Monday, November 19, 2018

"Unfortunately, they Weren't Gringos" (Lo Malo de No Ser Gringos)
(Headline in La Polaka this morning about a Family Executed on Sunday in Valle de Zaragoza)

La Polaka reports a man, Luis Molina Rivas, 44, and two sons, living in Valle de Zaragoza, were executed in their home off the Parral highway on Sunday.  Witnesses say at least 20 gunmen participated in the execution.  Even so, some family members managed to escape.

In reporting this murder La Polaka comments ironically that state authorities will add this to the list of thousands of unsolved murders in the state.  "By contrast, Governor Javier Corral promised a speedy punishment for the US tourist murdered in Copper Canyon two weeks ago."
The Patrick Braxton-Andrews Story:  The Cloud of Mystery Lifts

Patrick Braxton-Andrew Overlooking Copper Canyon Three Days Before his Death Below
From Diario de Juárez.  See also report in Borderland Beat:  Townspeople in Urique, perhaps not surprisingly, are more forthcoming than state police authorities about the fate of Patrick Braxton-Andrew.  Details are still sketchy, with some contradictions, but the story appears to be coming into focus.  According to townfolk Patrick wandered into a hotel in Urique, possibly on Saturday night, October 27, where Noriel Portillo Gil and members of his organization were having a party.  He hung out with them for a while.  His Spanish was fluent, unlike most tourists, and he was taking pictures on his phone.  He was asking a lot of questions. The gang began to suspect he might be a DEA agent.  It is also possible he entered the hotel on Sunday morning, instead of Saturday night, but this doesn't seem to track with reports Portillo was having a party.  In any event he spent Saturday night at his own hotel, just a short walk away and left his hotel on Sunday morning, leaving his personal belongings behind, apparently heading to Guapalayna, about six km downriver.  He never returned.

According to state police his body was buried by his killers in a shallow grave, but given the exceptional attention authorities were giving to the search--at one point there were about 100 persons reportedly looking for any sign of him for days after his disappearance--they decided to remove the body to a more remote site.  They carried his body to the edge of a ravine next to a dirt road that connects Guapalayna with La Laja, 3 km from the highway.  They threw his body into the ravine.  Somehow police appear to have learned where they would find the body--possibly from some of the local police detained by prosecutors in Chihuahua.  The Chihuahua state prosecutor indicated last week some local police have been compromised by Chueco's gang.  It took rescuers several hours to remove the body from the bottom of the ravine.  The body was not seriously decomposed, according to reports, due to the relatively cold weather.

If the killers thought he was a DEA agent, it would have been wiser to leave him alone. The last DEA agent killed in Mexico was Kiki Camarena, in 1985, who was tortured and killed by leaders of the Guadalajara cartel.  After a massive manhunt one of them, Rafael Caro Quintero was caught in hiding in Costa Rica, and served 28 years in prison for his role in Camarena's murder.  He was released from jail in 2013, after claiming a technical flaw in the original trial, but after pressure from the US government an arrest warrant was issued that same year.  The US has a $20 million bounty on his head and he is still in hiding.  Already Mr. Noriel Portillo is learning what it is like to live in constant fear of apprehension, not for killing a DEA agent, but for killing an innocent tourist who should have been left alone.  He will be found, and if he is captured alive, he will see a lot of jail time.

Noriel is said to be assigned to operate with his accomplices in the Urique area for the Los Salazares gang.  The Salazares in turn, oversee cartel operations in Urique, Uruachi, Bocoyna, and Chinipas.  The control of these and other areas is logistically important for the Sinaloa cartel.

Noriel, aka El Chueco, first arrived in the vicinity of Urique in 2015, where he forcibly recruited young men from the Raramuri tribe in El Manzano, near Uruachi. In 2016 Noriel's gang began breaking into houses and stealing money, automobiles, cattle, tools, and clothing.  At one point townspeople fled from their homes for two days in fear of their lives.  When he is caught villagers will not feel sorry for him.  Cartel leaders in Sinaloa cannot be happy either  about the trouble he has stirred up in Copper Canyon.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Body of US Tourist Found Near Urique
State Prosecutor's Office Has Detained Local Police and Provided More Details
Search for El Chueco Continues

From Diario (click here for various reports on this story):  The decomposing body of Patrick Braxton-Andrews was found buried about 6 km from Urique at a place called Guapalayna.  The information about the whereabouts of the body apparently came from local police officers who disclosed the location.  A search was initiated in the area, using K-9 dogs, and the body was found in a shallow grave.  At least six local police officers were taken to Chihuahua for questioning, and at least some of them appear to be under arrest.

