Monthly Archives: July 2010

Nacho Coronel, one of the leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, killed in Army operation

In a major breakthrough, the Army announced that Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, one of the three top leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, was killed during an operation by Army special forces in the exclusive San Javier district of Guadalajara. A force of around 150 soldiers surrounded the two houses where Coronel was believed to be with his bodyguards.  Power, telephone, and cellphone service was cut off in the neighborhood to aid the operation. The Army said the operation began in May, when they began tracking Coronel’s whereabouts. He was reportedly shot after he fired on the soldiers, killing one and wounding another. The Army also arrested Irán Francisco Quiñones, believed to be Coronel’s principal deputy, during the operation.  The Mexican government  had offered a Ps. 30 million reward and the U.S. government another US$5 million for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction.(Universal 7/29, Excelsior 7/29, Reforma 7/29)

As summarized by columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio,

[Coronel's] death is the most important blow by the government of Felipe Calderón in its 44-month long war against narco-trafficking. … It is a blow to the heart of the Sinaloa cartel, to whose ruling triumvirate he belonged. He was, among the cartel’s leaders, … the most educated (with a college engineering degree) and kept a low profile, even though his silent violence was devastating. He was responsible for the entire cocaine and methamphetamine operation along the southern Pacific coast. … His unexpected death shakes up the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, and profoundly damages the drug transit route that goes through Gómez Palacio and Torreón and ends in Ciudad Juárez. The loss is enormous for the cartel, but should give enormous satisfaction to the government of Mexico and, above all, to the government of the United States, which without having to dirty its hands has eliminated the principal exporter of methamphetemines to that country.(Eje Central 7/30)

Durango prison had troubled history; accused prison warden was “woman of the year”

The Durango penitentiary, Cereso 2 ( the Spanish acronym stands for “Center for Social Readaptation”), has had a troubled recent history, according to Reforma’s timeline. In March 2009, armed men raided the prison and freed five convicts; the prison warden was arrested for complicity. In August 2009, a riot left 20 prisoners dead; the new warden was relieved of duty.  Also in August, 13 of the 40 guards quit, citing threats to their lives, two days after Margarita Rojas was named the third warden in five months. Rojas, of course, was just arrested on the charge of allowing inmates to leave at night and use prison weapons and vehicles to carry out assassinations-for-hire, including the recent massacre of 17 at the Quinta Italia Inn.

Also, it turns out that Durango governor Ismael Hernández Deras (PRI) had recently awarded Rojas the honor of being “Woman of the Year 2010.”

The new PAN spokesman, Max Cortázar blasted Hernández:  “The governor ought to avoid looking for people to blame outside the local government structure, because it is precisely there that the urgent action is required to guarantee the safety and tranquility of families in Durango.”

(Reforma 7/26, Universal 7/27)

Second relative of Chihuahua governor-elect assassinated

A cousin of Chihuahua governor-elect César Duarte (PRI) was assassinated, and becomes the second relative to be killed since Duarte was elected. Alberto Porras Duarte was shot eight times outside his law offices in Porras, Chihuahua.  Less than two weeks ago, Mario Humberto Medina Vela, Duarte’s cousin, was killed during a botched kidnap attempt. (Universal 7/27)

Bizarre twist in Torreón murders

The Justice Ministry identified the alleged perpetrators of the massacre of 17 persons in Torreón on July 18: convicts in the federal penitentiary in Gómez Palacio, Durango.  According to PGR spokesman Ricardo Nájera, the convicts were allowed to leave the prison at night, with the complicity of the prison warden and other prison officials, and used prison vehicles and weapons to carry out their crimes. According to Nájera, Warden Margarita Rojas, “allowed [the convicts] to leave the prison and to use the guards’ weapons in order to carry out these executions using official vehicles for transport … as part of a settling of scores with rival gang members. … Sadly, during the course of these killings, the criminals also cowardly assassinated innocent civilians, before returning to their cells.” The warden and three other prison officials have been ordered held for 20 days as part of the investigation. In addition to the July 18 killings at the Quinta Italia Inn, which left 17 dead and 18 wounded, the convicts are accused of carrying out a massacre at a bar named Ferrie in Torreón on January 31st that left 10 dead and 11 wounded, and a third killing at another bar, Juana’s, that left 8 dead and 15 wounded in May. (Universal 7/25, Reforma 7/25)

Business group proposes tax reform

Coparmex, one of the principal business leaders’ confederations, put on the table the outline of a tax reform.  As presented by Gerardo Gutiérrez Candiani, the president of Coparmex, the proposal includes:

  • A generalized value added tax of 15%, with only a limited basket of true necessities excluded from the tax
  • A unified income tax with a single rate of 25%, combining the current income tax and single rate corporate tax (IETU)
  • An end to the other exemptions and zero rate regimes

Gutiérrez said that this proposal was intended to spur discussion within the Business Coordinating Council, CCE, so that the business community could present a single, consensus proposal to Congress during the fall session.  (Reforma 7/20)

What more has to happen?

Columnist Leo Zuckermann writes:

Frankly, I don’t understand. What has to happen in this country for the different political forces to sit down to discuss and fix the fight against organized crime? Haven’t the politicians paid attention to what’s been going on over the last two months? Haven’t they heard the message, as clear as it is terrifying, that the gangsters are sending? What are they hoping for?

