US closes Reynosa consular office as Mexican narco-violence spirals
The US has temporarily closed its consular office in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, after a wave of armed violence between narco gangs in the area. The office, located across from McAllen, Tex., will remain closed until further notice. The "Warden Message" was issued by the consulate in Matamoros "to advise US citizens of recent gun battles in Reynosa, Mexico, and cities surrounding Reynosa in the last week."
US media accounts cited Reynosa authorities saying the violence pitted the Gulf Cartel against Los Zetas (two groups heretofore thought to be closely allied). But local media reports portrayed conflcit between narco-gunmen and the authorities. On Feb. 23, gunmen in as many as 20 vehicles reportedly clashed with members of the Mexican military and municipal police in Ciudad Mier, just west of Reynosa, in a daytime gunfight that resulted in the abduction of 10 municipal police officers. Video from the shooting scene showed abandoned police SUVs with bullet holes and broken windows. A damaged red truck with the insignia CDG—Spanish acronym for the Gulf Cartel—was shown being towed from the scene. (AlJazeera, Feb. 27; CNN, Feb. 26))
US agents active in Juárez
The office of Mexican President Felpe Calderón admitted this week that US agents are active in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico's most violent city, directly across from El Paso, Tex. Calderón advisor Antonio Vivanco Casamadrid, in a public "chat" on the government website Todos Somos Juárez Feb. 25, said: "Agents of the United States collaborate [with Mexico], fundamentally in the area of interchange of intelligence information. In the case of Ciudad Juárez, coordinated action across the border is very important, such as control of transit and pursuit of...suspects." (Informador, Feb. 26)
On Feb. 26, the Mexican military announced the dismantling of a kidnapping gang in Ciudad Juárez known as "El Stich y El Neto," and said one victim had been rescued in a joint operation with Chihuahua state police. Ten accused gang members were arrested, including four minors. (Milenio, Feb. 26)
In the state capital, Ciudad Chihuahua, deputy municipal police chief Antonio Olague Ríos, was assassinated in a drive-by shooting outside an elementary school as his wife, son and other students and parents looked on. Olague, a 20-year veteran of the city police force who had received training in the US, was dropping his 8-year-old son off at school when the assailants opened fire. Olague was hit by eight bullets. (AP, El Diario, Juárez, Feb. 25)
Assassination plot in Tijuana
On Feb. 25, police in the Baja California border city of Tijuana arrested four men on suspicion of links to a plot to kill the municipal police chief, Julian Leyzaola. Authorities said the four were detained with five assault rifles. They said tests confirmed one rifle was the same used in a recent shootout in which gunmen disguised their vehicles as Mexican army units in a bid to kill Leyzaola. The four are believed be working for Tijuana Cartel kingpin Teodoro García Simental AKA "El Teo", who was captured on Jan. 12. (AP, Frontera.info, Tijuana, Feb. 25)
US targets Michoacán's "Familia"
In Michoacán, police on Feb. 25 found the tortured, half-burned bodies of two men apparently killed by a chemical substance injected into their veins. The bodies were found dumped on different streets in Morelia, the state capital.
Also Feb. 25, the US embassy in Mexico City announced that the United States has named seven leaders of the Michoacán-based "La Familia" cartel as "specially designated narcotics traffickers," prohibiting US citizens and firms from having any business dealings with them and freezing any US assets. Those designated under the so-called "Kingpin Act" include the cartel's alleged leader, Nazario Moreno González. (AP, Feb. 25)
Some 90 campesinos armed with clubs and sticks blocked the main coastal highway through Michoacán Feb. 25 to demand that authorities apprehend the kidnappers of Javier Martínez, a local councilor in the village of Aquila. Martínez, from the indigenous community of Santa María de Ostula, was abducted by unknown gunmen in a restaurant in the center of Aquila. (ANSA, Feb. 25)
Severed heads in Oaxaca, Guerrero
In Oaxaca, state police reported finding a man's severed head in a plastic cooler in Puerto Escondido Feb. 25, along with a handwritten message saying, "This is what is going to happen to all the kidnappers, rapists and those who jump ship." Another severed head was found a day earlier in a backpack in San Dionisio Ocotepec, with a message reading: "This is what is going to happen to all the pushers and buyers who don't obey us. Respectfully, Los Zetas."
In neighboring Guerrero, a man's severed head was left in a plastic bag outside a grade school in Chilpancingo, the state capital. A message was left with the head, but police did not reveal its contents. (Milenio, Feb. 26; AP)