MEXICO: Mexican Army takes over Tamaulipas Border Police Departments
They are known as “Las Barbies,” “Las Tinkerbells” and “Las Reinas.” But the images they evoke in the criminal underworld in Mexico are far from those of innocent dolls, bells and queens.
According to intelligence reports, the terms are used by drug-trafficking organizations for “mujeres sicarias” — hit women.
Then there are the “Radieras” and the “Halconeras.” They act as lookouts, manning radios at strategic points on the roads and who, like hawks, watch the activity of Mexico’s federal police, military and marines in order to alert the cartels.
The participation of women in cartels for kidnapping, extortion and murder is seen by some as females taking a wider role in general.
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, described it as “a phenomenon in which women are really gaining spaces in different types of activities, not only productive or related to economic development.”
“Women’s participation has certainly grown — even in criminal activities,” said Correa-Cabrera, who studies Mexico-United States border issues, among other subjects. She is currently developing a project about violence on the Texas-Tamaulipas border, focused largely on organized crime.
“Drug trafficking like any other economic activity is now involving an increasing number of women. Globalization, technology and modernization have facilitated the incorporation of women into most productive activities and in nations’ development in general,” she said. “It is not weird, then, to see an increasing participation of women in drug trafficking activities – even as sicarias.”
Then there are “Las Panteras,” one of whose leaders was “La Comandante Bombon.”
By Dudley Althaus
Mexican troops have taken over the policing of the largest cities in the state bordering south Texas as officials try once again to fix their corruption-crippled municipal forces.
Some 2,800 soldiers, bolstered by state police units, replaced most civilian officers in 22 Tamaulipas cities and towns, including Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Matamoros and smaller border towns as well as Tampico and the state capital, Ciudad Victoria.
The soldiers will stay while the municipal officers are vetted for possible participation in crime and corruption, and will either be fired or reinstated, officials said.
In addition, three new battalion-strength army bases are being established in Ciudad Mier, an embattled border town upriver from McAllen; San Fernando where gangsters have killed hundreds of innocent migrants and others in the past 10 months; and in Ciudad Mante.
“The army is playing a supporting role,” said Col. Ricardo Trevilla, a defense ministry spokesman. “It’s not taking control.”
More than 1,000 people have been killed in Tamaulipas since early last year, when fighting broke out between the so-called Gulf Cartel narcotics smuggling gang and its former enforcers, Los Zetas. Officials also accuse the Zetas of massacring 72 mostly Central American migrants in San Fernando last August and murdering nearly 200 other innocents, mostly travelers passing through the town, since last fall.
Bought off or terrorized into compliance by the gangsters, local police forces in the state have been repeatedly purged and rebuilt in recent years, to little effect. The military’s temporary assumption of local police duties was agreed to in February by Tamaulipas’ governor and President Felipe Calderón.
The takeover comes as activists press Calderón to withdraw the military from the government’s crackdown on the gangs, citing human rights abuses by soldiers. Calderón insists the troops will stay as long as local and state forces aren’t up to the task.
Mexican soldiers and marines have been clashing with gangsters in Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo León state, which includes Monterrey, for much of the past 18 months. Troops this year have arrested entire police forces in the Monterrey area for collaborating with the criminals.
Soldiers killed more than 600 alleged gangsters in Tamaulipas alone since late 2006, including some 230 this year, the newspaper Milenio reported this week. In all, soldiers have killed nearly 1,700 people across Mexico since Calderón deployed them against the gangsters upon taking office in December 2006.
“Do you seriously think that withdrawing the federal forces, which in many areas are the only ones fighting the criminals, will end the violence?” Calderón asked in a meeting with activists Thursday. “Doesn’t it seem difficult to believe that they will simply stop kidnapping, extorting and killing?”
For a complete list of Tamaulipas local Police departments please read: Valley Central News
Gunmen kidnapped five patients and two employees of a drug rehabilitation center in Cuauhtemoc, a city in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, prosecutors said.
The masked gunmen entered the facility Tuesday and grabbed four people, including two employees, who were inside.
Three patients who had managed to get out of the building were stopped by the gunmen on a nearby street a few minutes later and forced into an automobile at gunpoint.
The kidnapping was staged at the CAADIC drug rehabilitation center in the Tierra Nueva section of Cuauhtemoc, Attorney General’s Office Northern Zone spokeswoman Alexa Lara said.
Gunmen working for drug cartels have staged a number of attacks in recent years on drug treatment centers in Mexico, especially in the northern region of the country.
The attacks on rehab centers apparently target individuals who are using the facilities to sell drugs on rivals’ turf, officials say.
Earlier this week, marines rescued 66 people being held against their will at an unlicensed drug rehabilitation center in the Gulf state of Veracruz and arrested eight people, the Navy Secretariat said.
The marines went to the Solo por Hoy Vivire facility in the city of Boca del Rio after receiving a tip from a citizen and found 20 women packed into a tiny room, the secretariat said.
A search of the building turned up 46 men who were locked in a cell, the secretariat said.
