Saturday, March 31, 2012

U.S. Consulate in Matamoros, Tamaulipas issues Emergency Warning for Americans

Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens Regarding Increased Security Incidents in Ciudad Victoria (March 31, 2012)

*Warning renewed June 4, 2012*
The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, tonight issued an alert for American citizens in the area, and for those traveling through the state of Tamaulipas. Mexican authorities say the Los Zetas and Cartel Golfo are locked in a bitter struggle to control narcotics trafficking in the region. The U.S. warning is reproduced in full below.

Tamaulipas state is a deadly area of Mexico, right next door to Texas. An American citizen and her two teenage daughters who crossed the border at Brownsville were executed on a bus several days before Christmas 2011. They were in route to a family holiday gathering when gunmen stopped the vehicle and indiscriminately fired on passengers. The killings occurred inside adjacent Veracruz state, but the bus had passed through Tamaulipas on the way. A newspaper facility in Ciudad Victoria, the increasingly dangerous capital city of Tamaulipas, was the subject of a car bombing attack less than two weeks ago. Details about all of those events, as well as the general U.S. State Dept. travel warning issued for 18 of Mexico's 32 states on Feb. 8, 2012, are contained in the links below.

Peña Nieto roars on Day 1 of campaign

PAN and PRD can only go up . . . then again, maybe it will get worse

Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto flexed his political muscle on the opening day of Mexico's 2012 presidential campaign yesterday (March 30), demonstrating complete domination of the field. A GEA-ISA poll conducted by the Milenio network and published late last night showed:

Friday, March 30, 2012

Mexico's presidential campaign begins

The race to July 1 is finally underway

After months of pre-campaign tight-rope walking designed to keep candidates within the narrow confines of the country's rigid election laws, Mexico's Big Event of 2012 began in earnest at 12:01 a.m. today. The nominees fanned out across a divided nation to address cheering supporters, while party bosses and political stage managers officially sounded the clarion call to battle. The candidates face 90 days of intense trail-stumping just ahead, as they focus on delivering core messages and sound bites to the anticipated 80 million Mexicans who will go to the polls on Sunday, July 1.

In the short term the race will merely determine who occupies Los Pinos, Mexico's White House, for the next 72 months. In the long term the consequences for this nation of over 110 million may be far greater. Mexico is locked in a death struggle with international narcotics cartels, described by the country's 2010 Nobel Prize winner in Literature as "a monstrosity, powerful, enormously rich and without the slightest scruples." Few will dispute that domestic security -- the drug war -- is the overriding issue in the 2012 campaign, but the candidates disagree significantly on the best method for waging that war. Mexicans are exhausted by 64 months of vicious combat which has left over 50,000 persons dead, with no end in sight. The so-called National Security Strategy -- a plan to defeat the cartels with the armed forces -- was adopted by outgoing president Felipe Calderón in December 2006. Perhaps popular in its early years, it has become less so with the passage of time and the mounting death toll. The ultimate question is whether voters in 2012 will opt to stay the course with a candidate who is clearly identified with the Calderón approach, or switch to someone -- anyone -- who may offer a competing plan.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

U.S. drug czar tells House that Juárez is world's deadliest city, and Mexican local, state police are heavily infiltrated

Local police are "part of the problem, not part of the solution," warns State Dept. narcotics trafficking expert

*Update below*
William R. Brownfield, Ass't. U.S. Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told a House of Representatives panel this morning that Ciudad Juárez on Mexico's northern frontier is the most dangerous city in the world, and that local and state police throughout the country remain highly infiltrated by cartels and narcotics traffickers.

Juárez, just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, has been rated the world's deadliest city in recent years, exceeding even Baghdad's reputation for terror. But in January a private Mexican group reported that the sprawling metropolis had been bumped to second place by a statistically more dangerous city in Honduras. That fact, coupled with claims that night life and entertainment are beginning to return to some parts of the embattled border town, caused some to suggest that Juárez had finally turned the corner. But Brownfield strongly disagrees, he told representatives today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fidel Castro greets Pope Benedict XVI - but no jail pass for U.S. citizen Alan Gross

No freedom for Alan Gross, despite American diplomatic note to Vatican emissary

News sources say the meeting was brief and cordial. Neither the Vatican nor Cuba have issued an official statement, since the visit was regarded as personal. Fidel Castro turned over control of the nation to his brother Raúl in 200.

There is no indication that the men discussed the case of imprisoned U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15 year sentence for state security crimes. Some had hoped that Benedict might ask the Cubans to release Gross, though the possibility of such appeared remote. The Associated Press reported today that the Obama administration filed a formal diplomatic request several days ago with the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, who is the equivalent of the Vatican's ambassador to the U.S. The request solicited the assistance of Pope Benedict during his meetings with Cuban officials. But a church spokesman said that although Benedict raised general humanitarian concerns and issues, they had not talked about "individual cases."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Man arrested in Mérida homicide was sex servant for hire, police say

Mérida crime blotter - a case of "homosexual passion," local authorities allege

A 19 year old man from Kanasín was arrested by Yucatán state police last night and charged with the Mar. 19 murder of a 64 year old man who lived in colonia García Ginerés, just off avenida Colón in central Mérida. Investigators say the suspect had provided sexual services to the victim prior to the day of the offense, and was summoned to his home for the same purpose on the evening of the murder.

Execution in Cancún hotel zone

News from the "zona hotelera"

*Updates below*
News sources report that a man was executed in front of the Hotel Ibis about 11:00 a.m. this morning. The hotel is located in a high commercial traffic area at the intersection of Tulum and la Nichupté avenues. Witnesses told police that a group of armed men in a SUV opened fire on the male victim, who died at the scene. He has not yet been identified, and there are no arrests or suspects.

Benedict and Fidel, so very far apart

MGR News Analysis - Perhaps a Reconciliation in Havana

"It's obvious that Marxist ideology, as originally conceived, no longer addresses reality, and thus it's impossible to build a society upon it" -- Pope Benedict XVI, in route to Mexico and Cuba, Mar. 23, 2012

"Marxism taught me what society was. I was like a blindfolded man in a forest, who doesn't even know where north or south is. If you don't eventually come to truly understand the history of the class struggle, or at least have a clear idea that society is divided between the rich and the poor, and that some people subjugate and exploit other people, you're lost in a forest, not knowing anything." -- Fidel Castro, quoted in My Life: A Spoken Autobiography, by Ignacio Ramonet (2009)

Pope Benedict XVI has arrived in Santiago de Cuba and this afternoon he travels to the capital, where he's scheduled to meet with president Raúl Castro and government officials. But it's still uncertain whether Fidel Castro will receive Benedict before he departs the island tomorrow. The Pontiff has several times said that he hopes to speak with the most iconic revolutionary leader of the 20th century, but Havana has insisted on downplaying the possibility. Fidel is not in the best of health, and he holds no official position in the government other than that of elder statesman and brother of the current president, to whom he yielded power in 2006. Still, it's tantalizing to think about such an encounter between two men born but a year apart in the third decade of the last century. Their very different trails in life have carried them to points distant, and one wonders what they might talk about as their own mortality stares them in the face.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Malaysian court hears closing arguments in death penalty trial of three Mexicans

Verdict will be delivered May 17

Kuala Lumpur -- Three Mexican men facing the death penalty in a Malyasian criminal court will learn their fate in May. They will either be acquitted or sentenced to hang.

The accused are brothers Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, 36, Simon Gonzalez Villarreal, 33, and Luis Alfonso Gonzalez Villarreal, 47, all from the western state of Sinaloa on Mexico's Pacific coast. Together with two Malaysians, they were arrested and charged in March 2008 with manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine and precursor chemicals (used to make the meth), and with narcotics trafficking. They have been in custody for four years. The men were detained only weeks after arriving in this southeast Asian nation. They worked in a Mexican brick factory before moving to Asia.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Abortion opponents challenge PRD candidate López Obrador at papal Mass

A Who's Who of Mexican political and religious life turns out for Pope's main event

Guanajato, Mexico -
Not surprisingly, almost everybody who is somebody in Mexican politics turned out for this morning's open air Mass said by Pope Benedict XVI. Today is his last day in the country. Tomorrow he heads to Cuba.

President Felipe Calderón attended the Mass, as did several of his cabinet members. The entire Roman Catholic hierarchy of Mexico was present - including several dozen bishops, archbishops and three cardinals. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox was another prominent invitee. But undoubtedly the most watched participants were the country's three main presidential candidates: Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI), Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN) and Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD). About 650,000 persons turned out for the service.

Mexico, Vatican call for international arms sales treaty to stop flow of drug war guns

Guanajuato, Mexico -
Pope Benedict XVI, who is in the last 24 hours of a three day visit to Mexico, has principally addressed himself to the country's youth, especially those affected by the ravages of narcotics trafficking and chronic drug war violence. Last night he had a 40 minute meeting with president Felipe Calderón, at the end of which Mexico and Vatican State called for an international treaty to "regulate in a responsible way the sale of long arms and handguns, with the goal that their availability to criminals be avoided."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Canadian released in triple homicide case

Authorities say driver had traces of marijuana in his system

Mérida, Yucatán -
Jean François Beaudet, who was originally accused by state prosecutors of vehicular manslaughter in the Feb. 4 deaths of three young Yucatán men, has been released from custody, a news service reports. The criminal charges will not be pursued.

Beaudet, 25, was at the wheel of a van when he crossed the center line and collided head on with a taxi, investigators say. The cab driver, 26, and his front seat passenger, 27, were killed instantly. A third man in the rear seat died hours later at a local hospital. All the men were trapped in the crushed taxi and had to be extricated by emergency responders. The victims were Yucatán natives.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Free Press under fire in Mexico - and with government or political sponsorship?

172 attacks against Mexican journalists in 2011, reports international organization, resulting in extreme psychological stress for those who work to get the news out

Article 19 is an international press advocacy organization about which I've written before. Last October it filed a complaint against Mexico with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, alleging that the country has failed to to protect journalists from acts of violence. Mexico fails to protect journalists, says legal complaint:

Earlier this week Article 19 reported that 2011 was one of the most violent years for the media since the drug war was launched in 2006. The group says that there were 172 reported attacks against journalists or media organizations, with 29 of those in the state of Veracruz, one of the most deadly areas in all of Mexico (Veracruz reporter paid with her life:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Blind Mexican justice - but for everyone?

MGRR Opinion - Many without resources remain caught in lethargic Mexican legal system, despite constitutional reforms

*Links added below Jan. 23, 2013*
Mexico City -
The lawyers have left the courthouse and the French journalists are no doubt checking out of their hotel rooms today, headed for Benito Juárez International Airport. Florence Cassez had her breakfast this morning at the same place she did yesterday and many other days before that - in a Mexican jail cell. The justice ministers of this country's Supreme Court are watching endless video reruns of themselves, delivering their opinions during yesterday's marathon session which still hasn't resolved the fate of a convicted kidnapper sentenced to 60 years in prison. Life moves on for all of the participants.

There will be as many reactions to the Cassez case on the other side of the Atlantic as there have been here, and most of them will be equally uninformed and without basis other than emotion. The French say she is innocent and had the bad luck to fall in with an unsavory boyfriend. The Mexicans, 65% we're told, believe Cassez is guilty and got a fair trial. The case, an odyssey for the defendant and a chronic headache for the Calderón government and two sovereign states whose relationship has been bruised in the process, is not over.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mexico's Supreme Court splits on the legal issues, but upholds conviction, 60 year sentence of Florence Cassez

"La verdadera seguridad es la que se construye en la legalidad - True security is founded upon adherence to the rule of law." - Juan Silva Meza, Chief Justice of Mexico

Mexico City -
A five judge panel of Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court, the highest appellate tribunal in the nation, today rejected a bid by Florence Cassez to overturn her conviction and 60 year prison sentence. The ruling is the end of the immediate legal road for the 37 year old French national, but she still has remedies available. Attorneys for Cassez vowed they'll continue the fight, saying their client is innocent and that her substantial legal rights were violated when she was arrested over six years ago.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Peruvian Nobel Prize winner endorses Vázquez Mota: "struggle must continue"

Meanwhile, former president Vicente Fox again calls for peace talks with narcos

In the same week that former Mexican president Vicente Fox suggested his country negotiate for peace with the drug cartels, the 2010 Nobel Prize winner in literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, endorsed National Action Party (PAN) candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota for the country's highest political office, saying she's the only candidate ready to serve.

The endorsement came during an international development symposium which both today attended in Lima. Arguing that the struggle against narcotics trafficking violence "must not yield or bend," Vargas Llosa said that Vázquez "left a profound footprint" during her years of public service in Mexico, and "contributed greatly" to democratization of the nation.

Latest GEA-ISA presidential poll: Peña Nieto leads Vázquez Mota by 13%; López Obrador collapsing; undecideds soaring

Another presidential preference poll was released late Monday evening (Mar. 19). They're appearing about every 10-15 days now. The two major Mexican pollsters are Consulta Mitofsky and GEA-ISA.

