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Mexico’s instability, drug wars, et. al.

CougarKing

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A major victory for the Mexican government...

Mexico captures Gulf Cartel leader
Mexican security forces on Saturday caught the leader of the cocaine-trafficking Gulf Cartel, the second major gang boss capture in just over a month as President Enrique Pena Nieto fights cartel violence.

Mario Ramirez Trevino, known as X-20 or "The Bald One," was captured in Mexico's northern Tamaulipas state on Saturday morning, according to a government statement.

The government said it would give more information about Ramirez' capture at a news conference on Sunday.

Ramirez had not long been the leader of the Gulf Cartel, whose former boss Jorge Costilla, alias "El Coss," was caught in September.

More at...

NBC news link
 

a_majoor

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More on the Mexican people taking back their country one district at a time. This is a positive example of creating a system of "parallel government" as advocated in Revolutionary Warfare Theory; in this case the objective is to drive out the violent criminals and reestablish some peace and local security. It is hard to suggest this is a return of "Rule of Law", since the State is unable or unwilling to extend that.

In other contexts, this sort of thing may lead to bad results; the rise of the Muslim Brotherhoods in Egypt was built on them being able and willing to take over "failed" neighbourhoods and supply enough civic services for people to live decently, and to be willing to pay "taxes" and otherwise support the local chapter of the Brotherhood. People bought into this for short term security without perhaps realizing what the long term goals of the Brotherhood actually were (or not believing they could actually achieve them). While I doubt these Mexicans are some sort of proto radical group, thier success may well embolden them to work towards other politcal goals. Creating the functional institutions that allow for a peaceful and prosperous State is a good long term goal, and in that I wish them well:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/in-the-hills-of-michoacan-self-defense-groups-battle-a-mexican-drug-cartel/2013/09/09/6947e47a-119f-11e3-a2b3-5e107edf9897_story.html

In Mexico, self-defense groups battle a cartel

View Photo Gallery — In central Mexico’s hills, a battle against a drug cartel: An audacious band of citizen militias is making strides against the oppressive Knights Templar drug gang — something they say federal forces have not managed to do in a decade.

By Stephanie McCrummen, Published: September 9 E-mail the writer
TEPALCATEPEC, Mexico — An audacious band of citizen militias battling a brutal drug cartel in the hills of central Mexico is becoming increasingly well-armed and coordinated in an attempt to end years of violence, extortion and humiliation.

What began as a few scattered self-defense groups has spread in recent months to dozens of towns across Michoacan, a volatile state gripped by the cultlike Knights Templar, a drug gang known for taxing locals on everything from cows to tortillas and executing those who do not comply.

Video

What began as a lone self-defense force of citizens banding against the drug cartel, Knights Templar, has now spread to dozens of towns across the southern Mexican state of Michoacan.

The army deployed to the area in May, but the soldiers are mostly manning checkpoints. Instead, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is facing the awkward fact that a group of scrappy locals appears to be chasing the gangsters away, something that federal security forces have not managed in a decade.

They include a 63-year-old pot-bellied farmer mindful that he can run only 30 yards; a skinny 23-year-old raised in Oregon who said he had never used a gun before; and a man who wears a metal bowl stuffed with newspaper as a helmet. A 47-year-old bureaucrat, who is sure that she will be killed if the gang retakes her town, said of her decision to join the cause: “I may live one year or 15, but I will live free.”

Volunteer fighters who have been using old hunting rifles and even slingshots are increasingly armed with silver-plated AK-47s, armored trucks and other bounty that they said they have seized from the cartel. And although the self-defense groups had been operating independently, they are coalescing under the leadership of a tall, white-haired surgeon who once worked for the Red Cross in California.

“We are coming together with only one thing in mind: Kill or be killed,” said the doctor, JoséManuel Mireles, 55, who described what is happening as an armed social movement and estimated that thousands of citizen-fighters are pursuing the gangsters into the hills. “The only training we have is the courage we have inside.”

The rise of the self-defense movement in Michoacan is a desperate reaction to an increasingly oppressive drug cartel and to the security vacuum created as Peña Nieto took office last year seeking to avoid a direct confrontation with the cartels.

Peña Nieto forcefully rejected the approach of his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, who ordered thousands of troops to Michoacan in 2006, launching what would become a nationwide crackdown on drug cartels that left about 60,000 Mexicans dead. Although Calderón — in cooperation with U.S. forces — netted a number of high-profile kingpins, critics contended that any deeper success was thwarted as the cartels co-opted the army, federal police and local authorities.

In contrast, Peña Nieto pledged to promote a “culture of peace” by spending money on jobs and social programs to prevent young people from joining the gangs. He has spent most of his first year in office focused on an overhaul of the nation’s school system and the state-run oil sector.

But with the self-defense groups proliferating, Peña Nieto ordered about 3,000 troops to Michoacan in May to augment a force that had dwindled after Calderón’s initial deployment. Now soldiers are once again manning checkpoints along the main roads, though their mission is not clear.

In an interview, Deputy Interior Minister Eduardo Sánchez said the soldiers are there to protect civilians, but he also emphasized that they have no orders to actively pursue the Knights Templar.

