Thursday 28 February 2013

So far, Anonymous attacks on government sites in Costa Rica have had limited effect

Anonymous has been attempting to block government websites in Costa Rica since Monday, February25, and says it will continue until late March, but so far their efforts appear to have had little impact. The attacks are in protest of Costa Rica’s “gag law”, which has been in effect for over a year.

The hacked sites were allegedly the Regulatory Authority of Public Services (Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos, or “Aresep”), the Costa Rican Institute of Sport and Recreation (Instituto Costarricense del Deporte y la Recreación, or “Icoder”), and the Ministry of Public Education (Ministerio de Educación Públic, “MEP”).

As of this writing all three sites are up and running.

Alexánder Vargas, MEP’s IT manager, has said that the his has seen a lot of traffic of late, which could be consistent with a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, though that could not be confirmed.

After Gordillo arrest, new union leader embraces reform: but what about the “hundreds of political gangsters” in Mexico?

Gordillo and Diaz de la Torre
After the arrest of Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, the head of Mexico’s national teacher’s union, on allegations that she defrauded the union of 2 billion pesos (US$156 million), the union’s new leader, Juan Diaz de la Torre, has done an abrupt about face and agreed to the educational reforms proposed by president Enrique Peña Nieto.

Elba Esther Gordillo, who was arrested February 26 at an airport outside Mexico City, had vehemently opposed the reforms, which include an attempt to break the tradition of bequeathing jobs to friends and relatives.

Third attack on Mexican newspaper leaves one dead, two injured

After the latest attack
The newspaper El Siglo de Torreón (Torreón Century) in the northern Mexican city of Torreón, Coahuila, was attacked for the third time on Wednesday, February 27, and this time a worker was killed and two others injured.

The attack occurred minutes after 1 pm on the south side of Allende near Acuña street, riddling the facade of the newspaper’s building with bullets and shattering glass.

Only two days earlier, on Monday, February 25, federal agents guarding the premises of the newspaper came under attack. At the time, newspaper officials insisted it was the federales who were the targets, and not them. However, on February 8 five non-editorial workers at the newspaper were kidnapped for a few hours before being released. The newspaper refused to give any details on the incident, citing security reasons, other than to say that the kidnapping of non-editorial staff was a “worrisome trend”.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Mexico ranks second after Thailand in human trafficking

Reyes Ibáñez at the workshop
Human trafficking in Mexico is necessarily linked to the “disappearances” phenomenon, with poor data tracking being one of the largest challenges when addressing the problem. This is complicated by inadequate legal structures and under-reporting.

These were some of the messages coming out of a recent workshop in Guadalajara on Mexico’s human trafficking law (Ley General en materia de Trata de Perdonas), with specialist Eva Reyes Ibáñez, a law professor at UNAM. Reyes Ibáñez said that although Jalisco was the first Mexican state to harmonize its legal system with the federal law, there are no credible statistics on a phenomenon that affects millions of people worldwide.

Former Panamanian ambassador to the OAS says Hugo Chavez has been “brain dead since December"

Reading a Cuban paper with his daughters on Feb 14. Photoshop? 
Guillermo Cochez, former Panamanian ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), said in a television interview on Wednesday, February 27, that Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, has been effectively “brain dead” since last December.

However, there have been no other sources confirming this information, and Cochez is not the most reliable source, having made such claims before.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

After arrest of teacher’s union leader Gordillo, is Pemex boss Deschamps next?

Gordillo had her enemies
Everyone knew that Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, the head of Mexico's 1.5 million-member teachers union, was corrupt. She loved her Hermès and Chanel. She flew in a private jet. She had who knows how many properties – a dozen at one count. Year after year the press had a field day and, this being Mexico, nothing was done.

But on February 26, 2013, her ride finally came to an end. Ms. Gordillo, 68, was arrested at Toluca airport outside of Mexico City and charged with misappropriating and diverging $2 billion pesos (US$156 million) from the union.

Corrupt Sonora prison officials busted after five inmates escape

The price of freedom in Sonora? About $78k
The attorney general’s office for the northern Mexican state of Sonora (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, or “PGJE”) has arrested nine high-level functionaries within the State Prison System.

