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Mexico’s Environmental, Economic, Police and Government Failures from the 1700s to 2011

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Drug Lord Territory Divisions

The Economic History of Mexico

by Thayer Watkins

Some History of Mexico

It has been pointed out that many of the problems of Mexico, particularly problems of government, stem from the fact that for the first three centuries of its existence the major function of government in Mexico was to squeeze as much wealth from the country as possible and send it to Spain. Although Mexico achieved independence from Spain in the early nineteenth century there was not an abrupt change in the way the society functioned.

Until 1700 the Viceroyalty of New Spain included not only what is now Mexico and its northern territories which became the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas but also Central America to Panama and the Spanish Caribbean possessions of Cuba, Hispanola, Puerto Rico and what is now the state of Florida and also the Philippine Islands. The Viceroy of New Spain resided in Mexico City. …

The troop requirements in Spain left insufficient manpower for security in New Spain and forced off[i]cials in New Spain to raise local militias from among the Creoles, the Spanish born in New Spain. The cost of maintaining these militias was reduced by granting participants a special status, called fuero, which gave them exemption from taxes.

At the same time the Creoles were getting arms and military training they and the intellectuals of New Spain were getting indoctrination with the ideas of the American and French Revolutions. And there was the ongoing problem of the elites not feeling entirely comfortable with the new Bourbon dynasty.

In 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops captured Spain and put the Bourbon King Ferdinand VII in prison. Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte was made King of Spain. This did not set well with the subjects of the Empire. The representative assembly of Spain, the Cortes, which had not functioned for a very long time was revived to govern Spain. This Cortes even included representatives from the colonial areas.

In New Spain there was opposition to what was going on in Spain by people who felt loyalty to the king Napoleon had deposed, Ferdinand VII. But there was also opposition in New Spain to to the status quo.

Open rebellion broke out the little town of Dolores in September of 1810 under the leadership of the Catholic priest, Father Miguel Higalgo y Costilla. Father Hidalgo called for:

* An end to special status of Amerindians as wards of the throne without the rights of Spaniards
* An end to rule from Spain, in part because Spaniards were bringing the ideas of the godless French to New Spain
* A redistribution of land.

The revolutionaries captured Guadalajara and Guanajuato, a mining center. In Guanajuato the followers of Father Hidalgo massacred the Creoles.

Much more here (note that there is a java applet in this site that froze my browser, and the applet merely shows a nearly blank map of Mexico, so prepare to turn your java viewing off in your browser if yo don’t want to risk freezing it): sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/mexhist01.htm

To die in the street – Mexico City’s homeless population booms as economic crisis shakes social protections

by John Ross
2/11-21/1996

MEXICO CITY – Meo and Julio live under an overhang outside Saint Dismis chapel on busy El Salvador Street in the Historic Center of this conflictive megalopolis. Meo spends most of the day and night flat on his back, wrapped in a burlap sack, and howling at those who pass by for coins. Julio, much Meo’s junior, does not say much. A newcomer to these mean streets, he seems to be suffering from clinical depression – a condition not much helped by daily binges of glue-sniffing and rotgut alcohol.

Meo and Julio are members of this swarming capital’s uncounted legion of the homeless. Although those who make the street their home have, thus far, not been quantified, there is little doubt that Mexico’s continuing economic crisis has caused their numbers to swell: the number of indigents taken in by the city’s “Winter Shelter” jumped 500% this past December – and most of Mexico City’s homeless do not sleep in the shelter system.

Neighborhood parks and marketplaces, bus terminals and the steps of locked Metro stations are more popular habitats for the unsheltered. Some of the homeless are very young – Alliance House, a private social agency that focuses on street children, estimates that 10,000 homeless waifs are adrift on the streets of Mexico City. And some are very old – Meo says he is 70 on some days (on others, he claims to be 500 years old).

Meo and Julio have little use for the Winter Shelter, a factory-like building, reeking of disinfectant, in the old quarter’s El Carmen neighborhood, that sleeps 270 indigents a night. “The government is corrupt! Just a bunch of thieves and rats!” the old man hollers when asked if he would like to be taken to the shelter, “I’m better off right here.” Julio says nothing.

Despite their damaged conditions, Meo and Julio are quite lucky to still be alive this winter. Heavy snowfall during Christmas week blanketed Maguey cactuses in central Mexico – 13 indigents living on the capital’s streets died of hypothermia or respiratory disease between Christmas and the first week of 1996, according to the city’s Forensic Services. And if the cold does not permanently maim the street dweller’s health, Mexico City’s killer contamination will. Pollution levels have been in the danger zone every day of the new year and the capital has already had at least one “environmental emergency” in 1996. – More here.

Air Pollution in Mexico City:

A “project-study paper” assisted by Dr. W. Hofmann of the University of Salzburg, Austria; the Department of Biophysics and in Cooperation with the Afro-Asian Institute, Salzburg, Austria and the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health at QUT, Australia

by Maricela Yip and Pierre Madl
12/14/2000, updated on 4/16/2002

Mexico City’s air has gone from among the world’s cleanest to among the dirtiest in the span of a generation. Novelist Carlos Fuentes first novel took place here in 1959 and was entitled “Where the air is clear” – a title he has said is ironic considering the city’s now –soupy environment.

The average visibility of some 100 km in 1940s is down to about 1.5 km. Snow-capped volcanoes (Popocatepetl, Ixtacihuatl, and Paricutin) that were once parts of the landscape are now visible only rarely (fig.1.2). And levels of almost any pollutant like nitrogen dioxide (NO2) now regularly break international standards by two to three times. Levels of ozone (O3), a pollutant that protects us from solar radiation in the upper atmosphere but is dangerous to breathe, are twice as high here as the maximum allowed limit for one hour a year and this occurs several hours per day every day[.] – Much more here.

Mexico Awash in Untreated Toxic Waste

by Diego Cevallos
8/9/2002

U.S. Corporation Wins Right to Build Toxic Plant in Mexico (9/2000)
(IPS) MEXICO CITY — Mexico, which generates at least eight million tons a year of hazardous waste, has no policy for its treatment and disposal, and most of it goes unreported and ends up in open-air pits or buried without the minimum safety procedures.

Alarmed at the threat to human health and the environment, activists fight attempts to set up toxic waste storage facilities in areas where local residents have not been consulted and adequate environmental impact studies have not been carried out.

Less than 30 percent of the 100,000 companies in Mexico that generate toxic waste report the hazardous contaminants. And those that have begun to register the toxic material as required do not include what they stored years ago in their own backyards or dumped or buried in clandestine pits.

There is no reliable official data on dangerous waste in Mexico. But studies estimate that at least eight million tons of chemical, industrial and hospital refuse accumulates every year in this Latin American country of nearly 100 million, where existing treatment and disposal facilities have the capacity to process less than five percent of the total.

Experts say most of the waste goes untreated, and is merely buried haphazardly, or dumped into toxic waste lagoons, landfill sites, rivers or the sewer system.

After the media reported last month on clandestine pits filled with lead that were found in the capital and the northern state of Zacatecas, the government of Vicente Fox announced that it would begin to tackle the problem.

The discovery of the lead dumps “was not an isolated incident,” and gives an indication of the gravity of the problem, acknowledged Environment Secretary Víctor Lichtinger. – More here.

