Official figures reveal that narco-violence made 2017 the deadliest year in Mexico's modern history. The grim total surpassed that of 2011, when the militarized drug war of then-President Felipe Calderón led to 22,409 homicides. A total of 23,101 homicide investigations were opened in the first 11 months of 2017, according to figures published Dec. 22 by the Governance Ministry, which has been tracking the yearly kill count back to 1997.
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.
A 29-year-old man believed to be the godson of imprisoned Mexican narco lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán was indicted on drug charges in a San Diego federal court on Aug. 7. Damaso López Serrano AKA "Mini Lic" was charged with smuggling unspecified quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. He'd turned himself in to US border agents several days earlier, and is said to be the highest-ranking Mexican kingpin ever to surrender in the territory of the United States.
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.
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.
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.