11/01/2012

Chutzpah? Stupidity? Or both?

Border Smuggling Ramp_Nost
How's this for narco ingenuity? Or stupidity? It looks like a high school prank. But it really happened. Yesterday, agents of the Border Patrol spotted the Jeep stuck atop the 14-foot-tall border fence near the point where California and Arizona meet. Two men were trying to free the Jeep when the Border Patrol approached. The agents later said they figured the Jeep was filled with contraband, probably marijuana, before it got trapped atop the fence.

So how high do fences have to be to stop this sort of thing? Remember when narcos used this catapult to fling marijuana across the border? The catapul quickly was dubbed a "pot-apult."

Border Smuggling Ramp_Nost-1


10/16/2012

The drug lord's unknown daughter

Last Friday afternoon at around 3:30 p.m., a visibly pregnant Mexican woman tried to walk into Southern California at the San Ysidro entry point.

She presented a fraudulent non-immigrant visa to the U.S. border agent, and he detected it. So he sent her to a holding area while her fingerprints were run through a system.

It turned out that her real name is Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar, and she is the daughter of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who U.S. officials have described as the most wanted drug trafficker in the world.

According to a criminal complaint, the daughter waived her right to an attorney and began to talk. She told U.S. officials she wanted to give birth to her child in the United States (where the child would automatically get U.S. citizenship).

Guzman Salazar’s mother is María Alejandrina Salazar Hernández, a former wife of the drug lord but one who the U.S. Treasury claims is an integral part of his narcotics and crime empire.

I’ve been trading notes about this case with Sylvia Longmire, author of Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, and she’s pointed out several things. Most importantly, hardly anyone has ever heard of this daughter. Guzman has coupled with a lot of women but those who follow his rise appear not to have known that he had a daughter with Salazar Hernandez.

Even more curiously, the daughter did not keep a low profile. She graduated in 2005 from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara as a surgeon, according to this website. That would put her in high spheres of Guadalajara society.

Here’s another curiosity: If she’s got the $1 billion empire of the Sinaloa Cartel behind her, why did she use a cheap fake visa to cross into California? Surely, the cartel has ways of doing very good fakes.

The money behind her became evident after her arrest. She and her family hired high-powered and expensive San Diego attorneys, Guadalupe Valencia and Jan E. Ronis, both well-known for defending accused drug traffickers.

So how many kids does Chapo Guzman have? Best guess now is at least 10.

It was widely thought before now that Guzman had three sons with his first wife: César, Iván Archivaldo and Jesús Alfredo. Then with second wife Griselda Lopez Perez, Guzman is thought to have had three more sons and a daughter: Edgar, Joaquín, Ovidio and Griselda Guadalupe.

In 2007, Guzman robbed the cradle for his third marriage, wedding 18-year-old Emma Coronel, the niece of fellow Sinaloa trafficker Ignacio Coronel. His bride made news last year when she entered the United States and gave birth to twin girls in an LA County hospital. Since Coronel is a U.S. citizen, border authorities said they had no reason to stop her.

So now it turns out that Guzman had a fourth child with his first wife and she tried to imitate his latest wife by going to give birth in the United States.

I’d bet money that his list of offspring is even longer than we know now. It's also a safe bet that some of those children will try to visit the United States.

10/12/2012

Firing on rock throwers at the border

Nogales Border Shooti_Nost
Two troubling questions: Why do Mexican youth throw rocks at U.S. Border Patrol agents? And why do Border Patrol agents use lethal force in response?

With the killing of a Mexican youth Wednesday night at the border fence in Nogales, Arizona, three Mexicans have now been shot dead at the border since July.

Mexico’s government voices outrage.

"The disproportionate use of lethal force during immigration control actions is unacceptable under any circumstances. The repeated nature of this type of cases has drawn a reaction of rejection from Mexican society and all of the country's political forces," a statement from the Foreign Relations Secretariat says.

A closer look reveals that the cases are a bit more complicated.

In this week’s shooting, Border Patrol agents said they watched Wednesday night at 11:30 p.m. as two Mexicans abandoned a load of narcotics, then ran back to Mexico. As the agents approached to investigate, people on the Mexican side of the border began throwing rocks at them and ignored orders to stop, the U.S. agency said. One agent opened fire.

On Thursday, the Sonora state attorney general's office said in a statement that 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez of Nogales, Sonora, was found dead on the Mexican side of the border from gunshot wounds.

From a U.S. perspective, these aren’t just teenagers playing pranks. They throw rocks to abet the escape of felons introducing narcotics across international boundaries. And a pattern has been established. You throw rocks at the Border Patrol, you may be shot. Be forewarned. Don't even think about it.

