Friday, November 22, 2013

Mexican Journalist Blames the Failure of the Drug-War on Corrupt and Inept Government Policies on both sides of the border

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez
EL PASO – Five unique and experienced voices were heard at the University of Texas at El Paso this week discussing the seemingly eternal drug war and the government policies that fuel it that has plagued the U.S.-Mexico border region in recent years.

The participants included UTEP professor and author Dr. Howard Campbell, former DEA agent Gilberto Gonzalez, UTEP Communication professor Andrew Kennis, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez , and U.S. Representative Beto O’Rouke (D., El Paso).

The event, called  “Drug Policy on the Border and Beyond: Dangers Facing Journalists, Obstacles Facing Policy Makers” organized by Kennis, added to the growing discussion by policy makers, law enforcement, public officials and journalists on how to end the war that has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico and led to increased anti-drug enforcement along the U.S. side of the border.

Hernandez, an investigative journalist in Mexico who has done some of the best coverage of the drug war and published a book, Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers, in English and Spanish, drew upon her extensive research to discuss the strong connections between the drug cartels and the Mexican government. She also spoke of the importance of the drug economy to the people of Mexico.

“If I can describe in one single word what is happening in Mexico, it is corruption,” she said. She added that the Mexican and U.S. governments are at fault in allowing the spread of international criminal cartels and must change their policies and activities if the situation is going to be rectified.

Campbell, a professor of sociology and anthropology at UTEP and author of the 2009 book Drug War Zone, suggested a bi-national effort, saying that legal policies are the main source of harm in this ideological war.

“We need to pull together and form a united international movement of Americans and Mexicans to work together to end the drug war, because I think that is the source of the problems,” he said. “The reason this has to be a bi-national effort is because the drug traffickers are transnational and war on drugs policies are international.” He added that attempts by governments to criminalize drugs only serve to benefit those who would deal in contraband.

Gonzalez, a former DEA agent and executive director of the Texas Narcotics Officers Association, began his presentation by quoting the Tim Burton “Jokers” famous line, “have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight” to describe his experience in the DEA fighting drug trafficking organizations. He spoke about the death and torture of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena in 1985 in Mexico and described the brutal efficiency of the cartels and their general lack of respect for human life.

“They’re not going to go home after you legalize the drugs, and say, ‘okay it was a good run.’ They’re going to fight harder to import synthetic drugs to sell to our children.  They’re going to use the legal drugs to sell on the market to continue the black market.”

Kennis, a professor of communication at UTEP, has done journalistic and academic coverage of the drug war. Instead of speaking solely about national drug policy he discussed the actual impact of the drug war, detailing the complex relationship between the Sinaloa Cartel and the United States government.

He began by discussing the trail of Vicente Zambada Niebla, son of a Sinaloa cartel kingpin, and the bizarre circumstances that surrounded his arrest in Mexico City in 2009 and trial for smuggling cocaine and heroin to Chicago.

He then showed the links between the Sinaloa Cartel and the U.S. government’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency’s “Fast and Furious” program in which the agency smuggled guns into Mexico to capture criminals, but lost track of many of them.

He also emphasized that there needs to be more focus on drugs as a public health issue.  “If folks really want to learn about drugs as a public health issue as opposed to a drug war, just look at Portugal,” he said.

O’Rouke said he has spoken publicly in favor of the decriminalization of marijuana citing the increased level of violence in Ciudad Juarez as the reason why he took that particular stance. He brought with him his first-hand political experience as a city councilman here at the front of the drug war.

“The sooner we get to the logical conclusion of this debate and this policy shift and change across the country the better for everyone,” he said, for the sake of  “those kids in jail right now throughout the United States, for all those kids in middle school in El Paso, Texas who are being sold dope because there is no protection in an absolutely free black market, for all those young people who are literally willing to kill or be killed in Ciudad Juarez and other parts of Mexico to get that drug here to the United States.”

Some 140 spectators attended the discussion that was held at the Tomas Rivera Center on the UTEP campus. Hernandez, who writes for the Mexico City daily Reforma newspaper and whose father was kidnaped and murdered in Mexico several years ago, also spoke to several journalism classes.