The arrested men are accused of assisting in the escape of the five inmates with false documents.

At a press conference the head of the PGJE, Carlos Navarro Sugich, said that two of the criminals had been re-arrested, and that the other three were still at large.

Human Rights Watch should take a bow: It’s “official” – at least 26,121 people reported missing during Calderón sexenio

She counts
After weeks of stonewalling and misinformation, it looks like Lia Limon, the Mexican Interior Department's subsecretary for human rights, was right when she said that there was a list of people who have disappeared during the country’s six year war on drugs.

And though Limon initially claimed that the list had over 27,000 names on it, the official count released on Tuesday, February 26, confirms only that “at least” 26,121 people were reported missing during the term of President Felipe Calderón.

Mexico’s International Court of Environmental Arbitration rejects sale of historic building to Walmart

Asilo de Mier y Pensado
Mexico’s International Court of Environmental Arbitration (Corte Internacional  Arbitraje Ambiental), has nixed the city of Orizaba’s attempt to sell the Asilo de Mier y Pesado to  Walmart de México.

The Asilo de Mier y Pesado is an unusual building in Mexico because of its feudal English style. Built as a replica of Windsor Castle in England, it was donated to the city of Orizaba some years ago and remains a favourite retreat for locals and tourists.  Orizaba, in the state of Veracruz, rests inland at an altitude of 1,200 meters (4000 feet).

Community cops, or cartel takeover? Michoacán town gets some “protection”

There's not much around Tepalcatepec
On Monday, February 25, about 500 masked men bearing AK-47s and travelling in luxury SUVs showed up in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.

Claiming to be part of a new self-defence group, they took up positions at the entrances to the city. The hooded men were wearing white T-shirts with “For a free Tepalcatepec" (“Por un Tepalcatepec libre”) written in black letters.

Such groups have formed in Michoacán before, but this new development seems better organized and on a larger scale, such as has been seen in the mountains of coastal Guerrero.

Members of the newly minted “community police” said that they were being financially supported by local businesses, and that they were officially formed on Sunday, February 24.

But there is an unsettling wrinkle to this story.  Nowhere in Mexico do community police have access to AK-47s and luxury SUVs. Nor do they have 500 people. Nor do they bother to get T-shirts made.

Monday 25 February 2013

Federal agents attacked while guarding El Siglo de Torreón newspaper

Federal agents guarding the premises of the newspaper El Siglo de Torreón (Torreón Century), in the northern Mexican city of Torreón, Coahuila, came under attack on the afternoon of Monday, February 25, by a group of armed men.

The uniformed agents were on patrol at the back of the newspaper’s offices when the attackers, who were in a passing vehicle, opened fire with AK-47s. Soon after the attack reinforcements arrived and a perimeter was set up.

Executive killed in Acapulco was victim of scam and death threats

Jan Sarens
On the evening of Sunday, February 24, the Sarens family and the Sarens Group were formally informed by Mexican authorities that Jan Sarens, an executive with the family-owned Flemish company, had been shot and killed in Acapulco on Saturday, February 23, at 16:43 local time.

Now the heavy equipment company, which has operations in more than 50 countries and employs approximately 3,400 people, is implying that Mr. Sarens may have been killed as a result of a business dispute.

The murder occurred in the parking lot of a shopping mall in the touristy “Diamond Zone”. As La politica previously reported, Mr. Sarens had been shot several times next to his Mercedes convertible, with .45 caliber shell casings found at the scene.

Sunday 24 February 2013

One man stabbed to death in Chapala, expat in critical condition in Guadalajara hospital

Chapala is about 45 minutes south of Guadalajara
At about 12:10 pm on Sunday, February 24, police in Chapala were called to a house at 204 Avenida De la Rivera in the Riberas de Pilar subdivision, at the intersection with Calle San Diego, where they found one man dead of stab wounds and another seriously injured.

The dead man, Martin Orozco Gutierrez, 48, was found in blue jeans, red shirt, and sandals lying face down in the main hallway of the home.

