Entries in Drug Cartels (9)


Bad Company: Mexican Beauty Queen Killed During Drug Fight

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SINALOA, Mexico) -- A violent, hours-long car chase and gunfight between the Sinaloa drug cartel and Mexican soldiers over the weekend claimed the life of a young Mexican beauty queen who police said was riding with the drug runners.

The body of Maria Susana Flores Gamez, reportedly in her early 20s, was found outside an armored van along a mountainous road in the cartel-ridden state of Sinaloa in northwestern Mexico.

Near Gamez's body, authorities found an AK-47 assault rifle and 60 shell casings, Sinaloa State Attorney General Marco Antonio Higuera Gomez told reporters. Gomez said an investigation is under way to determine if the young woman was among those who fired on the Mexican soldiers.

Gomez said that three other people traveling in the van were killed in the shootout, as was one Mexican soldier, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal. Four suspected gang members were arrested.

The fight began Saturday morning when gunmen shot at Mexican army patrol, according to multiple local reports. In response, the military men chased the gunmen for hours to a safe house in the city on Mocorito before stopping the van, along with Gamez, on a nearby road.

In the safe house, authorities seized seven AK-47s, a grenade launcher, two grenades, a .40 caliber rifle and a thousand rounds, and six vehicles, one of which was armored, according to Mexican newspaper Milenio.

Gamez, who was studying media and communication at a local university, had a history of modeling and competing in pageants. In February, she won the "Mujer Sinaloa" (Miss Sinaloa) contest, and in May, she represented Mexico in the Miss Oriental Tourism Pageant in China, according to Milenio.

Gamez isn't the first Mexican beauty queen to be involved with drug cartels; Miss Sinaloa 2008, Laura Zuniga, was arrested in the same year she won her title with seven alleged drag traffickers outside Guadalajara, Mexico. A major 2011 Mexican film, Miss Bala, or Miss Bullet, was loosely based on her story.

The powerful Sinaloa drug cartel is headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a fugitive who the U.S. Department of the Treasury calls "the most powerful drug trafficker in the world." The State Department has offered $5 million for his arrest.

In February, Guzman narrowly evaded arrest during a raid on a mansion in Los Cabos, a tourist area at the southern tip of Baja California, and last month, his pregnant daughter was arrested at the San Ysidro crossing south of San Diego, trying to use false papers to sneak into the U.S. and give birth.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Last Colombian Drug Kingpin Falls: 'Crazy' Barrera Captured

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The last of the old-school Colombian drug lords has been captured in Venezuela, said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos during a televised speech on Tuesday. Daniel Barrera, also known as "Crazy Barrerra" or "The Madman," had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.

"Crazy Barrera has been perhaps the most wanted kingpin in recent times," Santos said.

The 50-year-old drug lord, who has allegedly smuggled cocaine to the U.S. for decades, was arrested while making a call on a public pay phone in San Cristobal, near the Colombian-Venezuelan border. The highly sought-after trafficker had undergone extensive plastic surgery in an attempt to alter his appearance and evade capture, according to authorities, and had allegedly also used acid to remove his fingerprints.

The U.S. had offered $5 million for information leading to his arrest, while the Colombian government offered $2.7 million of its own.

The arrest of one of Colombia's most wanted fugitives was the result of a multinational effort involving the C.I.A., Venezuelan drug police, and British intelligence officials, according to Santos.

Venezuela's justice minister, Tareck El Aissami, tweeted that the bust was "the most important blow" to drug trafficking "that we have made in Venezuela."

"Loco" Barrera was allegedly responsible for a gang capable of sending 10 tons of cocaine a month to the organized Mexican "Sinaloa" cartel, according to the Colombian government. The Sinaloa cartel would then allegedly move the cocaine to the U.S.

"The last of the great capos has fallen," said President Santos in announcing the capture. Barrera was able to escape from authorities, however, after he was arrested for trafficking in 1990.

