Mexico: Gulf Cartel kingpin busted

The presumed kingpin of the Gulf Cartel, Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño AKA "El Pelón" (Baldy), who also went by the code-name X-20, was arrested by Mexican army troops along with two henchmen in Río Bravo, Tamaulipas, Aug. 17. Only one shot was fired in the apprehension. Spokesmen for the administration of President Enrique Peña-Nieto in announcing the capture predicted that it would put the breaks on the nightmarish violence in Tamaulipas between the Gulf Cartel and its rivals Los Zetas, and noted that several Gulf criminal operatives have been arrested this month. 

Violence surges in Tamaulipas: State Department

Murders in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas jumped more than 90% and kidnapping reports more than doubled over last year to the highest rate in the country, according to a new travel warning issued July 26 by the US State Department. The State Department maintained its stance that US citizens should defer all non-essential travel to Tamaulipas, as carjackings, armed robberies, gun battles and grenade attacks continue to pervade the region, including in the border towns of Matamoros and Reynosa. "These crimes occur in all parts of the city at all times of the day," the bulletin stated.

Mexico: Zetas boss busted; kid brother ascends?

Mexican naval forces on July 13 captured Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, head of the Zetas cartel, who was apprehended with two lieutenants in a pick-up truck in the municipality of Anáhuac, Nuevo León. Early reports that placed the arrest in Treviño's home turf of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, were apparently incorrect. Officials said he had eight guns and $2 million in cash. Treviño and his henchmen reportedly surrendered without firing a shot as a military helicopter began tailing their vehicle from their air. They are now said to be under interrogation by the Special Sub-prosecutor for Investigation of Organized Crime (SEIDO).

Mexico: army rescues 165 kidnapped migrants

On June 4 Mexican army soldiers freed 165 people, mostly Central Americans, who the authorities said had been held for as much as three weeks by an unidentified criminal organization at a safe house in Las Fuentes, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz municipality, a few miles from the US border in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. One person, apparently a lookout for the kidnappers, was arrested. The captives were reportedly migrants planning to cross illegally into the US; the smugglers ("polleros") they had hired may have turned them over to a criminal group, possibly the Gulf drug cartel or the Los Zetas gang.

Mexico: narco-violence from Yucatan to Rio Grande

Six people were strangled to death and one decapitated in the Mexican tourist resort of Cancún April 14—the latest mass killing to strike the city in the last few weeks. Police found the bodies of the five men and two women in a shack in the outskirts of the Yucatan Peninsula city, which has largely escaped the drug-related violence that has rocked Acapulco, a faded tourist destination on the Pacific coast. Quintana Roo authorities said the vicitms were small-scale drug dealers. In a separate incident that day, police found the body of another man in Cancún who had been gagged, bound and wrapped in sheets. (AP, April 15) The slayings come one month after seven were killed when gunmen burst into Cancún's La Sirenita (Little Mermaid) bar, targeting members of the city's taxi-drivers who were holding a meeting there. Several Cancún taxi drivers had been arrested recently for selling drugs or participating in drug-related killings, authorities said. (AP, Univision, March 15)

Mexican media mum on murderous mayhem

Two women are among the dead in a fierce gun battle that claimed five lives March 16 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, just across the Mexican border from Hidalgo, Tex. Tamualipas state authorities said the women were among the combatants. The fire-fight came one day after Mexican federal police found more than five tons of marijuana, 370 pounds of crystal methamphetamine and a large weapons cache in underground bunkers in Reynosa—including 20 rifles, 10 bulletproof vests, a gas grenade, 20 uniforms, radios and tire spikes. March 11 also saw a three-hour gun battle in the streets of Reynosa, with rival narco-factions using automatic weapons and grenades. Authorities were absent for most of the shoot-out that left some three dozen gunmen and two bystanders dead—one just a teen. An exact death toll was elusive, as cartel gunmen collected their own dead during the battle.

Mexico called to task over disappeared

A new report highlighting Mexico's human rights crisis finds that security forces have taken part in many kidnappings and disappearances over the six-year term of President Felipe Calderón, with the government failing to investigate most cases. Despite some controversy over the numbers, an estimated 70,000 are believed to have met violent deaths under Calderón's militarized crackdown on the cartels. But the new report, released by Human Rights Watch Feb. 20, finds that on top of this figure, possibly more than 20,000 disappeared during Calderón's term. Many were abducted by narco gangs, but all state security forces—the military, federal and local police—are also accused in "the most severe crisis of enforced disappearances in Latin America in decades."

Mexico's prez-elect broaches oil privatization —almost

At least 26 are dead, 50 injured and seven still missing after a Sept. 18 explosion at a Petróleos Mexicanos  (Pemex) gas pipeline distribution center on the outskirts of Reynosa, on the Texas border in Tamaulipas state. The dead include four Pemex employees and 22 private contractors. The pipeline serves wells in northern Mexico's Burgos basin, which have been repeatedly attacked for pilfering by criminal gangs such as Los Zetas. Last month, Pemex said the amount of petroleum products stolen in the first half of this year is up 18% compared to 2011, totalling more than 1.8 million barrels. But the company denied that criminal activity was linked to the Reynosa blast. (Brownsville Herald, Sept. 19; OilPrice, Aug. 21)

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