The wounded man, an American named Ronald Bentley Main, 66, was found unconscious but with signs of life in the kitchen area.

Both men had multiple stab wounds; the elderly American had been stabbed at least seven times. He is in critical condition and has been taken to a hospital in Guadalajara, 45 minutes away.
Outside the crime scene (Milenio)

It is unknown how long it was after the attack had taken place that police were notified. The two men were found by another employee who had come to collect his salary.

When found, the gas outlets to the stove were open. Robbery has not been ruled out as a motive. There was no sign of forced entry, but two distinct sets of footprints were discovered at the scene that did not match those of the victims, and there were indications that a wall safe and two televisions were taken. As well, the victims’ wallets were missing.

The state attorney general and forensics experts are investigating the death as a homicide.

The two men had recently returned from Orozco's home state of Guanajuato.

UPDATE: Sadly, Mr. Main has since died as a result of the attack. For that story please see:

March 7: Bentley Main, American stabbed in Chapala, succumbs to his wounds in Guadalajara hospital

La Rivera, the second street up from the lake, crosses San Diego at an angle

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Belgian immigrant, a Mexico City business man, shot dead in Acapulco

La Torre Cronos in Acapulco
The Attorney General’s office for the state of Guerrero has begun an investigation into the murder of a Belgian national in Acapulco.

(NB: We now know that the murdered executive had been subject to death threats, perhaps as a result of a business dispute.)

The man, aged 59, was a resident of Mexico City, living at Lago Margarita 53 in the capital’s Miguel Hidalgo neighbourhood.

A motive has yet to be determined. The victim, who had been shot in the chest, was found lying beside his luxury Mercedes convertible  with .45 caliber shells retrieved at the scene.

The man has been identified as Jan Sarens, the director of SRNS Latinoamericana SA de CV in Mexico City, a trading division of Sarens, the industrial machine company. He lived in Mexico as a legal immigrant, and owned a condo in the Cronos Tower (Torre Cronos) in Pichilingue within the city’s “Diamond Zone” tourist area.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Chief of non-existent Nuevo Laredo police force hasn’t disappeared because...he hasn’t shown up to confirm he’s missing

A patrol in Nuevo Laredo
Only in Mexico can the chief of a non-existent police force disappear but not be considered missing because he has yet to show up to confirm his non-existence. In one of the most violent cities in Mexico, that’s exactly what’s happened, with the municipal government unable to acknowledge the disappearance its own police chief.

Not that it matters much, because Nuevo Laredo, directly across from Laredo, Texas, has no police force. It’s been two years since municipal officers patrolled the streets of this dusty, crime-ridden town. The state and federal governments, hoping to stem corruption, fired them all. They then brought in state police and the army to keep order.

Tracking Mexico’s disappeared in a journalistic black hole

The difficulty in tracking the number of people who have been “disappeared” during Mexico’s six-year drug war is that large segments of the country are in a statistical blackout. 

There are three very simple reasons for this: the lack of political will at all levels of government to determine the seriousness of the problem; the fact that citizens are often terrified to report disappearances to corrupt officials; and journalistic “on-the-ground” reporting in Mexico has been severely weakened.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Mexican government acknowledges list of over 27,000 citizens “missing” in the war on drugs

Lía Limón
Coming off the heels of a damning report from Human Rights Watch that listed 249 cases of people having been “disappeared” in Mexico, and that demanded Mexico establish a “comprehensive, accurate national databases of the disappeared and or unidentified,” the government has confirmed that it has an unofficial list of over 27, 000 people who have gone missing during the country’s six year war on drugs.

Lía Limón, from the Interior Ministry’s Secretariat for Legal Affairs and Human Rights (Asuntos Jurídicos y Derechos Humanos), said that the Mexican government has a database, and that it is working to release it shortly.  

The database includes genetic information on the missing persons and/or family members. This will ideally allow for the cross-referencing of genetic information in order to speed up the identification process when bodies are found.