From a Mexican perspective, it’s a disproportionate use of force. The headlines in the Mexican press convey this view. “Border Patrol shoots a Mexican,” Vanguardia said in a headline. “Minor shot in the back by border agent,” El Diario de Sonora said in a headline. Mexican media also suggested that the Border Patrol agents fired across the border, killing the youth in his own country.

Whatever one’s truth, it’s becoming almost a monthly occurrence. In early September, Guillermo Arevalo Pedraza was killed by the Border Patrol near Nuevo Laredo (Spanish language video of incident here). On July 10, Border Patrol agents in Matamoros reportedly shot and killed Juan Pablo Santillan. This story says Santillan was amid a group of rock throwers but that one individual in their group waved a firearm at the Border Patrol agents.

An Associated Press story notes the following:

Border agents are generally allowed to use lethal force against rock throwers.

In 2010, a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent firing his weapon from El Paso, Texas, into Juarez, Mexico. Some witnesses said people on the Mexican side of the river, including the teen, were throwing rocks at the agent as he tried to arrest an illegal immigrant crossing the Rio Grande.

A federal judge in El Paso last year dismissed a lawsuit by the family of the boy because the teen was on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande when he was shot. U.S. law gives the government immunity when such claims arise in a foreign country, the judge noted.

08/23/2012

Caravan for peace in the U.S.

This is a report from Angela Kocherga at KVUE in El Paso. The Caravan for Peace is the effort spearheaded by poet Javier Sicilia who lost his son to drug war violence last year. Sicilia mobilized a lot of publicity in a series of meetings with President Felipe Calderon. Now, he is leading a small group that began a journey in San Diego and will arrive in Washington DC in mid-September. It's unfortunate for his cause that Sicilia doesn't speak English. He's eloquent in Spanish but the message in translation probably gets lost. I post this because the caravan gets some coverage here in Mexico but very little in the U.S. media.

07/20/2012

Cross-border views of Mexicans

Mexicans living in their patria and Mexican-Americans living in theirs have different names for each other, often used with a pejorative connotation. This 12-minute video includes clips of famous Mexicans and Mexican-Americans talking about how they are seen on the other side of the border, and also discusses views of social class. It is quite interesting. Among those interviewed are Gustavo Arrellano, who writes the "Ask a Mexican!" syndicated column published in alternative weeklies, and the actor Edward James Olmos.

The key terms in the piece are "naco" which roughly translates to "low class," and "pocho," which is a derogatory way of saying someone is Americanized.

The blurb for the video piece adds this:

Popularized in the late 1970s by the comedian Luis de Alba, the term “naco” is commonly used to mean “low class” but to a younger generation, it can also mean “tacky cool” in a fashion similar to the U.S. hipster appropriation of trucker hats and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Similarly, the term “pocho”, which was traditionally used in Mexico as a put-down against Americans of Mexican descent, has become a point of pride to a growing number of Mexican-Americans.

05/18/2012

Breezing across the Mexican border

IMG_0566
I’ve written here and here about humongous wait times to get across the border. It’s no surprise, really, since an average of a million people cross the border every day.

But no all border crossings are equal. I happen to be at one now where wait times are rarely more than 10-15 minutes. It is the crossing at Ciudad Acuna in Coahuila state. On the U.S. side, the adjacent city is Del Rio, Texas.

I’ve been here for a few days, and people invariably talk about how easy it is to cross over. Some 2,000 people who work in Ciudad Acuna’s 63 factories, or maquiladoras, cross daily, Acuna’s mayor told me a few hours ago.

People cross to go grocery shopping, visit friends, have a legal beer (if you are a U.S. soldier from Laughlin AFB over 18 but under 21), go to work or sell blood plasma (that’s another story).

I crossed over in a taxi at about 9 a.m. and after a minute of questioning from a U.S. officer was on my way into Del Rio. Two hours later, I don’t think border formalities took any more than 30 seconds on the Mexican side. There were two vehicles in front of us that you see in the photo above.

This region, by the way, boasts that it is at the mid point of the 1,950 or so miles of border, making it closer to everywhere. But the only U.S. city it is close to is San Antonio, 144 miles away.

IMG_0561

04/24/2012

The wrong turn into Mexico

A few days ago, a 27-year-old American truck driver was arrested in Ciudad Juarez carrying a quarter-million rounds of ammo in his rig. He told authorities that he’d taken a wrong turn on I-10 in El Paso and ended up on the bridge crossing into Mexico.

