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Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

[This article updates a version that was published on our web site a week ago, but after the email edition had already been distributed. It includes Mexico drug war information from the last two weeks, as opposed to the usual one week.]

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 36,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Prohibition creates an endless supply of hot guns and cold cash. (Image via Wikimedia)
Thursday, February 24

In Zapopan, Jalisco, a senior police commander and his wife were shot and killed when his vehicle was ambushed by heavily armed gunmen. Jesus Quirarte Ruvalcaba was the commander of a state police unit which specializes in car thefts. Car theft in Mexico is often related to or controlled by drug trafficking organizations.

In Houston, Texas, a police officer was wounded after being shot in a raid on the home of a suspect with ties to a Mexican drug cartel. The officer is in good condition. A suspect was also wounded after being hit by gunfire and is in good condition.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, a former governor admitted that the previous PRI administration had controlled and negotiated with drug trafficking organizations, which kept violence manageable. Former Nuevo Leon Governor Socrates Rizzo is the first former PRI official to speak this openly about party deals with drug trafficking organizations, although it has long been well-known in Mexico.

Saturday, February 26

In Torreon, Coahuila, 13 people were died and at least 18 were wounded in two separate attacks on bars in the city.

Sunday, February 27

In Saltillo, Coahuila, a Zeta commander was captured. He is alleged to be connected to the incident in which two American ICE agents were shot -- with one killed -- in early February. Sergio "El Toto" Mora is accused by Mexican authorities of being the regional Zetas commander in the state of San Luis Potosi. At least nine other arrests have been made in connection with the shooting of the ICE agents.

In Ciudad Juarez, 11 people were killed in several incidents in the city. In one incident, five men were killed when gunmen attacked a bar the Colonia Villa Esperanza area of the city. In another part of the city, a man was found murdered in a house where we had apparently been held hostage.

Monday, February 28

In Juarez, eight people were murdered in several attacks across the city. In one incident, four people, including a ten-year old boy, were killed when their car was attacked by gunmen. A five-year was severely wounded. Saturday's killings bring the total number of dead in the city to approximately 229 for the month of February, 36 percent are females. This is about a 40 percent increase over the same time period of 2010.

In Dallas, Texas, three suspects were arrested after police linked them to the weapon used in the recent killing of an American ICE agent in San Luis Potosi.

In Chilpancingo, Guerrero, a police chief was ambushed by gunmen armed with AK-47s. The police chief, Humberto Velazquez Delgado, was wounded and four of his bodyguards were killed. Approximately 400 shell casing from AK-47 rounds were found at the scene.

Tuesday, March 1

In Guerrero, 17 bodies were discovered in two clandestine graves near the town of San Miguel Totolapan. This is the third time mass graves have been discovered in Guerrero in less than a year. Additionally, four bodies were found dumped on the highway between the coastal city of Acapulco and Mexico City.

In Tamaulipas, eight gunmen were killed in a fire-fight with Mexican marines near the town of Valle Hermoso, which is close to the US border.

In Washington, a top law enforcement officer announced that 678 gang members, many of whom have ties to Mexican drug trafficking organizations, have been arrested during a two-month operation, called "Operation Southern Tempest." Approximately have the suspects -- which came from 113 different gangs around the country -- have ties to drug trafficking groups, and two-thirds are foreign nationals.

Wednesday , March 2

Near Phoenix, Arizona, police said that the decapitation of a local man in October is related to Mexican cartel activity. Martin Alejandro Cota Monroy, 38, was allegedly killed by a three-man team for ripping off a 400-pound load of marijuana. One of his killers is in custody. According to police, Monroy first told the cartel that his load had been confiscated, and then, when they found out, offered his house as collateral until he could pay his debt. He was killed after they found out he didn't own the house. The killers are thought to have moved in next door to befriend Monroy before killing him.

In Ciudad Juarez, nine people were murdered.

Sunday, March 6

In Mexico City, Mexican officials asked for clarification on an ATF operation which allowed American guns to flow to Mexico in an effort to track the supply lines of weapons to Mexican cartels. Among the guns were two AK-47's that were used in the attack on the ICE agents in February.

In Ciudad Juarez, 13 people were murdered in several incidents across the city. At least three of the incidents had more than one victim. In one attack, three men were killed after gunmen sprayed a bar -- which is within sight of the US consulate -- with gunfire. Four others were wounded. In another incident, five people, including one woman, were found executed. These killings bring the death toll in Juarez for the first six days of March to 31. The total for the year is 494, including at least 55 females.