The operation also resulted in the seizure of 190 doses of cocaine and marijuana.
On June 7, gunmen attacked the La Victoria drug rehabilitation center in Torreon, a city in the northern state of Coahuila, killing 13 people.
Gunmen attacked the Anexo de Liberacion y Adicciones treatment center on Dec. 5 in Ciudad Juarez, a border city in Chihuahua state that is considered Mexico’s murder capital, killing three people and wounding seven others.
At least 10 armed men went into the clinic and opened fire, officials said.
Gunmen killed 18 people at a drug treatment center located two blocks from a police station and the Santa Fe international bridge in Ciudad Juarez, which lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, on Sept. 3, 2009.
Nineteen people were killed and six others wounded in an attack on a drug rehabilitation center in Chihuahua city, the state capital, on June 11, 2010.
Gunmen killed 13 people on Oct. 24 at a drug rehabilitation center in the northwestern border city of Tijuana.
The attack occurred at the El Camino treatment center in east Tijuana, which is in Baja California state.
A police chief was killed and three civilians were wounded by gunmen in southern Veracruz, a state on Mexico’s Gulf coast where drug-related violence has been on the rise due to a turf war involving three cartels.
Ciudad Isla municipal police department coordinator Ricardo Reyes Alvarez was gunned down on Tuesday afternoon, officials said.
Gunmen armed with AR-15 assault rifles opened fire on the police chief at a car wash, wounding three employees.
Reyes Alvarez tried to reach a nearby hospital but died before he could get there, officials said.
One of the car wash employees wounded in the attack is listed in serious condition.
Shootouts between the security forces and gunmen working for drug cartels have left more than 50 suspected criminals dead in the past six months in Veracruz, which is in eastern Mexico.
The La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas and Gulf drug cartels all have a presence in Veracruz, 6th Military Zone commander Gen. Carlos Rene Aguilar Paez said Tuesday.
Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel are waging a turf war in the Gulf state, Aguilar Paez said.
In comparison to the brazen and public violence in cities like Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Juarez, and the lengthy, raging gun battles in Tamaulipas, the violence in Tijuana passes almost calmly through the city, occurring, and then disappearing as if it never took place. The Union Tribune, the local San Diego paper, across from Tijuana, rarely picks up the stories of the slayings across the line, only a hanging body or massacre will draw much attention from the paper. That is not to entirely blame the Union Tribune, as these murders are often low key, and uneventful, to those not immediately involved in their aftermath, and investigation. To an outsider, one unfamiliar with the drug trade and politics of the city, even those who are these killings have become increasingly difficult to connect, and analyze, and so they go unnoticed, even as bodies are burned, and heads found in duffle bags turn up on the sidewalk, often with attached messages, which the authorities have been refusing to disclose for months now, for unknown reasons.
Do the press or police not want to assist the narcos in their campaigns of terror and intimidation? Is it too keep things discreet, and not attract negative attention to the city? Every once in a while one will sneak through, for unknown reasons, and it feels like we have been given a piece of a puzzle, with many still missing. A loose strand that we are unable to connect to much of anything else, and that brings up more questions then it answers.
On June 10 a body was found near Rosarito Beach, with signs of torture, and bearing a sign which read Por andar chapulineando atte.Los Tigres, which loosely translated means ‘For standing with/walking with grasshoppers’ Grasshoppers, is a a narco term meaning, essentially a traitor, someone who switches sides in organized crime. The questions begin here, who are Los Tigres? This is the first banner bearing their signature, or is it simply the first published? It is likely they are the people of Jose ‘El Tigre’ Soto, the ‘last man standing’ out of El Tomate, and El Guicho, all former operators of detained boss Teodoro ‘El Teo’ Simnetnal. Are they fighting for the Rosarito Beach territory, which formerly belonged to El Guicho? Are they aligned with Sinaloa? I can only offer threads of educated guesswork in this article, as to who they are, and who they are fighting.
One day later in the La Presa and Loma Dorado neighborhood two men are executed moments apart, and we are informed they were members of the cell belonging to El Guicho. Again, fleeting and brief information, that we are unable to piece together. A power struggle in the aftermath of Guicho’s arrest? Another group trying to finish off the cell? Earlier this week, a suitcase containing bagged body parts was found, authorities believe it may belong to the head found a week or so earlier.
The violence in Tijuana seems to flare up at a moments notice, and things escalate from dead bodies, to dismembered limbs in the street, to public hangings, then just as soon as they start, they vanish, and nothing more is heard, maybe an arrest or two is made, and then it’s back to the usual. But, still the questions remains, who is fighting in the city? Who, if anyone controls the plaza? Who, if anyone is ordering these deaths, or are they result of low level infighting? Where is CAF? Who is ‘El Achilles’ whose name has drifted into conversation and corridos on both sides of the border? Today, three men were found strangled, and shot in the Sanchez Taboada neighborhood, there was a narco message found at the scene, which was left unpublished. We are left with scraps to try and connect the pieces as the violence quietly goes on Tijuana.
