Category Archives: Drug wars

Award-winning crime journalist murdered

Javier ValdezJavier Váldez became the sixth Mexican crime reporter to be murdered this year.  The founder of the weekly Ríodoce was shot dead around midday as he was driving in downtown Culiacán, Sinaloa.  Váldez’s body was left in the street, after his car was intercepted by a Toyota Corolla filled with gunmen, according to news reports.

In 2011, the Committee to Project Journalists awarded Váldez the International Press Freedom Award. He was also a regular columnist for other media, and well known to international reporters for aiding them in understanding the drug wars.   As Javier Lafuente of El Pais writes:

The blow to journalism–to Mexican society–is terrible, even more so in the face of the noisy, entrenched impunity and the silence of institutions.  There have been no arrests for the six journalists assassinated this year.  The reaction to the five deaths before Váldez has been to designate a prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression, a measure that seems derisory given the magnitude of the tragedy.

Earlier in May, the Committee to Project Journalists published a special report, No Excuse: Mexico must break cycle of impunity in journalists’ murders.

 

Capture of fugitive ex-governor rekindles debate on official corruption

The arrest in Italy of former Tamaulipas governor Tómas Yarrington (1999-2004), based on information provided by the U.S., and fresh revelations on how he avoided arrest since an arrest warrant was issued in 2012 have spurred new debate on official complacency (at best) in prosecuting senior PRI officials in Mexico.

Amazingly, it appears that while Yarrington was a fugitive, the state attorney general’s office in Tamaulipas under PRI governor Egidio Torre (2012-16) was paying eight bodyguards to protect him.  This came to light only after a PAN governor was elected and took office in October 2016.

Surreal. Kafkaesque. Incomprehensible.  The PRIista government commissioned and paid for his bodyguards, but didn’t know where to find the fugitive ex-governor?

questioned columnist Héctor de Mauleón.

It was only after these revelations that the current federal PGR issued a Ps. 15 million reward for Yarrington’s arrest, and he is believed to have fled the country.

Both the U.S. and Mexico are seeking to extradite Yarrington.  He is alleged to have worked with both the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, protecting state and municipal police and mayors who were in the pay of the cartels, and laundered millions in drug proceeds.  He was indicted in Mexico in 2012.

 

The Peña Nieto government has also drawn scorn from the press for trying to take credit for providing Italy with information that led to his arrest.  According to official Italian statements, it was U.S. Homeland Security and ICE that provided the intelligence that led to his capture.

It’s the corruption, stupid! In a country that is becoming more and more disappointed and skeptical, corruption has become one of the most painful and important political issues

writes Sergio Sarmiento today.

Sources:  El Universal, Breitbart Texas, Reforma, El Pais,

“Drug Violence in Mexico” documents and analyzes the recent resurgence of violence

The Justice in Mexico project at the University of San Diego just published “Drug Violence in Mexico,” which is the most comprehensive analysis of homicide statistics and drug-related violence I’ve seen.  Excellent work by Kimberly Heinle, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, and David A. Shirk.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 2.50.35 PMSome of their principal conclusions:

  • After a decline in 2012-2014, homicides began to rise again in 2015 and jumped 20% in 2016.  The largest increases were registered in states which have an important role in drug production or trafficking and are contested by rival organized crime groups.
  • Local officials and journalists remained prime targets of violence in 2016.
  • Mexico’s recent violence is largely attributable to drug trafficking and organized crime, based on characteristics such as use of high-caliber automatic weapons, torture, dismemberment, and explicit messages involving organized-crime groups. Organized crime related homicdes probably account for  25% – 40% of total homicides.
  • El Chapo Guzmán’s arrest and extradition appear to be partly fueling violence.  A significant portion of  increases in violence in 2015 and 2016 were related to inter- and intra-organizational conflicts among rival drug traffickers in the wake of Guzmán’s re-arrest in 2016.

U.S. arrest of state attorney general will further damage PRI’s electoral chances

The arrest yesterday of Édgar Veytia, the attorney general of the state of Nayarit, by U.S. agents will cause major political damage to the PRI, both in the state and nationally.  Veytia was arrested on a previously-sealed indictment on federal charges of trafficking heroin, meth, cocaine, and marijuana.  The U.S. is also seeking to seize at least US$250 million in assets.

