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  • Mike Pence says Trump 'might make an effort to speak out' if 'send her back' chant happens again

    Trump described the audience that chanted, "Send her back" about Rep. Ilhan Omar as "incredible people" and "incredible patriots."


  • Britain tells UN tanker seizure was 'illegal interference'

    A top British representative to the United Nations has declared in a letter to the Security Council that Iran's seizure of a British-flagged tanker amounted to "illegal interference," and he rejected Tehran's version of events. Iranian authorities impounded the Stena Impero with 23 crew members aboard after patrol boats of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized it Friday in the highly sensitive Strait of Hormuz.


  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders shows up to govs shindig as Arkansas rumors swirl

    Sanders is seen as a possible 2022 Arkansas gubernatorial candidate.


  • White man denies saying 'Go back where you came from'

    Eric Sparkes showed up during a WSB-TV interview with Rep. Erica Thomas of Austell on Saturday, outside the Atlanta-area Publix store where the incident occurred , the station reported . Thomas confronted Sparkes in front of reporters and said he had "degraded and berated" her. In a tearful Facebook video posted Friday, Thomas said she was in the express line because she is nine months pregnant and cannot stand for long.


  • Kenyan finance minister arrested on graft charges

    Kenyan Finance Minister Henry Rotich was arrested on Monday on suspicion of financial misconduct related to the construction of two dams, an unprecedented detention of a sitting minister for corruption in a country notorious for graft. Rotich denied any wrongdoing in a large newspaper advertisement in March. Rotich and 27 co-accused face eight charges, ranging from conspiring to defraud and financial misconduct, said Noordin Haji, the director of public prosecutions.


  • 2020 Candidates Delayed Paying Staff to Look Richer on Paper

    Drew Angerer/GettyFor months, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) presidential campaign made regular payments to its staff and vendors, with varying daily expenditures that never exceeded $335,000. But on April 1, 2019, the campaign’s spending exploded.Whereas Klobuchar’s campaign spent an average of about $55,000 per day through the end of June, according to FEC filings, it dropped a whopping $624,000 on the first day of April, including a $300,000 payment to the campaign’s digital vendor.  That massive uptick in expenses was likely due to the fact that April 1 marked the beginning of the new fundraising quarter. By putting off the payments until then, Klobuchar was able to put the best possible spin on her presidential campaign’s financial position during the previous three months. If those expenses had come a day earlier, Klobuchar’s cash on hand figure would have been roughly $6.35 million. Instead, the campaign was able to claim roughly $7 million in reserves—a sum that placed her among the better-positioned Democrats in the presidential race. A Daily Beast review of campaign finance records indicates that the delayed-expenses strategy has continued through the just completed cycle, and has involved payments to campaign staffers as well.Klobuchar Gets Barr to Defend Trump Over and Over AgainKlobuchar, whose campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment, is one of at least four Democratic presidential candidates who appear to have skipped a staff payday at the end of June, putting off that pay period until the beginning of the following month and hence transferring the expense to the next quarter’s balance sheets.Virtually every campaign engages in forms of accounting gimmicks in order to enhance their financial standings. Veterans of past and current races say that it is common to try and delay spending to future quarters in order to bolster cash reserves that have to reported at filing deadlines. That pressure is particularly acute in elections with crowded fields (such as the 2020 Democratic primary) when reporters, donors, and voters are ever attuned to any signs of momentum or lack thereof.For some campaigns, the ability to put off a payroll payment—whether by design or coincidence—made a substantial difference. That’s most true for the Klobuchar campaign, which reported $186,000 in salary expenditures on its last reported pay day, June 15.Federal Election Commission records indicate that the campaign was otherwise paying staffers on the 15th and last day of each month. But no paychecks went out at the end of June, according to its second quarter financial filing. Klobuchar didn’t simply eliminate those expenses by postponing the last payroll payment of the second quarter. That’s because her campaign appears to have put off its last pay period of the first quarter as well after writing salary checks on February 20, February 28, and March 15, the next payments went out on April 1. But her staff, and accompanying payroll expenses, were larger in June than in March. And at some point, she will either have to make all wage payments or simply not pay her staff. And by kicking the can down the road, she has been able to avoid taking the hit on a campaign finance filing for the time being. Three other campaigns also departed from previous payroll schedules by skipping end-of-month paychecks last month, according to a review of campaign finance records. Rep. John Delaney’s (D-MD) campaign said the change in schedule was simply a product of switching to a new payroll management service that restructured that schedule.Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) both attributed it to the fact that June 30 was a Sunday, so checks went out the following day. But it’s common practice for employers to send out paychecks on the preceding Friday when paydays fall on a weekend. The decision to do so the following Monday served, intentionally or not, to boost apparent cash-on-hand figures at the end of the quarter in a way that shrouded the campaigns’ actual liabilities.There’s nothing improper or problematic with structuring campaign payments in order to present the best possible picture of its financial situation. But an understanding that campaigns do so, and how they do so, can give the public a better grasp of the financial standing of the various political camps vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination.Delayed payroll payments can be relatively small fractions of total cash on hand figures. But campaign staffers are not heavily compensated employees to begin with. And the absence of a regular paycheck—even by just a matter of days—can cause life complications. “I haven’t heard of this practice before but I am not surprised,” said Kim McMurray, an executive council member of the Campaign Workers Guild and a former organizer for 2020 contender Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “FEC timing deadlines are such an important moment for campaigns to show enthusiasm, support, etc. so campaigns want to show the largest number possible.”“It is very disappointing if this came at the expense of the workers,” McMurray added.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