Related information:

Piles of Poisons in Mexico, by Jennifer Clapp, 3/22/2002

Toxic Waste Problems Worsen on U.S. – Mexican Border, by Danielle Knight, 6/1/1998

from nytimes.com:

Mexico’s Corrupt Oil Lifeline
by Tim Weiner
1/21/2003

CADEREYTA, Mexico— Tony Cantu grew up with the giant oil refinery that Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, runs here in his hometown. He helped build it and operate it, rising from construction worker to computer programmer to chemical engineer.

Mr. Cantu gave Pemex a decade of his working life. But he will never work there again. He can explain why in one word.

”Corruption,” he said, gazing at the refinery, 20 miles outside Monterrey in northern Mexico. ”People being stepped on, forced to be corrupt — I hated that. There were a lot of things you had to shut up about. The bosses would kill to protect themselves. People were subjugated by fear.”

For more than 60 years, Pemex, the world’s fifth-largest oil company, has been Mexico’s economic lifeblood. A $50 billion-a-year enterprise, it controls every gas pump in Mexico, and it sells nearly as much oil to the United States as Saudi Arabia does.

Today, with some oil producers like Iraq and Venezuela facing nation-shaking crises, Mexico looks like a sure and steady source of oil. The United States may be tempted to rely on it even more.

But Pemex is in danger of breaking down. ”Financially, we are falling,” its director, Raúl Muñoz Leos, said in an interview. Nearly every peso of Pemex’s profits goes to run the government of Mexico. The company, after paying taxes and royalties, actually lost $3.5 billion in in 2001. Without major restructuring or tens of billions of dollars in foreign investment, Mr. Muñoz Leos warned recently, ”We would face, in the short term, a collapse.”

One reason is a rottenness at Pemex’s core. The company loses at least $1 billion a year to corruption, its executives say, in a continuous corrosion of the machine that keeps Mexico solvent.

Fixing Pemex is as crucial to Mexico’s future as it is to American oil supplies. When Vicente Fox became president two years ago after defeating the political machine that ran Mexico for 71 years — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI — he vowed to make his country more open and democratic and to make Pemex run like a 21st-century corporation.

To change Mexico, Mr. Fox must first change Pemex. It has been a cash machine for the government, a slush fund for politicians and a patronage mill for party loyalists since the party created Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, in 1938.

After nationalizing American and British oil interests, the party promptly changed the Constitution to bar foreign investment in underground oil and gas. It was a declaration of independence: ”Expropriation Day” is still celebrated each year.

Even today, the PRI, which still holds a plurality in Congress, is fighting changes to the Constitution and at the oil giant it created, in part on grounds of patriotism. President Fox’s attempts at reform have been hamstrung by PRI resistance — and Pemex’s history of corruption.

Pemex’s last director, Rogelio Montemayor, a former PRI governor, and its union boss, Carlos Romero Deschamps, a PRI senator, each stand accused of stealing tens of millions of dollars from Pemex for the PRI’s 2000 presidential campaign against Mr. Fox.

Both men deny the charges. Mr. Romero Deschamps is battling an attempt in Congress to strip him of the legal immunity he enjoys as a sitting senator. Mr. Montemayor fled Mexico last year and is fighting extradition from Houston. The PRI, struggling to defend them — and itself, is also resisting every effort to transform Pemex.

“The political will needed to reform Pemex has just not coalesced,” said Eduardo Cepeda, the head of J. P. Morgan Chase’s Mexico office.

Edward L. Morse, executive adviser at Hess Energy Trading Co. and former publisher of Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, said by telephone from New York that ”the effort to reform the beast” had failed. President Fox, he said, does not ”understand how thoroughly ingrained in the national political culture the monopoly of Pemex is.”

Pemex remains one of the world’s few national oil companies with no competition from within or without. Its resulting inefficiencies are stark.

Othón Canales Treviño is Pemex’s director for competitiveness and innovation” the man in charge of creating the “new” Pemex. He once ran a company that supplied Pemex with chemicals, and he was often solicited for bribes, he said. Today he sits on a commission on corruption at Pemex, composed of 14 directors.

“There is corruption,” he said. “But I think the inefficiency is worse. There is brutal inefficiency.”

For example, Mr. Canales said, he recently asked how much Pemex paid each year for goods and services — everything f[rom] ice packs to helicopters rented to fly engineers to offshore rigs.

No one knew. It took four months to come up with the answer — $7 billion.

“We want to act like a company,” he said. “Pemex isn’t a company. It isn’t Pemex Inc. We’re not a government ministry either. We are something weird. Our behavior changes depending on whom we are dealing with. To the Finance Ministry, we’re their biggest taxpayer. To Congress, we’re something else. To our customers, sometimes we’re an opportunity and sometimes we’re a threat.”

Pemex had sales of $46.5 billion in 2001 and paid $28.8 billion in taxes — almost 40 percent of all government revenues. With the government taking such a large share of revenue, not enough is left to pay for exploring new sources of oil, repairing aging refineries or tapping vast pockets of natural gas.

If Mr. Fox could free the government of its addiction to Pemex’s money by collecting taxes from millions of people who evade them, for example — then Pemex could invest in producing more oil and gas, and in time generate more revenue.

But today, with foreign investment banned, and corruption and inefficiency sapping its cash flow, Pemex’s ability to produce energy is bound to decrease, Pemex executives and industry experts say.

Pemex is in “a very complex fix,” said Mr. Muñoz Leos, the director and a former chief of DuPont’s Mexican operations.

But unless President Fox finds a way to clean up Pemex’s operations and, above all, change the Constitution to permit foreign investment” a path the PRI has blocked” the company’s production will start to plunge.

Mexico’s ability to produce oil will peak by 2010, according to Pemex officials and the International Energy Agency, a coalition of 24 oil-producing nations. Then it will decline, they forecast.

By 2030, perhaps sooner, Mexico will have to import oil. It will not be able to sell a single barrel to the United States.

“If we’re going to export oil in the future, we need more investment now,” said José Herlindo Álvarez, a chemical engineer for 26 years at Pemex’s Tula refinery, 60 miles north of Mexico City.

Pemex has six oil refineries working nearly at capacity in Mexico. But they cannot now meet the nation’s needs. Mexico, sitting on huge pools of untapped oil, has to import nearly a quarter of its gasoline from the United States.

It has not built a new refinery since the late 1970′s. One reason, said several oil industry analysts, is that to authorize a billion-dollar project at Pemex is to invite grand theft.

That corruption is something Tony Cantu said he had witnessed first hand — what he described as organized crime, systematic shakedowns and needless deaths due to mismanagement. He wept briefly as he talked, during a return visit to the Cadereyta refinery in December.

“It’s sickening to see how something that could be so beautiful is such a mess,” he said. “To advance at Pemex, it didn’t matter how good you were, your knowledge or intentions, but whether you participated in the good-old-boys’ system.”

Pemex’s chief back then, Jorge Dí­az Serrano, later served five years in prison for embezzling $34 million. Its longtime union boss, Joaquin Hernández Galicia, was released from prison in 1999 after serving seven years for amassing enough weapons to run a private army. Ten years before, Carlos Salinas, then president of Mexico, had sent government troops to arrest him in a political confrontation over the union’s power” which remains vast today.

Even now, Pemex loses more than $1 billion a year to fraud, theft, tax-evasion schemes and clandestine fuel sales by its workers and distributors, according to two senior Pemex directors.

The plunder includes thousands of gallons of jet fuel sold under the table to drug dealers for flights of cocaine into the United States. Those thefts, which create small fortunes for Pemex managers and union officials, continue apace despite a crackdown.

So do no-show jobs, a staple of Pemex operations for decades. “People who didn’t work at the refinery still came in to pick up their money every two weeks,” Mr. Cantu said. “You had to give a cut to the union boss 30 percent. I saw this with my own eyes.”

