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Forecast podcast: Uptick in cartel violence drags Mexico closer to narco-state

A map of Mexico indicating the city of Chilpancingo in the state of Guerrero.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jeff Landset discuss the recent cartel attacks in central and southern Mexico, plus more on the heat wave in the U.S., elections in Spain, the second Russia-Africa summit, and Italy’s prime minister visiting the U.S. White House.

NOTE: The podcast will be off for the next two weeks so our next episode will be out August 9. In the meantime, be sure to follow us on Twitter where we’ll still be posting breaking news.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode includes writing from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Joe Veyera, Agnese Boffano, Sophie Perryer and Alex Moore. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note:

Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is July 20.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got cartel violence in Mexico, a heat wave in the U.S., elections in Spain, the second Russia-Africa summit, and Italy’s prime minister visiting the U.S. White House. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter. You can find a link to that in the show notes.

Recent cartel attacks in central and southern Mexico

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at the recent cartel attacks in Mexico. For more on that we’ve got Factal editor Jeff Landset.

JIMMY: Hi, Jeff.

JEFF: Hi, Jimmy, how are you?

JIMMY: I’m well. I’m glad you’re here. I know you’ve been following the latest cartel violence in Mexico and I’m hoping you can get us up to speed. So, what’s going on?

JEFF: Yeah, several parts of the country have seen an uptick in violence. Just this month, there have been several high profile killings, including a car bomb in the state of Jalisco that killed several police officers. And also, notably, large protests in the city of Chilpancingo that came after the arrest of two cartel suspects.

JIMMY: What’s the latest then? Where are things at now?

JEFF: Things have calmed down in the recent days since that uptick in violence, but everyone is on high alert. The population has become, quite frankly, adjusted to these violent killings and the past few weeks and this uptick of violence has actually shocked them. And so, there has been a lot of talk about the government reaction to what has been going on recently.

JIMMY: Can you say a little bit more about the government response and how has the population reacted to it?

JEFF: Sure. This uptick in violence has put the spotlight back on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, also known as AMLO. He campaigned on the slogan “Abrazos, no balazos,” which translates literally to ‘hugs, not bullets.’ He has attempted to cut down on this violence, not by focusing on arrests, but focusing on social programs and trying to get people to choose not to go into violence and instead go into other things that are less problematic. However, you know, homicides in this time have gone up and people are starting to get frustrated with a perceived lack of caring about these murders and homicides and the cartel violence.

JIMMY: Well, what should folks be walking for next then? Any signs of this violence subsiding?

JEFF: Well, several experts now believe that Mexico is even closer to becoming more of a narco-state. These cartels are stepping in and acting as governments in some places of rural Mexico. For example, Chilpancingo. The cartels there are said to have gotten people to protest against the government in the area. And there are well known examples of these cartels providing food and drink and agriculture to some of the people in the area as a way of keeping them happy and as a way of providing in the way that the government hasn’t. So, these criminals and these cartels may continue to operate in such a way as long as the government doesn’t have any political will to fight back and make any changes.

JIMMY: Well, Jeff, I guess we’ll pause there for now, but as always, thanks for your time and thank you for keeping us all informed. 

JEFF: Thanks, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care.

Heat wave continues across U.S.

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Triple-digit temperatures are forecast for wide swaths of the southern U.S. today. 

That, as a lengthy heat wave drags on.

In fact, more than 100 million people across an area stretching from California to Florida were under heat alerts this week. 

Thankfully, relief for the southeast from northern Texas and Oklahoma to the lower Mississippi Valley is expected this weekend. 

Of course, as Phoenix nears three straight weeks of daytime highs of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the city set another record yesterday with its all-time record warm low of 97. 

El Paso, Texas, has now exceeded 100 every day for more than a month.

Now, at least a dozen deaths in Texas and another in Louisiana late last month were attributed to heat-related causes, and fears linger that unplanned power outages could have devastating impacts on public health. 

Extreme heat can also cause significant issues for air travel. Several passengers were treated for heat-related issues after their flight in Las Vegas was stuck on the tarmac for several hours, before being forced to return to the terminal.

General elections in Spain

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Spain will vote in the country’s snap elections on Sunday.

Analysts warn the election could lead the country to swing to the populist right after five years under a left-wing government. 

Incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called for snap elections in May after the right-wing People’s Party, led by Alberto Núnez Feijo, won the most seats in seven regional legislatures, defeating the incumbent Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. 

To win, a party needs to receive more than half of the 350 seats in the lower house of parliament. 

The latest polls show a narrow victory for People’s Party, but neither the conservative-right nor the incumbent center-left are set to win enough votes to gain an outright majority.

Now, if no single party reaches outright majority, it will need to form a coalition in order to secure the minimum 176 seats needed to gain a majority. 

Likely coalition partners include the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and the socialist Sumar Party on the left. And on the right, the People’s Party and the ultra-right-wing VOX party. 

Led by founder Santiago Abascal, VOX has denied climate change and has been strongly against immigration

The right-wing People’s Party and VOX parties have also criticized the left-wing government’s new transgender laws and Sánchez’s pardoning of pro-independence Catalan leaders in 2021

If no coalition agreement is reached, there will be a second vote. 

Of course, no general election in Spain has been held so late into the summer before.

That’s led to criticism of this year’s polls as the country reaches record-high temperatures at a time when most citizens were set to go on vacation.

Russia-Africa summit

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: Delegates from 50 African nations will attend the second Russia-Africa summit beginning next Thursday in the Russian city of St. Petersburg.

That, as Russia seeks to shore up its budding relationships with the continent’s key powers.

The first Russia-Africa summit took place in Sochi in 2019 and was co-hosted by President Vladimir Putin and the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. 

It’s not clear whether Putin will attend the second iteration. 

Organizers say the event is designed to expand cooperation between Russia and African nations in the business, cultural, and humanitarian spheres.

They’ll also focus on reinforcing existing security ties which have been established through the presence of Wagner group mercenaries in countries such as Mali and Sudan. 

Now, the summit takes place several days after Russia refused to renew the agreement allowing grain to pass from Ukraine through the Black Sea to African nations. 

As such, Russian officials will likely be seeking to reassure African leaders they are able to replace any shortfall in grain and not compound deepening hunger crises in nations such as Somalia and Nigeria.

Biden to host Italian PM at White House

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will visit U.S. President Biden in Washington, D.C., next Thursday.

The visit will mark Meloni’s first to the United States since becoming prime minister last year. 

Topics of discussion will include the war in Ukraine and transatlantic cooperation, according to the White House. 

Additional topics of discussion will include Italy’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, as well as efforts to stabilize migration flow through the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Now, Italy became the first G7 country to join China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative in 2019, though Meloni’s government is reportedly considering pulling out of the global infrastructure development plan. 

Italian diplomats have stated that a meeting with Biden would act as a precursor to any such decision. 

Regarding the Mediterranean migrant crisis, migrant deaths in the sea have reached the highest levels in years. 

European Union and Tunisian diplomats have just struck a deal to provide development assistance in exchange for tightening migrant control, though Meloni said she will seek further assistance in this realm from the United States.

JIMMY: One final note for you, the podcast will be off for the next two weeks. A little vacation from listening to me. So our next episode will be out August 9. 

In the meantime, be sure to follow us on Twitter where we’ll still be posting breaking news.

As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode includes writing from Factal editors Joe Veyera, Agnese Boffano, Sophie Perryer and Alex Moore. Our interview featured editor Jeff Landset and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top image: Map of Chilpancingo via OpenStreetMaps