February 2018: News Brief

 

03/08/18 (written by Genesis Lopez)

Discover the important headlines in Mexico from February 2018.

13 Police Officers Arrested in Veracruz

 

Picture by Victor Camacho. La Jornada

Picture by Victor Camacho. La Jornada.

On the morning of February 8, 2018 in Xalapa, Veracruz, 13 police officers were taken into custody due to allegations of involvement in over 54 forced disappearances. These forced disappearances were instances of imprisonment by the government that predominantly occurred during the tenure of former Veracruz governor, Javier Duarte (La Jornada). Duarte is currently detained and accused of being involved in organized crime, embezzlement and corruption. Previous to his arrest on April 16, 2017, he was hiding in Guatemala for almost six months (BBC).

Moreover, there are reports of an elite police force in Veracruz, headed by former director of Veracruz State Police, Roberto González Meza, that illegally detained civilians suspected of being involved with “Los Zetas”(Proceso). Among the 13 police officers arrested was former Veracruz Public Security Secretariat (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP), Nava Holguín and Arturo Bermúdez Zurita. It has been reported that during Duarte’s six-year term there were up to 200 cases of forced disappearances in Veracruz (La Jornada).

 

Sources:

Fugitive Mexican governor Javier Duarte arrested in Guatemala.” BBC News. April 16, 2017.

Gómez, Eirinet, “Detienen a 13 policías de Veracruz vinculados con Javier Duarte.” La Jornada. February 8, 2018.

López, Lourdes, “Implican a exfuncionarios de Veracruz en delitos desaparición forzada.” Excelsior. February 8, 2018.

Pérez, Edgar, “Investigan a ex mando de seguridad de Javier Duarte por desaparición forzada de 15 personas.” El Universal. February 8, 2018.

Zavaleta, Noé, “Policia élite de Javier Duarte: perseguía a Zetas, levantaba a civiles.” Proceso. February 10, 2018.

 

Current Leader of Cartél de Tláhuac is arrested

 

Picture by Cua Rtoscuro. El Universal.

Picture by Cua Rtoscuro. El Universal.

On February 16, 2018, José Eduardo Zamora “El Cholo” was arrested for being linked to the Tláhuac Cartel in the municipality of San José de Iturbide in the state of Guanajuato (Milenio). Zamora was captured in a joint operation between the Investigative Police (Policía de Investigación, PDI) and local police department (Excelsior). He is the alleged successor of Felipe de Jesús Pérez Luna “El Ojos”, the previous leader of the Tláhuac Cartel, who died in November of 2017.

Zamora was detained in 2013 and 2016, respectively for street-level drug dealing and destruction of property. In both cases, he was released on a judge’s order. Authorities say that Zamora held a significant role in the  distribution of drugs in the southeast region of Mexico’s capital. In addition, Zamora is allegedly linked to the homicide of an ex-commander of the Mexico City municipal police in Iztapalapa in February of 2016. As of August 2016, 74 people involved with the Tláhuac Cartel have been arrested (El Universal).

 

Sources:

Detienen en Guanajuato a operador de cártel de Tláhuac.” Milenio, February 16, 2018.

Roa, Wendy, “Fue capturado ‘El Cholo’, jefe de sicarios del Cártel de Tláhuac.” Excelsior. February 16, 2018.

Suárez, Gerardo, “Aprehenden a ‘El Cholo’ ligado a Cártel de Tlahuac.” El Universal. February 17, 2018.

 

 

Anonymous Jury is ordered for “El Chapo’s” Trial

 

Photo by U.S Law Enforcement. New York Times .

Photo by U.S Law Enforcement. New York Times.

New York federal judge Brian M. Cogan has ordered that the jury taking part in Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán’s upcoming trial in September will be anonymous and partly sequestered, citing potential danger to the jurors. Guzmán is facing 17 charges, which include leading a criminal enterprise, producing and exporting wholesale amounts of narcotics across the U.S.-Mexico border, and ordering the targeted assassinations of people associated with  rival organized crime groups (LA Times).

