Despite his boast to have "ended" the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug "National Guard" drawing from the military and police forces. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.
Two months into his term, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared an end to his country's "war on drugs," announcing that the army would no longer prioritize capturing cartel bosses. The new populist president made his declaration Jan. 30, at the end of his second month in office. He told gathered reporters at a press conference that the "guerra contra el narcotráfico," launched in 2006 by then-president Felipe Calderón, has come to and end. "Officially now, there is no war; we are going to prusue peace," he said.
Mexican federal police and the military have taken over policing duties in Acapulco, after the entire municipal force was disarmed Sept. 25 due to suspected co-optation by criminal gangs. The city’s police chief, Max Sedano Román, and five of his commanders were detained by Mexican naval troops. Two of the commanders were arrested "for their probable responsibility in the crime of homicide." Their weapons and other equipment of the city police force have bee seized by Guerrero state authorities. The Guerrero government said it took the step "because of suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups" and "the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave." Acapulco had a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants last year, one of the highest rates in Mexico and the world. The Washington Post last year described the resort city as Mexico’s murder capital.
If Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hoped to present an image of stability to US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly when he flew in on July 5, it proved to be pretty bad timing. On Kelly's second day, he toured southern Guerrero state to witness opium eradication operations there. Late that very night, a riot broke out at the prison in the state's biggest city, violence-torn Acapulco. The explosion of violence at Las Cruces CERESO (Social Readaption Center) ended with at least 28 inmates dead—many of them mutilated and several beheaded.
The horrific case of 43 college students from the Mexican village of Ayotzinapa who disappeared in September 2014—allegedly murdered by a local narco-gang—made deeply embarrassing international headlines again this week. The New York Times reports July 10 that sophisticated spyware supplied to Mexico officially to track narco-traffickers and terrorists was instead used against human rights investigators looking into the Ayotzinapa case.
Protests have been held in Mexico over the slaying of an award-winning journalist on May 15—the latest in a long line of reporters killed for daring to cover the country's ongoing nightmarish narco-violence. Javier Valdez was founder and editor of weekly newspaper Ríodoce in Culiacán, capital of Sinaloa state and principal stronghold of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel. Ríodoce staff pledged to carry on his work in spite of threats. Valdez was the sixth Mexican journalist killed so far this year.
Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-governor of Mexico's Veracruz state, was detained in Guatemala on April 15 in a joint operation by Interpol and Guatemalan police. He's now awaiting extradition back to Mexico, where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and protecting organized crime. Duarte was governor of Veracruz from 2010 until he stepped down last October, shortly before the end of his term. He was doing so in order to face the allegations against him—but then he disappeared and went on the lam.
The case of 43 college students from the Mexican village of Ayotzinapa who disappeared in September 2014—and were allegedly murdered by a local narco-gang—continues to elicit outrage. Now, the parents of the missing students held a cross-country mobilization for justice in the case, arriving in Mexico City on Christmas Day. The "Caravan for Memory and Hope" departed from southern Guerrero state five days earlier. On Dec. 26, a special mass was held at the city's historic Basilica de Guadalupe in honor of the missing students, overseen by the Bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera, and the Archbishop of Morelia, Carlos Garfias—both well-known for their advocacy for Mexico's poor and oppressed.