Tag Archives: mexican

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Organized crime in 2014: What can Latin America expect?

Organized crime is adaptable and profit-driven, and in 2014, that could mean moving beyond Mexico and Colombia to a more diverse set of nations.

We can already identify some of the trends that are likely to mark the evolution of organized crime in 2014. One is the issue of criminal migration, as organized crime in Mexico and Colombia, under increasing security force pressure, follows the path of least resistance, and sets itself up in other countries.

As we have seen with the collateral damage of nations that act as drug transshipment points, the trends of increasing violence, the growth of local organized crime groups, and surges in domestic consumption of drugs are likely to follow, as transnational crime, be it Colombian or Mexican, establishes a presence in these foreign nations. The Mexicans already have outposts throughout the Northern Triangle countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and continue to push down into Central America. Colombian organized crime syndicates have been seen in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and as far afield as Spain.

One of the major changes in drug trafficking has been the growth in domestic markets within Latin America, most particularly Brazil and Argentina, but with Mexico, Colombia, and even Chile registering growth in criminal earnings from the local distribution of drugs. While Colombian cocaine production makes up 80 percent of the US market, production in both Peru and Bolivia is feeding the domestic markets of Brazil and Argentina, with a percentage of cocaine also heading towards the lucrative European market. These changing markets are giving birth to different types of organized crime. While Colombians still dominate the drug trade in South America, there is evidence of sophisticated organized crime syndicates developing in other countries.

The El Salvador gang truce stumbles on, but few believe it will survive, let alone turn into a more meaningful peace process. Negotiations with the FARC in Colombia continue, and will be the top issue in presidential and congressional elections. It is likely that the smaller rebel group of the National Liberation Army (ELN) will also be granted a seat at peace talks. The rhythm and success of these talks will be reflected in the violence of the Colombian civil conflict as both sides seek to gain victories on the battlefield that they can translate into bargaining chips at the negotiating table.

Honduras will see a new president take office amid increasing chaos and the strengthening of organized crime. Neighboring El Salvador has its own presidential elections that will doubtless impact the gang truce and violence in this tiny Central American nation. The regional superpower, Brazil, will be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the eyes of the world will turn towards this massive nation. While the pacification programs in the notorious favelas of Rio continue, the prison-based organized crime syndicates like the First Capital Command (PCC) grow in strength. The notoriously violent Brazilian police force will do all it can to isolate the games from the criminals.

Venezuela lurches from crisis to crisis, with President Nicolás Maduro’s unsteady hand on the tiller. The corruption in the Chavista regime continues to grow, and elements of the military deepen their involvement in drug trafficking, even as express kidnappings in Caracas and the murder rate are at epidemic levels.

Paraguay, often overlooked, is South America’s premier producer of marijuana. It is also home to South America’s newest rebel group. Peru, now the world’s principal producer of cocaine, must also be closely monitored. It’s rebel group, the Shining Path, under pressure from the security forces, has deepened its involvement in the drug trade. Bolivia, another coca producer and important cocaine transshipment nation, has enviably low levels of crime. However, there are clear indications that transnational criminal syndicates have been establishing a presence in the city, and province, of Santa Cruz.

There is overwhelming evidence that with attention focused on Central America, the Caribbean is again becoming important as a drug smuggling route. The chaos in Haiti makes this nation a favorite stopover point for cocaine shipments, but few of the islands have the capacity to take on sophisticated transnational organized crime.

As always, organized crime remains the most adaptable of beasts, looking for any opportunity to turn a profit. It is likely that in 2014 it will look for opportunities in a more diverse range of locations.

Source: csmonitor.com

Mexican President Calderon

Christian Caryl: Why organized crime is a growing force in world politics

Mexicans are celebrating a victory over the drug mafia this month. The arrest of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the head of the Zeta drug cartel, is big news. Trevino, alias Z-40, made a name for himself as one of the most brutal gangsters in a country that has become sadly inured to violence. One can only hope that his imprisonment will put an end to at least some of the stomach-turning brutality he was accustomed to inflicting on his enemies. (At one point, it’s been revealed, he even considered shooting down the plane of then-President Felipe Calderon.)

But will Z-40’s arrest put an end to Mexico’s drug wars? There’s reason to doubt it. Demand for drugs from the cartels’ customers in the United States remains strong, and until that underlying structural cause is addressed, this lucrative trade will continue to thrive. Some experts point out that one of the biggest beneficiaries of Trevino’s downfall is likely to be Joaquín Guzman Loera (“El Chapo”), the head of the rival Sinaloa cartel, who can revel in the elimination of one of his most energetic competitors.