Nayarit is holding gubernatorial elections in June.  The long-dominant PRI is facing a strong challenge from a PAN-PRD coalition. Veytia’s long ties to the outgoing governor, Roberto Sandoval, will hurt the PRI’s chances both there and elsewhere. (Reportedly, the federal National Security Council never required Veytia to submit to the vetting procedures required by law of all senior security officials.)  The arrest and indictment appear to have been complete surprises to the Mexican government.

VeytiaVeytia is alleged to be a leader of the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), which has taken over control of trafficking in Nayarit, best known for the resort of Nuevo Vallarta,  from the Pacific Cartel.  A dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, Veytia flew every two weeks to visit his wife and family in San Diego.  Sandoval nominated Veytia to become attorney general of Nayarit in 2012, and it was at that time (according to the U.S. indictment) that the large-scale trafficking began.  As attorney general, Veytia commanded the state police and controlled actions of the local police.  He has been the target of allegations of ties to trafficking over the years, as well as extortion rackets that have forced the sale of prime tourism properties.

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Attacks on journalists continue across country

In Veracruz on Wednesday, the editor of La Opinion de Poza Rica, Armando Arrieta Granados, was shot twice just outside his home in Poza Rica, Veracruz.  He is reported to be in “grave” condition in an IMSS hospital.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 9.53.34 PMAlso on Wednesday, a journalist covering crime stories in Los Cabos was attacked in his car.  He was not injured, but his bodyguard was shot five times and killed.  The writer, Julio Omar Gómez Sánchez, wrote for “911 Noticias“, an internet news source covering crime and violence.  He was under official protection because of previous attacks in December 2016 and February 2017.  The bodyguard, Alfredo de la Cruz, was a 50-year old former soldier, assigned by the special prosecutor’s office for crimes against freedom of speech (FEADLE).

These attacks follow on the heels of the killing of Miroslava Breach of La Jornada and El Norte in Chihuahua on March 23.  Breach has written many stories on the impact of drug traffickers on the local populations in the mountains of Chihuahua.  On March 19, Ricardo Monlui, a writer for  El Político and El Sol de Córdoba, was gunned down in a restaurant in Yanga, Veracruz. He wrote on the condition of sugar cane workers in the state.

According to Animal Politico, the FEADLE prosecutors office has investigated the killings of 47 journalists from July 2010 through December 2016.  Only three have resulted in convictions.

 

Sources:  Letra Roja, Reuters, Animal Politico.  Cartoon:  Nericlon, El Economista

February sets new record for homicides

Official numbers show that Mexico set a new record for wrongful homicides in February, and that killings for the first two months of 2017 are up 29% from 2016.

The 1,838 investigations into wrongful homicides opened by the authorities in February — the preferred measure — and the 3,779 in January-February were higher than the numbers registered at the height of the Calderón government’s drug wars in 2011.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 9.13.54 AMIn terms for rates per 100k, the numbers are equivalent to the 2011 peak, given population growth. (See chart from Milenio.)

Security columnist Alejandro Hope observes:

January was bad.  February was horrible.  More than 20 victims per day — sufficient to fill a dumping ground like Colinas de Santa Fe in less than two weeks. … The principal officials in the security area continue to deny the gravity of the situation, fighting over statistics. …. In the principal decision centers there isn’t any interest in doing more than administer the disaster. … The problem, I fear, is one much more of will than of ideas or resources.”

Two attorney generals meet

Cervantes - SessionsRaul Cervantes and Jeff Sessions, the Mexican and U.S. attorneys general, held their first meeting today in Washington.

Now, all the senior cabinet officials on both sides of the bilateral relationship, with the exception of Robert Lighthizer, who has not yet been confirmed as USTR, have met for initial working meetings.

Issues discussed included bilateral cooperation on extradition, technical assistance,  human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, and all forms of illicit cross-border activity.  “Both officials reiterated their commitment to cooperate on the interchange of information in order to identify and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, as well as to combat the illegal traffic in drugs and weapons,” according to the PGR’s press release.

Whether by coincidence or not, the meeting coincided with the announcement of the recovery by the PGR and Federal Police of Tom Brady’s stolen Super Bowl LI jersey, acting on information provided by the FBI and Houston police.  The jersey (and other stolen football memorabilia) were reportedly recovered on March 12 in a house in Atizapán, Mexico State and have already been returned to the U.S.  Reporting in Excelsior and NYT.