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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Mexico's War with Drug Cartels; Are They Winning or Losing?

7 Mexican Leaders with Ties to Drug Cartels

Enrique Pena Nieto (Juan Mabromata / AFP / Getty)Juan Mabromata / AFP / Getty

Many of Mexico’s top leaders are linked to the brutal drug cartels overrunning their country. As Mexico slips further into a failed narco-state, top politicians’ links with drug cartels possibly help explain why.

1. Enrique Peña Nieto

Despite his many campaign promises, the current Mexican president has been unable to put a halt to the raging cartel violence taking place in his country; or has he been unwilling?

As a candidate and during his term in office, Peña Nieto has openly supported many of the cartel linked politicians who are now in trouble with the law. As Breitbart Texas reported, operators from the Juarez Cartel allegedly funneled illicit funds into Peña Nieto’s 2012 presidential bid. The funds were used to buy cash cards that were then given to citizens in exchange for their votes. The scandal became known as Monexgate and was originally discovered by famed Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui.

2. Tomas Yarrington

The former governor of Tamaulipas is wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice on multiple drug trafficking and money laundering charges. As Breitbart Texas reported, he allowed the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas to operate in his state in exchange for cartel bribes. After his term as governor, Yarrington worked with Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva Cartel to move drugs through Veracruz. He was recently arrested in Italy and is awaiting extradition to the U.S. to stand trial.

3. Eugenio Hernandez

A second governor of Tamaulipas is wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice on multiple money laundering and bank fraud charges. As Breitbart Texas reported, Hernandez is believed to have continued Yarrington’s scheme of receiving cartel bribes as well as expanding a network used to embezzle government funds from contracts with ghost companies. While Hernandez is a wanted fugitive in the U.S., in Mexico he has a clean record and is not sought by that country’s law enforcement agencies. As Breitbart Texas first reported in a story that then Wall Street Journal tried to take credit for, the Mexican government had been providing both Hernandez and Yarrington with police officers as their personal bodyguards. Hernandez continues to live in Mexico.

4. Javier Duarte

The former governor of Veracruz has been charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, embezzlement and other charges by Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office; he is not wanted by U.S. authorities. As reported by Breitbart Texas, Duarte was recently arrested in Guatemala and is fighting Mexico’s extradition efforts. Duarte is accused of embezzling massive amounts of money from the state’s coffers. The former governor has also been singled out by news organizations for the impunity with which journalists were killed in his state.

5. Cesar Duarte Jaquez

The former governor of Chihuahua is currently a wanted fugitive in his own country on warrants accusing him of embezzlement. As Breitbart Texas reported, the current governor or Chihuahua has stated that Duarte crossed into Texas to hide from prosecution. A series of investigations by the late journalist Miroslava Breach uncovered the ties between Duarte’s party the Institutional Revolutionary Party and Mexican drug cartels. Breach was killed after reporting that the PRI was trying to have the mother in law of a top Juarez Cartel boss run for mayor, Breitbart Texas reported. 

6. Humberto Moreira

The former governor of the border state of Coahuila Humberto Moreira, has been singled out as having protected Los Zetas by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Breitbart Texas reported.

The former governor is trying to run for Mexico’s congress under the Partido Joven (Young Party) where he has labeled himself as El Valiente or the Brave one. Moreira and various state officials have been fingered in U.S. court testimony and documents as having protected the key leaders of the Los Zetas cartel in exchange for bribes.

Moreira was arrested in Spain in early 2016 on money laundering charges. During the various hearing tied to the case, Spanish prosecutors stated that Moreira had been a surrogate for the Los Zetas cartel; the information for the statements was based on an ongoing investigation by U.S. federal agencies. Moreira had been the PRI party leader during Peña Nieto’s 2012 presidential bid. as Breitbart Texas reported, the Mexican government applied political pressure in order to get his release; eventually, Spain released Moreira claiming he was clear of the charges in that country.

7. Jesus Reyna

The interim governor of Michoacan remains jailed on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity.  The case against Reyna began in 2014 when a leaked video revealed a series of interactions between the politician and Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, the former leader of the Knights Templar – Familia Michoacana Cartel. Reyna served as interim governor of Michoacan for six months and had a long history of having served as state party chair for the PRI.

Nevertheless, Cartel heads are rolling as government appears to be cracking down

'El Chito,' leader of Mexican drug cartel, arrested in Juarez

April 28 (UPI) -- The Mexican government arrested the leader of the La Linea drug cartel and recovered a stash of narcotics after a raid in the border city of Juarez, authorities said.