Analysts put the value of the global drug trade at some $350 billion a year — and that’s probably a conservative estimate. And yet narcobusiness comprises only one relatively small slice of the much larger world of global criminality. According to the World Economic Forum: “The cross-border flow of global proceeds from criminal activities, corruption and tax evasion is estimated at over $1 trillion, with illegal drugs and counterfeit goods each accounting for 8 percent of world trade.”

Organized crime lurks behind many of the stories in the headlines today, though the connection rarely becomes explicit. Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was just convicted on probably spurious charges of embezzlement, made a name for himself by targeting the corruption that is so deep-seated in today’s Russia that it’s often hard to see where the government leaves off and the mob begins. European Union law enforcement officials warned recently that mobsters are capitalizing on the European financial crisis by taking advantage of black markets in goods and services. Meanwhile, the increasing prominence of the Internet in the global economy is fueling worries about the rising power of organized cybercriminals.

Gangsters are cropping up in all sorts of odd places. Criminal syndicates are implicated in everything from the poaching of rare wildlife to the counterfeiting of drugs and manufactured goods. That growing range of activities attests to the criminals’ skill at exploiting the possibilities offered by deepening global interconnectedness. Consider the opening of this story about a recent global raid by Interpol: “More than 6,000 people around the world were arrested in a two-month anti-counterfeiting sweep that netted tens of millions of dollars worth of fake shampoo in China, phony cigarettes in Turkey and bogus booze in Chile.” The investigators discovered everything from a subterranean factory in Ukraine manufacturing counterfeit cigarettes to a workshop in Peru that puts false labels on motors from China.

Mobsters thrive on instability. In the Syrian civil war, the same criminal groups that once played on their close ties to the government of Bashar al-Assad have now mutated into the shabiha, the feared paramilitaries that do the regime’s dirtiest work on the battlefield. But they’re not the only ones. “The link between insurgent groups and organized crime has long been a feature of intra-state conflict,” notes Asher Berman, an expert at the Institute for the Study of War. “Rebels often turn to criminal activity to obtain the weapons and funding they need to maintain the fight.” The rebels in Syria, desperate for cash, are increasingly resorting to mafia-like tactics of their own, ranging from car thefts to the looting of antiquities. Reports of systematic extortion — the familiar phenomenon of the “revolutionary tax” we’ve heard about so many times before — and economically motivated kidnapping are also on the rise.

What we’re seeing, though, is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Criminals, by definition, prefer to avoid the light of day, so the dimensions of the real mafia problem remain obscure. Was that Vatican official who was arrested in June on money-laundering charges merely trying to make himself and some well-connected friends a bit richer, or is he part of a much broader pattern of institutionalized corruption within the bank of the Holy See? Was that recent police raid in New Delhi that netted a huge haul of black-market weapons a victory over mobsters or terrorists? Did that witness who met an untimely end just before he was to testify in the Whitey Bulger case here in the United States really die of natural causes? Why did the Chinese harbor one of Taiwan’s most prominent triad leaders for 17 years before handing him over to Taipei earlier this month? In most cases, we’ll probably never know the whole story.

But there are a few things that we can say with certainty. First, organized crime in cyberspace is becoming a core problem, one that’s particularly hard to combat precisely because of its amorphousness. Indeed, there’s considerable anecdotal evidence that hackers-for-hire are increasingly lending their services to both governments and gangs. But the opacity of the culprits shouldn’t delude us about the scale of what’s at stake. A report issued earlier this week by a global financial organization noted that half of the world’s securities exchanges came under attack by hackers last year. That means that web-based criminals are potentially in a position to destabilize the global financial system — entirely aside from the untold losses to individuals and companies from mushrooming cybercrime.

Second, illicit financial flows are a big part of the problem. The biggest problem for large-scale criminals is banking their ill-gotten gains, and right now there are plenty of entirely legal lawyers, accountants, and offshore tax havens that are happy to help. Let’s put aside for the moment the theoretical arguments over the virtues and drawbacks of secrecy jurisdictions, and note simply that preserving the present system, which allows criminals to shift their profits almost effortlessly across the globe without scrutiny, will lead to disaster if allowed to continue unchecked. One recent report co-published by Global Financial Integrity and the African Development Bank claims that Africa alone lost up to $1.4 trillion to illicit financial flows. Surely the continuing existence of a system that allows for the existence of a “shadow financial system” on this scale is not good for anyone — countries developed and developing alike.

