Well, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Hoping to keep the borders open and fend off the Trump tariff’s on Mexican imports, Mexico’s President Lopez-Obrador (AMLO) enlists the help from Tom Donohue and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Well, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Hoping to keep the borders open and fend off the Trump tariff’s on Mexican imports, Mexico’s President Lopez-Obrador (AMLO) enlists the help from Tom Donohue and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
(by Allan Wall) April 22 was the 500th anniversary of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes’ landing at Veracruz, Mexico, in 1519. Cortes’ small army and a growing corps of Indian allies, the coastal Totonacs and the Tlaxcaltecans of central Mexico, marched to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City and conquered the Aztecs in a two-year titanic struggle. From their empire’s ashes was born modern Mexico. But modern Mexicans are ambivalent about Cortes, and neither Mexico nor Spain is commemorating the anniversary.
Early on the morning of May 19, 2018, residents on the outskirts of the town Orizaba, Veracruz — close to the bordering state of Puebla in Mexico — woke up to a loud crash.
A train with 39 cars and four locomotives crashed into another train when approaching the station. The conductor of the approaching train attempted to brake, but couldn’t because the brakes were cut, according to the Grupo Mexico Transporte, the company that owns and runs the train.
The aftermath looked like a post-apocalyptic scene — train cars overturned, piled up, and a pedestrian bridge destroyed.
Grupo Mexico Transporte instantly called this act sabotage and pointed to the culprits as being organized crime. The company ruled out the possibility of human error because of the way the trains are remotely operated.
The governor of the state of Veracruz, Miguel Angel Yunes Linares, was doubtful of the company’s claims that it was an act of sabotage. The Orizaba incident, though the most destructive, is part of the larger phenomenon of the robbing of cargo trains by criminal organizations.
There has been a 476-percent increase of the number of robberies similar to the one that occurred in Orizaba, according to Confederation of the Industrial Chambers, when the first quarter of this year was compared to the first quarter of last year. There were also six previous derailments of trains in April and May 2018.
In the first quarter of 2018, there was a robbery of a train every 2.5 hours, according to the Regulatory Agency for Rail Transport. The main products that have been robbed from the thefts of cargo trains have been grain and flour, finished consumer products, auto parts and construction materials.
Though it’s not clear if any goods were stolen from the trains that crashed around Orizaba, it is likely this was the motive because of the previous theft of cargo trains in the area and the tactic of sabotage being used prior. There has also been suspicion that the sabotage was in retaliation for the company not paying a “floor payment” that the criminal organization had demanded.
The supposed person behind the sabotaging and robberies of the trains in the area is Roberto De Los Santos De Jesus, known as El Bukanans. After the derailment in Orizaba on May 19, 2018, the reward for information that leads to his arrest was increased from one million pesos to five million pesos.
His experience is indicative of the criminal organizations and their involvement in criminal enterprises other than drug trafficking. Originally a police officer, he defected in 2012 to join the Zetas. After that organization splintered, he went to join the Zeta Nueva Sangre and then subsequently head the organization. Under his rule, authorities believe, the group began to rob trains.
What the sabotaging of trains in Veracruz shows is the impact that criminal organizations can have on industry. They can have a debilitating effects on companies and their operations. Grupo Mexico Transporte, the company whose trains were involved in Orizaba, said it lost 312 million pesos from the Orizaba derailment and 6 previous derailments that occurred in April and May 2018, with 11 million of that money going to cover the loss of cargo and 171 million going to repair the tracks and trains.
Recently, companies’ operations in Mexico have been hindered by insecurity and organized crime. The Canadian Pan American Silver Corporation reduced operations in the state of Chihuahua citing insecurity. The bottling company, Coca-Cola FEMSA recently indefinitely closed down a distribution center in the state of Guerrero due to the “harassment of criminal groups.”
At the end of May 2018, two of the country’s most influential business organizations, demanded that government to end the violence and crime because of the how it is affecting business.
