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.
Foreign Minister Videgaray testimony in the Senate 2/28 included several red lines and must-haves.
U.S. immigration law and enforcement
- A strictly U.S. domestic issue, and Mexico will not get involved in an internal U.S. debate, BUT:
- Mexico will not accept any non-Mexican deportees.
- Mexico will protect the human rights of Mexicans in the U.S., and pursue any violations in international forums
- There needs to be continued cooperation and coordination on border security matters; threats and insults need to cease
- No militarization of the border
- Mexicans leaving the U.S. (both voluntarily and involuntarily) must keep their rights to Social Security earned
- U.S. and Mexico need to cooperate on Central America
We will not negotiate the Free Trade Agreement from the defendant’s dock. Any negotiation between the parties must start from the premise that this has been an agreement that has generated important benefits for all three parties.
- Mexico will undertake the trade negotiations, “without pause, but without haste”
- No tariffs or quotas.
- Negotiation should include mechanisms to support rising wages for Mexican workers, so the “production model” isn’t based on cheap labor.
- Construction of the wall is a hostile act, and Mexico will not collaborate in any way; but it is a sovereign matter for the U.S.
- Mexico will pursue any violation of international law in international forums.
U.S. Tax regime
- Mexico must be prepared to change its own tax regime if changes to US tax law affect Mexican interests or the economic competitiveness.
Drug trafficking / cartels
- U.S. must assume its responsibility to reduce demand, and stop the flow of guns and money.
- No measures that restrict the flow of remittances or increase their cost.
Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray appeared before the full Senate to present outline the government’s posture on the negotiations with the U.S. across the full range of issues. He and the Senate agreed that they would prepare a document “to regulate and delimit” the negotiations, to be signed by both the administration and the Senate. The Senate leadership said they would have a draft to discuss when Videgaray returns on 3/7.
The principal points Videgaray made are here.
The major question is whether Mexico is willing to negotiate trade issues on a stand-alone basis, or will insist on an all-or-nothing “integral” negotiation, where trade, migration, the border, cooperation on security, and drug trafficking are all on the table. The former offers the prospect of a revised NAFTA in less than a year. The latter would ensure that nothing gets resolved before both countries move into full election mode in 2018.
The Mexican government is operating on the assumption that NAFTA negotiations will begin in June, although the Trump administration has not yet given the required 90-day notice to Congress.
Foreign Secretary Videgaray termed the meetings held by him and Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong with U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly as “frank.”
This visit occurs a complex moment in the relationship of the two countries. Among Mexicans, there is a preoccupation and irritation with what they perceive as policies of the U.S. that could be damaging to them.
Today we discussed different issues on the agenda, knowing that this is a process that will be long and not necessarily easy. Today we took important steps in the right direction. Undoubtedly, we have some coincidences. The first of these is the need to keep working and having dialogue in an uninterrupted manner.
The government reported that wrongful deaths rose 22% to 20,789 in 2016. This is the highest level of the Peña Nieto government, and the third highest recorded (after 2011 and 2012, during the height of the Calderón drug war.) The states with the highest homicide rates were Colima (82 per 100k!!), Guerrero, Sinaloa, Baja California, and Chihuahua. More detail here from Reforma.