Things That Matter

A Local Police Chief Has Been Arrested In An Alleged Connection To The Murders Of The LeBaron Family In Mexico

It has been almost two months since a group of men, allegedly cartel members, gunned down nine members of the LeBaron family in the state of Chihuahua, in northern Mexico. These nine victims of the November 4 attack were all women and children. The LeBaron family has dual citizenship and is one of the Mormon clans that migrated to northern Mexico and established a community that has connections with important political families in the United States, such as that of the Republican senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The massacre was condemned on both sides of the border and led the US government to reconsider the level of involvement it has in the cartel wars that have rocked Mexico since 2006. Just as 2019 comes to a close there has been some progress in the investigations. 

A municipal police chief has been arrested in connection to the LeBaron massacre.

Mexican media reported on the arrest of Fidel Alejandro Villegas, who is the police chief of the municipality of Janos in Chihuahua. The fact that a member of the police has been linked to the killing of six children (two of them merely six months old) and three women is a huge development, as it brings to light the corruption that municipal police often is tainted with then it comes to organized crime. Even though the reports do not specify the degree of Villegas’ involvement, they do point towards ties with the cartels.

As News.com.au reports: “A federal official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrest of Villegas, which follows the detention of other suspects earlier in the investigation. Mexican officials believe the women and children were killed after becoming caught up in a dispute between local drug cartels battling for control of the area.”

Under pressure from the Trump administration, the Mexican government agreed to let the FBI aid in the investigation. Villegas is the fourth person to be arrested for the attack after brothers Héctor Mario and Luis Manuel Hernández and another as of yet unnamed individual. 

The LeBaron massacre has had a deep impact on how the new Mexican government is perceived.

When history books are written on the presidency of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the LeBaron family massacre will stand out as the first massive challenge that the administration faced in terms of public relations management in the face of tragedy. These types of massacres happen all the time in Mexico and 2019 is bound to be the most violent year in modern history with up to 35,000 murders, but this case was put on the spotlight internationally and further damaged US-Mexico relationships.

Many fervent AMLO supporters questioned the efficacy of the government’s approach to fighting organized crime while the opposition launched tough attacks. The massacre was one of the main reasons why Donald Trump toyed with the idea of classifying drug cartels as terrorist organizations, which would redefine and broaden the involvement of the United States in Mexican territory. AMLO has called for cooperation but no intervention. US intervention in the country is a touchy subject due to the love-hate relationship that the countries have had historically. 

The LeBaron family had a very different kind of Christmas and further pressured the government to serve justice.

The LeBaron family, which migrated to Mexico fearing persecution from US authorities due to their polygamous beliefs, had a sad Christmas. As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, the patriarch Adrian is still in mourning and probably will always be: “LeBarón, with 35 children, 87 grandchildren and a great-grandson, could not hold back tears as he remembers her 30-year-old daughter Rhonita Miller, whose charred body was found after the massacre in a burned-out vehicle on a terraced road near her home. ‘We thank us for giving us the strength to resist those things that have hurt in our souls,’ said the 58-year-old man, along with Shalom, one of his three wives and Rhonita’s mother”. Mexican-American Mormons are mounting pressure and the arrest of Fidel Alejandro Villegas and three other individuals seems to be a response to this.

As reported by Mail Online, the LeBaron patriarch has been lobbying in Mexico City and Washington for further security measures and binational cooperation. He has also criticized the political structures that, according to his diagnosis, basically put police forces under the control of the cartels: “The Mexican municipal police are not autonomous in this area. They are under the control of the mayors, who are financed by the cartels. The old ways here have to change. We have 20 neighboring municipalities and no district attorney. We have no independent police, and that has to change.”

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Mexico City Celebrates Its 500th Birthday Amid A Pandemic And Mounting Violence

Culture

Mexico City Celebrates Its 500th Birthday Amid A Pandemic And Mounting Violence

Most of us are looking to 2021 with optimism, but for Mexico, this upcoming year won’t just be about saying goodbye to 2020. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) says 2021 will be the “year of independence and greatness” for Mexico, celebrating not only 500 years since the founding of Mexico City, but also 200 years since Mexico achieved its independence from Spain.

As Mexico City turns 500, the city faces many challenges and reasons to celebrate.

Pretty much the entire world was waiting for 2021 to arrive, so that we could all say adiós to 2020. But few places were as eager to welcome 2021 as Mexico was.

You see, it was in 1321 that the ancient city of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) was founded by the Aztecas, in 1521 the city was conquered and rebuilt by Spanish conquistadors, and in 1821 the nation gained independence from Spain. So you can see why 2021 is such a major year for Mexico.

President AMLO presented a plan to commemorate two centuries of Mexico’s Independence, the 700th anniversary of the founding of Mexico-Tenochtitlan and the 500th anniversary of the fall of the city that became the country’s capital city.

“Next year is the year of the Independence and the greatness of Mexico,” the president said, joined by Mexico City Head of Government Claudia Sheinbaum. In a detailed report on the year’s celebrations, IMSS head Zoé Robledo pointed out that the whole program includes 12 national events including tributes to national heroes, commemoration of relevant dates, exhibitions, parades and the traditional Independence celebration known as El Grito. Other events and celebrations are also expected in 65 cities across 32 states, starting on Feb. 14 in Oaxaca and ending on Sept. 30 in Michoacán.

The nation’s capital has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and faces other serious challenges.

Like many major cities, Mexico City has been severely impacted by the pandemic. It’s the epicenter of the health crisis in Mexico with more than 500,000 confirmed cases and nearly 25,000 deaths. In recent weeks, hospital occupancy has surpassed 90% meaning there’s little to no room for people to be treated. Meanwhile, the government has come under fire for a lack of any economic security to those who have been forced to go without work as the city of more than 20 million people was placed under lockdown. 

In addition to the health crisis, a growing issue of cartel violence has plagued parts of the capitol – a city once thought immune to the cartel wars that rage in other corners of the country. In 2020, violence in the capital broke records with brazen attacks on elected officials and bloody turf wars between long standing gangs and the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación.

But the city also has many reasons to be optimistic in 2021.

Mexico City remains the epicenter of progressivism in the country and that can be seen in the many policies put forward in recent months. With a focus on protecting women’s safety and health and empowering the LGBTQ community, Mexico City is emerging as a safe space for some of the country’s most maligned citizens. 

The city is also undergoing a rapid transformation to a greener society with bans on single-use plastics and a move towards greener policies. From the city’s southern districts to its historical center, the city is also seeing major beautification works to help increase its draw to international tourists – of whom the city has come to rely on for the much needed tourist dollar.

“2021 will be a remarkable year for the city — a city that welcomes all and provides a home for people of all ages and nationalities, which has resulted in a unique cultural hybrid,” says Paulina Feltrin, director of marketing and communications at The St. Regis Mexico City. “I hope this becomes another reason for international and domestic travelers to come celebrate with us.”

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Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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