By Thomas W Chellis 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Declassified memos point to Tamaulipas govt., Media Downplaying cartel violence,
McALLEN — A series of recently declassified cables, memos and government records confirm the long-held belief by many that Tamaulipas government officials work to downplay raging drug violence and that local media outlets are under the control of drug cartels.

Dozens of memos made public earlier this month by the National Security Archive — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit — detail conversations from 2009 to 2012 among U.S. intelligence officials, consular officials and law enforcement agencies regarding the worsening security situation in Tamaulipas, including both San Fernando massacres and frequent firefights between the Gulf Cartel and its ally-turned-rival, the Zetas drug gang.

The Gulf Cartel is a crime syndicate based in Matamoros that traces its roots to the 1930s or ’40s, when the organization smuggled liquor, guns and tobacco across the Texas-Tamaulipas border. In the 1960s, the organization broke into the lucrative drug trade and became one of the leading drug cartels in Mexico.

The Zetas formed in the late 1990s as an enforcement group comprising military deserters and police officers who received training from Guatemalan special forces — known as the Kaibiles, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration records. They quickly earned a name for themselves for their brutality.

In early 2010, the Zetas split off from the Gulf Cartel, sparking a brutal turf war that continues to this day. During most of the turf war, newspapers in Reynosa and Matamoros have remained silent about the local violence, opting instead for coverage of drug battles elsewhere in Mexico. The papers also have offered a healthy dose of political stories that tend to paint northern Tamaulipas in a positive light.
Most of the information in the cables has been reported previously by major news outlets, but some of the ones sent by former U.S. Consul Michael Barkin point to the Gulf Cartel’s control of the press in Matamoros and Reynosa.

Friday, November 15, 2013

47 charged in takedown of Camden, NJ drug network with ties to Mexican drug cartels

CAMDEN — Authorities have taken down a narcotics distribution network with ties to Mexican drug cartels that was dealing heroin and cocaine in North Camden, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced Thursday.
Edward Urbina

Of the 47 people charged, a multi-agency team has arrested 34 defendants. The remaining targets are being sought on warrants, authorities said.
Omar Urbina

The arrests include two alleged leaders of the network, Omar Urbina, 39, of Philadelphia, Pa., and his brother, Edwin Urbina, 33, of Pennsauken. In addition to racketeering, they are charged with leading a narcotics trafficking network, a first-degree crime that carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Their brother, Edward Urbina, 34, of Camden, who also allegedly headed the ring, is being sought as a fugitive on a racketeering charge. Omar and Edwin Urbina were arrested on Nov. 8. Three other arrests were made on Nov. 8 and one was made on Nov. 11, but most arrests were made Thursday.
Edwin Urbina
The charges stem from Operation North Pole, a nine-month investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau. Investigative assistance was provided by the Camden County Police Department-Metro Division, Camden County Sheriff’s Department, Pennsauken Police Department and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations in Cherry Hill. Numerous agencies, including the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, participated as members of the multi-agency force that fanned out across Camden beginning early Thursday morning to arrest the remaining targets of the investigation.

The three Urbina brothers allegedly headed a highly organized network that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in heroin and cocaine in the area surrounding 4th and York Streets in North Camden, authorities said.

Associates allegedly “rented” blocks or street corners from the Urbina family, allowing them to sell drugs in those areas. In return, the Urbinas provided protection to the “tenants.” The Urbinas allegedly relied on violence to keep interlopers off their “set.” The Urbina family and its associates allegedly have controlled the open-air drug markets in this area of Camden for many years. The three brothers allegedly relied on multiple suppliers who obtained heroin and cocaine from Mexican drug cartels. A number of the defendants have violent criminal records and some have ties to criminal street gangs.

Rigo Beto
Carlos Gonzalez
“This multi-million dollar narcotics syndicate headed by members of the Urbina family allegedly has operated in North Camden for many years, pushing its poison to countless young users and ruling its turf with intimidation and violence,” Hoffman said. “Through Operation North Pole, we are putting an end to this criminal dynasty and making the community safer for the good families who live here.”

