Mexico's Drug Cartel Violence is This...

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#66 Feb 16, 2010
80% of sheriff's '09 homicide cases open

By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
Posted: 02/15/2010

EL PASO -- Only one of the five homicides investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office was cleared by arrest last year.

The Sheriff's Office clearance rate of 20 percent is far below the national average of 64 percent and a stark contrast to the 100 percent clearance by the El Paso Police Department last year.

Sheriff's officials point out the total number of homicides, five, is low, and detectives have not stopped following leads in two unsolved cases apparently linked to drugs.

"It's not unusual to have that happen. We never give up and we always get our man or woman," said Cmdr. Paul Cross, who heads the sheriff's Criminal Investigation Bureau.

Cross, a retired assistant chief with the El Paso Police Department, is among administrators hired by Richard Wiles last year at the start of his term as sheriff. Cross has supervised more than 70 homicide investigations in his career.

Cross said deputies are still hunting for a Ricardo "Enano" Zuniga, who is accused of fatally shooting brothers Jose and Jesus Vargas last June outside the A&M Bar in Socorro.

Two alleged accomplices were arrested, but Zuniga, a reputed member of the Barrio Azteca gang, remains free.

"We think he is over in Juárez," Cross said.

There are two other cases that have yet to be resolved.

On Oct. 22, Victor Escu-dero, 22, died days after being shot in his San Elizario home. Escudero was a convicted "coyote" who had led a local immigrant-smuggling ring, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents stated.

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#67 Feb 16, 2010
Border Towns Across Rio, Worlds Apart in Drug War


At the foot of a bridge that helps bind El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, a United States Border Patrol officer warns two pedestrians not to stray once they reach the Mexican city. Stay on the main road. Avoid side streets. Very, very dangerous city. O.K.?

The pedestrians nod and join the back-and-forth human flow between one of the safest cities in the United States and one of the most violent in the world — getting worse by the month. Including a pause to take in the Rio Grande, here just a muddy stream with a boastful name, their walk takes five minutes.

On the other side, boyish Mexican soldiers stand about, weapons in hand. Men linger before tired and empty storefronts. Beggars pull at your coat. Then a taxi driver steps up to ask if the visitors need a ride to the morgue.

A legitimate question, perhaps, in a city whose latest massacre — 16 dead, most of them teenagers — occurred just two weeks ago. A city with nearly 250 homicides last month; about one every three hours. A city where homicides have jumped from about 300 in 2007, to about 1,620 in 2008, to about 2,660 last year.

The visitors decline, and take the five-minute walk back to another world.

At night, from above, the lights of El Paso and Juárez seem to blend into a single urban constellation, and the Rio Grande separation disappears amid a million grounded stars, each one pulsating with someone’s story. It has been this way for generations.

But the drug-cartel war that broke out in Juárez two years ago, killing thousands and giving birth to a general air of lawlessness, has clarified the muddy Rio Grande as the divide between violence and peace. And El Paso has become a kind of sanctuary city, for the businesses and people and even the culture of Juárez.

El Paso, with a population of 740,000, and Juárez, with one of 1.4 million, have long been urban sisters, as tens of thousands of people move between the two every day, to work, or shop, or visit. But the cartel war has complicated things here: the violence in Juárez can seem so far away, and yet so close.

Here is Carlos Spector, 54, an immigration lawyer with dual citizenship who once had both an office and a television show in Juárez. But after receiving threats from the Mexican military, he says:“I just don’t go. I cannot go.”

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#68 Feb 16, 2010
Truck Theft Ring Busted

Reported by: Cristina Rendon
Last Update: 2/15 5:52 pm

BROWNSVILLE - Brownsville police say they've busted what appears to be a major truck theft ring in the Valley.

Officers suspect Jose Alanis and Jose Louis Sustaita are responsible for stealing about 30 trucks in the past two months. We're told they admitted to stealing six different F-250s and F-350s across the Valley. The two were charged with six counts of theft of a motor vehicle, possession of a criminal instrument, and engaging in organized criminal activity.

They're also suspected of stealing 10 trucks in one day from the Mission area.