  • US sanctions Chinese oil trader for violating Iran restrictions: Pompeo

    The United States is placing a leading Chinese oil importer on its sanctions blacklist for trading in Iranian crude, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday. "As part of that maximum pressure campaign, I am announcing that the United States is imposing sanctions on the Chinese entity Zhuhai Zhenrong and its chief executive Youmin Li," Pompeo said in a speech.


  • 10 Surprising Moon Facts! (That Were Totally Wrong)


  • F-35s Go to War: Why Israel's Strike on Syria Was so Successful

    The Israeli Air-force had apparently been waiting for a provocation as the resulting counterattack against the launchers and the Iranian military infrastructure was an overwhelming one. On May 9th the Iranian Quds force that belongs into the Revolutionary Guards Corps launched a rocket salvo against the Israeli forces in the Golan heights. The IDF had anticipated the move and placed several Iron Dome batteries to protect the region, so the attack did very little damage and several rockets were shot down.There have been conflicting reports on whether the weapon used to attack Israel was a Russian built BM-27 Uragan or an indigenous Iranian Fajr-5.The Fajr-5 system is an indigenous Iranian 333 mm artillery rocket that is mounted on Mercedes-Benz 2624 trucks in 4-tube launchers. System has a maximum range of 75 km and rather abysmal accuracy with a 3 km CEP. Combination of a 900 kg class conventional warhead and the low accuracy makes the FAJR-5 more of a terror weapon than any kind of precision battlefield instrument.The Israeli Air-force had apparently been waiting for a provocation as the resulting counterattack against the launchers and the Iranian military infrastructure was an overwhelming one. Unlike in the response for the February drone incident, the IAF was well prepared with a large strike package that had a sizable SEAD element on hand.


  • Conspiracy theorist punched by Buzz Aldrin still insists moon landing was fake

    Bart Sibrel, a filmmaker and conspiracy theorist punched by Buzz Aldrin, has centered his career around disproving the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.