What Happened?  On Sunday morning, October 28, Patrick left his hotel in Urique to explore the surrounding area.  It is believed that he entered a hotel, Barranca de Urique, near a sand bar on the river known as La Playita.  Noriel Portillo Gil, aka El Chueco, known as a local agent of the Sinaloa cartel, and other members of his organization, were apparently in the hotel in the midst of a party when he arrived.  Thus far little else is known except that there is evidence he was killed there.  His body was taken to Guapalayna and buried there.  No motive for his murder has been established.

On November 8 state police confiscated the weapons of all 13 local police officers, along with 13 cell phones and five walkie talkies, and six were taken to the state capital in Chihuahua for questioning.  Blood samples were taken from a cabin near Mesa de Arturo, a small hamlet near Urique, to be compared with samples of DNA from Patrick Braxton-Andrews.  The results are expected this week.

Interviews with citizens of Urique reveal that El Chueco was known to walk around town carrying an AK-47 and a holstered pistol, with perhaps a dozen armed men, most of them in their early 20's.  Some witnesses indicate they frequently spoke to local police officers

Noriel Portill, aka El Chueco was reported to have been killed in a gunfight in April of 2017, but he was seen later at a party in Urique and witnesses there indicate they saw him frequently in Urique, including on October 28, the day Patrick was murdered.  He was said to have stayed in local hotels without paying his bills.

Terrain Near Urique:  Photo Diario de Juárez

Friday, November 16, 2018

DEATH OF A US TOURIST:  According to the Chihuahua State Prosecutor

Compiled from articles appearing in Diario de Juárez (click here and here) today.

After his family was informed by the Chihuahua State Prosecutor that Patrick Braxton-Andrews had been killed the day he left to go hiking from his hotel in Urique, at the bottom of Copper Canyon, State prosecutor Cesar Augusto Peniche Espejel pointed the finger of responsibility at a man around 30 years of age known as "el Chueco" (crooked, or bow-legged), whose name is Jose Noriel Portillo Gil.

The story that emerges from the state prosecutor's office suggests that the region surrounding Copper Canyon is divided by the Sinaloa cartel (Sinaloa state is South of Chihuahua) into distinct territories, each controlled by an armed operative of the cartel.  Each operative maintains an extensive network of informants and associates.  In some cases, Peniche's office stated, local police have been compromised by the cartel's agents.  The region has been used for many decades as a strategic transit zone for drug shipments on route to various border crossings into the US.  Competition between rival drug cartels over control of the area has sometimes led to periods of violence.

El Chueco is said to have dozens of persons under his control who watch over the region around Urique, including small communities such as Bahuichivo, San Rafeal, Cerocahui, (these can be found on Google Earth), Ciénega de Trejo, and Mesa de Arturo (these cannot).  Blood samples were found in a cabin in Mesa de Arturo which match DNA from Patrick Braxton-Andrews.  El Chueco is said to maintain contact with other cartel operatives in nearby municipalities such as Guazapares and Chinipas.  This entire region is among the most remote regions in Mexico, very rugged terrain, difficult to access, without a lot of roads.

According to authorities El Chueco's organization attacked state police headquarters in Urique last year, leaving two officers wounded.    In September 2017 state police found six bodies buried in a clandestine grave in Urique.  And last year police found a stolen pickup belonging to Andrea Athié Corral, a student who was assassinated and thrown into a ravine next to the highway to Cuauhtémoc.

Whatever happened to Braxton-Andrews that Sunday his death has greatly complicated life for Noriel Portillo, aka El Chueco.  Now that he has been fingered as the man responsible for Braxton-Andrews' death, El Chueco has become a national high-profile target.  It is almost certainly just a matter time before he is apprehended by police or killed.  He will be replaced by the cartel with someone less prone, perhaps, to unnecessary violence. It's bad for tourism and puts the cartel in a bad light.  Chapo would not have approved.
US Tourist Missing in Copper Canyon Was Killed by "Criminal Organization"
Family Posts Notice on Facebook

The family of Patrick Braxton-Andrews has apparently been reliably informed that Patrick was killed on the day he left the hotel in Urique, Sunday, October 28, by a "criminal organization" in the vicinity.  He had spent the night in Urique, at the bottom of the canyon, and left his hotel for a hike and never came back.  He was due in Mexico City on Tuesday, October 30, to meet up with his brother before flying home to North Carolina.  More than 100 persons participated in a massive search for him.  The family is still hoping to locate his body to send it home.

