Calder贸n sends troops to border states 鈥攂ut narco-mafia rules

Mexican President Felipe Calder贸n announced Feb. 18 that he is dispatching some 3,300 army troops and federal police to combat narco-traffickers in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, two states that border Texas. Nuevo Leon capital Monterrey and the Tamaulipas border town of Nuevo Laredo, both plagued by drug violence in recent months, are especially targeted, Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan said. Soldiers have already set up roadside checkpoints in and around Monterrey to search vehicles for weapons and drugs. Since taking office Dec. 1, Calder贸n has already ordered 24,000 troops and federal police into Tijuana, Acapulco and Michoacan state in response to narco-violence that claimed over 2,000 lives last year. (San Antonio Express, Feb. 19)

Police in Tijuana got their guns back Jan. 28 three weeks after they were confiscated by federal authorities for forensics tests following claims of police involvement in gangland murders. City police initially suspended patrols after the confiscation, but some retunred to their beats with slingshots and other improvised weapons. (AP, Jan. 28) Tijuana Police Chief Victor Zatarain charges federal authorities altered three of the weapons, replacing some parts, and demands an explanation. (KPBS, San Diego, Feb. 7)

With Tijuana under martial law, the city’s Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon has launched a campaign to become governor of Baja California with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Gambling magnate Hank has long been accused of collusion with organized crime. The Tijuana newsweekly Zeta claims that Hank masterminded the 1988 murder of the tabloid鈥檚 cofounder, Hector (Felix the Cat) Miranda, and runs a full-page ad in every edition demanding justice. (MexiData, Feb. 19)

On Feb. 6, gunmen armed with AK-47s and disguised as federal soldiers attacked two police stations, killing seven, in the resort city of Acapulco, in the conflicted southern state of Guerrero. The hit men apparently videotaped the assassinations as they carried them out. Internet postings of assassination videos, complete with captions and soundtracks mocking rivals, have been all the rage in the past year. (LAT, Feb. 7)

Federal police chief Genaro Garcia Luna says Acapulco mayor Felix Salgado is under investigation for narco-corruption. Salgado, of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), says he has received a string of death threats from drug gangs, and professed his innocence in a radio interview Jan. 30. “Let them investigate, they are not going to discover anything at all.” (Reuters, Feb. 13)

On Jan. 19, Calder贸n also exrtadited ten top narco-convicts to the US鈥攊ncluding kingpins Osiel Cardenas of the Gulf Cartel, Hector Palma of the Sinaloa Cartel, and the brothers Ismael Higuera Guerrero and Gilberto Higuera Guerrero of the Tijuana Cartel. All were said to be running their crime syndicates from their prison cells. But narco-culture analyst Jorge Chabat said: “It’s like any big business. If the CEO resigns, then a new CEO takes his place.” (LAT, Jan. 21)

See our last posts on Mexico, the Drug War, the struggle for the border, Nuevo Laredo and Guerrero.

  1. Mexico to “learn from Colombia”
    Gee, more good news. From El Universal, Jan. 27:

    BOGOT脕 – Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said here Friday Mexico is seeking to draw lessons from Colombia麓s experience in battling drug cartels and violent crime.

    Medina Mora commented to reporters at the end of a two-day visit to Colombia as part of a delegation that included Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garc铆a. “We want to learn through an exchange of information with Colombia about the best way to combat organized crime,” Medina Moral said.

    He met Thursday with Colombian counterpart Mario Iguar谩n and with Colombian President 脕lvaro Uribe. The two nations plan to “exchange experiences and insight and learn from each other about common security problems.”

    In the area of drug trafficking, Medina Mora said that not only had his country become a key transport route for narcotics, but a portion of the drugs transported from Colombia to the United States also remains in Mexico to supply a burgeoning domestic market.

    The attorney general hailed the Uribe administration麓s “democratic security” program – known primarily as a U.S.-backed effort to battle leftist guerrillas who are also heavily involved in the drug trade – noting that it also includes complementary social programs.

    Referring to Uribe麓s policies, Medina Mora said they are part of “a comprehensive, integrating vision that encompasses the social and political dimension and not just the police operational dimension in battling this type of problem.”

    The attorney general noted also that the two countries in 2003 formed the High-Level Security and Justice Group, a joint effort to fight drug- and arms-trafficking.

  2. More violence in Nuevo Laredo
    From Reuters, Feb. 19:

    Gunmen wound Mexican congressman as drug war rages

    MEXICO CITY – Gunmen gravely wounded a Mexican federal congressman and killed his driver on Monday after ambushing his vehicle outside a lawless border city at the center of a nationwide drug war, local media reported.

    Opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party lawmaker Horacio Garza was rushed to hospital after being shot in the neck, leg and arm near the city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexican television, newspapers and radio reported.

    The city across the border from Laredo, Texas, has seen some of the worst violence in a battle between warring drug cartels that killed 2,000 people last year and is still raging despite a military onslaught ordered by President Felipe Calderon.

    Garza and his driver were on the road to Nuevo Laredo’s airport when gunmen surrounded them in several vehicles and opened fire. The driver died at the scene, media reported.

    The shooting came a day after Mexico said it was beefing up security in the border state of Tamaulipas where Nuevo Laredo is located, and in the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon.