Mexico: bloody New Year despite arrest of kingpin

Mexican authorities announced Dec. 30 the arrest of Alberto Espinoza Barron AKA “La Fresa” (the Strawberry), reputed head of the “Michoacán Family“—the drug cartel accused of setting off two grenades during an Independence Day celebration in September, killing eight people and wounding more than 100. The federal Special Investigative Sub-prosecutor for Organized Crime (SIEDO) said “La Familia” is believed to be allied with the Gulf Cartel in a turf war for control of Michoacán with the Beltran Leyva crime family based in Sinaloa. (El Universal, Jan. 1; CNN, Dec. 31)

The Beltran Leyva crime family is itself said to be engaged in a bloody struggle for control of the Sinaloa Cartel with kingpin “Chapo” Guzmán. With Guzmán on top in Sinaloa, federal authorities believe the brothers Arturo and HĂ©ctor Beltran Leyva have taken refuge in Mexico City—transforming the capital for the first time from a mere center for money laundering and intelligence gathering to a logistical center for one of the country’s top crime machines. “Organized crime has established a center of operations in the Federal District,” said David Ordaz of the National Institute of Penal Sciences (INACIPE). (Once Noticias, Jan. 2)

Nightmarish violence continued unabated into the new year. In the western town of La Huerta, Jalisco state, a shootout between rival families at a New Year’s party at Rancho Platanitos left four dead, and a clash between soldiers and presumed cartel hitmen in Uriachic, Chihuahua state, reportedly left three sicarios dead. In Ciudad Juárez, Alicia Saláis, director of the local Nuevo Casas Grande Civil Association for Human Rights, was killed in her sleep in a raid on her home. Her husband and young daughter were also asleep in the home.

Federal prosecutors placed three municipal police officers in Ciudad Juárez under house arrest on suspicion of narco-corruption. And in Monterrey, prosecutors accused former Nuevo Leon state police officer Aldo Perales of leading a gang of bank robbers and participating in more than 30 robberies. (AP, Jan. 3; El Universal, Jan. 2; EFE, Milenio, Jan. 1)

See our last post on Mexico’s narco wars.

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