The region around Copper Canyon is an important shipping route for drug traffickers headed to various crossing zones on the US-Mexico border, and there have been many clashes between drug organizations and authorities in that region in recent years.  It is, however, extremely unusual for tourists to be bothered.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Hear Sheriff-elect Kim Stewart Interviewed on KTAL LP
Monday Morning 8 AM on La Politica New Mexico 101.5 FM
Also:  Frances Williams on the Sun Zia Scandal

Will she wear the traditional cowboy hat?  Is it now the cowgirl hat?  What can we expect from the new Sheriff?  Kim Stewart, interviewed by yours truly on Monday Morning at 8 AM on KTAL LP, 101.5.

Also:  What is the latest on the Sun Zia scam?  Frances Williams, who uncovered the massive fraud in the Housing Authority run by Smiley Gallegos a few years ago, will explain where we are at in this effort by some dubious operators to get the state to authorize the use of public lands on behalf of dubious private interests.

Escúchenos en Ciento Uno Punto Cinco el dia Lunes, 12 de noviembre:  una entrevista con la nueva sheriff del condado, Kim Stewart, elegida esta semana, y con Frances Williams, quien hablará sobre el escándalo de Sun Zia, el grupo sospechoso que pretende contar con el apoyo del estado para sus fines lucrativos.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mexican Legislature Begins Debate of Bill Proposing Legalization of Marijuana

President-elect Lopez Obrador's political party, Morena, presented a bill before the Mexican legislature today to legalize the sale and use of marijuana for recreational purposes.  It looks a lot like the Colorado law.

Article 37 of the proposed law states: the planting, cultivation, harvesting, preparation, production, processing, transportation, distribution, and sale of cannibis is permitted for recreational purposes, as long as a legal license is obtained, and legal requirements observed…

Consumption of marijuana is allowed "in public spaces, except those spaces in which the use of tobacco is prohibited."  The (yet-to-be-established) Mexican Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis will determine places where the sale of cannabis is authorized.  The use of cannabis for "adult use" will be limited to specific establishments, which will be allowed to offer cannabis, products made with cannabis, and accessories.

Chapter One of the proposed law permits individuals to cultivate up to 20 plants of cannabis for personal consumption on private property as long as production levels do not exceed 480 grams per year.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Portrait of a Cop-Killer and Top Narco Operative
Authorities Nab El 300, Thought to be Part of the War Against State Police

El 300 in September 2017

Various news agencies have reported the capture of Rene Gerardo Santana Garza, aka "El 300," in Aldama, Chihuahua, by federal agents.  La Polaka claims the arrest was made by the Mexican Navy, other sources vaguely refer to federal authorities as having apprehended him.  Yesterday a clarification was issued to the effect he had been captured almost by accident at the Chihuahua International Airport as a police agent spotted a car he was in that was behaving suspiciously (see story in Borderland Beat).  He is thought to have been the major player in the war against police that has left at least 70 state police dead throughout the state in the past two years.  He was captured in September of 2017 but, inexplicably, released on bond on reduced charges, for about $250 (US).

His career as an Azteca gang leader parallels the gradual decline of the Juarez Cartel after the capture of Vicente Carrillo in the fall of 2014.  (For a summary of this history, published in Diario, click here) Up to that time the Juarez cartel outsourced much of its enforcement needs to a group called La Linea, composed of former state, municipal police officers, and maintained close connections with a prison gang operating on both sides of the border known as Los Aztecas.  During the violent war against the Sinaloa Cartel in Juarez from 2007 through 2010 the Aztecas were armed by La Linea.  Among other activities they fought to maintain territorial turf in the local retail drug market.  In this turf battle their major rivals were the Artistas Asesinos, and the Mexicles, associated with the Sinaloa Cartel.

It was a hard-fought battle for Chapo Guzman, since most of Chihuahua was dominated by the Juarez cartel, but gradually the Sinaloa cartel began to displace the Juarez cartel.  As this happened rifts within these organizations grew stronger.  Santana, for example, is said to have declared war on defectors from the Azteca gang to the Sinaloa cartel--a group calling itself the "vieja guardia"-- last year, unleashing a wave of violence ever since, exploding in April and May of this year.  The massacre of 13 persons at a picadero safe house last Summer (covered here) was related to feuding between these gangs.  This fall the wave of attacks on state police is said to have been supported principally by El 300 and his followers,.  At the present time police have identified eleven major operators between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels, and El 300 was definitely one of them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Eighteen Persons Killed in Juárez Over the Weekend
State Police Headquarters Attacked by Gunfire Once Again in Juárez
State Police Officer Killed Last Night in Chihuahua City 
No Word of Tourist Missing in Urique:  the search continues
New Federal Prosecutor for Chihuahua State Sworn into Office Yesterday

From multiple news sources:  During the past few weeks there have been several incidences of attacks on state police facilities, and a few on municipal police in Juárez.  Gunmen have fired at state police installations of various occasions, wounding persons inside, or they have fired on state patrol cars.  This happened again last night in Juarez.  In Chihuahua a state police officer assigned to protective services for the banking sector was shot and killed last night as well.  