A GEA-ISA poll reported Feb. 29 (see below) carried good (and perhaps surprising) news for the National Action Party (PAN). Josefina Vázquez Mota was within seven percentage points of the front runner, PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. But tonight that poll looks to have been a fluke, because the latest numbers show Peña Nieto leading Vázquez Mota by 13%. Far back in third place -- with less than half of the support enjoyed by PRI -- is PRD nominee Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with 15%. That's the worst showing he's made in any poll to date, whether Mitofsky or GEA-ISA, and suggests a campaign that's not just failing to climb, but one about to go into a serious stall as well. The latest numbers:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Enrique Peña Nieto finally gives in and agrees to take the "Josefina Challenge"

Maybe he read MGRR's editorial . . .

Three months and two days after he became the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) 2012 presidential nominee, Enrique Peña Nieto announced today that he'll submit to drug and polygraph tests. His PAN opponent, Josefina Vázquez Mota, took the tests days ago and publicly released the negative results last week, asking her two opponents to do likewise (

U.S. judge allows Miami Five member René González to visit his dying brother

And now will Cuba reciprocate with Alan Gross?

*Updated Apr. 8, 2013 -
A federal court in Florida today granted the request of a paroled Cuban-American to visit his brother, who is hospitalized and near death on the island nation 100 miles south of Miami. René González, one of the members of the Miami Five arrested in 1998 and sentenced to a long prison term for espionage, had asked a federal judge to allow him to return home to Havana to visit his brother, who is said to be in the final stages of terminal brain and lung cancer. Attorneys for González filed the request in February with the U.S. District Court for the Southern Dist. of Florida. Today's ruling was by judge Joan Lenard.

Cuba rounds up, then releases Ladies in White ("Las Damas de Blanco") before next week's visit by Pope Benedict XVI

A late conversion by Fidel?

The Ladies in White of Havana are a loose knit organization started almost a decade ago by a group of women protesting the arrest of 75 men during a wave of Cuban political repression in 2003. They have frequently clashed with state authorities over the years, and at times have been roughed up on the streets by Castro regime agents. The group was originally composed of immediate family members of those 75 detainees, but later it morphed into a much broader organization, espousing the political and civil rights of every Cuban and demanding the release of all political prisoners. Because of their nonviolent resistance, the Ladies have proven themselves a rather formidable adversary -- and a major headache -- for the Old Men of Havana.

Acapulco: 12 dead police, 10 severed heads

The daily obscenities of Mexico

*Updates below*
The Mexican state of Guerrero has been an epicenter of narco violence in recent years, seriously impacting the international tourist trade there. The area has been under a special military operation since the last quarter of 2011, and it looked like the security situation might be improving. On February 14 I posted on a state government report which claimed that narco executions had dropped sharply since federal troops assumed policing duties, but now it looks like the same old pattern is resuming.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Yucatán a haven for Mexican fugitives

"Efecto cucaracha" - the cockroach effect, says Diario de Yucatán

Mérida, Yucatán -
The state of Yucatán is statistically one of the very safest in all of Mexico, with a homicide rate of just two or three persons per 100,000, depending on whose stats you accept. But if the main newspaper in this capital city of Mérida is accurate, the Mayan peninsula is becoming the new national hideout-of-choice for criminals on the lam. The paper calls it the "cockroach effect," as Mexico's Most Wanted scurry to this dry, out of the way territory to escape federales hot on their trail. And not a few settle down right here in Mérida.

Evo Morales threatens to close U.S. embassy in Bolivia

Alleges "espionage"

Bolivian president Evo Morales, a frequent harsh critic of the Unites States, has threatened to shut down the American embassy in La Paz.

Diplomatic tensions between the two countries have been brewing since Morales took office in 2006. He has consistently accused the U.S. of conspiring with others to overthrow his leftist government. In 2008 Morales declared the then American ambassador persona non grata, and also closed a local office of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which he alleged was meddling in internal affairs. The U.S. retaliated by sending home top Bolivian officials in Washington. Since then diplomatic business has been handled by lower level functionaries in both capitals.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hugo Chávez' condition in dispute after his latest cancer treatment in Cuba

Cured, or returning home to die?

Caracas - President Hugo Chávez returned home to the Venezuelan capital last night, after yet another round of cancer surgery in Cuba. Chávez traveled to Havana the last week of February for removal of malignant tissue, the details of which he has not disclosed. Sources say it was a colon tumor. The president was diagnosed in 2011 and has undergone extensive treatment in Cuba since last June, including surgery and chemotherapy.

