Mexico News and Analysis: October 11-24, 2010

1 - DRUG CARTELS TRAINED BY US ARMY
2 - HIGH TECH BORDER FENCE A FAILURE
3 - RADIO BROADCASTS CONVERSATION BETWEEN POLITICIAN AND DRUG LORD
4 - CHILE MINER RESCUE RAISES NEW QUESTIONS IN PASTA DE CONCHOS
5 - US RELEASES LIST OF CARTEL-RELATED BUSINESSES
6 - OFFICIALS CLOSE COMMUNITY RADIO STATION IN CHIAPAS
7 - TRIQUI LEADER ASSASSINATED IN OAXACA
8 - TRANSNATIONALS REPORT GOOD YEAR

1 - DRUG CARTELS TRAINED BY US ARMY
The Zetas, perhaps Mexico's most ruthless drug cartel responsible for brutal massacres, beheadings, and dead bodies strung from highway overpasses, received training from the US Army.  The original members of the Zetas, elite Mexican troops who served with the Airmobile Special Forces Group (GAFE), were trained in the early 1990s by Seventh Special Forces, aka "snake eaters," based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to Craig Deare, a former special forces commander who now works as a professor at the US National Defense University.   Mexican officials formed the GAFE in 1994 specifically to battle the Zapatistas.  Before 1994, it was uncommon for Mexican troops to train in the US, but after 1994, Mexican troops often outnumbered even Colombians at training facilities for Latin American armed forces such as Fort Bragg or the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.  Deare reports, "They were given map reading courses, communications, standard special forces training, light to heavy weapons, machine guns, automatic weapons."  The original training involved more than 500 GAFE troops and included counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics operations.  Between 30 and 200 trainees defected, according to Deare, initially as hired guns for the Gulf Cartel, and later forming their own cartel with operations mainly along Gulf of Mexico drug routes.  La Jornada, one of Mexico's main daily newspapers, estimates 1,300 defections of elite troops between 2000 and 2005.  The name Zetas comes from the radio code "Z" used by military commanders in Mexico.  In recent years, the Zetas expanded their illegal activities to include kidnapping migrant workers passing through Mexico.  About 20,000 to 25,000 undocumented workers from Central and South America cross Mexican territory each year, and the Zetas may kidnap as many as 10,000 per year, demanding payments of US$2,000 to US$18,000 from their families.

2 - HIGH TECH BORDER FENCE A FAILURE
The Department of Homeland Security plans to abandon a US$1 billion boondoggle by Boeing Corporation to build an "invisible fence" along the US-Mexico border.  The final result of four years of work by Boeing may be an unreliable system covering only 53 miles of the 2,000 mile border, and even that section may not be operational until 2013.  The virtual fence was supposed to connect Border Patrol agents with advanced motion detecting equipment, but the technology often mistook high winds or tumbleweeds for people.  Homeland Security officials decided on September 21 to extend the program with Boeing only until mid November, and they are expected to cancel the program shortly thereafter.  Officials have not released an independent assessment of the virtual fence program completed in July, though an audit by the US Government Accountability Office released on October 8 found that Boeing did not provide accurate information on the progress of the program.  The virtual fence is part of a US$4.4 billion program known as the Secure Border Initiative, which includes 600 miles of more traditional 16-foot high walls that often divide urban areas on both sides of the border.

3 - RADIO BROADCASTS CONVERSATION BETWEEN POLITICIAN AND DRUG LORD
Popular Mexico City station "W Radio" broadcast a conversation last week between Cesar Godoy, a federal Deputy, and La Familia cartel leader Servando Gomez, also known as "La Tuta."   The two expressed support for each other and discussed bribing a reporter already on the payroll of the cartel.  Godoy represents the state of Michoacan, stronghold of La Familia, and is the half-brother of Michoacan Governor Leonel Godoy, a major figure in the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