Shortly after the comments by Lía Limón, the Secretary of the Interior, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, confirmed the existence of the database, which remains “unofficial”, and said that the government was working in cooperation with the Red Cross for final preparation of the list which, as of November, 2012, numbered over 27,000 people.

Some concerns raised by Osorio Chong were privacy issues, though he acknowledged the immense suffering of families who do not know what has become of their loved ones.

It is believed that a small minority of the missing are adults that simply don’t want to be found, and that the vast majority have been killed in the drug war. If the numbers are accurate, and given that about 70,000 people have been killed in the last six years, then Mexico is on track to record 100,000 civilians dead in the ongoing conflict.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Six shot dead in broad daylight in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico

Shortly after noon on February 21 a group of armed men killed six members of a family in Monterrey, the capital of the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León.

The suspected gunmen were traveling in two vehicles when they entered a scrap business on 5 de Mayo street in the San Ángel Norte neighbourhood.

The victims included three children, aged 14, 15 and 16 years, two adult males, aged 19 and 25, and a woman aged 20. As well, a man named Julio Cesar Campos Vasquez, 19, was seriously injured and taken to the nearby Hospital Universitario, which is slightly northwest of downtown.

As is typical in such situations, Mexican authorities responded at all levels, with local, state and federal police on the scene, as well as the armed forces.

One of the vehicles used by the gunmen had been stolen, and was found abandoned shortly after the attack.

Monterrey is located in territory disputed by the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. Since the beginning of this year the gang war has intensified, leaving at least 150 people dead.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Police commander implicated in sexual assault of Italian woman in Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen
Police in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo are searching for a police commander suspected of involvement in the sexual assault of an Italian resident of Mexico.

In coordination with authorities in the neighbouring state of Yucatan, the police are on the lookout for Ramon Balainas Xicoténcalt, who allegedly committed the crime on the morning of February 12.

Two municipal officers have already been arrested and are facing charges of sexual assault and abuse of authority.

U.S. Marine Corps General John Kelly winds up visit to Panama

The Panama Canal
The President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, met yesterday afternoon (February 20) with U.S. Marine Corps General John Kelly, commanding general of U.S. Southern Command.

“Today we have a more professional police force, and are committed to the welfare of the population," the Panamanian president told the local press.

Kelly met with U.S. Embassy personnel, as well as other senior Panamanian officials, to discuss security cooperation between Panama and the United States. The Panamanian officials included Minister of Public Security Jose Mulino, and the directors of Panama’s National Aeronaval Service (SENAN), National Border Service (SENAFRONT), and the Panamanian National Police.

Mexico’s crisis of “enforced disappearances”

Human Rights Watch is calling on Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to develop a strategy to investigate and stop enforced disappearances on the part of that country’s security apparatus.

In a 176-page report titled, “Mexico’s Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored,” the non-governmental organization documents 249 “disappearances” during the administration of former President Felipe Calderón, from December 2006 to December 2012. In none of these cases have the people responsible been convicted.  

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Earthquake strikes in Colima, Mexico

Epicenter was 38 km out to sea, south of "A"
At approximately 3.23 pm local time on Wednesday, February 20, the U.S. Geological Survey reported an earthquake with a 5.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, in Colima, Mexico.

Local Mexican authorities reported the quake as being a 5.6.

The epicenter was 38 kilometers to the south of Ciudad de Armeria. Some locals feared that it was due to activity on the Colima volcano, but it is now thought to have been the result of movement of the Cocos Plate shifting under the North American Plate.

The quake was felt as far north as the Puerto Vallarta area.

There are no reports of property damage or loss of life. As well, the hospitals in nearby Tecomán and Manzanillo are fully operational.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Grenades injure three near Government Palace in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas

Central square, with legislature in the background
Government officials in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas have confirmed that assailants launched two grenades from a moving vehicle near the government legislature in Ciudad Victoria, the state capital.

The attack occurred at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, February 19th, and left three men injured as well as damage to two vehicles in the vicinity of the explosions.

As is typical in such scenarios, state and federal authorities then cordoned off the area – in this case the perimeter of the city’s central square.

