Mexico Theater

Kin of missing Mexican students take protest to US

March 28 saw more angry protests in Mexico's conflicted southern state of Guerrero, as students from the rural college of Ayotzinapa clashed with police in the state capital Chilpancingo at a march demanding the return alive of the 43 abducted students from the school. Cars were set on fire as police attacked the marchers. The 43 students disappeared during protests in the Guerrero town of Iguala last September, and are now believed to have been turned over a murderous narco-gang by corrupt police. The weekend before the Chilpancingo demonstration, family members of some of the 43 missing students held a vigil in New York City's Union Square—one stop on a tour of US cities to raise awareness on their plight and protest Washington's "Drug War" aid to Mexico's brutal and corrupt police forces.

Mexico: narco-gang decapitates mayoral candidate

Aidé Nava, 42-year-old woman running for mayor in Mexico's conflicted southern state of Guerrero, was found decapitated March 11, a day after she was abducted in her hometown of Ahuacuotzingo. The decapitated body was found in the municipality's outlying hamlet of Tecoanapa with a note signed by Los Rojos, one of the main Guerrero narco-gangs, threatening the same treatment for any politician who does not "fall in line." She had been seized the previous day by gunmen who stopped her campaign bus on a rural road. Nava's family, activists with the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), had long been under threat. Her husband Francisco Quiñonez Ramírez, the former mayor of Ahuacuotzingo, was gunned down by an assassin in June 2014. Their son, Francisco Quiñonez Nava, was kidnapped in October 2012 and remains missing.

Mexico's notorious 'Z-42' busted

Mexican authorities on March 4 announced the capture of Omar Treviño AKA "Z-42"—leader of Los Zetas, the ultra-violent narco-paramilitary network that has long terrorized the country. Z-42 was detained without a shot being fired by federal police and soldiers in San Pedro Garza García, an upscale suburb of northern industrial hub Monterrey, officials said. US DEA chief Michele Leonhart congratulated Mexico, saying the bust "strikes at the heart of the leadership structure of the Zetas." The US State Department had a $5 million price on Treviño's head, while Mexican authorities offered $2 million.

Mexico: Knights Templar jefe busted

Mexican authorities on Feb. 27 announced the capture of the country's most-wanted drug lord, Servando Gómez AKA "La Tuta"—boss of Michoacán's feared Knights Templar cartel. After a long surveillance operation, "La Tuta" was taken without a shot in a raid on a house in state capital Morelia. Also known as "El Profe" due his past as a schoolteacher, the leader of the cultish Knights Templar had overseen a bloody campaign for control of the Michoacán plaza (sphere of operations) against the group's principal rival, La Familia Michoacana, from which it broke off in 2010. Despite a $2 million price on his head, La Tuta had publicly proclaimed that he would rather die than go to prison. After his capture, he was taken to Mexico City, where he was paraded before TV cameras, before being flown by helicopter to the maximum-security Altiplano prison. Police seized several Michoacán properties in the weeks leading up the capture and arrested several of his associates, including his brother, Flavio Gómez, who was said to be in charge of the cartel's finances. The Knights Templars are said to control sprawling agricultural lands and real estate across Michoacán.

Latin America: cartels build own arms industry

Yet more grim evidence emerged this week that Mexico's warring cartels are becoming a real military force and underground parallel state in the country's lawless northeast. Small Wars Journal on Feb. 13 noted a press release from the Mexican attorney general's office, the PGR, announcing that federal police and army troops had raided a winery near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, where 13 vehicles were being fitted with armor plating. Small Wars Journal calls it a "narco-tank factory." A huge amount of ammunition was also confiscated in the raid, although it seems the people who were running the workshop all escaped. The PGR said they believe the makeshift factory was being run by the Gulf Cartel.

Mexico cracks down on narco-oil

In an open acknowledgement that it cannot secure its pipeline system from plunder by criminal gangs, Mexico's state oil monopoly Pemex announced Feb. 18 that it will no longer pump refined gasoline and diesel through the duct network. Mexico lost $1.14 billion last year to pipeline thefts last year—a 70% increase over the previous year. This is an ominous sign that the drug cartels are becoming the real power on the ground throughout much of the country—moving beyond their mainstays of illicit substances to contraband control of legal commodities like oil and minerals, establishing a virtual parallel economy. Pemex will now only send "unfinished" fuel through its more than 14,000 kilometers of pipeline, reported El Universal. The company said in a statement: "Customers should make sure that the fuel they buy has been delivered from Pemex terminals, and not buy gasoline or diesel from anyone other than gas stations or authorized dealers, given that...it could damage motors."

Mexico: UN criticizes officials on disappearances

In a report published on Feb. 13, the United Nations' Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) called on the Mexican government to prioritize actions to deal with the large number of disappearances taking place in many parts of the country, often with the participation of government functionaries. Although international attention has been focused on the September abduction of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College, located in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa, the total number of people who have gone missing in Mexico since the militarization of the "war on drugs" began in late 2006 is estimated at 22,600. "[I]n contrast to the thousands of enforced disappearances," CED member Rainer Huhle told a news briefing, citing the government's own statistics, "there are exactly six persons put to trial and sentenced for this crime."

Another sentencing in Sinaloa-Chicago connection

Identical twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores on Jan. 27 were the latest to be sentenced in a series of high-profile federal cases targeting the Sinaloa Cartel's operations in Chicago. Accused of running a continent-spanning trafficking ring, they each received 14 years in prison after US District Judge Ruben Castillo agreed to sharply reduce their term in recognition of their work as government informants. Castillo called the Flores twins, natives of Chicago's West Side, the "most significant drug dealers" he'd dealt with in two decades on the bench, stating that they had "devastated the walls" of US national security by bringing at least 70 tons of cocaine and heroin into the country from 2005 to 2008. Prosecutors also charged the twins smuggled $1.8 billion back to Mexico—wrapped in plastic and duct tape. But it was federal prosecutors who pleaded for leniency, hailing the twins for gathering evidence against the Cartel's long-fugitive kingpin "