Third, powerful global crime syndicates are the enemy of good government. Democracy can hardly flourish when politicians meld with the shadowy forces of the mafia. It’s precisely this understanding that has spurred the recent wave of protests in Bulgaria, where demonstrators took to the streets after a thuggish young tycoon was appointed as the government’s top security official. Such concerns are by no means restricted to Eastern Europe, though. The wave of recent protests in places from Turkey to Brazil shows that citizens are increasingly worried about official malfeasance and the lack of transparency that allows it. From what I can see, they’re right to worry.

Christian Caryl, the editor of Democracy Lab, is a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and a contributing editor at Foreign Policy. He is also the author of “Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century.”

Source: twincities.com

MEXICAN AUTHORITIES ARREST MAJOR LEADER OF LOS ZETAS

Mexico’s ‘new’ drug war

President Peña Nieto’s strategy is a lot like his predecessor’s. For obvious reasons.

MEXICAN AUTHORITIES ARREST MAJOR LEADER OF LOS ZETAS

By Ricardo Ainslie
July 26, 2013

Last week, Mexican authorities arrested Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the leader of the Zetas, Mexico’s deadliest and most feared drug cartel. In Mexico, the news was met with relief, although there is also apprehension that his arrest will lead to a convulsion of violence; historically, taking out cartel kingpins has meant power struggles within organized crime groups, schisms that leave many dead in their wake.

Treviño Morales, known as Z-40, was apprehended — along with a bodyguard and a third man, reported to be the cartel’s accountant — without a shot being fired as he traveled along a back road near Nuevo Laredo and the U.S. border.

For observers of the Mexican drug war, his arrest provides an unanticipated window into how President Enrique Peña Nieto will address his nation’s entrenched organized crime problem.

From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Peña Nieto, who assumed office in December 2012, vowed a different approach to the drug war from that of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. Calderon’s frontal assault, though initially popular, very soon became the object of criticism as violence soared. Last summer, the electorate handed Peña Nieto a decisive victory over Calderon’s party, the PAN. Having suffered about 70,000 deaths (a conservative estimate) over the course of Calderon’s presidency, the country was exhausted by the violence, anxious for change.

Calderon pursued a kingpin strategy: Drawing from American counterinsurgency tactics developed in Iraq, his administration declared war on a list of 37 most-wanted cartel operatives. In contrast, many Mexicans believed Peña Nieto would negotiate a peace agreement with the cartels, allowing them free rein in exchange for ending the violence. In addition, Peña Nieto signaled that he might be reevaluating Mexico’s close cooperation with American law enforcement in the drug war.

The arrest of Z-40 would seem to prove those notions wrong. Within days, the national director of Calderon’s party accused Peña Nieto of disingenuously building expectations of a new approach when, for all practical purposes, he was continuing Calderon’s tactics. Indeed, the arrest had all the familiar hallmarks: Treviño Morales’ moves were tracked in real time by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement drone, while American intelligence monitored his communications and shared what was learned with Mexican authorities.

Pragmatism may be one explanation for Peña Nieto’s decision not to jettison the kingpin strategy altogether. His administration simply could not ignore that Mexico’s drug cartels are criminal organizations that not only operate an international drug trade but also commit brutal acts against ordinary Mexican citizens on a daily basis, including kidnapping, human trafficking and extortion — on a massive level — of individuals and businesses. The Zetas, in particular, are infamous for having a “diversified business plan” when it comes to criminal activity.

For Peña Nieto — and Mexicans tired of the violence created by the government crackdown — it is one thing to entertain a live-and-let-live strategy toward the cartels when their primary activities are understood to revolve around servicing the high demand for drugs in the U.S. However, that strategy is no solution if Mexicans continue to be victimized in the absence of government protection in their communities.

It is also likely that Peña Nieto was presented with a politically awkward choice vis-a-vis the United States. The Mexican president apparently faced incontrovertible evidence from U.S. sources indicating that the head of Mexico’s most feared cartel was, literally, in their sights. To have not acted on that intelligence would have certainly raised speculation that the Peña Nieto government was protecting Z-40, which wouldn’t have played well at home or helped in negotiating a new relationship with Washington.