In 2017 Mexico reached its deadliest year on record, with the country experiencing almost 30,000 homicides. Additionally, about 98 percent of all crimes going unpunished creating an environment of impunity that allows for criminal organizations to operate in the country.
As Reuters pointed out last Thursday, the timing of their arrival could sabotage NAFTA talks after President Trump repeatedly threatened to scrap the deal if Mexico doesn’t do more to stop Central American migrants from traveling through its territory.
ACAPULCO, Mexico — From the crescent bay and swaying palms, the taxi drivers of Acapulco need just 10 minutes to reach this other, plundered world.
Here, in a neighborhood called Renacimiento, a pharmacy is smeared with gang graffiti. Market stalls are charred by fire. Taco stands and dentists’ offices, hair salons and auto-body workshops – all stand empty behind roll-down metal gates.
On Friday afternoons, however, the parking lot at the Oxxo convenience store in this brutalized barrio buzzes to life. Dozens of taxi drivers pull up. It’s time to pay the boys.
When the three young gunmen drive up in a white Nissan Tsuru, Armando, a 55-year-old cabbie, scribbles his four-digit taxi number on a scrap of paper, folds it around a 100-peso note and slips it into their black plastic bag. This is his weekly payment to Acapulco’s criminal underworld – about $5, or roughly half what he earns in a day.
“They have the power,” said Armando, who identified himself only by his first name because he feared reprisal. “They can do whatever they want.”
For each of the past five years, Acapulco has been the deadliest city in Mexico, in a marathon of murder that has hollowed out the hillside neighborhoods and sprawling colonias that tourists rarely visit. And yet, the term “drug war” only barely describes what is going on here.
The dominant drug cartel in Acapulco and the state of Guerrero broke up a decade ago. The criminals now in charge resemble neighborhood gangs – with names like 221 or Los Locos. An estimated 20 or more of these groups operate in Acapulco, intermixed with representatives from larger drug cartels who contract them for jobs. The gang members are young men who often become specialists – extortionists, kidnappers, car thieves, assassins – and prey on a largely defenseless population.
“They kill barbers, tailors, mechanics, tinsmiths, taxi drivers,” said Joaquin Badillo, who runs a private security company in the city. “This has turned into a monster with 100 heads.”
Mexico is halfway through what may become the bloodiest year in its recent history, with more than 12,000 murders in the first six months of 2017. June was the deadliest month in the past two decades of consistent Mexican government statistics.
There are many theories on why violence, which dropped for two years after the 2012 election of President Enrique Peña Nieto, has roared back: competition for the domain of captured kingpins; the breakdown of secret agreements between criminals and politicians; a judicial reform requiring more evidence to lock up suspected lawbreakers; the growing American demand for heroin, meth and synthetic opiates. Whatever the primary cause, the result has been terrifying – a disintegration of order across growing swaths of this country.
Violence is spreading to new places and taking many forms. In Puebla, south of Mexico City, a fight rages over the sale of stolen fuel. Beach towns such as Cancun and Playa del Carmen have been bloodied by drug killings. The battle for human-smuggling routes leaves bodies strewn along the migrant trail.
In Acapulco, the faded playground of Hollywood stars, where the Kennedys honeymooned and John Wayne basked in the clifftop breeze, drugs are no longer even the main story. This is a place awash in crime of all stripes, where criminals no longer have to hide.
When Evaristo opened his restaurant along Acapulco’s seaside strip 15 years ago, drugs were plentiful, and that was just fine with him. Acapulco has always been a party town, and became a transit point for U.S.-bound Colombian cocaine and the opium poppy that bloomed along with marijuana in the state’s highlands. The dominant traffickers were the Beltran Leyva brothers of the Sinaloa Cartel.
“What the Beltran Leyvas were doing was selling drugs,” said Evaristo, who identified himself only by his first name, for fear of reprisal. “But they left us alone.”
