Mexico Security Memo: Increased Violence Likely in Guanajuato

7 MINS READFeb 22, 2012 | 13:31 GMT

Possible Knights Templar Attacks in Guanajuato State

Unknown assailants thought to be part of the Knights Templar killed eight people and injured another eight Feb. 16 in attacks in six municipalities of Guanajuato state. The attacks followed the Knights Templar's placement of 18 narcomantas around Guanajuato warning the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (GJNG), which has ties to the Sinaloa Federation, to stay out of the state. The narcomantas appeared to be in response to the archbishop of Leon's request Jan. 22 that organized criminal groups in Guanajuato come to a truce during Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the state, scheduled for March 23.

The incidents also follow the January release of a video depicting the interrogation of Los Zetas leader Hector Daniel Reyes Reyes in which he stated that he was in Jalisco to prepare for a possible incursion into Leon, Guanajuato's largest city and a regional transportation hub. The attacks, combined with the indications that CJNG and Los Zetas may be attempting a move into Guanajuato, could portend increased violence in the region.

The Knights Templar has maintained a prominent position in Guanajuato since its formation after splitting from La Familia Michoacana (LFM) in 2010. In an August 2009 interview with Milenio, current Knights Templar leader Servando "La Tuta" Gomez Martinez said LFM moved into the state in 2008 to create a buffer zone between the Zetas-dominated territory of San Luis Potosi state and LFM's home state of Michoacan. There are indications LFM was at least successful in creating an area of control in the state.

LFM's incursion into Guanajuato in 2008 closely coincided with a Los Zetas campaign in Leon, incursions that caused organized crime-related murders to rise in 2009. Around February 2010, reported Los Zetas activity dropped and organized crime-related homicides subsided to pre-incursion levels. Los Zetas' withdrawal occurred around the same time the group was splitting from the Gulf cartel, and it is likely they needed to redirect their forces from Leon to the northeast in order to fight their former partners. Reyes' interrogation video indicates that as of late 2011, Los Zetas were interested in attempting to move back into Leon. As is typical of their tactics, Los Zetas will likely first want to control Jalisco before moving into the city, ensuring a base of operations close to the target.

It is unclear if the Knights Templar's warnings to the CJNG were addressing an impending arrival of CJNG or a general warning. It is important to note the language used in the narcomantas was not as aggressive as typically seen, and the banners were not accompanied by the dismembered bodies of CJNG members as is often the case.

Over the past six months, the CJNG has expanded its operations, likely under the direction of the Sinaloa Federation, to Veracruz, Durango, and most recently Guerrero state. It would not be surprising if the CJNG starts to operate in Guanajuato, which shares a border with its home state of Jalisco. Notably, both the Knights Templar and CJNG reportedly have a working relationship with the Sinaloa Federation. This does not necessarily mean they are on good terms with each other or that violence will not break out, but should CJNG enter into a conflict with the Knights Templar, it is unclear how each organization's relationship with the Sinaloa Federation would be affected.

Feb. 14

  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of a 12-year-old boy on the side of a street in southern Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. Authorities discovered nine gunshot wounds in the body and 13 bullet casings near the body.
  • The body of a 35-year-old man was found by police in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The victim had two gunshot wounds, including one in the head. A message left on the body was addressed to "Chapulines," or grasshoppers, a moniker often used to refer to members of the Sinaloa Federation.
  • Unidentified individuals killed a man and then burned his body in the Granjas San Rafael neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of Ramon Solis Martinez, a commander with the Veracruz Investigation Agency, in Xalapa, Veracruz state. The official was kidnapped from his home Jan. 26.
  • The National Defense Secretariat announced that the Mexican army arrested 13 armed individuals in Xalapa, Veracruz state. Troops captured the individuals after a citizen alerted authorities.
  • The Mexican military seized more than four tons of marijuana in Allende, Coahuila state.

Feb. 15

  • Six dismembered bodies were discovered along the Cuernavaca-Cuautla highway in Yautepec, Morelos state. A message signed by La Familia Michoacana was left with the bodies.
  • Authorities discovered the bodies of two men and one woman in the Ampliacion los Angeles neighborhood of Torreon, Coahuila state. The bodies all bore signs of torture.
  • Gunmen shot and killed three individuals at a business in Celaya, Guanajuato state. One of the victims was the owner of the store. The gunmen fled in their vehicle before authorities arrived.
  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of a male firefighter in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. The body had sustained gunshot wound to the head, and its hands tied around the torso.
  • The decomposing bodies of a mother and daughter who disappeared in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state, were discovered in El Fuerte, Sinaloa state.
  • The Mexican army captured 18 presumed Los Zetas operators in Anahuac, Santa Catarina, Cerralvo, and Montemorelos, Nuevo Leon state. During the operation in Anahuac, one soldier was killed and seven individuals were captured.

Feb. 16

  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of a man executed by a gunshot wound to the head in Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Gunmen shot a man and set fire to his body in a club in San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon state. According to witnesses, gunmen chased a club employee into the building where they shot him. After setting the body on fire, the fire spread to other areas of the building.
  • Authorities discovered the body of a female municipal police officer in her patrol vehicle in front of the Casino Red in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. A message addressed to rival groups was found with the body.
  • A gunman killed a man behind the Hotel San Marcos in Culiacan, Sinaloa state. As the victim was walking, the gunman approached the victim, exchanged words, then shot and killed the man with a 10 mm pistol.

Feb. 17

  • Authorities discovered the body of a municipal police officer in Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, Jalisco state. Some reports say the officer's body may have been dismembered, though others say the body was wrapped in a bag.

Feb. 18

  • Gunmen in a vehicle shot and killed two police officers in front of a hospital in Chihuahua, Chihuahua state. The two police officers, a municipal officer and a Policia Unica officer, were providing security near the entrance of the hospital for a patient inside when the gunmen ambushed them.
  • Three gunmen were killed in a confrontation with the Mexican army in Tuzantla, Michoacan state. The confrontation began when gunmen ambushed soldiers on a routine operation. Seven gunmen managed to flee.
  • Mexican authorities discovered the body of a woman near Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. The woman had several gunshot wounds to the head. Authorities found nine bullet casings and a message from an organized criminal group.
  • Two municipal police officers and one gunman were killed in a firefight in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state. 

Feb. 19

  • Soldiers from the Mexican army chased and killed a halcones leader named "El Guero" in Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state.

Feb. 20

  • A prison riot in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, resulted in 44 deaths and 30 prisoners escaping. According to Nuevo Leon state Gov. Rodrigo Medina, the inmates killed belonged to the Gulf Cartel while the escapees belonged to Los Zetas.

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