Entries in Mexico (78)


How a Cartel Dominated a Mexican Town

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEPALCATEPEC, Mexico) -- A video published recently on YouTube provides a chilling account of how organized crime has evolved in Mexico. And it's getting a lot of play in the media, given the recent surge of violence in the western state of Michoacan.

In the video, a local doctor narrates the recent history of Tepalcatepec, a town in the Michoacan lowlands that has been hounded by drug cartels for the past 12 years.

The doctor, Jose Manuel Mireles, is now a member of a self-defense squad that has taken up arms to defend the town. He says that, initially, cartels in the region just fought each other over drug smuggling routes, and left civilians to their own devices.

That changed about four years ago, when a cartel called the Knights Templar won the local drug war, and forced smaller drug dealers to flee from the area.

The Knights Templar achieved territorial control, but found that with local drug dealers gone, it was difficult to run the drug business on their own. So they turned to taxing local businesses.

"Cattle ranchers had to pay 1,000 pesos [$80] for every cow they sold. And butchers had to pay 15 pesos [$1] for every kilo of beef they sold," Mireles recalls in the video.

"There were families that had to pay between ten to 20 thousand pesos per month, and we were also told to pay 500 pesos for every car we owned. Even children, from kindergarten to high school, had to pay 20 pesos every Monday."

Mireles said that local law enforcement officers didn't do anything to stop such abuses, because they were possibly allied with the cartel. But he said that the local population still found ways to endure the cartel's squeeze on the local economy.

"The cattle rancher and the butcher would simply raise the prices of their goods; they never lost out," Mireles said.

According to this doctor, armed rebellion against the Knights Templar cartel only began when this group started to rape local children, and abduct peoples' wives.

"The problem exploded when they began to come to our home, and tell us things like, 'I like your wife, I'll bring her back in a while...and while I'm gone, give your daughter a shower because she'll have to spend a few days with me, too."

Mireles said the reign of terror drove residents to action. The cartels would target the wealthy as well as the poor.

"That was what sparked the problems in Tepalcatepec. Because just as they'd approach a poor family, they'd also do the same to the richest cattle ranchers," Mireles says in the video.

Michoacan has been in the media spotlight since February, when several towns in the state took up arms and formed vigilante groups to defend themselves against cartels.

Local media was all over the story, calling on the Mexican government to do something to stop "anarchy" in this part of the country.

The government of Mexico responded by sending some 2,500 soldiers into the state. They've occupied Tepalcatepec and some surrounding towns, and gotten self-defense groups to agree to put their weapons away while the army is around.

But Mireles claims that this military surge has not been ambitious enough, with soldiers only occupying towns where the self-defense groups have already expelled cartels.

In his YouTube video, Mireles claims that Mexican soldiers are doing nothing to root out criminals that still dominate nearby towns.

"We've told the soldiers thousands of times, 'Look, the Knights Templar are in Apatzingan and Aguililla, why don't you go get them?" Mireles said. "And they tell us that their mission is only to protect our town."

"I think that they sent the soldiers here to take our weapons away," Mireles opined. "But not to defend us from those who've been attacking this area for the past 12 years."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mexican Teen Fakes Own Kidnapping, Gets Arrested

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(VERACRUZ, Mexico) -- Mexican police have arrested a teenager who faked her own kidnapping so that she could get money to go on vacations with her ex-boyfriend and four other friends.

Nineteen year-old Arely Soto actually wanted her parents to believe that criminals had kidnapped her so that they would pay her friends a $20,000 ransom for her "release."

To get away with this, Arely simply disappeared from her home in the state of Veracruz one day and had her friends call her family, posing as bloodthirsty criminals.

It's a believable story in Mexico, where kidnappings are still a common crime. But things went bust when Arely's parents suspected something was amiss and contacted local police.

Mexican newspaper Zocalo reports that Arely's parents agreed to make the ransom. Police then arrested the teens as they drove to the town where they were going to collect the money.

The teens promptly ratted out Arely, who was found by police in the neighboring state of Hidalgo before her friends were arrested.

Arely told cops that she had been threatened with a knife and was beaten, but once her friends confessed to their role, she allegedly acknowledged that it was all a scam.

Arely and her friends will probably spend some time in jail. They have also reminded us, once again, that real life crimes are sometimes more absurd than those that happen in Hollywood films.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Former Mexican President Wants Marijuana Legalized

Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- A former Latin American president has once again said that drugs should be legalized. This time it was Vicente Fox who was the president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006.

Fox was in Seattle on Thursday, as a guest speaker for Don Pellicer, a new company that wants to set up marijuana stores in Washington state and Colorado, and aims to create America's "largest" marijuana brand. The former Mexican president spoke in a press conference in which Don Pellicer's CEO [a former Microsoft executive] sought money from investors, and unveiled plans to buy marijuana dispensaries.

