SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The allegations grabbed headlines across Mexico and around the globe: Hooded gunmen stormed into a beach bungalow and attacked a group of Spanish tourists, authorities said, raping six women and tying up a group of men with cell phone cables and bikini straps.
The high-profile case in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco this week was a sharp reminder of significant security problems in a state that has seen violence surge even as homicide numbers in other hotspots across the country have started to dip.
Mexico drug-related violence: How it all started
And it drew renewed attention to topics that Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has steered out of the spotlight since he took office in December.
As authorities investigate the alleged crime, experts say the incident shows that even as Mexico's new government tries to paint a brighter picture and revamp the country's image, realities on the ground remain complicated -- and, in some areas, ugly.
Follow the latest news in Spanish at CNNMexico.com
A state plagued by warring gangs
For years Guerrero state, where Acapulco sits, has ranked among the Mexican states with the highest homicide rates, a crime statistic regularly used by officials and analysts when discussing the overall security situation. Last year Guerrero had more reported gun murders than any other state in Mexico, more than 1,600, according to a federal government tally released last month.
"While places like Ciudad Juarez have become safer, other places in the country have seen violence spike up," said Christopher Wilson, an associate at the Washington-based Mexico Institute. "Acapulco is one of the areas, and in fact, the entire state of Guerrero is one of the places, where there's been more violence recently."
Local authorities said Tuesday that the alleged rape wasn't tied to organized crime but then revealed Wednesday that they believe the victims bought drugs from one or more of the suspects in the days before the alleged attack.
Even if a major criminal organization like Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's notorious Sinaloa cartel wasn't behind the alleged attack, it's part of a deep-seated security problem in the region, said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness think tank.
"It wasn't El Chapo Guzman," he said, "but I think it was one of the many gangs in Acapulco."
Fragmentation of large organizations like the once-powerful Beltran Leyva cartel has fueled the creation of dozens of smaller criminal gangs battling for turf in the Pacific port city and the surrounding state, Hope said. And even though many of the groups are more focused on crimes such as extorting business owners than on drug trafficking, he said, that hasn't stemmed the violence.
Authorities haven't been able to get a handle on the problem, said Jorge Chabat, who studies security at Mexico's Center for Research and Teaching in Economics.
"Basically the government can't control them," he said. "This is just one example of the climate of insecurity that Guerrero has been living."
Particular regions of Mexico -- often those near the border and along lucrative trafficking routes -- have borne the brunt of the country's drug-related violence.
Nationwide, official figures indicate violence in Mexico may be declining. In 2012, there were 20,568 intentional homicides across the country, an 8.5% decrease from 2011.
"2012 was the first year when it fell, but we are still double where we were in 2007," Hope said.
Experts caution that reliable statistics are hard to come by. Last year the government stopped releasing its tally of deaths tied to organized crime, which had become a measure many used to debate the success of then-President Felipe Calderon's drug war. Now only more general homicide statistics are released, without describing the circumstances.
It's unclear whether Mexico has turned a corner, Wilson said, but the fact that cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana have seen violence drop gives some hope for the future.
"If they can turn things around, then there's no reason why every other city in Mexico can't do the same thing," Wilson said. "We now have success stories, which we couldn't say three years ago."
A new president changes the tone
Even if the numbers may be shifting in his favor, Mexico's new president hasn't been talking much about violence.
Right before he took office, Pena Nieto began a trip to the United States in November saying that ties between the neighboring nations must go beyond the drug war.
In Mexico now, the once-common government press conferences presenting high-profile cartel captures seem to be a thing of the past.
"There's a belief that they have that the criminal groups do sort of take advantage of the media and the attention in order to create fear, basically, and therefore space to act with impunity," Wilson said. "So the government decided deliberately they won't parade recently arrested criminals in front of the cameras."
