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)
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)
Three gun-battles in one day left at least 13 dead in the Mexican border city of Matamoros Nov. 2, Tamaulipas state authorities acknowledged. A statement from the Tamaulipas Coordination Group—the liaison office between state and federal forces—said two of the shoot-outs were between Mexican Marines and "armed civilians," the standard euphemism for cartel gunmen. One woman was among the 13 dead, who were also identified as "civilians"—leaving it unclear if they were combatants or by-standers. What press accounts called "narco-blockades" cut off traffic on the city's principal avenues. (Global Post, Crónica de Hoy, Nov. 4; Proceso, Nov. 3) Nov. 11 saw another outburst in the neighboring border city of Reynosa, with federal forces and presumed cartel gunmen having a high-speed shoot-out in a car chase through several neighborhoods. Allegedly, only one of the gunmen was killed, but video footage provided by the Facebook-coordinated network Valor por Tamaulipas showed a car overturned in road pile-up. (El Diario de Coahuila, Nov. 11)
A new riot between rival gangs in the dangerously overcrowded prison at Altamira, in the Mexican border state Tamaulipas, left seven inmates dead Oct. 26. State authorities said the prisoners were killed with makeshift knives in a fight in one cellblock at the facility, officially known as the Execution and Sanction Center (CEDES). Thirty-one inmates died in a riot in the same prison early last year, pointing to a crisis rooted in the confluence of teeming lock-ups and the bloody narco wars being waged in Tamaulipas both inside and outside the prisons. The state is currently Mexico's most violent. The CEDES was designed to hold 2,000 inmates, but now has a population of more than 3,000. (AP, Notimex, Oct. 26)
US officials were secretly critical of the militarized anti-narcotic policies of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) at the same time that the US government was funding and publicly backing them, according to declassified documents that the Washington, DC-based research group National Security Archive posted on its website on Nov. 6. The documents are among 30 official reports and diplomatic cables, with dates from Aug. 25, 2007 to May 22, 2012, that the US government released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the National Security Archive and other organizations in Mexico and the US.
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.
Mexican federal police on Oct. 4 announced the apprehension of a fugitive Gulf Cartel operative, Eduardo Francisco Villatoro Cano AKA "Guayo"—wanted in Guatemala for a bloody attack on police earlier this year. Guayo was captured in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, capital of southern Chiapas state, bordering Guatemala. Guatemalan authorities hold him responsible for a June armed attack on a National Civil Police post in Salcajá, Quetzaltenango, in which nine officers were killed. He was arrested along with his cousin, Édgar Waldiny Herrera Villatoro AKA "El Gualas." Although both men are Guatemalan nationals, they were said to be serving as agents of Mexico's Gulf Cartel. They were turned over to authorities in Guatemala, where President Otto Perez Molina said the Gulf Cartel network in the country has now been dismantled.
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.