Monday, June 1, 2015
The Run-up to Mexico's Elections is Grisly in some States
Mexicans scheduled to go to the polls on June 7, in mid-term congressional elections plus balloting in some state and municipal
contests, violence is on the upswing. The most affected regions include the border city of Tijuana, the Chihuahua-Sinaloa
borderlands, and the states of Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacan, and Jalisco.
Tijuana killings between groups
of street-level drug dealers apparently connected to the Sinaloa, Jalisco New Generation (CJNG), and Arellano Felix cartels,
the last group repeatedly declared finished by U.S. and Mexican authorities, recalls the bloodletting of the past decade when
the city was considered one of the most violent in the country.
Later touted for its presumed public
safety, Tijuana recently has been replete with narco banners threatening individuals displayed in public, executions in broad
daylight, and the dumping of victims’ severed heads on public streets.
Among the victims was a
4-year-old boy, Jonathan Valdez, slain during a botched hit. On Saturday afternoon, May 23, Benjamin Gutierrez Quiroz was
gunned down only yards from Tijuana’s city hall. Gutierrez was the brother of a man linked to the Arellano Felix
organization who was detained in 2013.
Anxious to preserve their city’s image, law enforcement officials and some leaders
of the business community have downplayed the carnage, pointing to numerous detentions made by the police.
deaths are very concentrated among the same rival groups, whose objectives are very clear, but the citizenry and institutions
are on the sidelines except for three cases,” assured Jose Maria Gonzalez, the state prosecutor of organized crime.
Gonzalez said the violence was confined to the lower rungs of organized crime in the poorer neighborhoods and did not
involve the middle and upper echelons of the underworld, unlike several years ago.
Wilfredo Ruiz, coordinator
of the Tijuana Civic Forum, had a different take: “It is unacceptable that we don’t see (public safety) not only
in Tijuana, but throughout the country.”
In April 54 people were murdered in Tijuana, with
that month’s homicide toll surpassed well before the end of May.
On the other side of the
U.S.-Mexico border, in the state of Tamaulipas, a “low level” war prevails in Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Matamoros,
Tampico and other localities where factions of the Gulf Cartel slug it out for control of a region vital not only for the
illegal flow of drugs into the United States, but arms trafficking, immigrant smuggling, gas and oil robberies, and other
rackets as well.
Striking a positive note, President Enrique Peña Nieto delivered a May 21 speech
in Reynosa praising Tamaulipas for representing more than just problems. “(Authorities) have been working as a team
to combat organized crime,” the Mexican president was quoted.
Almost as soon as Peña
Nieto departed the stage, attackers in Matamoros tossed grenades at installations of the Federal Police and the National Electoral
Institute (INE), the official body responsible for organizing the June 7 elections.
Only days earlier authorities
in Reynosa dismantled dozens of “narco cameras,” or video cameras set up for spying on the military and government
agencies -and the public- that were apparently run through the Internet. The surveillance cameras were discovered on utility
posts outside federal security offices and commercial centers.
In Jalisco, meanwhile, violence has
acquired proportions almost unimaginable not too long ago. Despite a parlay earlier this year between Jalisco Governor Jorge
Aristoteles Sandoval and representatives of the state’s political parties precisely over questions of security and elections,
subsequent developments have unsettled the scene as election day approaches.
Besides the April ambush and massacre
of state policemen on the Guadalajara-Puerto Vallarta highway, inter-state transportation was disrupted and commercial businesses
were attacked during a May Day narco-uprising attributed to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Later, dozens of men were reported
disappeared near Villa Purificacion, a town close to the spot where a military helicopter was shot down by gunmen on May 1.
On May 20, 67-year-old Eliado Avila Perez, the father-in-law of Nestora Salgado, an imprisoned community
police commander from the state of Guerrero whose long hunger strike has attracted international attention and support, was
shot dead by a man in Tomatlan, a municipality south of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast.
Salgado’s relatives in the U.S. had received telephoned threats to “lower” their protests in this country
prior to the murder.