That's a marked change from his predecessor, Calderon, who announced a crackdown on cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006. The war on drugs became a hallmark of his presidency, and the death toll from drug-related violence during his tenure had soared to more than 47,500 when the government stopped releasing updated figures in early 2012 -- his last year in office. In farewell speeches, Calderon noted that 25 of Mexico's 37 most wanted criminals had been apprehended on his watch.
"The government of Pena Nieto is trying not to talk about the issue of violence," said Chabat. "It's a strategy to change perceptions."
The reason is clear, said George W. Grayson, who studied Mexico's ruthless Zetas cartel for his 2012 book "The Executioner's Men."
"You don't want to talk about your crazy aunt in the attic. ... They want to shift the narrative," he said.
On the campaign trail last year, Pena Nieto vowed to reduce violence and said he'd take a different tack -- an election promise that played well with voters in a country weary of a drug war with a growing body count.
But two months into his six-year presidency, analysts say it's still unclear how he'll accomplish that goal.
"What he wants to crack down on are kidnappings, extortion, what's more likely to affect average people. There's been no secret that he wants to move in that direction and use more of a scalpel than a broad sword in combating the cartels," Grayson said, "and he seems to have sent a subliminal message to the cartels saying that if you just conduct your business and don't disturb civilians, we're not going to ignore you, but you're not a top priority."
Pena Nieto has stressed that fixing social and economic problems will foster peace in Mexico, and he's made some security policy shifts. He started his term by eliminating the public safety ministry and placing the federal police it once controlled under the interior ministry's power.
He's also discussed a plan to divide the country into regions to tackle security problems and to create a new national gendarmerie force, which could eventually send Mexico's military out of the streets and back into their barracks.
But the time frame for those changes is uncertain. And in the meantime, discussing violence less doesn't make the longstanding systemic problems fueling it go away, Chabat said.
"It is important for any government to talk about other topics, like the economy. But you can't negate what is happening, what people are still experiencing," he said.
'We are left with no other choice'
In some areas of Mexico, residents are tired of waiting for the government to step in to solve their problems.
"What we are seeing in a lot of parts of the country is a vacuum of the state ... and the proliferation of private security corps, of paramilitary groups," Chabat said. Incidents like the tourist attack in Guerrero will only do more to promote that approach, Chabat said, noting that it raises worrying concerns about abuses by vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
"The government is overcome. ... That's the tragedy," he said. "There is no short-term solution."
As word of this week's rape allegations in Acapulco spread, a group of people in one nearby neighborhood took a vote on Tuesday.
If local, state and federal officials can't track down and apprehend those responsible, they decided they'll take matters into their own hands.
"We are going to have to rise up with weapons. ... We cannot wait until they keep destroying the port of Acapulco with these kinds of incidents," said Sergio Mejia, president of a 35-member association of restaurant and business owners in Acapulco's Bonfil beach community. "We think the government is very timid, very slow. If there is no immediate response, it leaves us no choice but to join the fight and set up checkpoints on the street corners."
Months ago, he read about other groups in the region taking similar steps, forming paramilitary self-defense groups of masked men that patrol the streets. At first, it seemed extreme. Now, it sounds sensible, he said.
In this area where the economy relies on tourism, he said, residents are tired of waiting for authorities to take action. But it's not just that a high-profile crime targeting tourists is bad for business.
"Today they were foreigners," said Mejia, who owns a restaurant that specializes in serving up freshly caught seafood. "Tomorrow it could be our families."
Guerrero is named for a military general who fought for Mexico's independence from Spain. It's also the Spanish word for warrior.
If the government can't protect them, Mejia says it's time for the state's residents to fight back.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- In a fight to bring down the crime rate in Mexico’s capital city, police have destroyed thousands of toy guns to stop them from becoming a real threat on the streets.
Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera announced that officials estimate at least three of every 10 violent crimes in Mexico City are carried out with a real-looking toy gun. He said this was enough justification to destroy the seven thousand replica weapons.
