A significant firefight took place in central Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, the afternoon of April 1, according to blogs and videos posted online by Reynosa residents. The reports, confirmed by STRATFOR sources, indicated that the battle occurred near the attorney general's office, but that the office itself did not appear to be the target. Based on the videos posted online, the exchange of gunfire between cartel gunmen and federal forces appeared protracted, with at least one side using automatic weapons. The confrontation likely involved members of the Gulf cartel, as that organization has held the Reynosa plaza for some time. Although Los Zetas have been expected to attempt to reassert themselves in the area, the April 1 gunbattle did not appear to be the opening act of a Zeta offensive — though a perceived weakening of the Gulf cartel in Reynosa by federal forces could prompt Los Zetas to swift action. As STRATFOR searched for more details about what — by all accounts — was a notable confrontation in the center of an important border city, there appeared to be an almost total lack of news reports on the incident. It seems that intimidation of the media has effectively muzzled reporting on cartel violence in the border area and other parts of Mexico. During the last year, individual reporters and news organizations have engaged in a fair amount of self-censorship in a clear attempt at self-preservation after the assassinations of nine journalists and the kidnappings of five journalists who have not been found.
Matamoros Weapons Cache
In Matamoros the night of April 1, a Mexican army patrol saw several individuals run inside a house, reportedly to avoid capture by the patrol. The soldiers did not find the subjects, but they did seize a large cache of weapons, military grade ordnance and explosives. According to a Mexican government press release, the inventory included:
One machine gun, 7.62 mm caliber
59 rifles (types unreported)
21 handguns (types unreported)
Seven Uzi 9 mm submachine guns
One rocket launcher (type unreported)
One rocket (type unreported)
One grenade launcher (type unreported)
412 chubs of hydrogel explosives (for industrial mining, size of charges not reported)
36 electric detonators
39.4 feet of detonation cord
Six mortar rounds, 60 mm
Three rifle grenades
Five inert grenades (possibly missing the fuses)
One rocket-propelled grenade launcher
50 fragmentation hand grenades
Two grenade bodies
Four practice grenades, 40 mm
$59,700 in U.S. currency
The house likely was a long-term storage location rather than a staging point for a particular attack, given the miscellaneous nature of the inventory. The quantity of explosives is fairly large and could have been used in an attack with a large improvised explosive device (IED). But it is important to remember that while some of the cartels in the region have used IEDs in attacks, to date all these devices have been quite small, and we have seen no indication so far that the cartels are trending toward larger devices. Even the explosives placed in cars in Ciudad Juarez in 2010 appeared to involve under three or four pounds of similar explosives. Therefore, it is unlikely that the large quantity seized in the Matamoros cache was intended for use in a single attack. Given its location in Matamoros, which has long been controlled by the Gulf cartel, the munitions cache likely belonged to that cartel — though who it belonged to has not been reported. STRATFOR will continue to monitor the situation, as the facts are not yet clear and the tempo of clashes between Los Zetas and the combined Gulf and Sinaloa forces for dominance in the region is increasing. (click here to view interactive map)
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