Friday, April 21, 2017

La Frontera

“If we ever hurt the economy of Juarez, it will hurt El Paso, and the rest of the U.S.," Oscar Leeser, Mayor of El Paso, to Jeff Sessions, yesterday.

"El Paso welcomes refugees not racists," sign visible at Sessions' press conference

"I would suggest that if Mr. Sessions is interested in keeping America's streets safe that he would start in his own backyard,"  Former NM Secretary of Economic Development Jon Barela, (Birmingham, Alabama, ranked No. 3 in the nation in violent crimes in 2016, El Paso for years has been the safest city in the US for its size.)

"this sliver of land (is) where we establish a beachhead against the cartels, the transnational street gangs like Mara Salvatrucha 13, and the human traffickers. This is ground zero – this is the front lines, and this is where we take our stand"  Jeff Sessions, yesterday in El Paso

Once again, the US-Mexico border is rediscovered by Washington as the place to reassure the US public, this time nervous about a lot of things and wondering what might be next in the raising of security alarms by this flying-by the-seat-of-the-pants new presidential administration.  For more than two decades U.S. security officials, attorneys general, Homeland Security chiefs, etc., in remarkably bipartisan fashion, have been traipsing to El Paso or San Diego for photo ops, surrounded by the symbols of law enforcement--uniformed officers, plastic security badges, US flags, etc.  All of this took place again in El Paso yesterday as John Kelly and Jeff Sessions came to town for a photo op.  

Those of us who actually live on the border simply glance at these spectacles and yawn, knowing this will probably mean more money for the Border Patrol, maybe a few more buildings at Ft. Bliss nobody can enter without top security clearance, and probably more inconvenience crossing the border.  Nobody who lives here believes anything will happen to the flow of drugs across the border.  No one who lives here is worried about crime in El Paso.  In spite of the twitter wars, the grandstanding, the heightened rhetoric, little is likely to change.  This has become an empty ritual, a collaboration between our national news media, thirsting for 24/7 breathless news, the PR folk in the White House, and the desire of federal officials, somehow, to make themselves look good.  Something like a politician earnestly leading the pledge of allegiance at a baseball game.  It tells you nothing about the game to come itself.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


  •  An Ossoff Victory Would Not Have Saved the Democratic Party:  NY Magazine:    'The most hopeful signs for the Democrats are at its grass roots — as first exemplified by the Women’s March and most recently by the weekend’s tax protests...How this energy can be maintained and organized to powerful effect in the 2018 midterms is a question that cannot be answered by special elections in quirky congressional districts"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Violence in Mexico and Juarez; Part II:  The National Perspective

A major change in drug trafficking patterns in Mexico is the partial fragmentation of five or six major enterprises a decade ago—Juarez, Gulf, Sinaloa, Tijuana, Oaxaca, Colima—down to dozens of gangs (some say as many as 200) participating in the marketplace after the decapitation of some of the leadership in strong cartels during the latter part of the Calderon and early Pena Nieto administrations.  This is what happened in Colombia after the collapse of the Pablo Escobar empire in the late 1980s.  Cocaine production and marketing continued there, with some of the functions of the industry taken over by willing FARC or ELN Marxist guerrillas or local and regional gangs, some of them paramilitary gangs formed initially to fight the guerrilla groups.  The result was the dispersion of violence especially along the major trade routes over which rival gangs competed.

In Mexico the relative ease of production of crystal methamphetamine, combined with its increased global demand, also contributed to the rise of small operators, and also to the spread of violence, as larger operators, with greater resources, have reacted by trying to place small-scale entrepreneurs under their control or eliminate this competition altogether.  The states most affected by this violence have been Mexico, Jalisco, Colima, Chihuahua, Michoacan, Sinaloa, and Veracruz.

Large scale cartels are still around.  Today the most powerful cartel in Mexico is the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), controlling trafficking in much of the Bajio (parts of Jalisco, Queretaro, Guanajuato, and Aguascalientes),  Colima, both Bajas, Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo, Veracruz, Nuevo Leon, and Nayarit.  It also has a strong presence in Puebla, Mexico, and San Luis Potosi.  In late March of this year Edgar Veytia, attorney general of Nayarit, was arrested as he attempted to enter the US in San Diego, where he grew up and owned a home he bought for over half a million dollars in 2013.  He is now in jail in Brooklyn, having pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking charges.  He has long been suspected of using his position to facilitate the activities of the CJNG as it reached northward, displacing many elements of the Sinaloa cartel as it was battered down by law enforcement agencies in the past few years.

Javier Duarte, ex-governor of Veracruz, is currently a fugitive, wanted for corruption.  Tomas Yarrington, ex-governor of Tamaulipas, was arrested in Italy a few week ago, five years after fleeing the country.  Elections are scheduled in the states of Mexico, Nayarit, and Coahuila on June 4 of this year, all states that have come under the control of the CJNG.