Though the union does not acknowledge it, no-show jobs still exist, according to Pemex officials, and those who hold them are known as “aviators” or “parachute artists.” Pemex’s work force has grown to 139,000, compared with 121,000 in 1996. More than 90,000 are union members.

Mr. Cantu said he had seen six untrained workers die building the Cadereyta refinery. They were sons and brothers of union workers, hired despite having no experience.

Pemex’s safety record down the years has been grim. Two major explosions, in 1984 and 1992, killed at least 800 people in residential neighborhoods in Mexico City and Guadalajara. Industrial accidents have killed hundreds more.

After nine years of working for Pemex, and after earning his degree as a chemical engineer, Mr. Cantu had had enough. He moved to Houston and started his own company and a new life.

But in 2000, he agreed to return to work at Pemex on two projects, one to upgrade Cadereyta’s emergency-control room, another for natural gas processing plants in Villahermosa.

He said the Pemex engineer in charge of the Villahermosa project had “a private bank account” that he expected outside contractors to fill. On the Cadereyta project, he said, Pemex engineers never showed up to approve his work.

Mr. Muñoz Leos said a recent $1.3 billion remodeling at the Cadereyta refinery was botched, and efforts to fix it were costing Pemex $15 million a month.

“I thought things might have changed” after Mr. Fox’s election in 2000, Mr. Cantu said. “But Pemex hasn’t changed. You cannot change so deeply embedded a mentality in a few years.”

One of the strongest forces for change may be dissident union workers, who see their task as no less than rescuing the union from its own leaders. – More here.

Mexico In The World Economy

by Hansen, Fay
11/1/2004

Mexico’s economy and business environment remain closely tied to the United States, but signs are emerging that Mexico is succeeding in its attempt to break away from the U.S. business cycle and establish itself as a major trading nation in the world market. Within the next decade, Mexico may be able to build significant trade and investment relationships with European and Asian nations and with other Latin countries. For the immediate future, however, it is largely dependent on the United States as its largest trading partner and primary source of foreign investment.

Mexico’s Economic Growth Annual Percent Change in GDP

Mexico followed the United States into recession in 2001 and remained gripped by the U.S. slowdown in 2002, but showed strong improvement toward the end of 2003. GDP growth for 2004 should hit a solid 3.2 percent. “This growth is primarily the result of the upswing in the North American economies and favorable oil prices,” says Michael J. Pisani, associate professor of international business at Central Michigan University. “For the most part, as the U.S. goes, so does Mexico.”

Mexico’s economy is directly linked to the business cycle, particularly the manufacturing business cycle, in North America, which is powered by the U.S. economy, Pisani reports. “As the U.S. recovery deepens, so too will Mexico’s exports to the United States. Mexico’s import capacity is based upon the stability of the peso vis–vis the U.S. dollar, worker earnings and economic confidence.” This year, Mexico is on track to export more than $150 billion to the U.S.-the largest amount ever-and the U.S. is on track to send $107 billion in goods to Mexico, the second largest amount on record. The latest data show year-to-date Mexican imports to the U.S. up 11.8 percent from 2003 and U.S. exports to Mexico up 14.1 percent.

Barring an unforeseen downturn in the U.S. economy, Mexico should experience good growth and relative stability in 2005. – More here.

Armed standoff on Rio Grande

Uniformed Mexicans with guns, bulldozer seize drug-bust truck from Border Patrol

11/20/2005/1:00 A.M. Eastern

U.S. Border Patrol agents were backed down this week by armed men, dressed in what appeared to be Mexican military uniforms and carrying military weapons, who seized a captured dump truck filled with marijuana from the U.S. agents and dragged it across the border into Mexico with a bulldozer.

The border incident occurred Thursday evening when Border Patrol agents attempted to pull over a dump truck on Interstate 10 in Hudspeth County, Texas. The driver fled from the agents, exiting the freeway and driving toward the Rio Grande which runs within 2 miles of the interstate in this portion of West Texas.

The driver abandoned the truck after it became stuck in the river bed, escaping into Mexico.

Agents called for reinforcement from the Texas state troopers and Hudspeth County sheriff and began unloading the haul – estimated to have been nearly 3 tons – when everything changed.

Officers “started to retrieve the bundles when the armed subjects appeared,” said Agent Ramiro Cordero, Border Patrol spokesman.

According to Hudspeth County Chief Deputy Mike Doyal, the dump truck driver returned with armed men, some of whom drove “official looking vehicles with overhead lights.” Some of those armed, Doyal told the El Paso Times, appeared to be Mexican soldiers in uniform with military weapons.

“It’s a very serious incident,” Doyal said. “We are very fortunate … no one got hurt. Everyone had the presence of mind not to cause an international incident, or start shooting.”

As WorldNetDaily has reported, there are widespread reports of U.S.-trained Mexican commandos, called the Zetas, making cross-border runs into U.S. territory in military-style vehicles, armed with automatic weapons.

The Zetas were trained as elite commandos by U.S. forces to combat the drug cartels, but they have switched sides and are working for the drug smugglers in the border area posing a special hazard to American law enforcement and Border Patrol agents, according to a U.S. Justice Department memo. Under the control of reputed drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Zetas are conducting a bloody war for control of the entire southern border in an effort to secure a monopoly on drug-smuggling and people-smuggling routes. – More here.

Mexican Officials Feather Their Nests While Decrying U.S. Immigration Policy
by George W. Grayson
2/2006

“Show me a politician who is poor and I will show you a poor politician” — Carlos Hank González

Mexican politicians continuously demand more visas for their citizens, an expanded guest-worker program, and “regularization” of illegal aliens living north of the Rio Grande. While neglecting to mention that the United States admits nearly one million legal newcomers each year, they also fail to publicize: (1) the extremely high salaries they receive, often�in the case of federal and state legislators�more than their counterparts in developed nations that have substantially longer annual sessions, (2) the generous stipends that they grant themselves, including year-end aguinaldos and end-of-term bonuses of tens of thousands of dollars known as bonos de marcha, and (3) the generous sums that party leaders in legislative bodies have to spend with few or any strings attached.

For example,

• President Vicente Fox ($236,693) makes more than the leaders of France ($95,658), the U.K. ($211,434), and Canada ($75,582).

• Although they are in session only a few months a year, Mexican deputies take home at least $148,000�substantially more than their counterparts in France ($78,000), Germany ($105,000), and congressmen throughout Latin America.

• At the end of the three-year term, Mexican deputies voted themselves a $28,000 “leaving-office bonus.”

• Members of the 32 state legislatures ($60,632) earn on average twice the amount earned by U.S. state legislators ($28,261). The salaries and bonuses of the lawmakers in Baja California ($158,149), Guerrero ($129,630), and Guanajuato ($111,358) exceed the salaries of legislators in California ($110,880), the District of Columbia ($92,500), Michigan ($79,650), and New York ($79,500).

• Members of the city council of Saltillo, San Luis Potos�, not only received a salary of $52,778 in 2005, but they awarded themselves a $20,556 end-of-year bonus.

• Average salaries (plus Christmas stipends known as aguinaldos) place the average compensation of Mexican state executives at $125,759, which exceeds by almost $10,000 the mean earnings of their U.S. counterparts ($115,778). On average, governors received aguinaldos of $14,346 in 2005 a year when 60 percent of Mexicans received no year-end bonuses.

