An update on Mexico’s “War on Drugs”:
Mexican Drug Cartels Diversify Business into Black Market Timber; Transform from Drug Bandits to Full Fledged Organized Crime
July 06, 2011 – As Mexico’s powerful drug cartels diversify operations beyond the illegal drug trade, the organized crime syndicates have found another lucrative line of work: The large scale theft of Mexico’s natural resources.
The Washington Post reports today that illegal loggers, guarded by gunmen with automatic weapons have strong-armed their way into the ancient forests in Mexico’s western mountains.
In Cheran, a timber-rich village in Mexico’s Michaocan state, locals told the WaPo that the criminals have cut down thousands of acres of old-growth forests, shooting villagers who oppose them and kidnapping men from indigenous communities.
While illegal logging has long been a problem in Mexico, security experts say the trade now appears to be controlled by the cartels, who either coordinate the logging or provide security and then take a cut.
Mexican officials have acknowledged that organized crime is likely responsible for many timber thefts in Michoacan, but they have made only two minor arrests.
As we have previously noted, pressure from gang turf wars and the government crackdown on the cartels has pushed Mexico’s organized crime networks to seek alternate sources of revenue. PEMEX, Mexico’s state-run oil company, says the cartels stole 2.16 million barrels of fuel in 2010 alone. The gangs have also significantly expanded their operations into kidnapping, human trafficking, and music and software piracy.
Mexican Officials Make Statement that should go Without Saying – “We don’t support Sinaloa”
July 05, 2011 – The Mexican government released a statement claiming it does not favor the Sinaloa drug cartel, which is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, and has focused on “systematically weakening” all criminal organizations without “making distinctions,” a high-level security official said.
Forbes magazine estimates that El Chapo Guzman has a fortune of $1.14 billion, making him one of the richest people in the world.
“Like other extremely dangerous criminals, he is being pursued by federal forces with the same determination and firmness, and his criminal organization is also being battled with the same severity as other criminal gangs,” Federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said in his latest statement targeting the supposed “myths” about the war on drugs.
Mexican Government Refocuses Drug War on Zetas, Rival Cartel of Sinaloa
July 06, 2011 – The Mexican government is refocusing its drug-war strategy to take down the Zetas paramilitary cartel, a significant shift in approach that is likely to be met with increased violence, according to U.S. and Mexican officials familiar with the plan.
Mexican police arrest Zetas Third in Command
July 4th, 2011 – Mexican police have arrested an alleged founding member of the Zetas drug cartel who was sought in connection with the murder of a US immigration agent in February, according to Mexico’s security ministry.
Police captured Jesus “El Mamito” Rejon-Aguilar in a Mexico City suburb on Sunday “without firing a shot,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
Rejon-Aguilar was traveling with a Mexico City police officer who was brokering the drug lord’s passage through the region, the ministry said. The police officer was also arrested.
Rejon-Aguilar is a former soldier in the Mexican army, who deserted in February 1999, and a month later joined the group that founded the Zetas cartel, Mexican authorities said.
He is currently third in command of the cartel – considered the country’s most brutal, according to Mexican authorities.
The US had offered a $5m dollar reward for Rejon-Aguilar, who the Mexican security ministry said
played a role in the shooting of two US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents earlier this year.
The agents were driving in an armoured vehicle on a highway from San Luis Potosi to Mexico City in February
when they were ambushed in broad daylight by suspected drug gang members.
One ICE agent, Jaime Zapata, was killed and another agent, Victor Avila, was wounded in the leg.