Sources: AFN Tijuana, Zeta Magazine, Frontera, Maggies Madness.
President Felipe Calderon made an impassioned defense of his military assault on organized crime in an unusual public faceoff Thursday with his biggest critics: sometimes weeping relatives of murder victims who blame the government for the bloodshed.
Poet Javier Sicilia, who lost his son to drug violence in March, opened the publicly televised exchange by demanding that Calderon take the military off the streets and apologize to victims for a failed strategy that he and others say have caused more than 35,000 deaths since Calderon took office in late 2006.
“Where are the benefits of this strategy?” Sicilia asked Calderon, ticking off a list of cases where people have gone unpunished, from drug violence to a 2009 day-care fire that killed 49 children. “You don’t have anything to show us, and we are not politicians, we are citizens.”
The meeting at Mexico City’s historic Chapultepec Castle was emotionally charged, with a mother breaking down in tears as she demanded results into the investigation of her four missing sons, and a relative of two slaying victims of drug traffickers holding back tears while he asked for an update in their case.
Sicilia said that Calderon is “obligated to apologize to the nation and in particular to the victims.”
Surrounded by grim-faced top Cabinet members and the first lady, the president pointed his finger and pounded the table to emphasize that with criminal gangs seeking to control Mexico, it would have been irresponsible not to act.
“I agree that we must apologize for not protecting the lives of victims, but not for having acted against the criminals,” Calderon said. “One thing I regret is not having sent (the military) before.”
Several people have been arrested in the March 28 slaying of Sicilia’s son, Juan Francisco Sicilia, a college student who authorities say was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Calderon repeated what has become the mantra for his administration: that criminals, not the government, are causing the violence. “Francisco was killed by criminals, not federal forces,” he said.
While the face-to-face confrontation seemed dramatic, most observers expected little to come of it.
“It’s the typical way the Mexican government has worked for decades,” said John Ackerman of the legal research institute at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “They’re open and willing to talk and have a meeting, but from that to actually taking things into account … is another thing.”
Some saw the public confrontation as benefiting Calderon, giving him a wide audience for his message, while Sicilia’s proposals to focus on cleaning up institutions and attacking corruption are things the government says it’s already doing.
One of the most concrete demands from his group is for a memorial that names all drug war victims.
“They don’t understand the phenomenon of drug trafficking, so they have presented a package of proposals that have nothing to do with public policy,” said columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio. “All of their proposals are emotional.”
Sicilia has organized what he calls a civil disobedience movement for peace, leading protests in Mexico City and the nearby city of Cuernavaca and a caravan to the violent border city of Ciudad Juarez, where Calderon also had an emotional meeting last year with relatives of youths killed when gunmen burst into a party and opened fire.
Sicilia’s movement announced it will send a new protest caravan to Mexico’s border with Guatemala.
Previous marches organized by other victims-rights groups in Mexico have drawn more protesters, and violence has only increased.
Calderon gave a frank assessment of what is going on in Mexico: that cartels control some areas of the country, corruption is rampant, judges are paid to let criminals go and local police are in the employ of gangs.
But he said he couldn’t wait to clean up institutions before launching an attack.
“If you can stop a crime and you only have stones, then you do it with stones,” he said.
Sicily ended his remarks by giving Calderon a scapular he received from a victim’s family along one of his marches, calling it “a sign that justice now rests with you.”
Calderon agreed to meet with the peace activists in three months, after the two exchanged an awkward hug.
By Marisela Ortega Lozano / El Paso Times
Juárez Police Chief Julian Leyzaola survived an assassination attempt Thursday morning in downtown Juarez, an official said.
Two men shot at his motorcade and his bodyguards returned fire, wounding one of the assailants, officials said. The other suspect fled the scene.
No police officers were harmed in the attack, officers said.
The incident took place Thursday morning in the La Chaveña neighborhood near downtown Juárez when Leyzaola was riding with his bodyguards, the official said.
Officers arrested Roberto López Valles, 24, in connection with the ambush. They also seized a gun and a charger.
Leyzaola, a retired Mexican Army lieutenant colonel, was sworn in as Juarez police chief in March. In his role, Leyzaola has taken on the huge challenge of fighting crime in one of Mexico’s most violent cities.
In a interview with the El Paso Times earlier this month, Leyzaola talked about Los Zetas, a criminal organization in México labeled as one of the bloodiest groups.
“I don’t know why Los Zetas are so feared,” Leyzaola said during the interview, held in Juarez. “In the end they’re just criminals. They’re not different from the rest just because they call themselves Zetas.
“Am I supposed to tremble when the Zetas are mentioned or what? I think it is them who should tremble when they talk about the authorities,” Leyzaola said.
Forty Juárez police officers have been killed since Juárez Mayor Héctor Murguía took office on Oct. 10, 2010. Fourteen Juárez police officers have been ambushed this year, according to the Juárez Department of Public Safety.
Since January 2008, more than 8,000 people had been killed in Juárez.