Aside from the average of 200 killings per week, let’s remember what violent events have occurred in the last two months. They kidnapped a high-profile political figure — Diego Fernández de Cevallos. … The PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas … was ambushed and assassinated just a few days before the election. … In Michoacan, the convoy of the Public Security Ministry was ambushed in broad daylight on the Zitácuaro-Toluca expressway. … Ten federal policemen lost their lives. …. In Chihuahua a group of heavily armed men entered a drug rehab clinic and killed 19 patients. This Sunday, in Torreón, some 30 men armed to the teeth broke into a party and executed 18 persons. On Saturday, in Ciudad Juárez a car bomb exploded killing four. … It was a coldly calculated attack designed to assassinate federal policemen…. All of this in two months.

After the assassination of Rodolfo Torre, President Calderón called for a dialogue to discuss — and presumably to correct–the strategy in the fight against organized crime. Manlio Fabio Beltrones, the leader of the PRI in the Senate, has called for the same for a long while. This dialogue couldn’t happen until after the July 4th elections. The vote has come and gone, and the dialogue still hasn’t happened. Beltrones and other priistas say they are ready for a substantive discussion. … Some perredistas are also expressing interest …. For his part, the President has made changes in his team.  It would seem that everybody is ready.  What are you waiting for, gentlemen? Do it, before this accursed violence escalates yet again.

President’s communication director moves to PAN

Max Cortázar, the head of communications in the Office of the President since the start of the Government, resigned, capping a week of changes in the presidential inner circle. He is being replaced by his deputy,  Alejandra Sota. Cortázar also headed communications for Felipe Calderón during the campaign and transition, and was his spokesperson when he was Secretary of Energy.

On Monday, Cortázar was named the new spokesperson for the PAN by party president César Nava. (Universal 7/17, Reforma 7/19)

Narco car bomb kills 4 in Juárez

An apparent car bomb on a main street in downtown Juárez yesterday evening destroyed a Federal Police truck on patrol, killing four persons, and wounding another eight. Only one of the victims has been identified, Dr. Guillermo Ortiz, who was on the scene providing medical assistance when the bomb went off.

While Attorney General Arturo Chávez, speaking in a press conference in Mexico City, ruled out ‘narco-terrorism’ and said the cause of the explosion was still under investigation, the commander of the Fifth Military Zone, General Eduardo Zarate said that investigators had recovered C-4 explosive and a cellphone-activated detonator in the Ford Focus (or Taurus) that blew up.  The Ministry of Public Security said that the killings were a reprisal for the capture of the Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, aka “El 35″, who was a leader of “La Linea”, the armed wing of the Juárez cartel.

Juárez mayor José Reyes Ferriz described an elaborate ambush during a press conference: Unknown suspects drove up and dumped a body dressed in a police uniform, shot him, and drove off; the emergency services received a call about the shooting; rescue personnel and police arrived to investigate and provide assistance to an apparent officer down (who appeared to still be alive); as the police and medical personnel were working the car bomb exploded.

(Universal 7/16, Excelsior 7/16)

The moment of the explosion and the aftermath were captured by a local TV station:

President reshuffles cabinet; Gómez Mont out

President Felipe Calderón announced three changes in his cabinet tonight, including the appointment of his fourth Secretary of Government.

Secretary of Government: Fernando Gómez Mont resigned, and will be replaced by José Francisco Blake Mora.  Gómez Mont quit the PAN last February in protest of the decision to form electoral alliances with the PRD; his open insubordination to the President ensured his departure sooner or later. He is returning to private law practice. Blake Mora is currently Secretary of Government in Baja California. He is said to be a close friend of Calderón from the days when they were both members of the federal Chamber of Deputies (2000-2003). Blake Mora is largely unknown at the national level. He is being given credit for reducing crime in Baja California through coordinating federal, state, and local police and security initiatives. However, he is also being blamed for the poor PAN performance in the July 4 elections, when the party lost mayoral races in 13 of 16 towns. (One clear loser in the change is Labor Secretary Javier Lozano. He had publicly lobbied for the position in the past few days.)

Head of the Office of the President: Patricia Flores Elizondo, sometimes called Mexico’s unofficial vice president, was ousted. Viewed as fiercely polemical and partisan, she has attracted her share of enemies, both within and without the Government. She recent(ly became vulnerable because of the disclosure that her four sisters and  mother were on the government payroll. (Although there are rumors that she will be made an ambassador, the President made no announcement.) She is being replaced by Gerardo Ruiz Mateos, Secretary of Economy, who previously held the same job and has been one of Calderón’s closest advisers during the campaign and over the first three years of his Government.

Secretary of Economy: Bruno Ferrari, the head of ProMéxico, the government’s foreign investment promotion arm, takes over from Ruiz Mateos. Ferrari was previously a senior executive with Seminis Vegetable Seeds and Grupo Pulsar.

(Reforma 7/14, Universal 7/14, Excelsior 7/14)

President meets with Beltrones on legislative agenda

President Calderón met with PRI Senate leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones to discuss the legislative agenda. The meeting marks a sharp break from the hostile interchanges between the Government and the PRI in the run-up to the elections–and the day after PRI party president Beatriz Paredes said, “We will negotiate nothing.” According to the Bajo Reserva column:

A bridge has opened. After the big confrontations with the PRI, Felipe Calderón met yesterday with the PRI Senate leader, Manlio Fabio Beltrones. And this was no casual encounter.  It was in [the presidential residence] Los Pinos. It’s known that they talked about the obvious: the pending structural reforms, insecurity, impunity, the war against the narcos, the urgent need for dialogue among the political forces. What isn’t known if they talked about the distancing of the President from the priistas, which dates from November 2009 and which flared up again a few days before July 4th. Why Senator Beltrones and not Beatriz Paredes? This question encapsulates, among many other things, just how things are: Is the President now operating as his own Secretary of Government?