El Paso

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Federal police shut down Nuevo Laredo radio station

Federal police shut down Nuevo Laredo radio station
Mexican federal agents shut down a Nuevo Laredo radio station Wednesday. Authorities said it was taken off the air for operating without a permit but one media report characterized the raid as linked to organized crime.

Newspaper La Jornada identified the station as La Tremenda de los Dos Laredos, which you could find on your FM dial at 106.5 in the Laredo area up until about 2 p.m. yesterday.

The Mexico City newspaper reported authorities detained employees for "various hours" while they gave statements to the police. La Jornada called the raid "violent" and reported that banging on doors and breaking glass were among the last sounds transmitted by the station, right as it was wrapping up the afternoon newscast.

"Official sources revealed that it was suspected that the signal was used for transmitting messages of members of organized crime," noted La Jornada, but it didn't name the officials. Authorities, in a brief press release issued late last night, did not explicitly mention organized crime.

But authorities said the raid was carried out under "Operation Tamaulipas", the name of the federal police and military crackdown on drug gangs in the border state of the same name. Beyond the Border