Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mexican Supreme Court hands landmark legal victory to domestic abuse victim

New trial with enhanced charges against attacker is ordered, after victim appeals light sentence

Guadalajara -
A Yucatán woman who narrowly survived a vicious knife attack by her boyfriend in 2009 won a long legal battle yesterday when Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court ordered a lower tribunal to reinstate attempted murder charges against her assailant.

Grettel Rodríguez Almeida, then just 23, was repeatedly stabbed in her own home on Sept. 16, 2009 after she told Germán Alyn Ortega Hernández she wanted to break up with him. She was rushed to the hospital by her parents, covered in blood, where doctors sutured her wounds and managed to save her life. She was left with permanent scars - physical and emotional. The basic facts of the case are reported here: State Senate Acts on Behalf of Woman Almost Murdered by Ex-Boyfriend.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mexican Army commander: Cancún police department infiltrated by narcotics traffickers and organized crime

And the same problem exists in Playa del Carmen, he alleges

*Updates below*
Cancún, Quintana Roo -
A regional military commander's accusation that the city police force here is infiltrated by officers on the payroll of drug traffickers and organized crime lords has set off a local war of words in this gateway to Mexico's lush Riviera Maya.

Earlier this week the commander of the 34th Military District in Quintana Roo state, which is headquartered in Chetumal, said the municipal police departments in Cancún and Playa del Carmen "are infiltrated by the narcotics trafficking industry, 90% of them are narco agents."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The drug dealer in pinstripes

MGRR Opinion -
Bankers, government officials and others play star roles in Mexico's misery, even in the City of Peace

Mérida, Yucatán -
Buying a house in the United States is still a big deal. It's probably the most serious business transaction in which most Americans will ever be involved. The purchaser is confronted with mountains of paperwork, piles of documents to sign and not a few fees. If the new home owner doesn't have cash in hand, if he or she is financing the acquisition as most still must do, the process is yet more complex and time-consuming.

Everything is laid bare when you buy real estate, and there are no secrets. Not about the property, not about the buyer, not about the seller. Too many other people are involved. Real estate agents and brokers, title searchers, bankers or mortgage lenders, sometimes attorneys and always public officials, such as the local recorder of deeds. Nothing gets by anybody, not the slightest detail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mexico's Organized Crime Strike Force searches Mérida residences of Yucatán narco queen

*Jan. 18, 2013 - Mérida millionairess convicted on all counts in Nicaragua; sentenced to 30 years*

Mérida, Yucatán -
News sources have reported that agents of Mexico's federal Organized Crime Strike Force executed search warrants today at Mérida residences belonging to Juana Raquel Alvarado Torres, a Mexican citizen arrested in Nicaragua last August.

The residences searched, some of which are described as luxury, included homes in upscale Colonia Altabrisa. A 60 acre ranch owed by Alvarado in Teya, Yucatán, on the outskirts of this city, was also raided by SEIDO agents.

Canadian realtor in Yucatán: foreigners with big bucks are a myth; most have limited budgets, less to spend

Beach town rental market feels the effects of poor world economy, as snowbirds tighten the belt

*Updates below*
Mérida, Yucatán -
Twenty miles north of this capital, the White City as it's known, lays the quiet beach town of Puerto Progreso, long a haven for American, and especially Canadian, snow birds. Some will tell you that Progreso, and the entire peninsula, were "discovered" by Canadian travelers three decades or more ago. But today it's popular with many, both locals and those from abroad. Cruise ships pull in weekly, dropping anchor for 12-24 hours. Mexico's next president even stops by occasionally.

But a Canadian real estate agent, in published comments to a local news service, reports that things are not as rosy as local property owners would like them to be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mexican analysts agree: crime gangs which are replacing drug cartels will be difficult to track and fight

Enrique Peña Nieto will have to switch gears to confront rising threat, Mexican researcher contends

*Updated Jan. 16, 2013*
Guadalajara -
Six months after the American security consultant firm Southern Pulse predicted that Mexico's half dozen or so largest drug cartels would morph into many smaller gangs nationwide, consultants here agree, and say the process is well under way.