  • Trump has not built single mile of new border wall since taking office

    It was the controversial campaign promise that Donald Trump built his 2016 electoral success on: to build what he called a “big beautiful wall” on the US border with Mexico.But, two and half years after he took office, supporters – who were so enamoured by the idea, they regularly chanted in favour of the structure – may be forgiven for wondering where exactly it is.Now, it has emerged that not a single new stretch of border wall has been built since Mr Trump took office in January 2017.A statement released by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency confirmed the 51 miles of fencing completed since Mr Trump took power has simply replaced barriers that already existed.No original wall or fencing has been created in areas that previously did not have any, it said.That is despite the fact that a total of 205 miles of both new and replacement wall and fencing has already been budgeted for since Mr Trump took office – including via the Treasury Forfeiture Fund which the president redirected through controversial executive action in February.Speaking anonymously to the Washington Examiner, a senior official in the Trump administration said engineers could move faster on so-called replacement projects than entirely new stretches of fence because the approval process for environmental and zoning permits was less extensive.Another official blamed Democrats for obstructing progress. He told the newspaper: “The wall projects are moving along as quickly as practicably possible given the unprecedented obstruction from Democrat lawmakers to protect and prolong open borders.”Yet it seems the lack of progress will not deter Mr Trump from making the wall a central part of his 2020 election campaign.When crowds took up their now familiar refrain of “build that wall" at a recent rally in El Paso, Texas, Mr Trump responded by telling them: “Now, you really mean 'finish that wall,' because we've built a lot of it.”The CBP recently said it will be continuing to build the approximately 205 miles of wall that have been funded so far this year, using Treasury Forfeiture Fund money that Mr Trump seized in February after the partial government shutdown.The Trump administration was sued for taking $6.6bn from the military and other departments to be used for building the border wall after Congress refused to grant the president the money he had requested.


  • Millions of Barrels of Iranian Oil Are Piled Up in China’s Ports

    (Bloomberg) -- Tankers are offloading millions of barrels of Iranian oil into storage tanks at Chinese ports, creating a hoard of crude sitting on the doorstep of the world’s biggest buyer.Two and a half months after the White House banned the purchase of Iran’s oil, the nation’s crude is continuing to be sent to China where it’s being put into what’s known as “bonded storage,” say people familiar with operations at several Chinese ports. This supply doesn’t cross local customs or show up in the nation’s import data, and isn’t necessarily in breach of sanctions. While it remains out of circulation for now, its presence is looming over the market.The store of oil has the potential to push down global prices if Chinese refiners decide to draw on it, even as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies curb production as growth slows in major economies. It also allows Iran to keep pumping and move oil nearer to potential buyers.“Iranian oil shipments have been flowing into Chinese bonded storage for some months now, and continue to do so despite increased scrutiny,” said Rachel Yew, an analyst at industry consultant FGE in Singapore. “We can see why the producer would want to do so, as a build-up of supplies near key buyers is clearly beneficial for a seller, especially if sanctions are eased at some point.”See also: Iranian Oil Tanker Daniel Enters Chinese Port: Ship TrackingThere could be more of the Persian Gulf state’s oil headed for China’s bonded storage tanks, Bloomberg tanker-tracking data show. At least ten very large crude carriers and two smaller vessels owned by the state-run National Iranian Oil Co. and its shipping arm are currently sailing toward the Asian nation or idling off its coast. They have a combined carrying capacity of over 20 million barrels.The bulk of Iranian oil in China’s bonded tanks is still owned by Tehran and therefore not in breach of sanctions, according to the people. The oil hasn’t crossed Chinese customs so it’s theoretically in transit.Some of the crude, though, is owned by Chinese entities that may have received it as part of oil-for-investment schemes. For example, one of the Asian nation’s companies could have helped fund a production project in Iran under an agreement to be repaid in kind. Whether this sort of transaction is in breach of sanctions isn’t clear, and so the firms are keeping it in bonded storage to avoid the official scrutiny it would if it’s registered with customs, according to the people.Nobody replied to a faxed inquiry to China’s General Administration of Customs.Lack of ClarityThe build-up of Iranian oil in Chinese bonded storage has yet to be clearly addressed by Washington. The White House ended waivers allowing some countries to keep importing Iranian oil on May 2.There are currently no exemptions issued to any country for the import of Iranian oil, and any nation seen importing cargoes from the Persian Gulf producer will be in breach of sanctions, according to a senior Trump administration official, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.“The U.S. will now need to define how it quantifies the infringement of sanctions,” said Michal Meidan, director of the China Energy Programme at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. There’s a lack of clarity on whether it would look at “financial transactions or the loading and discharge of cargoes by company or entity,” she said.See also: China Buying Iran LPG Despite Sanctions, Ship-Tracking ShowsChina received about 12 million tons of Iranian crude from January through May, according to ship-tracking data, versus about 10 million that cleared customs over the period. The discrepancy could be due to the flow of oil into bonded storage. China will release June trade data that will include a country-by-country breakdown of oil imports in the coming days.One of the Iranian tankers that appears to have loaded oil after the U.S. waivers ended is VLCC Horse. It discharged at Tianjin in early-July after sailing from the Middle East, where shipping data showed it signaling its destination as Iran’s Kharg Island on May 4.Several other Iran-owned tankers offloaded in China or were heading there, according to ship tracking data. VLCC Stream discharged at Tianjin on June 19, while Amber, Salina and C. Infinity offloaded crude at the ports of Huangdao, Jinzhou and Ningbo. Snow, Sevin and Maria III were last seen sailing in the direction of China.Putting crude into bonded tanks in China also means Iran can avoid having to tie up part of its tanker fleet by storing the oil at sea for months at a time. The Islamic Republic used floating storage in 2012 to 2016 and again in 2018 as buyers shunned its crude due to U.S.-imposed trade restrictions.Should the Iranian crude leave bonded storage and end up in the market, it could pressure oil prices, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. West Texas Intermediate plunged more than 20% from late April to mid-June as the U.S.-China trade war intensified. It’s since recovered some of those losses, partly as a result of the rising tension between Washington and Tehran, and is trading near $57 a barrel.“A further escalation in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods could jointly drive global economic growth a lot lower and encourage Iran-China cooperation,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a June note. “If Chinese refiners start to purchase Iran oil in large volumes on a sustained basis as U.S. tariffs rise again, WTI could drop to $40 a barrel.”(Updates with mention of June trade data in 12th paragraph.)\--With assistance from Nick Wadhams.To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Serene Cheong in Singapore at scheong20@bloomberg.net;Sarah Chen in Beijing at schen514@bloomberg.net;Alfred Cang in Singapore at acang@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Serene Cheong at scheong20@bloomberg.net, Andrew JanesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