“The Mexican army does not have powers under the constitution to pursue criminals, unless they are caught in flagrante or a warrant is issued by a judge,” he said.

Video

What began as a lone self-defense force of citizens banding against the drug cartel, Knights Templar, has now spread to dozens of towns across the southern Mexican state of Michoacan.

The Knights Templar, which U.S. officials consider Mexico’s third-largest drug cartel, is a successor to the notorious La Familia group, which the government claimed to have dismantled in 2010. Its operations include methamphetamine labs, distribution networks and extortion rackets.

The group is media-savvy, and Sánchez warned that it has organized fake self-defense groups in towns that it controls.

But at same time, he said, the government considers the forces from Tepalcatepec and several other areas to be “genuine.” He said the groups are “cooperating” with the military by sharing information about criminals and have been “invited to keep their weapons hidden in their house.”

“We believe with the arrival of federal forces to the state, the people find they are being protected,” Sánchez said.

But in this hilly area of farms and lime groves, and two-lane roads that link town after battered town, the reality is more complicated.

On one hand, many locals believe that the army has arrived to target the self-defense groups: Soldiers have unsuccessfully tried to disarm the militias, which residents believe would amount to a death sentence. In recent days, rumors have spread that the government is preparing charges against Mireles and a leader from a neighboring town, JoséMisael González. Neither carries a weapon.

“We don’t know if they are helping us or hurting us,” said Misael, a sawmill owner from the town of Coalcoman.

On the other hand, cooperation seems to be developing between the self-defense groups and the army: In recent days, soldiers at two checkpoints waved through Mireles and a convoy of 26 militia trucks heading to reinforce positions on the outskirts of five towns, the barrels of AK-47s poking out of open windows.

Gang’s ruthless grip

The story of how a critical mass of people finally decided to confront their tormentors emerged from interviews in Tepalcatepec and Coalcoman, one-plaza towns where residents spoke freely about their lives under the Knights Templar, something they rarely dared to do before.

“You couldn’t even look at them,” said Adolfo Arzate, the pot-bellied farmer, wearing a white T-shirt that read “For a free Tepalcatepec.” “You couldn’t even mention the Templar name.”

There was the humiliation of watching gangsters speed around town in fancy trucks, shut down streets for drunken parties or beat to death an elderly man who scolded them. There were kidnappings and executions. Then there was the gang’s ruthless, mafia-like control of almost every facet of the local economy, down to a street-side taco stand.

The area’s lime growers, for example, were taxed by metrics that included acreage, limes harvested and crates packed. The meager wages of the lime pickers were also taxed, along with the bus fares that they paid to get to the groves. Gang members taxed sacks of corn and the tortillas made from them. A man installing a floor in his house soon had a gang member at his door, demanding a fee. A man who ran a restaurant said the cartel began taking a cut of the coins in his jukebox.

“They’d say, ‘We’re here for the fee, and if you don’t pay, we’ll kill you,’ ” said Javier Pimentel Treyes, a butcher in Coalcoman. “They had us broken.”

The gang killed those who could not pay, and more recently they began taking daughters and wives and even elderly women in lieu of “payment.”

Video

What began as a lone self-defense force of citizens banding against the drug cartel, Knights Templar, has now spread to dozens of towns across the southern Mexican state of Michoacan.

“They kidnapped my sisters. They tried to kill my wife and my children. And when they started going into the schools and taking the baby girls, 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds, that was my breaking point,” said Mireles, who has four daughters and has treated many rape victims in his clinic. “We have a lot of anger.”

Locals said that they filed complaints and pointed out the gangsters to local authorities but that nothing ever happened.

“The government never saw them around here,” said Pimentel, explaining his view that local officials were corrupted by the cartel and ignored residents’ complaints. “We couldn’t take it any longer. We held until our last breath.”

In Tepalcatepac and Coalcoman, the movement began with whispers and secret meetings.

“You’d look at someone in the eyes, and if they lowered their view, you knew you could not trust them,” said Juana Francisca Reyes, the bureaucrat.

“We would ask, ‘Are we going to live this way our whole lives or what?’ ” said Misael, the sawmill owner.

In Tepalcatepec, a core group formed that included many cattle raisers angry that the cartel was about to take over their association’s governing board. They decided to make their stand at the semiannual association meeting.

“When those criminals climbed onto the stage, we said, ‘How is this possible? We are many, and they are so few,’ ” Reyes said.

Hidden shotguns and even machetes came out, and the crowd swarmed 15 men whom they recognized as gang members. Amid clashes over the next hours and days, locals detained many more, handing them over to the state prosecutor in the town of Apatzingan, a cartel stronghold.

After 12 hours, however, the prisoners were released.

Since then, Mireles said, “we decided not to detain anyone anymore.”

‘They are afraid of us’

In recent months, Mireles said, he has helped organize self-defense groups in other towns, where, he noted, the residents include American citizens, most of them children born in the United States to Mexican parents.

The groups ring a church bell or shoot off fireworks, and thousands pour into the streets, he said.