MGR published a redacted summary of the Southern Pulse report on June 22, pointing out that there is empirical evidence of the proposition in Quintana Roo state, along Mexico's famed Riviera Maya.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Alleged Hezbollah sympathizer was on his way to Beirut when arrested in Mérida, Mexico, U.S. claim

Mérida, Yucatán -
An alleged supporter of the radical Arab organization Hezbollah arrested here on Sept. 8 was on his way to Beirut, Lebanon, traveling under an assumed name and with a fake Belize passport.

The accusations were filed this morning against Rafic Labboun in federal court in San Jose, California. Labboun holds joint U.S.-Lebanese citizenship.

Hezbollah, founded in Lebanon in 1982, is classified by the United States government as an international terrorist organization. Mérida has a heavy presence of Lebanese-origen residents or their descendants. Many are successful business persons, and respected members of the community.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Puerto Vallarta police chief resigns

And who can fault him, with the city presenting Baghdad-like security issues?

Guadalajara -
Five days after Puerto Vallarta's police chief narrowly survived a Los Zetas execution squad, he has announced his resignation from the department.

Roberto Rodríguez Preciado told a press conference hours after the brazen hand grenade and machine gun attack that he would not give up his post. Rodríguez served as chief for less than three weeks.

But in a terse press release, the department said Rodríguez decided to step down so that prosecutors could conduct a free and uninhibited investigation of the case. There have been rumors and accusations from some quarters that the chief was involved with organized crime forces, and was targeted when he refused to continue cooperating with them. No evidence of such claims has been offered by anyone. Rodríguez firmly denied them.

U.S. State Dept. says Mexico is "witnessing the end of drug trafficking" - but with a worrisome shift to Caribbean

MGRR News Analysis and Opinion -
Drug runners are feeling the pressure, but robbery, assault and street crime increase sharply

*Updated Apr. 16, 2013*
Guadalajara -
In an article last year about Mexico's 70 month old drug war, MGRR wrote:

"The massive deployment of federal forces and the cutting off of the heads of criminal organizations by Felipe Calderón's offensive, which began in December 2006, explain record levels of violence during his administration. The greatly increased aggressiveness of the government in going after the cartels has been the catalyst behind the skyrocketing number of homicides. Violence has fed more violence as the government seeks to eradicate a drug trafficking industry which was ignored for decades by previous administrations, and which had reached the point of threatening the existence of the state. Most of the killings, especially the mass executions and public body dumpings which often follow, are of violent criminals and by violent criminals. When innocents are attacked, it's a clear example of criminals venting their rage against an environment which is no longer within their exclusive control. Crime with impunity, the historic norm in Mexico, is no longer the order of the day, and terrorism for the sheer sake of terrorism is the last hurrah of the perpetrators." Calderón drug war strategy has been the right one (Dec. 30, 2011).

In an interview this week in Bogotá, U.S. Ass't. Secretary of State William Brownfield told the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo virtually the same thing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Guzmán women head north to deliver - kids, not drugs

U.S. citizenship - don't leave home without it

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
More than a year ago MGRR reported on the curious case of 23 year old Emma Coronel, one of several wives Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán has had over the years (he's 55 or 58 - nobody knows for sure). In the summer of 2011 Coronel made a brief visit to a Los Angeles area hospital, where she delivered up twin girls (electing not to identify their father on the California birth certificate). She entered and left the United States lawfully (tailed all the way by DEA agents) because she's a U.S. citizen. And when she returned to Mexico with her two little bundles of joy, so were they (Wife of Mexican drug lord El Chapo Guzmán delivers twin girls in U.S. hospital).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guadalajara area police commander in grave condition after early morning organized crime hit

Open season on police continues in Jalisco state

*Update below*
Guadalajara -
A police commander assigned to suburban Zapopan was attacked by one or more gunmen this morning, after dropping his daughter off at her neighborhood school. The events occurred in Colonia Talpita.