A wave of violence swept over Juárez over the weekend, leaving  a toll of 18 dead.  Police have indicated they believe these deaths can be attributed both to executions by La Linea, a major cartel in Juárez that ships illegal drugs to El Paso, and to feuds between retail traffickers of drugs for the local market in Juárez.  Three persons were arrested yesterday in Juárez in connection with this weekend's killings.

The frequency of attacks on state police throughout Chihuahua state has led to the resignation or abandonment of their jobs of many state police officers in recent weeks.

Multiple accusations that the State Security Commission has been seriously compromised by internal corruption have also put pressure on state police, have drawn widespread attention to the impunity with which drug cartels operate in Chihuahua state.

Meanwhile, a man believed to be a chief operations officer for the Sinaloa Cartel (also known as the Pacific Cartl) was arrested yesterday by federal police in Puebla.  Luis Enrique Gamboa Sosa, a.k.a "El Muletas" is believed to have been the logistical coordinator for the Nuevo Cartel del Tigre, an armed enforcer in Chihuahua for the Sinaloa Cartel. The organization is thought to have been created by disgruntled officers of La Linea, the armed enforcer for the Juárez cartel.

 Ramon Ernesto Badillo Aguilar was sworn into office in Juarez, in a very private ceremony yesterday, as the new federal delegate to Chihuahua State, headquartered in Juarez.  He is known for having handled the kidnapping case of two sons of Chapo Guzman a couple of years ago in Puerto Vallarta.  Chapo himself, from a jail cell, is reputed to have threatened to kill members of the Jalisco Cartel and his sons were released two weeks later. They now are said to be in control of Chapo's empire, the Sinaloa Cartel, and appear to be openly enjoying the fabulous wealth their father accumulated..  Chapo's trial in the US began this week.

Badillo is an experienced hand as a federal prosecutor dealing with drug cartels, having held this position in Puebla.  The PGR delegate to each state is equivalent to the position of U.S. Attorney in the United States.  New Mexico's U.S. Attorney is headquartered in Albuquerque.  Chihuahua state is ranked 28th (index score of .27 out of possible 100) in "rule of law and security" among the 33 states in Mexico by the prestigious World Justice Project.  Guerrero, the lowest ranking state in Mexico, has an index score of .19.  (click here for more information about the WJP in Mexico)

Sunday, November 4, 2018


Our own Senator Mary Kay Papen, President Pro Tem of the NM Senate will be interviewed by yours truly on Monday morning at 8 am on Radio KTAL LP, Ciento Uno Punto Cinco, 101.5
What is it About Beto?
Jose Z. Garcia

The most popular politician in Doña Ana County this year is not Xochi, or Michelle, or even Howie.  It is Beto.  Beto lives 45 miles from here, and is well known in our media market, so this is understandable.  But Beto is hot everywhere.  He is talked about as a presidential candidate.  Thousands have sent him donations, and hundreds more are making phone calls to Texas. Six months ago no one even knew his name.  What gives?

More than any politician in the United States Beto has come to embody the real US-Mexico border, tacos, sicarios, maquilas, tequilas, trade and commerce,Tigres del Norte, Border Patrol, the Wall, and All the fascinating things the real border is.  He offers a powerful contrast to the fake border of Donald Trump, a void teeming with non-white rapists, MS-13, job-stealing immigrants, a gateway from hell to the America of our fictional, all-white, "city on the hill" imagination.  Nor does Beto sound like the fake border of the Liberal imagination, where un-bordering the gates magically leads to dynamic "diversity," unleashes global prosperity for all, and leads us to a happy, prosperous world beyond the outdated nation-state.

Beto is the real border, warts and all.  He does business deals with maquila owners in Juárez; his family helped create the dynamic city that 'El Paso has become.  He knows who is laundering money for whom, which officials are corrupt on either side, and how to steer clear of the trouble you can get into if you don't know who you are dealing with.  Ok, but why is this such powerful stuff at the national level?