“It’s curious,” the doctor said. “These people who had tied people up, blindfolded them and executed them, when we shoot, they run. I think they are afraid of us.”

He and others also wonder how they have been able to do what far-better-armed federal security forces have not.

“Just look at the military people — they have gear, they are trained, very capable,” said Pimentel, the butcher. “But here, the locals, the farmers, the workers, we are doing the job. Now we have to be sure those people are not coming back.”

In recent weeks, local militias have shifted from guarding their own towns to conducting operations in the surrounding hills. The military appears to be cooperative, though locals remain unsure whether it can be trusted.

Mireles said that prisoners taken by the self-defense groups have disclosed locations of Knights Templar safe houses and that the militias are mounting ambushes almost every day.

Sánchez, the deputy interior minister, said the only ongoing cooperation involves information sharing, which he credited for the recent arrest of a key Knights Templar leader and for the improved security in many towns.

He said he knew of no operations being conducted by self-
defense forces in Michoacan.

“No, no, no, no way,” Sánchez said. “They are just common citizens that are using some old hunting rifles and household weapons to protect their families.”


Miguel Juarez Lugo contributed to this report.
 

CougarKing

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"El payaso de terror!"  :eek:

Perhaps one of the target's rivals was sending a message to the Tijuana cartel by the way the gunman was dressed?

As reported by the TORONTO SUN:

Gunman in clown suit kills senior Mexican drug cartel member

MEXICO CITY -  A gunman in a clown costume shot and killed the oldest brother of one of Mexico’s most notorious drug trafficking families in the resort of Los Cabos, authorities said on Saturday.

Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, 63, a former leader of the Tijuana Cartel
,
was shot in the head late on Friday at a family gathering in the southern tip of the state of Baja California Sur, a spokesman for state prosecutors said.

“A person dressed as a clown took his life,” he said.

Local media reported that the killer had two accomplices, but this was not yet clear, the spokesman said. The gunman fled the scene.

(...)
 

CombatDoc

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You couldn't make this stuff up - another case where truth is stranger than fiction.
 

a_majoor

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Is Mexico turning the corner? We should hope so, since they are much closer and more consequential to Canada than Afghanistan or South Sudan (regardless of how deserving people in Afghanistan or South Sudan are of our help):

http://washingtonexaminer.com/overdue-reforms-boost-mexico-and-the-united-states/article/2541164

Overdue reforms boost Mexico -- and the United States
BY MICHAEL BARONE | DECEMBER 29, 2013 AT 5:01 PM

Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto holds up the documents he signed to enact his...
Most Americans have an image of Mexico as a nation convulsed by violent drug wars and enervated by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of desperate immigrants across our southern border.

That image is out of date. The drug war has largely quieted down and scarcely affects most of the country, and, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, net migration from Mexico to the United States since 2007 has fallen to zero.

What has been happening in Mexico recently is far more encouraging. It is the culmination of reforms that have been in train, but have been frustratingly delayed, for the last 25 years.

Some historical background is in order. For 71 years, Mexican politics and government were totally dominated by the paradoxically named Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI), which held the presidency and virtually all governorships from 1929 to 2000.

Under the PRI system, presidents served one six-year term and in their last year — usually a time of catastrophes — chose their successors, who paraded around the country and were elected without difficulty.

Once in office, the new president blamed all his problems on his predecessor, who often left the country. This system suited the sensibility of a nation whose culture is still at least partly Aztec: It combined elements of calendrical regularity, elaborate ceremony and human sacrifice.

This system worked tolerably well for 30-some years. But as time went on, it produced widespread corruption, periodic currency devaluations and massive outmigration. Mexico seemed to be falling further behind the United States.

Reform began when Machiavellian President Carlos Salinas, elected in 1988, started opening up its political process and was joined by Texans George H. W. Bush and Lloyd Bentsen in pushing successfully for the North American Free Trade Agreement. With support from then-President Clinton, Congress approved NAFTA in 1993.

Mexico reformed its electoral process in the 1990s with key verification from exit poll pioneer Warren Mitofsky. The PRI lost its congressional majorities in 1997, and in 2000, Vicente Fox of the center-right PAN party was elected president over the candidates of the PRI and the leftist PRD. In 2006, Fox was succeeded by the PAN’s Felipe Calderon.

But Fox and Calderon were unable to reform Mexico's government-owned oil company Pemex or its dysfunctional, union-dominated education system because of united congressional opposition by the PRI and PRD.

And they got sidetracked on other issues — Fox in responding to Zapatista protests, Calderon in waging war (with the army) on the drug lords.

In July 2012, the PRI returned to power with the election of Enrique Peña Nieto. He looked like a conventional politician: governor of the state that includes most Mexico City suburbs, movie-star handsome, a widower who was wooing a telenovela star.

But Peña has proven to be an effective reformer. On taking office, he joined with the PAN and PRD in a Pact for Mexico which produced tripartisan reforms.

One was in education, with teacher promotion determined by merit rather than (this is not a misprint) heredity. The day after the reform was passed, Elba Esther Gordillo, the powerful head of the teacher union, was arrested for embezzlement.