The officer is reported in serious condition at a local hospital. It's not known how many times he was shot, but investigators found 15 ejected .9 mm shells at the scene. Nine millimeter weapons are routinely used by drug cartels and organized crime groups in Mexico.

This morning's attack against a police commander was the second in Jalisco state in the last 72 hours. Puerto Vallarta police chief survives hand grenade attack; Los Zetas take credit for assault.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Student protesters in Michoacán show their true colors

Opinion - Fellow travelers of YoSoy 132 prove they like to beat up cops

Guadalajara -
Students at three teachers' colleges in the state of Michoacán, right next door to Jalisco, have been protesting in recent days over curriculum changes - specifically, new requirements which mandate courses in English and computer science (both indispensable in the modern world, most educators would agree). The students objected, complaining their schools were intended to prepare teachers for education in remote rural areas, where such skills (according to them) are of much less importance.

Ending poverty key focus of incoming PRI government

MGRR News Analysis -
Mexico's president-elect announces bold designs during European junket

Guadalajara -
Mexico's next president may or may not intend to play Let's Make a Deal with narco bosses, depending on which sources you accept as credible. If he does, it won't make a police commander over in Puerto Vallarta very happy. But there is increasing evidence that cartel capos will not be at the top of Enrique Peña Nieto's household punch list when he takes office Dec. 1, irrespective of what his drug war strategy ultimately proves to be. Some suggested this soon after the July 1 ballots were counted (Peña Nieto's biggest challenges will be economy and environment, not drug cartels), and there is reason to believe their analysis was correct.

Narcos know where to invest: in Mexico's City of Peace

Guadalajara -
In early 2011, municipal and state leaders were thrilled to announce that Mérida, the capital of Yucatán state, had been chosen as a World City of Peace. Not the only one, to be sure, but one of a handful worldwide.

Ratings were based upon a variety of factors, but a low crime rate was the most critical in the selection process. The state excels in that department. Moreover, with one dramatic exception, the region has been spared the worst horrors of Mexico's 70 month old drug war.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Los Zetas take credit for assault on Puerto Vallarta police chief; panic in streets; business leaders fear tourist exit

"And they said it would NEVER happen in P.V." - reader comment to MGRR

Guadalajara -
Yesterday's brazen daylight attack against the police chief of Puerto Vallarata, one of Mexico's most famous resorts, was the work of the much feared Los Zetas drug cartel, a powerful and violent transnational criminal organization which operates throughout Mexico and Central America.

Mexican news services report that narcomantas (signs) claiming responsibility for the grenade and machine gun assault were displayed at four locations in the city hours after the hit team ambush, signed by the "Zs."

Monday, October 15, 2012

Puerto Vallarta police chief survives hand grenade attack

Armored Suburban narrowly saves the chief and two escorts from a well-equipped hit squad

Guadalajara -
The police chief of Puerto Vallarta escaped injury this morning when a heavily armed assault team launched a grenade and machine gun attack against his armored vehicle, while he was on his way to work in that city.

Roberto Rodríguez Preciado and his two escorts walked away unscathed. Five passersby were hit by shrapnel from the fragmentation grenades, and a car on the street was destroyed.

State police and military contingents responded to the scene in minutes, local news sources reported.

Yucatán tourism continues to languish, after bold "Mayan effect" prophecies fail to materialize

Hotel owners worry, as occupancy rates remain stuck in the cellar

*Updates below*
Mérida, Yucatán -
Mayan astronomers could predict eclipses and celestial displays within seconds of the real event. Mayan mathematicians and architects designed enormous stone structures with a precision and accuracy astounding even to modern engineers, who rely upon CAD and the latest technology to assist them in their daily tasks. But those who predicted that in 2012 the mystery and majesty of El Mundo Maya would deliver a huge economic impetus to the entire Yucatán peninsula and its gateway capital of Mérida have seen their hopes dashed, to the disappointment of thousands who depend on tourism, the backbone of local commerce. A news service today calls it a veritable apocalypse for many in the industry.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bus driver executions surge in Guadalajara, but why?