Cogan cited Guzman’s history of violence as the main reason concealing the identities of the jurors. In addition, the selected jury will be under the protection of federal marshals throughout the duration of the trial, which is anticipated to last three to four months (NY Times). Guzmán’s lawyer, A. Eduardo Balarezo, countered that the judge’s order would give the jurors an unfairly perceive Guzman as a threat. Balarezo believes that keeping the jury anonymous will undermine the presumption of innocence, causing them to form a prejudiced opinion before listening to any evidence. “El Chapo” has a history of interference with the judicial processes in Mexico, prompting strict legal procedures following his extradition to the  United States (NY Times).

 

Sources:

Agrawal, Nina, “Citing potential danger, judge orders anonymous jury in ‘El Chapo’ trial.” Los Angeles Times. February 6, 2018.

Feuer, Alan, “El Chapo Jurors Will Be Anonymous During Trial.” The New York Times. February 6, 2018.

 

 

 

 

El Chapo extradited to United States

El Chapo's extradition

Seen here, El Chapo was extradited to the United States on January 19, 2017. Photo: Associated Press.

01/24/17 (written by kheinle) – One year after the arrest of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on January 8, 2016, the Mexican government extradited the notorious drug lord to the United States. Guzmán landed in Long Island, New York on Thursday, January 19, 2017 where he faces charges of organized crime, murder, and drug trafficking, as well as illegal use of firearms, money-laundering, and torture, among others.

Although seven U.S. jurisdictions have charges open against him, including Southern California and Chicago, Guzmán will be prosecuted in Brooklyn, NY in the state’s Eastern District Court on a 17-count indictment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), “the indictment alleges that between January 1989 and December 2014, Guzman Loera led a continuing criminal enterprise responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and conspiring to murder persons who posed a threat to Guzman Loera’s narcotics enterprise.”

The Road to Extradition

The DOJ has sought Guzmán’s extradition for years, but the Mexican government did not agree to do so until the requests for the kingpin’s turnover until it approved the most recent application on May 11, 2016, putting the process officially in motion. The decision to approve the extradition was likely influenced by Guzmán’s repeated ability to evade the Mexican government, having escaped from prison in 2001 and again in 2015. Mexico’s inability to securely hold Guzmán was not only a source of public ridicule, but it also undermined rule of law in a country working to establish a stronger judicial system and solidify democratic practices. Still, the extradition came as a surprise on both sides of the border. According to The New York Times, the U.S. government, for example, was reportedly not aware of Guzmán’s extradition until hours before his arrival in NY. Guzmán’s lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez, was also unaware of his client’s departure, having arrived to the Mexican prison where Guzmán was detained to meet with his client only to find his extradition already underway. “I was supposed to visit him today,” said Refugio. “I know nothing about this.”

El Chapo's extradition

El Chapo was arraigned in the Eastern District Court in New York following his extradition. Photo: Univisión.

Some speculate that the secretive nature surrounding the extradition may be part of a bigger political message being sent from Mexico to the United States. In fact, Guzmán landed in NY just hours before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, meaning he was technically extradited to the United States under President Barak Obama, who was seen in Mexico as a strong ally. A U.S. law enforcement official told The New York Times that the extradition’s last minute timing was possibly “politically motivated.” In early January, Justice in Mexico Director David Shirk told the Dallas Morning Times that “Mexico’s willingness to extradite Chapo Guzmán is going to diminish on January 21” once Trump was in the Oval Office. Jorge Chabat, a security expert at Mexico’s Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE), noted that Mexico may have been trying to underscore the benefits of cooperation. “By not waiting to send [Guzmán] to Trump after the inauguration,” he said, “it is a subtle statement saying, ‘We could this for you, too, in the future, if we have a good relationship.” Nevertheless, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) denied such claims. “It has nothing to do with [U.S. presidential turnover,” said PGR Director Alberto Elías Beltrán. He continued, “Everything was handled through terms following international law because we had to promptly make the delivery of the person requested by the United States. Had we not, we would have been out of compliance with international treaties.”

Regardless of the motivation, Guzmán’s extradition is a significant milestone in the war on drugs and the overall U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship.

Sources:

Dresser, Denise. “El Chapo(teadero).” Reforma. January 11, 2016.

“The legal battle over El Chapo’s potential extradition.” Justice in Mexico. January 23, 2016.

Levinson, Jonathan. “NAFTA benefits more than just trade, but it needs to be changed,” Dallas Morning News, January 10, 2017.

Ahmed, Azam. “El Chapo, Mexcan Drug Kingpin, Is Extradited to U.S.” The New York Times. January 19, 2017.

“Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán es extraditado a Estados Unidos.” Univisión. January 19, 2017.

Office of Public Affairs. “Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera Faces Charges in New York for Leading a Continuing Criminal Enterprise and other Drug-Related Charges.” U.S. Department of Justice. January 20, 2017.

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. “Memorandum of Law in Support of Pretrial Detention.” U.S. Department of Justice. January 20, 2017.

The legal battle over El Chapo’s potential extradition

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán arrested on January 8, 2016 in Sinaloa. Photo: Alfredo Dominguez, La Jornada.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán arrested on January 8, 2016 in Sinaloa. Photo: Alfredo Dominguez, La Jornada.

01/23/16 (written by kheinle) — Just two weeks after the January 8th arrest of the world’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, much has been speculated about how his case will unfold. This is the third time El Chapo, head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, has been captured, having twice before broken out of prison in Mexico, once in 2001 and again in 2015. After the most recent arrest, El Chapo returned to the maximum-security prison, Altiplano, from where he escaped in 2015 via an underground tunnel below his cell that stretched nearly a mile long leading away from prison grounds.

When news broke of El Chapo’s arrest in 2016, many took to social media, reacting with questions of how long until he would escape again and how long until another mishandling of a high profile case would embarrass the Peña Nieto administration. Although Mexican authorities reiterated Guzmán is securely detained, many have demanded on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border that El Chapo be extradited to the United States, not only because he faces charges in seven U.S. jurisdictions for organized crime, murder, and drug trafficking, but also to ensure the Mexican judiciary system does not permit another escape. Mexico’s justice system is perceived as being notoriously corrupt, a label it is working to overturn through its implementation of the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). While that system continues to be rolled out, however, critics are quick to note the government’s inability to securely hold El Chapo not once, but twice. For her part, Political Analyst Denise Dresser called for El Chapo’s immediate extradition to the United States “before his legal battle ensnares that possibility… Catching [El Chapo] again,” Dresser continued, “doesn’t mean recognizing or remedying or reforming. So many systems failed during the second escape that it’s too big to be circumstantial. The coincidence is too coincidental. That’s why he should be taken out of a prison, security, information, and criminal investigation systems that has repeatedly shown its weaknesses, even if the President and his team deny it.”

Although the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) did begin the extradition process on January 9, a day after El Chapo’s arrest, that could take anywhere from six months to a year or more. There is also the real possibility that extradition never happens if El Chapo’s legal team, led by Mexican Attorney Juan Pablo Badillo, succeeds in filing motions and injunctions (amparos) to suspend the requests for extradition. Doing so means El Chapo’s case must first be heard before a judge to determine his eligibility for extradition, a process that could be expedited if the Peña Nieto administration intervened, reports El País. However, opponents of Dresser’s calls for immediate extradition argue that doing so would reflect poorly on the Mexican government and its ability to function effectively. “It would be an error to extradite him now,” commented Eduardo Guerrero, a national security analyst and former intelligence analyst for President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). “It would show that Mexico is very vulnerable.” Nevertheless, Guerrero said, the PGR needs to tread carefully in El Chapo’s case to ensure there are no legal missteps.

While the legal battle continues, the three key U.S. jurisdictions pursuing his extradition—San Diego, Chicago, and New York City—continue to vie for position to have his case heard. According to a former high-ranking official in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Carl Pike, the case will likely go to the jurisdiction with “the highest chance of success.”

Sources:

“Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera Recaptured by Mexican Marines.” Justice in Mexico. January 8, 2016.

Beauregard, Luis Pablo. “México no extraditará a ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán en el corto plazo.” El País. January 10, 2016.

Bennett, Brian and Deborah Bonello. “Prosecutors in these seven U.S. courtrooms want ‘El Chapo.’” The Los Angeles Times. January 11, 2016.

Dresser, Denise. “El Chapo(teadero).” Reforma. January 11, 2016.

Translation by Izar-Shea, Ruby. “Mexico Drug War: Arrest of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Doesn’t End Government Complicity with Criminals.” Mexico Voices. January 11, 2016.

“Mexico starts proceedings to extradite Guzman to US.” The Associated Press. January 11, 2016.