For Evaristo, and many other Acapulco residents, the city’s descent into lawlessness began with the events at La Garita. A brazen January 2006 shootout in that central neighborhood left flaming vehicles and bodies in the street and became part of the city’s lore, as much as the iconic cliff divers and the Hollywood stars who once passed through town.
That gun battle also made one thing clear: National-level cartels were active in Acapulco – in this case the Sinaloa cartel, allied with the Beltran Leyvas, and the expansionist Zetas. And they were willing to use tremendous violence against each other.
“That’s when all this began,” Evaristo recalled.
Over the next decade, as then-President Felipe Calderón declared war on organized crime, Mexican security forces and their U.S. allies picked off cartel bosses and kingpins, splintering their organizations.
In Acapulco, the result has become a kaleidoscope of feuding criminals. After the killing of a powerful Beltran Leyva brother in 2009, rival factions emerged, with names like the Independent Cartel of Acapulco, the South Pacific Cartel and La Barredora. Contenders joined the fray from ascendant heroin-trafficking groups and crime organizations from other cities.
With the loss of all-powerful cartel bosses who had tightly controlled their criminal empires, drug gangs moved increasingly into other crimes, such as kidnapping and extortion.
Some 2,000 businesses have closed in the past few years, according to trade associations, driven away by crime and a withering economy. The bulk of the devastation has come in the poorer, inland neighborhoods, but the tourist strip has not been spared. Gone are Hooters and the Hard Rock Cafe, along with famed local spots such as El Alebrije nightclub and Plaza Las Peroglas, a shopping mall. An accountant whose clients included restaurant owners, doctors, and mechanics said that about 70 percent of them had closed their businesses in the past year because of extortion.
“Today, in Acapulco, this problem has given us mass psychosis,” said Alejandro Martinez Sidney, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism in Guerrero, which represents more than 8,000 businesses. “We are frozen, waiting for someone to come and demand our money.”
Last September, five gunmen walked into Evaristo’s restaurant, asking for the phone number of the owner. After he said he wouldn’t pay extortion, the men returned and put their guns to the heads of the staff, saying they would burn down the restaurant with everyone inside it, the restaurant owner recalled.
Since then, Evaristo has paid 40,000 pesos per month (about $2,200).
He has cut back on advertising and maintenance to cover the payments. Two of his private security guards were riddled with bullets from a passing car one night in May and survived the attack. If this keeps up, he will close down.
“My life is at risk,” Evaristo said.
Mexico’s crime gangs have not just proliferated, they behave differently than in past decades. Cartels were once based on family ties and known for maintaining strict hierarchies that rewarded members’ loyalty with promotion through the ranks.
The newer generations of criminal gangs operate more like a “wheel network,” a web of contacts who ally at times but also work independently, said Cecilia Farfán, a scholar at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomy de Mexico, or ITAM, who specializes in organized crime and is doing research in Acapulco.
If these quasi-independent cells get disrupted, the larger network can still function, and “the intelligence that a cell can provide to law enforcement or rival organizations is limited,” Farfán wrote in her recently completed dissertation.
Criminals have begun to show less allegiance to a single organization – acting more like freelance subcontractors.
“They hire you for your expertise; they’re not going to develop you as a human resource,” Farfán said about how street-level criminals are used. “They’re not investing in you, and you’re not invested in them, either.”
The victims of Acapulco’s violence come in many forms: those caught in feuds between criminal bands; businessmen who don’t pay extortion; those who cross the invisible boundaries between drug gang territory. The situation has become so confused – with criminals staking out overlapping domains – that residents often complain about being forced to pay off two or three different groups. People die over mistaken identity or as bystanders.
On one recent night, an overflow crowd waited silently on sidewalk benches outside an Acapulco funeral parlor. Gerardo Flores Camarena, 57, a hotel bartender, couldn’t stay seated. He paced back and forth in anguish as he spoke into his cellphone.
“The killers thought they were from another group,” he told a relative. “They got confused. Can you imagine: confused.”