On December 5, 2012, a grenade was thrown at the official residence of the governor of Tamaulipas.

February 11, 2013: Video reveals startling daylight battle in Reynosa that leaves five dead

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Authorities suspect possible “crime of passion” in murder of American in El Salvador

Add caption
The murder of an American last Saturday, February 16, in San Isidro, El Salvador, remains unsolved, but authorities are suspecting the involvement of his young wife’s ex-boyfriend.

Michael James Brown, 53, was ambushed around 8:30 pm – 9pm on a country road in the village of San Isidro within the municipality of Izalco, Sonsonate.

He was killed by a group of 8-10 people who shot him at close range. His Salvadorian wife, Nury Aquino, 23, was injured but survived the attack. Speculation has swirled around Aquino, the key witness, as she was clearly spared.

Brown had just returned to El Salvador from the United States on February 12. When killed, he was driving a rental car along with Aquino on a coffee farm. Brown was shot an estimated five times in the upper body and head.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

21 Cubans who defected in Veracruz are now in Miami

Some members of the troupe in Veracruz
The 21 Cuban musicians from the 93-member Grupo Guaracheros de la Regla who defected from the carnival in Veracruz, Mexico, are now in Miami.

The musicians came as guests of the Veracruz carnival organizing committee, but never returned to their hotel last Tuesday, February 12. According migration authorities in Mexico, the musicians entered the country as tourists, and moved on to the United States without the knowledge of the Mexican government.

Monday 18 February 2013

50 UNAM students assaulted by armed men during party in Cuernavaca

Cuernavaca - about 85 km south of Mexico City
According to a police complaint  lodged by students at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), the largest public university in Mexico City, at least 15 men, ten of them armed, entered a home in the Alta Vista neighbourhood in Cuernavaca, Morelos, whereupon they threatened individuals and robbed them.

The home was being used as a “salón de fiestas” – essentially a house used for semi-formal celebrations – when the men entered and assaulted about 50 people. Three students were wounded by gunfire, but are expected to recover. There is no firm count on the total number of people in the house.

Friday 15 February 2013

When is a university not a university? When it gains a cash-grabbing failed politician, and loses a respected academic

Héctor Vasconcelos, a well-respected Harvard professor of political science and a former ambassador from Mexico to Norway, Denmark and Iceland, as well as a former consul in Boston, has resigned his position in protest over the appointment of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón to a one year fellowship.

Vasconcelos had written on January 15, 2013 to David T. Ellwood, Dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, advising him that should Calderón be offered a position he would resign.

Attack on Morelos attorney general: Guns don’t kill people – confused people with guns kill people

After the attack
A Mexican judge has determined that there is enough evidence to process ten police officers on charges of homicide and attempted homicide related to the February 7 attack on the motorcade of the attorney general of Morelos, Attorney Dorantes Rodrigo Salgado, in which three of his body guards died.

After a hearing of almost 22 hours judge Elvia Terán Peña concluded that the evidence adduced by the prosecution was sufficient to include charges.

The judge set a deadline of three months for the prosecutors to conclude their research into the case.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Former Stratfor analyst posed as fake journalist in Oaxaca, Mexico

According to a recently-released email from The Global Intelligence Files – the more than five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered "global intelligence" company Stratfor that have been drip-fed from WikiLeaks since February 27th, 2012 – a former intelligence analyst named Colby Martin posed as a journalist during unrest on Oaxaca, Mexico, in late 2006.

Writing with regard to the security situation in Oaxaca in an email dated October 21, 2011, the former Stratfor employee said that he was “in Oaxaca in November/December 2006 for the riots/protests after an American blogger was shot and killed in October. It was big time crazy, but the military came in and camped out in the center square and squashed it quick.”

Mexico’s interior minister expresses “solidarity, trust, and support” with self-defence groups

Osorio Chong
Mexico’s  interior minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, has acknowledged that the self-defence groups formed in Guerrero, Oaxaca and Michoacán came about as a result of distrust in government authorities, and further expressed his “solidarity, trust, and support” with them.