The Urbinas allegedly relied on multiple suppliers, including Rigo Bello, 39, Carlos Gonzalez, 35, and Danny Borges, 36, all of Camden. Those men are being sought as fugitives.

The Urbinas allegedly utilized two supervisors, Edwin Falcon, 29, and Eric Serrano Jr., 29, both of Camden.

Edwin Falcon
Danny Borges
They allegedly managed the street-level narcotics dealers and served as a conduit between the lower-level employees and the leaders. Falcon and Serrano were arrested on Nov. 8.

Additionally, a series of “case workers” were responsible for the day-to-day operations of the street-level “trappers” or dealers, who actually conducted the sales of narcotics to customers, authorities said. The following nine alleged “case workers” have been charged (*indicates the individual remains a fugitive):

Eric Serrano
Heriberto Nunez, 23, of Camden,
Alex Santos, 23, of Camden,
Shadi Torres, 23, of Camden,
*Sheron Pulliam, 26, of Camden,
Anthony Morris, 24, of Camden,
Pedro Colon, 41, of Camden,
*Daniel D. Mistretta, 22, of Camden,
Omar Urbina Jr., 23, of Camden, the son of alleged leader Omar Urbina,
Andre Russell, 21, of Camden.
Nunez and Santos were arrested on Friday, Nov. 8, and Torres was arrested on Monday, Nov. 11. The other arrests of case workers were made Thursday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Days after Reynosa prison riot where 6 Die, 7 inmates break out

Ildefonso Ortiz 

REYNOSA — Authorities were on high alert after seven inmates escaped from a Tamaulipas state prison in Reynosa on Wednesday.

How they managed to break out remains unclear, but Tamaulipas authorities said in a news release that six of the escapees faced federal charges and one had state charges.

Prison employees became aware of the escape early Wednesday after the morning headcount found seven prisoners unaccounted for, the news release shows. Once the alarm was sounded, federal and state authorities surrounded the compound and began what proved to be an unsuccessful search for them in the nearby areas.

Federal investigators are taking a close look at prison employees to determine whether they were involved in the escape.

The breakout comes just three days after six prisoners were killed with makeshift shanks during a riot. In that case, authorities have obtained confessions from three prisoners who claimed that the riot was over a long-standing conflict.

The men who broke out of prison Wednesday were identified as:

Marcos de León Medina
Jesús Flores Tamez
Homero Guadalupe Martínez Gaona
Leonel Ortiz Peña
Mario Santos Pérez Sosa
José Luis Rodríguez Sánchez
Ernesto Sánchez Rivera

Prison breaks and riots have become commonplace throughout Tamaulipas, where drug cartels free their imprisoned members to bolster their ranks to fight their rivals:

- In February 2013, 12 inmates were broken out by a convoy of gunmen from the prison in Miguel Alemán, which lies just south of the border from Roma.
- In September 2012, 131 Zetas broke out of a prison in Coahuila state.
In December 2010, the Zetas carried out a similar operation in Nuevo Laredo, where 41 prison guards were charged with aiding the escape of 141 prisoners.
- In July 2011, the Zetas broke 59 inmates out in Nuevo Laredo amid a firefight that killed seven inmates.
- Feb. 2012-44 Gulf Cartel members killed by Zetas in a Apodaca prison riot, then they walked out 

The Zetas’ chief rival, the Gulf Cartel, also has carried out prison breaks:
- In March 2010, 40 inmates and two guards walked out the front gates of a Matamoros prison.
- In April 2010, in Reynosa, 13 inmates were busted out by a convoy of 10 gunmen who engaged guards in a firefight.
- In September 2010, 85 inmates used a ladder to scale the walls of the same prison in Reynosa. 

Six Die in Prison Riot in Reynosa 

Ciudad Victoria. - A clash between inmates at Reynosa (Sanctions Enforcement Centre of Reynosa (Cedes)recorded Sunday night yielded a six deaths, reported the Ministry of Public Security and the Attorney General.