Miguel Angel Amaya Loya, known by the street name "El Chito," was arrested along with a top lieutenant, the Mexican government said. Federal agents raided two homes in the city. They also recovered a package of cocaine and a 4 pounds of methamphetamine hidden inside a bathroom wall in one of the homes, according to a statement by the federal government. A cache of weapons was also recovered.

Top drug cartel leaders killed in Mexico near US border

Two leaders of rival drug cartels have been killed in clashes with federal forces, officials said. Their deaths have caused unrest in a Mexican border town, with cartel supporters blocking roads and torching businesses.

Mexican authorities on Saturday announced that two top drug traffickers had been killed in a shootout with federal forces in the northern border state of Tamaulipas.

"Two key targets were shot down [in separate instances] last night in Reynosa and the state capital. The government of Tamaulipas and federal forces will not relent against crime," the local government said in a tweet.

The deaths of the drug traffickers caused unrest in the border town of Reynosa. Supporters of the suspects' drug cartels blocked off several roads in the Mexican town, engaging in firefights with police and setting fire to local businesses, authorities said.

Julian Loisa Salinas, who went by the name "Comandante Toro" as leader of the Gulf cartel, was shot dead in Reynosa, while rival leader Francisco "Pancho" Carreon of the Zetas cartel was killed in the Tamaulipas state capital of Ciudad Victoria, according to authorities. 

'Sophisticated drug networks'

Mexico's bloody drug war has spanned a decade, with estimates placing the death toll of cartel-related violence at approximately 120,000 from 2006 to 2012, not including disappearances.

"Weak judicial and police institutions, as well as proximity to the world's largest consumer economy, have made Mexico the hub of one of the world's most sophisticated drug networks," said the US-based think-tank Council on Foreign Relations in a report.

Despite deteriorating diplomatic relations, US President Donald trump has vowed to assist Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration in tackling drug cartels and curbing the flow of narcotics into the US.

Killings in Mexico near record levels as drug cartel violence spreads 

Violence in Mexico is up near record levels after 35 people were killed this weekend, as officials point to a worsening of gang and cartel violence across the country.

The month of March saw over 2,000 homicides, the highest body count since 2011 when Mexico was coping with massive cartel violence. Now, unlike previous spikes in bloodshed, the killings are not confined to any one particular area or state. Instead, bodies are turning up across Mexico.

5 Mexican Cartel Bosses Who Were Caught Hiding in Texas
Breitbart Texas / Cartel Chronicles

Mexican cartel bosses have a history of seeking a safe haven in the United States in an apparent effort to avoid dying at the hands of their rivals or having to shoot it out with Mexican military forces. U.S. law enforcement officers arrested several key cartel bosses after they sought refuge in Texas.

It is not clear how many Mexican cartel bosses have in fact crossed or continue to cross into the U.S. and avoid being captured. Authorities arrested the following five cartel leaders in South Texas:

1– Rafael Cardenas Vela AKA El Junior

One of the top leaders in the Gulf Cartel, and nephew of Los Zetas founder Osiel Cardenas Guillen. As Breitbart Texas reported, Cardenas Vela was known as a fierce warlord who commanded crews of cartel hitmen that rode in armored trucks and had access to rocket launchers, automatic weapons, and explosives. Fearing a certain death at the hands of his rivals, Cardenas ultimately fled to the United States in May 2011. He maintained control of the Matamoros Plaza from a series of security houses in the Texas border cities of Rio Hondo and Brownsville through the use of daily e-mails to key leadership within the Cartel. 

Federal agents arrested El Junior in October 2011 him along with two of his key bodyguards as he was making his way to South Padre Island from Port Isabel, Texas, where he had a luxury condominium. According to federal prosecutors, Cardenas Vela had approximately 500 gunmen men in Mexico ready to respond to his call.

2– Luis Alberto Blanco Flores AKA Pelochas or M-28

The current leader of the Gulf Cartel in the border city of Rio Bravo fled to the U.S. in 2010 along with fellow Gulf Cartel members Oscar “El Apache” Castillo Flores and others to escape certain death at the hands of their rivals. At the time, the Gulf Cartel underwent a series of internal conflicts that led to the murder of key leaders. Blanco Flores worked for Castillo Flores and both men fled to Brownsville where eventually federal authorities arrested them, Breitbart Texas previously reported. Both cartel leaders were only charged with illegal re-entry and released after serving two years in prison.

