Category Archives: Justice

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.

 

Mexicans react with skepticism and irony to Duarte’s arrest

Public reaction to the arrest in Guatemala of Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-Governor of Veracruz, has abounded in skepticism, with more than a million postings on each of Facebook and Twitter in Mexico.  He has become “the El Chapo of the PRI,” as columnist Carlos Marín noted.  One reporter twittered ironically about the self-congratulatory messages the PRI establishment sent out: “This is PRI-istas applauding PRI-istas for the arrest of a PRI-ista who diverted public moneys for PRI-ista election campaigns.”

Duarte smilingMany have called the arrest a “negotiated surrender.”  They say that Duarte agreed to give himself up and stay silent about the many politicians complicit in his crimes, in return for a light sentence and protection from prosecution for his wife and other family members.  They cite the bizarre smile on Duarte’s face in the custody of the Guatemalan authorities and the fact that his wife, who was clearly involved in many of the transactions to divert public funds, was not arrested.  “This is nonsensical, to say the least,” comments Marín.  “The same people who were saying the government was protecting him a few days ago are now saying that the whole thing was a charade.”

One of these was Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was also roundly mocked for calling Duarte a “scapegoat,” implying of course that Duarte was innocent.

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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,

Pemex discloses Odebrecht contracts as part of corruption probe

In a major reversal — and perhaps a major step forward in investigating official corruption — Pemex today disclosed four contracts it signed with Brazilian contractor Odebrecht between 2010 and 2015.

Pemex_logoThe state-owned oil company had previously said the contracts were under seal.  Pemex also said that the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) on April 3d summoned several unnamed current and former officials to provide testimony.

Until now, the government had seemed to be dragging its feet in investigating the information provided by Odebrecht as part of its plea bargain agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, made public in December, that it had paid US$10.5 million in bribes to “government officials” in Mexico to win contracts between 2010 and 2014.  One US$6 million bribe was paid to a “high-level official of a Mexican state-owned and state-controlled company”–presumably Pemex–between December 2013 and late 2014. The CEO at that time was Emilio Lozoya, and he is reportedly one of the Pemex officials being summoned by the PGR.

More coverage at ReutersEl Financiero.

 

“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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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.