In Mexico, police find 4 severed heads in coolers with “Happy Day of the Dead” note


In the Mexican state of Zacatecas, authorities announced today they have found the severed heads of four men. The heads were left in Styrofoam coolers, along with gang messages that appear to have been written by members of one drug cartel, directed at a rival cartel.

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Woman shot dead by drug gang after following Waze app's directions to wrong destination


In Brazil, a 70-year-old woman was killed when directions she followed from the driving app Waze led her and her husband into a neighborhood controlled by a violent drug gang. The destination they meant to go to? A beach area popular with tourists, which was in the opposite direction. Read the rest

The new narcocorridos for escaped drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman

A boy stands next to a police car with a picture of fugitive drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's at a checkpoint on the highway connecting Mexico City and Acapulco, in Guerrero State, Mexico.
Pedro Pardo, AFP/Getty via NPR
Sinaloa drug cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was barely out of maximum-security prison when musicians all around Mexico started uploading hot musical takes about his (again) escape.

WATCH: Chapo Guzmán escape route video with narco-corrido soundtrack


Gawker's Jesus Diaz points us to this bangin' video charting the escape route of noted Sinaloa drug cartel boss Chapo Guzmán, with a narco-corrido soundtrack. Read the rest

Mexican drug lord assassinated by killer clowns

Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix , the eldest of seven brothers of the Tijuana cartel.

Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix, the eldest brother in Mexico's once-dominant Tijuana drug cartel, was shot to death by gunmen disguised as clowns at a children's party on Friday.

The 63-year-old drug lord was also known by the nicknames "El Pelón" (the baldie) or Menso, ("stupid/crazy"). He was assassinated by a man in a clown suit during a family gathering at an upscale resort in Cabo San Lucas, a popular tourist destination on the Baja California peninsula, state special investigations prosecutor Isai Arias told Associated Press on Saturday:

An official of the Baja California Sur state prosecutor's office told the AP that the costumes included a wig and a round red nose.

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Mexico: capture of Zetas boss may lead to uptick in narcoviolence

At InSight Crime, a blog that follows organized crime in the Americas, an analysis of the news that Zetas cartel leader Miguel Treviño has been captured by authorities. The short version: expect more violence in the near term. Read the rest

Reporters, bloggers in Mexico march to protest violence against news media

In various cities in Mexico on Sunday, journalists from newspapers and independent online news organizations marched to protest "violence that has claimed the lives of co-workers and silenced news media in parts of the country." Demonstrators chanted “Justice!” and “Solution!,” and demanded that authorities investigate a string of murders, kidnappings and threats—like the unsolved brutal attack that claimed the life of muckraking reporter Regina Martinez. [LA Times, WaPo] Read the rest

US-aided electronic spying in Mexico’s drug war

In the Washington Post, an extensive report by Dana Priest on the changing role of the U.S. in Mexico’s intelligence war on drug cartels. The article includes extensive details on how closely intertwined the CIA and other US agencies have become with Mexican law enforcement entities:
The administration of former president Felipe Calderon had granted high-flying U.S. spy planes access to Mexican airspace for the purpose of gathering intelligence. Unarmed Customs and Border Protection drones had flown from bases in the United States in support of Mexican military and federal police raids against drug targets and to track movements that would establish suspects’ “patterns of life.” The United States had also provided electronic signals technology, ground sensors, voice-recognition gear, cellphone-tracking devices, data analysis tools, computer hacking kits and airborne cameras that could read license plates from three miles away.
(HT: Shannon Young) Read the rest

How children become "cannon fodder" for Mexican drug cartels

Wired's Danger Room blog points to this new report [PDF] by the NGO International Crisis Group, which details how Mexican drug cartels recruit and coerce kids as young as 11 years old to kill. Narcos “have recruited thousands of street gang members, school drop-outs and unskilled workers” over the last decade, and the report claims “cartel bosses will treat the young killers as cannon fodder, throwing them into suicidal attacks on security forces.” [] Read the rest

Drug cartel violence in Mexico, an animated video explainer

An animated short on the escalating drug cartel violence on the US-Mexico border.

Reportero: documentary on journalist's life in one of the world's deadliest places for news

A powerful documentary film about the risks for journalists operating in Mexico.

The Science and tragedy of "Bath Salts"

At PBS NewsHour, Jenny Marder has a truly epic report on so-called "bath salts," a term commonly used to refer to a variable cocktail of drugs linked to a number of violent episodes throughout the US. Her investigative feauture is the most extensive and authoritative I've seen on the topic, a long read full of the stuff that makes great reporting great: nitty-gritty chemistry mysteries, personal stories about the people who use the drug, and big-picture questions about why the stuff is so widely available, and why it seems to be so destructive. Don't miss the slide shows and video that accompany the beautifully laid-out feature. There's even an instructional animated gif!