  • Mexico, US to launch plan against arms smuggling at border

    The Mexican government said Monday it has reached agreement with the United States for a joint operation to combat gun smuggling along the U.S. border after seeing a spike in the number of illegal firearms detected. Seizures of assault rifles in Mexico are up 122% so far this year. Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico's military would coordinate with U.S. authorities to launch anti-gun-smuggling operations in five Mexican border cities — Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros.


  • Huawei secretly helped North Korea build, maintain wireless network: Washington Post

    Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL], the Chinese company put on a U.S. blacklist because of national security concerns, secretly helped North Korea build and maintain its commercial wireless network, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing sources and internal documents. The Chinese telecommunications giant partnered with a state-owned Chinese firm, Panda International Information Technology Co Ltd., on a number of projects in North Korea over at least eight years, the Post reported. Sources briefed on the matter confirmed the Commerce Department has been investigating Huawei since 2016 and is reviewing whether the company violated export control rules in relation to sanctions on North Korea.


  • Vigilante Armies Are Fighting Mexican Drug Cartels, but Whose Side Are They Really on?

    Jorge Lopez/ReutersFILO DE CABALLOS, Mexico—The assault force rolls through this small mountain town not long after dark. Traveling in a fleet of pick-ups with about 15 men in each truck, they are dressed in pixelated camouflage uniforms and ballistic vests and at first glance they look like official army units, but their weapons give them away. Many of these commandos carry AK-47 model assault rifles, which aren’t used by the Mexican armed forces.The logo stamped on the doors of the trucks shows a figure from the Mexican Revolution wearing a sombrero and brandishing a rifle astride a charging horse. Below that are the words Policia Comunitaria, or community police, and a phrase which, roughly translated from Spanish, reads: “Death before surrender or humiliation.”The men in the trucks are members of the United Front of Community Police of Guerrero State, better known by its Spanish acronym of FUPCEG. Tonight FUPCEG’s shock troops are on their way to assault the nearby town of El Naranjo, which is currently held by the forces of an organized crime group called the Cartel del Sur.“We fight to free communities that have been isolated by the criminals,” says a squad leader who asks to be identified only as “El Burro” in an interview with The Daily Beast. “Everyone has a right to security. And to economic freedom. Campesinos [small farmers] and their children shouldn’t suffer under the rule of bandits,” Burro says. “The people of this town have asked us for help, and so that’s what we’re going to do.”El Burro says he got his nickname, which means “the donkey,”  because he can bear heavy loads a great distance despite his slight stature. In his backpack he carries several cans of tuna and crackers and canteens of water. His battle harness holds some 300 rounds of ammunition for his AK-47. Later tonight he’ll lead his squad on foot through the dense pine forests that surround El Naranjo, until they reach the pre-assigned rendezvous point. From there the coordinated strike force will crawl on their bellies until they’re in sight of the cartel stronghold, then wait for dawn to attack.Burro is a veteran of a dozen such engagements with the comunitarios and says he’s personally registered 20 confirmed kills of sicarios, the cartels’ contract killers. A former farmer, he joined the movement “because I was tired of hearing the people’s cries for help go unanswered.”The Cartel del Sur is known for its brutal tactics, including torturing prisoners, and for that reason Burro says he prefers death on the battlefield to being captured by los contras,  as he calls members of the Cartel del Sur.“Will I come back from where I go tonight?” he asks rhetorically. “And if I don’t,” he says, “will my family understand what I died for?”  * * *‘We Have To Protect Ourselves’* * *FUPCEG is an alliance of civilian autodefensas, or self-defense groups, that boasts about 11,700 fighters across 39 municipalities in Guerrero, meaning they’re now present in about half the state. Similar communitario movements have sprung up across Mexico over the last decade, but FUPCEG is by far the largest of its kind.The spike in vigilante militias has polarized public opinion. Some observers see them as noble freedom fighters who succeed where traditional law enforcement has failed. Critics claim the autodefensas and comunitarios (the words are often used interchangeably in Mexico) are at best undisciplined mobs and at worst cartel patsies who do the criminals’ grunt work for them. Either way, their power is growing. A new study by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission suggests vigilante activity is up by more than 300 percent since the start of 2018, and blames the increase on “insecurity, violence, and impunity.”Mexico’s Game of BonesIn fact, violence in Mexico has reached historic levels this year, with the country averaging an all-time high of 94 killings a day through the first half of 2019. Both 2017 and 2018 also broke previous murder records. As one autodefensa fighter put it, repeating what has become a kind of mantra, "If the government can't protect us, then we have no choice left but to protect ourselves."FUPCEG’s founder and leader is 40-year-old Salvador Alanis. A Guerrero native, Alanis is something of a polymath. An economist by training, he’s also worked as an electrical engineer in North Carolina, and at one time owned several successful fruit and cattle ranches in his home state. Those ranches are gone now. Some were sold off to help fund Alanis’s crime-fighting endeavors, while others have been seized by the mafia groups he opposes.