Mexico mobilizes thousands more troops to Tamaulipas amid rising violence

Mexican federal officials have mobilized thousands more military troops to violence-torn northeastern Tamaulipas state in an emergency move prompted by escalating violence—punctuated by a prison riot that left over 30 dead on Jan. 4. The move brings the total of army troops patrolling Tamaulipas to 13,000, plus thousands more navy troops and federal police agents. The deadly riot broke out at the Santa Amalia prison in the city of Altamira—a facility designed to hold 2,000 inmates but which has a population of more than 3,000. The fighting apparently pitted followers of the Gulf Cartel against adherents of the rival Zetas narco network. A similar incident left 20 dead at a prison in nearby Matamoros in October.

The Altamira bloodbath follows three Christmas week massacres in the north of Veracruz state, within a few miles of the southern Tamaulipas oil port of Tampico, that claimed at least 39 lives. In these incidents, gunmen attacked passenger buses in the municipalities of Pánuco and El Higo. On Christmas morning, Tamaulipas state police also discovered 13 bodies inside and 18-wheeler at a highway checkpoint near Tampico.

“Tamaulipas has lived terrible events,” President Felipe Calderón said last month at the inauguration of a new battallion-strength army base on the Río Grande. “This spiral of violence generated by organized crime isn’t at all a problem that surged from one day to the next. It’s an affliction that developed through the decades and that today shows its true face of evil.” (Houston Chronicle, AAP, El Chilito Networks, Jan. 5; El Universal, Jan. 3; KGBT, Harlingen, Tex. Dec. 25)

See our last post on Mexico’s narco wars.

  1. Severed heads in Torreón
    Police in Torreón, Coahuila, found the severed heads of five people at scattered points around the city Jan. 7. Officials are still searching for the bodies. The heads were found in black bags left with threatening messages. (Reuters, Vanguardia, Jan. 7)

  2. Mexican football star busted on kidnapping charges
    Nuevo León state police arrested former international star soccer goalkeeper Omar Ortíz, nicknamed “El Gato,” on suspicion of working for a gang of kidnappers in league with the Gulf Cartel. Ortíz admitted helping to pick out two rich victims for the kidnappers, said state authorities. The gang sought an average of 1 million pesos ($73,000) per victim, of which Ortíz received a cut of more than 100,000 pesos, authorities said. (Reuters, Jan. 8)