Press Release: Comunicado 020/16. “Como parte del procedimiento de extradición de Joaquín Guzmán Loera, la Procuraduría General de la República informa.” Procuraduría General de la República. January 11, 2016. 

The Associated Press. “Mexico Begins Legal Process Against Guzman’s Security Chief.” ABC News. January 14, 2016.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera Recaptured by Mexican Marines

1/8/16 (written by rkuckertz and lcalderon) – According to a late-morning announcement from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Twitter feed, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the Sinaloa cartel druglord recently made infamous for his subterranean escape in July from the Altiplano federal prison, has been captured. President Peña Nieto’s tweet read: “Mission accomplished: we have him.” Soon after the President’s online announcement, law enforcement sources confirmed this news to various media outlets, such as leading Mexican newspaper El Universal. The Mexican Navy subsequently made a statement regarding the recapture of Guzmán, saying that marines were acting on an anonymous tip from a concerned citizen regarding armed men in a nearby home in Los Mochis, a coastal town in Guzmán’s home state of Sinaloa.
PenaNieto1

According to the Navy’s statement, the mission began after 5:00am Friday morning when authorities entered the Los Mochis home. Upon entering, they were fired at from inside the building and as a result, five suspects were killed and six were arrested. Orso Ivan Gastelum Cruz, a prominent regional drug trafficker, managed to escape. Marines confiscated two armored vehicles, eight long guns, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. In a second tweet, President Peña Nieto called Guzmán’s recapture an “important achievement in favor of the Rule of Law of Mexico.”

PenaNieto2

It is still uncertain if Guzmán Leora will be extradited to the United States following this recapture. After Guzmán Leora was captured for the second time in 2014, President Enrique Peña Nieto declined a U.S. request for the extradition of the Sinaloa cartel druglord. In an interview with Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam in January 2015, Murillo Karam told The Associated Press, “I could accept extradition but at the time that I choose. El Chapo must stay here to complete his sentence and then I will extradite him,” he continues, “So about 300 or 400 years later — it will be a while.”

However, the United States proceeded with another request for extradition in late June of 2015, which the Mexican Attorney General granted three weeks after Guzmán Leora’s July escape. Shortly after, Guzmán Loera’s lawyer filed a request for injunction against the Attorney General’s order, resulting in the suspension of the order. As a result of the suspension, Guzmán Loera may not be directly handed over to U.S. authorities; instead, he must first receive a trial in Mexico to determine whether or not he will be extradited to the United States to face further charges. Guzmán Loera faces charges in seven U.S. jurisdictions including Brooklyn, Texas, Illinois, Chicago, New Mexico, Texas, Miami, and San Diego.

In order to place Guzmán Loera’s recent recapture into a broader context, we have provided below a general timeline of his activities prior to his leadership of the Sinaloa cartel through his most recent escape from the Altiplano federal prison.

Guzmán’s involvement in the drug trafficking world began in the 1980’s when he worked for the major drug kingpin in Mexico at that time: Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo, founder of the Guadalajara cartel. Guzmán Loera was in charge of the logistics and operations of the cartel at a time where Mexican drug traffickers were middlemen for Colombian drug cartels to get to the U.S. market. In 1985, Félix Gallardo sent his men, including Guzmán, to kidnap, torture, and kill DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena for his undercover work as an informant in the cartel for the U.S. government.

Félix Gallardo was then arrested in 1989 and the territories that once belonged to the Guadalajara cartel had to be divided, leaving Guzmán Loera as one of the founders of the Sinaloa Cartel, along with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and “El Guero” Palma. At this time, two other major cartels were formed: the Tijuana Cartel under the Arellano Félix brothers and the Juárez Cartel under Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Under his leadership, the Sinaloa cartel developed creative smuggling techniques and strategies, including building air-conditioned tunnels under the Mexico-U.S. border, hiding drugs in chili pepper cans and fire extinguishers, and catapulting drugs over the border. He diversified the cartel’s production to include various kinds of illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

On June 9, 1993, Guzmán Loera was arrested for the first time by the Guatemalan Army at a hotel close to the border with Mexico. He was then extradited to Mexico to be kept at the Federal Social Readaptation Center #1, a “maximum-security” prison often called “Altiplano.” In 1995 he was transferred to the maximum-security prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco. Even while in prison, “El Chapo” remained as one of the most powerful drug kingpins in Mexico, and sources declare he was referred to as “El Jefe” (The Boss) or “Don Joaquin” (Mr. Joaquin) and enjoyed many privileges such as having a personal cellphone.

