Last week Mexican president Felipe Calderon spent two days visiting Barack Obama at the White House. In the weeks leading up to the summit, which was punctuated by a state dinner on Wednesday, there was much in the press about issues the two presidents had to discuss, including the Mexican government's negative reaction to the new Arizona immigration bill and the need to improve trade relations and get more Mexican trucks on the roads in the US. But no issue was expected to be more pressing than the question of security. With over 24,000 dead in the past 3 years and growing international concern that Mexico could be on [...]
Just a few weeks after the AP declared that the Sinaloa cartel had won the drug war in Juarez, the city saw one of its bloodiest days in recent memory. On Wednesday, 20 murders were recorded in a 24-hour span. The first murders of the day set the tone for the brutality to follow, as gunmen burst into a bar in the early morning and dragged eight people out into a nearby lot, lined them up against the wall, and executed them.
Eduardo Ravelo is the new 'face of Ciudad Juarez terror," according to the LA Times this week. This mean-looking specimen is the purported leader of the Barrio Aztecas street gang, the mostly teenage subcontractors that the Juarez drug cartel uses for the murder, kidnapping and torture of its rivals in the city. Near the end of last year, Ravelo was quietly placed on the FBI's ten most wanted list, and a couple weeks ago, he reached a criminal pinnacle, officially supplanting Osama bin Laden as the FBI's number one most wanted man in the world.
Panic in Acapulco as heavily-armed Mexican police are sent in to protect our nation's most valuable resource: nubile young college students whose scantily-clad bodies perk up pretty much any boring news story. Anyway, parents of our country's spring breakers are concerned that Mexico's spiraling drug violence will put their children-who just want to get drunk and have random sex in warm weather-at risk. They're also worried about the lives of the poor Mexicans whose daily existence is a struggle to survive the violence of rival cartels and who are about a million times more likely to become crime victims, especially now, when even the terribly inadequate police protection they [...]
Let us turn our attention to Mexican people. Even as the recent flu which bears their name is beginning to fade and was probably never the giant catastrophe that the news media and panicky Twitter users made it out to be in the first place, citizens of Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos are still feeling the sting of fear and ignorance: disrespected by Chileans, quarantined by the Chinese, and generally mistrusted by pretty much everyone, including themselves.
On Monday, just after the conclusion of a wedding ceremony, a group of armed men burst into a Juarez church and ordered everyone down on the floor. Moving quickly, they collected the groom, his brother and their uncle and led them out. When another man tried to intervene, they shot him dead. The three relatives were then thrown into a truck and disappeared. On Wednesday, state police found their bodies in the bed of an abandoned pickup in the eastern sector of the city. They had been tortured for many hours before they were killed. It was a particularly horrifying example of the fact that violence in Juarez can [...]
Following the Rio Grande southeast out of the Valley of Juarez, past the Big Bend region and across the vast emptiness of the Chihuahuan desert, one eventually comes to the states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, historic base of the Gulf Cartel and home to the newest outbreak of everyday violence in the Mexican drug war. In February, the Gulf Cartel announced the formation of "La Nueva Federacion", an alliance with their former enemies, the Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Michoachan, and publicly declared war on its own former enforcement wing, a group of ex-Mexican special forces soldiers known as the Zetas. The two sides went to [...]
"Ten students on their way to receive government scholarships were killed by gunmen at a checkpoint in the state of Durango," reports the LA Times this morning. Which: Jesus Christ. One could safely assume this was not a military checkpoint? "The checkpoint appeared to be the ad hoc type of roadblock often set up by drug traffickers who control parts of Durango, not a military installation, state prosecutors said." And: "Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont… denied that the checkpoint was staffed by soldiers." So… the government had to deny that the military butchered a bunch of teens and pre-teens? That's a lot of denials!
The LA Times is going to town on the Xalisco (north of Puerto Vallarta!) heroin dealers, in their series on the Evil Scary Super-Black-Tar Heroin, delivering an award to these dealers for Excellent Drug Business Practices. (This is part of the paper's very dramatic MEXICO DRUG WAR extravaganza.) Our hardworking Mexican friends take phone orders; deliver by car; they are not particularly prone to violence or gun-toting; they take customer satisfaction surveys; they sell in smaller amounts; they have cut consumer prices in half; and their heroin is just better. Sounds awesome!
"In Mexico everything is closed, everything is empty, life has changed in a couple of days," says Spanish website 20minutos (which also notes that the people "wear masks like ninjas" and the country "seems like a Danny Boyle movie"). As the federal government shuts down all nonessential services, it is at least heartening to know that the nation's musical artists are using the flu as inspiration for ballads like the one above. You can find more here. BTW, my Spanish is awful, so if there's something racist here that I'm missing, lo siento.
This Cinco de Mayo, while some are celebrating Mexico's past, most Mexicans are anxious about its uncertain future. Yesterday in Mexico City, national security minister Genero Garcia Luna remarked at the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit that the war against the cartels will in all probability take years before anything is accomplished. Citing other prominent examples of long-lasting wars on organized crime in places like Italy, Colombia and Chicago in the 1920s, Garcia Luna explained that expectations for a quick finish should be tempered against these historical examples that lasted "six years on average."
The AP ran quite a story the other day, capped with the blockbuster headline "Sinaloa cartel wins Juarez turf war." After 3 years of brutal assassinations, countless kidnappings and the shuttering of roughly 10,000 local businesses, the article claims the battle between the local Juarez cartel and the Sinaloans (who began to try to take over in 2007) has essentially been won. The proclamation is largely based on an FBI memo and cited confidential sources, as well as the fact that recent drug seizures indicate that between 60% and 80% of the drugs currently being trafficked through Juarez now come from the Sinaloa cartel, to draw the same [...]
"There was a donkey painted like a zebra, hitched to a cart full of sombreros, a Tijuana photo opportunity. But no smiling tourists stepped into the picture frame." Ha ha. Wait, really? 18,000 murders in three years and now Tijuana is empty? But… but… but the U.S. had 17,000 murders in 2006 alone! The murder rate per population in Mexico isn't even double ours. But. WHY was the donkey painted like a zebra though??? I don't get it.
"Society sees drug ballads as nice, pleasant, inconsequential and harmless, but they are the opposite." -Oscar Martin Arce, of Mexico's ruling National Action Party, on a government proposal which will send the singers of narcocorridos-ballads glorifying the drug trade-to jail for up to three years.
"In 2008, a year during which more than 7,000 Mexicans were killed in drug violence, a record number of weapons confiscated in Mexico were traced to U.S. retailers." That number: 12,073. So at least 5,000 of those guns were probably just used for outdoor sporting activities.