“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

AMLO picks a fight with the Army

The general in charge of human rights for the Army responded angrily to Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s criticism of the armed forces.

Starting with statements made during his NYC trip, AMLO has accused the military of complicity in the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotiznapa and of participation in more than 100 “massacres” ordered by Presidents Calderón and Peña Nieto.  He twittered that, “When we triumph, we will no longer use the Army to repress the people.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 2.55.44 PM

The Army human rights spokesman, General Beltrán said:

Anyone who has proof of human of human rights violations committed by soldiers, as some public figures have alleged, must present them.

Digging in, AMLO has countered that he commands the full support of the rank and file, and ignored the complaints of the military leadership and politicians supporting them:

It’s very clear that the soldiers are the people in uniform; they are the sons of peasants, sons of workers…. In the 2006 and 2012 elections the soldiers — the troops — voted for change, they voted for us, and they will do the same in 2018.  The soldiers will support change.

Columnist Salvador García Soto notes that picking a fight with the military leadership isn’t going to benefit any candidate and, “it brings to mind the popular saying that the fish dies by its own mouth.  And this just might snag López Obrador.”

(Sources: El Financiero, SPD Noticias, El Universal)

Pemex board reportedly opens corruption investigations

According to columnist Ana Paula Ordorica, the Pemex board of directors opened investigations into three issues that occurred  when Emilio Lozoya was head of the state oil company:  contracts with the Brazilian contractor Odebrecht, the purchase of two fertilizer companies,  and the acquisition of nine aircraft.

Lozoya, a close personal friend of Enrique Peña Nieto, was CEO of Pemex from the beginning of the EPN government in Dec. 2012 to Feb. 2016.

Odebrecht has confessed to paying US$10.5 million in bribes to Pemex officials,  during both the Calderón and EPN governments. (The Odebrecht contracts have been put under seal.) Little apparent progress has been made by Mexican authorities in pursuing a corruption case that was handed them on a silver platter.

In Jan. 2014 and Jan. 2016, Pemex inexplicably purchased two fertilizer manufacturing companies for a total of US$730 million, for reasons that have never been explained adequately.  (The documents justifying the purchase were also placed under seal for 12 years.)  In January 2017, the company hired UBS to sell the money-losing operations.

Finally, Pemex purchased 5 airplanes and 4 helicopters while Lozoya was CEO for almost US$100 million “to strengthen Pemex’s operational capabilities.” However, according the audits of the company, at least four of the aircraft were never entered as assets in the company’s books, and they appear to have been used for personal purposes.

Pemex puts Odebrecht contracts under seal until 2020

In response to requests for information about its Odebrecht contracts under the transparency laws, Pemex Industrial Transformation (the refining arm) acknowledged two contracts but said that they had been put under seal until February 2023.  The company said that “to disclose the contracts would put at risk the investigations being carried out by PGR and SFP,” (the Justice Ministry and the Public Function Secretariat).

Perhaps another sign that the investigation of the bribes that Odebrecht confessed paying between 2010 and 2014 will be less than vigorous.

Is Peña Nieto losing control of the succession?

Doubts are emerging about President Peña Nieto’s ability to keep control of the succession process, given the abysmal polling of the potential PRI candidates for the 2018 presidential election.

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 8.51.03 AMUntil now, almost all have assumed that EPN would pick his successor using the “dedazo,”  the big finger, that PRI presidents in the pre-democratic era exercised to indicate their successor.   Indeed, EPN has maintained iron control of gubernatorial nominations through his term.

An anonymous PRI official told columnist Salvador García Soto,

We have to tell President Peña that the method for picking gubernatorial candidates until now won’t work to solve the succession issue inside the PRI.  The president needs to innovate, open the process, and let many aspirants run in an open manner to help the PRI reposition itself in an adverse environment in which the other parties and candidates have big advantages.

According to García Soto, Presidencia’s last internal poll shows that all the potential PRI candidates finish a distant third against AMLO and any PAN candidate.  The best positioned of the PRIistas is Health Secretary José Narro.  In a trial ballot, Narro captures 19% of the vote, AMLO 29.6%, and Margarita Zavala of the PAN 24.3%.

These PRI dissidents are promoting the idea that the PRI National Assembly, scheduled to meet at the beginning of August, should decide the methods for selecting candidates for the 2018 races.