Monday, September 17, 2012

Massacres Mark Mexico Independence Weekend

A series of mass killings in Mexico’s northeast and west, regions disputed by rival criminal groups, tarnished the celebrations of Mexico’s independence day.

In the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, nine bodies were found on a bridge on Friday, reports the AFP. A “narco-banner,” signed in the name of a drug gang, was left next to the bodies, but its contents have not been revealed by authorities. Seven more corpses were dumped on a highway in the municipality of San Fernando, also in Tamaulipas, the same day, reports Milenio. All 16 had been killed by gunshots, and most had their hands tied.

In neighboring Nuevo Leon, seven people were executed in a mechanics shop in the city of Monterrey, as Blog del Narco reports.

As the New York Times points out, the boss of the Gulf Cartel was captured in Tamaulipas days before the bodies were found. This suggests that the killings may have been prompted by revenge for his capture, or that they were part of a bid by one of his associates to gain control of the cartel.

The Gulf Cartel is disputing the region with the Zetas, which is currently in the throes  of a split between its two main leaders, which could also explain the mass killings. Spanish newspaper El Pais published a report on the split, which was confirmed earlier this month by the country’s Attorney General Marisela Morales. It predicts that the break between Heriberto Lazcano, alias “El Lazca,” and Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40,” could unleash a new wave of violence in the country, and benefit Sinaloa Cartel boss “Chapo” Guzman.

On the other side of the country, 17 corpses were dumped on the highway on the border between Jalisco and Michoacan. They had been mutilated and were bound with chains. Jalisco state prosecutor Tomas Coronado Olmos said that victims had been killed elsewhere and dumped on the highway, and commented that border regions between states were often chosen as a location to dispose of dead bodies, reports the AP. The authorities have said that they might have been killed as part of a dispute between the Knights Templar and the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG), two groups who are dominant in the region. Another theory is that they might be migrants making their way to the US, as, according to the authorities, the victims’ features suggest that they were from Central America, reports Milenio.

Meanwhile two politicians from the PRI party, which won the presidency in July’s elections, have been murdered in the space of two days, as the AP reports. State legislator Jaime Serrano Cedillo was stabbed in the street while leaving his house in Mexico State on Sunday, while Eduardo Castro Luque, who was about to take up his seat in Congress, was shot dead outside his house in Sonora on Friday.

In addition to the wave of killings, Mexico’s independence day on September 16 was marked by hack attacks on websites belonging to political parties and local governments. The hackers left a note on the sites criticizing violence in the country, and the election of Enrique Peña Nieto as president, reports the AP.

News Briefs

  • A military police officer was killed on Thursday night while on patrol in Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro, reports the BBC. Police have arrested one suspect in the murder of Diego Bruno Barbosa Henriques, and have identified another, both of them accused of trafficking drugs, reports O Globo. The neighborhood was occupied by military police in November 2011 as part of the scheme to pacify parts of the city controlled by drug traffickers and militia groups. It is currently being patrolled by the special forces in preparation for the arrival of a unit of the UPP -- elite police who are meant to be based in the community in the long term and keep the peace. Another officer was murdered in Rocinha in April -- the first to be killed in a “pacified” favela.
  • Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles has criticized Hugo Chavez for crying during a speech about personal sacrifices he has made while in power. Capriles told a crowd that the president should cry for the victims of violence in the country, and not for himself, reports the AP. Another piece by the news agency highlights concerns that Chavez has failed to nominate a vice president, despite suffering from cancer. It says that picking a running mate could cause divisions among his supporters, and that there is no candidate who is popular enough to make it worthwhile adding them to the ballot.
  • The AP has a report on the rise in attacks by Colombian rebel groups on energy infrastructure, which the government says shows the group’s desperation. Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said that these attacks lowered oil production by 15,000 barrels of crude oil a day, and that a peace agreement with the FARC could increase GDP by 1 to 2 percent.
  • Anastasia O’Grady at the WSJ argues that a land restitution law in Colombia could be used by the FARC rebels to get land.
  • Seven people were massacred in a village outside San Pedro Sula, Honduras, including four gang members, reports EFE. A group of men wearing ski masks arrived at a residence in the village at 2 a.m., pulled four men and two women from two rooms and shot them. They then killed a 15-year-old boy in order not to leave a witness to the crime, according to police. The authorities said that the murders were due to a dispute over territory between gangs, reports El Heraldo.
  • The WSJ has a piece arguing that the departure of Mexican politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador could benefit his leftist PRD party, possibly allowing it to broaden its appeal, although in the short term it will split the leftist vote, making it easier for the PRI to pass legislation.
  • The WSJ reports that US vets are unwilling to travel to a cattle inspection facility in Nuevo Leon for fear of drug violence.
  • Sandra Avila, aka the "Queen of the Pacific," has pleaded not guilty to drug charges in a Florida court, reports the BBC. She is accused of having played a major role in the development of the Sinaloa Cartel in the 1990s, and was extradited from Mexico in August.
  • A US citizen sentenced in Nicaragua to 22 years in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering has been freed on appeal after two years, and has left the country, reports the BBC.
  • Simon Romero at the NYT reports from Brazil on the phenomenon of political candidates picking colorful nicknames -- like Batman, James Bond, or Barack Obama -- and even campaigning in costume. One candidate, who calls himself Wolverine, explained that it was a marketing strategy because nobody would recognize his real name.

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