"The madman" had allegedly retired to a quieter life, and since 2008 had been posing as a cattle rancher under the name of Jose Tomas Lucumi in Venezuela, said Colombia's National Police director Gen. Jose Roberto Leon, at a news conference in Washington.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


American Journalist Disappears in Mexico Drug Cartel Stronghold

Freelance Texas photojournalist Zane Alejandro Plemmons Rosales is shown in this undated photo. (Facebook)(NEW YORK) -- A 30-year-old American photojournalist has become the latest reporter to go missing while covering Mexico's drug war, after he left his hotel room in the violent drug cartel stronghold of Nuevo Laredo to take pictures of a shooting and never returned.

The Mexican newspaper where Zane Alejandro Plemmons Rosales had been working disclosed Friday that the San Antonio resident had gone missing in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, the headquarters of the Zetas drug cartel, on the night of May 21.

"[He] found himself at his hotel and, upon hearing gunshots, left for the street in order to cover the news," said the Mazatlan-based paper, El Debate. "Since then his whereabouts are unknown."

Plemmons' sister, Lizanne Sanchez, told a San Antonio television station that when she contacted his hotel, she was told that two masked, armed men had entered the hotel at 3 a.m., demanded his room keys from the receptionist, and removed all of this belongings. Sanchez said his bank accounts have not been touched.

Mexico is the most dangerous country in the Americas for the press, according to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. "Since 2000, 80 journalists have been killed in Mexico -- eight so far this year -- and 17 journalists remain missing," said Summer Harlow of the Knight Center.

Freedom House, an organization that tracks international human rights and civil liberties, says Plemmons is the third journalist to disappear in Mexico this year.

"What's happening in Mexico is that organized crime is trying to control all the information," explained Dario Fritz, a program officer for Freedom House in Mexico City. "The problem of impunity [of the cartels] and persecution is not only a problem for journalists."

Violence against the media is especially acute in Nuevo Laredo; a series of bloody attacks against journalists has functionally silenced the local press in the past year. In September 2011, three different reporters who had published on-line stories about the drug cartels under pseudonyms were found out and murdered. Two were tortured and hung from a bridge, while a blogger was beheaded. Last month, gunmen from the Sinaloa drug cartel attacked the office of a local newspaper in a five-minute shoot-out.

"The community should be appalled that another journalist has gone missing," said Harlow. "And the public should be horrified that journalist after journalist is fleeing Veracruz, and that newspapers in Nuevo Laredo had to take the unprecedented step of stopping reporting on organized crime because it was too dangerous for their reporters. Clearly, things are way beyond 'out of control' and it's long past time for authorities to step in and do something."

Plemmons, a dual citizen, had moved to Mazatlan, a coastal town in the Northwestern Mexico state of Sinaloa, to work for El Debate, a local newspaper. He took photos of crimes scenes, many of them linked to the drug cartels, and began to track the movements of the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas' main rival for control of Mexico's drug trade. More than 50,000 people have died in Mexico's drug war since 2006 as the Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel and other lesser drug organizations fight for turf.

Plemmons had apparently traveled from Mazatlan, in Sinaloa cartel territory, to Nuevo Laredo, the Zetas headquarters on the Texas border, in May for both work and personal reasons. He had taken his photographic gear with him, but also planned to visit relatives living nearby.

His family became concerned and reported his disappearance when the relatives he planned to visit never heard from him. El Debate finally made his disappearance public on June 22.

"He was a crime scene photographer, so I know he had seen a lot of graphic things," Lizanne Sanchez told the Fox TV affiliate in San Antonio. "He felt strongly about letting the world see the violence drug cartels are creating in Mexico."

"The fact that he's a U.S. citizen gives me hope that he's got to still be alive," Michael Sanchez, his brother-in-law, told the Fox station. "I'd like to think as crazy as it is down there they don't just kill U.S. citizens."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mexican Drug Cartels Make Fake Military Uniforms

JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- Mexican authorities said Thursday that they have busted a factory on the U.S. border where drug cartels were allegedly manufacturing copies of Mexican military uniforms.

The Mexican Navy said that an unnamed cartel was making the copies in a Piedras Negras factory to "discredit" the Marines, who have been battling the cartels. Drug gangs have used fake uniforms in the past to impersonate the military and carry out murders and hijackings.

Acting on a tip, Marines raided the factory in Coahuila state just across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas, and found 225 vests, 151 pairs of camouflage pants and 170 camo shirts, as well as holsters and ammunition, officials said.

The Zetas drug cartel, which operates in Piedras Negras, includes many former members of the Mexican military and has issued threats against the police and the Marines.

On Thursday morning, gunmen opened fire on a hotel in Nuevo Laredo, four miles from the U.S. border, and then detonated a car bomb. Officials in Tamaulipas state blamed the attack on the Zetas cartel.

Eight members of a new state police force staying in the Hotel Santa Cecilia were injured. The attack was the first on the state police, who took over from a municipal force that was disbanded because of alleged corruption. Several hours earlier, assailants had hurled gasoline bombs at a popular nightclub. After the hotel attack, gunmen fired on a local university.

The Zetas were founded by former members of the Mexican special forces who had been hired by the Gulf drug cartel as enforcers. Los Zetas broke away in 2010 and now control the drug business in much of the north and east of the country.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'El Loco' Arrested After 49 Beheaded Bodies Found

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/GettyImages(MEXICO CITY) -- Authorities have arrested an alleged Zetas drug cartel leader nicknamed "El Loco," AKA the Fool or the Crazy One, on charges that he dumped 49 headless bodies on a highway outside Monterrey, Mexico.

When the Mexican Army came to arrest Daniel Elizondo Jesus Ramirez, say authorities, he attempted to elude capture by shooting at troops and throwing a fragmentation grenade. Zetas commanders nicknamed The Shrimp and The Speaker have also been linked to the body dump, but officials have not yet apprehended them.

The mutilated bodies of 43 men and six women were found near Cadereyta, Mexico on May 13. Though the condition of the bodies made it difficult to identify any of them, some physical features and tattoos indicated that they may have been migrants from southern Mexico and Central America.

A graphic seven-minute video posted on the web last week allegedly showed gunmen dumping the bodies, and then flourishing a "narcobanner" "signed" by El Loco and two other alleged Zetas commanders.

The banner warned that the same fate would befall members of rival cartels, the police and the military. The video is still available on-line, though a version that was posted on YouTube has been removed. The first version that appeared on YouTube was posted by someone who claimed to be a Zeta.

After the bodies were discovered in Cadereyta, the Zetas posted new "narcobanners" throughout Northern Mexico condemning the murders, but Mexican officials claimed they had only done so to create confusion about responsibility for the deaths.

The Zetas, who dominate much of eastern and northern Mexico, are battling the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel for dominance in Nuevo Leon and other Mexican states. Founded by former members of the Mexican military, the Zetas have a reputation for violence.

During a press conference in Mexico City, Brig. General Edgar Ruiz Villegas Melendez alleged that "El Loco" had been told to dump the bodies in the town square of Cadereyta but instead chose to dump them on a nearby highway. Villegas claimed that Ramirez, who was arrested Sunday, had confessed to dumping the corpses and said he'd done so on the orders of Zeta leaders.

El Loco is also a suspect in the kidnapping, murder and dismembering of two women last year, one of them the girlfriend of an Army lieutenant. He was mistakenly reported killed during an operation to apprehend the alleged kidnapers. He sent a taunting message to the Mexican media that said, "I'm still alive ... El Loco of the Zetas."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


18 Headless Bodies Discovered in Mexico Tourist Area

HECTOR GUERRERO/AFP/GettyImages(MEXICO CITY) -- Police found 18 mutilated, headless bodies near a lake popular with tourists just outside Guadalajara, Mexico, a massacre that authorities blamed on the Zetas drug cartel.

A phone call alerted police to two vans on a dirt road near Lake Chapala early Wednesday morning. When police opened the van, they found 18 headless and dismembered bodies inside. Some were so badly mutilated that police have still not determined their gender. The bodies appear to have been refrigerated after death.

Handwritten messages were found in the van. "They are clearly messages between rival groups that are in conflict," said Tomas Coronado, prosecutor for the state of Jalisco. Officials said the notes were signed by the Zetas.

