Mar 2, 2012

Week's Top Articles on Mexico: Feb. 24- Mar. 1st, 2012

Drug War, Human Rights and Rule of Law News was centered on the growing drug decriminalization debate taking shape in Central America. US Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, visited Latin America this week in a five country tour, during which she strongly reiterated the United States' position against decriminalization and continued support for the drug war model. 

Unlike fellow Central American president Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina remained steadfast in pushing an international discussion on the merits of decriminalization, reaffirming his stance directly to Secretary Napolitano in Guatemala City. 

A tempered calm has recently crept over two of Mexico's bordertown murder capitals: Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Some are claiming that the drop in violence and a measured return to normalcy is the result of gains made by the authorities against organized crime; others merely point to one cartel's victories over its rivals as responsible for the new tranquility. 

Meanwhile, across the border in El Paso, Texas, a County Commissioner was arrested for allegedly facilitating the sale of over 110 pounds of marijuana, begging the question of how deep corruption runs not only in the Mexican government, but also in the United States. 

Finally, two analytic articles comment on the fundamental mechanics of what moves hemispheric drug trafficking. The first reviews the game-changing moment when the Cali Cartel decided to pay Mexican couriers in product, changing power dynamics forever. The second comments on a report that suggests the drug trade could be fundamentally changing again: this time with more power flowing through Central America.

Should Central America Legalize Drugs?
The Atlantic: "Last week, the president of Guatemala joined former and current presidents of Colombia and Mexico in expressing interest in considering the regional legalization of the drug trade...It is easy to see why. The drug war has been a disaster for the Latin American countries fighting it, especially Mexico, and Central Americans' suspicion that legalization could be less painful and costly is reasonable." read more

US Homeland Security Secretary visits Guatemala  
Prensa Libre: "Combating drug trafficking will be another issue addressed during the meeting between Napolitano and Perez Molina—the Guatemalan President has recently proposed to lead a debate about drug decriminalization and Vice President Roxana Baldetti will begin a lobbying tour this week on the issue throughout Central America." read more 

U.S. not budging on drug decriminalization stance
The Tico Times: 'The United States does not view decriminalization as a viable way to deal with the narcotics problem,' she said. She suggested a regional effort that would prevent drug use, intercept production and distribution, and stop money laundering. But Pérez Molina was firm. 'We are calling for a discussion, a debate. And we continue to insist it. ... We want to open a debate to find a more effective way to fight drug trafficking.'" read more

Stirrings Of Nightlife Return To Ciudad Juárez
Fronteras Desk: "In the violent city of Ciudad Juárez, one industry is making a strong and sudden comeback: nightlife. Thanks to police protection in certain parts of this Mexican border city, business owners have decided to reopen. That means recently abandoned hot spots for clubs and bars have come alive again." read more

In revived Tijuana, a new calm delights - and mystifies
Kansas City Star: Security officials credit better policing and the arrival of army patrols. Activists say that emboldened citizens began ratting out gangsters...But some experts cite a more sinister reason. They say the calm is because Mexico's most powerful crime group has seized control of Tijuana's key drug-trafficking corridor and now enforces the peace. Rival drug gangs that used to gun down one another simply are working together now." read more

The Dark Side to Juarez's Security Gains
InSight Crime: "Mexican border city Juarez, formerly the most dangerous place in the world, made significant security advances in 2011. But this may have come at a steep cost in terms of human rights, as Mexico’s Proceso argues." read more

Arrest of Texas Official Raises Questions of Cross-Border Corruption
InSight Crime: Last week, DEA agents arrested El Paso County Commissioner Guillermo “Willie” Gandara Jr. on suspicion of being part of a mid-size drug trafficking network. Gandara, who is running for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, stands accused of distributing more than 110 pounds of marijuana since November 2010, and laundering the profits." read more

Gandara Moved to Federal Courthouse to Arrange for Release
KVIA El Paso: "El Paso Sheriffs deputies tell ABC-7 that Guillermo "Willie" Gandara Jr. was moved from the El Paso County Jail to the U.S. Federal Courthouse this morning where he is making arrangements to bond out of jail. Gandara is expected to officially resign his seat on Commissioners Court on Wednesday, according to County Judge Veronica Escobar." read more

The Cali cartel, Mexican smugglers and the war on drugs
The Los Angeles Times, Opinion: "Throughout the 1980s, Mexican smugglers were traditionally paid as couriers for hire by the Colombian cartels. They transported cocaine across the U.S. border for commissions that started as low as 20% of a load's wholesale value. As the flow of drugs increased, so did pressure to raise that commission to 30%, then 35%, 40% and more, until the Colombians said: "No mas." No more." read more

Cocaine seizures drop in Mexico as traffic moves
CBS News: "Cocaine seizures have dropped precipitously in Mexico in recent years, and a top U.N. drug-control official said Tuesday the trade appeared to be moving to Central America because of law enforcement pressure and infighting among cartels." read more

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