“I spent 12 years working in the U.S.,” Alanis says during an interview in the FUPCEG base in the strategically vital town of Filo de Caballos, high in the sierra of central Guerrero. “In the States I came to know a better life, a better world. I came to take safety for granted,” he says, “but there’s no security like that in Mexico.”The lack of security is even more pronounced in Guerrero, which is Mexico’s leading exporter of opium and heroin, and perennially listed as one of the country’s most dangerous and politically corrupt regions. It doesn’t help that government law enforcement here is undermanned.“We have an insufficient number of police officers to go around,” says Roberto Álvarez Heredia, the state’s security spokesperson. “We need about three times as many cops and public prosecutors as we have,” he says, “and the ones we do have need better salaries.”Recently elected President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, has touted his newly created Guardia Nacional as a solution to peacekeeping efforts in places like Guerrero, but Alanis remains unimpressed:“So they just sent 3,500 Guardias to Guerrero,” he says, when asked about the new policing initiative. “The last president sent 5,000 soldiers and they couldn’t do anything against the cartels, because the criminals just paid them off. Everyone has a price,” he adds.Still, Alanis is willing to give the Guardia a chance.“We’re going to let them in [to our territory] and see if they behave themselves. See if they’re corrupt, or if they abuse their power. In the past the soldiers used to enter and search any house they pleased, and that’s why we had to run them out. We’re glad to be friends [with the Guardia], but we won’t be their slaves.”* * *A Question of War* * *As protection against a cartel counter thrust, FUPCEG troops man fortified checkpoints at regular intervals all along State Road 196. Here in Filo, Alanis and his command crew are headquartered in what used to be the largest hotel in town. The long, two-story building was abandoned when FUPCEG occupied Filo after a prolonged firefight back in November of 2018. Pocked by bullet holes inside and out, the building no longer has running water, and electricity is intermittent, but the community kitchen in the lobby is always full of gossip and the smell of spicy cooking. During this interview, Alanis sits in what was once the hotel’s main office. He’s stockily built, dressed in a sky-blue Oxford shirt left open at the throat and wearing square-rimmed photochromic glasses. Clear mountain sunshine drifts in through the shot-up windows. In one corner of the room stands a derelict arcade game titled, coincidentally enough, Streetfighter II.When he came back in 2010, Alanis says he found his home town of Ocotito overrun by organized crime.“Murder, kidnapping, extortion, theft. The cartels ruled the state and they’d packed the government and police forces with corrupt officials, so there was no one to challenge them,” he says. After surviving two kidnapping attempts, Alanis decided to take matters into his own hands to “restore justice” to Guerrero.At first it was just himself and a handful of other ranchers, but slowly the movement gathered support. By 2015 their forces numbered several hundred comunitarios operating out of a string of liberated communities around the state capital of Chilpancingo. But he’d made a number of powerful enemies in the process, including capos from the Rojos, Tequileros, and Guerreros Unidos cartels. When those crime groups launched a series of counter-attacks aimed at taking back the newly freed townships, Alanis’ civilian militias were quickly overwhelmed. “We had an army of shop owners and farm workers,” he says in the office of the ramshackle hotel. He unholsters a chrome-plated 10 mm pistol to make himself more comfortable and sets it on the desk before him. “Many of our men didn’t really know how to use their weapons. Meanwhile, we were facing off against experienced and well-armed sicarios, and we couldn’t beat them in battle. It was a question of war, and we weren’t up to the task. We were weak and lacking strategy.”Those factors—along with the defection of some of his most trusted officers, one of whom ran off with his wife—combined to spell defeat for Alanis. His forces scattered and, still hunted by the cartels, he fled to the mountains and went into hiding.