An atypical motive, but many drivers quit following random violence in public transportation system

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
In this sprawling metropolis of 4.5 million people, where competing drug cartels and organized crime gangs duke it out daily, bus drivers have become the latest casualties. No one seems to know just why.

Transportation workers have sometimes been drug war victims, particularly taxi drivers. As MGRR reported last April (Another bad week for Mexican taxi drivers),

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jalisco homicides remained unabated in September

Ajijic, Jalisco, on Lake Chapala, is home to Americans and Canadians alike. But the road to the quaint and quiet town became a corpse dumping ground in May.

*Updated Nov. 8*
Guadalajara -
On average, the Jalisco Institute of Forensic Sciences conducted four autopsies a day in September, a pace more or less consistent with most of 2012, authorities report.

One hundred twelve men and eight women lost their lives as a result of homicide last month, two less than in August. Guadalajara proper, not surprisingly, led the charts with the most murders. Suburban Zapopan was in third place with 16 homicides, Puerto Vallarta had 12 and Tlaquepaque, part of the Guadalajara metro area, recorded nine.

Spanish national debt a short step away from junk bond status, reports Standard & Poor's

"The government will be severely put to the test" - S&P statement

*Updated Apr. 24, 2013*
Guadalajara -
In the face of unemployment stats punching through the clouds, negative economic growth and huge sovereign debt, the American credit rating agency Standard & Poor's has downgraded Spanish debt instruments (bonds) two full steps, to BBB-. The rating is more bad news for the country, which is in an economic free fall with no parachute in reach.

U.S. and foreign bonds evaluated by American credit agencies are typically rated AAA, AA, A, BBB, BB, B, CCC, CC and C. Bonds already in default are rated D. Any bond rated below BBB- is usually considered a speculative investment, or junk bond.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Confusion, uncertainty after reported death of Zeta # 1

Confederates make off with the boss' corpse - in a hearse

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
Although the Mexican government is still celebrating Sunday's elimination of the top boss of the Los Zetas cartel (Mexican security forces kill Los Zetas leader in gun battle), doubts linger, and not everyone is convinced.

President Calderón praised Mexican marines yesterday, pointing out that Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano was the 25th on a list of the nation's 37 most wanted organized crime figures to be captured or killed. But is the victim, who died in a shootout in Progreso, Coahuila, a state adjoining Texas, the man who everyone thinks he is?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mexican security forces kill Los Zetas leader in gun battle

Another strategic victory for outgoing Calderón administration

*Update below*
Guadalajara -
Mexico's Secretary of Marines and Naval Forces has announced the death of the leader of the Los Zetas cartel, perhaps the country's most violent drug trafficking and organized crime group.

The Zetas have distinguished themselves by unparalleled brutality in dealing with competitor cartels and innocent victims alike in Mexico's drug war.

Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano was killed Sunday afternoon in a shootout with Mexican marines in Progreso, a town in Coahuila state, which borders Texas.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Peña Nieto's Colombian drug war consultant is a U.S. informant, Mexican journal claims, with clear marching orders from new prez: cut a deal with the cartel bosses

A general with many masters - but whose orders will he follow?, queries Indigo

Guadalajara -
Six days after Enrique Peña Nieto won Mexico's 2012 presidential contest, the man who soon will be named his drug war czar convened a heavily attended press conference.

Former Colombian National Police chief Óscar Naranjo outlined his recommendations for Mexico's "new" drug strategy, suggesting that Mr. Peña Nieto would begin to implement them within days after taking office on Dec. 1 (Security consultant elaborates on new Mexican drug war strategy - but is it?).

