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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A New Map Shows Where Cartels Have Control In The U.S. But Cartel Bosses Say It’s All Wrong

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A New Map Shows Where Cartels Have Control In The U.S. But Cartel Bosses Say It’s All Wrong

It’s long been known that international drug cartels operate within the United States. Cartels from across the world have setup shop in major cities across the country to help ensure they can move product from manufacturing bases in Latin America and Asia to consumer markets from Los Angeles to New York.

And now a new report from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) allegedly shows the extent of these operations and where certain cartels have more authority. But not everyone is buying the data, including the cartels themselves who are disputing the report.

A DEA report on drugs and drug trafficking details what the agency calls cartel influence in the US.

The DEA recently released its annual National Drug Threat Assessment, in which it maps out the states where Mexican drug cartels have gained “influence.”

The DEA’s report said Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) “maintain great influence” in most US states, with the Sinaloa cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación showing the “biggest signs of expansion.”

A map included in the report labeled the Sinaloa cartel, Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, Cartel del Golfo, Organización de Beltran-Leyva, and Los Rojos as the most “influential” drug organizations, with presence in Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Chicago, New York, Florida, Kansas, Colorado, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

When they were asked about that depiction of cartel presence in the US, security experts and cartel sources told Insider “it’s bulls—.”

So where do these cartels allegedly have the most influence?

DEA map cartel influence in US

The report described the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación as “one of the fastest growing cartels” and said the organization “smuggles illicit drugs into the United States by accessing various trafficking corridors in northern Mexico along the SWB including Tijuana, Juarez and Nuevo Laredo.”

“The cartels dominate the drug trade influencing the United States market, with most cartels having a poly drug market approach that allows for maximum flexibility and resiliency of their operations,” the report said.

An operative for Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación said the organization had a large group of members in Mexico who are “mostly on the armed side of the operations,” while most contacts in the US were clients.

“Most of what we can call members of the Jalisco organization are on the arms, like sicarios and some producers that are on a payroll. But everyone else is either a client we are selling to or an association to have access to certain route” for distribution in the US, he said.

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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