For three decades two visions of the border have competed in the national imagination.  One is the NAFTA border: Mexico is allowed into the hallways of American corporate power because she supplies cheap labor, we the technology.  Liberal America, uncomfortable with Republican-sounding trade deals, latched onto the cultural implications of NAFTA by celebrating the idea that borders are outdated.  Poets waxed about "hybrid" cultures forming at the US-Mexico border.  Transgenderism was seen a cool form of border crossing. Sin Fronteras became a popular slogan in fashion design, music, and academia.  Politically, this vision is associated with Bill Clinton, who sold it to Congress. All along there was a lot of pure hype in the sales pitch. Plenty of losers emerged as well as winners as corporate power tested the waters of NAFTA.  Clinton was not known as "slick Willie" for nothing. 

The second vision catered to the losers.  It's not just laptops and Corona beer crossing the border.  There is cocaine and heroin.  Trade with Mexico decimated the furniture industry and thousands of good jobs in the US South.  Mexican and Central American street gangs have taken over parts of inner cities.  While Congress and the federal government winked, illegal migration kept wages low in the hotel, restaurants, meat packing and other low-paying jobs.  And as Spanish spread throughout the country, so did resentment.  NAFTA we don't hafta.  Politically, this vision of the border found a champion in Donald Trump.  He made the 2016 race (against none other than Bill Clinton's adorable wife) largely a contest between the two visions. By hook and by crook, and a little help from Vlady, the second vision triumphed, and Trump has been shoving this version down our throats ever since.

While there is a grain of truth in each vision, both are fictional. Implementing NAFTA mindlessly was a sin; demonizing the most vulnerable of those who rode that wave is even worse.  The world is complicated.  Tilting at Imaginary windmills does not change this complexity.  Beto asks us to pop the bubble of emotionally satisfying fables, talk to ourselves honestly, and roll up our sleeves and get to work.  That millions of Americans have been moved by him is a tribute not only to his charismatic personality, but also to the deep need we feel to move beyond Lyin Ted, Slick Willie, and Liar in Chief.  Millions of Americans have begun to wonder if Beto might just be the one.

I don't know how long Beto's star will ride high, but right now, a day before elections, I cross my fingers, hoping he will win.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

On the Eve of Elections in New Mexico and Doña Ana County

New Mexico, normally a reliable Democratic State, will elect mostly Democrats again according to polling data.  This is especially welcome this year.  But the driving force behind probable victories in the governor's office, the US Senate, at least two House seats, and the state legislature, is not enthusiasm for candidates or expectations of better government.  It is fear, a rational fear of what the Republican Party has done and might yet do with the power they appropriated but did not truly earn, after the 2016 elections.  On the eve of the 2018 election it is important to remind ourselves Republicans seized the apparatus of government in the aftermath of Vladimir Putin's successful and as yet unpunished attack on the vital, fragile inner workings of American elections.  The sheer magnitude of this attack--millions of partisan messages were received by unsuspecting voters--casts serious doubt about the underlying legitimacy of the current national government, even if Democrats in Congress, who have access to national media, remain too timid to mention it.

Rather than behaving cautiously after such a desecration of civic fairness, and emboldened by the timidity of Democrats in Congress, Republicans under Trump blithely disregarded the hopes and dreams of that sizeable majority of voters who voted for Hillary, or any sense of fair play.  You want health care?  Let us reduce the coverage for a few million people and cut taxes so much for the rich we won't have revenues to improve health care.  You want to keep guns out of the hands of wackos?  Don't make me laugh.  Wackos, if they don't necessarily vote Republican provide the kinds of extra profit margins hedge fund managers want to see in gun manufacturers.  You want even-handed, balanced justice and proven wisdom on the Supreme Court?  How about swallowing instead our partisan operative, Kavanagh, who may, incidentally, have nasty sexual hangups?  You want immigration reform?  Let's start by separating innocent children from their parents and sending the Army to the border to stop (shoot at?) several hundred refugees who still believe in the American dream.  These are the memories, and fears of what is to come, that are driving this election in spite of serious efforts at the national level to divert your attention away from them.  It is also important to remember that the other side is also motivated by fear, a fear fueled by powerful forces behind the scenes to attach itself to convenient scapegoats--Jews, Mexicans, Muslims, and others who aren't like the people in the Little House on the Prairie.  This election can be seen as a battle between two kinds of fear, and battles between fears are the stuff of civil wars.

But beyond all of this, does anyone have the slightest idea what Michelle, as governor, might really do to improve the performance of students in public education, which absorbs well over 50% of what taxpayers shell out to the state each year?  Does she have a time frame for when we will move up to 49th from 50th in education?  Does anyone know what Heinrich might promote in the way of sensible legislation to reduce the outrageous monopoly pricing of pharmaceuticals?  Of course not.  We are slowly becoming trained by the media not to judge candidates by the coherence of their proposals but by the likely success of their "strategy" for electoral victory, and we find ourselves mindlessly doing the same thing in our conversations with friends.  The appalling ignorance of the electorate about the basic values embedded in the Constitution is partly responsible for this state of affairs, and this in turn tells us volumes about the national failure of educational policy.  This takes us back to Michelle:  will she do more to improve education than read to third graders?  Quien sabe?  But the alternative is almost certainly worse. 

