Friday, December 14, 2012



Experts fear new wave of violence in Mexico: President Felipe
Calderón's exit creates lull before 'next narco storm'
By Diana Washington Valdez \ El Paso Times
Posted: 12/10/2012 12:05:30 AM MST

A new government regime in Mexico could bring changes to the warring
drug cartels and the violence that's erupted from them, two area
experts said as the end of President Felipe Calderón's reign closes a
chapter that left deep scars on the El Paso-Juárez border region.
Phil Jordan, former director of the El Paso Intelligence Center, and
Carlos Spector, a lawyer who has represented Mexican citizens who
fled their country, said they believe the violence may not be over.
"We are seeing the calm before the next narco storm," said Jordan, a
former Drug Enforcement Administration agent and consultant. "We
might see another significant increase in the violence due to a
positioning struggle to determine who will be number one, two and
three in the cartels."
Spector said sources in Mexico fear that another wave of violence is
on the way because of the changes that the new federal government
will bring about in its security staff. Calderón officially left
office Saturday, with Enrique Peña Nieto assuming the presidency.
"The cartels will undergo adjustments, too, and that's why this isn't
over," Spector said. "Things are going to get bad again."
Juárez, where more than 11,000 men and women and some children died
during the extraordinary wave of violence, has been one of the major
battlegrounds for the Mexican drug cartel wars of the past six years.
The situation worsened in 2008, when the Carrillo Fuentes
organization went to war against
the Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman drug cartel, a battle that experts allege
Guzman won.

Nationally, the public policy think-tank Mexico Evalua (Mexico
Evaluates) reported this week that Mexico had at least 101,199
homicides from the time Calderón took office in December 2006 through
the end of October this year.
"That's a 35.7 percent increase over the number of homicides reported
in the previous (Vicente Fox) administration," according to the
organization based in Mexico City.
The death toll is probably higher because homicide reports can
include more than one victim from the same event.
"Counting bodies has become a habit with us in Mexico," said Edna
Jaime, general director of Mexico Evalua. "These deaths, however, in
their overwheming majority were not investigated, and many of them
did not even rate formal complaints to prosecutors."
The think tank and other research organizations in Mexico said the
effects of violence did not end with the dead. It is estimated that
the cartel wars also left behind 344,230 indirect victims -- the
surviving children, spouses and other relatives of those who were
The violence also claimed the lives of politicians, police officers,
journalists, musicians and activists, and forced thousands of people
to flee to safer ground, including to El Paso. The murders were
brutal. People were beheaded, hanged from bridges, tortured,
dismembered and buried alive.

A record number of Mexican citizens -- more than 40,000 -- applied
for U.S. asylum or simply entered the country with their visas and
are staying until things improve back home.
"This will go down as the worst human rights and humanitarian crisis
in Latin America since the dirty wars of Chile and Argentina in the
1970s," said Spector, the El Paso lawyer who since 2008 has handled
200 requests for U.S. asylum from Mexican citizens. "It is also the
worst violence the country has seen since the 1910 Mexican Revolution."
Thousands of people, many of them marked as alleged communist
sympathizers, disappeared during the military dictactorships of Chile
and Argentina, usually after they were last seen being picked up by
government agents.

Impunity -- when crimes go unpunished -- is a serious problem in
Mexico. In its research, Mexico Evalua found that the state of
Chihuahua had the highest percentage (96.4 percent) of unsolved, and
therefore impune, homicides.
This was followed by the states of Durango (95.4 percent), Sinaloa
(93 percent) and Guerrero (91.5 percent). These four states are among
Mexico's biggest marijuana and opium producers and key trafficking
While critics of Calderón blamed him for the deaths, human rights
advocates said Mexican state and municipal authorities also failed to
control the violent rivalries of the drug cartels.
Despite constant warnings of "spillover," most of the drug violence
was contained south of the border and did not make its way into El
Paso. The most dramatic spillover case involved the 2009 kidnapping
of a man in Horizon City, whose body was found later in Juárez with
his hands chopped off. U.S. authorities charged suspects in the drug-
related homicide.
It was a different story in other parts of the state.