Cesar Godoy already faces federal charges for cartel-related activities, but he enjoys immunity from prosecution as a Deputy.  He was one of 36 people, mostly members of the PRD, charged last year in Michoacan for links to La Familia.  Godoy was the only one to avoid arrest, and he continued his campaign for the lower House from hiding, eventually winning the election in July 2009.  He remained in hiding until suddenly showing up in Congress last month where he was formally sworn in after evading police officers who surrounded the building.  Then on Tuesday, he renounced his immunity, saying he will face the federal investigation, supposedly to save the PRD from further embarrassment.  Of the original 36 suspects, only one small-town mayor remains in custody.  The rest were released for lack of evidence, providing a major embarrassment for President Felipe Calderon and his war on drugs.  Godoy said a judge had already rejected the recording as evidence, but he refused to confirm or deny its authenticity.  Federal judges seldom accept recorded phone calls as evidence, especially in political cases.

4 - CHILE MINER RESCUE RAISES NEW QUESTIONS IN PASTA DE CONCHOS
The dramatic government-sponsored rescue of Chilean miners last week raised new questions about the 2006 explosion at the Pasta de Conchos mine in Coahuila that left 65 Mexican miners dead.  Only two of the bodies have been recovered.  Federal officials and mine owners called off rescue operations after only five days.  Federal officials even prevented families from mounting their own rescue attempts.  The Pasta de Concho miners were about 120 meters deep, while the Chilean rescue reached to 700 meters.  Mine owner German Larrea of Grupo Mexico offered families only US$7,000 per miner in indemnity payments, while the administration of former President Vicente Fox did virtually nothing to aid rescue efforts.  Families are demanding that Larrea be charged with industrial homicide, but instead federal authorities have issued some 400 new mining licenses to Grupo Mexico.

5 - US RELEASES LIST OF CARTEL-RELATED BUSINESSES
The Obama administration released a list last week of Mexican businesses with links to the Sinaloa Cartel, including Aero Express Intercontinental and the popular restaurant/bar Numero Uno in Mexico City, but Mexico's Attorney General has not yet initiated investigations.  US officials listed businesses in Baja California, Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Guerrero, Morelos and Sinaloa.  Among the most strategically important businesses were airlines or transport companies involved in moving drugs from South America and other companies that launder money.  The Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, is the largest cartel in Mexico, and Guzman is listed on the Forbes list of the 500 wealthiest eople in the world.  Some experts suspect the Calderon administration is favoring the Sinaloa Cartel as competing drug dealers struggle for control of lucrative transshipment routes in bloody battles that have cost nearly 29,000 lives since 2006.

6 - OFFICIALS CLOSE COMMUNITY RADIO STATION IN CHIAPAS
Last Wednesday, police dismantled Radio Proletaria, a community based station operated for the past four years by the Organizacion Proletaria Emiliano Zapata (OPEZ) in a poor barrio in Tuxtla Gutierrez, capitol of Chiapas state.   At least five people associated with the station were arrested, including a 15-year-old who hosts a music program.  OPEZ is in the midst of a statewide protest, demanding the release from prison of two of their leaders.  In recent days the radio station reported on permanent encampments maintained by OPEZ in front of the state government palace and the United Nations office in San Cristobal de las Casas.

7 - TRIQUI LEADER ASSASSINATED IN OAXACA
The leader of the Triqui Movement for Unification and Struggle (MULT), Heriberto Pazos, was executed Saturday morning near a government building in the municipality of Cinco Senores, east of Oaxaca City, according to the state Attorney General.  Pazos had three body guards, including two State employees, who claimed they didn't notice the assassins until too late, apparently because they used silencers.  Members of MULT blocked roadways and city streets demanding a thorough investigation.

8 - TRANSNATIONALS REPORT GOOD YEAR
Transnational corporations repatriated US$1.3 billion in profits last year, the largest reported earnings in the past 15 years and a 33% increase over 2008, according to the Bank of Mexico.  During the first three years of Felipe Calderon's presidency, profits totaling more than US$9 billion left Mexico, almost double the first three years of the previous President.  Foreign investment totaled US$4.4 billion last year, a decline of 43% compared to the previous year.  Mexican businessmen also sent their wealth overseas last year - a total of US$7.6 billion, or 556% more than in 2008.