The coalition also passed telecom reform, potentially cutting rates that have made Telmex owner Carlos Slim one of the richest people in the world.

The toughest issue was reforming Pemex, the monopoly created when PRI President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized oil companies in 1938. One-third of government revenues come from Pemex, but production fell 27 percent between 2004 and 2013.

Pemex’s Cantarell oilfield in the Gulf is sputtering, and it lacks the expertise and capital to tap Mexico’s plentiful shale oil and gas reserves. But the idea that “the people” own Mexico’s oil still has wide appeal, and the PRD split from the coalition and opposed change.

It passed with PRI and PAN support in December. Now foreign oil firms will be able to invest and book Mexican resources as reserves, stimulating growth and job creation.

Mexico's manufacturing sector has been booming, and increasingly competitive with China, and the country is graduating record numbers of engineers and scientists.

By many measures, Mexico is now a majority middle-class nation. Mexicans are buying (mortgage-financed) houses in new subdivisions and driving to Walmart and Costco shopping malls in their pickups and SUVs.

Peña’s reforms have pushed Mexico sharply forward on a path on which it had already made significant progress.

That’s good news for Mexico — and for its neighbors to the north.
 

CougarKing

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The Mexican Army preventing regular Mexican citizens from taking the war against the drug cartels into their own hands:

Mexico troops clash with vigilante groups; 12 reported killed

MEXICO CITY -- Twelve people are reportedly dead in the southern Mexican state of Michoacan after federal troops clashed with vigilante “self-defense” groups late Monday, following government demands that the groups stand down in their fight against the Knights Templar drug cartel.

The newspaper Reforma, citing “preliminary reports from state sources,” reported that seven civilians were killed in the municipality of Mugica, and that two civilians and three soldiers were killed in the municipality of Paracuaro.

The self-defense groups had taken up positions recently in these and other communities surrounding the city of Apatzingan, considered a stronghold of the Knights Templar, their sworn enemies.

Read article at...

Los Angeles Times
 

CougarKing

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Mexico legalizes vigilantes, nabs cartel leader


The government said it had reached an agreement with vigilante leaders to incorporate the armed civilian groups into old and largely forgotten quasi-military units called the Rural Defense Corps. 

MEXICO CITY — Mexico essentially legalized the country's growing "self-defense" groups Monday, while also announcing that security forces had captured one of the four top leaders of the Knights Templar drug cartel, which the vigilante groups have been fighting for the last year.

The government said it had reached an agreement with vigilante leaders to incorporate the armed civilian groups into old and largely forgotten quasi-military units called the Rural Defense Corps. Vigilante groups estimate their numbers at 20,000 men under arms.

Read more at...

MSN
 

a_majoor

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The cartels are infiltrating large swaths of the Mexican economy. More examples of unanticipated second and thiord order effects:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/30/opinion/sunday/is-the-lime-an-endangered-species.html?_r=4

Is the Lime an Endangered Species?

By DAVID KARPMARCH 29, 2014

LOS ANGELES — WE’RE used to the elusiveness of certain scarce and seasonal gastronomical treasures like black truffles that are priced and meted out accordingly. But no one could have predicted the strange twist that threatens to turn guacamole, Key lime pie and margaritas into rare delicacies.

A sudden and unprecedented shortage of limes has sent nationwide wholesale prices soaring from around $25 for a 40-pound carton in early February to more than $100 today, panicking lovers of Mexican food and drinks — and the restaurant and bar owners who cater to them. The culprits are weather, disease and even Mexican criminals.

“I cringe every time customers ask for limes,” said Armando De La Torre Jr., an owner of two Guisados restaurants in Los Angeles, adding that the price spike cost his family at least $2,000 in the past month alone.

“We really don’t have much choice except to pay up,” said Phil Ward, owner of Mayahuel, a Manhattan bar that specializes in tequila and mescal. “A margarita has to be made with lime juice. We would never use lemons, or bottled lime juice, which is pasteurized and has a different flavor.”

In the 1970s Americans consumed an average of less than half a pound per person of limes a year, most of them grown in southern Florida. Immigration from tropical countries, and the growing taste for their foods, helped raise consumption to over two and a half pounds today. Meanwhile, low-priced competition from Mexico, the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and an eradication campaign to fight canker disease in 2002-06 wiped out the Florida groves.

Mexico is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of limes, and provides some 95 percent of United States supplies. Generally, the lime harvest is smaller and prices are higher from January through March, but in November and December severe rains knocked the blossoms off lime trees in many areas, reducing lime exports to the United States by two-thirds. California, with just 373 acres, is now the largest domestic lime source — but it produces less than 1 percent of national consumption, and its season is late summer and fall, so it’s no help right now.

Other factors may also be squeezing the lime market. Since 2009 a bacterial disease that kills citrus trees, huanglongbing (HLB, also known as “greening”), has spread across many of Mexico’s lime-growing districts. Largely because of HLB, harvests in Colima State, a major producer of Key limes (the small, seeded, highly aromatic type preferred in Mexico), have dropped by a third in the past three years.