The men were caught near the B&M International Bridge last night. Police say one of them was driving in a Chevy Malibu, and the other was following the Chevy in a stolen F-350.

Police say they were working for a group in Matamoros.

"They were getting paid $300 to $500 per vehicle that they stole, depending on the age and value of the vehicle," explains Sgt. Jimmy Manrrique of the Brownsville Police Department.

Police say if you own an F-250 or F-350 made before 2009, it's best to install a security system. Older models weren't made with an anti-theft device.

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#69 Feb 16, 2010
Drug Seizure Near School

SULLIVAN CITY - Two people are in custody after a pursuit and drug seizure in Sullivan City.

The pursuit began in Rio Grande City on Pipeline Rd, crossed county lines and ended near a school in Sullivan City.

Border Patrol Agents stopped a green Chevy Tahoe on Pinto Rd near Rosendo Benavides Elementary School north of Sullivan City.

Agents say they arrested two people and seized about 900 pounds of drugs.

A Border Patrol spokesperson tells a second vehicle was involved. It was stopped earlier during the pursuit.

Border patrol agents say they are still investigating this case. Authorities have not released the names of the two people arrested.

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#70 Feb 16, 2010
Lie Exposed: U.S Guns and Mexican Crimes

by Skip Coryell

Early last year the Obama administration, supported by many in the mainstream press, perpetrated and perpetuated the notion that ninety percent of all guns used by the Mexican drug cartels originate from the United States. For many weeks that myth went largely unchallenged. As a result, many Americans began to believe the lie.(I refer you now to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbles who made famous the concept of “Tell a lie loud enough and long enough and the people will believe it.”)

Finally, in early April of last year, Fox News set the record straight with a “real” piece of investigative journalism in which they discovered (using numbers from Mexican government officials) that 83 percent of guns confiscated by the Mexican government did not originate from the United States. The week prior to Fox News, the National Rifle Association posted a rebuttal of their own. Since then many, many stories have been aired and posted on the internet casting aspersions upon or out and out debunking the myth that ninety percent of all guns used by the Mexican drug cartels originate in the United States.

In light of that, for me to write about it again, would be tantamount to reinventing the wheel, and thus, wasting your precious time. However, during all my research for this article, what intrigued me most, wasn’t that the Obama administration would perpetrate a lie, or that many in the mainstream press would breathe life into it. What interested me most was the question of motivation, the eternal question of “why”.

Of course, on the surface, that’s an easy question to answer. It’s because many in the present administration are ideologically opposed to private gun ownership of any kind and would repeal the Second Amendment itself in a heartbeat, if given the opportunity.

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#73 Feb 16, 2010
Wanted gang member arrested in Mexico

February 15, 2010
Beatriz Valenzuela

VICTORVILLE • With the help of Mexican police, the gang member suspected in the murder of a 29-year-old Victorville man was located in a Tijuana facility then turned over to U.S. authorities, officials said Monday.

After receiving a tip, Armando Manuel Aispuro, 29, was arrested in a Mexican housing facility on Saturday, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials said.

Homicide investigators where searching for Aispuro for the shooting death of Nelson Mendoza, authorities said. Mendoza was found shot in an open field near the 13600 block of Nassau Drive in Victorville on Feb. 5. He died the next day.

Mexican authorities took Aispuro to the border crossing in San Ysidro and released him to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who then turned Aispuro over to Homicide detectives.

Aispuro is being held for Mendoza’s murder at the Sheriff’s Central Detention Center.

Another man, Jorge Adrian Gonzalez, 25, of Victorville, was arrested on Feb. 9 for his involvement in the case.

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#74 Feb 16, 2010
Mexican bishops criticize gov't drug war strategy

Associated Press Writer
Posted: 02/16/2010

MEXICO CITY (AP)- Mexico's Roman Catholic bishops have joined in the growing criticism of a drug war that has captured top kingpins but done little to stem gang violence.
The Mexican Council of Bishops said in a report released Monday that the presence of thousands of troops on the streets and a corrupt judicial system raise human rights concerns.

They said too many suspects are paraded in front of the media before being charged and urged the government to speed up police reforms so that thousands of troops now leading the drug war can return to their barracks.