The day before, his brother, Ricardo, 42, an ambulance driver, and Gerardo’s two teenage grandsons had been found in the trunk of their Nissan Sentra. They had suffered a type of torture known as the “tourniquet”: wires cinched around their necks to the point of suffocation.
A note left with the bodies said this is what happens to car thieves. But the Nissan had belonged to the family.
“We feel powerless against what is happening in this city,” Flores said.
When Mayor Evodio Velázquez Aguirre took office in October 2015, he said, the municipal police force was “totally out of control.”
Half the 1,500 officers had failed federal vetting and background checks. The police had spent much of 2014 on strike to protest salaries and benefits, leaving state and federal forces in charge.
The mayor said that his administration has provided the police with life insurance, housing, new cameras and vehicles. There is also a new, separate tourist police force with jaunty uniforms to attend to travelers.
“Acapulco is on its feet,” the mayor said in an interview.
But last year, there were 918 killings in the city of 700,000, the most murders of any Mexican city for the fifth straight year. During the first half of this year, the government numbers track slightly lower – 412, compared with 466 in the same period in 2016 – although the local El Sur newspaper lists 466 murders for the most recent period.
Adm. Juan Guillermo Fierro Rocha, the commander in Acapulco for the Mexican navy, which has a critical role fighting cartels, told El Sur this month that criminals are lashing out because they are “cornered,” and that he expects a decrease soon.
But Mexican authorities have failed for years to halt Acapulco’s slide.
Some 5,000 security forces are in Acapulco, and the coastal sliver of hotels and restaurants brims with federal and state police, soldiers, marines and municipal forces. This attention to the tourist strip, however, leaves the vast majority of the city exposed, residents say.
Mexican police have been hobbled by corruption for decades, and Acapulco has been no exception. Alfredo Álvarez Valenzuela, who oversaw the Acapulco police for five months until May 2014, told the Mexican newspaper Reforma last year: “The municipal police don’t work for organized crime; the municipal police are organized crime.”
But the problem goes beyond corruption. Mexican municipal police traditionally have had little training, low pay, poor equipment and little capacity to do investigations. Federal police and the army often lack street-level knowledge of cities and their crime gangs.
Juan Salgado, an expert on police reform at CIDE, a Mexican research center, said that police are reluctant to visit some neighborhoods in Acapulco because they are outgunned and frightened.
“I’m not sure if crime would increase if the whole municipal police department in Acapulco disappeared,” Salgado said. “They are so inefficient in stopping crime I don’t think it would make a huge difference.”
Meanwhile, many people refuse to press charges out of concern the information will leak back to their tormentors. That makes investigating crimes all the more difficult.
On a recent afternoon, a man wearing a cowboy hat and carrying an assault rifle stood in plain sight on the main boulevard in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood, five miles from Acapulco Bay.
At his feet on the pavement lay another young man, barefoot and curled in the fetal position, his hair matted with blood. The man with the assault rifle kicked him repeatedly and savagely, then walked calmly back to his white pickup truck. A federal police truck rolled past, but it didn’t stop.
Taxi drivers operate at the intersection of Acapulco’s troubles: They have a shrinking number of tourists as clients, and navigate more dangerous streets. Some have become part of the crime world themselves, working as gang spotters (voluntarily or under duress), or moving drugs or weapons in their cars. When a rival gang tries to take over a neighborhood, its members often kill taxi drivers “in an effort to blind the established organization,” Chris Kyle, an anthropologist and expert on Guerrero based at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wrote in an affidavit for an Acapulco taxi driver applying for asylum in the United States.
More than 130 taxi drivers were slain in Acapulco last year, making them about eight times more likely to get murdered than the average city resident.
Teens with guns often commandeer taxis in Renacimiento for hours or days. They burn taxis to enforce their warnings. Guillermo Perez, 40, a taxi driver, putters around the neighborhood in a 1995 Volkswagen Beetle, its windshield cracked and upholstery ripped out, leaving his newer car hidden at home. He no longer picks up strangers, driving only clients he knows.
