‘La Barbie’ extradited to the US

Mexican federal police escort Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez in Mexico City on August 31, 2010. Source: Reuters. "Mexico Extradites Alleged Drug Lord 'La Barbie' to U.S, Newsweek. September 30, 2015.

Mexican federal police escort Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez in Mexico City on August 31, 2010.
Source: Reuters. “Mexico Extradites Alleged Drug Lord ‘La Barbie’ to U.S, Newsweek. September 30, 2015.

10/01/15 (written by alagorio) – On September 30, 2015 thirteen defendants were extradited to the United States. Among the thirteen were two top drug lords, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie”, and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, known as “El Coss”. The extradition demonstrates the increased collaboration between the U.S. government and the Peña Nieto administration. Originally in Mexico there were numerous objections to extraditing criminals to the United States. Nevertheless, the current extradition signals that there is the hope for a more open security policy between Mexico and the United States in the future.

After the extradition was announced, U.S. Attorney General Lorreta Lynch expressed that, “Today’s extraditions would not have been possible without the close collaboration and productive relationship the Department of Justice enjoys with officials at the highest levels of law enforcement in Mexico”. The collaboration has helped foster further dialogue between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement to seek justice for crimes such as, drug trafficking and murder that have occurred in the U.S. Nevertheless, there are still some open-ended questions to answer that explain the future for the shift in the extradition process. For example, BBC Mundo cites that there are some detainees who were extradited that did not have any criminal charges against them.

Valdez of the Beltrán Leyva cartel is a U.S. citizen who was born in Texas. Author Azam Ahmed of The New York Times explains that the most serious charges against Valdez are murdering an American Consulate worker and an immigration and customs agent. Also, Valdez is responsible for contributing to some of the most gruesome violence in Mexico, which includes, beheading rival gang members and videotaping executions. He is wanted in Louisiana and Georgia for drug related crimes but remained incarcerated in Mexico since 2010. His extradition will allow the United States to carry out the charges against him, especially for the cases of murdered U.S. workers.

The extraditions expose a powerful pivot in the original platform of the Peña Nieto administration’s denial of extraditing criminals to the United States. As reported by The New York Times, since 2012 Peña Nieto has been a strong opponent of letting the U.S. government be too involved in security matters. Nevertheless, the Mexican government felt an extreme pressure to work with the U.S. after the prison escape of “El Chapo” Guzman three months ago. Guzman’s escape caused a greater call for the U.S. to be allowed to try and imprison some of the most dangerous drug lords in Mexico. Also, the prison break showed that the Mexican prison system can be easily corrupted and that it is not able to maintain high-level prisoners.

The Mexican governments extradition of the thirteen detainees demonstrate that a new chapter in the relationship between the U.S. in Mexico has begun. After the escape of “El Chapo” Guzman the Mexican government has experienced international pressure to extradite criminals that the prison system cannot house effectively. In light of this, the United States government is helping Mexico secure the most wanted criminals in both countries.

Ahmed, Azam. “Mexico, Signaling Shift, Extradites Drug Kingpins to United States.” The New York Times. September 30, 2015.

Paullier Juan. “México extradita a “La Barbie” y a “El Coss” a EE.UU.” BBC Mundo.” September 30, 2015.

Bruton, Brinley F. “Mexico Extradites Alleged Drug Lord ‘La Barbie,’ 12 Others to U.S.” NBC News. October 1, 2015.

Justice in Mexico comments on ‘El Chapo’s arrest

02/24/14 – As reported by Justice in Mexico, Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, was arrested on Saturday, February 22. Guzmán, one of the most wanted criminals in the world and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico, was taken into custody in the city of Mazatlán, Sinaloa in the North Pacific coast of Mexico by elements of the Mexican Navy in a coordinated operation with several Mexican law enforcement agencies in which U.S. authorities also participated.

