Beltrán Leyva Organization
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)
Reuters on Dec. 10 reported that the alleged Chicago jefe of Mexico's Guerreros Unidos narco-gang faces federal charges with seven others for a plot that involved moving heroin and cocaine to the Windy City in passenger buses. Pablo Vega Cuevas and his brother-in-law, Alexander Figueroa, both of Aurora, Ill., were arrested in Oklahoma; three suspected accomplices were busted in the Chicago area. Warrants have been issued for three others, including one believed to be in Mexico. The investigation led to the seizure of 68 kilos of heroin, nine kilos of cocaine and more than $500,000 in cash. "These arrests will have a significant impact on the supply and distribution of heroin and cocaine throughout the Midwest," Dennis Wichern, the DEA's Chicago special agent-in-charge, said in a statement.
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)
Media reports in Mexico indicate that the notorious Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo"—who evaded authorities for over a decade before being captured earlier this year—has claimed victory in a hunger strike at the top-security Altiplano prison in Almoloya de Juárez, México state. Chapo reportedly started the strike July 16 with fellow imprisoned kingpin Édgar Valdez Villarreal AKA "La Barbie"—who had once been his comrade-in-arms but later became his bitter enemy when Barbie defected to the rival Beltran-Leyva cartel. The hunger strike rapidly spread throughout the prison, with at least 1,000 other inmates joining. Authorities quickly capitulated on some of the key demands. Prisoners will be given new shoes and clothing, and they will be served more food (although it will be the same mediocre quality). Inmates will also be allowed to purchase more items such as toilet paper from the prison store. They will be allowed three attempts to make phone calls to their families; previously, if the call was not connected or the line was busy they had to wait nine days to try again. Although other demands were not met, Chapo and Barbie called off the strike. It should be noted that Altiplano is the most elite prison in Mexico, with state-of-the-art security measures modelled after the "supermax" facilities in the United States. But conditions are far worse at the country's many overcrowded and corrupt state facilities—which have witnessed a series of bloody uprisings in recent years. (Hispanically Speaking, July 28;Borderland Beat, July 21; Proceso, July 19)
Hundreds of campesinos in municipalities of Mexico's southern Guerrero state, including Ayutla de los Libres, Tecoanapa, Florencio Villarreal, Cuautepec and San Marcos, have taken up arms to defend themselves from a drug-trafficking gang that has been terrorizing residents and demanding protection payments. Armed with pistols and shotguns, the "Community Police" self-defense patrols have been setting up checkpoints at the entrances to their villages, and in one case secured the release of a Tecoanapa resident who had been kidnapped. A total of some 40 suspected narco-gunmen have been detained by the self-defense patrols, and await trial by community assemblies. Residents claim legitimacy for the system of justice under the principle of "uses and customs," by which traditional self-government of indigenous territories is permitted in Mexico's constitution.
After more than two months of investigation, on Nov. 9 Mexico's federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) confirmed that it was formally charging 14 federal police agents for an Aug. 24 attack on a US embassy van on a road near the Tres Marías community, south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos. The agents claimed they mistook the van's occupants—two agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a Mexican marine—for members of a gang connected to a local kidnapping. The two CIA agents were wounded in the incident.
US officials suspect that organized crime was behind an Aug. 24 attack by Mexican federal police on a US embassy car on a road near the Tres Marías community, south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos, the Associated Press wire service reported on Oct. 2. In the incident, a dozen police agents in several unmarked cars attacked an armored US car with diplomatic license plates in which two agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a member of the Mexican Navy were traveling to a Navy installation for a training session—apparently part of the aid the US provides to Mexico's "war on drugs."