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.
Yet another Mexican journalist was slain Aug. 22, as the cartels continue to exact vengeance on any who would dare to report on their reign of terror and corruption across much of the country. Cándido "Papuche" Ríos, who covered the nota roja (crime and police beat) for local newspaper Diario de Acayucan, was gunned down by unknown assailants along with two other men in the town of Hueyapan de Ocampo, Veracruz state. One of the other two men, with whom Ríos was talking outside a gas station, was a former municipal official.
More than 250 human skulls were unearthed from a mass grave outside Mexico's port city of Veracruz, state prosecutor Jorge Winckler announced March 14. Winckler said the remains are of cartel victims, slain some years earlier. While details on how this latest find came to light were not forthcoming, the survivors' group Colectivo Solecito has been carrying out its own search for "narco-graves" in Veracruz state, hoping to discover the remains of disappeared loved ones. Last year, the collective discovered some 30 clandestine graves, but this would be the biggest such gruesome discovery yet.
The Mexican state of Jalisco is bracing for a feared explosion of violencie after the son of the country's top drug lord was kidnapped by rivals. Jesús Alfredo Guzmán Salazar was seized by gunmen along with some 10 of his minions as they dined at an upscale restaurant in the resort town of Puerta Vallarta on Aug. 15. Guzmán Salazar is the son of Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán, imprisoned kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel. Jalisco authorities believe the kidnapping was perpetrated by the state's reigning criminal machine, Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which has been resisting an incursion by the Sinaloa competition.
A group of mothers in the Mexican state of Veracruz who came together to search for missing loved ones announced Aug. 14 that they had disovered a total of 28 clandestine graves with remains of some 40 bodies. The women banded together under the name Colectivo Solecito to search for their kin after growing tired of waiting for authorities to do so. They said they found the graves since Aug. 1 in an area north of the port of Veracruz. The group's Lucia de los Angeles Diaz Genaocalled the area "a great cemetery of crime" that is used "like a camp to kill people who have been kidnapped." The discovered remains have been exhumed and delivered to police for forensic analysis.
According to a report issued by Mexico's independent National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), 22 civilians were executed during a May 2015 drug raid in Michoacán. The report, issued Aug. 18, states that among the 43 individuals killed during the drug bust, including one police officer, 22 civilians died as a result of "arbitrary execution," and an additional four were killed from "excessive use of force." While Mexican authorities continue to say the civilians were killed during the gunfight, the human rights commission maintains that the 22 were executed, and said that police placed guns next to 16 bodies in an attempt to substantiate their false claims. The human rights watchdog also found that the Michoacán Attorney General's Office was at fault for mishandling the ballistics evidence. The country's National Security Commission continues to support the actions of the police, saying, "The the use of arms was necessary and the police acted...in legitimate defense."
Mexican authorities boasted another take-down of a top narco lord May 29, with the arrest in Jalisco state of Manuel García Orozco, a leader of the New Generation cartel. García Orozco was detained "without a shot fired" at a road checkpoint in Tlajomulco de Zuniga municipality. He is accused of overseeing operations in Jalisco's Cienega region along the border with Michoacán state, including drug smuggling, fuel theft and extortion. He is also accused of involvement in "various attacks" against security forces, including the abduction and murder of two federal police officers in Michoacán in November 2013. The investigation into their disappearance led to the discovery of 37 clandestine graves containing 75 bodies in the Jalisco municipality of La Barca, near the state line. (AFP, May 29)
Maya indigenous peasants in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas are marching cross-country to oppose violence by the local narco gangs and the corruption of local authorities that protect them. The "pilgrimage" left the rural town of Simojovel some 15,000 strong at the end of March, and is now arriving at the state capital Tuxtla Gutiérrez, some 240 kilometers away through rugged country. The pilgrimage was organized by the Catholic pacifist group Pueblo Creyente (Faithful People) with the support of the local diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas in response to a wave of narco-violence in Simojovel.