Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Want an Exciting Vacation by the Sea?  Try Los Cabos, Most Dangerous City in the World.

Milenio reports (click here) that Los Cabos in 2017 surpassed Caracas and Acapulco as the most dangerous city in the world.  La Paz, close by, also ranks high.  More to come.
Anthony NM City Council Winners:  Elva Flores, Javier Silva

Incumbent Elva Flores was elected to the Anthony City Council last night, as was Javier Silva.  At a forum in Anthony on February 23 Flores defended efforts of the council to stick to the master plan and asserted that criticisms of the council's actions were often factually incorrect.  Silva, on the other hand, while appearing to be familiar with the issues, was one of the critics.  The election was held at-large rather than in single-member districts.

I telephoned Mayor Diana Murillo Trujillo last night for her reaction.  She said she had already congratulated the winners and invited them to sit down with her and discuss their priorities at city hall.
Salinas Slate Sweeps Sunland Municipal Elections

The Salinas slate of candidates swept municipal elections tonight in Sunland Park, and for once the notorious absentee ballot machine run by Guadalupe Valdivia did not make the difference in any of the races.  The money provided to the slate by El Paso developer Russell Hanson did.

Hanson applied to the city for a permit to put 2800 mobile homes into Sunland Park.  The current city council turned him down for a variety of reasons.  His response was to write campaign contribution checks, but on one of them the date on the check was apparently whited out.  This, I was told by several citizens last night, raises the question about when the check was given, since there is a specific window in time for contributions to be made.  Mr Hanson was seen outside the City Hall this evening, chatting with Christian Lira, whose sister was on the ballot, as a cluster of campaign workers waited for the votes to be announced.

Look for the city council to revisit the request for a permit to put mobile homes in Sunland.

Daniel Salinas' sister Lizette, was re-elected municipal judge by a margin of 325-239 against Maria Chacon in regular voting, with absentee ballots adding 78 votes to the winners' total against only 8 for Chacon.  Incumbent Kenneth Giove was defeated by Jessica Avila, a former councilor who voted with Daniel Chacon most of the time.  Daisy Lira defeated incumbent Francisco Jayme and Norexy Frankel.  And Berta Salmon defeated Jesus Soto by a margin of 10 votes in regular voting, and winning all ten absentee votes.  A total of 728 persons voted in these elections, a relatively high turnout for a low-profile race in which the mayor was not on the ballot.

The Salinas faction is named after Daniel Salinas, a former Sunland Park City Council member who pleaded guilty to 2 felony charges of  blackmail after he paid money for a lap-dancer to sit on his opponent while he was video taped.  He then tried to blackmail his opponent with the tape.  He was elected mayor but was not allowed to serve.  Left on the city council are incumbent councilors Donald McBride and Olga Arguelles.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Sunland Park Municipal Elections:  The Salinas Faction is Back!  Hold Onto Your Wallets and Follow the Money!

International Boundary and Water Commission trucks dropped load after load of dirt on city property next to the Rio Grande all day long on Thursday, part of a city-led effort worth about $4 million obtained for free, after some negotiations, from the IBWC, to protect Municipal Buildings against flooding from the river banks.  There is a new warehouse on the campus, fiber optics and new computers have been installed, offices have been remodeled, the roofing on city buildings has been repaired, and there is a handsome coat of paint on the entire city complex.  Loads of trash and rubble have been picked up in residential areas for the first time in years.  The city complex is now running solely on solar energy.  New firetrucks and police vehicles costing over $1.5 million can be seen in the parking lot.  The list goes on and on. Sunland Park in the last couple of years has very much been on the move, for once in the right direction--all of it done on a shoestring budget of $6 million.

This turnaround began two years ago when citizens of Sunland Park, still reeling from the 2012 scandal of corruption, fraud, and extortion that plagued the city and made it a standing joke throughout the state, elected a remarkably capable and serious set of officials to run the city  (covered in La Politica New Mexico here on February 6, 2016):  Ken Giove, Olga Arguelles, Donald McBride, and Carolina Renteria--all elected to the city council in 2016.  Audits of the city's finances have been clean for three years, and the city is now the second safest municipality in New Mexico.

Now this remarkable turnaround appears to be in some jeopardy.  Municipal elections will close on Tuesday, and the betting is that a faction, apparently supported by Daniel Salinas, running a slate of four candidates, partly through the systematic use of absentee ballots, will win.

 Daniel Salinas pleaded guilty in 2015 to 2 counts of extortion.  Thirty one other counts, including conspiracy to commit fraud over $20,000,soliciting kickbacks, tampering with evidence, signing false public vouchers, were dropped.  Salinas, you may recall, in 2012 tried to blackmail his opponent running for mayor by video-taping a lap-dancer hired by his campaign to sit with him.  Even more audacious, his campaign tried to use city funds to pay for the video-taping!.  Mr. Salinas won the mayor's race but was not allowed by authorities to serve.  Instead, facing 30 years if convicted of all charges, he was given a three-year deferred sentence. in exchange for a plea.

