Mexico's imprisoned top drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán came another step closer to extradition Oct. 20 when a Mexican federal judge in Ciudad Juárez found that the process has been legally sound and turned down five requests for an amparo (or injunction) to halt it. Extradition to face criminal charges in the United States had been approved in May, but suspended later that month by a higher court in Mexico City. The suspension was inteneded to allow the lower court to hear arguments by Guzmán's lawyers that extradition would be unconstitutional. These arguments have now been rejected. Chapo's lawyers were given 10 days to file an appeal.
A growing wave of paramilitary terror is reported from the remote and rugged Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state—the country's prime opium and cannabis cultivation zone. Local residents at the hamlet of El Largo Maderal, in the backwoods of Madera municipality, on Oct. 14 issued an urgent alert to the authorities and media over ongoing attacks by narco-gunmen, leaving at least two campesinos dead over the past weeks. The Chihuahua state prosecutor, or Fiscalía General, meanwhile reported a highway attack at nearby Rancho Las Pomas, where a local narco-jefe identified only as "El Nacho" was killed along with two henchmen—their car shot up and then set aflame.
The Mexican state of Jalisco is bracing for a feared explosion of violencie after the son of the country's top drug lord was kidnapped by rivals. Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar was seized by gunmen along with some 10 of his minions as they dined at an upscale restaurant in the resort town of Puerta Vallarta on Aug. 15. Guzmán Salazar is the son of Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán, imprisoned kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel. Jalisco authorities believe the kidnapping was perpetrated by the state's reigning criminal machine, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which has been resisting an incursion by the Sinaloa competition.
A federal judge in Mexico ruled May 9 that drug lord Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán may be extradited to the US—where he faces numerous federal charges of drug trafficking, kidnapping, money laundering and murder in Chicago, Miami and New York. Mexico's Exterior Secretariat has 30 days to decide whethe to approve the extradition, but Guzmán's lawyers say there are multiple appeals pending against extradition, and that to extradite him before these are exhausted would be a violation of his human rights. Mexico's Third District for Penal Processes, which approved the extradition, says that all legal requirements have been met. The identity of the judge in the case remains secret under special rules in place for prosecution of cartel bosses. (Jurist, BBC News)
A "peace summit" was held in Colombia's Caribbean port of Cartagena last week, as last year at this time, bringing together international experts and civil society representatives to discuss the ongoing process to end the country's multi-generational civil war. The conference came as the UN Security Council is preparing a resolution in support of Colombia's peace process, empowering a "special political mission" to the country to oversee implementation of pending accords with the FARC guerillas. (El Espectador, Jan. 20; El Espectador, Jan. 7) According to Colombia's Conflict Analysis Resource Center (CERAC), political violence registered over the past six months is at its lowest level since the FARC first took up arms in 1964. CERAC cited the FARC's unilateral ceasefire that came into force in July, and the government's suspension of air-strikes. The report found that both the FARC ceasefire and government air-strike halt had been broken, but registered only 16 clashes between guerillas and government troops over the past six months, resulting in the deaths of 17 guerilla fighters and three members of the security forces. (Colombia Reports, Jan. 22)
The story of the capture of Chapo Guzmán—Mexico's top fugitive drug lord—took a turn for the surreal Jan. 9 with the relevation that Hollywood heavy Sean Penn had interviewed the kingpin when he was on the lam last year for Rolling Stone magazine. In the account, Penn describes the complicated process of estabishing contact, with encrypted communications and such, before being flown from an unnamed location in central Mexico to a "jungle clearing" for some face time. We have to be a tad skeptical here. Chapo was tracked down by Mexican federales to a luxury condo in a Sinaloa seaport—nowhere near any jungle. Even if the meeting was arranged at a remote location, it was still likely to be in Chapo's northern stronghold state of Sinaloa—and the only real jungle in Mexico is in southern Chiapas state, hundreds of miles away. Taking some liberties for dramatic effect perhaps, Sean?
The Zapatista rebels in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas marked the anniversary of their 1994 New Years Day uprising by hosting a national activist gathering in their territory. Guests of honor at the proceedings in the small pueblo of Oventic were a group of parents and other family members of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014. The students, from Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state, are said to have been abducted by corrupt local police and turned over to a murderous narco-gang—but surviving kin and their supporters increasingly charge Mexico's government with a cover-up in the case. The Zapatistas' Subcommander Moises, joined by 43 masked rebels (one for each missing student), oversaw the ceremony and each embraced the family members. Moises expressed his own skepticism of the official investigation: "The Zapatistas believe that we cannot trust the bad governments anymore, they are the servants of capital, stewards of big capitalist business," he said. "The one calling the shots is global capitalism, that is why we cannot believe them." (TeleSur, Jan. 1)
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto might have made a more auspicious choice of words in proudly announcing the recapture of fugitive drug lord Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo" on Jan. 8. "Mission accomplished: we have him," the prez declared in Spanish on his Twitter account. El Chapo's escape from Mexico's top-security prison in July was a bitter humiliation for Peña Nieto and his government. The elusive Chapo had spent a decade and change as the country's most-wanted fugitive after his last escape from a Mexican prison, in 2001. The first time around, he allegedly used bribes to slip out in a laundry cart; the second time he slipped out through an elaborate tunnel that had been built from his shower block at Altiplano Prison to a nearby apartment. The Sinaloa Cartel kingpin taunted the world on social media as the second manhunt was carried out. So we have to ask: Was a nervous Peña Nieto unconsciously echoing the famously premature boast of George W. Bush after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003?