The Mexican military announced Feb. 10 the capture of Jonathan Salas Avilés AKA "El Fantasma" (The Ghost), accused of being the security chief for fugitive Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzmán AKA "El Chapo" (Shorty), in Culiacán. Salas apparently surrendured after being surrounded by three helicopters and at least eight navy vehicles. In the typical confusion, the governor of Sinaloa last year mistakenly announced that Salas had been killed in a clash with Mexican Marines. (BBC News, El Universal, Sexenio, Feb. 10; Justice in Mexico, March 5, 2012) The arrest of a figure close to El Chapo while the kingpin himself remains at large has been reported again and again and again and again and again—leading to conspiracy theories that Chapo is being protected by the Mexican state, at the price of the occasional sacrifice of a lieutenant to save face.
At least 13 people, including seven police officers, were killed and eight others wounded in three shootouts involving police and "armed commandos" on the border of Jalisco and Michoacán states in west-central Mexico Dec. 23. The first incident came when Michoacán state police responded to a report of a traffic accident in Briseñas municipality and were ambushed. Similar gunfights shortly followed in the nearby municipalities of Quitúpan and Ayotlán. The following day, bullets flew in the central plaza of Yurécuaro, Michoacán, in what authorities called a shootout between the Knights Templar and Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel, leaving an unarmed bystander dead. Also on Christmas Eve, a group of armed men stormed the town of El Platanar de Los Ontiveros in the mountains of northwestern Sinaloa state, killing nine with assault weapons and dumping their bodies on a sports field. Authorities called that one a fight between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas. (AP, Dec. 26; AFP, Dec. 25; EFE, Dec. 24; Milenio, Dec. 23)
Using tear gas and water cannons, hundreds of federal and state police ended student occupations at three teachers' colleges in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán in the early morning of Oct. 15. Protesters and other students were beaten in the raids, which resulted in the arrests of 176 students—168 in the town of Tiripetío, two in the town of Arteaga and six in the autonomous indigenous municipality of Cherán. The students reportedly threw rocks at the police and set fire to 13 of the 90 vehicles, including buses and patrols cars, that they had seized during the weeklong protest. Michoacán officials said 10 police agents were injured, three of them seriously.
For the second time in less than two years, an indigenous community in the southwestern Mexican state of Michoacán has erected barricades and seized control of security matters. Located in the Purépecha highlands of the Pacific coast state, the small community of Urapicho in Paracho municipality has been under the self-declared control of the people for about a month now. The news was publicized last week with the posting of a video on YouTube that shows armed and masked men, some clothed in military-style camouflage clothing, attending a sand-bagged checkpoint, where motorists are searched. Two masked spokespersons explain the reasons for the uprising and the goals of their movement.
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)