“We have decided to form a dialogue with them,” said Osorio Chong. “It’s working [in Guerrero], so much so that the community has follow due process.”

Osorio Chong noted that communities who are charged with their own security will nonetheless have access to public prosecutors with the proper legal training. This is a significant development, as it suggests that the federal government sees itself as being in partnership with the communities against a common enemy – organized crime – as opposed to trying to re-assert government authority.

Mexican narcos offer US$47,000 for identity of Tweeter

One of the pamphlets
Criminals in Mexico are offering 600,000 pesos (US$47,000) for information leading to positive identification of the manager of a Facebookand Twitter account.

In recent days pamphlets have appeared in several cities in the northern border state of Tamaulipas offering the money for “accurate information on the owner of the page ‘Valor por Tamaulipas’”.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Bill Gates and Carlos Slim invest US$25 million in bioscience center in Texcoco, Mexico

Bill Gates and Carlos Slim (Notimex)
The Carlos Slim Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have together invested $25 million in a new bioscience complex for agricultural research in Texcoco, Mexico.

Called the International Center for the Improvement of Corn and Wheat (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento del Maíz y Trigo, or “CIMMYT”), the investment will support global research into corn and wheat, with the intention of meeting the challenges of the rising cost of inputs (i.e. fertilizer/herbicides/pesticides), as well as the depletion of natural resources and the impact on climate change.

Eurocopter takes flight in Querétaro

Eurocopter inaugurated its US$100 million plant in Querétaro, Mexico, on February 13, announcing that the new facility would generate approximately 200 jobs related to the manufacture of doors for Airbus aircraft, as well as AS350 Ecureuil helicopter parts.

There will also be a facility that specializes in helicopter maintenance, which could over time boost investment to US$500 million.

Mexico’s Interior Ministry acknowledges legitimacy of civil defence groups

Martínez Veloz
Mexico’s recently-appointed Commissioner for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples (Comisionado Para el Diálogo con los Pueblos Indígenas), Jaime Martínez Veloz, has come out and stated that it is violence and crime that present a real risk to Mexican society, not civil defence groups.

"I see the risk of violence, insecurity, drug trafficking, organized crime – for me, that's more worrisome," Martínez Veloz told Mexican new outlets.

In the past month, in response to the plague of insecurity in their communities, indigenous populations in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Jalisco, have formed civil defence units to protect themselves.

Mexico’s president Peña Nieto puts US$9.3 billion into crime prevention

A distant wave to the future
After a grueling six year “war on drugs” that has left some 60,000 people dead, Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto has struck a conciliatory note with regard to his government’s approach to organized crime – and has promised to invest 118 billion pesos (US$9.3 billion) in crime prevention.

“Clearly we need to put emphasis on social prevention, because we cannot continue only to use more and more sophisticated weapons, equipment, police, as well as an increased presence of the armed forces,” he said at yesterday’s ceremony in Aguascalientes inaugurating the Interministerial Commission for Social Prevention of Violence and Crime (Comisión Intersecretarial para la Prevención Social de la Violencia y la Delincuencia).

The new Commission will have an impressive budget of 118 billion pesos (US$9.3 billion), and will be active in 251 municipalities hardest hit by crime.

“The country can’t have that [law enforcement] as a single view, as the only way to combat organized crime," he said.

Uh, oh: Peña Nieto’s daughters planning reality TV show

A new comedy show?
The Mexican broadcaster Televisa is reportedly preparing a reality show starring the daughter and step-daughter of Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto.

The show has yet to be confirmed, but the buzz is that Paulina Peña Pretelini and Sofía Castro are considering the show as an attempt to clean up their image as privileged, uncaring people.

Paulina famously took to Twitter during last year’s election campaign to complain that critics of her father were lower class “proles”. And Sofía Castro notoriously dissed a pair of 15,000 peso (US$1,180) shoes that had been given to her by her father.

