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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mexico Captures Notoriously Violent Gang Leader

Mexican authorities intercepted Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, head of the Zetas cartel, in a raid near the U.S. border. With him were eight guns and $2 million in cash. Made up of special forces defectors, the Zetas are currently the largest and most powerful cartel in Mexico. Trevino Morales himself authored some of the worst atrocities of Mexico’s drug war, leaving hundreds of bodies beheaded on roadsides or hanging from bridges, as well as routinely kidnapping and massacring migrants who refused to work as drug mules.

His capture represents a serious blow to the Zetas cartel and another step towards the destruction of their organizational structure. It is also the first major blow against an organized crime leader of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration.

Cutting off the head of the cartel probably won’t diminish the violence in border states where the Zetas still dominate, however. Trevino Morales’ younger brother may try to position himself as his successor. Even if he does not, his arrest could leave behind isolated Zetas cells without a central command, but with the same appetite for drug trafficking, kidnapping and extortion.

Military Sexual Assault Bill Gains Bipartisan Support

In the wake of a recent Pentagon report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in the past year, Senator Kirstin Gillibrand introduced legislation that would amount to a sweeping overhaul of the military justice system. The personnel subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee (which she heads) voted in support of her measure, but the full committee rejected it last month.

Gillibrand’s legislation would strip commanders of the power to decide whether serious crimes, including sexual assaults, should go to trial, and hand it to experienced trial lawyers, ranking colonel and above. In a crucial showing of bipartisan support, Republican senators, including Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and David Vitter have all backed the bill. Military leaders argue that Gillibrand’s bill will hinder their ability to discipline their soldiers, overlooking the fact that many offenders were the very commanders to whom the soldiers had to report sexual assault.

Sudanese President Flees Nigeria, War Crimes Charges

President Omar al-Bashir had arrived in Nigeria on Sunday to attend an African Union summit on HIV and AIDS, but left before the conference finished amid calls for his arrest. Al-Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zagawa tribes in Darfur.

Upon his arrival, rights lawyers filed a suit in the Federal High Court demanding that Nigeria arrest him immediately, while activists petitioned the ICC to censure Nigeria for welcoming him. Nigeria defended its decision, noting that the African Union has instructed its member states not to cooperate with the ICC, which some believe unfairly targets Africans. Nevertheless, South Africa, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Central African Republic have all made it clear that if al-Bashir sets foot on their territory, he will be arrested.

Al-Bashir’s spokesman denied that he had left out of fear of arrest, but because he had a prior engagement.

Panama Finds Missile Components North Korean Ship Leaving Cuba

Panamanian authorities intercepted the Chong Chon Gang on the Atlantic side of the canal last week, acting on a tip-off that it was linked to drugs. The ship had crossed the Pacific without its automatic tracking system switched on, which made it highly suspicious. Although the ship was seized on July 10th, “resistance and violence from the crew” delayed the search.

In the cargo hold, searchers discovered “sophisticated missile equipment” hidden in containers of sugar, a significant violation of the UN sanctions against North Korea. Security Minister Jose Raul Mulino said Panama will turn to “friendly governments” with “the technology to look into it” to determine the exact nature of the equipment. He would not rule out discovering other “surprises” as the search of the ship continues.

New Egypt Cabinet Sworn In

In the wake of running battles with police on Monday evening that killed seven and injured hundreds, Egypt’s interim president has sworn in his cabinet. It is led by one of Egypt’s most prominent economists and includes a record three women (out of 34), and seven holdovers from the previous cabinet. Many hope that these appointments mean it will be a “government of technocrats,” which is what the opposition wanted. The cabinet does not include any members of Islamist parties.

The president’s spokesman had said posts would be offered to the Muslim Brotherhood, but the group refused. The Brotherhood denounced the new cabinet, the interim president, and the new government as “illegitimate,” saying “we don’t recognize anyone in it.”


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