Raul 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.
Juan José Esparragoza Monzón, aka “El Negro,” escaped from a prison in Culiacán in a mid-day jailbreak. He was on the Justice Ministry’s list of 122 top targets; his capture on January 19 was announced in a press conference by Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales. El Negro was being held pending extradition to the U.S. He is believed to be one of the top financial operators of the Sinaloa Cartel. His father “El Azul,” is one of the cartel’s top leaders–perhaps the top leader after El Chapo’s recapture last year. “El Negro” is also married to the youngest daughter of the former head of the Beltran Leyva cartel, who was killed in a high profile military operation in 2009. Source: López-Doriga.
The disclosure that more than 250 skulls have been discovered just outside the port district of Veracruz has once more reminded Mexicans of how poorly their government functions in terms of providing security and solving crimes.
The remains were found by a human rights group over many months, acting on a tip from traffickers. A spokesman for a group of mothers searching for missing children said:
“What we have found is abominable and it reveals the state of corruption, violence and impunity that reigns not only in Veracruz, but in all of Mexico,” Ms. Diaz said.
“A reality that speaks of the collusion of authorities with organized crime in Veracruz, for it is impossible to see what we found without the participation of authorities,” she said.
The 3-part story by American journalist Andrea Noel illustrates gruesomely the kafkaesque nightmare of Mexican police investigations — and why most Mexicans will do anything to avoid going to the police.
The government released for the first time comprehensive data (Mexico Segob homicide database) on killings related to organized crime. Ministry of Government spokesman Alejandro Poiré said the disclosure was “an exercise of transparency without precedent in Mexico, and with few precedents in the world.” The database includes killings month by month from December 2006 (when Felipe Calderón took office) through December 2010 for more than 1,100 municipalities across the country.
Some highlights from the government data:
- Overall killings spiked to more than 15,000 in 2010, an increase of 59% from 2009. The government’s figures are significantly higher than those compiled (and published weekly) by the major newspapers. Reforma for example, recorded 11,583
- On a quarterly basis, the peak was 2Q and 3Q 2010. The rate of killings was down 10% in 4Q10, though the government was unwilling to say this was the beginning of a trend.
- Since December 2006, 70% of the killings have been concentrated in just 85 municipalities, concentrated along the U.S. border and the Pacific coast.
Poiré’s presentation is here: SEGOB Presentation on Organized Crime Killings, Jan 11
The fifth annual study of crime victims carried out by the independent CIDE research institute shows that crime rates, as measured by victim surveys, have surged in Mexico City and the State of Mexico. 40% of those surveyed said a member of their household was a victim of a crime in 2009, as compared to an average of about 25% in each of 2005-07—an increase of 60%. The rate of violent crime has also jumped, with 22% saying a member of the household was the victim of a violent crime. Robberies of persons are now the most common crime, surpassing theft of auto parts. The CIDE researchers speculate, “The increase in violent crimes could be indicative of criminals acting under the influence of drugs, given the recent transformation of these jurisdictions into drug transit corridors. … Another possible explanation is that the high rate of impunity makes it possible for violence to become more generalized.” (CIDE)
Less than two weeks after President Calderón declared that “the prestige of all three levels of government depends on the rescue of Ciudad Juárez,” the slaughter Friday night of 14 youths at a birthday party underscored the inability of the authorities to bring order to Mexico’s most violent city, where at least 2,421 persons have died this year.
The outgoing mayor of Juárez, José Reyes Ferriz, (and who lives in El Paso) gave an interview to Proceso just before leaving office in which he summarized the tally from his three years in office:
“7,000 dead, including 190 police officers; 10,000 orphans; 250,000 people who have emigrated from the city because of the violence; 10,000 businesses closed; 130,000 jobs lost; 25,000 homes abandoned; and 80,000 addicts. (Reforma 10/26)
Meanwhile in Tijuana, recently celebrated for a modest decrease in killings, the murder of at least 13 persons at a drug rehab clinic Sunday is being viewed as revenge for the much publicized seizure and destruction of marijuana by forces under the command of police chief Col. Julián Leyzaola Pérez. Messages broadcast on the police band said, “Remember there were 135 tons; there will be more dead.” (Reforma 10/26)