Mexico claimed another capture of a long-fugitive cartel kingpin Oct. 9, when Vicente Carrillo Fuentes AKA "El Viceroy" surrendered without a shot after being recognized by federal police at a checkpoint in Torreon, Coahuila. A bodyguard in the car was also taken into custody. El Viceroy, top boss of the Juárez Cartel, was one of Mexico's most wanted fugitives, and the US was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction. (CNN, Oct. 9) However, like Héctor Beltran Leyva of the Beltran Leyva Organization, who was apprehended just days earlier, the Viceroy headed a crime syndicate that was already in decline—squeezed out by the twin behemoths of the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas.
US government policies for dealing with unauthorized migrants at the Mexico-US border are endangering Hondurans and other Central Americans by sending them back to their home countries without adequate consideration of their asylum claims, according to a 44-page report that the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization released on Oct. 16. "In its frenzy to stem the tide of migrants from Central America, the US is sending asylum seekers back to the threat of murder, rape and other violence," said Clara Long, the HRW researcher who wrote the report, "'You Don't Have Rights Here': US Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm."
Mexican authorities on Oct. 1 claimed another coup against the cartels, announcing the arrest of Héctor Beltran Leyva, last remaining kingpin of the Beltran Leyva Organization—the declining crime machine that once controlled much of the west and central parts of the country. Beltran Leyva was taken into custody by army troops "without a shot fired" as he dined in a seafood restaurant in the tourist town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato state. (LAT, Oct. 1) The capture follows that earlier this year of the Sinaloa Cartel's long-fugitive jefe máximo Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo"—marking another score for President Enrique Peña Nieto, and his supposed new and more sophisticated policy against the cartels.
Amid growing concern about horrific human rights abuses by Mexico's security forces, Amnesty International on Sept. 4 issued a report, aptly entitled "Out of Control," harshly criticizing the Mexican government for its failure to adequately investigate allegations of torture and other "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" at the hands of the military and police. The report finds that such practices are condoned, tolerated or ignored by superior officers, prosecutors, judges and even official human rights bodies. The report calls on Mexico to enforce its own human rights laws—echoing similar demands made by Amnesty last year, urging the Mexican Senate to adopt legislation to protect against rights violations by the military. (Jurist, Sept. 5)
Authorities in the northeastern Mexican state of Coahuila announced Feb. 7 that they had recovered at least 500 sets of human remains from mass graves scattered across 11 municipalities—mostly in the north of the state, along the Texas border. Most of the remains were bones, which had largely survived apparent attempts at incineration. Several vats used to dissolve the remains in acid were also found in the graves. No group has been named as responsible for the killings, but Coahuila is a battle-ground in the ongoing war between the Zetas and their rivals in the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels. The Mexican media are calling the finds "narco-graves." The state Prosecutor General's office says it will take at least four months to ascertain the number of victims among the remains, much less identify them. (Latin Times, Feb. 10; Siglo de Torreón, Feb. 8; Pulso, SLP, Feb. 7)
As of April 26 environmental activists still hadn't learned the Mexican government's response to requests that the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company filed on March 26 for permission to expand the sowing of transgenic corn in four northern and western states. Monsanto asked for clearance to sow commercial crops in 28 municipalities in the state of Chihuahua, 11 in Coahuila and nine in Durango. These requests were in an addition to filings it made in January and February to carry out noncommercial pilot projects in the same municipalities and in Comondú in Baja California Sur. Another biotech company, Swiss-based Syngenta AG, filed on March 26 for permission to carry out pilot projects in the state of Sinaloa. People opposing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for crops say the total requests would affect 12 million hectares.
Six people were strangled to death and one decapitated in the Mexican tourist resort of Cancún April 14—the latest mass killing to strike the city in the last few weeks. Police found the bodies of the five men and two women in a shack in the outskirts of the Yucatan Peninsula city, which has largely escaped the drug-related violence that has rocked Acapulco, a faded tourist destination on the Pacific coast. Quintana Roo authorities said the vicitms were small-scale drug dealers. In a separate incident that day, police found the body of another man in Cancún who had been gagged, bound and wrapped in sheets. (AP, April 15) The slayings come one month after seven were killed when gunmen burst into Cancún's La Sirenita (Little Mermaid) bar, targeting members of the city's taxi-drivers who were holding a meeting there. Several Cancún taxi drivers had been arrested recently for selling drugs or participating in drug-related killings, authorities said. (AP, Univision, March 15)
Authorities in Mexico's coal-producing northern state of Coahuila say that the notorious Zetas, bloodiest of the country's warring cartels, have taken over much of mining industry. Suspicions were first raised in October when top Zeta commander Heriberto Lazcano was found in a Coahuila coal mining town and killed in a shoot-out with Mexican marines. Coahuila produces some 95% of Mexico's coal at approximately 15 million tons a year, and current estimates place the Zetas' annual profits from their share of the industry at around $25 million. Former Coahuila governor Humberto Moreira said the Zetas are expanding their control over the state's mines, both legal and illegal. "They discover a mine, extract the coal, sell it at $30, pay the miners a miserable salary," he told Al Jazeera. "It's more lucrative than selling drugs."