The arrest of ‘El Chapo’ quickly became a trending topic in the news and social media not only in Mexico—where hashtags such as #chapoguzman or #mexicoenpaz among others represented 7 out the 10 trending topics—, but in international media outlets that also covered the story of the arrest of one the most wanted criminals worldwide. As always, Justice in Mexico contributed to the discussion making comments to several newspaper and TV stations about the topic. Here are the links to some of the Justice in Mexico comments in the media:

‘El Chapo’ Guzmán arrested in Mexico

02/22/14 – Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, one of the most wanted criminals in the world and leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico, was arrested on Saturday, February 22. ‘El Chapo’ was taken into custody in the tourist city of Mazatlán, in the State of Sinaloa in the North Pacific coast of Mexico. The arrest was carried out by elements of the Mexican Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR) with the support of the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), in a coordinated operation by several Mexican law enforcement agencies in which U.S. authorities also participated. Not a single shot was fired during the operation.

In a public address at the Navy Hangar in Mexico City’s Airport, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam confirmed the detention and the identity of Guzmán Loera, and recognized the coordination amongst agencies from Mexico and the United States. After a short speech by Murillo Karam, reporters were able to briefly photograph and film the detained while he was escorted by members of the special forces of the Navy to a Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) helicopter. The helicopter then conducted ‘El Chapo’ to a high-security prison in Almoloya de Juárez, State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex), followed by two helicopters of the Mexican military.

El "Chapo" transported by the Mexican Navy. Photo: Reuters.

El “Chapo” transported by the Mexican Navy. Photo: Reuters.

Over the past several months, U.S. and Mexican authorities have dealt a series of blows to the Sinaloa Federation, headed by legendary figures ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán and Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada García, particularly targeting groups closer to the latter. As reported by Justice in Mexico, on November 20, 2013 U.S. authorities captured Serafín Zambada Ortíz, the son of ‘El Mayo.’ Zambada Ortíz (23), also known as ‘Sera,’ was captured at the border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, while trying to enter the United States from Mexico through the pedestrian lane, accompanied by his wife. Zambada Ortíz is the second son of Zambada to face criminal charges in the United States. Sera’s brother, Vicente ‘El Vicentillo’ Zambada Niebla, was extradited from Mexico and is awaiting trial in Chicago.

Late last year on December 30, 2013, José Rodrigo Aréchiga Gamboa, also known as ‘El Chino Ántrax,’ a high-ranking lieutenant in the Sinaloa Cartel was arrested in the Netherlands by Dutch police at the airport after his flight landed in Amsterdam. Aréchiga was indicted on December 20 by a Southern California federal grand jury for conspiracy to import and distribute drugs, and launder money. On January 3, the U.S. government unsealed the indictment and formally requested that the Dutch extradite Aréchiga to California to face the charges. Aréchiga is considered one of the top enforcers in the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and head of the cartel’s enforcement cell known as Los Ántrax that works specifically for ‘El Mayo’ to provide protection for him and his family, and that offers top hit men for cartel operations.

Last week, prior to the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Mexico for the North American Summit, SEMAR conducted several operations in the State of Sinaloa where they detained about ten members of the Sinaloa Cartel and seized drugs, weapons, and properties. Among those detained is a man known as “El 19,” alleged chief of security for ‘El Mayo.’ Sources suggest that the Navy was close to capturing ‘El Mayo’ and possibly even ‘El Chapo’ during these operations, but they nevertheless managed to escape.

The series of arrests and operations that impacted the Sinaloa Cartel and the closest circle to ‘El Mayo’ Zambada raised suspicions of a break-up within the organization, particularly between Guzmán and Zambada. Whether or not this was the case, and if the arrest of ‘El Chapo’ was in connection to that “alleged” break-up, it is still unclear what the future of the organization will be with the capture of ‘El Chapo’ and the strikes to ‘El Mayo,’ particularly when the organization managed to consolidate its power in Mexico above all other criminal organizations, most notably the Zetas organization, which received the most significant blows from the Mexican government over the past few years and whose leadership was presumably dismantled. Many believe that the Mexican and U.S. governments have long favored the Sinaloa Cartel over its more volatile counterparts for being a more business-oriented organization.

Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán was named by Forbes magazine as one of the richest and most powerful men in the world. After escaping from prison in 2001, Guzmán committed to gaining territory from other criminal organizations by forming alliances and succeeded in creating the most solid and powerful of Mexico’s criminal organizations with connections worldwide. ‘El Chapo’ was the most wanted criminal in the United States after the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Sources:

“La Marina sitia Culiacán con un fuerte operativo terrestre y aéreo.” Vanguardia. February 17, 2014.