Since taking office in 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of troops to drug trafficking hotspots across the country, vowing to wrest back territory from brutal cartels. Gang violence has since increased and become more vicious, with beheadings and shootouts occurring daily. More than 15,000 people have died in violence tied to the drug trade in the past three years.

The report comes in the wake of the massacre of 15 people in the border city of Ciudad Juarez that provoked widespread criticism of Calderon's drug war strategy. Most of those killed were students with no known ties to drug gangs, and investigators say the gunmen may have been acting on mistaken information.

Despite the presence of thousands of troops, the city across the border from El Paso, Texas, has become one of the world's deadliest.

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#75 Feb 16, 2010
Black tar moves in, and death follows
Dealers work systematically, pushing heroin in areas where users are unprepared for its potency.

By Sam Quinones
Second Of Three Parts
February 15, 2010

Reporting from Huntington, W.V.- On a Monday in September 2007, Teddy Johnson went to his son's apartment.

Adam Johnson, 22, was in his first year at Marshall University in Huntington. A history major, he played guitar, drums and bass, loved glam bands like the New York Dolls and hosted "The Oscillating Zoo," an eclectic rock show on the university radio station.

Teddy hadn't heard from his son in three days. Letting himself into the apartment, he found Adam lying lifeless on his bed, in the same shirt he'd seen him wearing three days earlier.

The cause of death: a heroin overdose.

"I had no clue," said the elder Johnson, a plumbing contractor in Huntington. "We're a small town. We weren't prepared."

The death was part of a rash of overdoses, 12 of them fatal, that shook Huntington that fall and winter. All were caused by black-tar heroin, a potent, inexpensive, semi-processed form of the drug that has spread across the United States, driven by the entrepreneurial energy and marketing savvy of immigrants from a tiny farming county in Mexico.

Immigrants from Xalisco, in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit, Mexico, have brought the heroin north over the last decade, and with it a highly effective business model featuring deep discounts and convenient delivery by car. Their success is a major reason why Mexican black tar has seized a growing share of the U.S. heroin market, according to government estimates.

Xalisco networks are decentralized, with no all-powerful boss, and they largely avoid guns and violence. Staying clear of the nation's largest cities, where established organizations control the heroin trade, Xalisco dealers have cultivated markets in the mountain states and parts of the Midwest and Appalachia, often creating demand for heroin in cities and towns where there had been little or none. In many of those places, authorities report a sharp rise in heroin overdoses and deaths.

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#76 Feb 17, 2010
Mexico leader trusts Cabinet member who left party

Associated Press Writer
Posted: 02/17/2010

MEXICO CITY (AP)- Mexican President Felipe Calderon expressed confidence in his interior minister Tuesday despite the official's sudden decision to quit the ruling party.
Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont, the point man in the government's bloody war against brutal drug cartels, split with the conservative National Action Party after clashing with its leaders over their decision to form an alliance with Mexico's main leftist party to win local elections.

The decision was a blow to the party on top of flagging support due to drug gang violence and an economic downturn, and it prompted speculation that Gomez Mont may step down from his Cabinet post.

But Calderon insisted he trusts Gomez Mont and is "very respectful of the internal life of parties, including the National Action Party."

"Fernando Gomez Mont's reasons must have been very powerful. I don't judge them," Calderon said in comments released by his office. "He's a loyal man. He's an interior secretary who fulfills his mandate ... and he has all my confidence."

Gomez Mont announced his decision last week in a letter to the ruling party, known as the PAN. In newspaper interviews published Tuesday, he confirmed that he quit over the PAN's decision to ally itself with the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, in two gubernatorial races this summer.

The PAN and the PRD clashed bitterly over the disputed 2006 elections that Calderon narrowly won against Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

the two parties are teaming up in the hopes of unseating two state governors from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years under a system of coercion and corruption that critics deemed a quasi-dictatorship.
Gomez Mont has called the alliance an antidemocratic maneuver that sacrifices ideological conviction for bald political interests.

In interviews with the Reforma and Excelsior newspapers, Gomez Mont also acknowledged that he had promised the PRI last year that he would try to persuade the PAN not to make alliances with the PRD. The promise came in exchange for the PRI's support in Congress for fiscal reforms.

