If Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hoped to present an image of stability to US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly when he flew in on July 5, it proved to be pretty bad timing. On Kelly's second day, he toured southern Guerrero state to witness opium eradication operations there. Late that very night, a riot broke out at the prison in the state's biggest city, violence-torn Acapulco. The explosion of violence at Las Cruces CERESO (Social Readaption Center) ended with at least 28 inmates dead—many of them mutilated and several beheaded.
An armed clash in the early hours of July 5 in a mountain village in Mexico's border state of Chihuahua left at least 25 dead—the latest indication that narco-gangs are stronger than the government across much of the country's drug-producing sierras. The shoot-out erupted in the pueblo of Las Varas, Madera municipality, in the foothills of the Sierra Tarahumara—one of Mexico's prime cannabis and opium cultivation areas. Local news accounts indicated the gun-battle began as a confrontation between two gangs vying for control of the village—La Línea, loyal to the Juárez Cartel, and Gente Nueva, enforcers for the rival Sinaloa Cártel.
The horrific case of 43 college students from the Mexican village of Ayotzinapa who disappeared in September 2014—allegedly murdered by a local narco-gang—made deeply embarrassing international headlines again this week. The New York Times reports July 10 that sophisticated spyware supplied to Mexico officially to track narco-traffickers and terrorists was instead used against human rights investigators looking into the Ayotzinapa case.
Protests have been held in Mexico over the slaying of an award-winning journalist on May 15—the latest in a long line of reporters killed for daring to cover the country's ongoing nightmarish narco-violence. Javier Valdez was founder and editor of weekly newspaper Ríodoce in Culiacán, capital of Sinaloa state and principal stronghold of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel. Ríodoce staff pledged to carry on his work in spite of threats. Valdez was the sixth Mexican journalist killed so far this year.
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)
Mexico's northeastern border state of Tamaulipas—just across from Texas' Gulf Coast—has for years been engulfed in an under-reported war, as the Gulf Cartel and its rogue offspring the Zetas battle for dominance over the narco-trafficking "plaza" (zone of control). The current flare-up in the border town of Reynosa may signal a turning point. Street gun-battles have become so common in the town that authorities have instituted a color-coded alert system to warn citizens. The town has been on "red alert" repeatedly over the past days, and there are signs that the long struggle is entering an endgame.
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.
After President Donald Trump's inauguration, Mexico saw a wave of angry protests against his proposed border wall, with more than 20,000 marching in Mexico City on Feb. 12, chanting "Pay for your own wall!" But now this wave of anger is crystalizing around concrete legal initiatives that could be very problematic for the White House. First, the front-runner for next year's Mexican presidential election, the left-populist Andres Manuel López Obrador, has filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the proposed wall.