Memo to Enique Peña Nieto: Mexico is waiting, sir, along with some others

MGRR Opinion - "Estimado Señor Licenciado Enrique Peña Nieto"

Dear Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto:

You became an official candidate for president of Mexico on Dec. 17, 2011, when your sole primary opponent withdrew and yielded the nomination. As of today you have been the de facto PRI nominee for exactly three months. You've been running for office for years; some might say since the day you were born.

In contrast, your PAN opponent Josefina Vázquez Mota had to endure a hotly contested, three way primary. She won that primary on Feb. 5. Vázquez Mota has been an official candidate for six weeks, half as long as you. The day she won, she promised voters that she would submit to drug screening and a polygraph. Josefina did so, and today in a very public way she proved that she -- and her campaign -- are clean in every sense of the word. It's easy to do when you have nothing to hide.

Josefina Vázquez Mota registers for prez and tells Mexico, "I'm a clean candidate"

Lab tests and polygraph show PAN nominee is drug clean and narco-contact free

In early February, National Action Party (PAN) candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota said that she and all of her staff would submit to both polygraph and toxicological tests if she won her party's upcoming nomination ( Vázquez Mota handily took the PAN primary on Feb. 5, capturing about 54% of the approximately 547,000 internal party ballots cast in the three way contest (

Friday, March 16, 2012

In lush Riviera Maya, Los Zetas tell police: "Join us, or you and your families will die"

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo - Police officers along Mexico's Caribbean coast, the Riviera Maya, are routinely threatened with death if they refuse to join ranks with drug traffickers and organized crime groups, a newspaper here reports today.

In Quintana Roo state, the powerful Los Zetas drug cartel is generally regarded as the dominant player in narcotics trafficking, extortion and the kidnapping-for ransom-industry. But in Cancún, the primary international gateway to Q.R., an upstart murder-for-hire gang which expanded operations to include street drug sales is now giving the Zetas a run for their money. The group is known as Los Pelones.The Sinaloa Cartel of El Chapo Guzmán is also at work here, particularly on the island of Cozumel. And now the dreaded Los Matazetas have arrived.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sunny Mexico brings woes to amorous but misbehaving French

"Wasting Away in Margaritaville" - and where are my CLOTHES, by the way?

Pity the poor French. Trouble seems to follow them from their Gallic homeland all the way across the Atlantic to Mexico's sunny shores.

La francesa Florence Cassez, as Mexico's press calls her, traveled here several years ago to spend time with her Mexican boyfriend. She's spending time, alright. Time as in 60 years, for kidnapping and several other crimes. Her last ditch appeal goes before Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court next week. Were I her, I wouldn't book my return flight to Paris-Orly just yet. (Cassez case ignites controversy: : ).

What's going on Ivonne? Still no word on the (alleged) Paul McCartney concert

Several readers have e-mailed me inquiring about the Paul McCartney concert, which is/was supposed to occur by the end of this month, or by early April at the latest.

I first reported on this coming attraction Dec. 30, 2011, and then again on Jan. 19. On both occasions I merely wrote what the official press releases said. Yucatán Govenor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco very much represented it to be a done deal, with only the date(s) to be firmed up.

It all seems rather strange to me. Are we really to believe the McCartney organization doesn't have its calendar planned out for the next 30 days? I would presume that the former Beatle probably has most of his itinerary set for the entire year by now. Apparently Chichén Itzá is not particularly high on Sir Paul's list. I hope he gets here before December, when the world ends. Travel will be a hassle then.

"Narco Notaries" - the professionalization of drug trafficking and organized crime

Los Zetas make local lawyers offers they can't refuse

The local Riviera Maya press is still on the topic of this week's organized crime execution of an attorney in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo. They refer to such shady professionals as "narco notaries." They point out, and quite correctly in my estimation, that the drug cartels are not only getting bigger and richer, but smarter too, as they diversify into all sorts of collateral industries, such as extortion and kidnapping of prosperous businessmen. Such crimes are every bit as serious as narcotics trafficking, and the victims are just ordinary Mexicans trying to survive in a country where the cartels were ignored for decades by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which allowed them to attain monolithic power.

More Rick Santorum right wing lunacy

Father Santorum delivers up his latest Sermon on the Mount to P.R. residents

Republican candidate Rick Santorum, fresh on the heels of Tuesday's primary victories and campaigning in Puerto Rico this week, told the territory's residents that they will have to adopt English as their fist language if they hope to be admitted into the Union as the 51st state.

