Three days after the inauguration of a new police station in the town of Los Ramones, 60-km outside Monterrey on the Matamoros highway, gunmen pulverized the building with high caliber weapons and grenades (3 exploded of 6 launched) during a midnight attack. Five officers were in the building at the time of the attack; none were injured. Today, all 14 policemen in the town of 6,000 resigned. The state highway police and the Army have assumed responsibility for law enforcement. (Universal 10/26, Reforma 10/26)
President Calderón sent forward revisions to the military criminal code to bring Mexico into compliance with the rulings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights by making soldiers and sailors accused of the crimes of torture, forcible disappearance, and rape subject to prosecution in civilian courts. The law would require military investigators to refer cases where there was probable cause to the federal investigating magistrate. Those accused and convicted would continue to be held in military, not civilian, prisons. (Universal 10/19)
The rollup of the Beltrán Leyva cartel continued with the arrest in Puebla of another senior figure, Sergio Villarreal Barragán, by Marines. Villareal is believed to be the #2 in the cartel under Héctor Beltran Leyva, who has tried to assume leadership since the killing of his brother Arturo by marines last December. In addition, several Colombian liaisons of the cartel in Mexico were arrested. (Universal 9/13)
Of the eight Beltrán Leyva cartel members for whom the PGR offered rewards last year, six have now been captured or killed. None of the other cartels has been hit as hard by the security forces.
After Federal Police Commissioner Facundo Rosas detailed an account of an elaborate operation to capture Édgardo Valdez, “El Barbie,” at a safe house in Mexico State on August 30th (14 month investigation, 1,400 Federal Police operatives in three concentric circles, etc.), alternative narratives started to circulate. Speculation, fed by the lack of force during the arrest of the senior cartel figure and El Barbie’s enigmatic smile in his arrest photos, centered on a negotiated surrender. According to El Universal, Valdez was arrested almost by accident, when his three-car convoy was arrested for speeding, and he promptly identified himself and gave a detailed confession of his crimes as a drug chieftain. The Ministry of Public Security issued a statement saying, “The specific operational details and the intelligence will continue to be confidential, in order to maintain operational advantage in current and future operations,” without denying the press stories. (Universal 9/8, 9/13, SSP 9/8, Reforma 9/12)
A senior field commander called for the public not to lose confidence in the military after the accidental shooting of a family last week. Soldiers opened fire on a sedan that failed to stop at a military checkpoint on the Monterrey-Laredo highway, killing the father and his 15-year-old son and wounding five others. General Cuauhtémoc Antúnez, the commander of the 7th Military Region where the incident occurred, said that no one in the military was above the law, and that military justice would be impartial. A captain, a non-commissioned officer, and two soldiers have been arrested on homicide charges in the incident. The General also expressed the sorrow of the armed forces at the incident. (Universal 9/13, Reforma 9/13)
In a major breakthrough, the Army announced that Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, one of the three top leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, was killed during an operation by Army special forces in the exclusive San Javier district of Guadalajara. A force of around 150 soldiers surrounded the two houses where Coronel was believed to be with his bodyguards. Power, telephone, and cellphone service was cut off in the neighborhood to aid the operation. The Army said the operation began in May, when they began tracking Coronel’s whereabouts. He was reportedly shot after he fired on the soldiers, killing one and wounding another. The Army also arrested Irán Francisco Quiñones, believed to be Coronel’s principal deputy, during the operation. The Mexican government had offered a Ps. 30 million reward and the U.S. government another US$5 million for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction.(Universal 7/29, Excelsior 7/29, Reforma 7/29)
As summarized by columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio,
[Coronel’s] death is the most important blow by the government of Felipe Calderón in its 44-month long war against narco-trafficking. … It is a blow to the heart of the Sinaloa cartel, to whose ruling triumvirate he belonged. He was, among the cartel’s leaders, … the most educated (with a college engineering degree) and kept a low profile, even though his silent violence was devastating. He was responsible for the entire cocaine and methamphetamine operation along the southern Pacific coast. … His unexpected death shakes up the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, and profoundly damages the drug transit route that goes through Gómez Palacio and Torreón and ends in Ciudad Juárez. The loss is enormous for the cartel, but should give enormous satisfaction to the government of Mexico and, above all, to the government of the United States, which without having to dirty its hands has eliminated the principal exporter of methamphetemines to that country.(Eje Central 7/30)
An apparent car bomb on a main street in downtown Juárez yesterday evening destroyed a Federal Police truck on patrol, killing four persons, and wounding another eight. Only one of the victims has been identified, Dr. Guillermo Ortiz, who was on the scene providing medical assistance when the bomb went off.
While Attorney General Arturo Chávez, speaking in a press conference in Mexico City, ruled out ‘narco-terrorism’ and said the cause of the explosion was still under investigation, the commander of the Fifth Military Zone, General Eduardo Zarate said that investigators had recovered C-4 explosive and a cellphone-activated detonator in the Ford Focus (or Taurus) that blew up. The Ministry of Public Security said that the killings were a reprisal for the capture of the Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, aka “El 35”, who was a leader of “La Linea”, the armed wing of the Juárez cartel.
Juárez mayor José Reyes Ferriz described an elaborate ambush during a press conference: Unknown suspects drove up and dumped a body dressed in a police uniform, shot him, and drove off; the emergency services received a call about the shooting; rescue personnel and police arrived to investigate and provide assistance to an apparent officer down (who appeared to still be alive); as the police and medical personnel were working the car bomb exploded.
(Universal 7/16, Excelsior 7/16)
The moment of the explosion and the aftermath were captured by a local TV station: