narco wars

Reynosa shoot-outs: death throes of Gulf Cartel?

Mexico's northeastern border state of Tamaulipas—just across from Texas' Gulf Coast—has for years been engulfed in an under-reported war, as the Gulf Cartel and its rogue offspring the Zetas battle for dominance over the narco-trafficking "plaza" (zone of control). The current flare-up in the border town of Reynosa may signal a turning point. Street gun-battles have become so common in the town that authorities have instituted a color-coded alert system to warn citizens. The town has been on "red alert" repeatedly over the past days, and there are signs that the long struggle is entering an endgame.

Trump-Duterte 'bromance' bodes ill for freedom

The Philippines' inimitable President Rodrigo Duterte is being his usual charming self. The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnes Callamard, arrived in the country on May 5 to attend a conference on drug policy and human rights at the University of the Philippines. Callamard is of course a harsh critic of Duterte's campaign of police and paramilitary terror against low-level drug dealers and users. Duterte wasted not a moment in voicing defiance, warning drug users: "And here's the shocker: I will kill you. I will really kill you. And that's why the rapporteur of the UN is here, investigating extrajudicial killing."

US Marines back to Afghanistan's opium heartland

US Marines this month returned to Helmand province, now the epicenter both of Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency and opium production. Ostensibly, the mission is to train Afghan forces struggling to stem the insurgency, but the Marines certainly have the power to fire if fired upon. Many of the 300 Marines coming to Helmand under NATO's Resolute Support training mission are veterans of previous tours in the province—where almost 1,000 coalition troops (mostly US and British) were killed fighting the Taliban before they pulled out in 2014. When they left, as part of that year's supposed US "withdrawal" from Afghanistan, they handed over the sprawling desert base they dubbed Camp Leatherneck to the Afghan army, hoping not to return. Now they have.

Philippines: legal challenge to deadly drug war

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte remains intransigent on his ultra-murderous "drug war," which has unleashed police and paramilitary terror on low-level dealers and users across the archipelago. But, hearteningly, courageous dissent and resistance to the blood-drenched crackdown persists. Al Jazeera on April 24 features a profile of the legal team at Manila's Center for International Law, which has been going to bat for the targets of Duterte's terror—despite the threat of reprisals.

Sessions pledges crackdown on Latin gangs

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking to the Justice Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) on April 18, pledged that the Trump administration will have "zero tolerance for gang violence" from "transnational criminal organizations"—particularly singling out MS-13, the Central American narco-network that has its roots on the streets of Los Angeles. Citing a February executive order in which President Trump directed the Justice Department "to interdict and dismantle transnational criminal organizations," Sessions promised "concrete ideas to follow through" on the directive.

Mexico: fugitive narco-governors snared

Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-governor of Mexico's Veracruz state, was detained in Guatemala on April 15 in a joint operation by Interpol and Guatemalan police. He's now awaiting extradition back to Mexico, where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and protecting organized crime. Duarte was governor of Veracruz from 2010 until he stepped down last October, shortly before the end of his term. He was doing so in order to face the allegations against him—but then he disappeared and went on the lam.

Global execution stats: good news, bad news

The latest annual Amnesty International report on global use of the death penalty actually has some heartening news. For the first time since 2006, the United States did not make the top five executioners in 2016—falling to seventh, behind Egypt. The 20 executions in the US constituted the lowest number in the country since 1991. Most executions last year took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan—in that order. And after three years in a row of global executions surging, they appear to have dropped off in 2016. Not including data from China, Amnesty counts 1,032 executions throughout the world in 2016—more than 600 fewer than in 2015.

Mexicans mobilize against Trump border wall

After President Donald Trump's inauguration, Mexico saw a wave of angry protests against his proposed border wall, with more than 20,000 marching in Mexico City on Feb. 12, chanting "Pay for your own wall!" But now this wave of anger is crystalizing around concrete legal initiatives that could be very problematic for the White House. First, the front-runner for next year's Mexican presidential election, the left-populist Andres Manuel López Obrador, has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the proposed wall.

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