The disease has not yet reached Veracruz State, Mexico’s leading source of Persian limes — the large, seedless type exported to the United States, also known as Tahiti and Bearss — but the shortfall of Key limes is most likely spilling over into the Persian lime market. If HLB invades and takes hold in Veracruz, as it probably will in a few years, the era of cheap limes may well be over for good. The lime hysteria we’re starting to see now may be only a taste of what’s to come.

Farmers have already been stripping their trees to cash in on sky-high prices, said David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus, which grows Persian limes in Tabasco State for the United States market. Such premature harvesting exacerbates the shortage because the fruit never grows to normal size and is 20 to 40 percent lower in volume, he added.

As a result of high prices and rampant lawlessness in some Mexican regions, criminals who may be linked to drug gangs are plundering fruit from groves and hijacking trucks being used for export, said Bill Vogel, president of Vision Produce, a Los Angeles-based importer. A truck headed for Vision’s sister company in Texas was hijacked two weeks ago in Mexico, he said, and growers and shippers now are hiring armed guards to protect their green gold.

The produce wars on the ground are not limited to limes. Criminal cartels now control, to a shocking extent, the growing and packing of much of the Mexican produce on which United States consumers depend. An article last November in the Mexican newspaper Vanguardia reported that the Knights Templar drug cartel has used kidnapping, murder, money laundering and terror to take over the lucrative avocado business in Michoacán, the top state for production and export of the fruit.

Criminal elements also have significantly infiltrated the Mexican mango industry to launder money, said Richard Campbell, a horticulturist and mango expert who travels to Mexico several times a year as a consultant. “Many growers don’t go to their fields because they’re afraid,” Mr. Campbell said. “I’m sure that this has lowered the quality of the mangoes, because it’s harder to control quality.”

All of this suggests an uncertain fate for limes, a fruit we’ve taken for granted for so long. This time the crisis is likely to be temporary. As new crops mature, prices should be back down near $30 by June, and there should be plenty of limes this summer, Mr. Vogel said. But it is important to recognize that we do give up a measure of food security by importing from countries destabilized by the drug trade, corruption and unchecked crime.

While it is ironic that the current lime crisis may in some part be blowback from our own drug policies, it is crucial to remember that a few months of inconvenience to American margarita lovers is trifling compared with the anguish of Mexicans whose livelihoods and lives have been destroyed.

David Karp is a columnist on farmers’ markets and produce for The Los Angeles Times who has worked as a citrus researcher for the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California, Riverside.
 

CougarKing

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Does the Geneva Convention apply to law enforcement operations done by a military force?

Witness: 21 gang members killed by Mexican Army after they had surrendered

Published September 19, 2014/
Fox News Latino

ARCELIA, Mexico (AP) – A woman says she saw Mexican soldiers shoot and kill her 15-year-old daughter after a confrontation with a suspected drug gang even though the teenager was lying wounded on the ground. Twenty others also were shot and killed in rural southern Mexico after they surrendered and were disarmed, the mother told The Associated Press.

The Mexican government has maintained that all died during a fierce shootout when soldiers were fired on in the early morning of June 30. That version came into question because government troops suffered only one wounded, and physical evidence at the scene pointed toward more selective killings.

The witness said the army fired first at the armed group holed up at the warehouse. She said one gunman died in the initial shootout, and another gang member and her daughter were wounded. The rest of the gunmen surrendered on the promise they would not be hurt, she said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

[...SNIPPED]

The soldiers interrogated the rest of the gang members in front of the warehouse, and then took them inside one-by-one, she said. From where she stood just outside the warehouse and in army custody, she heard gunshots and moans of the dying.

[...SNIPPED]

Read more here:

Fox News
 

tomahawk6

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The laws of Mexico apply and I am certain that extrajudicial executions are not allowed.IF the account is confirmed then you should see soldiers charged with murder.
 

CougarKing

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It figures it would take US help to recapture "El Chapo" .

Reuters

Mexico recaptures drug boss 'Chapo' Guzman, president says
[Reuters]
By Veronica Gomez and Dave Graham
Reuters
January 8, 2016

By Veronica Gomez and Dave Graham

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico recaptured the world's most notorious drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman with U.S. help in a violent standoff on Friday, six months after he humiliated President Enrique Pena Nieto by tunneling out of a maximum security prison.

Guzman, head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and who Pena Nieto first caught in February 2014, was captured in an early morning raid that killed five in the city of Los Mochis in the drug baron's native state of Sinaloa in northwest Mexico.

(...SNIPPED)
 

cupper

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It will be interesting to see if he gets extradited to the US, since it has been shown several times now that Mexican prisons are just a holiday haven with a revolving door for him.
 

CougarKing

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Ha! Seems Sean Penn may have to maintain a much lower profile after this:

BBC

'El Chapo' Guzman: Sean Penn interview provokes US scorn

    10 January 2016
 
Media captionThe BBC's Katy Watson: "A Hollywood star with one of the world's most wanted men"

The Obama administration and a US presidential hopeful have criticised Sean Penn's interview with Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

It was conducted in October in the Mexican jungle after Guzman's jail break, and published by Rolling Stone.

A White House spokesman said the Hollywood actor's "so-called interview" was "maddening", while Republican Marco Rubio said it was "grotesque".