“They took everything from him,” says Jackie Pérez, an independent journalist based in Chilpancingo, and an expert on the state’s autodefensa groups. “Salvador lost his livestock, his farmland, even his wife,” she says. “But he’s very intelligent and very patient. He was able to persevere, and come back stronger than ever.”Pérez goes on to compare Alanis to Mexican freedom fighters of the past like Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa, at least in terms of tactics. “He doesn’t want to overthrow the government,” she says. “But he is willing to go outside the system to fight for the people’s right to freedom from certain forms of oppression.”In order to continue that fight after being drubbed by the contras, Alanis knew he’d have to change his game plan.“We’d been outnumbered and defeated,” he says. “Now it was time to change strategies.” Part of that strategic shift involved developing a broad network of spies and informants, many of them women, to keep him informed of his enemies’ movements and activities.“Know your enemy as you know yourself,” he quotes Sun Tzu from memory, “and in a hundred battles you will never be defeated.”* * *Controlling The Sierra* * *Alanis isn’t the first comunitario leader forced to revamp his approach after an initial setback. Many other grassroots vigilante groups have cropped up in Mexico to oppose organized crime, only to find they lack the manpower and budget to keep up the fight over time. Unfortunately, that often leads to alliances with well-heeled drug lords, who then use the militias as proxy groups to wage war on their rivals.Guerrero expert Chris Kyle, a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says that pattern has been in play for years.“Since 2013 there’s been an explosion of community policing groups in Guerrero,” says Kyle in a phone interview with The Daily Beast. While villages with native indigenous populations that pre-date the Spanish conquest are legally allowed to form such units under Mexico’s constitution, the proliferation of non-indigenous figures “claiming to be community police has baffled authorities.”The swift spread of the comunitarios is related directly to a lack of effective security measures, according to Kyle.“If the state would provide security, many of these groups would likely stand down,” he says. In the absence of state power, however, and due to a lack of sufficient resources to operate long-term on their own, many vigilante squads become co-opted.“The drug trafficking organizations take advantage of them,” Kyle says, because the community police provide the cartels with “a semi-legitimate wing that extends their reach.”Alanis’s FUPCEG umbrella group includes both indigenous and mestizo, or mixed race, cells from all over the state, including the Regional Coordinator for Community Authorities  (CRAC), the oldest and most respected such organization in Mexico. Even so, Alanis admits that part of his revised strategy involved aligning with certain deep-pocketed backers. He claims that instead of working on behalf of a crime syndicate, he’s merely defending free enterprise.This may strike drug enforcement authorities in the United States as a distinction without a difference, but here in Guerrero such distinctions matter.Alanis says that in fact he is not opposed to campesinos growing poppies, since that's the only crop that pays enough to support many families in the sierra. What he's opposed to, as he puts it, is how the Cartel del Sur seeks to drive out competitors, keep prices low, and control poppy farmers through violence and intimidation."The people should be able to grow [poppies] if they want to. Or not, as they see fit. That's up to them. But nobody should be forced to sell [opium gum] at an unfair price to a single buyer. Nobody should be threatened or forced to worry about their family’s safety. All we want is for the people to live in peace,” he says, back in his bullet-riddled HQ.“The Cartel del Sur wants to control the whole sierra,” he adds. “They want to own a monopoly on poppy gum and heroin production, and also extort from shop owners, taxi drivers, you name it. Other businessmen I know want an open market for poppies up here, and they understand that requires healthy local economies. So that’s why they help us fight the contras.”To launch a full-scale assault like the one that liberated Filo would be impossible without outside financial support, according to Alanis. The Filo battle involved some 3,000 comunitarios and hundreds of trucks to ferry them, he explains. When the cost of ammunition, gas, and fighters’ salaries are factored in, a single campaign can cost about 300,000 pesos [about $15,700] per hour. And the Filo firefight alone last for more than seven hours.“We need their help,” he says, referring to those independent opium gum buyers who help fund FUPCEG’s efforts, “but they need us too. If part of the money to liberate the people must come from opium, I’m willing to accept that equation,” the economist by training says.* * *Terrorizing The Resistance* * *During a series of independent interviews conducted in Filo de Caballos and surrounding communities it becomes clear that, prior to liberation by Alanis and his cohorts, local citizens had suffered greatly under rule by the Cartel del Sur.Run by Isaac Navarette Celis, one of Mexico’s most wanted men, the Cartel del Sur specializes in the production and northbound transport of China White, a particularly potent  form of heroin. Navarette is a relative newcomer to Guerrero’s populous criminal underworld, first announcing his arrival back in 2016. Younger drug lords like Navarette often are especially bloodthirsty as they attempt to carve out a competitive niche against established rivals. Residents in the swath of towns and villages formerly under Navarette’s control describe a reign of terror that included kidnappings for ransom, forcing young people to work as sicarios under threat of death, mass killings, crippling extortion rates, and random violence that caused schools, clinics, and small businesses to be shuttered indefinitely.