Shops bore the brunt of the government's decision as toy items were seized by the police in the capital and the surrounding state. Sunday is Three Kings Day, when Mexican children receive holiday gifts.
Mexico has strict laws on gun ownership that require toy weapons be made of transparent or colored plastic.
In the first 11 months of 2012, government statistics documented 82,117 robberies and 1,349 homicides in Mexico City.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Mexican marines say they have detained an unlikely band of drug traffickers that includes 12 boys and a woman with a baby who possessed rifles, grenade launchers and drugs.
A navy statement issued Wednesday says the 18 people were caught on New Year's Eve in the town of La Estacion in the northern state of Zacatecas. It alleges they were carrying nine rifles, two pistols, two grenade launchers and packets of marijuana and cocaine.
The navy says the only woman in the group was carrying a baby girl. It doesn't say what authorities did with the baby.
Twelve of the 17 male suspects are said to be minors. Drug cartels often hire youths to work for them and many have been arrested since the government launched its offensive against traffickers.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- More than 70 per cent of Mexicans never get the chance to go to university - many of those are either unemployed or working poorly paid jobs.
But even those lucky few who graduate have to struggle to find well paid employment.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Protesters clashed with police outside the Mexican Congress in Mexico City on Saturday, as the country’s new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, took the oath of office.
Hundreds of demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, firecrackers and rocks at security forces, who responded by using tear gas to disperse the crowd.
At least two protesters were injured, one seriously and a police officer with a bleeding face was taken for medical treatment, according to law enforcement agencies.
Mexican authorities erected security barriers around the Congress several days ago in anticipation of protests by groups opposed to Nieto and the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power.
Forty-six year old Nieto, who will have the top job during the next six years, won the presidential election on July 1st by a narrow margin, with his victory has exposed deep divisions within the Mexican society.
The president-elect has took over at midnight in a symbolic ceremony after campaigning as the new face of the PRI, repentant and restructured after the party was voted out of the presidency in 2000. The PRI had ruled for 71 years with a mix of populist handouts, graft and rigged elections.
After the oath-taking, the new president delivered his inaugural speech at the historic National Palace in the city's downtown, promising to govern democratically with transparency.
But his first act in charge shows a strong link to the past. In announcing his Cabinet on Friday, he turned to the old guard as well as new technocrats to run his administration.
Nieto has pledged to make economic growth and job creation the centerpiece of his administration, with campaign manager and long-time confidant Luis Videgaray the key person. Videgaray, a 44-year-old economist with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will lead the treasury department.
Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, a 48-year-old former state governor who is known as a political operator and deal maker, has been named secretary of the interior, a post that will play a key role in security matters.
The new president has also promised to push for reforms that could bring major private investment into Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the crucial state-owned oil industry, which is currently struggling.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Fourteen Mexican federal police officers have been charged with attempted murder over a shooting in August that
wounded two US government employees, reportedly CIA agents.
The officers were charged on Friday and the Mexican attorney general's office said in a statement they had been formally placed under arrest.
The statement did not indicate why the federal police officers opened fire. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office did not return calls seeking comment.
The attorney-general's office said the police officers "attempted to take the life of two employees of the US embassy" and a Mexican navy officer who was travelling with them south of Mexico City.
The three survived a barrage of 152 bullets as they were travelling in an armoured US embassy's sport-utility vehicle, prosecutors said.
The federal policemen were wearing civilian clothes and driving private cars when they shot at the SUV, which had US diplomatic licence plates. They later changed into uniform and brought patrol cars when investigators arrived at the scene.
The officers hid the civilian vehicles from which the gunmen opened fire near the town of Tres Marias "simulating circumstances that turned out false", the prosecutor's office said.
One of the federal officers was charged with making false statements while five others were accused of covering up the attack. The 14 were also charged with property damage.
The two Americans, who were identified as CIA agents by Mexican and American media, left the country shortly after the August 24 shooting.
The US government has refused to say where the two men worked.