In 2001 he escaped using a laundry cart with the help of Javier Camberos, a prison guard. Official reports suggest that there were at least 70 people involved in this escape.

On September 2001, the U.S. started asking for Guzmán’s capture and extradition to face charges of money laundering and conspiracy in a court in California. The U.S. government started to see Guzmán Loera as a priority target in its war on drugs. In 2004 it announced a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. In 2012 the U.S. Department of the Treasury called for the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to freeze the U.S. assets of members of his family.

On February 22nd 2014, “El Chapo” was finally apprehended again by the Mexican Navy in Mazatlán, Sinaloa with the aid of the DEA and Marshall Services. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto declined the American request to extradite Guzmán Loera, assuring the U.S. government he wouldn’t escape again.

Sources:

Ahmed, Azam. “El Chapo, Escaped Drug Lord, Has Been Recaptured, Mexican President Says.” The New York Times. 8 January 2016.

Agren, David and Doug Stanglin. “Fugitive Mexican drug kingpin ‘El Chapo’ captured.” USA Today. 8 January 2015.

Schuppe, Jon and Mark Potter. NBC News. “El Chapo: Notorious Mexican Drug Kingpin Captured by Authorities.” 8 January 2016.

“México recaptura al narcotraficante Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.” El Universal. 8 January 2016.

“Ni se fuga ni lo extradito, dijo Murillo Karam; “El Chapo” se amparó ese día; luego se fugó.” Sin Embargo. 14 July 2015.

Flores Martínez, Raúl. “Defensa de ‘El Chapo’ pide amparo contra extradición.” Excelsior. 31 July 2015.

Tuckman, Jo. “El Chapo’s escape was spurred by concern over extradition, lawyer says.” The Guardian. 25 August 2015.

“Looking back at Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman’s escape from prison.” Justice in Mexico. 28 August 2015.

“Un juez mexicano abre vía a la extradición de El Chapo si lo atrapan.” El País. 31 July 2015.

Aldrich, Ian. “Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera Biography.” The biography. N/A

Munro, André. “Joaquín Guzmán Loera Mexican Criminal.” Britannica. 8 January 2016.

Six Arrested for the Escape of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán

Arely Gómez, the Attorney General of Mexico. Source:  El Universal

Arely Gómez, the Attorney General of Mexico.                       Source: El Universal

11/07/15 (written by alagorio) – Recently, Mexican authorities have arrested six people who are suspected of being involved in the escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán from the Altiplano prison. This is the second time Guzmán has escaped from a prison in Mexico.

According to El Universal, the six people who were detained include Guzmán’s brother-in-law, his lawyer, a member of his legal team, a property owner, and two pilots. Attorney General Arely Gómez González explained that the alleged mastermind is a member of El Chapo’s legal team who had access to the prison. According to The Guardian, his lawyer was able to relay instructions and plan the escape from inside the prison. Also, Guzmán’s brother-in-law is suspected of supervising the construction of the one-mile tunnel that led out of the prison. After Guzmán exited the tunnel, he traveled to the city of Queretaro where the two pilots arranged a plane that is suspected of flying to Sinaloa.

The second escape of Guzmán is an embarrassment for the Peña Nieto administration. He is the largest drug lord in Mexico, as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. About twenty-three prison employees have been arrested for helping with the escape. Many countries like the United States believe that high profile criminals like Guzmán cannot be properly detained in Mexico due to the vast amount of corruption of prison officials.

Overall, the detainment of the six people is a step in discovering the whereabouts of Guzmán and how this plan was successfully executed. Nevertheless, the amount of prison officials involved in the escape poses a greater challenge of how to stop corruption in Mexico. The escape of high prolife criminals like El Chapo not only compromises the legal system of Mexico but also hurts the Peña Nieto’s credibility on an international scale.

Sources:

“Detenidos cómplices de la fuga del capo mexicano “el Chapo” Guzmán.” El Universal. October 21, 2015.

“Seis personas que ayudaron a “El Chapo” están detenidas.” La Prensa. October 21, 2015.

“Six people arrested in Mexico over escape of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.” The Guardian. October 21, 2015.