A public prosecutor, State Police, Forensic Services, were present at the prison to start a preliminary investigation.

In a joint statement, the agencies certified the death of six inmates from a quarrel in which homemade shanks were used as weapons.

The victims were identified as Jose Guadalupe Marín Rocha, 41 years old; Lauro Trevino, 31, Humberto Hernandez Gonzalez, 36, Jose Santos Gonzalez Villarreal, 41; Carlos Grajales Mario Garza, 31, and Rafael Lopez Shoes, 30 years of age.

While inmates Agapito Arredondo, 28, Humberto Gamez, 26, and Juan Manuel Bautista Cruz, 36 years old, admitted and  accepted responsibility for these facts, arguing that the reason for the quarrel were ongoing quarrels they had with the now deceased.

Ministerial authorities were continuing investigations to establish the crimes for which the inmates will be prosecuted as two of the inmates responsible died.

MonitorMilenio,el economista

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mexico mayor 'killed for standing up to drugs cartel,'/ Other Michoacan Mayors pay the extortion fees

Mexico's local authorities say a mayor allegedly threatened by drug gangs in the western state of Michoacan has been killed.

Ygnacio Lopez Mendoza, who headed the small town of Santa Ana Maya, was found dead in his car on Thursday.
He had been speaking out about the Knights Templar cartel and had recently ended an 18-day hunger strike demanding more funds for his municipality.

On Twitter, the former President Felipe Calderon demanded a full investigation.

Mr Calderon also linked the crime to the Knights Templar drug cartel, publishing a quote allegedly by Mr Lopez Mendoza, who was a qualified doctor.

"For every building work, we have to pay the Knights Templar 10%. All of us, Michoacan mayors, have this problem," the former president tweeted.

'No accident'

In a letter to other mayors, the association of local authorities said that Mr Lopez Mendoza's death "was not an accident".

Early reports on Thursday suggested he might have been killed in a car crash.

"According to information given by his [Mr Lopez Mendoza's] family, the doctor got home at about midnight and as he drove his car in, he was abducted by a group of people," the letter read.
In an interview with a local radio, the executive-secretary of the association said the politician was tortured.

Ricardo Baptista Gonzalez told MVS that Mr Lopez Mendoza got a call from the drugs cartel demanding "more pay", after the federal government agreed to disburse more funds for his municipality.

In May, President Enrique Pena Nieto sent in a general to take over police and military operations in the western state.

Self-defence vigilante groups have formed in several towns in the region vowing to fight the violence, kidnappings and extortion carried out by drug cartels.

Some 60,000 people have died across Mexico since 2006 when the previous government under Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the drugs gangs.

100 out of 113 Michoacan Mayors Pay Extortion Fees to Knights Templar

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

‘El Grande’ captured in Coyoacán presumed implicated in Black Bar Case


The Attorney General of the DF explained that Jesus Vega Abdiel Lemus, alias El Grande, thought to be connected to the kidnappings of the Tepito youths is now only involved in the killing of a suspected drug dealer in the bar Black.

The judicial authorities said that Lemus  Vega was arrested on Monday by the Federal Police, participated only in the execution of Angel Horacio Vite, a member of the Union.

Angel Vite's murder led to the kidnapping and murder of 13 young people from the bar Heaven, many of them originating in the Tepito neighborhood, on May 26.

Therefore, the Federal Police determined surrender himat 3:30 pm yesterday to the Public Prosecutor, where he investigates the murder of drug dealer.

At the same time, the PGJDF established that El Grande is not related to the execution of youths found in a clandestine grave in Tlalmanalco, State of Mexico.

On Monday night, Vega Lemus was arrested by the Federal Police when he was passing  the corner of Area 3 East and Rancho Santa Anita, in the Santa Cecilia in Coyoacán.

El Grande was holding a grenade and a gun, authorities had established that a warrant drawn by the MP location.

Jesus Lemus Vega apparently was part of the criminal organization The Union de Tepito and thus investigate their direct involvement with the crime of Angel Vite.

Sources:  MilenioMilenio, Tlalpan