On the positive side, fear and disgust have mobilized youthful candidates.  Micaela Cadena is likely to replace Bill McCamley as state rep in the Mesilla district.  Angelica Rubio is likely to be re-elected to a second term in the City district.  And Ray Lara is running unopposed in the Southern district.  Charmingly inexperienced, we should not expect miracles from them, but we should remind them we will hold them accountable for their public actions and warn them not to succumb to the temptations of the Bullring or the Rio Chama. David Garcia and Beal Gomez are two recent reminders of what happens when elected officials get to thinking they are better than their voters.  Also on the positive side, Hatch and Anthony are two municipalities appearing to be in good hands.  If Mayor Diana Murillo Trujillo and the Trustees can negotiate the purchase of the Dos Lagos Golf Course citizens should take up a collection to commission Sonny Rivera to sculpt a statue in their honor.

There is growing evidence the corrupt faction that won city elections in Sunland Park this year are back to the old mischief that led to lap dancing blackmail and the takeover of the city by the DFA.  No one, however, seems to be covering what is happening there, in spite of its strategic location on the US-Mexico border.  This gap in fundamental information will simply make it more difficult for the governor to get her arms around the state's interests in the largest economic development project in the state.  And, incidentally, make it more likely the guv will simply yield to the few self-interested voices of those who lined her palms with silver donations, at the expense of the broader interests of the region.  Yes, this year you have to vote; we have run out of other options.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Wanna Travel to Mexico?  Check State Dept. Travel Advisories
Patrick Braxton-Andrew Still Missing, Feared Dead in Chihuahua State

Fortunately, so far, in spite of  the White House's open contempt for the State Department, and its extreme politicization at the higher ranks, and refusal to fill vital positions, the State Department has managed to function professionally at the lower levels wherever it still maintains intended capabilities.  A case in point is that of Andrew Braxton, missing for several days in Urique, at the bottom of Copper Canyon in Chihuahua State.  Long-established protocols for dealing with missing Americans require the nearest US Consular offices (scattered throughout the world) to act as an intermediary between relevant local authorities and the missing person's family.  The protocols are designed to establish an official US government concern, and presence, putting pressure on local officials who otherwise might simply do nothing.

In the case of Braxton-Andrew this means 83 Mexican government agents (click here) are searching the Urique area for signs of what may have happened, intelligence services are surely mobilized, and public attention is focused on the search.  It is working as intended, and I have no doubt that we will soon know just what happened..Had these protocols not been in place, the chances are high that Braxton-Andrew's family would be all alone, desperately seeking information from people near the hotel, with police authorities simply saying "we know nothing."  None of us would have even heard that there was an American tourist missing in Urique.

For US citizens thinking about travel, Chihuahua State is classified by the State Department as a "level 3" location.  (click here)  That means RECONSIDER YOUR TRAVEL PLANS TO THAT LOCATION.  Level 4 means:  Do Not Travel There.  In this case of Chihuahua the exact language is:  "Reconsider travel due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity are widespread."  I've covered violence in Chihuahua enough during the past few years that readers here will know there are frequent gun battles between police and criminal gangs throughout the state; certain areas get very violent for brief periods of time, and very bad things can happen to innocent bystanders.  Southern Chihuahua in particular is one of the most conflictive zones in the country.

Does this mean you should stay away from Copper Canyon altogether?  Not necessarily.  If you stay on the train, stick with the tour, don't wander off by yourself, and be alert to your surroundings, the chances are extremely high nothing bad will happen.  Braxton-Andrews was wandering off by himself in Urique, alone.  There is clearly a tacit agreement by criminal gangs, police agencies, the tourist industry, and most Mexican citizens, that tourists are off limits:  tourism is a major source of revenue in Mexico and incidents like that of Braxton-Andrews are not good for business.  And even the nastiest sicarios, or their bosses, understand this.  Having said this, there is always a risk involved, even in crossing the street on University Avenue in Las Cruces.  And the risk of traveling through Copper Canyon by train is higher by a very uncertain factor, than crossing the street.  Lightning doesn't strike often, but it strikes more often near Socorro, NM, than just about anywhere else in the world.  So don't be out in an open space there as a storm approaches.