(...SNIPPED)
 

cupper

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S.M.A. said:
Ha! Seems Sean Penn may have to maintain a much lower profile after this:

BBC

I wonder how much of the uproar, especially by US Officialdom may be a way of covering up possible willing involvement of Penn being used to track Guzman down in the first place?

If I were Penn, the last thing I'd want is the leader of the largest drug cartel in Mexico thinking I ratted him out. A sure way to come to a gruesome end.

 

tomahawk6

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Mexican police followed Penn from the moment he entered the country.It doesnt matter if he was a willing participant or not IF el Chapo thinks he was involved then he might be a recluse for a very long time.
 

Remius

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tomahawk6 said:
Mexican police followed Penn from the moment he entered the country.It doesnt matter if he was a willing participant or not IF el Chapo thinks he was involved then he might be a recluse for a very long time.

I doubt he was willing.  That guy has had many common sense strokes in his lifetime.
 

CougarKing

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Only major druglord left?

Source: Reuters

With Mexico's 'Chapo' back behind bars, Zambada the last capo standing
By: Michael O'boyle and Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein, Reuters
January 12, 2016 9:31 PM

CULIACAN/MEXICO CITY - Mexico's public enemy No. 1, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, was nabbed last week after a gunfight and high speed getaway bid. But his more discreet partner is flourishing, moving tons of drugs to the United States and laundering the profits at home.

Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada jointly heads the powerful Sinaloa cartel and, with Guzman behind bars again and facing possible extradition to the United States, it falls to Zambada to maintain the gang's ranking as the world's largest.

In the past few years, Mexican security forces have captured or killed almost all the leading kingpins who had dominated drug trafficking over the last two decades. Guzman, the most prominent of all, was recaptured on Friday, six months after his second escape from maximum security prison.

That leaves Zambada, 68, as the most senior capo still standing.

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CougarKing

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Don't tell me these gangs also have RPGs and MANPADS?  :eek:

AFP via Telegraph

4 killed as crime gang downs chopper during police operation in Mexico
By: Agence France-Presse
September 7, 2016 9:36 AM

MEXICO CITY -- A gang brought down a helicopter during a police operation in Mexico's troubled western state of Michoacan on Tuesday, killing the pilot and three officers, the governor said.

The aircraft was backing an operation to arrest leaders of criminal groups when the "official helicopter was downed" in an area with rough terrain, Governor Silvano Aureoles wrote on Twitter.

Another officer was injured in the crash.

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CBH99

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Not sure about MANPADS.  Wouldn't surprise me if they were able to source some though, these organizations have DEEP pockets.

RPG's?  You bet!  If absolutely boot-strapped for cash, rag-tag militia's roaming about the deserts of Africa can get their hands on sufficient quantities of them, you bet the ultra-rich ones south of the border have them too.
 

a_majoor

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Mexicans discover the true cost of fuel, and rioting occurs. When things are artificially subsidized or prices supressed, people respond to the implied incentives. Of course no government can afford to do this forever, and the Mexican government is now facing rioting from consumers who are not used to be told "no":

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/08/chaos-in-mexico-during-week-long-gasolinazo-protests.html

Running on Fumes: Pandemonium at Mexico’s Gas Pumps
One week into 2017, and Mexico is already descending into chaos.
Andrea Noel
01.08.17 12:15 AM ET

ROSARITO, Mexico—A week of protests in Mexico has devolved into looting, vandalism, and violence after a double-digit increase in gas prices that landed with a bang as the New Year began.

On Saturday, hundreds of protestors descended on the border dividing San Diego from Mexico, taking control of Mexican Customs and forcing a southbound border shutdown lasting several hours. Thousands of Mexicans returning home from California were forced to turn back toward the U.S. and seek out alternative border crossing points. And that was neither the worst nor the end of it.

These increasingly violent protests did not begin because of “The Wall” that U.S.-President-Elect Donald Trump will ask Congress to fund (for now), but they will certainly have an impact on the border he says he wants to defend. And the more he pressures Mexico economically, the worse it’s going to get.

Through the week, roads across Mexico were blocked by protesters and burning tires, thousands of businesses were ransacked, upward of 1500 people—among them, police officers— were arrested, and at least five people were killed as furious citizens took to the streets following the more than 20 percent price gas hike.

The Mexican government has for years maintained artificially low gas prices in Mexico thanks to massive subsidies that are absorbed by the state, but as of this year that all changes. The cost of fuel will finally be adjusted to conform to real market value. The surge in gas prices is the just first major sign of changes to come, but certainly the most tangible so far.
And Mexicans, clearly, are not happy.

Dozens of videos have appeared online showing mass looting across the country in response to the gasolinazo, as the gas price surge is called—from Sinaloa and neighboring Puebla and Mexico State, all the way to the southernmost state of Chiapas, which shares its border with Guatemala.

In Chiapas, a mob of protesters freed half a dozen—likely Central American—migrants who were being held at a detention center on Wednesday. The demonstrators then set the immigration control center on fire before ransacking nearby stores.
In Veracruz, Governor Miguel Angel Yunes tried desperately to call for order at a local shopping center on Thursday, after a restive mob pillaged multiple businesses. He offered would-be thieves coupons for 500 pesos, roughly $23, “to buy food” if they desisted.

