Small-town mayor stoned to death in western Mexico: Drug Cartel’s Blamed for Murder of 5th City Leader

Associated Press Writer

MORELIA, Mexico (AP) – A small-town mayor and an aide were found stoned to death Monday in a drug-plagued western state, the fifth city leader to be slain in Mexico since mid-August.

Michoacan state Attorney General Jesus Montejano said the bodies of Tancitaro Mayor Gustavo Sanchez and city adviser Rafael Equihua were discovered in a pickup truck abandoned on a dirt road near the city of Uruapan.

Montejano’s spokesman, Jonathan Arredondo, said initially that the victims were hacked to death with a machete, but the attorney general said they were killed with stones.

Arredondo said police were trying to determine a possible motive.

Tancitaro, a town of 26,000 people, is in a region where soldiers have destroyed more than 20 meth labs in the last year and several police officers have been killed by suspected drug gang members.

Last year the city council chief, Gonzalo Paz, was kidnapped, tortured and killed. Then in December, the mayor and seven other town officials resigned saying they had been threatened by drug traffickers and local police were not showing up to work.

Soon after, the department’s entire 60-officer force was fired for failing to stop a series of killings and other crimes, and Michoacan state police and soldiers took over security in the town. Sanchez was named mayor in January.

Also Monday in Michoacan, five gunmen and a marine were killed in a shootout in Coahuayana on the Pacific coast, the navy said in a statement. A second marine was wounded, and authorities were searching for more gunmen.

Coahuayana authorities canceled school and warned people to stay indoors.

The navy said another gunbattle across the country in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas left eight gunmen and one marine dead in the border city of Reynosa.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department said soldiers arrested a man suspected in the kidnapping and killing of the mayor of Santiago in the border state of Nuevo Leon. It said in a statement that Miguel Cervantes was arrested Monday.

In the border state of Chihuahua, gunmen broke into a police complex, subdued the guards and stole at least 40 automatic rifles and 23 handguns, police spokesman Fidel Banuelos said.

Banuelos said 10 officers who were in the building at the time were being questioned. He said it was not clear whether the assailants were members of a drug cartel.

In Ciudad Juarez, a border city in Chihuahua, the Public Safety Department announced the capture of a drug gang member who allegedly helped set up a car bomb that killed three people.

Suspect Jose Contreras allegedly killed a man and dressed him in a police uniform to lure federal agents to the area where the car bomb exploded, killing a federal police officer and a doctor who was helping the shooting victim.

Contreras is a member of La Linea gang, which works for the Juarez drug cartel, the department said in a statement.

Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, has become one of the world’s most dangerous cities amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.

Cancun Resort Massacre: 8 Killed In Attack On Cancun Resort Bar By Mexican Drug Cartel Hitman


CANCUN, Mexico – At least eight people were killed when molotov cocktails were thrown into a bar in the Mexican town of Cancun, a resort area popular with U.S. tourists, officials said.

“The death of eight people is confirmed. Six on site — including four women — and two others in hospital, also women,” Quintana Roo prosecutor Francisco Alor Quezada told AFP by telephone.

According to witnesses, six men threw the molotov cocktails at the establishment which had reported two attempts at extortion, apparently by the Zeta drug cartel.

CANCUN, Mexico (AFP) – At least eight people were killed when molotov cocktails were thrown into a bar in the Mexican town of Cancun, a resort area popular with US tourists, officials said Tuesday.

“The death of eight people is confirmed. Six on site — including four women — and two others in hospital, also women,” prosecutor Francisco Alor Quezada, from the southeastern state of Quintana Roo, told AFP by telephone.

According to witnesses, six men threw the molotov cocktails at the establishment which had reported two attempts at extortion, apparently by the Zetas drug cartel.

The attack set off a fire which destroyed the bar, in a residential area not frequented by tourists, officials said.

The brutal Zetas, first set up by former paramilitaries in the 1990s, have grown in force since splitting off from the powerful Gulf gang, whom they are now fighting for control of drug trafficking routes.

They are suspected in last week’s massacre of 72 migrants in northeast Mexico and many kidnapping, killing and extortion cases.

Cancun has seen sporadic attacks and gruesome discoveries of bodies in wells and graves as violence has escalated since President Felipe Calderon deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to take on organized crime gangs in 2006.

More than 28,000 have died in drug-related violence nationwide since then, according to official figures.

Mexican Drug Cartel Kills Ten Students – Age 8 to 21 – At Road Side Check Point

PUEBLO NUEVO, Mexico, March 30 (UPI) — Ten students, ages 8 to 21, were shot to death while traveling in the Mexican state of Durango to receive government scholarships, officials said.

Officials said gunmen at a checkpoint — the type used by drug traffickers who control parts of Durango — opened fire and threw grenades at the victims’ pickup truck after they apparently failed to stop Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

The dead included three girls, ages 8, 11 and 13, officials said. The rest of the victims were in their teens except for the oldest among the travelers, who was 21. Four of the dead were siblings.

The students were traveling to receive scholarships as part of the federal “Opportunities” program that supports low-income students, Ruben Lopez, a spokesman for the Durango state prosecutor’s office, told the Times in a telephone interview.

