Human Rights Watch on Aug. 22 called on Mexico's government to ensure an "impartial and effective" investigation into the killing of 22 civilians by soldiers on June 30, during an alleged confrontation at an empty warehouse at Tlatlaya, a town in the mountains of central México state. Witness accounts have cast doubt on the official version of events, HRW found. A press release from the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA) said soldiers responded to gunfire when they raided the warehouse. The SEDENA statement said the soldiers later found 38 firearms, a grenade, and several cartridges in the warehouse, and liberated three women who had been kidnapped. On July 1, the governor of México state, Eruviel Ávila Villegas, said that the soldiers had acted "in legitimate defense" and "taken down delinquents." However, an Associated Press reporter who visited the area three days after the incident filed a story July 8 saying there was "little evidence of sustained fighting," and that he found only a small number of bullet holes in the warehouse walls. In other words, what happened seems to have been a massacre rather than a shoot-out. Government officials have yet to disclose the names of those killed or the status of the investigation. "It's been two months since soldiers killed 22 civilians in Tlatlaya, and there are more questions than answers about what really took place that day," said HRW Americas director José Miguel Vivanco.
While historic leaders of the community protested nearby, an assembly in San Salvador Atenco, a town in México state northeast of Mexico City, voted on June 1 to allow the sale of almost 2,000 hectares of communal land to private parties. Members of the Front of the Peoples in Defense of the Land (FPDT) charged that they had been barred from the assembly, which they said was packed with people who were not participants in the ejido (communal farm) that legally controls the land. According to the FPDT, the June 1 vote was engineered by current ejido president Andrés Ruiz Méndez, a member of the governing centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), as part of the Ciudad Futura ("Future City") development plan for the region, which includes a new international airport for Mexico City and will disrupt the area's traditional farming practices.
As Mexico has aggressively militarized its "drug war" over the past years, the nation's capital has been an exception, with authorities reluctant to send soliders to patrol the seat of federal power—until now. Over 1,000 army troops have been mobilized to the streets of Nezahualcóyotl, a suburb of Mexico City, just south of the Federal District line in México state, which has seen a dramatic increase of violence in the past weeks. The México state Prosecutor General says 119 assassinations have been registered so far this year, mostly in Nezahualcóyotl. The decision to send in army troops—under a program dubbed "Operation Neza"—was apparently sparked by the Sept. 16 stabbing death of México state lawmaker Jaime Serrano Cedillo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Although subsequent reports have indicated he was killed by his wife in a domestic dispute, Serrano was the second PRI politician killed in as many days last week. On Sept. 15, Eduardo Castro Luque, newly elected to the Sonora state legislature, was shot full of nine bullets in front of his home in Ciudad Obregón. The twin slayings came when the country was on high alert for Independence Day celebrations, with extra troops deployed to conflicted states to head off terror attacks on the festivities. The PRI, a once-entrenched political machine, returns to power after 12 years in opposition, when president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto takes office in December. (LAT, AP, Sept. 21; WSJ, El País, Spain, Sept. 20; EFE, AP, La Jornada, Sept. 15)
Mexican naval forces in the oil port of Tampico, Tamaulipas, on Sept. 13 arrested Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez AKA "El Coss"—notorious leader of the Gulf Cartel—along with five cohorts, apparently without resistance. Authorities hailed it as a major blow against the cartel, coming just a week after the arrest of another Gulf kingpin, Mario Cárdenas Guillén AKA "El Gordo" (Fatso), captured by Mexican marines in Altamira, also in Tamaulipas—the brother of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, who led the cartel until he was detained in 2003.