The Associated Press has an interesting article on Mexico's recent surge of poppy growing and production of heroin.
The heroin trade is a losing prospect for everyone except the Mexican cartels, who have found a new way to make money in the face of falling cocaine consumption and marijuana legalization in the United States. Once smaller-scale producers of low-grade black tar, Mexican drug traffickers are now refining opium paste into high-grade white heroin and flooding the world's largest market for illegal drugs, using the distribution routes they built for marijuana and cocaine.
Heroin use in the U.S. has risen alongside the crackdown on pain pills. With the pills becoming so controlled and expensive, people have turned to heroin. The U.S. has fewer meth labs since the restrictions on pseudoephedrine were ushered in. But people didn't stop using meth, the production just shifted to Mexico, and the finished product is now shipped here in larger quantities to accommodate demand. [More...]
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Yesterday the LA Times reported the state of Sinaloa in Mexico passed a law prohibiting journalists from reporting crime details not obtained from official state sources. Under the new law, scheduled to take effect in October, journalists would not be allowed to tour crime scenes, or take photos or record video and audio of them.
The outcry by journalists was immediate and justifiable. Today Sinaloa legislators announced they intend to repeal the law in a special session to be held August 21. They say they didn't read the bill closely enough and that they agree it is likely to impermissibly infringe on the ability of the media to do its job. According to the head of the Sinaloa legislature's political coordination committee (Diputación Permanente): [More...]
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The New York Times reports that all three candidates in Mexico's upcoming presidential election are signalling a break from the U.S. in its drug war strategy.
The candidates, while vowing to continue to fight drug trafficking, say they intend to eventually withdraw the Mexican Army from the drug fight. They are concerned that it has proved unfit for police work and has contributed to the high death toll....
The U.S. believes this will result in more drugs coming into the U.S.[More...]
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Former DEA and FBI agents don't see eye to eye on the potential threat to the U.S. of Mexican border violence caused by cartels. A former FBI agent tells Fox News:
"It's moving across into the rest of the country, so we can't just look at it and say it's just the border, don't worry about it," said Don Clark, former director of the FBI Office in Houston.
While some spillover violence does in fact occur, it is generally confined to the border region, most specifically near the border city pairs, and rarely reaches the interior of the United States in such a manner that should cause alarm or incite fears of threats to national security, when compared to jihadist terrorism or other extremists that publicly proclaim their desire to kill Americans.”
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Mexico has released its 2011 murder statistics for January through August. Murders are down in Juarez, the border city in Chihuahua, which has been known as the most violent area in Mexico.
While it remains exceedingly bloody, Juarez is far safer than it was in 2010: with 1,065 murders through August, it is on pace for just under 1,600 murders, a murder rate of roughly 120 per 100,000 residents. In 2010, the city registered some 3,000 murders and a murder rate of roughly 250 per 100,000.
Murders are also down in Baja California Norte, home to Tijuana and Mexicali. On the other hand, murders are up in Guerrero, especially Acapulco. [More...]
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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted a working lunch with Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa today in Washington, the third such meeting of the Merida High-Level Consultative Group on Bilateral Cooperation Against Transnational Organized Crime. (More on Meridia here and here.) Also in attendance:
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of National Drug Policy of the United States Gil Kerlikowske, USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, Acting Under Secretary of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the Treasury David Cohen, and Ambassador of the United States to Mexico Carlos Pascual.
The two governments issued this press release on the meeting and outlined the joint activities for the coming year. Congress has authorized $1.5 billion for Meridia since 2008, most of it for training the Mexican military and law enforcement. (As of December, 2010, $400 million had been provided. Today, the U.S. promised another $500 would be provided in 2011.) [More...]
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The New York Times reports the U.S. is employing unmanned drones in Mexico to track the cartels.
The Pentagon began flying high-altitude, unarmed drones over Mexican skies last month, American military officials said, in hopes of collecting information to turn over to Mexican law enforcement agencies.
The U.S. and Mexico have also agreed to open a second "counternarcotics “fusion” center" to better share information.
In addition, the United States trains thousands of Mexican troops and police officers, collaborates with specially vetted Mexican security units, conducts eavesdropping in Mexico and upgrades Mexican security equipment and intelligence technology, according to American law enforcement and intelligence officials. [More...]
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The Mexican Government is requesting information about Project Gunrunner, also called "Fast and Furious", which began in Phoenix. Agents were directed to allow guns to be brought into Mexico. (You can read the English translation of its press release here.) The theory was that they could then determine where they ended up and bust the cartels. Many agents objected.
But the Mexican Government was never told about this. How many of these guns ended up killing people? ATF Agent and whistleblower John Dodson says what he was asked to do is "beyond belief."
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A new report released last month by the Washington Office of Latin America (WOLA)has some interesting statistics on Mexican and Central American drug arrests.
The findings show that:
The unprecedented one-year comparative study of the drug laws and prison systems in eight Latin American countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.
The weight of the law falls on the most vulnerable individuals, overcrowding the prisons, but allowing drug trafficking to flourish.
How so? [More...]
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105 tons of marijuana seized in Mexico. (Lots more pictures below the fold.) The Mexican authorities at a press conference held by Brigadier General Staff commander of the Second Military Zone, Alfonso Duarte Mujica, said it began with a random observation by the Tijuana municipal police who noticed a convoy of vehicles accompanying a tractor trailer. A shootout ensued and they called for backup and the military and other law enforcement groups quickly arrived. They detained a bunch of people who took them to houses in three different poor neighborhoods of the city, and then they got to a warehouse where they located six tractor trailers loaded with the pot.
So whose pot was it? Apparently not the cartels'. Gen. Duarte Mujica says there are no more cartels in Baja and Tijuana. [More...]
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The next step in the war on drugs: Embedding U.S. drug and intelligence agents agents in Mexico.
The increasingly close partnership between the two countries, born of frustration over the exploding death toll in Ciudad Juarez, would place U.S. agents and analysts in a Mexican command center in this border city to share drug intelligence gathered from informants and intercepted communications.
...Until recently, U.S. law enforcement agencies have been reluctant to share sensitive intelligence with their Mexican counterparts for fear they were either corrupt or incompetent. And U.S. agents have been wary of operating inside Mexican command centers for fear they would be targeted for execution
The cost: In addition to the $1.4 billion aid package to Mexico, President Obama is asking for an additional $310 million for drug war aid to Mexico.
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President Obama today defended U.S. funding of the war on drugs in Mexico. He "brushed aside" reports by human rights organizations of widespread torture and abuse, echoing the refrain by Mexico's President that the drug traffickers bigger human rights violators.
[H]uman rights advocates and Mexico’s human rights commission have documented numerous complaints of torture, rape, beatings and arbitrary detentions since Mr. Calderón dispatched more than 45,000 soldiers to take on traffickers.
...Repeating a line used often by President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Mr. Obama labeled the drug traffickers causing so much violence in both Mexico and the United States as the biggest violators of human rights.
Whatever happened to "two wrongs don't make a right?"
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