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.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/now-mexican-drug-cartels-are-illegally-logging-ancient-forests-2011-7

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.

This rumor has gained serious traction in some sectors of Mexican society and contends that the federal government favors the Sinaloa cartel (aka Pacific Cartel) working more diligently against other gangs.

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.

Underscoring the shift is a series of bloody confrontations in the past several weeks pitting the Zetas against Mexican marines. The targets of those clashes were “senior Zetas leaders,” said a U.S. law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The battles led to dozens of cartel members being killed or arrested, helping to weaken what many consider to be the most violent cartel group and the one that poses the biggest threat to Mexico’s national security.On Monday, an alleged top leader and founding member of the Zetas, Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, known as “El Mamito,” was paraded before the media after his capture Sunday in Mexico state. He was named a suspect in an attack in February against two U.S. agents in which one was killed and the other wounded.Over the Fourth of July weekend, Texas authorities warned U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Nuevo Laredo, citing intelligence that the Zetas planned to target Americans tourists. So far, no incidents have been reported.A U.S. law enforcement official confirmed the strategy against the Zetas and insisted that the U.S. government continues to play a minor role, limited only to sharing “reliable intelligence” with Mexican officials.On Friday, a spray-painted message directed at U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents was found next to a school in Ciudad Juarez. It said: “Gringos (D.E.A.), We know where you are and we know who you are and where you go. We are going to chop off your (expletive) heads.”The Zetas have allied with La Linea, enforcers for the Juarez cartel, to fight their common enemy in Ciudad Juarez, the Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.  For Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s administration, targeting the Zetas could be good politics. After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, the Zetas went into the drug business on their own and now control several lucrative territories. Weakening them may help Calderon rally public support for his strategy.Zeroing in on the Zetas may lead to more violence and generate more suspicion of favoritism toward one cartel over the other. National security spokesman Alejandro Poire, in his weekly blog, denied that the government was taking a selective approach and noted that the rival Sinaloa cartel has suffered major blows due to the government’s strategy.The men alleged to be the two top leaders of the Zetas are Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” and Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, known as “El 40,” a U.S. fugitive who spent time in North Texas. Authorities say Lazcano deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed the Zetas with other members of an elite special operations unit, including Rejon, and became the armed wing of the Gulf cartel.Rejon, the alleged Zetas co-founder, was identified as third in command of the group. The State Department had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.The Zetas now have a presence in all 31 Mexican states, as well as associates in several U.S. states, from California’s central coast to North Texas, said a security expert at the Washington-based Savant Group, speaking on condition of anonymity. The Zetas are estimated to have more than 15,000 members, the U.S. law enforcement official said, ranging from support staff such as lookouts to those considered “hard-core,” including well-trained military deserters and former law enforcers.

Source: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/07/06/2090460/revamped-mexican-anti-drug-strategy.html#ixzz1RLbIrQyG

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.

Source: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2011/07/201174191048378110.html


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