What about travel to a place where the State Department says:  Do Not Travel?  This applies to Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, and Tamulipas.  Now you are pushing your luck.  You are probably safe at a beach hotel in Mazatlan, but don't go downtown to the market.  Law and order, for many possible reasons, has broken down systemically, raising the risk for outsiders.  If you go to one of these spots, be as inconspicuous as possible, and let the US Embassy know your itinerary.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

American Tourist Disappears in Southern Chihuahua
Fear He Was Killed by Cartels

La Polaka:  An American tourist, Parrick Braxton-Andrew, disappeared while on a trip to Copper Canyon.  His parents fear he was killed by persons affiliated with the Narco world in that part of Chihuahua.  He was seen last on Sunday afternoon in Urique, a small village in Southern Chihuahua.  He left South Carolina on October 24, flying to Mexico to take the Copper Canyon train, which he boarded on October 25.  He spent the night on the rim of the Canyon, in Posada Barrancas, a hotel on Km 622 ot the "Chepe" (nickname for the train) route, and arrived in Urique on the 27th on public transportation.  He left his hotel there on foot to visit the surrounding area and never returned.  Urique is at the bottom of the Canyon has a lively tourist trade in the Fall and Winter, because of the spectacular scenery and birdwatching. Poppies and marijuana plants are said to be grown near Urique.

While there is a lot of movement of illicit drugs in Southern Chihuahua (as there is virtually everywhere in Chihuahua), and violence sometimes erupts between organizations associated with drug trafficking, or with police, tourists have not normally been the target of attack. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Another Attack on State Police Headquarters in Juárez

La Polaka:  For the third time this month gunmen sprayed bullets into state police headquarters on Juan Gabriel and Sanders.  This time no one was injured.  State police have retreated from their command of the State Security Commission, leaving it in the hands of Municipal police.  At least 25 state police officers have handed in their badges rather than risk sicarioville.  Others throughout the state have simply abandoned their jobs. At last count 10 state police officers have been killed in recent weeks, and another dozen have been wounded.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Two Simultaneous Attacks on Police in Southeast Juárez
Bottom Line:  One Sicario Dead
Some State Police Go on Strike Asking for Resignations

From reports in today's Diario de Juárez (click here):  For the eighth time in less than a week police in Juárez have been under gunfire aimed directly at them.  At about 8:30 last night armed men began shooting at the municipal patrol car parked in front of the home of Daniel Paulin Barraza, a municipal police commander, and into his home.  The driver of the patrol car was wounded in the leg, but managed to kill one of the assailants

At the same time another attack began at the home of an official of the State Security Commission (CES).  No one was injured except for a child hit by a ricochet bullet.

A group of state police officers in Cd. Juárez have called for a work stoppage of state police today beginning at 8:30 am, to protest the lack of protection afforded to them, and asking for the resignation of state police commander Gines  Martinez Garcia and State Security Commissioner Oscar Aparicio Avendaño. To guard against further attacks one unit stationeid an armored vehicle nicknamed El Rino in front of a local state police facility.  Reports have indicated that, fearing for their lives, state police officers throughout the state have failed to report to work.

Diario Foto:  The "Rino" Parked in Front of State Police Facilities

Monday, October 22, 2018

City Council Woman Bemoans Sunland Park City Government
Carolina Renteria Speaks Out on Radio KTAL

City Council member Carolina Renteria unloaded on how things are running in the City of Sunland Park, while on a radio talk show, La Politica New Mexico, KTAL LP, 101.5 FM, on this morning's program.

Among the comments she made:

1.  Ever since municipal elections were held last March in Sunland Park, bringing three new members to the council, she (Renteria) and Olga Arguelles, have been ignored and outvoted in City Council business.  Meetings, she asserted, are held by councilors to which she is not invited.  She does not receive regular communication about what is happening from the City Manager, Julia Brown, nor from Mayor Javier Perea, so she and Olga Arguelles are effectively isolated from city business.

Mayor Andy Nuñez, who was also on the KTAL program, told her on the air that Mayor Perea, not other members of the council, has the responsibility of keeping her informed about city business.  She should, he stated, take this matter up with him.

2.  Things are so bad at the senior citizens center that only 6 or 7 persons regularly go there for meals.  The food, she said, was bad, in spite of heavy expenditures for the center.  Most senior citizens are now going to a facility in El Paso for their meals.

3.  She is concerned about the quality of the water in Anapra (a part of Sunland Park municipality) and does not trust what she is told by authorities about the water quality there.  She gave no specific reasons for her mistrust.  She also complained that the city is dirty, with little or no cleanup effort.  Arsenic levels were found to be unacceptably high three years ago, and only the intervention of Sen. Mary Kay Papen led to a transparent process to correct the situation.  At the time County Commissioner David Garcia, at a forum in Sunland Park, blamed the apathy of the people of Sunland Park for the arsenic in the warer--even though no public entity ever informed residents of the poison levels in the water.  He was defeated in his re-election bid.

