MEXICO CITY: Mexico's Secretary of the Interior Blake Mora and seven others were killed when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed into a hillside south of the capital city on November 11th.
Mora had been described as Calderon's 'right-hand man' who favored the President's strategy of ongoing confrontation with the various cartels and considered a key member of Calderon's security team.
The helicopter was reportedly enroute to a meeting of prosecutors in Morelos when it went down. It's departure had been delayed by foggy weather and low visibility was reported around the crash site after takeoff, leading many to believe that this might've been an accident despite the significance of the passenger on board.
Mora is the third high-ranking public official in nearly six years to have been killed in an air crash. In November 2008, Secretary of the Interior Juan Camilo Mouriño and 13 other people were killed when his Learjet crashed into rush-hour traffic on approach to Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport. In September 2005, Public Security Secretary Ramon Martin Huerta was killed in a helicopter crash south of Mexico City as well.
As an eerie aside, Mora's final tweet from his official Twitter account read: Today we remember Juan Camilo Mouriño three years after his passing, a human being who worked to construct a better Mexico
CHICAGO: According to a 63-page filing by federal prosecutors this month, fugitive billionaire Sinaloa Cartel chief Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman allegedly laid out plans to launch a series of high profile assaults using military-grade weapons against American media, commercial and diplomatic interests in Mexico City.
At his mountaintop lair in Mexico, Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, the head of the world’s biggest narcotics cartel, told a Chicago drug trafficker he wanted dozens of military-grade assault weapons to stage an attack in Mexico City in retaliation against U.S. authorities who were messing with their drug business, federal prosecutors said Thursday.Although Guzman remains at large, the claims surfaced in the 'Santaigo Proffer', a filing that reportedly offers the most detailed look at the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel.
“This government is letting [American law enforcement] do whatever they want,” said one of Guzman’s lieutenants, Ismael Zambada-Garcia, according to a cooperator in the case, Margarito Flores. “It will be good to send [them] a message.”
“They are f**king us everywhere,” Guzman allegedly said of the government during a meeting on the mountaintop compound. “Let it be a government building, it doesn’t matter whose. An embassy or a consulate, a media outlet or television station [attack a Mexican or U.S. government or media building in Mexico City].”
The filing also lists a pair of Chicago-area brothers as witnesses for the government against Guzman and other top-ranking members of the Sinaloa organization.
The newly-filed papers by the prosecution also claim they have a recording of Vincente Zambada-Niebla asking about details on procuring explosives and heavy-caliber weaponry to mount an attack against the Mexican government or American interests in Mexico nearly three years ago.
“Twin, you know guys coming back from the war. Find somebody who can give you big powerful weapons, American s**t.... We don’t need that small s**t, I want to blow up some buildings. We got a lot of grenades, we got a lot of .50 calibers, we’re tired of AKs,” Zambada-Niebla allegedly said. “You’re good with me. You want to be really good with me, get me my s**t, my guns. F**k the money, f**k the drugs, I want to blow s**t up. I want some bazookas, some grenade launchers.”The recording reportedly dates back to November 29, 2008.
JALISCO: The bodies of 26 young men stuffed into two vans and a pickup were discovered near the heart of Mexico's 2nd largest city on Friday. According to investigators, the bodies were reportedly bound and gagged with the words 'Los Zetas' or 'Milenio' scrawled in motor oil across their chests.
The slayings bear an uncanny resemblance to a September 2011 incident in which gunmen in Veracruz dumped more than 30 bodies from trucks in the middle of rush hour traffic. The dead in Veracruz were reportedly identified as being affiliated with Los Zetas. Shortly after the bodies were found, a group of masked men calling themselves Los Matazetas (the Zeta killers) took credit for the Veracruz slayings.
According to investigators in Guadalajara, many of the 26 bodies found on Friday were between the ages of 25-35 and killed by asphyxiation or blunt force trauma less than 24 hours prior to their discovery- although there were reports that some of the bodies had sustained gunshot wounds. Authorities have since released the identities of 14 of the dead in Guadalajara- So far only two of them are confirmed to have any sort of criminal record. Among the dead were a baker, a truck driver, a soft drink vendor and a dental technician.
The Grisly find comes two days after sixteen charred bodies, some of them handcuffed or wearing bulletproof vests, were discovered in the back of two burned-out trucks in the city of Culiacan- the capital of 'El Chapo' Guzman's home state of Sinaloa.
GUATEMALA: Officers from Guatemala's Civilian National Police arrested two Guatemalan nationals who were thought to be providing Los Zetas with arms, vehicles and safehouses in the country while helping them launder money. Authorities in Guatemala have arrested more than 70 people over the last two years on suspicion of aiding cartels and groups like the Zetas in setting up operations in the rugged northern frontier region of the Central American country.
The Zetas, former special operations soldiers themselves, are said to be recruiting from the Kabiles Special Forces unit of Guatemala's Army.
News of the arrests come shortly after Guatemala's Supreme Court authorized the extradition of former President Alvaro Colom to the USA. Federal Prosecutors contend that Colom used the American banking system to launder more than US$70 million that his administration looted from the nation's treasury.
HOUSTON: A civilian truck driver was killed and an undercover police officer in Harris County, TX was wounded after driving into an ambush that was described as a 'Zetas-style attack'.
The incident occurred in Texas' Harris County, where parts of Houston are located, when the secret operative disguised as a truck driver delivering a 300 pound package of marijuana was driving through the northwest part of the county to a rendezvous point. Out of nowhere three sport-utility vehicles carrying alleged Zetas drug cartel gunmen cut off the 18-wheeler truck and opened fire on the cab, killing the driver.In Mexico, low level sicarrios (gunmen) for the Zetas are known to travel in convoys of SUV's while brandishing weapons and wearing bulletproof vests.
As the gunmen opened fire on the truck, law enforcement officials descended on the scene in an effort to apprehend the shooters. "Officers engaged in gunfire with the suspects. That exchange resulted in the undercover officer being shot in the leg and the death of the occupant in the 18-wheeler," a press release from Harris County Sheriffs Office stated.
So far four suspects, all believed to be Mexican, have been arrested and charged with murder.
While the men - Eric De Luna, 23; Fernando Tavera, 19; Ricardo Ramírez, 35 and Rolando Resendiz, 34 – have all allegedly admitted to an affiliation with the violent Mexico-based Zetas cartel, U.S. authorities are still puzzled as to why the group would authorize such a brazen attack on U.S. soil for 300 pounds of marijuana.
"If it was a straight assassination, there were points in this controlled delivery where he would have just been a sitting duck," a law-enforcement source speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Chronicle. "Pretty brazen to kill a man over 300 pounds of grass.”
ELSEWHERE IN TEXAS: SWAT teams from multiple agencies descended on the tiny south Texas town of Escobares as armed smugglers fled from a shootout with the Mexican military across the Rio Grande earlier this month.
The shootout reportedly began shortly after noon but details were not immediately available. Residents on the U.S. side reported seeing members of the U.S. Border Patrol and Starr County Sheriff’s Office securing the area near the border.The November 9th incident comes after assurances from the government that the border with Mexico is the safest its ever been in decades and that concerns about spillover violnce are greatly exaggerated.
Border Patrol spokeswoman Rosalinda Huey said agents had been tracking a suspected drug load near La Rosita and pushed it back to Mexico.
Border Patrol alerted Mexican authorities of the suspected load and then found an injured Mexican national on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, Huey said. Emergency crews rushed the man to an area hospital. His condition remains unknown.
The man, a suspected cartel gunman, had been shot by Mexican authorities, a separate U.S. law enforcement official said.
The official confirmed a group of as many as 15 gunmen had crossed the Rio Grande, though it remained unclear whether they were Mexican soldiers or cartel gunmen.
MICHOACAN: Mexican Marines have arrested a top lieutenant with the recently-formed Knights Templar cartel in the west coast state earlier this month.
Juan Gabriesl Orozco Favela is accused of masterminding the Knights Templar smuggling network and participating in the torture and murder of as many as 21 people. The Knights Templar began as an offshoot of the moribund La Familia Michoacana cartel in the last year.
Also in Michoacan, reporters and federal officials are looking into reports of voter intimidation and harassment during local elections. The charges come after a Mexican TV network aired an audio tape that was reportedly of a local underboss for La Familia making threatening phone calls to would-be voters.
"A family member will be killed of whoever votes for the PRD," Horacio Morales Baca, the No. 3 leader of La Familia, a once-strong Michoacan gang, is heard saying on the recording. If anyone protests, he added, "their houses will be burned down with their families inside."Baca also claimed that the Knights Templar put US$2 million in the campaign coffers of the governor's candidate for the Democratic Revolutionary Party.
ARIZONA: Details leaked from a sealed federal grand jury indictment show that smugglers armed with AK-47s were 'stalking' US Border Patrol agents shortly before the shootout that led to the death of US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
Five illegal immigrants armed with at least two AK-47 semi-automatic assault rifles were hunting for U.S. Border Patrol agents near a desert watering hole known as Mesquite Seep just north of the Arizona-Mexico border when a firefight erupted and one U.S. agent was killed, records show.At least two of the smuggler's guns recovered on the scene were obtained through the ATF's inafmous 'Fast & Furious' gunwalking program.
A now-sealed federal grand jury indictment in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry says the Mexican nationals were “patrolling” the rugged desert area of Peck Canyon at about 11:15 p.m. on Dec. 14 with the intent to “intentionally and forcibly assault” Border Patrol agents.
NEW MEXICO: Life continues to imitate AMC's Breaking Bad in the Land of Enchantment. According to a Region II Narcotics Task Force Audit, Cartels and organized crime is further entrenching itself throughout the state of New Mexico in recent years.
[Task Force Director Neil] Haws said that for the past two years the major Mexican drug cartel operating in San Juan County has been the Juarez cartel, but recently the Sinaloa and Michoacan cartels have gained ground.Statewide, there has been a noticable uptick in kidnapping, assault and extortion, although the perpetrators attempt to single out ilegal aliens, confident that they would be reluctant to go to the authorities.
"What's happening here is reflective of what's occurring in Mexico," said Haws, adding that Region II is concentrating its investigative efforts on individuals three or four levels above the drug addicts, or those who are directly connected to the cartels.
Going deeper into how the cartels operate in Bloomfield, Haws said that four to five males are usually sent by the Mexican cartel to Bloomfield to live, and they spend 80 percent of their time in and around the city.
The cartel members bring their families with them to try to fit into the community and to be less noticeable, and do not deal directly with drug addicts, which makes them difficult to detect.
"These cartel members recruit local gang members to sell drugs to lower-level dealers, who then sell the drugs to the addicts," said Haws.
Region II agents rely on background checks and surveillance to identify cartel members, and watch for signs like tattoos and the collection of religious artifacts like shrines.
Recently, the Sinaloa cartel has added Albuquerque as a stepping stone for its drug distribution in New Mexico, and much of the drugs coming into San Juan County are coming from Phoenix, passing through Albuquerque and then being transported into San Juan County via Highway 550. Drugs continue to be transported to the area from Mexico after going through California.
Albuquerque is seeing more "enforcers," or cartel members who resort to kidnappings and violence on order of the cartel leaders in Mexico, Haws said.
While some of the drugs reaching the county stay in the area and are sold to local drug addicts, much of the drugs are further distributed to other states such as Colorado, Utah, Missouri and the Dakotas.
"We are definitely a distribution hub here," said Haws.
Addressing why our area makes a good distribution hub, Haws said that the cartel members find it easy to import the drugs via wide-open New Mexico roads and reservation lands, and storage of drugs is also relatively easy here.
Obtaining fake documentation is also easy to obtain in this area, despite Bloomfield taking away the ability of illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses.
While Region II has seen a slight increase in the use and distribution of heroin, Haws says methamphetamine remains the drug of choice in San Juan County, and that 98 percent of the drug cases Region II works on involve meth.
What is changing, he said, is the purity of the meth coming into the county.
"The purity here in San Juan County amazes the rest of the state," he said.
"We're seeing 94-98 percent purity here, and one recent sample sent to the DEA lab was 100 percent pure. The DEA didn't even know this level of purity was possible."
One of the challenges for local cartel members is getting the drug money back to Mexico. Bulk cash smuggling is one way to do this, but a relatively recent trend is to utilize money remitters such as Western Union and local businesses.
"The cartels know how to stay under the radar, and they'll repeatedly wire $999 back to Mexico to avoid reporting requirements. Since no reporting is required for this amount, the transfers are hard to detect."