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.
The ongoing regional war in Mexico's southern Guerrero state between narco gangs and the anti-narco "community police" militia movement resulted in a hostage stand-off that was finally resolved with the mediation of government authorities Dec. 14. The episode is further indication of how the government has lost effective control of the rural areas of the state to the narco gangs and their vigilante enemies.
Rule of law seems to have completely broken down in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, with the back-country really run by competing murderous narco-gangs. On Nov. 25, a Mixed Operations force of army and state police troops discovered over 30 bodies buried in mass graves in the municipality of Zitlala, in the rugged highlands where hidden canyons produce copious crops of opium and cannabis. The remains—including 32 corpses and nine severed heads—were found in a series of 20 hidden graves. Several men were detained, and cars and weapons seized. Such finds have become alarmingly common in Mexico in recent years, and are dubbed "narco-fosas" (narco-graves).
Fears that Mexico's controversial anti-narco "community police" groups could themselves be co-opted by the warring cartels appear to be vindicated by recent grim events in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Two rival "community police" networks are struggling for control of the main road linking Acapulco on the Pacific with the inland state capital Chilpancingo—dubbed the "heroin highway," as it is a main artery for delivering the illicit product of the mountains to exit-ports on the coast. Over the past weeks, over a score have been killed in fighting between the Union of Pueblos and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG) and the United Front for the Security and Development of the State of Guerrero (FUSDEG), according to newspaper Milenio.