Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, intervened to block release of a favorable report on Mexico’s human rights situation. Leahy’s action delays the release of $100 million in US anti-drug assistance. The Merida Initiative, a $1.4 billion, three-year package, requires Congress to withhold 15% of the funding unless the State Department finds that Mexico is respecting human rights.
“Those requirements have not been met, so it is premature to send the report to Congress,” Leahy said in a statement to the Washington Post. “We had good faith discussions with Mexican and US officials in reaching these requirements in the law, and I hope we can continue in that spirit.” State Department officials ewre eager to secure the funds before President Obama’s trip this weekend to Guadalajara for a summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (WP, Aug. 5)
The same day Leahy acted, five bodies—one of them headless—were found in a van in Ciudad Juárez. (AP, Aug. 5) Two days later, a battle between police and gunmen left 12 dead—three officers and nine presumed narcos—in Pachuca, Hidalgo. Authorities said officers acting on a tip stopped four trucks carrying the assailants, who opened fire and fled. (NYT, Aug. 7)
In Tijuana, federal police reportedly captured a top lieutenant of the Arellano Felix cartel, Manuel Invanovich Zambrano Flores. Police seized 10 rifles, 7 pistols, almost 4,000 rounds of ammunition during his arrest. The Public Safety Department says he was responsible “for a large part of the organization’s drug shipments to the United States and its finances.” (AP, Aug. 8) On Aug. 3, federal authorities in Veracruz claimed to have broken a notorious kidnapping gang, Los Rojos, arresting four of its leaders. (EFE, Aug. 3)
See our last posts on Mexico’s narco war.