Mexican lawmakers are predicting legal cannabis by month's end, and portraying it as a key to de-escalating the endemic narco-violence. But national headlines are full of nightmarish cartel violence—making all too clear how big the challenge will be.
The Zapatista rebels in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas marked the anniversary of their 1994 New Years Day uprising by hosting a national activist gathering in their territory. Guests of honor at the proceedings in the small pueblo of Oventic were a group of parents and other family members of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014. The students, from Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state, are said to have been abducted by corrupt local police and turned over to a murderous narco-gang—but surviving kin and their supporters increasingly charge Mexico's government with a cover-up in the case. The Zapatistas' Subcommander Moises, joined by 43 masked rebels (one for each missing student), oversaw the ceremony and each embraced the family members. Moises expressed his own skepticism of the official investigation: "The Zapatistas believe that we cannot trust the bad governments anymore, they are the servants of capital, stewards of big capitalist business," he said. "The one calling the shots is global capitalism, that is why we cannot believe them." (TeleSur, Jan. 1)
Here we go again. Mexican authorities announced March 9 the death of Michoacán's top drug lord Nazario Moreno AKA "El Chayo" in a shoot-out that erupted when a mixed force of military and federal police troops raided his 44th birthday party in the pueblo of Apatzingán. Also known as "El Más Loco" (the Craziest One), "El Macho Loco" and "El Doctor," Moreno was the founder of both La Familia cartel and its offshoot, the Knights Templar. But there is an all-too-familiar sense of deja vu here: this is the second time that El Chayo was reported killed in a shoot-out with federal cops in Apatzingán. The first time was in December 2010, although authorities didn't produce the body. This time they have, and boast positive forensic identification. (Univision, March 10; BBC News, La Jornada, AP, Milenio, March 9)
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)
At least 15 were killed April 10 in a series of confrontations in Mexico's increasingly conflicted Michoacán state. The first confrontation began when federal police aboard a helicopter spotted armed men traveling in four vehicles at Charapando in the muncipality of Gabriel Zamora. The gunmen opened fire on the agents, who shot back and killed five, a police statement said, adding that one of those killed was high in the leadership structure of a local drug cartel, which was not named. Two police agents were reported wounded. Hours later in the town of Apatzingan, federal agents were accompanying a procession commemorating the anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata when gunmen opened fire with AK-47s. Police returned fire, killing one. Another eight were killed elsewhere in Apatzingán, when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint where trucks full of harvested lime were backed up; two police were injured, but the dead were all civilians. Schools in Apatzingán and Buenavista Tomatlán municipalities have been closed due to the violence.
Seven were killed March 29 when a masked gunman in a bullet-proof vest and black uniform opened fire with an AK-47 in a bar in in the commercial center of Chihuahua City in northern Mexico. Three of the dead were women who worked at the bar, called Mogavi. The city has seen a wave of violence as the Juárez Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel battle for control of the strategic corridor leading to the border town of Ciudad Juárez, immediately up the highway to the north. In a similar incident that night, gunmen opened fire in a bar in Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero state, killing four civilians and three off-duty federal agents. The previous night, an armed commando raided a nightclub called La Habana in Oaxaca City, in Mexico's south, menacing staff and patrons with AK-47s, shooting up the bar's facade, and abducting one man identified only by his nickname, "El Chiquilín."
Mexican naval forces in the oil port of Tampico, Tamaulipas, on Sept. 13 arrested Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez AKA "El Coss"—notorious leader of the Gulf Cartel—along with five cohorts, apparently without resistance. Authorities hailed it as a major blow against the cartel, coming just a week after the arrest of another Gulf kingpin, Mario Cárdenas Guillén AKA "El Gordo" (Fatso), captured by Mexican marines in Altamira, also in Tamaulipas—the brother of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, who led the cartel until he was detained in 2003.