Jordan characterized the carnage from the drug cartel wars as
"Calderón was the first Mexican president to openly declare war on
the drug cartels," Jordan said. "He led a valliant effort to reign in
the drug-traffickers, with some assistance from the U.S. government,
but it was not enough. The help Mexico received from us was
piecemeal. We also failed when a botched operation like Fast and
Furious allowed assault rifles to enter Mexico that were used to kill
many innocents."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF)
launched Operation Fast and Furious in 2009 in an attempt to identify
and capture high-level arms-traffickers who provided the drug cartels
with weapons.
Some of the firearms the ATF was supposed to track came to El Paso
before they were moved to Juárez, where they were used to kill
people, including innocent bystanders.
The U.S. government responded to Mexico's request for help with the
Initiative, a $1.6 billion aid package. Part of the money was
earmarked to help rebuild the social fabric of Juárez.

The brutal murders in Juárez, apart from the sheer numbers, attracted
filmmakers, TV producers, academics and journalists from around the
world. U.S. filmmaker Charlie Minn produced three back-to-back films
about the Juárez violence in order to bring attention to the plight
of the city and its people under siege.

The exodus of Mexicans fleeing the violence included members of La
Red, an organization that represents business people who moved to El
Paso to save their businesses, and Mexicanos en Exilio (Mexicans in
Exile), who fled the country after receiving threats against their
Former Juárez residents Cipriana Jurado and Saul Reyes are among
those who were forced to abandon their homes across the border.
"What happened in Mexico over the past six years can only be
described as a catastrophe," said Reyes, who left the state of
Chihuahua after four of his brothers and a sister-in-law were
murdered. "In addition to the murders, about 30,000 people in Mexico
have disappeared who are unaccounted for, and more than 200,000
people have been displaced. Calderón should be tried by an
international court for human rights violations."

Calderón recently announced that he has accepted a teaching position
at Harvard University. Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, who
also was criticized for alleged human rights abuses during his term,
teaches at Yale University.
Reyes, 42, said he is still trying to adjust to life in the United
"We lost everything in Mexico, including our homes," Reyes said. "The
United States is a foreign country with a different language and
culture. However, it opened the door for us to hope again, and
perhaps some day we can go back to our country."
Jurado, 48, a longtime labor and human rights advocate in Juárez,
received deaths threats from federal government agents after she
joined in protests against alleged human rights abuses by Mexican
soldiers who were deployed to Juárez during high-profile security
"It's not easy to start over in a new country, but with several
children to support, I am trying to do my best," Jurado said. "I am
learning English, and I work at odd jobs to make a living. I am
grateful that no one here has threatened me."

Throughout the drug cartel wars, U.S. law enforcement officials in El
Paso have gone after drug traffickers and their foot soldiers who
were within their reach.
The FBI led an investigation that resulted in arrests and convictions
that debilitated the Barrio Aztecas, a gang that worked for the
Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel.
Several Barrio Azteca members who were implicated in the 2010 deaths
of three people associated with the U.S. Consulate in Juárez also
were arrested and tried.
Two years ago -- 2010 being the peak year for the drug wars in Juárez
-- the U.S. Attorney's Office prosecuted Fernando Ontiveros-Arámbula,
a drug dealer in El Paso who was accused of trying to take over the
Juárez smuggling corridor known as the "plaza" for Chapo Guzman. He
received a life sentence.

U.S. prosecutors also managed to snag the only sitting El Paso
elected official ever to be charged with marijuana smuggling, ex-
County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr., who was sentenced two weeks
ago to 6å years in prison.

Earlier this year, federal investigators indicted alleged Zetas drug
cartel members who used race horse operations in New Mexico and other
states to launder money.

Before leaving the presidency, Calderón noted that his government
extradited and captured or killed more drug kingpins than any of his
predecessors in Mexican history.
Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez, a Texan, is among those who were captured.
But the biggest drug lord, considered to be Joaquin "El Chapo"
Guzman, has eluded authorities since his escape from a Mexican prison
in 2001.

Spector, whose tiny law office provides pro-bono help to asylum
petitioners, said justice in Mexico remains even more elusive than
the capture of "El Chapo."

Diana Washignton Valdez may be reached at;

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