“Veracruzanos are not thieves,” he reminded the people of his state, the second most impacted by this week’s unrest. “I am as upset as you are about the gasolinazo issue, but this is not the way to demonstrate.”

In Mexico State, where the highest number of violent looting incidents have been reported, protesters reportedly tried to set a gas station on fire on Tuesday, hurling Molotov cocktails and shouting “blow it up already.”
On Wednesday, police officers in the state were caught on video filling up patrol cars with ransacked merchandise. Four officers have been fired and arrested as a result. But store owners armed themselves with sticks and metal rods in preparation for looters who still may come.
The Mexico City Chamber of Commerce blamed protesters for millions of dollars of revenue lost in the capital earlier in the week after roughly 20,000 businesses shuttered due to fear of violence. And upward of 9,000 police officers have been deployed just in Mexico City to quell this week’s chaotic protests.

Despite dozens of altercations and incidents, many of the protests—held outside gas stations, rundown refineries, municipal buildings, and on highways and in city squares in at least 19 states across the country—have been peaceful. Others, which began peacefully, are now turning for the worst, as tensions between authorities and citizens peak.
***
The president has called the gasolinazo, as the price increase is known, a “necessary measure,” but thousands of demonstrators in Mexico have resoundingly rejected the price increase, calling for renewed subsidies and slashed gas prices.

South of the California border, dozens of protesters in Rosarito managed to seize control of nearly a dozen tanker trucks this week, which they used to block access to the roads used by employees of Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex—the historically state-owned oil monopoly—to access the city’s large energy plant. Roughly 200 protesters stationed at the beach town entrance since Monday peacefully demonstrated and collected signatures during the week.

But this weekend, those peaceful protests took a turn for the worse, as more than half a dozen federal police officers and protesters were run over by a demonstrator, who rammed his pickup into a small crowd of anti-riot police Saturday as protestors hurled large rocks at the authorities. Several journalists covering the disruption were beaten by authorities and arrested as a helicopter flew overhead searching for the fugitive demonstrator.

When I spoke to the protesters on Thursday, prior to the violence, they emphatically said they wanted to demonstrate pacifically, and were completely opposed to the looting and violence seen across the country.

“We had seized 10 gas tankers, but then we had a talk with the employees at Pemex and returned almost all of them due to safety concerns,” said a young part-time grocery clerk named Jonathan standing in front of two hijacked Pemex refueling trucks earlier in the week. Etched in the tankers’ dusty sides were slurs directed at the Mexican president and loosely scrawled anarchist symbols.
By Thursday, those demonstrators had returned all but two of the tankers to Pemex “as a peace offering.”
“We kept the empty gas trucks, but gave the rest back because we didn’t want anyone going near the full tankers smoking a cigarette, or something,” said Jonathan. “It’s too dangerous.”

This same group of demonstrators spread their message throughout the week by seizing toll booths on the nearby highways connecting Rosarito to Tijuana and the rest of Baja California, taking over the facilities and allowing dozens of vehicles to pass through for free.
“About a dozen cars full of people [would] block the toll road, and when the window attendants saw us coming they let us take over. They lent us their chairs because we are being peaceful and not disrupting anything,” the protester said, adding that they gave back one of the toll booths “after some people lost focus of the objective and starting drag racing.”

Lucia Vazquez, a retiree who volunteered to collect signatures, said on Thursday that a few thousand people had signed their petition, which they hoped would put pressure on the federal government.

“They say that the economy is different here and that we don’t have any poor people. But we do, and this affects us all. The cost of everything is going to go up—food, public transportation—and it hits us the hardest in the north of the country,” Vazquez said.

The plan to completely free up fuel prices in Mexico will continue in phases across the country from north to south throughout the year, until finally reaching the market rate in December of this year.

But the steep price increase will impact the poorest harder than anyone. The cost of one gallon of gasoline in Mexico is now just 65 cents less than Mexico’s newly increased minimum wage, which is now 80 pesos—or about $3.75 for a full day’s work.
So, for some Mexicans this means that they can work all day and then be forced to chose between buying a gallon of gasoline or a gallon of milk, with not enough left over for a half-dozen eggs in either scenario.

The situation in Mexico overall is dire, but fuel prices are the drop that makes the glass overflow.

To make things worse, the Mexican peso fell to a new historic low this week, surpassing its previous record low set in November following the victory of incoming President Donald Trump, whose every utterance it seems causes flurries of economic panic in Mexico.
Trump has repeatedly insisted he will use remittances to “build a big, beautiful” border wall, pull out of NAFTA, and punish U.S. companies looking to send jobs to Mexico by imposing hefty tariffs, putting billions of dollars in cross-border trade at risk.
Still, the ripple effect of actions taken this week by even common folk in Mexico are having a profound impact.