"The fact that I couldn't live up to the commitments I made ... was one of the reasons I made the decision to resign from the party," he said.

The PRI lost the presidency for the first time in 2000 to Vicente Fox of the PAN, a stunning defeat that many Mexicans considered the birth of true democracy in their country.

But the PRI has undergone a resurgence in recent years, gaining seats in the 2009 legislative elections amid widespread discontent over recession and the drug war.

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#77 Feb 17, 2010
Chihuahua capital won't be moving to border city

By Ramon Bracamontes
El Paso Times
Posted: 02/16/2010

EL PASO -- The Chihuahua state legislature has decided not to make Juárez the temporary state capital.

Chihuahua Gov. José Reyes Baeza asked the legislature to consider moving the capital from Chihuahua City to Juárez temporarily in an effort to help the border city survive the ongoing drug cartel war. The legislature voted the proposal down Friday.

Despite the defeat, Reyes Baeza vowed to find a way to help Juárez rebuild and survive. He has ordered the state's departments of eduction, economic development and health to be aggressive in finding programs and funding to funnel to Juárez. The state agencies began conducting public forums in Juárez on Monday.

Juárez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz said anything the state can do to help the city rebuild is appreciated.

"We in Juárez are grateful that the governor's orders are to help us, and we are hopeful that something concrete will come from the forums," Reyes Ferriz said.

The three state agencies began sending additional employees to Juárez during the weekend, a day after the governor's proposal to move the capital was defeated. Reyes Baeza's proposed move died because it was backed only by the legislators belonging to his political party, the PRI, Mexico's ruling party.

Members of the opposition party, the National Action Party, voted against the move Friday.

Cruz Pérez Cuéllar, a PAN party official, said they voted against the proposed move because the plan did not have clear objectives. The governor's plan also never said how the move would help end the drug war in Juárez.
Miguel Angel González García, a PRI party official in Juárez, was disheartened by the decision to leave the state offices in Chihuahua City.

"We lament the decision by the PAN party to not join our president in trying to find a way to help Juárez," González García said.

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#78 Feb 17, 2010
In brief: Weapons, trucks, gear seized west of Juárez

Posted: 02/17/2010

The Mexican army seized weapons, gear and drugs from several vehicles abandoned west of Juárez near the U.S. border across from Sunland Park, officials of Coordinated Operation Chihuahua said.

Five trucks and SUVs, including a bulletproof Chevrolet Suburban, were found late Monday night on a dirt road between Rancho Anapra and Lomas de Poleo after a tipster reported seeing armed men changing a flat tire.

Soldiers seized 12 rifles, eight handguns, four grenades, 10 Kevlar helmets, six bulletproof vests, police-style clothing and equipment to package drugs, along with 1,474 pounds of of marijuana, 6 pounds of cocaine and a small amount of heroin. There were no known arrests.

Daniel Borunda

2 US citizens held on drug charges

Two U.S. citizens suspected of working for La Linea drug organization were busted on drug charges last week in Juárez, The Mexican attorney general's office said Tuesday.

Marco Antonio Lujan, alias "El Payaso" (the clown), and Sergio Humberto Lujan were arrested Friday, allegedly in possession of 90 pounds of marijuana, 26 pounds of cocaine and more than 2 pounds of "crystal" cocaine, authorities said. The men have been arraigned and will be detained for 40 days while an investigation continues.

The men, whose hometown was not revealed, allegedly told investigators they work for La Linea, or the Juárez drug cartel, reputedly led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

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#79 Feb 17, 2010
High School Student Admits Smuggling Drugs Across Border


MCALLEN - A Valley View High School student admitted to authorities he was smuggling drugs into the U.S. That’s according to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court.

During an inspection at the Pharr port of entry, a drug detection dog alerted officers to an area near the rear seat of a silver 2002 Nissan Sentra. Officers found two small manmade components. Each held a bundle of cocaine, which weighed a total of 2.3 kilograms.

During the inspection, officers saw the driver using his cell phone to send a text message. The message was in Spanish and roughly translates to “I’m screwed.”

