At least 13 people, including seven police officers, were killed and eight others wounded in three shootouts involving police and "armed commandos" on the border of Jalisco and Michoacán states in west-central Mexico Dec. 23. The first incident came when Michoacán state police responded to a report of a traffic accident in Briseñas municipality and were ambushed. Similar gunfights shortly followed in the nearby municipalities of Quitúpan and Ayotlán. The following day, bullets flew in the central plaza of Yurécuaro, Michoacán, in what authorities called a shootout between the Knights Templar and Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel, leaving an unarmed bystander dead. Also on Christmas Eve, a group of armed men stormed the town of El Platanar de Los Ontiveros in the mountains of northwestern Sinaloa state, killing nine with assault weapons and dumping their bodies on a sports field. Authorities called that one a fight between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas. (AP, Dec. 26; AFP, Dec. 25; EFE, Dec. 24; Milenio, Dec. 23)
As Mexico has aggressively militarized its "drug war" over the past years, the nation's capital has been an exception, with authorities reluctant to send soliders to patrol the seat of federal power—until now. Over 1,000 army troops have been mobilized to the streets of Nezahualcóyotl, a suburb of Mexico City, just south of the Federal District line in México state, which has seen a dramatic increase of violence in the past weeks. The México state Prosecutor General says 119 assassinations have been registered so far this year, mostly in Nezahualcóyotl. The decision to send in army troops—under a program dubbed "Operation Neza"—was apparently sparked by the Sept. 16 stabbing death of México state lawmaker Jaime Serrano Cedillo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Although subsequent reports have indicated he was killed by his wife in a domestic dispute, Serrano was the second PRI politician killed in as many days last week. On Sept. 15, Eduardo Castro Luque, newly elected to the Sonora state legislature, was shot full of nine bullets in front of his home in Ciudad Obregón. The twin slayings came when the country was on high alert for Independence Day celebrations, with extra troops deployed to conflicted states to head off terror attacks on the festivities. The PRI, a once-entrenched political machine, returns to power after 12 years in opposition, when president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto takes office in December. (LAT, AP, Sept. 21; WSJ, El País, Spain, Sept. 20; EFE, AP, La Jornada, Sept. 15)
Authorities from four countries cooperated in a months-long operation that led to the arrest Sept. 18 of Daniel Barrera AKA "El Loco"—dubbed the "last of the great capos" by Colombia's President Manuel Santos—on a street in San Cristóbal, a town in Venezuela's western Táchira state. Barrera was apprehended while making a call from a phone booth, allegedly after one of his relatives had given up his location. The arrest followed four months of cooperation between Colombia's National Police, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the UK's MI6 and Venezuela's National Anti-Drug Office (ONA). According to Colombia's defense minister, Juan Carlos Pinzón, the kingpin had been in Venezuela for the past eight months and was running his business while moving between several towns near the Colombian border.
Mexican naval forces in the oil port of Tampico, Tamaulipas, on Sept. 13 arrested Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez AKA "El Coss"—notorious leader of the Gulf Cartel—along with five cohorts, apparently without resistance. Authorities hailed it as a major blow against the cartel, coming just a week after the arrest of another Gulf kingpin, Mario Cárdenas Guillén AKA "El Gordo" (Fatso), captured by Mexican marines in Altamira, also in Tamaulipas—the brother of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, who led the cartel until he was detained in 2003.
According to an Aug. 4 report in the Wall Street Journal, the US Attorney's Office in Los Angeles is investigating possible money laundering by Chinese-Mexican pharmaceutical entrepreneur Zhenli Ye Gon in the middle 2000s through the Las Vegas Sands Corp. casino company. The company, whose CEO and largest shareholder is US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a major donor to the Republican Party, reportedly failed to tell the authorities about suspicious money transfers by Ye Gon until the publication of a newspaper article about him in 2007. Adelson himself is apparently not being investigated at this point.
The US government has determined that Bolivia now has fewer coca plantations but it is producing more cocaine because traffickers are using a more "efficient" process known as the "Colombian method," according to an interview with a diplomat in La Paz daily Pagina Siete. Said John Creamer, outgoing charge d'affaires at the US diplomatic mission in La Paz: "That is the paradox in Bolivia. There are fewer coca plantations in the past three years, but there's more production of cocaine." Creamer said that using the new process, producers "can obtain more cocaine with lesser quantities of coca leaves." He also warned of the "resowing" of eradicated coca fields. The Bolivian government boasts that it reduced coca leaf production for three consecutive years from 2009 to 2011, but according to UN figures overall coca production increased from 25,400 hectares in 2006 when Evo Morales took power to 31,000 hectares in 2010 (the last year for which the UN has data). Bolivian law allows the legal cultivation of just 12,000 hectares of coca for traditional purposes.