A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith
In a 2000 column entitled "Who will slay the dragon in Tijuana?" I wrote about how the brutal Arellano Félix drug-trafficking gang would someday be brought down to earth.
It might have happened sooner than many expected, with the 2002 death of cartel enforcer Ramón Arellano in Mazatlán and the 2002 capture of the gang's financial brains, Benjamín Arellano, (left) in Puebla. Then came the capture of Javier Arellano by the U.S. when he was boating off Baja California Sur in 2006.
The United States, whose tracking of Benjamín Arellano's daughter was a key element in his capture, finally has him in hand as he was extradited to San Diego on Friday. >>>rest of story>>>
The state of Chiapas has become Mexico's biggest sender of migrants to the United States, and a Mexican official who has headed the Institute for Mexicans Abroad says he thinks he knows why.
Chiapas traditionally was not a sender of migrants, but that changed radically in the past decade and a half. Carlos García de Alba, speaking at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego on Thursday, said his personal belief is that Chiapanecos are following the lead of Central Americans passing through Chiapas on their way to the United States. >>>rest of story>>>
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Newspapers this week ran photos of Baja California Sen. Alejandro González Alcocer looking at what appeared to be a 1968 Cantinflas movie on his iPad while the Senate was in session. González Alcocer said he was not watching the movie and only was checking his email, and that when he opened an email entitled "Cruces Fronterizos", the image of Cantinflas in the movie "Por Mis Pistolas" came up. Story in Frontera.
UPDATE: Reforms were not brought to a vote in the Chamber of Deputies
Mexico's Senate on Wednesday voted 94-5 to pass reforms that would allow re-election of senators and deputies, although there would be term limits. An addition to the reform package also would give states the right to allow the re-election of mayors and council members. Senators, who serve six-year terms, could be re-elected once, while deputies, who serve three-year terms, could be re-elected twice. The bill, which still must be passed by the Chamber of Deputies, would not apply to legislators currently serving. The legislation also would allow plebiscites and independent candidacies.
The addition that would allow the re-election of mayors and council members was proposed by Ramón Galindo of the National Action Party and passed 60-26, with the backing of the Institutional Revolutionary Party against the opposition of part of the Democratic Revolution Party, part of the PRI, part of the PAN and of the Green Ecologist Party.
Analysts told El Universal newspaper Thursday that it may be difficult to get the Chamber of Deputies to agree to the Senate bill, particularly before the regular session of Congress ends this week. Story, El Universal. Story El Economista.
The lack of continuity that the absence of re-election has caused in Mexico has been one of a large number of things holding back the country's progress. The idea of no-re-election first surfaced as a major issue for Gen. Porfirio Díaz (right) in 1871, when he opposed the re-election of Mexican President Benito Juárez. Díaz, after he became president in 1876, essentially became a dictator for more than three decades, re-elected every four years from 1884 to 1910. That in turn helped bring about the Mexican Revolution that began in 1910. Díaz resigned on May 25, 1911, fled the country, and is buried in Paris, where he died in 1915 at age 84. The 1917 Mexican Constitution, passed during the Revolution, prohibits re-election.
Gen. Gilberto Landeros Briseño of the Second Military Zone told the monthly meeting of the state Public Safety Council in Tijuana on Tuesday that Baja California was safe for tourism and that that was reflected by the influx of visitors during Easter vacation last week, El Mexicano newspaper reported. He also said the military and the Federal Investigative Agency had seized more than seven tons of marijuana on Monday in a warehouse in the Magaña neighborhood in the La Mesa area of Tijuana.
The paper said the general said the number military deserters joining the ranks of organized crime has dropped. Frontera's story.
El Mexicano ran a front-page story on Tuesday expressing a Tijuana business official's concerns about last week's State Department warning about travel to Mexico, and stated incorrectly that the alert had recommended that Americans not travel to Tijuana. The warning actually said, "You should exercise caution in this area, particularly at night." But it did not say that Americans should defer non-essential travel to Tijuana, as it recommended that Americans do for many other areas of Mexico. On Saturday, Tijuana's Frontera newspaper reported incorrectly that the travel warning said U.S. officials should only travel in armored cars in Tijuana. See previous MexicoPerspective story below. El Mexicano's story on Tuesday called last week's State Department alert unfounded. It also quoted Business Coordination Council President Mario Escobedo, who until recently headed the chamber of commerce, as indicating a conspiracy involving California's high unemployment rate was somehow involved in the travel warning. Previous mention of Escobedo.
Carlos Torres of the National Action Party may have lost last year's Tijuana mayoral election to Carlos Bustamante, but the city's representative of the federal Social Development Ministry has more Facebook followers than the Institutional Revolutionary Party mayor, according to an item in Monday's Frontera newspaper. Bustamante, however, has more friends on his personal Facebook page. Torres and Bustamante have the greatest number of followers among Tijuana politicians.
Who will win the PRI nomination for governor in 2013? Former Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon had 7,810 people hit the "I like" button on his public page; Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti reached his limit of 5,000 friends on his Facebook personal page.
Other top PAN Facebook numbers: Federal Deputy and former Tijuana Mayor Francisco Vega has 3,881 friends, while former Mayor Jorge Ramos reached the personal page limit of 5,000. He has 1,634 on his public page.
Federal Deputy Gastón Luken Garza, who won a seat for the PAN but is not a PAN member, reached his limit of 5,000 friends on his personal page and has started a public page.
|Facebook member||"I like" public Facebook page||Personal Facebook page|
|Carlos Torres, representative of Sedesol||11,998||4,339|
|Mayor Carlos Bustamante||9,820||4,771|
|Former Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon||7,810|
|Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti||5,000|
|Deputy Gastón Luken Garza||5,000|
|Deputy and former Mayor Francisco Vega||3,881|
|Former Mayor Jorge Ramos||1,634||5,000|
Ignacio Calderón wrote a farewell column in Frontera on Friday, saying he would be devoting his energies as an outside consultant to the Instituto Metropolitano de Planeación del Ayuntamiento de Tijuana (the city of Tijuana's Metropolitan Planning Institute). He said the objective of the project will be "that Tijuana does not remake itself every three years and can establish true long-term planning in this little piece of Mexico." In Tijuana, like in almost all cities in Mexico, mayors and council members can only serve three-year terms with no re-election. This lack of continuity has curtailed long-term planning and stunted cities; mayors often say that by the time they figure out the lay of the land, they are into their third year and have switched to thinking about what their next job will be. Calderón wrote for the paper for 12 years. He said the price "of participating in the modernization of my city" was the column; he said he would not want to be in the position of using his column for partisan purposes. Calderón's column.
Most of the 17,685 prisoners in Baja California come from outside the state, Frontera newspaper reported. About 55.4% are from other states, with the most out-of-state prisoners (12.8%) coming from Sinaloa. Frontera also reported on a U.S. Government Accountability Office report that said Mexicans make up 68% of the 51,000 foreign prisoners in the United States.
|Percentage of prisoners in Baja California|
It was standing room only at the Tijuana's Cultural Center small film room for Magui del Mar on Tuesday, who read from her latest work of romantic poetry, "Voces del Corazón." >>>rest of story>>>
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A study of the $60 monthly grants instituted for the elderly in Mexico City found that they increased leisure time while reducing the amount of time the recipients worked and spent on caring for grandchildren in their homes. The study was presented at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California San Diego. >>>rest of story>>>
Five males, two of them minors, allegedly involved in kidnappings and executions were captured in Tijuana. Two of the males were allegedly involved in kidnapping three female relatives of drug trafficking kingpin Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada; in that kidnapping, the women were freed in a shootout with the army in which one kidnapper was killed. Four were arrested during an attempted armed robbery of a meat market in the Infonavit Capistrano neighborhood. They were though to be members of "El Sillas" organized crime group allegedly run by Juan Francisco Sillas Rocha. Some of the executions took place in Tijuana shopping center or grocery store parking lots. Story, Frontera.
A man who allegedly kidnapped and then held a woman captive in a Rosarito Beach motel was captured on Monday. The man was identified as Agustín Huerta Robles, 35. Story, Frontera.
The Compañia de Gas de Tijuana ran full-page ads in Tijuana newspapers Wednesday, explaining that it had run out of gas for many home delivery customers because Pemex had not supplied it with gas since April 1. The ad also said Pemex wouldn't be delivering any gas from Thursday through Sunday of this week because workers were taking time off for the Easter holidays. Meanwhile, the company Gas Silza ran a full-page ad saying it had plenty of gas for home delivery. Compañia de Gas de Tijuana ad. Gas Silza ad.
UPDATE, Thursday, April 21: StarGas also runs an ad saying it has gas.
Two alleged drug cartel gunmen in Tijuana, one of them a former ministerial policeman, were extradited to the United States on Monday. Both Jorge Antonio Ortega Nuño and Jorge Alberto Ramírez Ponce were arrested last year and were said to work for Fernando "El Ingeniero" Sánchez Arellano, who took over the Arellano Félix cartel. They were wanted for laundering proceeds of drug sales in the United States.
Little Chris José López Escobedo had Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante and Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti (both PRIistas) attend the reception after his recent naming and baptism ceremony, according to a full-page photo spread in El Mexicano. Chris José is the baby son of Chris López Alvarado and Mariana Escobedo Fimbres. She is the daughter of Mario Escobedo, the past president of Tijuana's Chamber of Commerce (CANACO) who last week was named president of the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial (CCE), or Business Cooperation Council. López administers the San Antonio de los Buenos section of Tijuana and served as an at-large state legislator from 2007-2010 even after losing his 2007 district race. Tijuana Noticias says López's political godfather is Senate leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones, a PRIista from Sonora state whose brother is a top official in Bustamante's administration. López's father, Jaime Armando López Ferreiro, worked closely with Gov. Beltrones in Sonora. Trenti is reported to be planning a run for Baja California governor in 2013, or perhaps even next year if a PRI-backed proposal to hold Baja California's gubernatorial election concurrently with the 2012 presidential vote becomes law. The Baja California governor's post has been held by the PAN since 1989.
A leader of the Zetas in Tamaulipas state said to be responsible for the massacre of 72 immigrants last year and of at least 145 people this year has been arrested. The Mexican navy arrested Martín Omar Estrada Luna, also known as El Kilo. along with five others. There have been at least 16 other arrests, and 16 police also have been detained on suspicion of cooperating with the Zetas. Proceso's story about the disappeared. Frontera.
The latest census puts Tijuana's population at 1,559,714, Frontera reports. That is 49.4% of Baja California's population. The number of people living in each household dropped from 4.4 two decades ago to 3.6. the national average is
Baja California's total population was listed as 3,155,070 — 1,563,460 female and 1,591,610 male.
The census found 92.6% of the state's homes had refrigerators and 97% had televisions. Running water was found in 95.9% of homes; 93.4% had sewage systems; and 98.5% had electricity.
The state ranked second in Internet access, with 43.9% of homes having it, while 84% had cell phone service. The national average for cell phone service is 65.1%.
In education, the average years of schooling rose to 9.3 (the national average is 8.6) and 95.4% of the population ages 6-14 was in school. The census said 41.9% of the age 15-24 population was attending high school or university, a jump from 29% two decades earlier.
Four former Tijuana policemen who were arrested, held for eight months and then released in the past week, aired their frustrations with Frontera newspaper in an article published Saturday. They were among 62 law officers arrested in June on suspicion of cooperating with organized crime and held in a Veracruz prison. One man, Aurelio Román Gutiérrez Cisneros, said he had not even been a policeman for 2 1/2 years when he was detained by the Mexican military and had been earning his living as a taxi driver. All four wanted their names cleared, and the three who were still in the police force said they would welcome returning to police work. Around 40 of those arrested in June have been released, and all may be released. Union-Tribune story
The Tijuana weekly Zeta was the subject of a profile by Associated Press reporter Elliot Spagat last week with the headline "Tijuana newspaper excels at drug war coverage" The article also notes that "Zeta detractors say the paper is too cozy with the army." This week, as if on cue, the paper printed a letter to the editor from Sergio Aponte Polito, the retired military general who led the fight against organized crime in Baja California until his ouster in 2008. Aponte Polito congratulated Zeta on its 31st anniversary and said he hoped it would continue to keep circulating, as its motto says, "Libre como el Viento" (Free as the Wind).
Other letter writers also congratulated Zeta on its anniversary, including public relations guru Jorge D'Garay and even the city of Tijuana, which Zeta has said has been treating the paper like persona non grata. Cartoonist Héctor Esquivel wrote a letter outlining the prehistory and history of Zeta and discussing its founders Jesús Blancornelas and Héctor "El Gato" Félix's battles with government. Félix was slain by a bodyguard of gambling magnate (and later Tijuana mayor) Jorge Hank Rhon in 1988; Blancornelas, who was seriously wounded by drug traffickers in 1997, died of complications from cancer in 2006 at age 70.
Previous story about Zeta reporting that a recently captured drug trafficker says trafficker Javier Arellano Félix, now imprisoned in the United States, ordered the slaying of Zeta reporter Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco in 2004.
Leo Zuckermann has a good column Thursday saying that Mexican opposition politicians suffer from a fallacious "Yes I can" syndrome. He said those politicians think that if they come to power, they could make the state oil company Pemex, the federal tax collection agency and the administration's relations with Congress far more efficient. Zuckermann said, however, that new blood in those three institutions likely would only be to make minor improvements, because the problem has to do with the structure of the institutions themselves. He said the bloated Pemex in no way is organized like a major oil company; that the tax collection agency comes up against a maze of laws that allow legal tax evasion; and that the Congress is set up to reward conflict, not cooperation. He said that sooner or later, the politician who thought he or she can will find that he or she cannot, without the passage of major structural reforms involving those institutions. The Senate, in particular, will need much more than just moving into new quarters, where the voting system malfunctioned Thursday, registering votes of senators who were not present. Baja California Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, president of the Senate's construction committee, said earthquake measures in the new building "possibly make this the safest one in Mexico City."
Reforma's story on the new Senate digs, Frontera.
Castro Trenti on Tuesday was named the assistant secretary-general of the PRI's national committee. Story, Uniradio. He also is the PRI's assistant coordinator in the Senate.
Stories on the bad shape of Tijuana's streets continue, as does an advertising campaign by the current city government of Mayor Carlos Bustamante blaming the problem on the previous administration of Mayor Jorge Ramos. On Tuesday, Frontera ran a story about the sorry condition of Second Street downtown.
It also turns out that an ad that the city government ran in Tijuana newspapers showing a big photo of a pothole and saying this was the way Ramos left the city actually showed a pothole in the city of Guadalajara. The weekly Zeta pointed this out; the city blamed the error on its ad agency. Zeta said its running the story helped make the paper persona non grata with the new administration. Previous MexicoPerspective.com story showing the pothole in question.
Neo-Romantic Mexican composer Daniel Catán died in Austin, Texas, over the weekend at age 62. His opera "Rappacini's Daughter," based on a work by Mexican poet Octavio Paz, was first performed by the San Diego Opera in 1994. His latest opera, "Il Postino," about the exile of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, was first performed by the Los Angeles Opera in September 2010. Mark Swed, in an appreciation in the Los Angeles Times, said that when he attended the 1996 premiere of "Florencia en el Amazonas" put on by the Houston Grand Opera, a German colleague bewailed about how "he going to explain to his editor that he had spent all this money to come to Texas for ... 'Puccini soup.' "
A drug cartel suspect detained by the Mexican military in Tijuana told authorities that Javier Arellano Félix ordered the murder of Zeta journalist Francisco Javier Ortiz Franco (left) in 2004 because Zeta published photos of the Arellano Félix cartel's lieutenants, Zeta reports. The photos came from a U.S. wanted poster.
Luis Alberto Salazar Vega "El Bolas," who provided the information about Arellano Félix, was detained by the army on Wednesday, April 6. The army also freed a man who had been kidnapped. The man said he had been selling a car at the time, accompanied by his 4-year-old son. The son was left behind, the man said.
Javier Arellano Félix (right) was captured by U.S. authorities in 2006 on a fishing boat off Baja California Sur. He pleaded guilty in 2007 to crimes that did not carry a death sentence.
Zeta editor Adela Navarro, speaking Friday in San Diego at an Inter-American Press Association / American Society of Newspaper Editors forum on covering violence in Mexico, said Vega's statement marked the first time that Ortiz's slaying has been attributed to Arellano Félix in an official Mexican government document.
Salazar Vegas had previously been captured in 2002, but escaped from the La Mesa prison in 2004.
For decades, motorists and pedestrians have been able to cross the border into Mexico at San Ysidro without having to face a permanent southbound U.S. inspection.
That appears likely to change when the new San Ysidro port facility opens, if not before. The more than $600 million facility is currently on target to open in 2016 "if we get all the funding," said Ramon Riesgo (left) of the General Services Administration.
The number of southbound lanes from Interstates 5 and 805 is to increase from six to 16, all likely with U.S. inspection booths. Mexico's El Chaparral inspection facility is to have 19 booths. The number of northbound lanes is to increase from the present 24 to a minimum of 32. Thirty of those will have tandem booths — two booths per lane — "so that will be the equivalent of like having 50 lanes," said Riesgo. He spoke at the recent Border Transportation Council forum, which was held in large part to try to curtail the practice of wildcatting, where unlicensed vehicle operators transport passengers from the border to points north. >>>rest of story>>>
Inter-city bus lines in Tamaulipas state decided to stop running after alleged members of the Zetas organized crime group set up a roadblock and took male passengers off buses. At least 126 bodies have been found near San Fernando. Jump page of story. Authorities said Mexicans returning home to Tamaulipas for Easter week from the United States were to be escorted in caravans. News reports indicated that the organized crime group suspected that recruits that were going to work for their rivals were on the buses, and appeared to kill many of the males on the buses whether they were such recruits or not. Authorities said there have been at least 16 arrests in the massacre. In the same area in August, the Zetas killed 72 Central American migrants traveling to the U.S. border in an apparent dispute over human-trafficking routes. In Guerrero state last year, vehicles carrying a group 20 men from Michoacán state who were headed for a vacation were stopped and the men killed because the Beltrán Leyva organized crime group apparently thought they worked for a rival drug trafficking organization.
UPDATE, April 13: Bishop says Mass with families of victims in front of state attorney general's office in Matamoros
Mexican organized crime groups appear to have stooped to new lows in the massacres, killing innocents on the scale of Bosnian Serbs and of Muslim terrorists.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Thursday said he regrets that he was not able to enact significant tax, energy and labor reforms during his presidency, and said the way the Mexican political system is set up is hindering Mexico's progress.
In his speech at the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute, he said, "We have a democracy that is not delivering."
"It is like a tower of Babel," he said. "We have to make our democracy deliver," said Fox, who in 2000 broke the Institution Revolutionary Party's 71-year grip on the presidency. >>>rest of story>>>
Although last year's Easter Sunday earthquake was devastating in many ways, geologist John Fletcher says, "Mexicali got really lucky with this earthquake."
The 7.2-magnitude quake moved along small faults in remote areas "that have linked to form a newly discovered fault system," he told a standing-room only crowd at the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego on Monday.
Fletcher, of Ensenada's CICESE (Center for Scientific Study and Higher Learning) said that if the quake had moved along an established fault, "It could have been really devastating on the order of Haiti." <<Read more>>
Exiled Mexican crime reporter Luis Nájera began his speech in San Diego on Tuesday by talking about three journalists he had closely worked with, all of whom have been slain. They were editor Roberto Mora, who was his editor at El Diario de Monterrey; Armando Rodríguez, whom he worked with in the 1990s while investigating the first of a wave of deaths of women in Ciudad Juárez; and Enrique Perea, with whom Nájera also worked in Juárez.
After the then-Grupo Reforma journalist was told that he was on a drug traffickers' list of journalists, and that two on the list had been killed, Nájera (far right in photo) and his wife decided to flee to Vancouver, British Columbia, with their three children 2 1/2 years ago. There, making a living has been anything but easy. "On Friday, I was on my knees, cleaning bathrooms in Canada." >>>rest of story>>>
Authorities told Frontera newspaper that Monday's slayings near the San Ysidro border crossing may have been the result of a dispute over a woman rather than one involving organized crime. Sergio Salcido Luna (left) was a native of Tijuana with dual citizenship who apparently was involved with the woman in question. He also was a mixed martial arts fighter, and grew up in Bakersfield. Kevin Joel Romero was born in San Diego and had a girlfriend in Tijuana, and was in the process of adopting her son. Both worked in San Diego and were living in Tijuana to save money.
Story, Frontera. Story, Union-Tribune. Story, Los Angeles Times. Story, Bakersfieldnow.com
If it were a crime of passion, it might have been the second in a week involving trained fighters. Frontera reported last week that boxer Humberto Tapia Armenta, 25, was shot and killed in the Hermanos Ulloa gym by promoter Adolfo Huerta, 36, in what may have been dispute involving Huerta's wife. Story, Frontera.
Two young men in a pickup were killed by a gunman around 2:40 a.m. Monday in Tijuana when they were getting in line to cross the San Ysidro border crossing. They were identified as Sergio Salcido Luna, 25, y Kevin Joel Romero, 28. The San Diego Union-Tribune said both worked for West Coast Beverage Maintenance on Morena boulevard in San Diego and would cross the border in the early morning to work. The pickup had West Coast Beverage lettering on it. El Mexicano newspaper said both appeared to have dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship. Frontera said there have been 144 violent deaths in Tijuana this year. Story, Frontera.
Jesús López Toledo writes a column in Frontera newspaper on Sunday saying that many communities in Mexicali are still awaiting major help to recover from the Easter Sunday 7.2-magnitude earthquake of April 4, 2010. For those seeking some geological answers about the temblor, the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute will hold a discussion at 4 p.m. Monday, "The Mexicali Earthquake: A Geological Perspective One Year Later." It will be led by geologist John Fletcher of the Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada.
In a speech last week at a ceremony inaugurating the new emergency room at the Hospital General de Tijuana, Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán listed his top priorities for the state. They were:
1. Improving the security situation
2. Improving the state's economy
3. Improving education
4. Improving health care
The National Action Party politician repeated that the federal government and the state would help construct two new high schools that Institutional Revolutionary Party politician Carlos Bustamante promised to build during his successful campaign for mayor of Tijuana last year.
He indicated that the state would provide the land, and that one school might become a satellite campus of the federal Lázaro Cárdenas high school.
Osuna Millán suggested that one school might go in the Mariano Matamoros area, "where more and more high schools are needed." He said the other school might go in the "very populous Sánchez Taboada area."
Osuna Millán suggested that one school might go in the Mariano Matamoros area, "where more and more high schools are needed." He said the other school might go in the "very populous Sánchez Taboada area." >>>rest of story>>>
Border Film Week at the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute ended Thursday with the movie "On The Edge," which is about the slayings of hundreds of young women in Ciudad Juárez. All four films featured during the week remain in the news in one form or another. "On The Edge" Director Steev Hise, who the institute flew in from Tucson, Ariz., said a woman prominent featured in his documentary recently sought asylum in the United States after a banner displaying a death threat was hung at the school where she teaches. >>rest of story>>
Wednesday's film, "La Mama: An American Nun’s Life in a Mexican Prison," was about Mother Antonia Brenner, the formerly Beverly Hills socialite who devoted her life to helping serve Mexicans in prison. Mother Antonia, 84, came to the screening and encouraged a nearly packed auditorium to love their fellow man before her voice gave out and she had to stop. Mother Antonia, who is suffering a life-threatening illness, has not been living in the prison as of late. >>rest of story>>
A photographer heavily featured in Monday's film, "Tijuaneados Anónimos," denounced a Tijuana policeman in a full-page story in the Tijuana tabloid Frontera on Wednesday. And businessman José Galicot, left, heavily featured in Tuesday's film, "Tijuana Jews," is almost constantly in the news. >>rest of story>>