The Sinaloa cartel is also still around, but it has been severely weakened by internal division and by competition from the Beltran Leyva organization and their gunmen, the Mazatlecos.  The Caballeros Templarios, composed of the remnants of the La Familia organization, still operates in parts of Michoacan.  And in Tamaulipas the Velazquez network still operates along the Eastern Coast of Mexico, but is weakened by internal strife.  The fragmentation of drug trafficking in Mexico is likely to continue into the for-seeable future.  It remains to be seen whether official corruption will become a major priority in the 2018 election season.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chimayó, Domingo de Pascua 2017

Ayer tarde después de misa, la muchedumbre de fieles que congregaron en el santuario de Chimayó gozaron de un calor agradable, algunos alimentándose estilo picnic, otros caminando sobre el riachuelo, otros profesando su fe en la iglesia o espolvoreándose con la tierra bendita del recinto.  La gran mayoría de los que acudieron fueron hispanos, algunos de ellos hablando con los razgos regionales de la provincia mas norteña del viejo imperio español, otros con el acento característico de lo que ahora es el gran estado de Chihuahua, México.  Durante la época colonial, en lo que ahora son los estados de Chihuahua y Nuevo México, los fieles de ambos lugares pertenecían al arzobispado de Durango.  En la foto aparece un grupo de bailadores, vestidos de verde, adherentes de una cofradía denominado San Judas Tadeo, de Albuquerque.
Vista Clásica de la Iglesia de Chimayó, Ayer Tarde

Violence in Mexico and Juarez; Part I, Background

Drug-related violence in Mexico has been both rising and spreading during the final years of the Pena Nieto administration (2012-2018).  The twelve-year presidential run (2000-2012) of PAN presidents Fox and Calderon saw an enormous spike in narco-violence as the old rules of the game under PRI management were abandoned, only to be replaced by highly ineffective policies that neither curbed drug trafficking nor managed it well enough to prevent what amounted to a free-for-all competition among rival gangs for lucrative trade routes throughout the country.  The competition generated violence, especially in the form of homicide.  Ground zero for this free-for-all was the prized city of Juarez, where the Sinaloa cartel was able to compete with the decades-old but battered Juarez cartel for supremacy.  

President Calderon naively believed institutional improvements in law enforcement capabilities (urged on by the US government) such as better training, more reliance on intelligence, and judicial reform, would manage official corruption enough to make a difference.  But he only worsened matters in Juarez when, in early 2009 as violence was rising he sent in 10,000 military troops, but with little notion of what to do or how to do it.  Within weeks, after an initial drop in violence, it was clear drug trafficking violence would continue unabated.  Meanwhile, the ordinary criminal class discovered the presence of armed troops roaming through town had simply disrupted local management of crime, and there was a huge spike in kidnappings and an agonizing period in which practically every business establishment in Juarez, large or small, was being extorted by protection racketeers.  By the end of 2010 Juarez had become the most dangerous city with populations over 300,000 in the world.

Gradually the homicide rate declined in Juarez.  By 2012, when Pena Nieto was elected President, Juarez ranked 19th in the world, and then 37th in 2013.  After falling off the list of the most violent 50 in 2015, it returned in 2016, ranked 37th once again.

Let us put that in some perspective.  St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit in 2016 ranked higher in homicides than Juarez.  If drug-related violence is driving the world-class ranking in Juarez, what do you suppose is driving the violence in these US cities?  And remember:  El Paso is one of the very least violent cities in the U.S.

Tomorrow:  What is happening with Drug Trafficking in Mexico and Juarez today?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Week:  Bodies thrown out, apparently live, from Small Aircraft

Sinaloa:  A small aircraft hovering on April 11 over a small town near the capital city of Culiacan, Sinaloa, lost at least two passengers who apparently were thrown out, alive.  One landed on the roof of the local social security office and the impact rendered the head of the victim unrecognizable.  There were conflicting reports as to whether there was one or possibly two more bodies that landed on the ground nearby.  Sinaloa is the state that headquartered Chapo Guzman, lord of the Sinaloa cartel until his capture and extradition to the United States last year.

Body of 13-year of boy executed in Chilpancingo:  La Polaka

Chilpancingo:  La Polaka reports (click here) that a thirteen-year old school boy was found in two plastic bags.  One clear plastic bag contained his head and chest; a black plastic bag contained the rest of his body from the waist down to his feet.

In Acapetlahuaya, a town of about 1500 persons in the state of Guerrero, at 3 p.m. on April 9 armed gunmen barged into the home of Roller Arellano Sotelo, a former state legislator and also former mayor of Acapetlahuaya, and executed him and a city council member, Octavio Arellano Eloísa, who happened to be there at the time.

Body of former mayor R. Arellano Sotelo, La Polaka