Monday, March 7

In Abasolo, Tamaulipas, a gun battle between rival cartel gunmen left 18 people dead. The battle was almost certainly between members of the Gulf Cartel and their former enforcers, the Zetas, who have been at war for just over a year now.

Near Guasave, Sinaloa, gunmen attacked a police convoy, killing seven police officers and one prisoner. The attack was an apparent attempt to rescue one or both of two prisoners who were being transported to the state capitol of Culiacan. Over 1,200 rounds were fired during the attack.

Tuesday, March 8

In Chilpancingo, Guerrero, three government offices were attacked by assailants, who doused the offices in gasoline and set them on fire. The motive for the attack is unclear, but the area has high levels of drug related violence.

In Texas, officials announced that the 20-year old female police chief of the Mexican town of Praxedis G. Guerrero is seeking asylum in the United States, apparently after having received threats. Marisol Valles Garcia made international headlines when she took the job. The local government has fired her for abandoning her post. Local police will answer to the Mayor until a replacement can be found.

In Mazatlan, Sinaloa, armed men attacked a nightclub with automatic weapons. At least twenty people were wounded in the attack. The gunmen managed to escape, despite the fact that police and army units were nearby

Wednesday, March 9

In San Luis Potosi, Mexican authorities arrested another suspected Zeta thought to be involved in the February 15 incident in which a US ICE agent was killed. Mario Jimenez Perez, 41, is alleged by Mexican authorities to be in charge of Zeta financial operations in San Luis Potosi, where the attacks took place.

Total Body Count for last Week: 88

Total Body Count for this Week: 52

Total Body Count for the Year: 1,315

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,849

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war to date: 36,164

Mexico

Morales: DEA Not Coming Back to Bolivia‎

Location: 
Bolivia
The arrest of Bolivia's top counternarcotics cop, Rene Sanabria, has not changed President Morales' stance on allowing the DEA into the country. Morales insisted he has no intention of inviting the DEA back. He alleged "interests of a geopolitical nature" were behind the Sanabria case. "They are using police to try to implicate the government," he said. Vice minister of social defense, Felipe Caceres, suggested that Sanabria's arrest was the DEA's revenge for being expelled. The president also hinted at U.S. hypocrisy, recalling reports that American agents ran guns to Nicaraguan Contra rebels in the 1980s with the proceeds of cocaine sales in the United States.
Publication/Source: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
URL: 
http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/arrest-of-top-bolivian-859877.html

Drug Smuggling Scandal Shakes Bolivia

Location: 
Bolivia
Drug prohibition is responsible for a phenomenal amount of government corruption across the globe. Retired-general Rene Sanabria, the former head of Bolivia's main anti-narcotics unit serving as a top intelligence adviser to the country's Interior Minister Sacha Llorenti, pled not guilty in a Miami federal court on charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the U.S., in a scandal that has rocked the government of Evo Morales. Felipe Caceres, Bolivia's top antidrug official said Mr. Sanabria's security unit "was riddled" with corruption, and that 15 other police officials were in the process of being detained for complicity in the drug-smuggling operation.
Publication/Source: 
The Wall Street Journal (NY)
URL: 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703559604576176632502187182.html

Former Mexican Governor Admits Past Presidents Controlled Drug Trade

Location: 
Mexico
The Mexican political world was sent reeling after a former PRI politician admitted his party had exercised strong control over Mexico's drug trafficking routes. Former Nuevo Leon governor Socrates Rizzo said that previous PRI presidents had formalized agreements with drug trafficking organization leaders to coordinate and protect Mexico's lucrative drug trade. Rizzo argued that presidential control over smuggling prevented the widespread violence that has been commonplace since 2000.
Publication/Source: 
Business Insider (NY)
URL: 
http://www.businessinsider.com/former-mexican-governor-admits-pri-presidents-controlled-drug-trade-2011-2

Former Head of Bolivia's Drugs Police Is Sent to U.S. to Face Cocaine Trafficking Charges

Location: 
Bolivia
In yet another example of drug prohibition corrupting top officials, the former head of Bolivia's counter-narcotics police, Rene Sanabria, has been arrested in Panama and sent to the U.S. to face charges he ran a cocaine trafficking ring.
Publication/Source: 
Daily Mail (UK)
URL: 
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1361384/Bolivias-drugs-police-head-Rene-Sanabria-face-cocaine-trafficking-charge-US.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

WikiLeaks: Mexican President's Guard Leaked Secrets to Drug Trafficking Organizations