After praising Don Pellicer and its head honchos for their "initiative," Fox described marijuana prohibition as a "trap," that has increased violence in Mexico.

He said that policies that legalize the drug's consumption represent an "opportunity," to stop that violence, and welcomed the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Colorado.

"This state of Washington has decided to lead a new path," Fox said. "In Mexico we welcome this initiative because the cost of the war [against drug cartels] is becoming unbearable."

Many politicians in Latin America are also talking about taking new paths in drug policy, and demanding that the U.S. also consider legalization as an international strategy.

Some, like Fox, are former presidents, who fought drug cartels tooth and nail in their time, and now have little to lose by saying that drugs should be legalized.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has been working to convince Central American countries to legalize many drugs, even cocaine. In a February 2012 speech, Molina said, "We've seen that when we capture a drug boss, cartels get reorganized and business continues. ... While there is demand in the United States, drug trafficking will continue [in Latin America]."

Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Pepe Mujica of Uruguay have also worked to push legislation that would legalize marijuana.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


What Obama Can Achieve in Mexico

YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- President Barack Obama arrives in Mexico on Thursday afternoon for a 24-hour trip in which he is expected to meet with Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, to talk about trade, security and immigration.

The details of what both presidents will discuss have not been laid out to the public. Nor has it been explained why this meeting is important, other than to "reinforce" the relationship between both countries.

But here are some concrete issues that both presidents might end up talking about and why they need to be addressed.

Mexico's president has tried to shift the focus of U.S.-Mexico talks away from security, and to the economy, arguing that the relationship between both countries must expand beyond drug war cooperation. The U.S. seems to be going along with this request based on statements made recently by Secretary of State John Kerry.

But there are changes in Mexico's security policies that directly affect the United States, such as a recent decision by the Mexican government to stop direct communication between Mexican law enforcement agencies and American agencies. From now on, all requests made by the U.S. for intelligence information must be routed through Mexico's Interior Ministry.

This new policy could hamper cooperation between U.S. officers who work for agencies like the DEA and the FBI, with their Mexican counterparts, according to sources consulted by the Los Angeles Times. It will also give Mexico's ministry of the interior more power to decide which sorts of sensitive information can be passed along to U.S. agents.

Obama and his advisers will probably have to ask some questions about how intelligence information will be shared from now on and seek some reassurances that information will still be made available to them. They may also want to ask Mexico what it wants to do with bi-national programs that have come under scrutiny from officials in Mexico's new government.. For example, there was a program through which U.S. agents help to conduct background checks on new Mexican police hires to make sure that they have no connection to drug trafficking groups.

Alex Sanchez, a security analyst at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, believes that intelligence sharing will be a significant issue during the private meetings that will be held on Thursday, even if it has been downplayed by both sides.

He said that intelligence sharing will become more relevant as Mexican cartels increase their presence in the U.S., and also as the U.S. explores new ways to secure the border with drones.

"I think the U.S. government wants to make sure that Peña Nieto is on the same page as Obama, that he wants to pursue the cartels as consistently and aggressively as [former Mexican President] Calderon did during his presidency," Sanchez said.

Trade and North American Integration
Some economists in the U.S. and Mexico have suggested that both countries should work together in order to compete against China's economic power.

This belief that Mexico and the U.S. should be partners and not actually competitors is supported by the fact that both countries already produce many goods together with companies in the U.S. sending raw materials to Mexico, for example, where they are assembled into different sorts of products, and sent back to this country.

James R. Jones, a former U.S. ambassador in Mexico, says that North America has the human capital and energy reserves that could make it into the most competitive region in the world.

At a recent panel at the Americas Society, a Washington D.C. think tank, he suggested that Obama and Peña Nieto try to come up with regulations that make it easier for companies on both sides of the border to work together and export their products to the rest of the world.

"We need to find ways to not diminish the security of the border, but still expand and enable the commercial movement of goods," Jones said.

Another issue that both presidents should take a look at is NAFTA's legacy, says, Raul Gutierrez, a Mexican industrialist who leads the steel products group Deacero.

At the same panel at the Americas Society, Gutierrez mentioned that since this free trade agreement was implemented in 1994, the real minimum wage has fallen in Mexico by 25 percent. Under NAFTA, the number of Mexicans living in poverty has increased by 11 million, and more than 2,000 small exporting companies have closed. Mexican exports meanwhile only contain 30 percent of national content, and exports that come out of the assembly plants along the border, known as Maquiladoras, only average 3 percent of national content.

Gutierrez said that things could've been worse for Mexico, if NAFTA had not been implemented. But he argued that the U.S. and Mexico must find ways to boost Mexico's ailing manufacturing sector in order to create jobs in the country and prosperous conditions that would stop people from entering organized crime networks.

"A strong Mexican economy is in the security interests of the U.S.," Gutierrez said. "The U.S. will do well to think of North American competitiveness and not just its own in confronting the challenges of China," Gutierrez added, arguing that a more prosperous Mexico would also be a good market for U.S. companies.

Mexico's president has been rather silent on this issue, saying only that he "fully supports" Obama's push for immigration reform. Back in November when he visited Obama in Washington, Peña Nieto said that rather than making "demands" on the U.S. President and the U.S. Congress, on behalf of the six million undocumented Mexican immigrants who live in the U.S., he wants to "contribute," to Obama's solution.

Peña Nieto may believe that Obama is on the right track, with regards to immigration reform, and that any attempts by his government to get involved in U.S. politics would backfire, and delay Obama's plans.

Alex Sanchez from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, says that Peña Nieto's statements of support, which are likely to be repeated during this visit by Obama, are somewhat helpful. "It's symbolic, of course, and it won't make Republicans back Obama's plan. But it looks good for Obama to get some sort of backing from the country where most immigrants come from," he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mexican 9-Year-Old Mom Is Actually 12 or 13, Officials Say

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A young Mexican girl who gave birth to a daughter two weeks ago is actually 12 or 13 years old, not 9 years old as her parents initially claimed, authorities say.

The girl, identified as Dafne, was impregnated by her 44-year-old step-father, according to Lino Gonzalez Corona, a spokesperson for the Jalisco State Prosecutor’s Office.  The stepfather is under arrest after admitting to having his first sexual encounter with Dafne in April 2012 and a second in June.

Dafne’s mother was unaware of the sexual relationship, according to Corona.  She thought the baby’s father was a 17-year-old boy that her daughter had met at a local market.  She learned of the pregnancy in November 2012, two months before Dafne delivered a healthy baby girl by C-section on Jan. 27, 2013.

“Due to her young age and to the fact that her body was not ready to give birth,” said Dr. Enrique Rabago, director of Zoquipan Hospital, “the medical team decided a C-Section was the best option” for both mother and child.

Roughly 25 percent of the pregnancies seen at Zoquipan Hospital last year were among teens, according to Rabago.

Doctor Raymundo Serrano, chief of gynecology at Zoquipan Hospital, and his team decided to insert a contraceptive implant to avoid another pregnancy.  He described the implant as a small, flexible rod placed just under the skin in the upper arm that releases progestogen and works for up to three years.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rosie Rivera to Oversee Jenni Rivera's Finances

Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Mexican-American banda singer Jenni Rivera, who was laid to rest last week following the fatal plane crash that killed her and six others, has left her considerable fortune -- estimated at 25 million dollars -- to her five children.

In addition, a handwritten note left by the late singer named her younger sister, Rosie, in charge of managing Rivera's finances as the CEO of Jenni Enterprises should anything happen to her. Rosie's new title puts her in change of not only the late performer's finances, but also of her brand and of continued sales of her music and merchandise.

In addition, the letter grants Rosie, 31, responsibility over the children Jenni left behind: Janney "Chiquis" Marín Rivera, Jacqueline Marín Rivera, Michael Marín Rivera, Jenicka Lopez Rivera, and Johnny Lopez Rivera.

According to one of Jenni's brothers, Pedro Rivera, Jr., the singer had "prepared a letter about a month and a half ago, and Rosie has that letter." Jenni "always had advisers who helped her work and to make things right," he adds.

The "Jenni Rivera Official" Facebook page notes, in an announcement addressed to Rivera's fans, that, in an effort to keep readers abreast of what's to come, "we are now in charge of her [online] accounts." The note concludes by thanking the singer's fans for "making of my sister una gran señora [a great woman]."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Alien’-Looking Human Skulls Found in Mexico

File photo. Hemera/Thinkstock(SONORA, Mexico) -- Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered 25 “alien”-looking human skulls in a cemetery in the northwest state of Sonora, they said Friday.

Some of the skulls showed “deformities,” said Cristina Garcia Moreno, who worked on the excavation project with Arizona State University, which analyzed the bones. The bones are about 1,000 years old, dating from 945 A.D. to 1308 A.D.

“This was a Hispanic cemetery with 25 skulls, and 13 of them have deformed heads,” Moreno told ABC News Friday. “We don’t know why this population specifically deformed their heads.”

Moreno said that scientists had found skulls in other parts of Mexico, including Guasave, south of Sonora that also showed similar deformities in certain groups of people. Scientists believe they put beams of wood on the front and back of individuals’ heads and wrapped the wood with bands to exert pressure on the skull, Moreno said.

“We know that in some parts of Mexico, people deformed their heads because they wanted to distinguish important people or they wanted to distinguish people from one group from another,” she said.

Moreno said that skulls like this had never before been found in Sonora, and that many of the skeletons in the cemetery were those of children.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jenni Rivera's Remains '100%' Identified; Funeral Preparations Begin

Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images(LAKEWOOD, Calif.) -- The remains of Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera have been "100 percent" identified, her brother Pedro told reporters outside his parents' home in Lakewood, Calif., on Thursday.

"It is 100 percent confirmed that Jenni is no longer with us.  That is Jenni and she's on her way back home now," said Rivera's brother, adding, "God let us borrow our sister, the daughter of Don Pedro Rivera and Rosa Rivera, the singer, the artist, the friend, the strong woman who always showed love -- La Gran Señora.  God let us borrow her for a time, 43 years, and now God has taken her.  I know she is in His presence."

Pedro said his brothers Lupillo, Juan and Gustavo, who earlier in the week had expressed hope that their sister would still be found alive, traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, to ID the body, and had indicated that "there was no need to wait for the DNA results."

Earlier in the week, on Dec. 11, two policemen in Nuevo Leon, Mexico -- Luis Antonio Ávila Moreno, 23, and Mario Alberto García Pacheco, 24 -- were arrested for allegedly stealing personal items belonging to the victims of the Dec. 9 plane crash in which Rivera and six others died.  Among the items found in their possession was a Blackberry phone.

Authorities in Nuevo Leon said they had arrested the officers and taken them in for questioning.

Rivera's funeral -- which will be open to the public -- will be held in the Los Angeles area, said Pedro, though he did not specify a day, adding that "that is something we need to discuss as a family."

Pedro added that Rivera did not want to be cremated, and that the ceremony will be closed casket.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jenni Rivera’s Death Confirmed; NTSB to Assist in Crash Investigation

Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that Jenni Rivera, the Mexican-American singer and reality television star, died on Sunday when the plane she was traveling in crashed outside Monterrey, Mexico.  

Rivera, 43, was one of seven people on the jet.  There were no survivors.

Rivera had given a performance in Monterrey and was traveling to the Mexico City area to tape an episode of the Mexican version of The Voice.  She was to be one of the coaches.

During Monday night’s edition of NBC’s The Voice, host Carson Daly paused for a moment to acknowledge Rivera’s death.

Daly said, “On a sad note tonight, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Jenni Rivera.  She was a coach on The Voice Mexico, a personal friend and a talented artist and will be greatly missed by many.”

Known as "La Diva de la Banda," Rivera had a groundbreaking career in regional Mexican music, selling some 15 million records.  Her reality show on mun2, I Love Jenni, is one of the network's highest-rated shows.

The NTSB said it is assisting the Mexican government in investigating the crash.  ABC News has learned the Learjet LJ25 was also involved in an accident seven years ago when it experienced a fuel system malfunction.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Mexican-American Singer Jenni Rivera Feared Dead in Plane Crash

Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Multiple reports, including one from Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico's secretary of communications and transports, confirmed on Sunday that the remains of the private jet carrying popular Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera have been found, with no survivors.  Rivera, 43, was one of seven people on the jet.

Rivera's father, Pedro, confirmed the news of his daughter's apparent passing to reporters stationed outside his home in Lakewood, Calif., where several family members had gathered, including Rivera's mother, Rosa, and her eldest daughter, Chiquis.

Rivera's father reportedly received the news via telephone from his son, singer Lupillo Rivera, who was in Mexico at the time of the jet's disappearance.

"This is the first tragedy of this kind that we suffer as a family," Rivera's father told reporters Sunday evening.  "I hope people remember her as she was -- someone who was straight with the world."

Mexican officials earlier confirmed the disappearance of the private jet carrying Rivera, which took off from the northern Mexican city of Monterrey at 3:15 a.m. local time on Sunday and fell off the radar 10 minutes, or 62 miles, after takeoff.

The Learjet 25 jet is believed to have been carrying five passengers and two pilots.  It was headed for Toluca International Airport, located outside of Mexico City, where it was scheduled to arrive at 4:40 a.m.  An official search for the jet was initiated at sunrise.

Rivera's publicist, Arturo Rivera, and her makeup artist, Jacob Yebale, are believed to have been on the flight.

Rivera was due in Toluca Sunday evening for the taping of a Mexican TV show, which was cancelled due to Rivera's disappearance.

Known as "La Diva de la Banda," Rivera had a groundbreaking career in regional Mexican music, selling some 15 million records.  Her reality show on mun2, I Love Jenni, is one of the network's highest-rated shows.

Rivera made her film debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in the indie family drama Filly Brown, due in theaters in January.  She was set to work on the Mexican edition of The Voice.

The Long Beach, Calif.-born singer's personal life has often called for as much attention as her career.  A mother of five, Rivera had filed for divorce from former baseball player Esteban Loaiza in October after two years of marriage, citing "irreconcilable differences."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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