The Zetas have been battling the Jalisco New Generation gang, a minor cartel allied with the Sinaloa cartel, which is the Zetas chief rival for dominance of the Mexican drug trade. The Zetas cartel, which was founded by ex-members of the Mexican military, controls most of eastern Mexico and much of the north.

A woman detained Wednesday in connection with the separate kidnapping of 12 people in the same area told police that the abductions were connected to events in Tamaulipas state. Two dozen men and women were found decapitated or hanging from bridges in Nuevo Laredo, on the border with Texas, on Friday, where the Zetas are battling the Gulf cartel, another Sinaloa cartel ally.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nuevo Laredo: 23 Bodies Found on U.S. Border, Decapitated, Tortured

Hemera/Thinkstock (NUEVO LAREDO, Texas) -- The bodies of 23 people killed under horrific conditions have been found in the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo on the U.S. border, the BBC reports.  

Nine bodies showing signs of torture were discovered hanging from a bridge, and 14 decapitated bodies were found in a vehicle hours later. Ice boxes that were dumped outside of the mayor's office contained the victim's heads, according to the BBC.

A message found with the hanged bodies said they were members of the Gulf cartel who had been murdered by their rivals, the notorious Zetas. Police believed the bodies were gang members but could not confirm who was guilty of the killings.

Mexican drug cartels have been fighting over smuggling routes along the U.S.-Mexico border for years. About 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006, says the BBC.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Women in Secret Service Scandal Not Tied to Terrorism, Cartels

USSS(WASHINGTON) -- Investigators have found that nine of the Colombian women who were drinking and partying with Secret Service personnel last month in Colombia were paid for their services, Congressional sources tell ABC News. 

The Secret Service has now interviewed most of the women, who range in age from 20 to 39, and none were found to have any ties to terrorist organizations or drug cartels.

That information has allayed fears on Capitol Hill that the wild night of partying by Secret Service personnel in Colombia compromised the President’s safety, or national security.

The scandal unfolded when 175 Secret Service agents and officers traveled to Cartagena, Colombia last month to make advance preparations for President Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas.  The prostitution allegations became public when a Colombian woman at the Hotel Caribe complained to police that a Secret Service employee did not pay her the agreed-upon price for her services.  The police informed U.S. Embassy officials, and the seedy details of agents’ drinking heavily, visiting strip clubs, and bringing escorts back to the Hotel Caribe became an international scandal.

The Secret Service also provided Congressional investigators with more details of who exactly was involved with the escorts: two of the 12 employees were supervisors; three were snipers and another three were members of a Secret Service counter-assault team. Their careers ranged in length from two years to 22 years.  Nine of the 12 people involved took polygraph exams, but three refused – including the supervisory agent who had the original dispute over payment with the Colombian escort. Nine of the 12 involved have resigned or been fired by the Secret Service, two agents have been cleared, and one is appealing disciplinary action.

Last Friday, the Secret Service announced that all agents must complete ethics training before being eligible for foreign travel.

The new rules say:

  • “Patronization of non-reputable establishments is prohibited.
  • “Alcohol may not be consumed at the protectee hotel once the protective visit has begun.
  • “Foreign nationals, excluding hotel staff and official counterparts, are prohibited in your hotel room.”
  • “Alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts while off-duty on … assignment and alcohol use is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mexican Officials: Drug War Death Toll at More than 47,000

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MEXICO CITY) -- The Mexican government Wednesday released its latest tally of deaths from drug-related violence.  The report says 47,515 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon began a crackdown on drug cartel activity in 2006, according to The New York Times.

The report also shows drug-related murders increased 11 percent from January 2011 to September of that same year when compared to the same period in 2010, the Times reports.

But, the newspaper notes, experts criticize the Mexican government's apparent shortcomings in developing an adequate tracking system for trends in the country's crime, and say the newest data may be inaccurate.

"Since there are very few actual investigations, those [numbers] are approximations at best," Eric Olson, a security expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars in Washington, told The New York Times.  Olson added that there is no real way of knowing if counted murders were actually connected to organized crime or drug trafficking at all.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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