Worsening Security in Coahuila State
The Mexican army announced Feb. 28 that it had deployed 700 troops to the La Laguna region, an area encompassing Torreon, Coahuila state; Gomez Palacio, Durango state; and Ciudad Lerdo, Durango state, as part of Operation Laguna. Of those troops, 350 will operate in Torreon and 350 will operate in Gomez Palacio. The deployment reflects the persistent violence in Coahuila state and continued challenges to Los Zetas in their traditional stronghold.
In recent months, Coahuila state has seen incursions by rivals of Los Zetas such as the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf cartel and former Zetas such as Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero. Such forays have affected many municipalities in Coahuila, including Piedras Negras, Saltillo, Torreon and, most recently, Monclova and Ciudad Acuna, which had previously enjoyed relatively higher levels of security.
For example, a Gulf cartel assault occurred from Feb. 5 to Feb. 8 in Monclova, marked by a series of executions and accompanying narcomantas. The incursion was followed by confrontations between gunmen and Mexican authorities, including a Feb. 27 battle between the army and gunmen in the Pipila neighborhood of Monclova that left four gunmen dead.
So far, nothing suggests that Los Zetas can be ejected by their rivals, but the cartel's opponents now have a footing in Coahuila's more populated areas. This means the state will likely continue to see frequent inter-cartel violence — including attacks on law enforcement, gunfights between opposing organized crime groups and kidnappings — until one side gains a substantial advantage.
An Ongoing Challenge to Los Zetas in Tabasco State
Authorities discovered the bodies of three decapitated men March 1 in the C-28 community of Cardenas, Tabasco state, along with a message signed "Pueblos Unidos Contra la Delincuencia," or "United People Against Crime." The message said anyone working as a scout for Los Zetas would meet a similar fate. On Feb. 27, gunmen opened fire on a group of individuals in Comalcalco, Tabasco state, killing three. Media outlets reported that the assailants in the latter attack also left a message threatening a similar fate to drug dealers, suggesting the same people may have been responsible for the Feb. 27 and March 1 incidents.
As Stratfor has reported, a new challenge to Los Zetas emerged in January along the Gulf coast, particularly in Tabasco and southeastern Veracruz states. Sustained attacks attributed to the Pueblos Unidos Contra la Delincuencia, a previously unknown criminal group, indicate that it has some ability to survive a counterassault by Los Zetas. This suggests the group has connections to existing criminal groups capable of challenging Los Zetas, whether an organization like Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion or even a dissident Los Zetas network operating in the region.
Los Zetas rely on Tabasco state because it connects their strongholds in northeastern Mexico to southern Mexican states and transportation routes to Central America. This means Los Zetas will respond to any threat to their power there.
Editor's Note: We now offer the daily Mexico Security Monitor, an additional custom intelligence service geared toward organizations with operations or interests in the region, designed to provide more detailed and in-depth coverage of the situation. To learn more about this new fee-based custom service, visit www.stratfor.com/msm.