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Funerals begin for victims of pipeline blast as loved ones search for missing

by admin   |   Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2019

Fire after pipeline explosion in Hidalgo State, Mexico  | Reuters

Friends and family began saying their final farewells on Sunday (January 20) to victims of a gasoline pipeline blast that has killed at least 79 people.

Fuel thieves punctured the Tula-Tuxpan pipeline a few miles from one of Mexico’s main refineries on Friday (January 18). Up to 800 people flocked to fill plastic containers from the 7-meter (23-ft) gasoline geyser that ensued, officials say. A couple of hours later, it erupted in flames in a powerful explosion.

Half a dozen people interviewed by Reuters on Saturday (January 19) said their relatives went to the leaking duct in Tlahuelilpan district in Hidalgo state because they struggled to find fuel elsewhere and were desperate to fill up cars to get to work or run their farms.

On Sunday, a steady stream of funerals began for the victims while others continued searching for their loved ones.

Many people are posting signs with photos, names and descriptions.

Javier Cervantes is looking for his brother Isaac and his combing hospitals and morgues with no luck. Ema Olvera is looking for her 13-year-old brother who was at the scene of the explosion, but hasn’t found any leads.

Late last month, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a programme to shut down an illegal fuel distribution network that siphons off about $3 billion dollars worth of fuel annually from state oil firm Pemex.

The plan, which called for shutting pipelines targeted by thieves, led to widespread gasoline shortages in central Mexico this month, including in Hidalgo, north of Mexico City.

Lopez Obrador said on Sunday that the disaster had not weakened his resolve to fight fuel theft.

The tragedy in Tlahuelilpan, however, has brought renewed scrutiny of the strategy. Lopez Obrador has repeatedly been asked why soldiers deployed to guard the duct did not chase people away from the leak, and how quickly the pipeline was shut down after Pemex detected the rupture.

Pemex closed a valve at the pipeline after noting a drop in pressure from the leak, Pemex Chief Executive Officer Octavio Romero said at a press conference on Saturday. Pemex was aware of the leak at 4:50 p.m. (2250GMT), but did not say at what time the valve was shut, he added.

Fuel spurted from the pipeline for around two hours after Pemex alerted other authorities to the leak, with no visible loss of pressure, before the explosion.

Lopez Obrador said prosecutors will investigate, but that even if the valve were closed immediately there still would have been 10,000 barrels of high octane gasoline in the section of pipeline between the Tula refinery and the village. — Reuters

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Mexican Navy chase down boat with 700 kilos of cocaine haul

by UNTV News and Rescue   |   Posted on Friday, March 1st, 2019

Mexican authorities retrieve drugs that have been thrown out to sea | Reuters

Mexico’s navy chased down a boat off the coast of its southern state of Chiapas that was transporting over 700 kilos (1,500 pounds) of cocaine and other drug substances, in a dramatic bust.

The seizure of drugs was part of an operation to patrol this coastal area of Mexico that connects through to Central American nations.

Crew on the boat were arrested and officials are investigating the origins of the drug haul, which included not only cocaine but other drug-making substances.

Officials have retrieved drugs that had been thrown out to sea, indicating that the crew had sought to unload as authorities closed in.

The Central American corridor of nations and surrounding waters is a major trafficking route for South American cartels seeking to reach the United States. – REUTERS

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Violent, colorful drug lord ‘El Chapo’ convicted in U.S. court

by admin   |   Posted on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Sketch of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in court on February 12, 2019 | Jane Rosenberg sketches via Reuters

The world’s most infamous cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who rose from poverty in rural Mexico to amass billions of dollars, was found guilty in a U.S. court on Tuesday (February 12) of smuggling tons of drugs to the United States over a violent, colorful, decades-long career.

Jurors in federal court in Brooklyn convicted Guzman, 61, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, on all 10 counts brought by U.S. prosecutors.

Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said he expected Guzman to receive life without parole when sentenced on June 25. “It is a sentence from which there is no escape and no return,” Donoghue told reporters.

More than 250,000 homicides have been registered in Mexico since the government launched an aggressive war on cartels in 2006, during which Guzman and his exploits became almost legendary. About 150,000 of those deaths were tied to organized crime.

Guzman staged two dramatic escapes from Mexican high-security prisons and cultivated a Robin Hood image among the poor in his home state of Sinaloa.

Guzman sat and showed no emotion while the verdict was read. Once the jury left the room, he and his wife Emma Coronel, put their hands to their hearts and gave each other the thumbs up sign. His wife shed tears.

The 11-week trial, with testimony from more than 50 witnesses, offered an unprecedented look at the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel, named for the state in northwestern Mexico where Guzman was born in a poor mountain village. The U.S. government said Guzman trafficked tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States over more than two decades, consolidating his power in Mexico through murders and wars with rival cartels.

Guzman’s lawyers say he was set up as a “fall guy” by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a powerful drug lord from Sinaloa who remains at large.

Jeffrey Lichtman, a lawyer for Guzman, told reporters after the verdict that the defense faced an uphill fight, given the amount of evidence the government presented, and the widespread perception that Guzman was already guilty.

“Of course we’re going to appeal.”

Guzman, whose nickname means “Shorty,” was extradited to the United States for trial in 2017 after he was arrested in Mexico the year before.

Though other high-ranking cartel figures had been extradited previously, Guzman was the first to go to trial instead of pleading guilty. — Reuters

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Mexican mayor gunned down hours after being sworn in

by admin   |   Posted on Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

 

Funeral for Oaxacan Mayor Alejandro Aparicio | Reuters

A mayor in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca was gunned down on Tuesday (January 01), just hours after he was sworn into office, officials reported.

According to reports, Alejandro Aparicio from the town of Tlaxiaco was killed whilst on his way to the town hall for a meeting. Another official injured in the attack later died of his injuries.

A man has been arrested in connection with the killing, with authorities reportedly believing the suspect to be the only person linked to Aparicio’s death.

However, locals are calling for a full investigation into the murder, believing others to be involved.

The mayor was from the leftist MORENA party of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

According to consulting firm Etellekt, 175 politicians were murdered in Mexico between September 2017 and August 2018. — Reuters

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