Posts Tagged ‘ Organized Crime ’



Mexico’s Hidden Drug War

May 3rd, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime

THE BORDER REPORT

The following story was produced for the Fronteras Desk, public radio, Arizona. Click here for the audio version.

Long known as Arizona's beach town, tourists and business owners in Rocky Point, Mexico, say a recent State Department's travel warning about this place is unfair. Victims say otherwise. They say cartel violence in Mexico has quietly crept in and goes mostly unreported. Last year the chief of police of this quiet resort town on the Sea of Cortez was gunned down. Since then, the stories of violence here are barely mentioned. Business owners and the town's mayor prefer to keep it that way.   But for people like Veronica, the stories of violence are hard to ignore. Veronica is a waitress in a tourist bar here. She doesn't want her last name used; she's afraid she'll be murdered for talking. She says her boyfriend was a Rocky Point cop kidnapped from their home at gunpoint a few weeks ago. "I have to be careful, I saw the people who did it, so did my son," she says. Police found his body the next day. Noone can agree as to why the killers had ripped his fingernails out and shot him one time. The story barely made the Mexican press and it was never mentioned north of the border. There's other stories. Last week, sources gave a Fronteras Desk reporter a video of a Mexican Marine being accosted in his home by the Rocky Point police chief's bodyguards while the chief stood by watching. In the final moments of the video, his face is shown, beaten. He shot the video on his cellphone. He filed a complaint in court. He was beaten last March. Veronica's boyfriend's was killed in early April. Two weeks later, nearly the entire force held a protest, demanding the chief resign. Rocky Point mayor Alejandro Zepeda dismisses these issues. He's speaking through his translator, Mónica Castro. The mayor says his new chief is staying put. "The commander is ex-military, so he's a little bit more stricter so they have to acknowledge that change and maybe some people don't like the changes but it's gotta be done in order to provide better service for everybody." Over 35,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug wars since 2006. Fewer than three hundred were Americans. Now The State Department's travel warning cautions visitors to Rocky Point. It's Washington's broadest alert yet. It advises people to stay away from entire states in Mexico and includes small towns like Rocky Point it had never mentioned before. Steve Holder's been coming to Rocky Point with his friends for nearly 20 years. "I'm going to Turkey next week and there's a travel warning there too so what can you do," he says as he smokes a cigar and orders another beer on the patio. No American has been killed in Rocky Point as a result of the drug violence in Mexico. But fear has driven the tourists away. On a beautiful day in April, it takes eight hours to find a single American. Rafael Noriega gave up on American tourists. The restaurant owner tried running a swank Italian place in the Old Port. Now he caters to the Mexican crowd with cheap, good red wine and five dollar pizzas. "Only Mexicans now. Mexicans from all over around. There's no Americans, well." Like the mayor, he says the little bit of violence that hit Rocky Point is the kind of sporadic violence that can hit any town in the world. "Nothing special. There's not violence in Puerto Peñasco," he pauses. "Not really." That same afternoon, the Mexican Army storms through downtown.. Fifty-cal rifles are mounted on rotating turrets on the soldiers' Humvee. Those soldiers had just shot a man in a white SUV. This is the problem with reporting on the violence in this town. Two soldiers threatened to arrest me when I tried to photograph the crime scene. The story didn't appear in the town's two major papers the next morning. The Mexican Army never admits publicly to the shooting.


Los Numeros de Phoenix

Mar 31st, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Politics
THE BORDER REPORT No, no, not those numeros. I'm talking about the official numeros de secuestros and home invasion rip-offs in Phoenix. The statistics seem to have turned into a hen-pecking party with allegations against the recently demoted former chief, Jack Harris for $2.4 million in federal funding. Here's the latest: an independent panel has been reviewing the police department's statistics and found that of 358 reported kidnappings in 2008, only 222 met the criteria for kidnapping and 136 did not. My Fronteras Desk colleague does a nice job of summarizing the breakdown of the numbers. There are still 376 home invasion reports to tally up from that year. If they're found to include cases of illegal immigrants held against their will by bajadores, the number of kidnappings in the city could actually skyrocket well past the alleged 358. Keep your eye on it, it's going to be a fascinating case-study in the realities of border politicking. (Pictures out of a Phoenix kidnapping report). These are some cellphone self-portraits taken by a Phoenix rip-off crew, February 2009. According to the initial police reports, an anonymous caller had told a dispatcher that he had escaped the house when the bajadores came in but that there were others being held. By the time police arrived, everyone was gone. Maybe it didn't happen ...


Nine Arrested in ICE Agent’s Killing, but Questions of Torture Persist

Feb 25th, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime, Politics
THE BORDER REPORT

The Mexican Army arrested nine suspects in the murder of an American federal agent working in that country. Officials are calling the shooting a case of mistaken identity. The Obama Administration has lauded the Mexican government for its fast work.  But some are suspicious of the arrests. Six of the nine suspects were paraded in front of the media early Thursday. In this photo from El Universal, Jesus Iván Quezada Peña, number three in the lineup, has both eyes swollen shut, his mouth bleeding and bruised. Another's face was splotched in purple and black.



Gunmen Knew They Were Killing a U.S. Agent

Feb 18th, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime

THE BORDER REPORT

This is a story I produced for KJZZ, public radio, Arizona. Note, law enforcement sources I spoke with say police recovered more than 80 shellcasings at the crime scene. New details have emerged in the attack of two US immigration agents working in Mexico. People familiar with the case say the agents identified themselves to the gunmen. But that didn’t stop the shooters from opening fire and killing one of the men. The two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents had stopped for lunch Tuesday and they were driving south on a busy highway between Monterrey and Mexico City.  What happened next was confirmed by DEA agents who reviewed the reports. A vehicle believed to be driven by members of the Zeta cartel passed the American’s armored SUV. Another, crowded the agents from behind and forced them to a stop. Jaime Zapata, the agent who died in the attack, put the SUV in Park. That unlocked the doors. The attackers opened his door. He managed to close it again. Then one of the agents lowered the window. Texas Republican Representative Michael McCaul was debriefed by senior ICE officials. “The ICE agents said we’re Americans, we’re diplomats. And the response from the Zetas was to open fire on the agents,” he said. Federal law enforcement officials have warned about threats against agents working in Mexico for years, but the belief has persisted that American agents were hands off. Diplomatic security consultant Ron Williams says the agents were properly trained. “People make mistakes. People are human” Williams said. And they probably didn’t think that these guys would in fact open up and try and kill them.” Williams says rolling down the windows and trying to reason with the attackers were the agent’s biggest mistakes.


Dedos Muertos?

Jan 26th, 2011 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime

THE BORDER REPORT

This State Department cable out of Wikileaks caught my eye. 51 FBI informants and 10 DEA "liaison officers" were murdered in Mexico between 2007-09.

When we talk about American law enforcement in Mexico, we generally view the Americans as not being part of the game; for the most part, this has held true since the wars began.

But I wonder about these 61 informants and liaisons. Were the 51 also Mexican informants and therefore murdered for that connection or were they killed because of their ties to the Americans? Same for the 10 liaisons. Were they killed because they were Mexican intelligence officers or because they were working with the Americans?



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