These same politicians turn a blind eye to the fact that, when petroleum earnings are excluded, Mexico collects taxes equivalent to 9.7 percent of GDP a figure on par with Haiti. In addition, the policy makers (1) spend painfully little on education and health-care programs crucial to spurring social mobility and job opportunities, (2) acquiesce in barriers to opening businesses in their country, and (3) profit from a level of corruption that would have made a Tammany Hall precinct captain blush with $11.2 billion flowing to lawmakers in 2004 alone. – More here.

from newsweek.com:

‘I Will Never Return to Mexico’
Amid a surge of American kidnappings at the U.S.-Mexico border, a survivor’s story.

by Jamie Reno
2/25/2008

Roberto, a San Diego machinist in his mid-30s, used to visit his family across the border in Tijuana every few weeks. But in the summer of 2005, while he was relaxing at a family home there, a group of approximately 20 masked men burst in suddenly. Claiming to be Mexican police, the armed men grabbed Roberto as well as another family member and a close friend. They then blindfolded all three, tied their hands behind their backs, threw them into a car and sped away. The men also took Roberto’s new truck, which was parked at the house and may have tipped off the kidnappers that he or his family had enough money to pay their ransom.

Later that day the kidnappers called his oldest daughter to demand payment using a number they had retrieved from Roberto’s cell phone. For the following two weeks Roberto, who declined to use his real name because he is still frightened by the ordeal, was hogtied, left on a concrete floor and victimized by “constant” beatings, he says. His captors fed him three tortillas the entire time, and gave him very little water. They separated him from his fellow abductees; he wasn’t sure where they were being held. “[The kidnappers] kept telling me they were sharpening their knives and were going to kill me. I didn’t know why this was happening to me,” Roberto, speaking Spanish through an interpreter, told NEWSWEEK in an exclusive telephone interview. “They broke three of my ribs on the right side and sliced off the tip of my tongue.” – Much more here.

from terroristplanet.com:

circa 5/2008

Mexico. On the surface, it appears that this neighbor to the South has much to offer not only to the United States, but to all of the countries in the Americas. It has beautiful beaches, abundant resources and a rich colorful culture. It could be a leader to rest of Latin America. In reality, Mexico has chosen to be a chronic problem that has made a mockery out of any notion of acceptance of American sovereignty, has allowed criminals to cross into the United States to commit violent crimes and then refuse to extradite them in any significant numbers. No active major Mexican drug trafficker has been extradited to the United States. Their politicians allow drug and human trafficking to overburden our law enforcement as a result of the corruption that runs rampant throughout Mexico. In 2006, a tunnel was discovered running about 2,400 feet from a warehouse near the airport in Tijuana to a warehouse in San Diego. More than 2 tons of marijuana had been found inside. It was unclear how long the tunnel had been in operation. Illegal aliens are NOT necessarily coming here just to work. Lou Dobbs reported that 33 percent of our prison population is now comprised of non-citizens. – More here.

from kfyi.com:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Say No Proof Home Invasion Suspects Part of Mexican Militia

Newstalk 550 KFYI
5/26/2008

The suspects may have been hired by drug cartels to perform home invasions and assassinations in the U.S.

Police reports show that three men arrested in a Phoenix home invasion and homicide Monday may have been active members of the Mexican Army.

While on the J.D. Hayworth show, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Mark Spencer said that the men involved were hired by drug cartels to perform home invasions and assassinations.

The Monday morning incident at 8329 W. Cypress St. resulted in the death of the homeowner. Between 50 and 100 rounds were fired at the house.

Spencer said a police officer told him that one of the men captured said they were completely prepared to ambush Phoenix police, but ran out of ammunition.

He added that all were all dressed in military tactical gear and were armed with AR-15 assault rifles. Three other men involved in the invasion escaped. – Source.

from infowars.com:

Outgunned Border Patrol Agent Held at Gunpoint by Mexican Military

by One Old Vet
8/4/2008

A Tucson Sector Border Patrol agent was held at gunpoint by the Mexican military last night south of Ajo. http://oneoldvet.com/?p=7571 Mexican military personnel crossed over the border and pointed rifles at him. Backup units arrived from the Ajo Border Patrol station, and the Mexican military personnel eventually returned to Mexico.

Once again, they come into our country, point rifles at our agents, and are allowed to return to Mexico as if nothing happened. One can only imagine the outrage if American soldiers or Border Patrol agents entered Mexico and pointed rifles at someone. Unfortunately, this sort of behavior by Mexican military personnel has been going on for years. They are never held accountable, and the United States government will undoubtedly brush this off as another case of “Oh well, they didn’t know they were in the United States.”

A few years ago the Mexican military went a step further and put a .50 calibre rifle round through the rear window of a Border Patrol agent’s patrol vehicle south of Ajo. Nothing was ever done. Nobody was ever held accountable. Even worse, nothing has changed. Particularly galling is the fact that the Mexican military often pulls these stunts in Humvees donated to them by the American taxpayers (although they were apparently on foot this time). We note that Border Patrol agents have historically driven worn-out, junk vehicles. – More here.

from alternet.org:

Mexican Drug War Violence Is Going off the Charts
by Phillip S. Smith, DRCNet
1/21/2009

President-elect Barack Obama met Monday with Mexican President Felipe Calderón to discuss bilateral issues of major importance for the two countries. In addition to NAFTA and immigration policy, Mexico’s ongoing plague of prohibition-related violence was high on the agenda.

More than 5,400 people were killed in the violence last year, and more than 8,000 in the two years since Calderón ratcheted up Mexico’s drug war by sending thousands of troops into the fray. The multi-sided conflict pits rival trafficking groups — the so-called cartels — against each and the Mexican state, but has also seen pitched battles between rival law enforcement units where one group or the other is in the pay of the traffickers.

The Obama-Calderón meeting comes as the violence in Mexico is creating increasing concern among US policy and defense analysts. Last month, the National Drug Intelligence Center warned in its National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 that “Mexico drug trafficking organizations represent the greatest organized crime threat to the United States.”

In a December report to the US Military Academy at West Point, former drug czar retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey warned dramatically that even the $1.4 billion, three-year anti-drug assistance plan approved by Congress and the Bush administration last year was barely a drop in the bucket, noting that it was only a tiny fraction of the money spent on the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The stakes in Mexico are enormous,” McCaffrey warned. “We cannot afford to have a narco state as a neighbor. Mexico is not confronting dangerous criminality — it is fighting for its survival against narco-terrorism.”

The consequences of US failure to act decisively in support of Calderón’s drug war would be dire, McCaffrey warned. “A failure by the Mexican political system to curtail lawlessness and violence could result in a surge of millions of refugees crossing the US border to escape the domestic misery of violence … and the mindless cruelty and injustice of a criminal state.”

This week, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff jumped on the bandwagon. In their report, The Joint Operating Environment 2008, which examines global threats to the US, the Joint Chiefs warned that Mexico was one of the two countries most in danger of becoming a failed state. The other was Pakistan.

“The Mexican possibility may seem less likely,” the report noted, “but the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone.”

But for all the dire warnings of doom, the incoming president gave little sign that he would do anything other than stay the course. Nor did he suggest in any way that he would make a radical break with US drug policy on the border. Obama has stated publicly that he supports the Mérida Initiative aid package, and Monday he limited his public remarks to generalities.

Noting the “extraordinary relationship” between the US and Mexico, Obama added: “Not only did we talk about security along the border regions, how the United States can be helpful in Mexico’s efforts, we talked about immigration and how we can have a comprehensive and thoughtful strategy that ultimately strengthens both countries.”

