Despite his boast to have "ended" the drug war and pledge to explore cannabis legalization, Mexico's new populist president is seeking to create a special anti-drug "National Guard" drawing from the military and police forces. This plan is moving rapidly ahead—and the military is still being sent against campesino cannabis growers and small traffickers.
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.
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.
Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-governor of Mexico's Veracruz state, was detained in Guatemala on April 15 in a joint operation by Interpol and Guatemalan police. He's now awaiting extradition back to Mexico, where he is wanted on charges of money laundering and protecting organized crime. Duarte was governor of Veracruz from 2010 until he stepped down last October, shortly before the end of his term. He was doing so in order to face the allegations against him—but then he disappeared and went on the lam.
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.
Several states across Mexico have been shaken by days of angry protests in response to a jump in the price of gasoline sparked by a new deregulation policy. Protests, road blockades and civil strikes are reported from 12 states since the new policy was instated Jan. 1. Looting was reported in Hidalgo, Veracruz and México states, with over 350 stores sacked. Several federal police agents were briefly taken hostage by protesters when they tried to break up a roadblock in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo. Two protesters were killed in the Ixmiquilpan clash, while one Federal District police officer is reported dead in rioting on the outskirts of Mexico City. Police also fired in the air to scatter protesters in Ecatepec, México. Nearly 900 have been detained nationwide. (Sol de Mexico, Jan. 6; Animal Politico, Jan. 5; Apro, Jan. 4)
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.
Following the horrific massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Latin American media are noting a similar deadly attack earlier this year that failed to make world headlines—in Xalapa, capital of Mexico's Gulf Coast state of Veracruz. That happened on May 21, when a group of heavily armed men opened fire on patrons at the city's La Madame gay bar, killing seven and wounding 12. As in the far bloodier Orlando attack, an AR-15 rifle was used. Some of the gunmen were also armed with AK-47s. The Veracruz Public Security Secretariat said this was just another massacre in the wars between rival drug cartels that have been convulsing Mexico for a decade now. But, as the Yucatan Times points out, the fact that the shooters seemed to fire randomly into the crowded bar may point to another motive.