Mexico: Chapo goon popped —but still not Chapo

The Mexican military announced Feb. 10 the capture of Jonathan Salas Avilés AKA “El Fantasma” (The Ghost), accused of being the security chief for fugitive Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzmán AKA “El Chapo” (Shorty), in Culiacán. Salas apparently surrendured after being surrounded by three helicopters and at least eight navy vehicles. In the typical confusion, the governor of Sinaloa last year mistakenly announced that Salas had been killed in a clash with Mexican Marines. (BBC News, El Universal, Sexenio, Feb. 10; Justice in Mexico, March 5, 2012) The arrest of a figure close to El Chapo while the kingpin himself remains at large has been reported again and again and again and again and again—leading to conspiracy theories that Chapo is being protected by the Mexican state, at the price of the occasional sacrifice of a lieutenant to save face.

The violent deaths of all but one member of a musical band made grim headlines in Mexico late last month. The vallenato band Kombo Kolombia, from Monterrey,  were playing a party at a ranch in Sabinas Hidalgo, when it was attacked by gunmen. Between band members and their entourage, 17 were killed. The bodies were found days later, dumped into wells at the nearby town of Mina, Nuevo León. Authorities have arrested one man in the massacre, and say the band was targeted by Los Zetas because it had performed at parties for the rival Gulf Cartel. (Latino Daily News, Feb. 8; BBC News, Feb. 3; Billboard, Jan. 28)

On Feb. 4, Wilfrido Flores Villa, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and interim mayor of Nahuatzén,  a largely indigenous town in Michoacán, was shot and killed at a restaurant in nearby Pátzcuaro. The incident marks the sixth attempted murder of a town mayor in Michoacán within the past year, although the previous five all survived.  (Justice in Mexico, Feb. 10)