The driver sent the message to a friend who also attends Valley View High School. He told officers the friend wasn’t involved, but he had confided to him.

He also told authorities he knew drugs were in his car, but he thought it was marijuana. The driver told police he was getting $1,000 for the job.

He explained this was the second time he crossed into the U.S. with drugs in his car.

The driver said he’d take the car to Junior’s Gas Station on the corner of Cage Boulevard and Dicker Road in Pharr. He’d leave the car and keys in the gas tank filling area. He would later have money deposited into his bank account.

He insisted he didn’t know the names of any of the other people involved.

Officers asked him about a 2002 Pontiac Bonneville he drove into the U.S. in late January. The driver said his cousin claimed to own the vehicle. Officers told him 7.4 pounds of methamphetamines were found in the vehicle at the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias.

Officers say at that point, the driver refused to answer any more questions.

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#80 Feb 17, 2010
Border agents confiscate pot, arrest nine immigrants

By Kevin Buey Headlight staff
Posted: 02/17/2010

Further attempts to smuggle drugs through the Southwest New Mexico region were halted, once again, by U.S. Border Patrol agents, who seized more nearly a ton of drugs over the holiday weekend.

There were six seizures reported by Deming and Lordsburg USBP agents. The largest, by Deming agents, was a 363-pound load confiscated from nine illegal immigrants apprehended Friday as the immigrants walked across the desert.

Each carried a large backpack. All subjects were determined to have entered the United States illegally. Names were not released.

The contraband and subjects were transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for prosecution.

The weekend closed with Border Patrol agents assigned to the I-10 checkpoint at mile marker 120 apprehending a 19-year-old who identified himself as a United States citizen. The man is wanted by the Grant County Sheriff's Office on assault charges.

Upon questioning the man and checking records, agents found an extensive criminal history, including eight counts of deadly conduct and discharging a firearm, evading arrest, felony criminal mischief, marijuana possession and felony tampering with evidence.

He was transferred to New Mexico State Police custody.

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#81 Feb 17, 2010
Border Patrol Snags $750k in Narcotics at San Clemente Station

February 16, 2010

Throughout Presidents Day weekend, U.S. Border Patrol agents netted three narcotic seizures valued at a total of more than three-quarters of a million dollars at the Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 5 near San Clemente.
The first seizure took place Saturday at 11:30 a.m., when two men, who were traveling in a Chrysler Pacifica sedan, were stopped at the checkpoint. A Border Patrol canine team conducted an exterior search of the vehicle and alerted agents to the presence of contraband. The agents then searched the interior of the sedan and discovered 36.56 pounds of crystal methamphetamine concealed within modified compartments built underneath the vehicle. The agents arrested the vehicle’s 26-year-old male driver and a 38-year-old male passenger, both of whom are Mexican nationals. The narcotics, which had an estimated street value of $658,150, were turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with the two suspected smugglers.
Hours later, at about 4:45 p.m., agents seized 126 pounds of marijuana, which was found inside the rear cargo area of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Upon the discovery, Border Patrol agents arrested the driver, a 26-year-old male U.S. citizen, who was later relinquished to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department along with the marijuana. The estimated street value of the marijuana was $63,150.
On Monday morning, agents arrested a 46-year-old female U.S. citizen, who was suspected of attempting to smuggle 455 grams of crystal methamphetamine inside a speaker box in a Toyota Corolla. The Drug Enforcement Administration assumed custody of the suspected smuggler and the narcotics, which had an estimated street value of $45,510.

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#82 Feb 18, 2010
Murder suspect captured by Arizona border patrol agents

Reported by: Imani Randolph

NACO, AZ – Authorities say a man arrested for illegal entry into the United States was found to be wanted for a murder in California.

After the 34-year-old was entered into the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), records revealed an active warrant for his arrest for murder in Salinas, California.

"The Border Patrol often sees the criminal element attempting to blend in with the economic migrant," said Naco Station Patrol Agent in Charge Humberto De La Cruz. "Through the use of IAFIS the Border Patrol continues to identify these subjects and takes the steps necessary to keep them out of our communities."

IAFIS has assisted the Border Patrol in gaining greater situational awareness, ensuring that wanted felons are identified and turned over to the appropriate agency.