According to the daily La Jornada, the CJNG arose after the Mexican army killed
capo Nacho Coronel in 2010. Coronel was a key associate of the Sinaloa Cartel in Guadalajara, and his death prompted orphaned
gunmen to band together with members of La Familia Michoacana, the Valencia crime family, and the Colima underworld in a powerful
Five years later, the CJNG is regarded as or more powerful than the Sinaloa Cartel, which
is now reportedly headed by “El Mayo” Zambada after the 2014 arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The CJNG is a big protagonist in neighboring Michoacan, where 42 presumed gunmen from the group and one federal police
officer were killed in a reported gun battle on May 22, in Tanhuato.
The high death toll of alleged hit
men combined with the very low number of police casualties, along with comments by family members who viewed the mangled bodies
of the slain men, has sown doubts about the official version of the incident.
Tanhuato is part of a corridor
encompassing several strategic municipalities in Michoacan and one in Jalisco, La Barca, where marijuana is shipped and laboratories
manufacture synthetic drugs. In 2014, clandestine graves holding the remains of more than 40 murder victims were discovered
in La Barca.
In Michoacan, Enrique Hernandez Saucedo, the mayoral candidate for Yurecaro postulated by Andres Manuel
Lopez Obrador’s new Morena Party, was murdered on May 14. Hernandez was a former member of the self-defense forces that
rose up against organized crime in 2013, and was reportedly opposed to alleged CJNG practices of extorting local businessmen.
Semei Verdia, a leader of indigenous Nahua self-defense forces on the Michoacan coast that have remained mobilized
and independent of the government, was ambushed May 25 in an attack that left him, a bodyguard and another man injured. Subsequent
clashes between the Nahua forces and suspected hit men left as many as six people dead on May 25 and 26.
door to Michoacan, violence in Guerrero rages unabated, especially in opium growing regions and the resort city of Acapulco,
where three, four, five or more murders are reported practically every day.
On May 18, as many as 11 men were
reported killed and ten others injured in a gun battle in El Nuevo Naranjo, a settlement situated in one of the mountainous
opium zones. The outbreak of violence was attributed to the May 5 killing of Jose Carlos Moreno Flores, aka “La
Calentura,” in a Guadalajara casino.
Moreno reputedly led a group connected to the Sinaloa Cartel,
and his death was viewed as the occasion for other groups to move in on a profitable territory. Moreno’s band
was involved in previous clashes in the Guerrero mountains during February and March that left at least 25 dead, homes destroyed,
and businesses sacked in the village of Izotepec, with residents displaced.
Another hot spot is around
Chilapa, the scene of persistent violence since last year between two groups, Los Ardillos and Los Rojos, over control of
a drug corridor. Most recently, at least 16 men were disappeared from Chilapa after hundreds of armed civilians allegedly
linked to Los Ardillos stormed the town with the purported connivance of soldiers and police between May 9 and 14.
by El Diario de Juarez, Cesar Camacho, the head of President Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI), denied that recent eruptions of violence were connected to the elections. Instead, the public was merely witnessing
the “routine violence” afflicting the country, Camacho insisted.
Violence, however, has hit
political campaigns in Guerrero and elsewhere. Late last week, campaign committee members of the National Action Party’s
gubernatorial candidate, Jorge Camacho, were shot at on the Costa Grande highway between Zihuatanejo and Acapulco, but no
injuries were reported.
Separately, Leticia Maganda, state legislative candidate for the Citizen Movement Party,
was briefly kidnapped, roughed up and had her truck stolen in the state capital of Chilpancingo.
the campaign coordinator for a PRI congressional candidate was murdered the evening of May 25. Shot to death, Salvador Mendez
also served as a councilman in the municipality of Chignahuapan.
The latest episodes of violence involving
politicians follow the previous murders of two mayoral candidates in Guerrero, including the PRI candidate for Chilapa, as
well as the disappearance of Silvia Romero Suarez, a Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) legislative candidate for the
Tierra Caliente region of the southern state.
In a twist, the daily El Sur accused
an assistant of PRD state legislative candidate Lucina Victoriano Aguirre of threatening reporters outside an Acapulco building
where the press got wind of alleged pre-election vote buying in progress on May 23.