Because of the demonstrators I spoke to in Rosarito, blocking access to the main Pemex distribution plant, at least 25 gas stations in the neighboring city of Tijuana, which shares its border with San Diego, were without fuel on Thursday. By Friday, the number of closed stations had climbed above 120. And by this weekend, Rosarito and Tijuana were without gas as cars began to line up at some closed stations, hoping to be the first in line when fuel eventually comes in.

The violence unfolding this weekend came as authorities attempted, unsuccessfully, to free up the roads used by Pemex, so tankers could resupply gas stations in Tijuana and Rosarito.

In the state capitol, protesters also controlled Mexicali’s refuelling stations this week, freezing fuel distribution in cities across northern Baja.
Retired Americans living in beach towns throughout Baja shared their tips for finding gas on social media, and residents in Tijuana begged their friends for info on open gas stations, hoping to have enough gas to make it to work, or the border. Similar conversations unfolded in cities all over Mexico.

All along the northern border, hundreds with dual citizenship opted to go for gas runs in the United States, driving across the line where—despite the crippling exchange rate—their dollars would stretch just a bit further. On Facebook, thousands in Mexico shared tips on which gas stations were closed, which streets to avoid, and estimated wait times at gas stations that remained open.
Still, many were left homebound.
* * *
It’s not just the fuel prices. Sweeping fuel shortages threatened to cripple the economy in dozens of Mexican cities in the last week of 2016. These were attributed to everything from widespread, organized criminal fuel theft, to breaks in the supply chain, increased demand, and the measures taken following energy reforms ushered in by President Enrique Peña Nieto, who pushed to privatize Mexico’s historically State-owned—yet crippled and deteriorating—energy industry.

Oil theft enriches Mexico’s criminal cartels and lone wolf gas thieves to the tune of $1 billion a year, but this week people across Mexico accused the government, not the gangs, of ripping them off.

The president shied away from the thought that his controversial energy reform was responsible for the gas prices, instead blaming an almost 60 percent global increase in petroleum costs for the steep hike.

For those wondering why an oil-rich country would be affected by global rates, Mexico now imports more than 60 percent of its fuel, after having allowed its refineries to severely deteriorate through years of unwillingness to increase spending for infrastructure in the oil sector.
Pemex released a graphic, on New Year’s Eve prior to the price adjustment justifying Mexico’s lack of functioning refineries, claiming that it “is more convenient to bring gasoline from where it is cheaper, to save resources.” The real problem, they claimed, lies with the lack of storage facilities and transportation.

This dysfunctional system, which has been artificially propped up with massive government subsidies, is now finally coming into the public eye as a result of the changes brought in by the reform. That is inarguable.

“Trying to maintain the artificial price of gasoline would have forced us to cut social programs, raise taxes, or increase the country’s foreign debt, placing the stability of the entire economy at risk,” President Enrique Peña Nieto said Thursday night, addressing the nation.
But, as one follows the bouncing ball back around, Mexican Finance Minister José Antonio Meade explains that continuing gas subsidies would have cost the government $9.3 billion in 2017, an increase from the nearly $5 billion spent last year.
But, still, nowhere near the damage seen in recent years. As the barrel price of oil soared in 2012 to nearly double today’s value, so too did subsidies in Mexico, which came to a whopping 223 hundred billion pesos in 2012—more than $17 billion when adjusted to today’s exchange rate.

While unwilling to acknowledge his administration’s role in the price surge, or stoically defend his revolutionary energy reform—which few would argue was unnecessary—the president coyly blamed rising global oil prices, apparently as a way to mitigate the severe criticism leveled against him.

“What would you have done?” the president asked the country, meekly, in his evening address, in what quickly became a national meme and trending topic.
* * *
Unlike other crises seen in recent years such as the months of fiery protests that erupted following the mass disappearance and almost certain execution of 43 teaching students  in Guerrero in 2014, this may be the most important period of civil unrest in recent memory in terms of economic impact.

In front of a road blocked with seized fuel tankers in Baja, protesters who claimed no political affiliation handed me a leaflet explaining their discontent, in days before the conflict with authorities. It was printed by Mexico’s Communist Party.

“Down with the powerful monopolies!” the pamphlet read, ironically protesting the side effects of Mexico’s attempt to do away with its historic energy monopoly by calling for a return to the same state-monopolistic practices that led to the current crisis.
One similarly ironic sign of things to come in 2017, following Republican populist Donald Trump’s surge toward the White House, is the renewed rise in Mexico of leftist populist Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has lost two presidential elections since 2006 but is now favored to win the 2018 elections and become the next leader of the Mexican people—81 percent of whom believe Donald Trump is a direct threat to Mexico.

Lopez Obrador famously held up an upside down photograph during the 2012 presidential debates in a gaffe that made him the butt of instant ridicule.

But there was nothing amusing about the photograph, which showed now-President Enrique Peña Nieto seated with Mexico’s favorite villain, former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, whose family has been caught moving hundreds of millions of dollars through Swiss bank accounts after pilfering them from the country.

In February, Peña Nieto appointed Salinas’s brother-in-law, José Antonio González, to be the director of Pemex.
“It’s the world, upside down,” the twice-failed presidential hopeful quipped of the upside down photograph. “Look.”
 
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