Still, it would be a mistake for Peña Nieto to simply pick up where Calderon left off. The previous administration overemphasized a militarized law enforcement strategy, only belatedly looking at the social conditions that helped create a culture that allowed the cartels to thrive (lessons important in tamping down cartel violence in Colombia and Brazil).

That said, the kingpin strategy is not going to go away. There is no sign that the U.S. will end its intelligence work in Mexico, with or without overt cooperation from Mexican authorities, and the U.S. will undoubtedly continue to exert pressure on those officials to act on that intelligence. But so will everyday Mexicans, with their sometimes conflicting needs for peace and protection. In Mexico’s budding if imperfect democracy, the latter pressures can no longer be ignored.

Ricardo Ainslie, a native of Mexico City, is the author of “The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War.” He is a psychoanalyst and a professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin.

Source: latimes.com

Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán

Report: Mexican military blocked U.S. capture of Sinaloa Cartel leader

According to Mexican journalist Jesus Esquivel, the U.S. government offered to capture Sinaloa Cartel leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in a “simple, fast and surgical” operation.

“The U.S. intelligence services have located him, they know where he is and are ready to trap him,” Esquivel said.

However, the Mexican military blocked the effort.

EFE reported:

President Felipe Calderon, who governed Mexico from 2006 to 2012, wanted the United States to capture the top boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, but the Mexican army and navy “were opposed and stopped the operation” because only U.S. personnel would take part, Esquivel said.

Esquivel interviewed Drug Enforcement Administration agent Jose Baeza, who told him the DEA provided the Mexican government on two occasions with all the information it needed to capture Guzman, but the drug lord got away both times in four-wheel drive vehicles in the mountains.

The Mexican government knows where Guzman is hiding because it has received intelligence reports from the DEA and other agencies, as well as information from its own military and civilian intelligence services, and officials have a list of the drug lord’s properties, Esquivel said.

The Pentagon prepared a plan to capture Guzman in an operation similar to the one that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Esquivel said.

“Washington has not discarded the plan” and will propose it to Enrique Peña Nieto, who became Mexico’s president on Dec. 1, the journalist said.

“The capture of this drug trafficker, if the Mexicans allow it, would be as easy as taking candy from a baby,” Esquivel said.

The United States considers this mission a “priority” because Guzman is the leader of the world’s most powerful criminal organization, Esquivel said, citing a U.S. Treasury Department analysis.

In 2011, Guzman was named to Forbes’ Magazine’s Most Powerful People in the World list.

The billionaire criminal ranked 55th on that year’s list of the world’s most powerful people.

Among others, the drug lord beat out for the distinction were Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and House Majority Leader John Boehner.

Then-Mexican President Felipe Calderón failed to make the list.

In 1993, Guzman (aka Shorty) was arrested on murder and drug charges, but escaped from a Mexican federal prison in 2001, and has remained at-large ever since. He is believed to be directing the powerful Sinaloa Cartel from the mountains of Mexico’s Pacific coast, surrounded by a virtual army of bodyguards.

The U.S. government currently has a $5 million bounty on Guzman, alleging that the Sinaloa organization is responsible for bringing most of the cocaine into this country from Mexico and Colombia.

In February, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzman, as the city’s latest ‘Public Enemy No. 1.’

So, how does a Mexican crime boss earn such a title in a city more than 1,200 miles from the Mexican border?

By turning that city into a distribution hub for narcotics.

Jack Riley, the head of the DEA’s Chicago office, recently told the Associated Press: “This is where Guzman turns his drugs into money.”

Source:http://www.examiner.com

piedras-negras-prison-break

6 die in Zacatecas including 3 armed suspects

A total of six individuals have been killed or were found dead in ongoing drug and gang violence in Zacatecas state, including three armed suspects who died in an encounter with a Mexican Army unit, according to Mexican news accounts.

According to a news item posted on the website of El Sol de Zacatecas news daily, a unit with the Mexican 97th Infantry Battalion exchanged gunfire with armed suspects who were travelling aboard two vehicles Saturday morning.

The gun battle took place in a location about 20 kilometers west of Fresnillo municipality where the army unit was on patrol. The unit apparently crossed paths with the small convoy and were fired on as armed suspects attempted to flee. Mexican Army return fire killed three.

One unidentified Mexican Army soldier was wounded in the encounter.

An undisclosed number of armed suspects surrendered to the unit, and the two vehicles were seized.