4.  Things within municipal government are so bad, she said, people are disgusted, and this is likely to lower the turnout rate in the current election cycle.

5.  She also expressed serious concern that the winning faction on the council--known as the Salinas faction--is "receiving money under the table," (recibiendo dinero por debajo de la mesa).

The Salinas faction is named after Daniel Salinas, a former Sunland Park City Council member who pleaded guilty to 2 felony charges of  extortion after he paid money for a lap-dancer to sit on his opponent (running for mayor) while he was video taped.  He then tried to blackmail his opponent with the tape.  Salinas was elected mayor but was not allowed to serve.

Last March Jessica Avila was elected to the city council.  She was elected to the council first in 2008, and usually voted with Daniel Salinas on city business then.  She votes with the Salinas faction now.  Berta Salmon, elected last March, is also said to be part of the current Salinas faction.  When elected she was a waitress at Ruth Chris Steakhouse in El Paso,  Daisy Lira was also elected to the Council last March.  She is sister to Christian Lira, a former city council member who played an active role in spearheading the "Salinas faction" slate of candidates last March.

Also elected last March was Lizette Salinas, sister to Daniel Salinas, to the position of City Judge.

Sounds to me like someone should check out some of these accusations and let the public know what is happening in Sunland Park.  Things were so bad a few years ago when what might roughly be called the Salinas faction was in control of Sunland Park, that the state government took over the management of the city.  There are a lot of private interests intersecting future policy directions of Sunland Park, and it is high time these became known to the voters in the county.  Sunland Park lies in the path of development of the largest economic project currently in New Mexico--the Santa Teresa project--and the issue of a border crossing at Sunland Park is front and center for the state.  Does no one care anymore?
This Morning on KTAL LP:  Mayor Murillo, Mayor Nuñez, Councilwoman Renteria

101.5 FM this morning will feature the mayors of Anthony and Hatch, and Sunland Park Councilwomen Carolina Renteria, discussing various aspects of the current election scene in the outlying areas of Dona Ana County.  Yours truly will be hosting the radio version of La Politica New Mexico.
Three Men Killed, Two Women Wounded While Eating Tacos

From Diario:  At about 9:20 pm last night gunmen in a late-model Ford 150 paused at a taco stand in Riberas del Rio Bravo (East Side) and started shooting at a table with three men dining there.  The owner of the taco stand was wounded, as was another woman at the scene.

Foto La Polaka:  Tables at the Taco Stand after the Shooting

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Many Police Abandon Posts Throughout Chihuahua
Juárez:  Sixth Attack on Police in Four Days
Another Dead Body

Diario de Juarez (click here):  The sixth attack on police in four days took place Friday night when armed gunmen in a pickup fired at the headquarters of the State Commission on Security, wounding two men.  One man has been arrested.

La Polaka (click here) reports indicate that dozens of state security employees throughout the state have deserted their jobs in recent days, or called in sick, due to fear of being attacked.

Yesterday August Garcia Gonzalez, a state police agent, took his wife and children to the Cordoba bridge and asked for asylum, crossing into El Paso.  He said he had survived two recent attacks against his life, and spoke of chaos and corruption within the State Commission on Security.

The state prosecutor, Cesar Peniche, has speculated the attacks might be masterminded by Azteca gang leader Rene Gerardo Santana, alias "El 300," who was captured more than a year ago but released in December.  Others have speculated the attacks on police may be due to a bust made by police against traffickers of crystal meth.  This would not explain the desertion of dozens of security forces throughout the state.

The six attacks:  The first occurred on Tuesday afternoon when a driver tried to run over two municipal police officers.  This resulted in a chase and the capture of a suspect.  The second attack took place on Tuesday night when gunmen opened fire on a state police vehicle parked under the Sanders bridge.  The third attack was on Wednesday morning, on Ave. de las Torres, when gunmen opened fire on two state police officers wounding one.  The fourth was the killing of an intelligence officer for the municipal police, who was gunned down at his home shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.  The fifth was an attack on personnel in front of the State Commission on Security on Ave. de las Torres, near the scene of the third attack. No one was injured.  Bottom line:  Two dead officers, six wounded, and one officer fleeing to El Paso.

The body of a man through to have been tortured and strangled was found in an empty lot in Urbi Villa del Cedro
Another dead body:  Foto La Polaka