Gómora, Doris. “Marina mantiene operative de búsqueda en Culiacán.” El Universal. February 17, 2014.

Perez, Evan. “Capturan en México al Chapo Guzmán.” CNN Español. February 22, 2014.

Associated Press. “US official: Sinaloa drug chief ‘Chapo’ Guzman arrested by US, Mexican authorities in Mexico.” The Washington Post. February 22, 2014.

The Peña Nieto administration: a year in review

01/02/14 – (by cmolzahn) During his campaign and the initial stages of his presidency, President Enrique Peña Nieto promised Mexicans a change in the government’s organized crime strategy, pledging a more creative, less improvisational approach to the ongoing security crisis in certain areas of the country. Nevertheless, his administration has reacted to the worsening public security situation particularly in the Pacific states of Michoacán and Guerrero with a 50% increase in soldiers deployed to carry out public security forces, with several municipalities currently under the control of the Mexican armed forces. According to a report in La Jornada, the 50% increase in soldiers deployed along with a 20% increase in Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) agents involved in public security operations have not translated to a significant decrease in organized crime activity.

President Enrique Peña Nieto (right) takes office in December 2012 from former President Felipe Calderón (left). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

President Enrique Peña Nieto (right) takes office in December 2012 from former President Felipe Calderón (left). Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While official data points to a decrease in homicides in 2013 as compared with the previous year, rates of extortions and kidnappings are up in 2013 as compared with 2012. Between December 2012 and October 2013 there were 7,300 complaints of extortion, 606 more than during the same period a year prior. Moreover, Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP) reported that during the first eleven months of 2013 there were 1,583 kidnappings reported to state attorney general’s offices, up from 1,196 during the same period in 2012, representing a 32% increase. The states with the highest incidence of kidnapping in 2013 have been Guerrero, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Morelos, the State of Mexico (Estado de México, Edomex), Veracruz and Tabasco. Of these, Guerrero reported the greatest increase in kidnappings, surging from 69 reported cases in 2012 to 228 during 2013.

In November 2012, Peña Nieto presented his organized crime strategy, which was to involve dividing the country into five regions and the creation of specialized police units to address security issues particular to individual regions, but this proposal has yet to materialize. He also proposed the creation of a National Gendarmerie (Gendarmería Nacional), a police force of 40,000 soldiers from the Army (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR) but with a civilian command, dedicated exclusively to combating crime in the municipalities, which have proven most susceptible to corruption by organized crime groups. The intention was for the Gendarmerie to eventually replace the Mexican armed forces in the public security role they have acquired during the past two presidential administrations. In his first meeting with the National Security Council (Consejo Nacional de Seguridad), however, Peña Nieto announced that the corporation would be launched with 10,000 agents. In June, the initial police body was further scaled back to 5,000, none of which will be soldiers, likely because of resistance from the Mexican armed forces to relinquish highly trained soldiers. Recruits must pass a rigorous series of physical, psychological and confidence exams, which, while universally accepted as a positive, makes finding qualified individuals outside of the armed forces particularly challenging. Moreover, it was revealed that despite initial proposals, the Gendarmerie would be made an additional division of the Federal Police, as opposed to an autonomous agency. The initial contingent of the Gendarmerie is scheduled to be fully operational in July 2014, though Public Security Secretary (Comisionado Nacional de Seguridad) Manuel Mondragón y Kalb announced in December that agents are already operating in tourist areas of Acapulco, the city of Puebla, and Monterrey, as well as several municipalities in the State of Mexico and the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF).

Eduardo Guerrero, director of public policy consulting group Lantia Consultores, said that the National Gendarmerie was launched without a clear idea of what they would accomplish, a fact he considers unfortunate given the need for a stronger state presence in the rural municipalities. Guerrero believes that in order to be effective, the force must be oriented toward preventing crime, for which the proposed number of agents will be insufficient. Moreover, the federal budget allocated just $4.5 billion pesos ($344 million USD) for the Gendarmerie for 2014, less than 10% of that allocated to the Mexican Army, and roughly 18% of the Navy’s share.