Location: 
Mexico
In yet another blow to Mexico's failed drug prohibition war, a Mexican army officer assigned to guard President Felipe Calderon leaked military intelligence to drug trafficking organizations, trained hit men and supplied military weapons to Los Zetas, according to a U.S. Embassy cable recently released by Wikileaks. The cable says the case was the most serious security breach to date during the Calderon presidency and indicates that Mexico's powerful drug traffickers have infiltrated large parts of the security apparatus.
Publication/Source: 
Business Insider (NY)
URL: 
http://www.businessinsider.com/wikileaks-mexican-presidents-guard-leaked-secrets-to-drug-cartels-2011-2

Kenyan Parliament Begins Drug Probe on MPs

Location: 
Kenya
Drug prohibition has been known to corrupt government officials all over the globe. Kenya's Committee of Parliament on Security has embarked on an independent investigation into allegations of drug trafficking leveled against four members of parliament. US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger disclosed that officials have banned several high profile individuals from visiting the US on the grounds of their involvement in drug trafficking.
Publication/Source: 
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (Kenya)
URL: 
http://www.kbc.co.ke/news.asp?nid=69049

Call for Release of Moroccan Marijuana, Human Rights Activist

Last week, Moroccan human rights activist, denouncer of corruption, and marijuana legalization advocate Chakib El-Khayari began his third year in prison for "offending the Moroccan state." El-Khayari, president of the Human Rights Association of the Rif region in Morocco, has been jailed since February 17, 2009, and now, European drug reform activists and international human rights groups are calling for his release.

Chaikh El-Khayari (encod.org)
El-Khayari, who is also known for defending the rights of the Amazigh (Berber) people and African migrants passing through en route to Europe, aroused the ire of the Moroccan state for declaring to the press that the Moroccan military and police are collaborating in the trafficking of hashish to Europe. In 2008, he also took the path-breaking step of initiating a national debate on the legalization of industrial hemp and medical marijuana.

El-Khayari was arrested on February 17, 2009, and has been jailed ever since. He was convicted of "offending the Moroccan state" for his statements about the involvement of high-ranking officials in the police, the army, and the government in the hash trade. He was also convicted of violating Morocco's foreign exchange laws for depositing in a bank in Madrid a check from a Spanish newspaper for an article he had written.

In an open letter to Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) is calling for El Khayari's immediate release. It is also calling on activists to print out and sign the letter, sending copies to the king and to the Moroccan embassy in their countries.

"Nothing justifies the heavy sanction that has been applied to Chakib El-Khayari," the letter says. "It is a manifest act of repression that is contrary to the international instruments to protect human rights that were ratified by Morocco and in particular, the international agreement on civil and political rights between Morocco and the European Union. We denounce firmly the detention of Chakib El-Khayari and urge his inmediate and unconditional release."

It's not just drug reformers. Five months ago, Amnesty International called for El-Khayari's release, saying it considers him a prisoner of conscience, "solely detained for his anti-corruption statements and his human rights activities."

The call for El-Khayari's release comes as the Moroccan government teeters under the wave of popular unrest that is sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. Five people were killed during widespread protests seeking constitutional reform Sunday.

Morocco

Iowa Lawmaker Faces Ethics Review Over Faking Symptoms to Get a Doctor's Recommendation for Medical Marijuana in California

Location: 
IA
United States
Rep. Clel Baudler, a Greenfield Republican and former state trooper, who traveled to California and lied to a physician about having painful hemorrhoids in order to obtain a medical marijuana recommendation in California will answer to the Iowa's House Ethics Committee. The Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously last year to recommend that lawmakers reclassify marijuana so it could be used for medical purposes.
Publication/Source: 
New England Cable News (MA)
URL: 
http://www.necn.com/02/10/11/Lawmaker-faces-ethics-review-over-pot-pr/landing_politics.html?&blockID=3&apID=938d9a68f01d4577bbdd5b8f8cfc6c8c

Former Senior China Anti-Drug Official Gets Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking

Location: 
China
A court handed down the death penalty to the former deputy head of anti-narcotics efforts in China's most populous metropolis, Chongqing. Luo Li had been collaborating with drug dealers in Chongqing since 2005 and took 1.2 million yuan ($233,038) in bribes to turn a blind eye to the activities of two of them, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a court statement.
Publication/Source: 
TODAY (Singapore)
URL: 
http://www.todayonline.com/World/EDC110201-0000211/Former-senior-China-anti-drug-official-gets-death-penalty

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