Identified as “Jose,”
the assistant ordered women who were filing in and out of the building not to talk to the press and began snapping photos
of El Sur reporters.
When one of the newspaper’s photographers responded in kind, Jose got angry and
blurted out, “Be careful, I know where you are.”
For her part, Victoriano denied she was buying
copies of election credentials or threatening reporters. Victoriano is a relative of former Governor Angel Aguirre,
who was forced to resign amid the uproar over the forced disappearance by police of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa rural
teacher’s college last year.
On May 18, two men struck a security guard with their guns outside El Sur’s
Acapulco office after pointedly asking him for “the manager.”
During the 2010 gubernatorial
campaign, El Sur’s Acapulco offices were attacked by gunmen who sprayed bullets and spread gasoline while workers
were present; nobody was injured in that attack.
Public doubts about various candidates hang
over Guerrero’s elections.
As the spring campaign took shape, the Proceso/Apro news service reported possible drug
trafficking links to PRI mayoral and state legislative candidates in Zihuatanejo, San Luis Acatlan, Coyuca de Catatlan, Tixtla,
and other places.
At the municipal level, control of government means not only command of the local police
force, but power over business permits, taxi services, public works contracts and the registration of properties.
this context, the Ayotzinapa students and parents of the disappeared are spearheading a movement to block the elections, contending
that the voting will only reshuffle and perpetuate a violent, corrupt and criminal political system.
by teachers and some social movement organizations, the election boycotters vow to prevent polls from being installed on June
7. On Sunday, May 24, parents and students burned campaign propaganda in front of state government headquarters in Chilpancingo.
Groups in the neighboring states of Michoacan and Oaxaca are likewise pledging to impede the elections in some places.
Even as the fallout from the Ayotzinapa atrocity scars the political landscape, another crisis over forced disappearance
is bubbling up in the face of Guerrero’s interim governor. At a May 24 meeting with relatives of Chilapa’s newly
disappeared, Gov. Rogelio Ortega was given an ultimatum by parents.
“They haven’t kidnapped
your children, mother or father,” one distraught father of three missing sons told Ortega. “I’ve already
received threats and don’t care if they kill me. I give you 48 hours to resolve the disappearance of our sons, because
they are not dogs.”
Meanwhile, the ongoing recovery of remains of other disappeared persons from the clandestine
graves outside the Guerrero city of Iguala, that were first exposed by the attack on the Ayotzinapa students last fall, proceeds
with more macabre finds. The number of individual sets of remains recuperated now tops 100, with the 101st victim discovered
last week. So far, none of the missing Ayotzinapa students have been identified among the victims.
La Jornada (Michoacan edition), May 26, 2015. Article
by Francisco Torres. Frontera.info, May 23, 2015. El Diario de Juarez, May 23 and 26, 2015. Articles by Gabriela Minjares
and Reforma. El Sol de Tijuana, May 21 and 23, 2015. Articles by Laura Bueno Medina and Juan Guizar. Lapolaka.com, May
21, 22 and 23, 2015. Zeta, May 18, 22, 23, and 24, 2015. Proceso/Apro, February 20, 2015; March 16 and 25, 2015;
May 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 2105. Articles by Jose Gil Olmos, Ezequiel Contreras Flores, Felipe
Cobain, Francisco Castellanos, and editorial staff. La Jornada, May 22 23, 24, 25, 2015. Articles by David Castellanos,
Gustavo Castillo, Fabiola Martinez, Ernesto Martinez, Arturo Campos Cedillo, and the Associated Press. La Jornada (Guerrero
edition), May 23 and 25, 2015. Articles by Citlal Giles Sanchez and Margena de la O. El Sur, May 20, 21, 23, 24, 2105.
Articles by Karina Contreras, Rosabla Ramirez Garcia, Alina Navarette Fernandez, Carlos Moreno, Luis Blancas, Alejandro Guerrero,
and editorial staff.
Reprinted with authorization from Frontera NorteSur, a free, on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news source; translation FNS. Frontera NorteSur (FNS), Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico