A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.

April 8, 2012

Mexico and U.S. had banner week in battle against organized crime

Benjamín Arellano, "El Diego" given long terms, Casino Royale perpetrator "El Quemado" killed

Still, killings of police, gang rivals continued apace

By David Gaddis Smith

Meico and the United States need more weeks like the one they had battling organized crime last week, as three men responsible for thousands of killings in Mexico were put out of commission. Two were given long prison terms and the third, said to have ordered the Casino Royale arson, was killed in a shootout.

Even so, there were numerous attacks that killed Mexican police and others, and even relatively calm Tijuana saw nine killed.

Two of the major successes took place in U.S. courts. Benjamín Arellano was sentenced to 25 years in federal court in San Diego, and José Antonio "El Diego" Acosta Hernández was sentenced to life in prison in El Paso. In addition, Francisco "El Quemado" Medina Mejía, the Zeta leader said to have ordered the Casino Royale arson that killed 52 in Monterrey in August, was killed in a shootout with the army.

"El Diego" said in federal court that he was responsible for 1,500 killings. The Arellano Félix cartel was responsible for many more. And El Quemado's Zetas many others.

Although some complained that Benjamín Arellano should have gotten more than the 25 year-sentenced he was limited to under a plea deal, he still would be in his 80s when released and then would be returned to Mexico to serve a 22-year sentence and still also faces more charges there. (By then, one would hope that judicial and penal reforms will have made Mexico a much more inhospitable place from criminals). Anyway, it doesn't seem fair to criticize U.SA. prosecutor Laura Duffy for a plea deal that may have saved taxpayers millions in court costs and keeps Arellano behind bars.

In addition, Guatemala reported that Horst Walther Overdick, 44, reported to be the first Guatemalan drug trafficker to join forces with the Zetas, was captured. The bad news: media reported that organized crime penetration in Guatemala had reached epidemic levels. Story, Frontera (PDF).

Despite last week's successes, organized crime killings and actions continued apace in Mexico, even during Easter Week vacation. Some of the headlines about the week:

• Nine killed in Tijuana during week. Story, Frontera (PDF). Burned bodies found (PDF).
• April 8: Two killed in Mexicali (PDF).
• April 7: Four police killed in Monterrey; 5 bodies found in Guerrero (PDF). Woman's burned body found in Tijuana; man with Uzi who apparently protected minor drug dealers arrested in Tijuana (PDF)
• April 5: Military kills four in Michoacán shootout (PDF).
• April 3: Bodies of two decapitated men found in Nuevo León; police chief in Sonora killed; top Acapulcio policeman slain (PDF).
• April 2: 5 executed in Mexico state (PDF).
Mexicali police station robbed of weapons (PDF).