What some citizens are calling the Salinas slate consists of (a) Jessica Avila, candidate for city council, who was elected with Daniel Salinas as a city councilor in 2008 and who consistently voted with him on city business; (b) Lizette Salinas, sister to Daniel Salinas, running for re-election as City Judge; (c) Berta Salmon, running for city council.  She is a waitress at Ruth Chris steakhouse in El Paso; and (d) Daisy Lira, sister to former city council member Christian Lira, who owns day care centers in Sunland Park, and was at one time on the payroll of the city's sports complex.

Daniel Salinas has been visible at meetings of the so-called Salinas slate, but its candidates have not come to public forums designed to acquaint voters with the candidates.  The slate appears to be well financed, including scores of locations with separate yard signs of each candidate clumped together.  Pickups with large signs on behalf of these candidates are also visible.  Two hundred seventeen absentee ballots had been cast by Thursday afternoon, apparently the result of a well organized campaign on behalf of the slate.  The use of absentee ballots in Sunland Park elections is often associated with accusations of voter fraud.  In 2012 (click here) city councilor Angelica Marquez, city employee Priscilla Morales, were arrested on voter fraud.charges.  El Paso Inc. (click here) lists 22 persons indicted on charges stemming from the mischief of the elections that year.  A series of articles on financial mismanagement and voter fraud, leading to the state taking over the functions of the city can be found here on

On the other hand, the candidates running against the slate--Ken Giove (incumbent) for District 1; Francisco J. Jayme (incumbent) and Norexy Diaz Frankel in District 2; Jesus Soto for District 3; and Maria Irene Chacon, for District 4, is largely invisible.  During a quick tour of the city I saw only one sign, for Jesus Soto in contrast to well over a dozen locations containing the signs of the co-called Salinas slate.  When asked about his campaign for re-election, Ken Giove stated many of his signs have disappeared and he and the others had agreed not to accept campaign contributions so as to avoid conflicts of interest.

Given the high-profile notoriety of Sunland Park elections, going back for decades, Giove said, in spite of warnings he has issued to state, local, and federal officials, no agency has responded to his pleas to monitor the elections for signs of the kinds of abuse that led to so many indictments in 2012.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Anthony Municipal Elections Forum Last Night

Candidates Acevedo, Flores, Portillo, Silva, and Montoya at last night's forum

Five candidates are running for two at-large seats in Anthony's Board of Trustee elections.  One of them, Elva Flores, was appointed to the position a few months ago when a vacancy arose, and now is running herself for the position.  Another, Juan Acevedo, a Protestant minister,  ran unsuccessfully for Mayor a few years ago.  Victor Montoya, a local activist, Javier Silva, a worker for the local telephone company, and Sarah Portillo, round out the field of candidates.

About 60 persons attended the forum, sponsored by the Southwest Organizing Project, was held at the Women's Intercultural Center.  Mayor Diana Murillo-Trujillo and trustees Barrera and Gonzales were in attendance.

The political elite of Anthony has matured enormously since they struggled almost a decade ago to create a municipality.  Most of the candidates were well prepared, and had reasonably clear ideas about what needs fixing.  All expressed a strong need for improved policies and procedures, and for stronger accountability.  Flores, an incumbent via appointment, defended efforts of the city to fulfill the vision of the Master Plan, and disputed some of the statements made by other candidates as being provably non-factual.  The audience, composed largely of members of the Anthony political class, was also well informed and listened carefully.

There is a proposal for Anthony to purchase the Dos Lagos Golf course for the city.  This is one of the best ideas in all of municipal government in New Mexico, and such an acquisition, if implemented, would serve as a powerful point of attraction for potential residents, businesses, and tourists into the indefinite future.  The cost, from the discussion last night, would be only about $4 million, well within the financial capability of the support systems currently in place in New Mexico for municipalities.  It will simply require some extensive legwork on the part of trustees, staff, and citizens to lay a solid proposal on the table.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Sinaloa Cartel Empire:  DEA 2015

This map from the DEA shows the influence of various Mexican cartels as they supply US populations with drugs, as of mid-2015.  It would be nice to see an updated map as of 2018, reflecting increased competition within Mexico for access to drugs, trade routes, protection, etc.  The Sinaloa cartel influence is probably smaller now that Chapo Guzman is in the U.S.  Notice how relatively small the Juárez cartel, shown as covering only West Texas and New Mexico, is in contrast to the extensive Sinaloa (brown) influence.  The Gulf cartel (in red) covers about the same amount of territory as the Juárez cartel, most of Texas.  Some of the increased violence in Mexico may be related to intensifying competition for access to drugs to supply the light blue, purple, green, and possibly newer still networks of distribution.

Chapo was captured, but the May 2017 version of the DEA drug assessment (click here) indicates that Caro Quintero, now in his late 60's, after serving 28 years in jail, is listed as joining forces with Ismael (El Mayo) Zambada to run the Sinaloa cartel.