Authorities in the northeastern Mexican state of Coahuila announced Feb. 7 that they had recovered at least 500 sets of human remains from mass graves scattered across 11 municipalities—mostly in the north of the state, along the Texas border. Most of the remains were bones, which had largely survived apparent attempts at incineration. Several vats used to dissolve the remains in acid were also found in the graves. No group has been named as responsible for the killings, but Coahuila is a battle-ground in the ongoing war between the Zetas and their rivals in the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels. The Mexican media are calling the finds "narco-graves." The state Prosecutor General's office says it will take at least four months to ascertain the number of victims among the remains, much less identify them. (Latin Times, Feb. 10; Siglo de Torreón, Feb. 8; Pulso, SLP, Feb. 7)
Mexican authorities on Feb. 22 announced the arrest of the country's top drug lord, the notorious Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo" (Shorty)—who had eluded capture for over 10 years, despite a supposed manhunt and a massive price on his head. Chapo was detained in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, and immediately transfered by Federal Police helicopter accompanied by an escort of two Armed Forces helicopters to the top-security Federal Center for Social Rehabilitation No. 1 at Altiplano, México state. The prison has since been under escalated security measures, ringed by armed troops, with nearby highways patrolled by convoys of Federal Police vehicles. (La Jornada, Feb. 22)
Mexico's Network for Solidarity and Against Repression (RvsR) is calling for international support for the Zapatista base communities in Chiapas state following attacks late last month, urging, "If they touch the Zapatistas, they touch all of us." (UDW, Feb. 14; Enclace Zapatista, Feb. 13) The Zapatista Good Government Junta at the village of Morelia announced on Jan. 31 that several communities within its zone had been attacked by a "mob" of some 300 followers of the Independent Central of Agrarian Workers and Campesinos (CIAOC), who menaced residents with machetes and left three injured. (La Jornada, Feb. 1) The executive committee of CIAOC later disavowed the attacks, saying they had been carried out by the breakaway "CIAOC-Democratic" faction. (La Jornada, Feb. 15) Chiapas state police on Feb. 18 detained CIAOC leader Corazón Gómez Consuegra on charges related to factional violence within the organization in Tapilula municipality. (Es!DiarioPopular, Chiapas, Feb. 19)
Mexican security forces announced Jan. 30 the arrest of a top leader of the New Generation drug cartel, based in the western state of Jalisco. Rubén Oseguera González AKA "El Menchito" is said to be second-in-command in the criminal organization led by his father, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes AKA "El Mencho," and is also known as "El Junior." He was arrested in a major operation that involved dozens of army troops in Zapopan, a city in the Guadalajara metropolitan area. There remains a 2 million peso ($150,000) price on the head of El Menchu, and media accounts said he narrowly escaped capture last year. The New Generation group is said to be allied with the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico's most powerful trafficking organization.
According to a Feb. 8 article in the online magazine Salon, officials of the Federal Reserve, the de facto central bank of the US, were planning to arrange for a bailout of the Mexican peso in November 1993 to ensure that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would be ratified by the House of Representatives. While the US media and government officials—including Federal Reserve Board of Governors member Jon LaWare—were assuring Congress and the public of Mexico's financial stability, top Reserve officials were concerned that the peso might be facing a devaluation. In a Nov. 9 conference call that one official described as "of a sensitive international nature," Fed leaders discussed arranging a US-sponsored bailout if the currency failed.
Mexico's federal government signed an accord with Michoacán's "community police" network Jan. 27, calling for the self-defense militias to be incorporated into the official security forces. The pact was signed by Alfredo Castillo, the government's special pointman for pacification of Michoacán, and 30 leaders of the "community police" forces. The ceremony took place at the village of Tepalcatepec, one of those recently seized by the militias. The "community police" are to be absorbed into the Rural Defense Corps, a paramilitary network under the command of the National Defense Secretariat.
Mexico's violence-torn state of Michoacán produces millions of kilos each year of its famous specialty crop, highly prized in US markets... Yes, avocados. Michoacán accounts for 72% of total Mexican production of this rich, green fruit, and over 80% of the state's output is exported to the United States. The trade amounts to nearly a billion dollars a year—even ahead of the state's notorious (and prohibition-inflated) marijuana. But now the two industries are experiencing a grim synergy, as narco lords acquire avocado plantations to launder money, facilitate smuggling and maintain a cover of "legitimate" income. According to a recent exposé in Mexico's Vanguardia newspaper, the Knights Templar cartel has in recent years been running an extortion racket on avocado farmers, seizing their lands if they can't pay up (on pain of family members being abducted and threatened with death), building a "legal" agrarian empire in the state. The local agribusiness association, with the clunky name of the Michoacán State Committee on Vegetable Health, has been co-opted by the Templarios through threats and bribes, according to the report.
Mexican federal police arrested 38 people across violence-torn Michoacán state on Jan. 20, claiming a blow against the notorious Knights Templar drug cartel. Among those detained was Jesús Vázquez Macías AKA "El Toro"—claimed to be a top kingpin of the blood-drenched narco network. "El Toro" was apprehended in the port city of Lázaro Cárdenas, and flown to a prison in Veracruz state, far from his home turf. But Lázaro Cárdenas, one of Mexico's key Pacific ports and industrial hubs, was actually taken over by federal security forces back in November, ostensibly to protect it from the warring narco gangs. That El Toro apparently managed to remain at large in the city until now loans credence to the claims of Michoacán's vigilante network that the government is turning a blind eye to the drug lords. (AFP, BBC News, Milenio, Jan. 20; BN Americas, Jan. 10; Reuters, Jan. 1)