“People are terrified,” he said.
Years ago, ferrying around tourists used to be enjoyable, he said, even lucrative work -$100 for a day shift, more at night.
“It was so different: It was Acapulco,” he said. “People were out in the streets. We all lived from tourism.”
The wealthy can leave or build homes with elaborate security systems, but the poor are exposed. And so Perez, like many of the 20,000 taxi drivers in Acapulco, pays his weekly fee for protection, even though he receives none.
“If 100 pesos a week is what it costs to stay alive,” he said, “I’ll pay.”
Immigrant workers and illegal aliens rushed to take money out of the American economy and send it to their home countries, Reuters reports:
Mexicans abroad sent home nearly $2.4 billion in transfers in November, 24.7 percent higher than a year earlier, marking their fastest pace of expansion since March 2006, according to Mexican central bank data on Monday…
Trump’s surprise Nov. 8 election triumph also sent the Mexican currency to record lows in a sell-off fueled by his threats to scrap a trade deal between Mexico and the United States, and to levy punitive tariffs on Mexican-made goods…
Bank BBVA Bancomer has forecast that those Mexicans will have sent a record $27 billion in remittances into Mexico in 2016, an increase of more than $2 billion over 2015.
Not only do Americans give Mexico millions in foreign aid each year, Mexicans take in some $20 billion to $25 billion annually in remittances, according to the World Bank, much of it from the U.S. In total, foreigners took $54.2 billion in remittances out of the U.S. economy in 2014, with Mexico and China receiving the greatest sums from their citizens abroad.
American taxpayers are thus forced to pay for the welfare and schooling of millions of Mexican citizens and their children while enduring the costs of crime (gang activity, drug trafficking) and stagnant wages that unchecked immigration brings.
“The $ 20 billion being sent to immigrants’ grandmothers in Chiapas is forever eliminated from the American economy— unavailable for investment in American companies, the purchase of American products, or hiring American workers. That’s a cost of immigration that Americans are never told about,” conservative author Ann Coulter wrote in the influential Adios America about remittances.
“These billions of dollars being drained out of the U.S. economy every year would be bad enough if the money were coming exclusively from cheap-labor employers like Sheldon Adelson. But it’s worse than that,” Coulter continues. “It comes from American taxpayers. Not only do taxpayers have to support Americans who lose their jobs to low-wage immigrant laborers, taxpayers support the immigrants, too.”
“Seventy-five percent of immigrant families from Mexico are on government assistance… Seventy-three percent of legal Mexican immigrants send money back to their native land and 83 percent of illegal immigrants do,” she adds.
Remittances also fuel international criminal enterprises, according to one watchdog.
“Remittances can be used to launder proceeds from different types of criminal activities, including drug trafficking and human smuggling, through methods such as structuring,” a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released February 2016 stated. The high reporting threshold of $3,000 lets individuals send broken-up payments without raising questions.
Trump issued a memo in April 2016 telling Mexico he would tax remittances flowing out of the U.S. economy, or the Mexican government could issue a one-time payment of $5 billion to $10 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
“Mexico has taken advantage of us in another way as well: gangs, drug traffickers, and cartels have freely exploited our open borders and committed vast numbers of crimes inside the United States,” he wrote. “The United States has borne the extraordinary daily cost of this criminal activity, including the cost of trials and incarcerations. Not to mention the even greater human cost.”
“We have the moral high ground here and all the leverage,” Trump said.
Clinton Video Transcript:
“Mexico is such an important problem. Mexican government’s policies are pushing migration north. There isn’t any sensible approach except to do what we need to do simultaneously. You know secure our borders with technology personnel physical barriers. If necessary in some places and we need to have tougher employer sanctions and we need to product incentivize Mexico to do more if they’ve committed transgressions of whatever kind they should be obviously deported.”