Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mexico Security Memo

Renewed Violence in Cartel Territory
stratfor.com
July 30, 2007
Violent flare-ups occurred across much of northern Mexico this week, as Stratfor suggested it would in the previous Mexico Security Memo. The most noteworthy examples include a firefight in the border town of Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas state; a cartel shooting death in Ciudad Camargo, Chihuahua state; and three similar shooting deaths in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, where one body showed signs of torture and was wrapped in a sheet with a message pinned to it. In addition, a police official assigned to counternarcotics was found dead July 24 in Navolato, Sinaloa state, with a message from the Zetas pinned to his body, which showed signs of torture. He had been kidnapped a day before with another police officer. Sonora state police reported July 25 that a member of a drug gang was killed July 25 in the city of El Sasabe after being shot twice in the head. It is important to note that these states and most of northern Mexico, in addition to housing several large industrial cities with international companies, are considered cartel territory, and attacks in the region are becoming increasingly frequent.
One southeastern state that recently has become a hot spot for cartel violence is Veracruz. The state has long been important territory for the Gulf cartel, which brings drugs in from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Northeast and ships them on into the United States. However, only in the last few weeks has cartel-related violence increased in the area, including a rise in kidnappings and attacks against government officials. Some of the most recent incidents include the July 26 killing of a municipal official in the town of Zongolica and two firefights in the city of Veracruz on July 25. One possible explanation for the increase in reported violence in Veracruz is that previous incidents went unreported. This is plausible, especially considering claims made by police in Veracruz in June that they had been ordered not to report drug-related violence. However, the brazen nature of these more recent attacks -- firefights in large cities and attacks against government officials -- indicates this is a shift worth monitoring.
Corruption on the U.S. Side
Our reports have consistently documented instances of corruption among Mexico's police and government officials at all levels. However, it is important to note that the cartels' control of the border, and their ability to effectively smuggle drugs and people into the United States, suggests an ability to control officials on the U.S. side of the border as well. Cases in recent years have revealed corruption among U.S. Border Patrol agents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, city police officers, a Texas sheriff and Texas National Guard members assigned to patrol the border. These cases demonstrate that bribing immigration officials can be done for a relatively small amount of money, and that the officials are often unaware of the contents of the shipments they are allowing to pass through the border. Local law enforcement officers might participate in two ways: either by actively taking part in smuggling activities or by more passively agreeing to look the other way at a certain time and place while smugglers transport illegal shipments. The corruption problem is difficult to combat due to the enormous amount of money associated with the drug trade.
July 23
Authorities in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state, discovered the body of a man wrapped in a blanket. The man reportedly had been kidnapped several hours before, and his body showed signs of torture.
July 24
Police in Guerrero state reported finding the body of an unidentified individual near the town of Atoyac de Alvarez. The victim had been shot twice in the head.
State police in Mexico state reportedly detained an agent of the Federal Investigative Agency for extortion.
July 25
Workers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, found the body of a woman stuffed in a plastic bag in a rural area.
Two separate firefights between suspected cartel gunmen and security forces were reported in the city of Veracruz, Veracruz state. The engagements resulted in a high-speed chase through the city and the detention of one suspect.
A Catholic priest in Hidalgo state was abducted from church property and later killed by his kidnapper, state officials said. Violence against clergy is rare in Mexico, and the preliminary results of the investigation do not suggest organized crime links.
Mexican army soldiers stopped a tractor-trailer with nearly 12 tons of marijuana on board in Ensenada, Baja California state, and arrested the driver. July 26
A city official in Zongolica, Veracruz state, was found dead inside her home, bound at the hands and feet. Her brother is a candidate for city office in a nearby town.
Authorities in Michoacan state reported the shooting death of a man in Apatzingan, the wounding of a man in a shooting in Morelia and a kidnapping in Morelos.
A well-known businessman in Veracruz, Veracruz state, was abducted by a group of armed men while he was driving his vehicle. This was the eighth reported kidnapping in the state in July.
A group of about 20 heavily armed men attacked a prison in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, wounding one security guard. An official confirmed that the men were attempting to extract a prisoner, though government officials said no cartel-linked prisoners were being held there.
July 27
Mexican army soldiers exchanged gunfire with armed men in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas state, detaining several suspects. Ciudad Camargo is on the U.S. border.
July 28
A small number of armed men claiming to belong to the Popular Revolutionary Army fired shots at a jail being built in Chiapas state, locked up three guards and painted messages on the building. No one was injured during the attack.
Authorities in Navolato, Sinaloa state, discovered the charred bodies of two men in a vehicle. One of the men appeared to be a federal police commander.
July 29
A Catholic priest in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City was found dead on church property, bound at the hands and feet.

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