Border Patrol Agents have arrested more than 65,000 people this year, many of whom have criminal backgrounds, such as ties to gang memberships and convictions for felony crimes such as assaults, kidnappings, sexual crimes, and dangerous drugs.
The man will be extradited to Salinas, California.

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#83 Feb 18, 2010
Mexican President Felipe Calderón strategy still lacks specifics

By Adriana Gómez Licón
El Paso Times
Posted: 02/18/2010

JUAREZ -- Mexican President Felipe Calderón did not lay out a clear strategy on Wednesday to fight organized crime in the violence-plagued city as he promised he would do last week.

His second visit was again heavily guarded, with federal police and Mexican soldiers outside the Camino Real hotel blocking all entrances except for invited guests.

Protests erupted outside the meeting just as they did a week ago. Dozens of students carried banners with the words "Calderón asesino" -- Spanish for "Calderón assassin."

Inside the hotel, many Juárez residents stood and demanded more actions to solve problems such as kidnappings and extortions.

Calderón responded by telling the audience of about 700 that he would send a team of specially trained federal police to investigate kidnappings and extortions, which have plagued the city of about 1.3 million.

During his 32-minute speech, Calderón offered few concrete plans to combat drug cartels that have been at the root of the violence since January 2008. Since then more than 4,600 people have been killed.

He talked in general terms about changing society and making Juárez a better place to live.

"We make, like any other human being, good and bad choices; we have potentialities and limitations," Calderón said. "But I can assure you that nothing else will deter us from getting to the bottom of those limitations."

Calderón had promised to come back to Juárez to follow up on the ambiguous strategy he revealed last Thursday.

The two visits were prompted by the Jan. 30 birthday party massacre in southeast Juárez in which 15 people, including 11 teenagers, were shot and killed. During his first visit, angry relatives of the victims showed their backs to Calderón and demanded a throughout investigation.

Last week's proposals by the president included changing the criminal code, and improving law enforcement technology and emergency response, among other changes in education and health.

Calderón said Wednesday that the government needed residents to report abuse by authorities and to become more involved in the community to rebuild Juárez.

"This is a problem of all of us," he said.

Calderón traveled with his wife, Margarita Zavala, and several Cabinet members. In the audience were officials from the local, state and federal government, business owners, doctors and other Juárez residents.

More than a dozen representatives of committees, formed to shape proposals for the president, stepped to the podium and told Calderón what could be done about public safety, health, education and other areas.

In less than 100 days, Calderón said, he plans to make progress in improving safety. He said he wanted to improve the police force by raising standards for police recruits.

"You need people who you can trust," Calderón said. "We have detected -- I'm not saying in Juárez, but the country in general -- a powerful infiltration of the same criminal organizations in the police corps."

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#84 Feb 18, 2010
Suspect in reporter's death in Mexico to be freed

The Associated Press
Posted: 02/17/2010

OAXACA, Mexico -- The lone suspect in the slaying of an independent U.S. journalist more than three years ago will be released for lack of evidence, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Juan Martinez Moreno, has been cleared by a federal court and should be released Thursday, attorney Alba Cruz said.

Many human rights groups have claimed Martinez was unfairly charged with the death of Bradley Will, 36, of New York.

Will was shot and killed in October 2006 as he filmed a clash between protesters and government supporters during a five-month political uprising in the southern state of Oaxaca. He was covering the conflict for .

Martinez was charged with homicide. Two others were charged with allegedly covering up the crime, but were later released. All three are supporters of the radical movement known as the People's Assembly of Oaxaca, or APPO, which seized control of Oaxaca city for almost five months in 2006 to push for the ouster of Gov. Ulises Ruiz.

Critics said prosecutors ignored evidence that implicated supporters of the state government in Will's death. The prosecutors have failed to give specifics about the ballistics evidence or explain why Martinez would have fired at Will, who supported the protest movement.

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#85 Feb 18, 2010
Border agents seize $766,000 worth of crystal meth and pot near San Clemente

February 17, 2010

Border Patrol agents seized $766,000 worth of crystal methamphetamine and marijuana during three separate stops on the 5 Freeway near San Clemente, authorities said Wednesday.