They were heading to a military training facility when they were attacked in what the US embassy has described as an ambush.
Mexican police suggested at one point that the officers had mistakenly shot at the US embassy vehicle while investigating a kidnapping case.
But a Mexican official has told the AFP news agency that one line of investigation explored by authorities was whether the officers were working for a criminal gang and ambushed the Americans because they believed they were CIA agents.
A lawyer for two of the police officers said their legal rights were violated.
"The proof is that we asked for a face-to-face between my clients and the US diplomats, but the federal public ministry rejected our request," Enrique Rusty Mondragon Huerta was quoted as saying in El Universal newspaper.
The US works closely with President Felipe Calderon's government against drug smuggling under the $1.6bn Merida Initiative, providing law enforcement training and equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — At least 132 inmates escaped from a Mexican prison near the US border on Monday, fleeing through a tunnel they dug in the old carpentry workshop, the state prosecutor's office said.
The escape sparked a massive manhunt, with federal police and the Mexican army deployed on roads and highways near the correctional facility in Piedras Negras, a city bordering the Texas town of Eagle Pass.
US authorities were told about the escape so they could take precautionary measures, the Coahuila state attorney general's office said in a statement.
The prison's director, security chief and shift guard were questioned over the escape and authorities have asked a judge to issue a detention order against the three.
State attorney general Homero Ramos Gloria told reporters that the escape took place at 2:15 pm local time but that it took about an hour for prison guards to notice it, according to the newspaper El Universal.
The tunnel used by the prisoners was 2.90 meters (9.5 feet) deep, 1.20 meters wide and seven meters long, and its exit hole was at the prison's northern tower, the statement said.
After emerging from the tunnel, "they cut a wire fence from where, according to prison authorities, the convicts got out one by one and reached a vacant lot," the statement said.
The evidence gathered by prosecutors includes fragments of a BlackBerry phone, pieces of a SIM card, a pair of flip-flops, two other flip-flops, three 1.20-meter-long pieces of rope, an electric wire and a broken padlock.
The prosecutor's office said 86 of the inmates were in prison for federal crimes while the other 46 faced different charges.
The state government offered rewards of 200,000 pesos ($15,600) for information leading to the capture of each inmate.
Authorities in Coahuila said that a special police unit killed four suspects in a clash in the town of Castanos four hours after the Piedras Negras escape, and that there are indications that the dead were inmates.
Several mass prison breaks have taken place in Mexico since 2010. The biggest to date was on December 17, 2010, when 141 inmates escaped from the Nuevo Laredo prison in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Mexico's prisons are often the scene of riots and murders, which left 171 people dead in 2011, according to the National Human Rights Commission.
The Piedras Negras prison, with a capacity for 1,000 prisoners, was housing 734 inmates when the escape took place, Ramos Gloria was quoted as saying.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — At least five people have been killed in the western Mexican state of Michoacan after armed men launched daring grenade attacks on federal police in the region.
In the city of Nueva Italia, drug-gang members burned vehicles on streets, set up road blocks and opened fire on
police officers on Friday.
According to Mexico's public security ministry, police responded with gunfire to repel attacks, killing five gang members and injuring five officers.
Authorities have not confirmed if any police were killed in the firefight.
A local Michoacan newspaper, Cambio, reported assailants also attacked a nearby hospital as they looked for injured police.
Violence spread into the municipality of Apatzingan as police gave chase. Assailants blocked area roads and highways with burnt-out vehicles to impede pursuing police.
Mexican authorities cordoned off the area to search for the armed men, but no arrests were reported.
Michoacan, which is President Felipe Calderon's home state, has been plagued with violence as rival gangs fight
over lucrative methamphetamine trafficking routes and vast marijuana fields.
Nationally, drug violence has killed more than 55,000 people since Calderon launched an army-led crackdown on
drug cartels and organised crime after taking office nearly six years ago.—www.shafaqna.com/english