Despite taking his first meeting with a head of foreign state with President Calderón and pledging renewed cooperation, and despite the chorus of cassandras crying for more action, analysts consulted by the Drug War Chronicle said that given the raft of serious problems, foreign and domestic, facing the Obama administration, Mexico and its drug war are likely to remain second-tier issues. Nor is the Mérida Initiative going to be much help, they suggested.

“Obama is busy with other pressing issues,” said Sanho Tree, drug policy analyst for the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, DC-based think tank. “He just doesn’t have the space and will to take on this other fight in Mexico.”

On the other hand, the border violence frightening US policy makers is largely “a self-inflicted wound,” Tree said. “Mix together high domestic demand here, prohibition economics, and a tough law and order approach, shake vigorously, and you have a disaster cocktail. It’s not like we didn’t warn them,” he said.

Also, Tree noted, despite the rising alarm in Washington, there is little interest in opening a new front on the southern border. “Who has the stomach to take this on right now?” he asked. “Who is clamoring for this outside of institutional actors who want to protect their budgets? There is a lot of war-weariness and budget shock in this city, and that might leave some openings” for reform, he said.

“Probably not much will come of that meeting,” said Tomás Ayuso, Mexico analyst for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs. “Calderón was pleading for Obama to put Mexico at the top of his list of priorities, but given what Obama is facing, the Mexican drug war is not at the top of his agenda.”

Still, the situation in Mexico is serious and could get worse, Ayuso said. “If this isn’t addressed now, Mexico could really descend into chaos. The drug cartels have virtually unlimited funding, their coffers are overflowing. The shadow economy in which they operate is booming, their operatives are armed to the teeth, and the next step is to set up a shadow government. – More here.

from oecd.org:

Economic Survey of Mexico 2009: Overcoming the financial crisis and the macroeconomic downturn

Despite improved macroeconomic fundamentals, Mexico is being hit hard by the financial crisis and world economic downturn

Mexico is affected severely by the global recession, like many other OECD countries, with negative economic, budgetary and social consequences. Although the banking sector has so far weathered the financial crisis rather well, manufacturing industries are being severely affected by the downturn of global demand, particularly in high-value added industries. Shipments of goods to US markets have plummeted at a fast pace, following a global readjustment of industrial inventories and leading to a sharp contraction of industrial production. Like other emerging markets, Mexico has suffered from reduced net capital inflows, as investments returned to safer havens, contributing to a decline in equity prices, rising interest rate spreads and a large depreciation of the peso. In addition, several country-specific shocks have had adverse consequences, such as the outbreak of influenza A H1N1. Also, the budget has been put under pressure by the sharp decline in energy prices, as oil exports provide a large share of tax revenues, although temporary relief comes from a price hedge and weaker peso. The rise in uncertainty has depressed business and consumer confidence to record lows, which, coupled with tightening credit conditions at home and abroad, is bearing on consumption and investment. Despite the slowdown in activity and declining commodity prices, inflation has remained persistently high as prices of tradables and food are adjusting with a lag. – More here.

from huffingtonpost.com:

Mexico President Denies Country A ‘Failed State’
2/26/2009/11:04 P.M. EST

MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderon hopes to quell Mexico’s rampant drug violence by the end of his term in 2012, and disputes U.S. fears that Mexico is losing control of its territory.

In interviews with The Associated Press on Thursday, Calderon and his top prosecutor said the violence that killed 6,290 people last year _ and more than 1,000 in the first eight weeks of 2009 _ is a sign that the cartels are under pressure from military and police operations nationwide, as well as turf wars among themselves.

“To say that Mexico is a failed state is absolutely false,” Calderon said. “I have not lost any part _ any single part _ of Mexican territory.”

Calderon, a Harvard-educated conservative, said smuggling cannot be eliminated as long as Americans continue to use drugs, but hopes he can beat back the cartels by 2012 to a point that the army and federal police can withdraw and leave the problem in the hands of local law enforcement. – More here.

from news.bbc.co.uk:

Inside Mexico’s most dangerous city

by Matthew Price
3/23/2009/17:22 GMT

Gang violence is surging in Mexico, where 40,000 soldiers have been deployed across the country to root out drug cartels.

Beheadings, attacks on police, and shootings in clubs and restaurants are a daily occurrence in some regions.

One of the worst areas for the violence has been the border city of Juarez, where thousands of Mexican troops are now trying to re-establish control.

Driving into Mexico’s most dangerous city is slightly nerve-wracking, to say the least.

There has been murder, kidnapping and extortion on a grand scale. Ciudad Juarez has not exactly been the safest place.

So the first time you cross that bridge over the Rio Grande, which divides Mexico and the United States, there is a slight flutter in your stomach.

Then you see the soldiers. Juarez has been flooded with troops. Thousands have arrived in the past few weeks, under direct orders from the president. – More here.

from hiddencancun.com:

Is Cancun Safe for Tourists?

by Rivergirl

To my knowledge no tourists have been among the mob’s murder victims in Cancun. And given what I’ve seen of the way the mafia operates, I wouldn’t expect tourists to be among their victims. It doesn’t make sense.

Cancun offers certain advantages to organized crime outfits that might be moving drugs or illegal immigrants to the U.S. One advantage is simply Cancun’s close proximity to the U.S., another advantage is that Cancun has miles of coastline. For sure Cancun is a natural stop-over point between cocaine-producing countries in South America and the consumer market of the U.S.

Another big advantage Cancun provides to the cartels operating here is the fact that it’s so busy with tourists. By most estimates close to 5 million tourists come to this area each year. Tourist traffic provides cover at the airport, on the roads and at sea. And the numerous restaurants, bars and nightclubs here provide obvious places to launder money.

The way I see it the very successful tourist trade here is part of the reason that organized crime has been able to operate in the Cancun area. The mob needs the tourists to keep coming in order to keep their activities hidden and to wash their money clean. – More here.

The 17th comment (by “Bob” on March 1, 2009, 7:38 (?) says: on that journal post says:

Just returned from Cancun with family last night.[]Travelled to other parts of Mexico on Business and pleasure previously in the last 5 years. I was never robbed by anyone but police 5 times, two of which were in Cancun this passed week. They are the most dangerous criminal element in the country. The first time, I missed my bus stop and was just walking back at 1:30am back about 500 feet when a truck of 4 cops jump out and do not even say a thing but frisk me and take about $120 from my pocket and take off. Then on Thusday I walked from Walmart to Office Max, 5 minute walk, got stopped by 2 cops in broad day light, resisted shortly, got smacked across the back of my leg with a rod, and they took about 600 pessos. Huge brooze. I am 59 years old. Please do not tell me that it is safe in Cancun or in Mexico, when the people that are responsible to protect you, are the most dangerous element. Will travel to Mexico for business, because I must, but will never travel there for pleasure again. I found all other Mexican people in the Stores and Hotel to be wonderful.

Gunmen Shoot 17 Dead In Drug Rehab ‘Hit’

9/03/2009/8:52 A.M. UK

Seventeen patients have been shot dead at a drug rehab clinic in Mexico after a group of suspected hitmen stormed the building.

Federal police guard drug rehab clinic in Ciudad Juarez after shooting

The gunmen burst into the clinic in Ciudad Juarez near the US border and forced patients to line up in a corridor before killing them, the Mexican army said.

“Armed men shot at about 20 people, killing 17 of them and injuring three,” said army spokesman Enrique Torres.

Drug gangs have targeted rehab clinics in the city before, accusing the centres of protecting dealers from rival gangs.

In a similar attack last year, eight people were killed at a rehab clinic for drug addicts.

