Media reports in Mexico indicate that the notorious Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo"—who evaded authorities for over a decade before being captured earlier this year—has claimed victory in a hunger strike at the top-security Altiplano prison in Almoloya de Juárez, México state. Chapo reportedly started the strike July 16 with fellow imprisoned kingpin Édgar Valdez Villarreal AKA "La Barbie"—who had once been his comrade-in-arms but later became his bitter enemy when Barbie defected to the rival Beltran-Leyva cartel. The hunger strike rapidly spread throughout the prison, with at least 1,000 other inmates joining. Authorities quickly capitulated on some of the key demands. Prisoners will be given new shoes and clothing, and they will be served more food (although it will be the same mediocre quality). Inmates will also be allowed to purchase more items such as toilet paper from the prison store. They will be allowed three attempts to make phone calls to their families; previously, if the call was not connected or the line was busy they had to wait nine days to try again. Although other demands were not met, Chapo and Barbie called off the strike. It should be noted that Altiplano is the most elite prison in Mexico, with state-of-the-art security measures modelled after the "supermax" facilities in the United States. But conditions are far worse at the country's many overcrowded and corrupt state facilities—which have witnessed a series of bloody uprisings in recent years. (Hispanically Speaking, July 28;Borderland Beat, July 21; Proceso, July 19)
Mexican authorities unearthed five recently buried bodies from a clandestine grave in the rural pueblo of Mochicahui, El Fuerte municipality, Sinaloa state, officials announced July 21—the latest in a long string of such gruesome finds that the press in Mexico has dubbed narco-fosas, or narco-graves. Sinaloa state prosecutors were tipped off by a local resident whose family member was among the disappeared. Peasants in the region are terrorized by the Sinaloa Cartel, which makes a grisly example of those unwilling to cooperate in its drug-running operations. (EFE, July 21)
Mexico's El Universal reports June 18 that a protected witness testified to the Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR) that members of the US Border Patrol collaborated with the Sinaloa Cartel in arms trafficking to the powerful criminal organization. The sworn testimony is being used as evidence in the case against the cartel's recently apprehended kingpin, Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo"—who is accused, along with numerous other charges, of supervising the Gente Nueva gang, the cartel's armed wing.
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)
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.
A new massacre is reported from Ciudad Juárez, again raising fears of a return to the wave of deadly gangland violence that convulsed the Mexican border city for much of the past decade. Eight members of a single family—including two four-year-old girls and a six-year-old boy—were killed in their home Nov. 17 in the colonia (neighborhood) of Morelos Zaragoza. The bodies of the children were found on their beds, with multiple stab wounds, as were those of two young women. The two men were on armchairs, handcuffed and gagged. A two-month-old baby, known to have lived in the house, was not found among the dead. The family had been planning an event for their Jehova's Witnesses congregation when the attack took place. (Pulso, IOL, Proceso, Nov. 17)
Renowned Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández, author of Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers, has been receiving police protection since her reportage outed top figures in the country's security apparatus as drug cartel collaborators—resulting in threats on her life. On Sept. 26 she spoke at an event hosted by New York University in Lower Manhattan, entitled "Too Dangerous for Words: Life & Death Reporting the Mexican Drug Wars." She spoke about her journey, and how she views the state of Mexico's narco-wars following last year's change of government.