Guerrero’s lack of confidence in the government’s methodology is shared by many Mexicans. According to polling firm Consulta Mitofsky, Peña Nieto had the lowest approval rating entering office (54%) since Ernesto Zedillo in 1994 (42%). His approval rating has since fallen to 49.7%, also the lowest after a year of presidency since Zedillo (43.3%). This low perception of both the security situation in Mexico and of the government’s willingness or ability to confront it has resulted in an unprecedented wave of vigilante groups, particularly in the Pacific states of Guerrero and Michoacán. As a result, 47 of Michoacán’s 113 municipalities have felt the presence of such groups, with their presence continuing to spread, despite the state and federal governments’ continued insistence that they would not. Eduardo Guerrero said that a force like the Gendarmerie adequately staffed and funded and properly implemented will be required to gain the public trust and counter the presence of such groups, and estimates that it will take between eight and 12 months to create the ties with communities necessary to evaluate and respond to their specific security challenges.

Despite these setbacks, the Peña Nieto administration can claim some success during its first full calendar year. Through November, the official number of intentional homicides during Peña Nieto’s tenure was 18,454, down from 21,728 cases from December 2011 through November 2012, a 15% decline. It must be noted, though, that homicides were already in decline during the final months of the Calderón administration; between October 2012 and October 2013 there was a decline of just 3.2%, while the decline in the monthly average of homicides during the last four months of 2012 (which includes one month of Peña Nieto’s administration) and all of 2013 was less than 1%. It is also important to point out that 2012’s numbers were revised upward in May of 2013, as will likely be the case for 2013’s data. Moreover, this spring the Mexican government made the decision to stop differentiating organized crime-related homicides, making it difficult to accurately gauge success in that arena. In the fight against organized crime, several high-profile arrests have been made under Peña Nieto’s watch, including Javier Torres Félix and Manuel Aguirre Galindo of the Arellano Félix cartel; and Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, leader of the Zetas criminal organization. Also arrested during Peña Nieto’s first year were Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño, leader of the Gulf Cartel; and Marcelino Ticante Castro, considered one of the Sinaloa Cartel’s highest-ranking members. Nevertheless, overall organized crime-related arrests are down nearly 33% from 2012.

According to a document the Attorney Genera’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) submitted to the Associated Press, recent anti-cartel efforts have dealt the biggest blow to the Zetas criminal organization. It also details 12 separate drug trafficking organizations operating in Mexico, including several little-known groups, such as the Cartel del Poniente, and the La Corona and Los Rojos criminal organizations. The AP requested the document detailing cartel leaders sought after, captured or killed during the Peña Nieto administration. After losing an appeal before the Federal Institute for Access to Information and Protection of Data (Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos, IFAI), the Mexican government turned the document over, though omitted the names of the 53 capos from the list of 122 still being sought after. Of the 69 cartel leaders captured, Los Zetas were by far the hardest hit, suffering 23 arrested and four killed. This focus on the Zetas was consistent with former President Calderón’s priorities, and comes as no shock to security experts. “It doesn’t surprise me, since the final two years of the Calderón government, the Mexican government focused on combating Los Zetas, which are the most violent against the population in general,” said Jorge Chabat, security and organized crime expert at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE). The second most-impacted group was the Cártel del Poniente, which operates primarily in the northern states of Coahuila and Durango. 17 of its members were detained. The Sinaloa Cartel led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán followed with seven arrests and two killed.

Security analysts Rodrigo Salazar of the Latin American Social Sciences Faculty (Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Flasco) and César Velázquez of the Iberian-American University (Universidad Iberoamericana) agree that despite his campaign promises, there has been no significant change in public security strategy between the administrations of former President Calderón and Peña Nieto, both of which center around the use of the military to respond to organized crime activity. Both analysts commented that the most notable change has been a shift in discourse, with the Peña Nieto administration addressing organized crime violence much less in the media than that of Calderón who, according to Salazar, had a communications strategy “centered in the war [against drug trafficking],” which he characterizes as “one of Calderón’s most dramatic errors.”

Sources:

 

Meyer, Maureen and Clay Boggs. “One Year into Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Administration.” Washington Office in Latin America. November 27, 2013.