Ciudad Juarez is the centre of the bloody war between Mexican drug cartels fighting to control trafficking routes into the US.

The shooting happened despite the presence of 10,000 troops and federal police, who constantly patrol the streets of the city.

In a separate incident, gunmen killed the deputy police chief in Michoacan, the home state of President Felipe Calderon.

Jose Manuel Revueltas, who was appointed just two weeks ago, was intercepted by heavily armed men in two vehicles as he drove down a street a few blocks from police headquarters.

The 38-year-old and his two bodyguards died in the intense gunfire that also killed a man travelling on a bus, police said.

Mr Calderon has staked his presidency on crushing the cartels whose battle has claimed more than 13,000 lives since late 2006. – Source

from latimes.com:

Mexico water shortage becomes crisis amid drought
by Ken Ellingwood
9/7/2009

Crops are wilting in the countryside, and the capital’s water shortage has turned dire as Mexico grapples with its worst drought in more than half a century.

MEXICO CITY — In the parched Mexican countryside, the corn is wilting, the wheat stunted. And here in this vast and thirsty capital, officials are rationing water and threatening worse cuts as Mexico endures one of the driest spells in more than half a century.

A months-long drought has affected broad swaths of the country, from the U.S. border to the Yucatan Peninsula, leaving crop fields parched and many reservoirs low. The need for rain is so dire that water officials have been rooting openly for a hurricane or two to provide a good drenching. – More here.

from ap.org:

Mexican Army takes over customs on US border

9/16/2009

NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico — Mexico’s Army took control of customs Sunday on the busy US border, as federal authorities pulled agents off the job in a massive anti-corruption shakeup, officials told AFP.

An Interior Ministry official said the dismissals were being carried out at all Mexican border facilities, and that the customs agents were being replaced.

Customs agents were sacked after some were found to be linked to contraband operations, according to sources at the ministry.

Agents in Nuevo Laredo, on the border with the southern US state of Texas, were called in Saturday to be told they were fired, and to hand in their badges and weapons. A total of 1,100 agents were sacked, Mexican media said.

Army troops took over customs border posts temporarily on Sunday. – More here.

from rightsidenews.com:

Corrupt U.S. Government Official Operating Illegally With Mexican Drug Cartels For Profit
by Michael Webster
9/21/2009/19:55

As an ICE official he invested cash in global drug deals[,] endangered the lives of U.S. and Mexican law enforcement by selling secret U.S. Government information to Mexican Drug Cartels (MDC’s)[,] and ran huge cocaine shipments to Spain via US ports. Feds say he joined cartel full time after he retired from ICE.

Richard Padilla Cramer, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. anti-drug complex was arrested by DEA agents last month and is behind bars in Florida awaiting the results of a Federal Grand Jury investigation. Cramer was arrested and jailed after U.S. Government officials accused him of directing a massive cocaine shipment to Spain via the United States, and selling important information in law enforcement databases to a vicious Mexican Drug Cartel.

Cramer, as a high-ranking U.S. anti-drug of ficial, held front-line posts both in the United States and in Mexico in regard to the War on Drugs. Cramer sometime later was investing in drugs and trafficking as a full partner in Mexico’s murderous drug cartels. According to records made available to the Laguna Journal, he led an office of two dozen agents in Arizona and others as the attaché officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Guadalajara Mexico and worked with the U.S. Mexican Embassy in Mexico City and U.S. Consulate offices in Guadalajara and other Mexican cities.

According to documents obtained by this writer while employed as a high ranking U.S. law enforcement agent in Mexico, Cramer was also allegedly operating illegally by serving as a sort of secret agent and a full blown business partner of some of Mexico’s richest and most blood thirsty drug lords. According to federal investigators he was operating as a key Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent who operated freely moving back and forth from Mexico to the U.S. He was allegedly “a secret ally of drug lords,” reported The Los Angeles Times.

A Mexican Drug Cartel boss “convinced Cramer to retire … and begin working directly for (him) in drug trafficking and money laundering,” the complaint says. Cramer continued to sell secret documents that he obtained from active U.S. agents. This is a troubling aspect of the case still being investigated, the official said.

The charges underscore the corruptive might of the cartels, which have bought off Mexican politicians, police chiefs and military commanders. Drug lords have reached across the border with increasing ease, corrupting U.S. border inspectors and agents to help smuggle cocaine north. In 2006, the FBI chief in El Paso=2 0was convicted of charges related to having concealed his friendship with an alleged Mexican drug kingpin.

Cramer stands out because his rank and foreign post made his work especially sensitive, officials said. Stunned colleagues described him as a well-regarded investigator who spoke fluent Spanish and operated skillfully in the array of U.S. and Mexican agencies at the border when he ran the ICE office in the action-packed border zone of Nogales, Ariz., his hometown.

“It came as a complete shock,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada in a telephone interview. “I have been in law enforcement at the border 42 years and I have seen some strange things, but I have never ceased to be surprised. You have to be watchful and mindful. The cartels have touched local, state and federal agencies.” – More here.

from nytimes.com:

Border Towns Across Rio, Worlds Apart in Drug War

by Dan Barry
2/13/2010

At the foot of a bridge that helps bind El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, a United States Border Patrol officer warns two pedestrians not to stray once they reach the Mexican city. Stay on the main road. Avoid side streets. Very, very dangerous city. O.K.?

The pedestrians nod and join the back-and-forth human flow between one of the safest cities in the United States and one of the most violent in the world — getting worse by the month. Including a pause to take in the Rio Grande, here just a muddy stream with a boastful name, their walk takes five minutes.

On the other side, boyish Mexican soldiers stand about, weapons in hand. Men linger before tired and empty storefronts. Beggars pull at your coat. Then a taxi driver steps up to ask if the visitors need a ride to the morgue.

A legitimate question, perhaps, in a city whose latest massacre — 16 dead, most of them teenagers — occurred just two weeks ago. A city with nearly 250 homicides last month; about one every three hours. A city where homicides have jumped from about 300 in 2007, to about 1,620 in 2008, to about 2,660 last year. – More here.

Mexican Helicopter Spotted in Starr County

3/11/2010/9:18 A.M.

FALCON HEIGHTS – A Mexican navy helicopter was seen doing surveillance in Starr County.

Residents of Falcon Heights, about 14 miles away from Roma, noticed a Mexican helicopter hovering over a home shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday night.

Witnesses say the helicopter hovered for about 15 minutes over a house where a known criminal used to live.

Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. says, “They had armored individuals in the chopper, open ramp, very military looking, in style and preparation.”

CHANNEL 5 NEWS contacted nearly a dozen government agencies on this side of the border. The Federal Aviation Administration directed us towards Customs and Border Protection who would only say they knew about the incident and that the Falcon Bridge was not affected. – Source.

Mexican military copter over U.S. neighborhood
U.S. [Federal Government] downplays Mexican chopper incursion

by Lynn Brezosky and Gary Martin
3/12/2010/12:00 CST

BROWNSVILLE — The Zapata County sheriff Thursday was questioning why a Mexican military helicopter was hovering over homes on the Texas side of the Rio Grande.

It was one of the more jarring incidents of the fourth week of border tensions sparked by drug killings, and rumors of such killings, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said he’d reviewed photos of the chopper flown by armed personnel Tuesday over a residential area known as Falcon Heights-Falcon Village near the binational Falcon Lake, just south of the Starr-Zapata county line. He said the helicopter appeared to have the insignia of the Mexican navy.