This theme goes along nicely with Santorum's belief that access to birth control by American women should be made more difficult, that there should be no meaningful separation between church and state and that Roman Catholic beliefs and teachings should fundamentally govern U.S. political thought and governmental policy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

U.S. general delivers qualified drug war report to Senate Armed Services members

Mexican narcos hard at work in 1,000 U.S. cities; identities known "to some extent"

Yesterday (Mar. 13) a U.S. Army general testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, of which Sen. John McCain (R. Az.) is the Ranking Member. Since the topics of interest included Mexico's drug war and the deteriorating situation in Latin America (see posts below), the hearing was widely reported in Mexico. It probably passed by much of the U.S. media, which was busy covering the Republican primary contests on Tuesday.

General Charles H. Jacoby told committee members that despite the fact that the Calderón government has captured or killed 22 of the top 37 cartel operatives targeted by his administration in December 2006, drug traffickers and organized crime groups remain extremely powerful, especially in northeastern Mexico. He characterized the continuing violence and mounting death toll as "unacceptable," but said he believes the government here is pursuing the correct strategy, even if the results might suggest otherwise.

Five juveniles executed in Monterrey

Monterrey, N.L. --
Five young people were shot and killed while talking on a street in a Monterrey neighborhood this afternoon, news sources report.

The attack occurred about 3:00 p.m. when a group of heavily armed men got out of a vehicle, rapidly approached the group and opened fire without a word. Reports indicate that automatic weapons shell casings were found at the bloody scene.

Latest poll results could be but a blip on the Mexican radar screen – or more

Opinion - March 13 Mitofsky poll may be a glimmer of hope for flailing López Obrador

Yesterday’s Consulta Mitofsky presidential preference poll probably will be viewed by most political observers as of little significance. Mitofsky conducted two polls in February, and both showed PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto with a 16% lead over PAN rival Josefina Vázquez Mota. Yesterday that lead had dropped by two points, to a 14% advantage. In all three polls PRD nominee Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been firmly stuck in the third place quicksand of 17-18%, apparently going nowhere fast.

Lawyer allegedly linked to Los Zetas land transfers executed in Quintana Roo

Law firm prepared real estate documents for powerful crime organization

Puerto Morelos, Q.R. - A Quintana Roo attorney who had worked on legal matters involving the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas was shot to death outside of his home in Puerto Morelos last night, local press sources report. Morelos is a Caribbean seaport about 20 miles south of Cancún, on Mexico's famed Riviera Maya coast.

Leonardo Agustín del Bosque López, 37, was shot four times by gunmen who were waiting for him in a luxury vehicle about 10:30 p.m., witnesses told police. His wife rushed him to a local hospital where he died a short time later. Prosecutors have opened a formal investigation.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mitofsky poll: Peña Nieto 14 points up on Vázquez Mota; López Obrador steady

But number of undecided voters continues to rise - almost 1 out of 5

A Consulta Mitofsky presidential preference poll published today reported a 14 percentage point difference between the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and National Action Party (PAN) nominees. Mitofsky says voters currently feel this way about their options:

Raging Cassez debate spotlights Mexico's unique emphasis on crime victims' rights

MGRR News Analysis -
Kidnap victims take their case directly to highest judges in the country

In an American, British or Canadian courtroom a crime victim is questioned at a public trial by prosecutors and defense attorneys, in accord with strict rules of direct and cross examination which were developed and have been exhaustively refined over centuries. In theory, at least, the purpose of the rules is to get to the truth of the matter - at least to the best of a human being's ability to ascertain the truth about anything. At times the system works quite well, and other times it backfires miserably. Courts are generally no better than the judges and attorneys who comprise them, and lack of skill, preparation and/or general incompetency can and does affect the ultimate outcome . . . much in the same way that a harried surgeon occasionally saws off the left leg, when the medical chart so plainly directed him to amputate the right one. That's why professionals like to remind their clients and patients, "it's an art, not a science."

Mexico poised to increase protection for journalists, federalizing anti-press crimes

New law passes handily in Mexican Senate, now moves to 32 state legislatures

Mexico's Senate today will take up a proposed constitutional amendment designed to greatly enhance legal protection for journalists. The proposal enjoys wide support across party lines and is expected to pass.