Paulina Peña Pretelini  is  Peña Nieto’s  daughter with his former wife Mónica Pretelini Sáenz, who died in 2007. The step-daughter, Sofía Castro, is Angélica Rivera Hurtado’s daughter with her first husband, José Alberto Castro, whom she divorced in 2008. Peña Nieto and Rivera Hurtado were then married in 2010.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approves new Protection Act despite fierce opposition from business

The lower house of Mexico’s Congress, the Chamber of Deputies (Cámara de Diputados) has passed the new “Law of Amparo” (Ley de Amparo), a Protection Act that has been frequently used in the past by Mexico’s wealthy and well-connected to avoid prosecution.

With a vote of 360 in favour, 60 against, and three abstentions, the lower house will now send the bill to the Senate for review. From a political standpoint, the only debate seemed to be with regard to restrictions on gambling – not the proposed changes to the legal use of amparos.

Nahua civil defense group in Jalisco wants state help – but only if it can be armed, too

Civil defense organizations in Guerrero and Oaxaca have established a model that is being replicated in Jalisco, and that has recently been acknowledged as legitimate by Mexico’s recently-appointed Commissioner for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples (Comisionado Para el Diálogo con los Pueblos Indígenas), Jaime Martínez Veloz.

View of the Sierras from Cuautitlan Garcia Barragan, Jalisco

Illegal logging and illegal mining, as well as the presence of armed groups, have forced the indigenous Nahua people in the sierras of Manantlán, Jalisco, to demand a greater presence from the authorities – but only if they allow for community civil defense units to be armed in support.

Monday 11 February 2013

Is Christopher Dorner in Mexico?

The Tapatio Motel in Tijuana
Soon after the fugitive Christopher Dorner began his violent spree – he is now alleged to have killed three people and injured two – he raced to a yacht club at Point Loma, CA, near San Diego, where police say he pointed a gun at an individual and stole a boat, intending to flee to Mexico.

However, Dorner, 33, gave up after the boat's propeller became entangled in a rope. The ex-California cop then drew police into the San Bernadino mountains east of Los Angeles, where they found his burned-out vehicle and conducted an extensive search of the snowy back woods.

But that was five days ago, and the hunt for the “domestic terrorist” has since gone cold.

Two bombs explode near city hall in Nuevo Laredo

Warnings to citizens of Nuevo Laredo
The northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas was hit hard by violence on Monday, February 11.

Not only was there was a gunfight in Reynosa that left five dead, there were also reports of two grenades going off near the city hall in Nuevo Laredo.

The explosions were not widely reported until later in the day when they were confirmed by both the U.S. Consulate General and the Government of Tamaulipas.

One explosion, which occurred at 11:50 am, was at the corner of Avenida Alvaro Obregón and Privada I. Tamez. It left one person injured: a young woman who received medical attention at the scene. There are reports that explosion this was due to a grenade being thrown at a parked municipal police vehicle.

This explosion damaged three vehicles – including a 2003 Ford Taurus with Texas plates and a late model Dodge Atos with Tamaulipas plates. A building facade was also damaged.

Video reveals startling daylight battle in Reynosa that leaves five dead

In downtown Reynosa, Tamaulipas  directly across the border from Hidalgo, Texas  a daytime shootout on February 11 that left five dead has been caught at a distance by a videographer. On a sunlit day, overlooking the city from high in a building, the sound of small arms fire and heavy weapons can be heard as police and gangsters engage in open battle.

The clash began as a chase on the Bulevar Luis Echeverría, with the most intense fighting happening around noon near the bullfight ring at Matamoros and Palafox streets. There was also fighting near City Hall, which is close to many schools.

The entire altercation only lasted ten minutes, but some concerned parents braved the streets and moved openly to be with their children in the schools.

Jalisco police put out alert on phone extortions for communities south of Chapala

Given a recent increase in phone extortions, the South Regional Delegation of the Attorney General of the State of Jalisco (Delegación Regional Sur de la Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado de Jalisco) has put out a new warning to the public for communities to the south and west of Chapala.

The north shore of Lake Chapala

Active areas, according to authorities, are Ciudad Guzmán, Sayula, Zacoalco de Torres, Zapotiltic (directly outside of Ciudad Guzmán), Tapalpa (south west of Chapala), among others in southern Jalisco.

