A year-end report by Mexico’s government registered a figure of 95,000 missing persons nationwide, with an estimated 52,000 unidentified bodies buried in mass graves. The report by the Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda de Personas (National Missing Persons Search Commission) found that the great majority of the disappearances have taken place since 2007, when Mexico began a military crackdown on the drug cartels. Alejandro Encinas, the assistant interior secretary for human rights, said that there are 9,400 unidentified bodies in cold-storage rooms in the country, and pledged to form a National Center for Human Identification tasked with forensic work on these remains. He admitted to a “forensic crisis that has lead to a situation where we don’t have the ability to guarantee the identification of people and return [of remains] to their families.” (Photo via openDemocracy)
Hondurans elected self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program—and take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing. It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit—or, more ambitiously, its national territory. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)
Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador met with Trump at the White House to inaugurate the new trade treaty that replaces NAFTA. Embarrassingly, the meeting was punctuated by horrific new outbursts of narco-violence in Mexico. And the country’s promised cannabis legalization—mandated by the high court and looked to as a de-escalation of the dystopian drug war—is stalled by a paralyzed Congress. (Photo: Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana)
Mexican lawmakers are predicting legal cannabis by month’s end, and portraying it as a key to de-escalating the endemic narco-violence. But national headlines are full of nightmarish cartel violence—making all too clear how big the challenge will be. A cannabis industry in the hands of agribusiness, with the campesinos excluded and marginalized, is unlikely to bring peace to Mexico’s conflicted countryside. (Photo: La Opción de Chihuahua)
There is a discomforting sense that Mexico is perpetually on the eve of cannabis legalization, as the country’s Congress wins a six-month extension from the Supreme Court to pass a law freeing the herb. But foreign capital is already eyeing Mexico’s emergent legal cannabis sector—even amid a terrifying escalation in the bloody cartel wars. When authorities attempted to arrest the son of “Chapo” Guzmán in Culiacán, the troops were surrounded by Cartel gunmen riding in trucks mounted with big machine-guns, and even what appeared to be improvised armored vehicles. The younger Guzmán escaped, and the Sinaloa Cartel proved it has the firepower to effectively challenge the state—at least on its home turf. (Photo via The Drive)
Militant protests have swept through Honduras since the conviction by a federal jury in New York of the brother of President Juan Orlando Hernández on narco-trafficking charges. Thousands have filled the streets of cities and towns across the Central American country to demand the resignation of Hernández. Protesters have repeatedly blocked traffic arteries, erecting barricades with stones and flaming tires. A police transport truck was set on fire in Tegucigalpa. Opposition leader Salvador Nasralla of the Anticorruption Party has thrown his support behind the protests and called on the security forces to stand down, invoking a “right to insurrection” in Article 3 of the Honduran constitution. (Photo via AMW)
Notorious narco-lord "Chapo" Guzmán was convicted by a federal jury in New York and faces life in prison. But violence in Mexico has only escalated since his capture. Few media accounts have noted how Chapo and his Sinaloa Cartel rose as militarized narcotics enforcement escalated in Mexico—a trajectory mirrored by the cartels' move from dealing in cannabis to deadly white powders. (Photo: US Coast Guard via Cannabis Now)
Already officially studying the possibility of cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has now announced a formal end to the "war on drugs" that has only seemed to fuel the narco-violence over the past 10 years. However, military troops are still being mobilized for narcotics enforcement from Chiapas to Chihuahua—including marijuana eradication. (Photo: Sexenio)
Official figures reveal that narco-violence made 2017 the deadliest year in Mexico's modern history. The grim total surpassed that of 2011, when the militarized drug war of then-President Felipe Calderón led to 22,409 homicides. A total of 23,101 homicide investigations were opened in the first 11 months of 2017, according to figures from the Governance Ministry, which has been tracking the yearly kill count back to 1997. (Map: CIA)
Brazilian federal police announced the arrest of José González Valencia, top leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel—the criminal machine that has risen to challenge the Sinaloa Cartel for control of Mexico's narco trade. Valencia, known as "El Camarón" (The Shrimp), was arrested at Aquiraz, a resort near the coastal city of Fortaleza, where he was spending the Christmas holidays with his family. He was extradited straight from Brazil to the United States, where he faces trafficking charges. (Map: CIA)
Yet another Mexican journalist was slain as the cartels continue to exact vengeance on any who would dare to report on their reign of terror and corruption. Cándido "Papuche" Ríos, who covered the nota roja (crime and police beat) for local newspaper Diario de Acayucan, was gunned down in a rural town in Veracruz state.
A man believed to be the godson of Mexican narco lord "Chapo" Guzmán was indicted in a San Diego federal court after turning himself in to US border agents at Calexico. Authorities say Damaso López Serrano AKA "Mini Lic" surrendered under pressure of a bloody power struggle over control of the Sinaloa Cartel.