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 | Chron.com - 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 | Chron.com - 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 | KTSM.com | 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 | KTSM.com | 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