A gringo Pope for Mexico?

Cardinal Ouellet: the next Pope? (Wikipedia)
Though it was billed as “important”, it was the sort of press conference that the Mexican journalist Andrés Beltramo of Notimex expected to be “very tedious”. That’s because it was a meeting of the cardinals of the Catholic Church – hardly expected to be a barn-burner.

Beltramo was there because he was expecting the canonization of a Mexican woman, Lupita Zavala.

But it turned out to be when Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) announced his resignation – the first Pope to do so in 600 years.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Take-down puts heat on El Chapo in Sinaloa

A common conspiracy theory during the Calderón  sexenio – the six year rule, from 2006-20012, of Mexico’s former president – was that his administration had cut a deal with the Sinaloa Cartel.

How else to explain the incredible good fortune of its leader, El Chapo “Shorty” Guzmán? He was a billionaire, and the most wanted man in the Americas, yet his young wife could even travel to Los Angeles to give birth to twins. Somehow he operated with complete impunity.

Meanwhile, the vicious Los Zetas was busy carving up the remnants of the Gulf Cartel and anyone else who got in their way, and the “war on drugs” took 60,000 lives.

No-one can ascertain the veracity of the theory that the former administration had a pact with the Sinaloa Cartel, but one thing is certain: El Chapo has taken some big hits in the past 24 hours.

Mexico’s president Peña Nieto received mysterious “donations”

A park in Mexico City: some land is worth more than others
Two weeks ago Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, disclosed his assets.

Unfortunately the attempt at transparency has only raised more questions, and suspicions that he may have received gifts in return for unspecified political favours.

According to public records, the president has a number of bank accounts and no debt. He also has “coins and metals”, but no one knows how much.

And he has no less than nine real estate holdings. Two were bought outright – one in 1982, and another in 2005. He inherited an apartment in 2001. Then, most mysteriously, he has two houses and four properties that were “donated” to him.

Puerta Vallarta mayor says police force will be best paid in country

Tourist police in PV...At your service
After the attack on the life of Puerto Vallarta’s police chief last year, which led to his resignation and a distinctly lower profile for the new chief, legitimate concerns were raised that the tourist haven risked slipping into the grip of organized crime.

This perception wasn’t helped when, within hours of each other on February 6, a kidnap victim jumped out of a second-floor window in the Jarretaderas neighbourhood, near Puerto Vallarta’s airport, and young gangsters engaged in a shootout with police north of Puerto Vallarta after holding up a gas station.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Confusion reigns after police attack motorcade of Attorney General for Morelos, killing three bodyguards

Safer at home?
Police attacked the motorcade of the Attorney General for Morelos early Friday, killing three of his bodyguards. The Attorney General, Rodrigo Dorantes Salgado, was en route to his home and was unharmed.

The attack occurred just after midnight in Cuernavaca, the state capital, when state police in several patrol cars overtook the motorcade, isolated Dorantes’s vehicle, and began shooting. The three bodyguards returned fire but were outnumbered and killed.

The incident reportedly began at a security checkpoint 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the capital.  The four car motorcade, given its official capacity, felt it was not required to stop. It sped past, and then in confusion state police opened fire and began their pursuit.

The Crown gang reshapes criminal alliances in Jalisco and Michoacán

They deserve better
An emergent gang called The Crown (La Corona) has made an alliance with The Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios) in order to open the door to lucrative criminal activity in Jalisco, according to Mexico’s Reforma newspaper.

Police sources have told Reforma that, previous to the alliance, Knights Templar had only been able to make incursions across state lines from Michoacán to Jalisco on their own.

Members of the Knights Templar were originally part of the Familia Michoacana (FM). However, after the death of FM’s leader, Nazario Moreno, known as “El Chayo”, in December of 2010, there was a split among members, some of whom then formed Knights Templar.

This left José de Jesús Méndez, “El Chango” (The Monkey), in charge of FM, whereas Enrique Plancarte Solís and Servando Gómez Martínez, “La Tuta” (The Teacher) formed the leadership of Knights Templar.