Castillo Flores was gunned down in a firefight in 2012, while Blanco Flores kept climbing the ladder within the leadership of the Gulf Cartel.  During his illegal re-entry trial, Blanco Flores was seen loudly sobbing in court when he saw his mother sitting in the federal courtroom in Brownsville.

3– Juan Saenz-Tamez AKA Panochitas

The former leader of the Gulf Cartel was arrested in October 2014 in the border city of Edinburg. In a story first reported by Breitbart Texas, Juan “El Panochitas” Saenz-Tamez was arrested by federal authorities after the cartel leader had been hiding in Texas in an apparent effort to avoid the ongoing rivalry between cartel forces and a possible capture by Mexican authorities. Tamez’s charges came from a federal indictment from Beaumont, Texas, where he eventually pleaded guilty to multiple drug conspiracy charges.

4– Jose Luis Zuniga AKA El Wicho

A former key leader and regional boss for the Gulf Cartel, El Wicho was arrested by federal authorities in Santa Maria, Texas in 2011. At the time of his arrest, Zuñiga had a .38 caliber jeweled handgun valued at close to $50,000. 

As Breitbart Texas reported, El Wicho had a strike team of 60 SUVs with as many as 240 gunmen ready to answer to his call.

5– Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon

One of the key commanders of the Gulf Cartel, he was arrested in Texas in October 2011 when he fled to rural Cameron County. According to the FBI, Rincon and his key security detail fled to the United States rather than face a likely death at the hands of their rivals.

According to testimony from his trial, Rincon and the Gulf Cartel were able to remain in control of northern Mexico by bribing Mexican law enforcement, some elements of the Mexican military, the news media, and elected public officials. In addition to unlimited funds, Rincon also had Rincon-Rincon also had at least 100 individuals at his disposal armed with semi-automatic rifles, body armor, grenades, and .50 Caliber automatic rifles, and some had rocket launchers. The Gulf Cartel commander is serving a life sentence in federal prison.

17 Alleged Mexican Cartel Operatives Charged in Colorado
Breitbart Texas / Cartel Chronicles

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 17 defendants for drug trafficking in direct connection with a Mexican drug cartel.

The arrests and indictments of the 17 defendants were the result of a year-long investigation into a Mexican drug cartel operation that smuggled narcotics into the United States from California to Colorado, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

Jeff Dorschner, Spokesman for the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, told Breitbart Texas, “During the course of this investigation law enforcement determined that a Mexican Cartel was involved. The identity of that cartel is not being released as it remains the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.”

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Sinaloa Mexican Drug Cartel is known to be the dominant drug cartel in both California and Colorado.

Of the 17 defendants, 11 are from Mexico, four from El Salvador, and two are from California. Seven of the defendants are considered fugitives.

The defendants are alleged to have brought large quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States through California using secret compartments in vehicles. The drugs were kept in stash houses in Aurora, Colorado, before being distributed at a local grocery store.

A money transfer station at the grocery store was used to send some of the proceeds back to Mexico. The rest of the funds were smuggled back in secret vehicle compartments.

“We are committed to dismantling and removing the threat posed by these criminal organizations flooding American communities with dangerous narcotics,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

“This organization is alleged to have moved large amounts of meth and cocaine from Mexico to Colorado, with devastating impact on communities in their wake. I want to congratulate the outstanding federal, state, and local law enforcement cooperation that resulted in this highly successful operation. Replicating this kind of aggressive law enforcement take down is critical to breaking the backs of these criminal organizations.”

The Defendants from Mexico are: Jose Tapia-Rubio, 58, (naturalized); Selestino Hernandez-Mayo, 45; Fredy Paz-Herrera, age unknown; “Bancholas”, age unknown, (thought to be from Mexico); Rodrigo Mora-Sanchez, 49, (naturalized); Oscar Mora-Campos, age unknown; Eduardo Jimenez-Sanchez, 37; “Changuito”, age unknown, (thought to be from Mexico); “Um-9584”, age unknown, (thought to be from Mexico); Leopoldo Rodriguez-Padilla, Age Unknown; And Heberto Mora-Sanchez, 43.

The Defendants from El Salvador are Lara Zamora-Cruz, age unknown; Claudia Lisseth-Lara, 41, (naturalized); Vilma L. Zamora, 67; and Jose Chica-Orellana, age unknown.