The measure would federalize most crimes against working journalists, including murder, and authorize federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute such offenses . Under current law journalist-focused crimes are for the most part state level offenses. By proposing to place the new law in the constitution itself, rather than enact it as an ordinary criminal statute, Mexican legislators are signalling their determination to get tough on crimes directed at the press.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gay activists protest outside PAN headquarters in D.F.

Last week a young PAN (National Action Party) member of Mexico's lower legislative body, the House of Deputies, took to the podium and made some derogatory comments about gay marriage, which is lawful in the capital city and the Federal District. The deputy got rather wound up in his remarks, railing against matrimonio de jotos (the "marriage of queers"), and conspicuously referring to some gay deputies who were present in the chamber as la señorita or la diputada - even though they're men. He was shouted down and eventually brought to order by House floor managers, but not before the deputy had managed to stir up a bit of legislative rage and perform for the cameras.

More of the same from Enrique Peña Nieto - and this time, "family values"

Long on rhetoric, short on details, the PRI candidate says Mexico will return to its "grandeur" under his leadership - and now he's Family Guy, too

At his political oath-taking ceremony in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato today, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) nominee Enrique Peña Nieto delivered up all of his standard campaign fare to the adoring crowd. The PRD and PAN candidates took their party oaths yesterday. Actually, all of the candidates repeat their formal oaths time and again as they pass from town to town, so the media events become rather mind-dulling after awhile. But Peña Nieto has been doing it a lot longer than his two opponents.

EL Chapo Guzmán, just missed in Los Cabos - or not?

"We know he was there"

*Updated Feb. 13, 2013*
Mexico reports that security forces almost nabbed elusive Sinaloa Cartel drug boss Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán three weeks ago, at the Pacific coast resort of Los Cabos. The government reports that one of the world's most wanted men was holed up with associates in a seaside mansion.

"We know he was there," the head of federal organized crime investigations in this country told the Associated Press. Two men and two women were arrested, and a weapons cache was seized. One of the men detained is said to be Guzmán's personal pilot. The near capture occurred in late February.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

U.S. State Dept. makes history with first Spanish press conference - Y ¿por qué no?

Sometimes the smallest events attract notice. Especially if they occur in unlikely forums.

The U.S. State Dept. in Washington is home to and the official headquarters of thousands of American diplomatic officials who serve in far-flung posts around the world. Many of them are bi-lingual, and not a few have command of multiple languages. But because the Department is an agency of the United States, the sole official language of which is English, correspondents from abroad who regularly attend State press conferences are are expected to be fluent enough to participate without translation assistance. Those journalists -- or at least the ones from Latin America -- must have been pleasantly surprised last week when State offered its first full press conference exclusively in Spanish.

PRD, PAN candidates "take the oath"; Obrador, Mota summon the party faithful

"Mexico's crime and violence are due primarily to lack of economic development and lack of jobs, especially for the young" - PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador

In Mexico presidential candidates take an oath at the beginning of the formal campaign season, promising to represent the goals and interests of their parties to the best of their ability. Today PRD (Democratic Revolution Party) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador and PAN (National Action Party) nominee Josefina Vázquez Mota both took theirs. The oaths are a clarion call to political battle, which officially begins in this three party nation on March 30.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mérida, Yucatán is the Dengue capital of Mexico

*See 2014 updates below*
Mérida, Yucatán -
The state of Yucatán and its capital city of Mérida are virtual Ground Zero for Dengue Fever in Mexico, accounting for far more cases of the potentially deadly illness than any other location in the country. Diario de Yucatán, the city's most widely read paper, made the claim in its yesterday's edition (Mar. 9). It quoted both federal and state government sources.

Diario said one-third of all reported cases of Dengue Fever in Mexcio originate in Mérida, and one-half in Yucatán state. The federal government recently has sent brigades of workers to help clean up areas where disease outbreaks are most likely to occur, according to the paper.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Four students kidnapped from school and brutally executed in Cuernavaca

Cuernavaca, Morelos - Four young students, 13, 17, 20 and 21, were taken by force from schools which they attended in this "City of Eternal Spring" about an hour south of Mexican City on Monday afternoon (Mar. 5). The 13 year old was a high school student, and the older three all attended technical schools.