The first seizure was on Saturday, when two Mexican citizens in a Chrysler sedan were stopped at the San Clemente vehicle checkpoint. Agents found 36 pounds of crystal meth hidden in a false compartments in the car, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The drugs and two suspects, ages 26 and 38, were turned over the Drug Enforcement Agency.

In the second seizure, also on Saturday, agents found 126 pounds of marijuana hidden in a Jeep Cherokee. The drugs and the driver, a 26-year-old man who is a U.S. citizen, were turned over to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, the Homeland Security Department said.

On Monday, a 46-year-old woman was found with 16.5 ounces of crystal meth in her Toyota Corolla. The woman, a U.S. citizen, was turned over with the drugs to the DEA, the Homeland Security Department said.

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#86 Feb 18, 2010
Two Cents: Silent shifts in the drug warBy Jess

Posted: 02/18/2010 12:00:00 AM MST

There's one thing that Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have all agreed on: expanding military aid to Latin America to fight the so-called "Drug War."

A new phase of the Drug War began in 2000 under President Bill Clinton, with $1.3 billion in "emergency" funding to fight cocaine production in Colombia by destroying the raw material for it -- coca plants. President George W. Bush continued the fight, which sent nearly $6 billion in aid to Colombia between 2000 and 2008. When cartel violence began to spiral out of control in Mexico, he shepherded hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Mexican military. President Barack Obama initially followed in his predecessors' footsteps, but now appears to be headed down a wiser path.

By any measure, the military approach to countering a demand-driven cocaine trade has been a complete failure. When Congress approved spending billions of dollars on military aid to Colombia a decade ago, policymakers insisted that it would slash coca production by half within five years. Instead, the South American country's coca production is basically unchanged from 1999, the year before Clinton launched Plan Colombia. Today the U.S. government reports Colombia produces 294,000 acres of coca. That's virtually the same as the 303,000 acres it believed were planted in 1999.

Some Drug War fanatics in Washington have suggested that a 6,000-acre reduction in opium poppy production in Colombia is proof of success. Nothing could be further from the truth. Colombia's opium production represents approximately 1 percent of the global market. Any reduction in Colombian poppy acreage probably has more to do with increases in Afghanistan's production, the global leader with 389,000 acres in production in 2008, than eradication operations in Colombia.

Perhaps the most important test of the Drug War's success is the number of people using cocaine here at home. After all, policymakers justify giving our money to brutal foreign militaries by assuring us that we'll see a reduced drug supply at home -- and therefore fewer drug dealers and addicts.

However, we've seen a sharp increase from 1.2 million cocaine users in 2000 to 1.9 million users in 2008, according to the Department of Health and Human Services' National Survey on Drug Use and Health. So the Drug War is failing by that measure too.

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#87 Feb 19, 2010
A “dying” city protests
It may have come late, but the president’s emergency plan to save the country’s fifth-biggest city from carnage and crime looks promising

Feb 18th 2010
The Economist

WHEN Arturo Valenzuela addressed Felipe Calderón at a meeting on public safety in Ciudad Juárez on February 11th, Mexico’s president had already apologised for arriving two hours late.“Two years too late,” retorted Mr Valenzuela, a surgeon who treats two gunshot victims a day in the border city that has become Mexico’s murder capital. That rebuke summed up the icy welcome the president received on a rare visit to what has become the central battlefield in the “war” on drug gangs that he launched on taking office more than three years ago.

Juárez, in the northern state of Chihuahua, is a critical site for the traffickers. It is Mexico’s second-largest local drug market. Its Texan neighbour, El Paso, lies on vital American freight routes. For nearly two decades, a mob called the Juárez “cartel” controlled the trade in the city. Two years ago the Sinaloa gang, Mexico’s largest, began an aggressive takeover battle. The resulting carnage prompted Mr Calderón to send 10,000 troops to pacify the city. Officials have insisted that the violence is a sign that weakened gangs are scrapping over diminished spoils, and will soon subside. Yet despite the army’s presence, the killing continues: 2,660 of Juárez’s 1.3m residents were murdered in 2009, making it the world’s deadliest city outside a war zone.

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