Users are often hyper-agitated, hot and sweating, she said. Their heart rate is dangerously high, their blood pressure is up, and seizures are common. Often even high doses of common sedatives don't help them. Doctors instead must turn to antipsychotics or other powerful medications.

Early on, doctors began noticing something else that was strange. Compared with other drugs, bath salts didn't follow a normal dose-response pattern. With cocaine or methamphetamine, the drug entered the bloodstream, and, within hours, began to wear off. Not so for bath salts. “Some patients were in the hospital for 5 days, 10 days, 14 days,” Ryan said. “In some cases, they were under heavy sedation. As you try to taper off the sedation, the paranoia came back and the delusions."

As Ryan was scrambling to grasp the scope of the problem in Louisiana, scientists 1,000 miles away were beginning to tease out the drug's chemistry.

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Google execs: our technology can be used to fight narcoviolence in Mexico

In a Washington Post op-ed, Google's executive chairman (and former CEO) Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen argue the case for technology as a tool to aid citizen activists in places like Juarez, Mexico. Schmidt and Cohen recently visited the drug-war-wracked border town, and describe the climate of violence there as "surreal."

In Juarez, we saw fearful human beings — sources — who need to get their information into the right hands. With our packet-switching mind-set, we realized that there may be a technological workaround to the fear: Sources don’t need to physically turn to corrupt authorities, distant journalists or diffuse nonprofits, and rely on their hope that the possible benefit is worth the risk of exposing themselves.

Technology can help intermediate this exchange, like servers passing packets on the Internet. Sources don’t need to pierce their anonymity. They don’t need to trust a single person or institution. Why can’t they simply throw encrypted packets into the network and let the tools move information to the right destinations?

In a sense, we are talking about dual crowdsourcing: Citizens crowdsource incident awareness up, and responders crowdsource justice down, nearly in real time. The trick is that anonymity is provided to everyone, although such a system would know a unique ID for every user to maintain records and provide rewards. This bare-bones model could take many forms: official and nonprofit first responders, investigative journalists, whistleblowers, neighborhood watches.

I'll be interested to hear what people in Juarez, and throughout Mexico, think of the editorial. Read the rest

56-year-old Texas grandma gets life without parole on first-time drug charges

In Fort Worth, Texas, Elisa Castillo—a 56-year-old grandmother with no prior drug offenses— has been sentenced to life without parole. She maintains her innocence, and never "touched the drugs that sent her to prison," points out the ACLU; "Her fate was sealed, in large part because she didn't have a card to play when negotiating her sentence." The Houston Chronicle has more. Read the rest

In Veracruz, Mexico, renewed attacks on journalists

Three journalists were killed this week in the Mexican state of Veracruz, just a week after another reporter was murdered. More on the latest violence at SouthNotes. (via Shannon Young) Read the rest

US to go after "Border Tunnels" by prosecuting landowners, wiretapping communications

In the San Diego Reader, more on a bill passed last week by The U.S. House Judiciary Committee to help law enforcement crack down on illicit tunnels along the US-Mexico border: "The bill would allow law enforcement to prosecute landowners, prosecute those that fund the tunnels, and wiretap communications in suspected buildings that house tunnels. Previously wiretaps were only available with proof of drugs or contraband." Read the rest

Mexico: moderator of online discussion forum about narcos reported as tortured, decapitated by narcos (UPDATED)

UPDATE: One media outlet in Mexico reports that there is no proof that the man killed in Nuevo Laredo on Wednesday was a social media user. Police say they are still investigating. Unlike in previous cases involving administrators/contributors to the online message board in question, the newspaper affiliated with that forum has not come forward to confirm the identity of the dead.

UPDATE 2: Nuevo Laredo Live reports that the man killed is "not one of our collaborators," but "a scapegoat" whose murder serves to send a message of fear.

The moderator of an online discussion forum about local cartel-related crime is reported to have been killed in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Near the corpse, a "narco manta," or sign taking responsibility for the murder, was found and points to the ultraviolent cartel known as the Zetas.

Wired News reports that the victim was a 35-year-old man who went by the nickname “Rascatripas” or “Scraper” (literally, “Fiddler”) on the web-based chat network Nuevo Laredo en Vivo where he served as a community moderator. The body was handcuffed, with signs of torture, and was decapitated and was placed next to a monument for Christopher Columbus about a mile south of the Texas border. That same site has previously been used as a dumping ground for victims of this form of crime.

The discussion board in question is the same one at the center of the near-identical murder of two other Nuevo Laredo residents two months ago. They were outed as active participants in the site's crime-tip forum, and they were gruesomely murdered as "snitches." Their bodies were dumped in the same location, with a sign indicating that their killing should serve as a warning for others who share information about cartel activities on the internet. Read the rest

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