The employer of driver Jabin Bogan, a company in Memphis called Demco Express, said Bogan was legally transporting the ammunition to a facility in Phoenix, Arizona.

So did Bogan make a monumental boo-boo, or was he taking ammo to gangsters? His mother, perhaps predictably, said it was a mistake. Check the video above from a Dallas newscast.

And consider the following letter published this morning in the El Paso Times:

Wrong turn

Five years ago, at the height of the Christmas season, I was driving home from Five Points and got on the North-South Freeway. I accidentally got into the southbound lane to Mexico.

Traffic was heavy and I was locked into going to the bridge and into Mexico. I told the agent on the U.S. side I did not want to go into Mexico.

He said to just cross, drive one mile, and then make a U-turn to get back into the United States.

I finally got back to the U.S. side, but the 90 minutes was a terrifying experience for me.

What the ammo driver experienced is completely believable. I lived it.

Flying him to Mexico City and possible organized-crime charges against him are insane. Our federal government needs to step in, get him back on our soil and stop the flow of our dollars to Mexico when human rights are violated.

We need clearly stated signs, lanes to turn around in, and retraining of U.S. agents who guide drivers into Mexico and then say just turn around.

Nancy Brown
East El Paso

 

03/06/2012

Texas warns on Spring Break travel

The Texas Department of Public Safety today warned university students from heading to Mexico for Spring Break. From the press release:

“The Mexican government has made great strides battling the cartels, and we commend their continued commitment to making Mexico a safer place to live and visit,” said DPS Director Steven C. McCraw. “However, drug cartel violence and other criminal activity represent a significant safety threat, even in some resort areas.” 

Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, just responded with his own press release:

“Mexico strongly disagrees with the assessment made by Texan officials regarding travel to Mexico in general. As their number one trading partner and largest export market, Mexico believes Texas should be able to more objectively evaluate facts, providing nuance and context, and in doing so, dispel the notion that their motivation is a clear-cut political agenda.”

03/02/2012

Seeds of good news along the border

February’s death toll in Ciudad Juarez fell to 82 people, the lowest level in nearly three years. So far this year, a few more than three people have been killed per day.

Compared to previous years, this is a big improvement and Juarenses are breathing slightly easier.

Just look at the death tolls from the past four years to see the trends. These figures are from Molly Molloy, a researcher/librarian at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Molly keeps a running tab.

2008 = 1,623

2009 = 2,754

2010 = 3,622

2011 = 2,086

If current rates for 2012 hold, and that is a big “if,” then Juarez will end the year with fewer homicides then 2008.

Farther to the west, Tijuana has also seen homicide rates fall and the city is experiencing a renaissance. Click here to read a recent story I wrote from there.

Regardless of the reasons for the drop in Juarez and Tijuana _ and there may be many, many factors _ it is good news for citizens of those two cities.

People are still scared in Juarez, though. The Autonomous University in the city conducts an annual survey of perceptions of security. A year ago, 95 percent of those surveyed felt it was dangerous to go out in the streets. In the survey released this week, 89 percent felt it was dangerous, only a slight improvement. 

Municipal police have become much more aggressive in Juarez under Chief Julian Leyzaoloa, a retired army lieutenant colonel. Leyzaola also worked in Tijuana as police chief. While Juarez police have become more effective at working against gangsters, 30.2 percent of the 2,000 people interviewed by university pollsters said they’d suffered abuse at the hands of police in the past year. 

02/22/2012

A stray bullet and its injury to El Paso

Police and carjackers got into a gunfight Tuesday in Ciudad Juarez, and at least one in the swarm of bullets scorched at least 3,000 feet across the border.

It hit a 48-year-old shopper who was pushing her child in a stroller, penetrating her upper right calf. The shooting occurred at around 11 a.m. The victim received treatment at University Medical Center.

El Paso Mayor John Cook said the mother is a Mexican citizen who is a legal U.S. resident in Texas. Her identity hasn’t been released. 

In a news conference, Cook said that the public should not panic over the incident. It was an effort at damage control, recognition that El Paso's image was also affected by the spillover violence. 

Earlier in the day, Cook said: "People get struck by lightning, too, and that doesn't make us stay indoors when there is a rainstorm."

Yet preventing public distress is easier said than done. For one thing, the site of the shootout was fully half a mile inside Juarez at the intersection of Malecon Avenue and Xochimilco Street. And check out this map at the El Paso Times website to get a visual grasp of how far the bullet traveled. She was eight or nine blocks from the border crossing.

It is the first known case of a person in El Paso being struck by a bullet fired from Mexico, although rounds from gunfire in 2010 struck both City Hall and a building at UT El Paso

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Tim

This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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