Cross-posted with Conflict Journal
This is a weekly roundup of events from 9 March to 17 March 2014.
The head of Mexico’s federal police force has resigned as of Monday; Manuel Mondragon stepped down from his position as head of the National Security Commission but will still be working with the department on strategy efforts in fighting crime.
The Associated Press reports, “The 5,000-officer force was supposed to have been on the streets by the end of last year but Mondragon announced last summer that it wouldn’t be ready until mid-2014.”
Self-defense forces known as “autodefensas” have been springing up in Mexico just recently. They are usually formed by citizens in cartel-controlled areas who are frustrated with what they perceive as an inadequate response from the state to security issues posed by organized criminal groups.
Although the autodefensas are technically illegal, the Mexican government has been moving from simply tolerating them to openly cooperating with them in anti-cartel operations in recent months, especially in Michoacan state, which is largely under the control of the Knights Templar gang. However, the effectiveness of the autodefensas could be negatively impacted by the emergence of factional infighting.
It has also been found that the Mexican drug cartel group Knights Templar makes more money with their iron ore mining efforts. They make so much that it is now their “principal source of income.”
A feud had been growing for months between Hipolito Mora, leader of the La Ruana autodefnesa, and Luis Antonio Torres Gonzalez (also locally known as “El Americano”), the leader of a rival group. Mora had accused Torres and his men of collaborating with cartels, while Torres accused Mora of corruption in the lime-growing business.
This week, the Mexican government arrested Mora on suspicion that his group took part in the killing of two men belonging to Torres’s faction. Mora’s autodefensa handed over their weapons to prosecutors after Mora was arrested and Mexican authorities detained 10 members of the self-defense forces.
Balbina Flores Martínez, a correspondent from Reporters Without Borders, was threatened by someone claiming to be Omar Treviño, leader of the Zetas cartel.
Mexican newspaper Noroeste reported receiving harassment and threats, ostensibly from the police, after investigating allegations that members of the municipal police in Sinaloa had been acting as bodyguards for the recently arrested Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
United States Secretary of State John Kerry defended proposed cuts in aid to Colombia and Mexico, some of which will include reductions in funding for anti-narcotics programs.
The head of the Knights Templar cartel, Nazario Moreno, was killed by Mexican security forces. He had supposedly been killed in 2010, but it was “an open secret” that those reports were false.
The government dropped charges against 5 people accused of carrying out a car bombing in 2010. The defendants had alleged that the federal agents had extracted confessions from them using torture.
Some experts speculate that Guzman may have been sold out by his second-in-command, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
Violence against women in Mexico has skyrocketed in recent years, involving increasingly vicious attacks against younger and younger victims.
The Knights Templar have muscled in on the mining business in Michoacan and are selling iron ore and gold to China in exchange for precursor chemicals to produce drugs.
El Chapo’s arrest could spur more violence in Mexico and knocking off kingpins has historically led to bloody succession battles and turf wars.