“We denounced the criminals to the police many times but they never did anything to help us,” says Reina Maldonado, 53. Maldonado was married to the comisario, or sheriff, of a village called Corralitos. Last June several sicarios from the Cartel del Sur kidnapped Reina’s husband from their home and brought him to a local safehouse. “He wouldn’t back down from them. He defied their orders and bribes, so they took him,” she said. When Maldonado’s husband’s body was found, she explains, he showed signs of having been tortured and had been shot multiple times.“They killed him to terrorize the village against resistance,” the sheriff's widow says, “but that didn’t work.” Hours after the comisario was reported missing, Alanis arrived with hundreds of comandos to battle it out with those responsible for his murder. Four cartel members were killed in the ensuing firefight, and the rest fled in armored vehicles. According to Maldonado, they haven’t been back to Corralitos since.“Life here is much better now,” she says, as she walks around the ruins of the house where her husband’s body was found. Many of the families that had fled Corralitos under cartel rule have since returned, and the shops and fruit stands that line the small main street are again open for business.“We’re still poor,” Maldonado says, “but at least now we’re safe.”* * *Government Silence* * *Ruperto Pacheco Vega, 44, the mayor of Filo de Caballo, agrees with Maldonado’s assessment:“Many businesses were completely shut down under [Navarette’s] cartel,” he says. “There was no commerce, nobody could move. The store owners couldn’t make a profit due to extortion, and many people were out of work.”Even worse, Vega says, was the cartel’s habit of impressing young men into its service. “They wanted our boys to join them, put on their colors, and fight against Salvador and the comunitarios.” To decline the cartel’s “invitation,” he says, was punishable by death. In contrast, the mayor explains that Alanis has helped local communities diversify their economies. The financial backbone of the region has long been poppy cultivation to produce opium gum to sell to the cartels to make heroin. But a recent drop in the price of heroin (apparently due to U.S. users preferring synthetic opioids like Fentanyl) has caused a backlash among growers. According to Vega, Alanis has been instrumental in helping the farmers develop detailed crop substitution plans in order to replace illicit poppy plots with legal alternatives like avocado, peaches, pears, and lemons.“The government says we mustn’t grow poppies, and that’s fine with us. So we sent them precise and detailed petitions asking for basic subsidies until the [fruit] trees reach maturity,” says Vega, riffing through signed and stamped copies of the official documents addressed to various politicians in Mexico City, including President López Obrador. As with local authorities who ignore cartel malfeasance, it seems the bid for federal assistance to produce legal crops has also fallen on deaf ears.“Their offices acknowledged receipt of our requests,” Vega says, “but we never heard anything back from them.”* * *A Question Of Ethics* * *For all the careful planning put into it, El Burro’s assault on the cartel-held town of El Naranjo didn’t go as expected.“Somebody must’ve talked because they were waiting for us,” says El Burro, in the aftermath of the failed offensive. “They had a damned mortar and belt-fed machine guns. We killed a few of them but we then we had to pull back.”Now rumors are swirling around town that Navarette’s men are planning a counter-attack to retake Filo. Comunitarios run in and out of the lobby of the bombed-out hotel, fetching weapons and ammunition from stockpiles in the armory. Meanwhile Alanis sits surrounded by cell phones and a half-dozen radios, diligently coordinating with units in the field and his mysterious financial backers.In answer to a question about the ethics of his current line of work, Alanis waxes philosophical.“I used to have a different idea about ethics,” he says, putting down his phone. “I never accepted any drug money back when I first began to oppose [the cartels].” But, he adds, that’s also why he lost the first time around. “You see suffering like this,” and he waves his hand as if to take in the whole sierra: “You see people without work. People without health care. Children starving. Kids with no future. And you ask me about ethics?”In Alanis’s estimation, “Our worst enemy is the state, due to their alliance with organized crime. There is no democracy in Guerrero” because the cartels “rig elections” and “control the politicians,” he says.“We came up with a plan to eliminate 65 percent of the poppy plants in our territories and replace them with legal orchards, but the politicians never even answered our letters.” Alanis picks up his phone again. “Why don’t you ask them about ethics?” he says.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.