“It’s always been said that the Mexican military does in fact … that there have been incursions,” Gonzalez said. “But this is not New Mexico or Arizona. Here we’ve got a river; there’s a boundary line. And then of course having Falcon Lake, Falcon Dam, it’s a lot wider. It’s not just a trickle of a river, it’s an actual dam. You know where the boundary’s at.”

The sighting came amid ongoing fighting between the Gulf Cartel and its former enforcers, Los Zetas. The mounting death toll and crisis of fear in cities across from the Texas border have drawn global attention, as has a news blackout in affected cities due to the kidnappings of eight Mexican journalists, at least one of whom was killed.

As violence continued Thursday with a highway shootout in Tamaulipas, a Senate subcommittee in Washington heard testimony that drug cartels are trying to infiltrate U.S. agencies along the border, with corruption cases among Homeland Security personnel on the rise.

In the past two years, there have been 400 public corruption cases involving federal, state and local law enforcement agents originating from the Southwest border region, Kevin Perkins, FBI assistant director for criminal investigations, told the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on preparedness.

James Tomsheck, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection assistant commissioner, told the panel the drug cartels operating in Mexico are making a concerted effort to infiltrate CBP, and the agency is responding with more screening of job applicants with polygraph tests and background investigations. Corruption cases were opened last year on 576 CBP officers and Border Patrol agents. – More here.

Mexic[an] gunmen kill American consulate staff

Julian Cardona
3/14/2010/7:29/P.M. EDT

Gunmen in the drug war-plagued Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez killed two Americans and a Mexican linked to the local U.S. consulate, an attack U.S. President Barack Obama said “outraged” him.

An American woman working at the consulate in Ciudad Juarez, just over the border from El Paso, Texas, and her U.S. husband were fatally shot by suspected drug gang hitmen in broad daylight on Saturday as they left a consulate social event, U.S. and Mexican officials told Reuters.

A Mexican man married to another consulate employee was killed around the same time in another part of the city after he and his wife left the same event, a U.S. official said.

The U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, said it was not clear if the victims had been specifically targeted, and the motive for the attacks was unknown.

Bloodshed has exploded in recent months in Ciudad Juarez as the head of the Juarez cartel, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, fights off a bloody offensive by Mexico’s No. 1 fugitive drug lord, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, at the worst hotspot of Mexico’s three-year-old drug war.

“The president is deeply saddened and outraged by the news,” said White House National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer. He said Obama “shares in the outrage of the Mexican people at the murders of thousands in Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere in Mexico.”

The U.S. State Department updated its warning on travel to Mexico to say it had authorized the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel from consulates in Ciudad Juarez and five other northern border cities.

Nearly 19,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon came to power in Mexico in late 2006 and launched a military assault on the country’s powerful drug cartels, sparking a surge in violence that has alarmed Washington, foreign investors and tourists.

Most victims are rival traffickers and police, and to a lesser extent soldiers, local officials and bystanders. It is rare for drug gang hitmen to target foreigners. – More here.

Gun attack at Mexico student party leaves 14 dead

2/1/2010/08:23 GMT

Gunmen have killed at least 14 people at a high school student party in the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez.

Three adults and 11 teenagers died, while some 20 others were injured, as the attackers fired indiscriminately.

Authorities say they are investigating any links to the drug gangs that have made Ciudad Juarez one of the world’s most dangerous cities.

But witnesses said the victims, most aged between 15 and 20, had no ties to traffickers.

“It must have been a huge mistake,” Martha Lujan, who lives in the housing complex where the attack took place, told the Associated Press news agency.

Patricia Gonzalez, the attorney general for Chihuhua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located said: “We have two lines of investigation and one of them is linked to drug trafficking.

“We know from witnesses that the men arrived looking for someone.”

Witnesses said the gunmen drove up to the house in several cars late on Saturday or in the early hours of Sunday.

They began shooting at people from outside the property before moving inside, and pursued some of the youngsters trying to escape over a fence.

The bodies of the victims lay scattered around the house.

Unnamed police officials told AP news agency that witnesses had counted at least 15 attackers.

“The men drove up in four SUVs, they were well-armed. They went into the house and shot at everyone, you could hear the gunfire all around,” said a neighbour at the scene, quoted by Reuters news agency. – More here.

Mexico mass grave in abandoned mine has 55 bodies
6/7/2010/18:46 ET
from the BBC

Police say the bodies were thrown down the mine over a period of time

Mexican police say 55 bodies have been recovered from an abandoned mine that appears to have been used as a mass grave by drugs gangs.

Human remains were first discovered in the silver mine near Taxco in Guerrero state at the end of May.

The bodies appeared to have been thrown down a 200m (650ft) ventilation shaft over a period of time, police said.

Earlier reports that 77 bodies had been recovered were mistaken, officials said.

Only six have so far been identified – one was the director of a local prison.

Guerrero state is a focal point for drug-related violence that has claimed more than 22,000 lives in Mexico since 2006.

Police are now checking other mineshafts in the area to see if bodies have also been dumped there.

Morgues overwhelmed

Police and civil defence workers used breathing equipment to descend deep underground to recover the bodies.
Police and rescue workers outside mine Recovering the bodies is proving difficult and dangerous

They are taking photos and DNA samples in the hope of identifying the dead.

Some corpses have tattoos associated with the drugs gangs, police said.

Local morgues have been overwhelmed by the number of bodies. – More here

Mexico mass grave: 18 kidnapped tourists found
11/7/2010/03:04 ET
from the BBC

A mass grave discovered in Mexico contained the bodies of 18 kidnapped tourists, it has been confirmed.

Relatives of the Mexican holiday-makers identified the remains at a morgue in the resort city of Acapulco.

They disappeared on 30 September after they left their home town of Morelia. Witnesses last saw them looking for their hotel in Acapulco.

They are believed to have been kidnapped by a drugs gang, but it is not clear why. Two men remain missing. – More here

Thousands of migrants kidnapped in Mexico
By Mariano Castillo, CNN
2/24/2011/1:05 P.M. EST

In Mexico, a man who tried to journey illegally into the United States to seek work vows that he will never again leave his home.

His trip turned into a nightmare when he was kidnapped along the route, as happens to thousands of migrants crossing through Mexico each year.

“What they did to me doesn’t matter. But what they did to all those women, that hurts more,” he told Mexico’s Commission on Human Rights.

For 17 days, the man recounts, he was held hostage. There were also 17 women among the group, and “each night they came back sadder, more hurt, beaten. I will never forget what I saw,” he said.

Each day, between three and five new hostages arrived. There were beatings, and worse.

“Those who didn’t pay the ransom were taken outside to, as those scumbags said, ‘look at the stars from up close,’” the man said.

The journey across Mexico for those seeking to reach the United States is a treacherous one. People hang on to trains, pay shadowy smugglers, and risk kidnappings like the one the man described.

It’s unclear whether the man was released or whether he escaped his captors. But his story is hardly unique.

In a six-month period in 2010, more than 11,000 migrants were kidnapped, the Mexican human rights commission found in a report published this week.

“This statistic reflects that there have not been sufficient government efforts to reduce kidnappings against the migrant population,” the report said.

A total of 11,333 migrants were kidnapped in 214 separate incidents, the commission said. That’s an average of 52 migrants kidnapped per incident.

The numbers, while staggering, match some news reports of mass kidnappings.

Last summer, 72 migrants who were traveling on the ground in Mexico were shot and killed in the border state of Tamaulipas. The migrants came from Central and South American countries including Honduras, El Salvador, Brazil and Ecuador.