Not everybody was impressed. Naranjo's curious comment, "luchar contra el narcotráfico en México tiene que significar disminuir los niveles de violencia - the fight against Mexican drug trafficking has to imply the reduction of violence" - seemed little more than a commentary on the patently obvious. MGRR noted, "restating the equation does not assist in determining the unknown values of X or Y."

Friday, October 5, 2012

As Venezuelans head to the polls, Hugo Chávez proves all the prophets wrong

Dec. 12 - Venezuela told to prepare for "difficult scenarios," as president's health takes a dramatic turn for the worse (updates below)

Guadalajara -
In the end, everybody was wrong. The medical experts. The "inside sources." Prominent newspapers. Bloggers and consultants. Latin American specialists. Political enemies. Everybody everywhere.

Everybody but Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, the president of Venezuela since 1999.

Earlier this year, the world press made much of his appearance at a Catholic service in Caracas. Clutching a crucifix, his eyes wet, he prayed aloud - begged, really -that his life be spared so that he could continue his mission of leading the 30 million strong Bolivarian Republic. And it was. Probably to the disappointment of more than a few, especially his powerful fencing partner far to the north.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

U.S. court rules against gay deportee, finding evidence of "fundamental changes in the treatment of gays in Mexico"

Tenth Circuit claims that conditions have improved for Mexican gays, thanks to government policies - but will everyone agree?

Guadalajara -
Far to the north in Denver, Colo., a federal appellate court yesterday delivered up a ruling which will likely provoke controversy in Mexico's gay community - and the U.S.'s.

The litigant in the case is a former Guadalajara man who is fighting to avoid deportation from American soil. Since first arriving in 1995, he's spent most of the last 17 years in the United States. On Feb. 12, 1997 he was "removed" (deported) as an undocumented person. The next day he walked right back in. The man has been in the U.S. almost continuously ever since (no doubt flying just beneath the radar).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A spendthrift Yucatán looks for cash anywhere, anyway

MGRR News Analysis -
spendthrift: n
. One who spends money recklessly or wastefully, or who foolishly manages it.
adj. Wasteful or extravagant: spendthrift bureaucrats.
Spanish - despilfarrador.

*Updated Jan. 4, 2013*
Mérida, Yucatán -
The state of Yucatán, which once entertained dreams (albeit short lived) of complete independence from the Republic of Mexico, is a financial mess. Former governor Ivonne Ortega, who's reading for a prominent stage role in the incoming PRI administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, is largely responsible.

Yucatán's long term debt skyrocketed under her freewheeling management (State and municipal debt continue to rise), and last year a thoughtful local student of the subject queried whether the huge burden can ever be repaid (Yucatán's Public Debt: Mortgaging Future Generations?). The state is on the line for three-quarters of a billion dollars. In a nation where the minimum wage is less than $150 a month, that's a lot of pesos.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cuba lambasts U.S. embargo at U.N. General Assembly

News Analysis and Opinion -
Cuba once more takes its case to United Nations, where everyone listens - except the United States

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
The U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, a case study in disastrously failed foreign policy, turned 50 years old in February (Cuban embargo is 50 - Feb. 7, 2012).

Almost a year ago, on October 25, 2011, the United Nations condemned it, 186-2, for the 20th consecutive year. The U.S. ignored the wrist slap, which was unenforceable. The U.N. will undoubtedly deliver an encore performance this year, and Washington will once again look the other way (as will much of the American press, which tends to avoid such troublesome, "unpatriotic" topics).

Monday, October 1, 2012

Former Yucatán men nabbed in Colorado cocaine bust

Gang imported $72 million a year in Colombian coke

Tekax de Álvaro Obregón, Yucatán -
Two former residents of this Mayan town in southern Yucatán have been arrested in Denver and face up to 60 years in federal prison for importing Colombian cocaine.

The men were part of a 10 person drug ring which purchased six million dollars a month in cocaine for resale in the U.S., principally in California and Colorado. All of the drugs passed through Mexico on their way to the United States, authorities said.