Three other individuals were killed in Zacatecas state, according to news items posted on the website of El Sol de Zacatecas.

  • Two woman were found dead on a road in Zacatecas municipality Wednesday. They were identified as Gloria Guadalupe Gomez Ruiz, 25, Zacatecas and Laura Ivone Rodriguez Cervantes, 22 , of Guadalupe municipality. Both victims were found naked and had been tortured by a beating. They were strangled in the location they were found. Zacatecas Procuraduria General de Justicia or attorney general, Arturo Nahle Garcia later dismissed speculations that the women were part of a wave of femicides in the state, suggesting that the victims died from local criminal gangs.
  • An unidentified man was found beaten to death between Jerez and Fresnillo municipalities Saturday afternoon. The victim was found near the village of Purisima del Maguey with a message from organized crime. The content of the message was not disclosed in the news item. However, reports did say the victim was caught in an intergang struggle in the area.

Source:

By Chris Covert
Rantburg.com

Enrique Pena

New paramilitary force to battle narco cartels in Mexico

Enrique Pena
MEXICO CITY — President Enrique Pena Nieto laid out a security strategy Monday that creates a new national force, or gendarmerie, to combat organized crime and restore law to the most distant corners of Mexico.

The paramilitary force will be set up with 10,000 members but may grow to 40,000 in coming years, following models like those of Spain’s Civil Guard or the Italian Carabinieri.

While the new corps takes shape, Pena Nieto said dozens of disparate state police forces would fall under a unified command led by Mexico’s interior secretary, centralizing anti-crime efforts that have lacked coordination in the recent past.

The announcements underscored how Pena Nieto, in his third week of a six-year presidential term, seeks to mark distance from his predecessor, whose all-out war on crime gangs resulted in a frenzy of killing and soaring homicide rates.

“There is a grand national consensus. We all want a Mexico at peace, a more just, fair and safer Mexico,” Pena Nieto told the National Council on Public Security.

As Mexico’s 31 state governors and the powerful mayor of Mexico City looked on, Pena Nieto’s top security aides offered a blistering assessment of the security situation and the inability of prosecutors to punish criminals.

Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said seven out of 10 Mexicans tell pollsters that they don’t feel safe, and one out of every three households has been victim of a crime. Only one out of each 100 criminal acts is punished, he added.

Pena Nieto hailed Mexico’s armed forces and said soldiers and marines would remain in the streets of some cities and rural areas until order is more fully restored and the national gendarmerie takes shape.

“This corps will be responsible for strengthening territorial control in municipalities with weak institutions and guard strategic facilities such as ports, airports and borders,” Pena Nieto said.

Currently, Mexico has more than 2,000 municipal and state police forces, with some 430,000 officers. Corruption often weakens larger forces, while municipal police in some towns have fallen entirely into the hands of crime gangs.

Mexico’s former interior secretary, Alejandro Poire, said in Washington in September that fully a third of state and local police who’d undergone vetting were found unfit to serve.

Osorio Chong said 60 percent of police in Mexico have only an elementary school education, and their wages average less than $315 a month, he said.

Pena Nieto emphasized that his administration would observe “unrestricted respect” for human rights while combating organized crime.

He pledged to create guidelines for when law enforcement agents may use lethal force, enact laws to protect and compensate victims of abuse, and set up a registry of disappeared persons that meets global standards.

Under Pena Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderon, Mexico suffered what human rights monitors said were between 60,000 and 80,000 homicides and tens of thousands of disappearances, much of them blamed on crime gangs.

To centralize anti-crime efforts, Pena Nieto said his government would divide the nation into five regions, each with a police training facility. It also will set up 15 specialized federal police units to combat extortion and kidnapping.

Source: mcclatchydc.com

mexico-prison-monterrey

Mexico prison break attempt leaves 17 dead

mexico-prison-monterrey
Eleven inmates and seven guards were killed in a shootout during a prison break attempt in northern Mexico on Tuesday, local media reported, citing a statement from the security ministry in Durango state.

The inmates shot at guard towers in a jail in the city of Gomez Palacio as they attempted to escape through a back wall and tunnel, and guards fired back to contain the revolt, according to a statement attributed to the ministry, which was posted on the Animal Politico website and cited by the El Universal and Milenio newspapers.

No one was immediately available at the security ministry for comment.

(Reporting By Cyntia Barrera Diaz; Editing by Paul Simao)

REUTERS