In a separate incident, 50 Central American migrants who were apparently kidnapped in mid-December are still missing. The case was brought to the attention of authorities by Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest who operates a shelter for traveling migrants in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

The human rights commission’s findings were based on information requests made to the federal government and all the Mexican states. In 2010, commission personnel made 2,705 trips to gather facts from migrants, both at regional offices and at places where migrants congregate.

In 2010, the commission aided 68,095 migrants.

In those trips, the organization collected 178 testimonies from victims, and a picture emerged of what victims endure.

Among the findings was that the organized crime groups who carry out the kidnappings sometimes have Central American migrants working with them. In the case of the 72 migrants who were killed, one of the possible motives was that the migrants refused to join the cartel, authorities said. Those who didn’t pay the ransom were taken outside to, as those scumbags said, ‘look at the stars from up close.’

Even specially-designated migrant shelters are not safe, the report found. Some shelters have been attacked by kidnappers who come to chase those who escaped or to find new victims, the report said. – More here

from monterrey.usconsulate.gov:

Travel Alert

by the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Bureau of Consular Affairs
8/20/2009

Mexico

The Department of State has issued this Travel Alert to update security information for U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico. It supersedes the Travel Alert for Mexico dated February 20, 2009, and expires on February 20, 2010.

While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including tens of thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased. It is imperative that travelers understand the risks of travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if one becomes a crime victim. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

Recent violent attacks have caused the U.S. Embassy to urge U.S. citizens to delay unnecessary travel to Michoacán and Chihuahua and advise U.S. citizens residing or traveling in those areas to exercise extreme caution. Drug cartels and associated criminal elements have retaliated violently against individuals who speak out against them or whom they otherwise view to be a threat to their organization, regardless of the individuals’ citizenship. These attacks include the abduction and murder of two resident U.S. citizens in Chihuahua in July, 2009.

    Violence Along the U.S. – Mexico Border

Mexican drug cartels are engaged in violent conflict – both among themselves and with Mexican security services – for control of narcotics trafficking routes along the U.S.-Mexico border. In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed military troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens should cooperate fully with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades. Large firefights have taken place in towns and cities across Mexico, but occur mostly in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Monterrey and Ciudad Juarez. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. The U.S. Mission in Mexico currently restricts non-essential travel within the state of Durango, the northwest quadrant of Chihuahua and an area southeast of Ciudad Juarez, and all parts of the state of Coahuila south of Mexican Highways 25 and 22 and the Alamos River for US Government employees assigned to Mexico. This restriction was implemented in light of the recent increase in assaults, murders, and kidnappings in those three states. The situation in northern Mexico remains fluid; the location and timing of future armed engagements cannot be predicted.

A number of areas along the border are experiencing rapid growth in the rates of many types of crime. Robberies, homicides, petty thefts, and carjackings have all increased over the last year across Mexico generally, with notable spikes in Tijuana and northern Baja California. Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and Nogales are among the cities which have experienced public shootouts during daylight hours in shopping centers and other public venues. Criminals have followed and harassed U.S. citizens traveling in their vehicles in border areas including Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, and Tijuana.

The situation in the state of Chihuahua including Ciudad Juarez is of special concern. The U.S. Consulate General recommends that American citizens defer non-essential travel to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez and to the northwest quarter of the state of Chihuahua including the city of Nuevo Casas Grandes and surrounding communities. From the United States, these areas are often reached through the Columbus, NM and Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX ports-of-entry. In both areas, American citizens have been victims of drug related violence.

Mexican authorities report that more than 1,000 people have been killed in Ciudad Juarez in the first six-months of 2009. Additionally, this city of 1.6 million people experienced more than 17,000 car thefts and 1,650 carjackings in 2008. U.S. citizens should pay close attention to their surroundings while traveling in Ciudad Juarez, avoid isolated locations during late night and early morning hours, and remain alert to news reports. Visa and other service seekers visiting the Consulate are encouraged to make arrangements to pay for those services using a non-cash method.

U.S. citizens are urged to be alert to safety and security concerns when visiting the border region. Criminals are armed with a wide array of sophisticated weapons. In some cases, assailants have worn full or partial police or military uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles. While most crime victims are Mexican citizens, the uncertain security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well. U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are urged to contact the consular section of the nearest U.S. consulate or Embassy for advice and assistance. Contact information is provided at the end of this message.

    Crime and Violence Throughout Mexico

Although the greatest increase in violence has occurred on the Mexican side of the U.S. border, U.S. citizens traveling throughout Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Bystanders have been injured or killed in violent attacks in cities across the country, demonstrating the heightened risk of violence in public places. In recent years, dozens of U.S. citizens living in Mexico have been kidnapped and most of their cases remain unsolved. U.S. citizens who believe they are being targeted for kidnapping or other crimes should notify Mexican officials, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, or the nearest American Consulate as soon as possible. Any U.S. visitor who suspects they are a target should consider returning to the United States immediately.

U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads, which generally are more secure. When warranted, the U.S. Embassy and consulates advise their employees as well as private U.S. citizens to avoid certain areas, abstain from driving on certain roads because of dangerous conditions or criminal activity, or recommend driving during daylight hours only. When this happens, the Embassy or the affected consulate will alert the local U.S. citizen Warden network and post the information on their respective websites, indicating the nature of the concern and the expected time period for which the restriction will remain in place.

U.S. citizen visitors are encouraged to stay in the well-known tourist areas. Travelers should leave their itinerary with a friend or family member not traveling with them, avoid traveling alone, and check with their cellular provider prior to departure to confirm that their cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks. Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.

    Demonstrations and Large Public Gatherings

Demonstrations occur frequently throughout Mexico and usually are peaceful. However, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate to violence unexpectedly. Violent demonstrations have resulted in deaths, including that of an American citizen in Oaxaca in 2006. In 2008, a Mexican Independence Day celebration was the target of a violent attack. During demonstrations or law enforcement operations, U.S. citizens are advised to remain in their homes or hotels, avoid large crowds, and avoid the downtown and surrounding areas. Since the timing and routes of scheduled marches and demonstrations are always subject to change, U.S. citizens should monitor local media sources for new developments and exercise extreme caution while within the vicinity of protests.

The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and such actions may result in detention and/or deportation. U.S. citizens are therefore advised to avoid participating in demonstrations or other activities that might be deemed political by Mexican authorities. As is always the case in any large gathering, U.S. citizens should remain alert to their surroundings.

    Further Information

For more detailed information on staying safe in Mexico, please see the Mexico Country Specific Information [that page is gone]. Information on security and travel to popular tourist destinations is also provided in the publication: “Spring Break in Mexico- Know Before You Go!!” [that page is gone].

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s internet web site at http://travel.state.gov/ where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. – Source. Strangely this warning was at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_4491.html but isn’t now, and the two links in this warning are link to blank pages except for a “File not found.” message.

International Homicide Comparisons

In 2004, 28 percent of rural dwellers [in Mexico] were extremely poor and 57 percent were moderately poor.Source. 24 percent then would be middle class and probably one percent or less would be “rich” (and most likely the rich ones would be drug dealers or pharmacy owners).

Only 13% of Mexico’s land area is arable, of which less than 3% is irrigated.

Mexico in a positive light: The Truth About Mexico

A brief history of Mexico: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107779.html?pageno=1

About 90% of Mexicans are Roman Catholic, including drug lords and gangs members.

“By the fruits you shall know them.” – Jesus

More historical information on Mexico.

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
but a man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.

Proverbs 28:2

Pray to God for the salvation of Mexico.

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