Mexico marked another murderous milestone in its conflict with organised crime as the monthly homicide rate hit its highest level in 20 years.
Government statistics showed that 2,186 murders were committed in May, surpassing the previous monthly high of 2,131 in May 2011, according to a review of records that date back to 1997.
Mexico recorded 9,916 murders in the first five months of 2017, roughly a 30% increase over the same period last year.
The situation has hit such calamitous levels in states such as Guerrero, to south of Mexico City – where armed groups are fighting for control of the heroin industry – that morgues there have been unable to handle the dead bodies.
Analysts say the surging violence stems from various factors, including the increased cultivation of heroin to meet US demand and the legalisation of marijuana in some US states, which has caused cartel profits to plummet and prompted criminal groups to diversify into crimes such as kidnap and extortion.
NYT – The Mexican government said Wednesday that it was opening a criminal investigation to determine whether the nation’s most prominent journalists, human rights defenders and anticorruption activists were subjected to illegal government surveillance.
KPBS – Tijuana’s police chief said the U.S. should take responsibility for its role in Mexico’s rising violence, which he links to U.S. gun smuggling and lax gun laws. U.S. statistics show 70 percent of weapons seized at crime scenes in Mexico were traced to the U.S., particularly to the border states of California, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.
Reuters – A former state governor for President Enrique Pena Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had been arrested in Panama. Roberto Borge, 37, who was governor of the state of Quintana Roo until last year, was detained in Panama City airport as he was preparing to board a flight to Paris.
AP – Mexico closed seven service stations for allegedly selling gasoline and diesel stolen from state-run pipelines, the first confirmation that large amounts of fuel siphoned from illegal pipeline taps are being sold through officially sanctioned gas stations.
San Diego Union-Tribune – U.S. and California state law enforcement authorities said they have broken up a sophisticated auto-theft ring run by a Tijuana-based motorcycle club that swiped 150 Jeep Wranglers in San Diego County over the past several years.
AP – Five police officers were killed early Tuesday in a huge Mexico City suburb when they came under attack responding to a call, the city said in a statement. The officers were killed after arriving in two patrol vehicles around 4 a.m. to the Ecatepec neighbourhood of Ejidos de San Cristobal, the city said.
DW – The head Mexico’s national emergency services, Luis Felipe Puente, warned on Monday that an unknown amount of nuclear material used in medical equipment had been stolen from the back of a truck in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state. The theft prompted an alert and search for material across nine states: Jalisco, Colima, Nayarit, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacan San Luis Potosi, Durango and Zacatecas.
The Sun – Mexican football legend Cuauhtemoc Blanco “fears for his life” after being accused of ordering a hit on a man who organised a local fair. Blanco – famous for the “bunny hop” trick he performed in the 1998 World Cup – is the current mayor of Cuernavaca.
AP – A U.S. border rights activist has been found on the outskirts of Mexico City, after he sent a chilling Facebook live message saying he was stranded and people were trying to kill him. A Mexican federal official said the person found beaten was Hugo Castro. He is a member of the migrant defense group Border Angels.
President Enrique Peña Nieto hailed the arrests of two fugitive former governors from Mexico’s ruling party within a week as a “convincing message” about the state’s commitment to fight corruption, which is often seen as a bigger problem for the country than Donald Trump’s threatened renegotiation of Nafta.
The detention of Javier Duarte, who is accused of bankrupting the southern state of Veracruz before absconding last year, and of Tomás Yarrington of the northern state of Nuevo León, who enjoyed state-assigned bodyguards for part of his five years on the run from money-laundering and drugs charges, are undeniable advances, analysts say.
But the number of other former senior officials still wanted, and the slow progress in arming a new anti-corruption system with a prosecutor to lead the fight against the country’s endemic graft, suggest a lack of political will to match the rhetoric, critics say.
The timing of Mexico’s arrests — ahead of a key gubernatorial election in the State of Mexico in June that the ruling Institutional Revolutionary party (PRI) must win to remain afloat in the July 2018 presidential polls — looks expedient in a country where a corruption scandal over the president’s wife’s house decimated his popularity.
“The evidence that they are really moving forward and determined to attack the problems at the root is just not there,” says Juan Francisco Torres Landa, who heads Mexico United Against Crime, a non-governmental organisation.
LAT – Another journalist has been killed in Mexico — the fourth in just six weeks. Authorities said reporter Maximino Rodriguez Palacios was shot dead outside of a shopping center Friday in La Paz Rodriguez, 72, wrote about politics and crime for a news organization called the Pericu Collective. He had previously worked as a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.
Friday’s shooting is the latest in a string of violent attacks on journalists in Mexico that has claimed four lives since March 2 and has left several others wounded.
Arizona Republic – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized nearly $1 million in smuggled drugs at the U.S-Mexico border crossing in Nogales last week, officials said Monday. Border agents arrested five U.S. citizens and two Mexican nationals in separate attempts to smuggle drugs into the United States from Mexico.
The Guardian – The body of a man, who witnesses said was tossed from a plane, landed on a hospital roof in Mexico’s northern Sinaloa state on Wednesday, according to a public health service official in the region which is home to notorious drug traffickers.
San Diego Union-Tribune – Daniel Gomez, a defender with Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente’s reserve team, was arrested early on April 5 and charged with importing a controlled substance. According to a complaint in the U.S. District Court, he tried to bring in nearly 48-pounds of packaged meth.
BBC – Police in Italy have arrested the former governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, Tomás Yarrington, 59, who served as governor from 1999 to 2005 and had been on the run for almost five years. The ex-governor is accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from drug cartels in return for turning a blind eye to their smuggling activities.
The number of people in Mexico disappearing under suspicious circumstances, often related to drug violence, rose to 30,000 by the end of 2016, the National Human Rights Commission said on Thursday.
At the start of 2013, shortly after President Enrique Pena Nieto took office, the Mexican government reported there were 26,000 so-called “disappeared” people.
The Commission said the number of “disappeared” had risen to 30,000, with the drug-ridden northern state of Tamaulipas registering 5,563 missing, the highest state total.
It said six of Mexico’s 32 federal entities failed to respond to its enquiries on the number of missing persons.
The Commission also said it had accounted for 855 mass graves across Mexico over the last decade, finding 1,548 corpses, the large majority of which were male. Just over half of those bodies have been identified, it added.
Well over 100,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico over the last decade.