Mexico on Sept. 30 extradited 13 people to the United States—including two accused drug lords and several suspects in two high-profile attacks on US citizens. One was the 2011 deadly ambush of US immigration agents in San Luis Potosí state; the other the previous year's killing of US consulate workers in Ciudad Juárez. The two accused kingpins were Edgar Valdez Villarreal AKA "La Barbie" of the Beltran- Leyva Organization and Jorge Costilla Sánchez AKA "El Coss" of Los Zetas. The US Justice Department hyped the extraditions as signaling a new binational coordination following a June meeting between US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her Mexican counterpart, Arely Gómez. As AP noted, extraditions had fallen dramatically since 2012, the final year of President Felipe Calderón's term, when Mexico sent 115 people to face criminal charges in the US. Under President Enrique Peña Nieto, the number dropped to just 66 last year. (AP, Sept. 30)
Mexico's independent Miguel Agustin Pro Human Rights Center (or Centro Pro) on July 2 released new evidence that high-ranking military officers gave soldiers orders to kill prior to an army mass slaying of more than 20 supposed narco-gang members in June 2014. The facts of the bloody incident at Tlatlaya, México state, have been disputed for over a year now. Purported documents from the 102nd Infantry Battalion released by the Centro Pro read like extermination orders. "Troops must operate at night, in massive form, reducing daytime activity, to kill criminals in hours of darkness," one document says. This casts further doubt on the official version that the casualties died in a gun battle that began when suspects fired on soldiers in a warehouse raid. An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) has already determined that between 12 and 15 of the victims were killed unarmed or after surrendering. Yet the defense secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, continues to stand by the official story, charging that "people and groups who perhaps don't like what the army is doing have already convicted the soldiers."
After an electoral season marred by narco-violence and assassination of candidates of all parties, the results from Mexico's June 7 vote are in. The coalition led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico as a one-party state for 80 years, maintains its slim majority in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies, although it lost some seats. Gubernatorial races were also held in several states, including some hit especially hard by the cartel violence. The PRI gained the governorship of Guerrero, but lost control of Michoacán to the left opposition. In one upset, the PRI lost northern Nuevo León state to an independent, Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez Calderón—the first independent candidate to win a governorship in Mexico. The gadfly rancher survived two assassination attempts by the Zetas when he was mayor of García, a Monterrey suburb. His son was killed in an attempted abduction, and his young daughter kidnapped, although returned unharmed. El Bronco beat the PRI and other estabished parties with a populist campaign and invective against entrenched corruption. With the state's establishment press bitterly opposed to him, he made deft use of social media to mobilize support. (Reuters, BBC News, Televisa, CNN México, June 8)
Two volunteers who helped feed Central American migrants passing through Mexico were shot dead on Nov. 23 while talking in their car near the house where they lived in Huehuetoca, México state, according to human rights defenders speaking at a Nov. 26 press conference. The victims were identified as Adrián, a local resident who described himself as a transvestite, and Wilson, a Honduran migrant who was granted a humanitarian visa by the government in November after testifying to the Assistant Attorney General's Office for Special Investigations on Organized Crime (SEIDO). Human rights defenders asked the media not to use the volunteers' last names in order to protect their families.
A group of 43 Mexican teachers' college students missing since the night of Sept. 26-27 were killed by gang members and their bodies were burned and disposed of in Cocula municipality in the southwestern state of Guerrero, federal attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam announced at a Nov. 7 press conference in Mexico City. Three members of the Guerreros Unidos ("United Warriors") criminal organization confessed to having participated in the execution of the students and the incineration of their bodies, according to Murillo Karam, who said the remains were so thoroughly burned that it might be difficult to extract DNA for identification. The Mexican government is planning to send the remains to technicians in Austria. The attorney general said he understood the skepticism of the students' parents about his office's findings, more than a month after the events: "It's natural…and it doesn't surprise me."
Protests against Mexican local governments and federal president Enrique Peña Nieto showed no signs of letting up the week of Oct. 20, nearly one month after the Sept. 26-27 killing of six people and the abduction of 43 teachers' college students in Iguala in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Students held a two-day national strike on Oct. 22-23 to demand the return of the missing students, who were all from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers' College in the Guerrero town of Ayotzinapa. Tens of thousands of students and teachers marched in a total of 18 Mexican states on the first day of the strike. The protest in Mexico City was reportedly one of the capital's largest demonstrations in recent years. The Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police estimated the crowd at 50,000, while the Los Angeles Times reported that at one point the march stretched along the broad Paseo de la Reforma from the Angel of Independence to the central Zócalo, a distance of more than four kilometers.
Students, teachers and parents attacked government office buildings in Chilpancingo, the capital of the southwestern state of Guerrero, on Oct. 13 in ongoing protests over the killing of six people, including three students, and the disappearance of 43 other students in Iguala de la Independencia the night of Sept. 26-27. The demonstrators blocked the entrances to the main state office building from around 11 am, keeping some 1,500 employees trapped for more than five hours. In the evening, after some skirmishes with riot police, the protesters broke into one of the buildings and set it on fire. There were also attacks on various vehicles and on Chilpancingo's city hall. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 14)
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.