The Defendants from California are Juan Carlos Medina-Soberanis, 31; and Erik Parra.

The indictment contains 45 counts, including an asset forfeiture allegation against the stash houses that were used to hide the drugs.

High-ranking Mexican police official accused of involvement with drug cartel

According to Yahoo news, in a major embarrassment for Mexican law enforcement, U.S. prosecutors said in documents made public Wednesday that the commander of a Mexican police intelligence-sharing unit was passing information on a DEA investigation to the Beltran Leyva drug cartel in exchange for millions of dollars.

Ivan Reyes Arzate, 45, was named in a U.S. district court indictment, just hours after Mexican federal police commissioner Manelich Castilla revealed that an unnamed agent had been charged with obstructing an investigation.

What Castilla did not say was that Reyes Arzate was the commander of a federal police sensitive investigative unit. The special units, known as SIUs, were formed starting in the 1990s precisely to create more secure groups that the U.S. could feel comfortable sharing intelligence with. Castilla said Reyes Arzate had been fired in November. He is in U.S. custody.

Jalisco drug cartel lieutenant 'El Terrible' arrested in Mexico with a rifle and 117 'wrappings of cocaine'

By Anna Hopkins For Dailymail.com and Associated Press

Federal prosecutors in Mexico say they have apprehended a high-ranking operator of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.

Ivan Margarito Esquivel Garcia, also known as 'El Terrible,' was caught in the Pacific coast state of Colima, the prosecutors' office said on Sunday.

Esquivel Garcia, 28, allegedly led the cartel's activities in the state of Colima and portions of the nearby state of Michoacan. 

Garcia was captured with a rifle and 117 'wrappings' of cocaine, El Universal reported.

Esquivel Garcia is wanted for the March 4 murder of Carlos Sierra Santana, a founder and leader of a rival gang, 'The Viagras.'

The Attorney General of Mexico said that the arrest was executed without any shots being fired. 

The Jalisco cartel is considered Mexico's fastest-growing gangs, and one of its most violent.

The group were formerly underlings of 'El Chapo's' notorious gang, the Sinaloa Cartel, Business Insider reported. Despite their humble beginnings, their exceedingly violent tactics have catapulted Jalisco to rival status with Sinaloa.

The group pushed the murder rate in Mexico to historic numbers, with 3,800 killings taking place between July and August of 2016. 

'El Chapo' arrest sparks homicide surge as factions fight to fill vacuum
Alan Gomez , USA TODAY

Last year’s capture of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán led to a surge in homicides in Mexico as cartel leaders fought to fill the vacuum created by his arrest.

The apprehension of Guzmán in January 2016 was hailed by Mexican and U.S. officials as a watershed moment in the war on drugs. But Mexico's homicide rate for the year spiked to 21.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, a steep rise from 17.5 in 2015 that rivals record numbers earlier in the decade, according to a report released Friday by the Justice in Mexico Project at the University of San Diego.

Mexico had just started emerging from its bloody battle with drug cartels, with murder rates dropping for four consecutive years from 2011 to 2014. After the removal of Guzmán, violence is back on the rise. The drug lord was extradited to the United States in January to face criminal charges for his leadership of the trafficking syndicate known as the Sinaloa Cartel.

"It's kind of two steps forward, one step back," said David Shirk, director of the Justice in Mexico Project and co-author of the report. "We took out a very powerful and important drug trafficker. But as a result, we have destabilized the ecosystem of organized crime in a way that has led to internal struggles within the Sinaloa Cartel, and encroachment from other organizations that would like to take over their business."

The spike in violence also helps explain why the United States is seeing a resurgence in heroin use. The problem has become so widespread that President Trump created a national opioid addiction commission. On Wednesday he hosted a White House "listening session" with addicts, including one recovering heroin addict.

Shirk said the battles between Mexican drug cartels have upset the "traditional" drug routes — including cocaine — that originate in South America and funnel through Mexico to the U.S. That has made it more difficult for American users to find cocaine, opening the door for heroin and other opioids, which can be produced in Mexico and smuggled more easily into the U.S.

Heroin profits are smaller, Shirk said, but they provide those cartels with quick and easy cash as they focus on fighting for control of territories left vacant by Guzmán's arrest.

"When you fragment drug trafficking organizations, they're going to look for readily available products," Shirk said.