There is a discomforting sense that Mexico is perpetually on the eve of cannabis legalization, as the country's Congress wins a six-month extension from the Supreme Court to pass a law freeing the herb. But foreign capital is already eyeing Mexico's emergent legal cannabis sector—even amid a terrifying escalation in the bloody cartel wars.
Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, infamous kingpin of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, was unanimously found guilty on all 10 counts against him by a federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, on Feb. 12. He was convicted of overseeing an international criminal conspiracy to import tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States over a 20-year period, and laundering the billions of dollars in proceeds.
Two months into his term, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared an end to his country's "war on drugs," announcing that the army would no longer prioritize capturing cartel bosses. The new populist president made his declaration Jan. 30, at the end of his second month in office. He told gathered reporters at a press conference that the "guerra contra el narcotráfico," launched in 2006 by then-president Felipe Calderón, has come to and end. "Officially now, there is no war; we are going to prusue peace," he said.
Mexican federal police and the military have taken over policing duties in Acapulco, after the entire municipal force was disarmed Sept. 25 due to suspected co-optation by criminal gangs. The city’s police chief, Max Sedano Román, and five of his commanders were detained by Mexican naval troops. Two of the commanders were arrested "for their probable responsibility in the crime of homicide." Their weapons and other equipment of the city police force have bee seized by Guerrero state authorities. The Guerrero government said it took the step "because of suspicion that the force had probably been infiltrated by criminal groups" and "the complete inaction of the municipal police in fighting the crime wave." Acapulco had a homicide rate of 103 per 100,000 inhabitants last year, one of the highest rates in Mexico and the world. The Washington Post last year described the resort city as Mexico’s murder capital.
Residents of Ciudad Guzmán, in Mexico's west-central state of Jalisco, took to the streets June 5 to demand the withdrawal of military troops from the municipality—and the reappearance alive of two local youths. Mexican naval troops were ordered to the town, also known as Zapotlan el Grande, to fight the New Generation cartel, but were accused by locals of "disappearing" the two young residents—one just 17 years old. In both cases, witnesses claim the young men were detained by the Navy and were never seen again. Navy troops fired shots in the air after the rally turned violent, with protesters throwing rocks and bottles—possibly due to infiltration by provocateurs. At least three were reported wounded.
Brazilian federal police on Dec. 28 announced the arrest of José González Valencia, one of the top leaders of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG)—the criminal machine that in recent years has risen to challenge the Sinaloa Cartel for control of Mexico's narco trade. Valencia, known as "Chepa" or "El Camarón" (The Shrimp), was arrested at Aquiraz, a resort near the coastal city of Fortaleza, where he was spending the Christmas holidays with his family. Authorities said Valencia had been living in Bolivia for two years after fleeing Mexico, and had entered Brazil as a tourist on a Bolivian passport.
At a meeting in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico's newly formed Indigenous Government Council (CIG) chose a Nahuatl woman from Jalisco state as its candidate to contend in the 2018 presidential race. The woman, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, known as "Marichuy," is a traditional leader of the Nahuatl indigenous community of Tuxpan. Marichuy said her candidacy was part of a larger effort to wiin indigenous participation in "the reconstruction of the country." The assembly was attended by nearly 850 delegates representing 58 indigenous peoples across Mexico. The CIG was created earlier this year by the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). The assembly was overseen by Zapatista leaders including the elusive Subcommander Galeano. (Radio Formula, Aristegui Noticias, Radio Zapatista, Animal Politico, EFE, May 28)
Amid rapidly deteriorating relations between the US and Mexico, reports are emerging that President Donald Trump openly threatened military intervention in a phone call with his counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto. According to a partial transcript of the conversation obtained by the Associated Press, Trump told Peña Nieto: "You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it." ("Bad hombres" is a term Trump also used in his final debate during the presidential campaign to refer to Mexican narco-gangs.)