“Analistas ‘reprueban’ año de Peña en seguridad y economía.” EFE. December 1, 2013.

“Con Peña Nieto aumentó en 50% el número de soldados que realizan tareas contra el narco: investigación.” Sinembargo. December 1, 2013.

Martín, Rubén. “Peña Nieto un año: reformas y crisis social.” El Economista. December 6, 2013.

Hope, Alejandro. “¿Menos homicidios?” Animal Político.
December 18, 2013.

“Los Zetas, el cártel más golpeado con Peña Nieto: PGR.” Proceso. December 19, 2013.

Baptista, Diana. “Bajan 15% homicidios con Peña.” Reforma.
December 20, 2013.

Aguilar, Andro. “Mantienen Gendarmería en limbo.” El Norte
December 22, 2013.

 “La extorsión en México también repunta en el primer año de gobierno de Peña Nieto.” Sinembargo. December 23, 2013.

 “Gendarmería opera ‘de facto’ desde estas vacaciones: Mondragón y Kalb.” Vanguardia. December 23, 2013.

Contreras, José. “Qué lío con la Gendarmería.” La Crónica de Hoy. December 26, 2013.

Muedano, Marcos and Silvia Otero. “Secuestros aumentan 32% en México: Segob.” El Universal. December 28, 2013.

Leader of the New Juarez Cartel captured

Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, SEGOB.

Photo: SEGOB.

09/03/13 – On August 31, the Mexican Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) captured Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, “Betty la Fea,” who, according to the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), had assumed the leadership of the so-called New Juarez Cartel (Nuevo Cartel de Juárez, NCJ). Betty la Fea (47) was arrested when he was alone in the Riviera Nayarit resort area in Bucerias, Nayarit, a few miles away from the city of Puerto Vallarta in the State of Jalisco. Eduardo Sánchez, spokesperson for security of the Mexican Government reported that the PF seized two AK-47s and a Magnum pistol caliber .357, rounds of ammunition, communication devices, and two packages of what appeared to be cocaine during the arrest, an arrest in which no shots were fired. Betty la Fea was later taken to the Special Office of Investigations on Organized Crime (Subprocuraduría Especializada en Investigación de Delincuencia Organizada, SEIDO) at the PGR.

The leader of NCJ had been followed by the Mexican Government since the beginning of the Peña Nieto administration, which took office in December 2012. Working in collaboration with five state governments, authorities were able to pinpoint Betty la Fea’s location after monitoring his financial transactions. Sánchez reported that authorities also arrested Alejandro Arias Barrera (37) in a simultaneous operation in Zapopan Jalisco, in the Metropolitan Zone of Guadalajara. Arias Barrera allegedly belongs to the same criminal organization as Betty la Fea, and both men are on the Peña Nieto administration’s list of 122 priority suspects.

Alejandro Arias Barrera, SEGOB.

Photo: SEGOB.

The NCJ is believed to have emerged in the recent past following the severe weakening of the former Juarez Cartel in part due to operations by the Mexican government and also by its intense fight against the Sinaloa Cartel to control one of the most lucrative drug trafficking routes between Mexico and the United States. The battle for the route, which connects Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas, caused a dramatic increase in violence on the Mexican side, making Ciudad Juárez one of the most violent cities in the world in 2010.

As previously mentioned, Betty la Fea was believed to be the outright leader of the NCJ, a position he assumed after his brother, Vicente “El Viceroy” Carrillo Fuentes, stepped down due to medical issues. El Viceroy had assumed the head of the Juarez Cartel following the 1997 death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “El Señor de los Cielos,” his other brother and the founder of the Juarez Cartel.

Sources:

Carrasco Arizaga, Jorge. “Cae Alberto Carrillo Fuentes, ‘Betty la Fea’, jefe del Cártel de Juárez.” Proceso. September 1, 2013.

“Mosso, Rubén. “Cae Alberto Carrillo, líder del ‘Nuevo Cártel de Juárez’.” Milenio. September 2, 2013.

Vicenteño, David. “Cae el hermano de ‘El Señor de los Cielos’, Alberto Carrillo Fuentes.” Excélsior. September 2, 2013.

“Conferencia de Prensa.” Secretaría de Gobernación. Sptember 3, 2013.