The government released for the first time comprehensive data (Mexico Segob homicide database) on killings related to organized crime. Ministry of Government spokesman Alejandro Poiré said the disclosure was “an exercise of transparency without precedent in Mexico, and with few precedents in the world.” The database includes killings month by month from December 2006 (when Felipe Calderón took office) through December 2010 for more than 1,100 municipalities across the country.
Some highlights from the government data:
- Overall killings spiked to more than 15,000 in 2010, an increase of 59% from 2009. The government’s figures are significantly higher than those compiled (and published weekly) by the major newspapers. Reforma for example, recorded 11,583
- On a quarterly basis, the peak was 2Q and 3Q 2010. The rate of killings was down 10% in 4Q10, though the government was unwilling to say this was the beginning of a trend.
- Since December 2006, 70% of the killings have been concentrated in just 85 municipalities, concentrated along the U.S. border and the Pacific coast.
Poiré’s presentation is here: SEGOB Presentation on Organized Crime Killings, Jan 11
In an interview, Carlos Morales Gil, the head of production and exploration for Pemex, acknowledged that the state oil company has had to shut in gas production of 150,000 cubic feet/day in the Burgos basin south of the Texas border because of the inability to ensure the security of some of the gas wells. (At US$3.50 per cu.ft., the lost production is the equivalent of US$525,000 per day.) Morales said there had been no news of the six Pemex employees who were kidnapped on May 23d. “We’ve increased security, together with the Ministry of Defense, in the installations in the northeastern zone of the country, which has allowed us to partially recover the production that was reduced. However, there are zones where it is not safe to go, because of the crime threats to our people,” he said. (Reforma 11/10)
Naval marines surrounded and killed the leader of the Gulf Cartel, Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén, aka Tony Tormenta and four of his bodyguards in a pitched battle in the border city of Matamoros. Columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio called it the government’s “most paradigmatic success in the 47 month long war against drugs.” The operation, which left three Marines dead and another four wounded, cements the position of the Marines as the elite agency for strikes against drug kingpins. Two reporters were also killed in the crossfire. The Navy said the operation to trap Cárdenas began six months ago with intelligence derived from the capture of some of the Gulf Cartel’s paramilitary wing, the Scorpions. The U.S. DEA also reportedly provided intelligence that assisted in locating Cárdenas. The Navy said that Cardenas had evaded capture on two separate occasions in the last month prior to this final operation. The Marines deployed 660 troops, 3 helicopters, and 17 vehicles in the operation, while the Army provided an outer ring of security to prevent cartel reinforcements from reaching their leader. (Eje Central 11/8)
NPR’s John Burnett has an extensive report on the military operation, the struggle between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, and the impact on Matamoros.
Death toll by month. Source: Reforma
According to the tally kept by Reforma, the death toll from the drug war passed the 10,000 mark this week, reaching 10,035 killed since the start of the year. This surpasses 2009′s full year record by more than 50%, with almost two months still to go. (On the sporadic occasions when the government has released it’s own statistics they have been significantly higher than the tallies kept by the news organizations.) Of Reforma’s total, 52 were military and 637 were police officers. Chihuahua continues to be the bloodiest state, with 2,797 killed. (Reforma 11/4)
Death toll by state. Source: Reforma
Three days after the inauguration of a new police station in the town of Los Ramones, 60-km outside Monterrey on the Matamoros highway, gunmen pulverized the building with high caliber weapons and grenades (3 exploded of 6 launched) during a midnight attack. Five officers were in the building at the time of the attack; none were injured. Today, all 14 policemen in the town of 6,000 resigned. The state highway police and the Army have assumed responsibility for law enforcement. (Universal 10/26, Reforma 10/26)
President Calderón sent forward revisions to the military criminal code to bring Mexico into compliance with the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by making soldiers and sailors accused of the crimes of torture, forcible disappearance, and rape subject to prosecution in civilian courts. The law would require military investigators to refer cases where there was probable cause to the federal investigating magistrate. Those accused and convicted would continue to be held in military, not civilian, prisons. (Universal 10/19)
The rollup of the Beltrán Leyva cartel continued with the arrest in Puebla of another senior figure, Sergio Villarreal Barragán, by Marines. Villareal is believed to be the #2 in the cartel under Héctor Beltran Leyva, who has tried to assume leadership since the killing of his brother Arturo by marines last December. In addition, several Colombian liaisons of the cartel in Mexico were arrested. (Universal 9/13)
Of the eight Beltrán Leyva cartel members for whom the PGR offered rewards last year, six have now been captured or killed. None of the other cartels has been hit as hard by the security forces.
After Federal Police Commissioner Facundo Rosas detailed an account of an elaborate operation to capture Édgardo Valdez, “El Barbie,” at a safe house in Mexico State on August 30th (14 month investigation, 1,400 Federal Police operatives in three concentric circles, etc.), alternative narratives started to circulate. Speculation, fed by the lack of force during the arrest of the senior cartel figure and El Barbie’s enigmatic smile in his arrest photos, centered on a negotiated surrender. According to El Universal, Valdez was arrested almost by accident, when his three-car convoy was arrested for speeding, and he promptly identified himself and gave a detailed confession of his crimes as a drug chieftain. The Ministry of Public Security issued a statement saying, “The specific operational details and the intelligence will continue to be confidential, in order to maintain operational advantage in current and future operations,” without denying the press stories. (Universal 9/8, 9/13, SSP 9/8, Reforma 9/12)
A senior field commander called for the public not to lose confidence in the military after the accidental shooting of a family last week. Soldiers opened fire on a sedan that failed to stop at a military checkpoint on the Monterrey-Laredo highway, killing the father and his 15-year-old son and wounding five others. General Cuauhtémoc Antúnez, the commander of the 7th Military Region where the incident occurred, said that no one in the military was above the law, and that military justice would be impartial. A captain, a non-commissioned officer, and two soldiers have been arrested on homicide charges in the incident. The General also expressed the sorrow of the armed forces at the incident. (Universal 9/13, Reforma 9/13)
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)