Daniel Delgado, mayor of Pueblo Nuevo, a town near the crime scene, said he felt powerless to challenge the gangs.

“We need more military presence … more police who are trained and equipped to fight the kind of criminals we are facing,” he said in an interview with a Mexican television station.

Mexican Drug Cartel Preaches Religion – Peddles Methamphetamine

APATZINGAN, Mexico — Busloads of teenagers descend on this sweltering agricultural town 500 kilometres west of Mexico City every few months to participate in self-improvement seminars. The seminars supposedly impart values, build self-esteem and condemn vices such as drug use, according to Father Andres Larios, a Catholic priest working with young people in Apatzingan.

Unbeknownst to the participants, a quasi-religious drug cartel known as La Familia Michoacana promotes the seminars and underwrites the expenses.

The seminars highlight the acts of charity and piety attributed to La Familia, a cartel notorious for running extortion rackets, corrupting politicians and police forces throughout the western state of Michoacan and manufacturing tons of methamphetamines in clandestine laboratories.

Its leaders reputedly pave roads and pay hospital bills in impoverished pueblos, talk up law and order and even preach a homespun version of the gospel from a text authored by a cartel capo that goes by the handle El Mas Loco, or The Craziest One.

“These people carry a Bible in the right hand . . . and a gun in the left hand,” Larios says.

Displays of religiosity are nothing new for Mexico’s narcotics kingpins; it’s alleged they have donated big to the Catholic Church – a charged denied by church officials – and adore Jesus Malverde, a Robin Hood-like figure they claim as their patron saint.

But by developing its own pseudo religion and base of social support in long-neglected corners of Mexico, La Familia has emerged as an enigmatic foe – and the most prominent target of late – in the Mexican government’s crackdown on drug cartels.

So far this year, La Familia has withstood the arrests of more than 100 leaders, the destitution of at least 10 mayors in Michoacan with alleged cartel ties and the closure of more than 40 methamphetamine labs. The Mexican government was forced to call in reinforcements in mid-July after the cartel launched co-ordinated counterattacks on Federal Police installations in retaliation for the arrest of a senior leader.

A column by Ciro Gomez Leyva prompted uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of the government crackdown, which has claimed more than 11,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006.

A cartel leader identified as Servando Gomez – also known as the La Tuta – subsequently told a Michoacan television station: “La Familia was created to take care of and safeguard the interests of our community and our people. We don’t want anyone to disrespect them.”

He ended his unsolicited comments with the words, “God bless everyone.”

His comments reflected the supposed religiosity of La Familia, but also rallied the cartel’s base in Michoacan.

The state unfolds across Western Mexico and is known for outward migration, a hard-luck countryside and a decades-old drug trade in the mountainous regions that hug an isolated stretch of coastline stretching from Zihuatanejo toward Manzanillo.

Victims of Cartel La Familia Michoacana

Out-of-state-cartels long dominated the Michoacan drug trade, but that ended in late 2006 with the emergence of La Familia, which announced its formation by tossing six heads into a seedy nightclub. La Familia also purchased newspaper ads that promised to “impose order in the state” and “fight the out-of-control-violence” that it blamed on Los Zetas, the armed wing of the rival Gulf Cartel and former La Familia partners.

Larios says that La Familia further showed its nativism by imposing a locals-only hiring policy and buying cash crops – mainly marijuana – from poor farmers. The magazine Proceso reported that La Familia pays its employees salaries of $2,000 per month – a fortune in a country with a minimum wage of just $5 per day.

The cartel slips even more money to politicians and local police departments. La Familia is suspected of corrupting many of Michoacan’s 113 municipal governments and local police forces; an arrest warrant has been issued for the state governor’s brother, Julio Cesar Godoy – who was just elected to Congress – for supposed links to the cartel.

La Familia plies its members with more than just money, however.

“The peculiar thing about them is the name: La Familia,” said security expert Javier Oliva of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Some cartels hire drug addicts, Oliva says, and sometimes pay underlings with merchandise.

In comparison, La Familia has recruited out of a drug rehabilitation program it operated, according to the Public Security Secretariat. The cartel forbids employee drug consumption and subjects personnel to “training” that involves reading the cartel’s bible, a text that borrows from the Old Testament, pop-psychology books and Mexican truisms.

Drug Rehab Patients Executed By Mexican Cartel

“It’s better to die fighting head-on than on your knees,” reads one passage that invokes Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.

“I ask God for strength and he gives me difficulties that strengthen me,” reads another.

Larios insists that La Familia leaders belong to an unknown evangelical sect, although some attend Catholic events such as baptisms and quinceaneras.

The Federal Police have started targeting such celebrations in their pursuit of La Familia leaders, but Larios says the execution of an August raid during mass in an Apatzingan parish revealed shortcomings in the ongoing federal campaign against the cartel – along with a lack of intelligence and popular support in the region.

When coming to arrest Miguel Angel Beraza, also known as La Troca – a La Familia leader accused of running tractor-trailer loads of methamphetamines to the United States – the Federal Police didn’t know the way.

“They had to hire taxi drivers and follow them to the church.”

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