Narco terror in metropolitan Guadalajara

Another "narcobloqueo" wreaks havoc in Mexico's cultural heart: cartel retaliation after Mexican army captures their boss; three dead, 16 suspects in custody

*See updates below*
A narcobloqueo is a coordinated attack in which multiple heavily armed commando squads independently hijack buses, trucks and large commercial vehicles in a city, park them on main roads and especially at heavily traversed intersections, and then set them afire. Such tactics are designed to disrupt normal traffic flow, confuse and embarrass local law enforcement authorities and above all incite terror in the local populace.

What do business magnate Carlos Slim and El Chapo Guzmán have in common? Forbes list & lots of $$$

But elusive Mexican drug trafficking king is definitely on a down hill slide

Several years ago Joaquín "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzmán, leader of Mexico's powerful Sinaloa Cartel (a/k/a Cartel del Pacifico), was ranked # 41 out of 67 in a Forbes list of the World's Most Famous People. And in a 2011 Forbes list of the World's Most Powerful People, he was # 55 out of 70. But Guzmán, 54, who escaped from a Mexican federal prison in January 2001 and has been on the lam ever since, continues to slide on Forbes list of the World's Richest People. This year, with an estimated net worth of a mere $1 billion, Shorty fell to a lowly 1,153. Perhaps the sputtering world economy has taken its toll on him, too.

Mexican communications magnate Carlos Slim captured top spot on the 2012 rich guy list once again, with an estimated personal fortune of $69 billion. Following him in second and third place were Americans Bill Gates (Microsoft, $61 billion) and Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway, $44 billion). In sixth place was U.S. software giant Larry Ellison (Oracle Corporation, $36 billion).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Controversy flares in Florence Cassez case: a French national sentenced to 60 years

"Florence Cassez doit payer pour ce qu´elle a fait," writes a local reader ("Florence Cassez must pay for what she did.")

*Links added below Jan. 23, 2013*
L'affaire Florence Cassez (I'm practicing my French, bear with me) is a long and very complicated criminal case, but it's a fascinating one.

Florence Marie Louise Cassez Crepin is a 37 year old French woman who has been sitting in a Mexican jail cell since 2005. She was arrested and prosecuted for belonging to a gang known as Los Zodiaco (The Zodiacs), which the government says specialized in kidnappings (apparently for no reason other than ransom). Cassez was found guilty and is currently serving a 60 year sentence for kidnapping, participation in organized crime activity and possession of illegal firearms. The case has become an international cause célèbre - at least insofar as Mexico and France are concerned - and has created severe diplomatic tension between the two countries. Florence Cassez has always maintained her complete innocence.

On International Women's Day, Mexico confronts endemic domestic violence

Día International de la Mujer observed by Calderón and others protesting machismo

The International Day of the Woman is being observed here, and thus I presume world wide. I'll admit, I was unaware of the impending event until I noticed a sign outside a commercial building in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon, where a crowd of women had gathered to attend a workshop. Earlier today president Felipe Calderón addressed a conference in Chiapas on women's issues, part of which was broadcast live. And in this presidential election year, officials of the three major political parties (PRI, PAN and PRD) are speaking out as well.

Apropos of all this, in yesterday's local newspaper, Diario de Yucatán (a PAN rag, to be sure, but there are few truly independent newspapers in Mexico), I noticed a sinister article on a topic about which I have written (and translated for a Spanish language writer) previously. In net effect the article said that Yucatán, relatively speaking, is still in the dark ages when it comes to protection of women from domestic abuse. And In many larger Mexican cities today women's groups organized and were on the street protesting the historic machismo in this country, which often leads to tragic consequences.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mexican governor will travel to Texas to challenge travel alert for spring breakers

Roberto Borge Angulo is the governor of Quintana Roo, home to Mexico's Riviera Maya on the Caribbean coast. Readers of this Blog know that I frequently report on crime in Q.R. state. There's been no shortage of subject material in recent months, but that fact must have escaped Borge's attention.

Los Pelones executions continue in Q.R., with "corrupt police support" paper alleges

Mexican soldiers battle the group in default of action by local authorities

Chetumal, Quintana Roo - Los Pelones, a local drug trafficking and murder-for-hire gang active in this Riviera Maya state on Mexico's Caribbean coast, is flourishing due to alliances with corrupt local cops in the area, reports an area newspaper this week.

The paper, Por Esto, says Los Pelones have expanded operations to Chetumal, a city of about 150,000 and the capital of Q.R. state. It claims the group is responsible for the recent executions of several independent drug dealers who refused to work for them. In one of those cases, two men were kidnapped, tortured and shot in Puerto Morelos on Feb. 10 (