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.
The planned meeting in Washington between President Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto, was called off after Trump signed his Jan. 25 executive order decreeing construction of a wall on the border—accompanied with more bluster about how Mexico will pay for it. Since the cancelation, Trump and Peña Nieto have engaged in an unseemly Twitter war, each taking responsibility for calling off the meeting. Things got worse when the White House raised the option of making Mexico pay for the wall with a 20% tariff on all goods coming in from our southern neighbor. The threat portends a trade war with the United States' third biggest trading partner.
Mexico's imprisoned top drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán came another step closer to extradition Oct. 20 when a Mexican federal judge in Ciudad Juárez found that the process has been legally sound and turned down five requests for an amparo (or injunction) to halt it. Extradition to face criminal charges in the United States had been approved in May, but suspended later that month by a higher court in Mexico City. The suspension was inteneded to allow the lower court to hear arguments by Guzmán's lawyers that extradition would be unconstitutional. These arguments have now been rejected. Chapo's lawyers were given 10 days to file an appeal.
A growing wave of paramilitary terror is reported from the remote and rugged Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state—the country's prime opium and cannabis cultivation zone. Local residents at the hamlet of El Largo Maderal, in the backwoods of Madera municipality, on Oct. 14 issued an urgent alert to the authorities and media over ongoing attacks by narco-gunmen, leaving at least two campesinos dead over the past weeks. The Chihuahua state prosecutor, or Fiscalía General, meanwhile reported a highway attack at nearby Rancho Las Pomas, where a local narco-jefe identified only as "El Nacho" was killed along with two henchmen—their car shot up and then set aflame.
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 federal judge in Mexico ruled May 9 that drug lord Joaquín "Chapo" Guzmán may be extradited to the US—where he faces numerous federal charges of drug trafficking, kidnapping, money laundering and murder in Chicago, Miami and New York. Mexico's Exterior Secretariat has 30 days to decide whethe to approve the extradition, but Guzmán's lawyers say there are multiple appeals pending against extradition, and that to extradite him before these are exhausted would be a violation of his human rights. Mexico's Third District for Penal Processes, which approved the extradition, says that all legal requirements have been met. The identity of the judge in the case remains secret under special rules in place for prosecution of cartel bosses. (Jurist, BBC News)
A "peace summit" was held in Colombia's Caribbean port of Cartagena last week, as last year at this time, bringing together international experts and civil society representatives to discuss the ongoing process to end the country's multi-generational civil war. The conference came as the UN Security Council is preparing a resolution in support of Colombia's peace process, empowering a "special political mission" to the country to oversee implementation of pending accords with the FARC guerillas. (El Espectador, Jan. 20; El Espectador, Jan. 7) According to Colombia's Conflict Analysis Resource Center (CERAC), political violence registered over the past six months is at its lowest level since the FARC first took up arms in 1964. CERAC cited the FARC's unilateral ceasefire that came into force in July, and the government's suspension of air-strikes. The report found that both the FARC ceasefire and government air-strike halt had been broken, but registered only 16 clashes between guerillas and government troops over the past six months, resulting in the deaths of 17 guerilla fighters and three members of the security forces. (Colombia Reports, Jan. 22)