Mexico Drug War Photo Essay

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A leader in a Mexican drug cartel was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison for his role in a massive drug money-laundering scheme with the Juarez cartel. Alvarez-Tostado was indicted in 1998 with more than 100 other people and three major Mexican banks. His capture was part of a Los Angeles-based investigation — Operation Casablanca — into drug-money laundering by Mexican banks that was launched in 1995.

Juan Jose Alvarez-Tostado Galvan, also known as “El Compadre,” pleaded guilty in January to transporting cocaine and other narcotics to the U. Federal prosecutors said he managed the collection, laundering and distribution of at least $24 million and more than a ton of cocaine.

Once in the United States, traffickers deliver drugs to smaller local groups and street gangs—mainly comprised of Mexican nationals or U. citizens of Mexican descent—who manage retail-level distribution in cities throughout the country. President Calderon declared war on the cartels shortly after taking office. assistance, the Mexican military captured or killed twenty-five of the top thirty-seven drug kingpins in Mexico.

Over the course of his six-year term, he deployed tens of thousands of military personnel to supplement and, in many cases, replace local police forces. The militarized crackdown was a centerpiece of Calderon’s tenure.

warehouse and posed as freelance money launderers seeking assignments from Mexican drug dealers and bankers. The 1998 indictment alleged Alvarez-Tostado collected more than $40 million from narcotics sales in the U. and transferred the money into Mexican bank accounts on behalf of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, reputed chief of the Juarez cartel until his death in 1997 during plastic surgery.

Mexican authorities have been waging a war against drug trafficking organizations for more than a decade, but with limited success. Mexican heroin production increased by 37 percent between 20 alone.Homicides declined in the first years of Pena Nieto’s presidency.But 2015 saw an uptick, and by the end of his term, homicide levels had risen to the highest level in modern Mexican history.Experts attribute this to the continued fallout of Calderon’s kingpin strategy and territorial feuds between gangs. President Lopez Obrador is pushing for amnesty for low-level criminals and more liberal drug laws, but critics say his plans to deploy a new national guard will combine military and police forces, against the cartels echo the mistakes of his predecessors.Civil liberties groups, journalists, and others have criticized the Mexican government’s war on the cartels for years, accusing the military and police of widespread human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killings, and forced disappearances.He was arrested in Mexico in 2005 and charged with operating a continuing criminal enterprise, money laundering and conspiracy. The sting was once billed as the largest drug-money-laundering investigation in U. According to his plea agreement, Alvarez-Tostado supervised the collection and laundering of drug proceeds from distributors in the U. The money was transferred to his suppliers in Colombia, often through wire transfers to U. According to the DEA, the “rapid expansion of its drug trafficking activities is characterized by the organization’s willingness to engage in violent confrontations” with authorities and other cartels.Originally a paramilitary group for the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas was singled out in 2007 by the DEA as the country’s most “technologically advanced, sophisticated, and violent” group.Despite these ambitions, President Pena Nieto relied heavily [PDF] on the military, in combination with the federal police, to battle the cartels.He also created a new national police force, or gendarmerie, of several thousand officers.

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