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Jan 18, 2010 | 22:36 GMT

9 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Jan. 18, 2010

Mexico Security Memo

Federal Police Take Over Chihuahua Operation

The Mexican military was relieved of command of Joint Operation Chihuahua on Jan. 13, with operational control shifting to the federal police. The operation's name has been changed from Joint Operation Chihuahua to Coordinated Operation Chihuahua. The federal government also sent 2,000 federal police personnel to Ciudad Juarez earlier in the week as reinforcements for the new operation. The head of the federal police, Facundo Rosas Rosas, said the decision to hand over control of the Mexican government's counternarcotics operations in Chihuahua state was reached after a thorough systematic review of the situation in Chihuahua by all three branches of government. This transition represents a major step in the progression of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's federal police reforms that were passed in late 2008 and his strategy to relieve the military of law enforcement duties. As of Jan. 18, the federal police reportedly have already assumed all law enforcement roles in the northern Chihuahua urban regions of Juarez, Villa Ahumada and Nuevo Casas Grandes, including patrols, investigations, surveillance operations and operation of the emergency 066 call center for Juarez (equivalent to a 911 center in the United States). The federal police will operate largely in designated high-risk areas in these urban regions in an attempt to locate and dismantle existing cartel infrastructure from a law enforcement perspective instead of the previous military approach. The military primarily will be charged with patrolling and monitoring the vast expanses of the state's rural desert and manning strategic perimeter checkpoints as part of operations designed to stem the flow of narcotics through remote border crossings. These changes in duties and environment better reflect both security entities' training and capabilities. The federal police are better suited to operate in an urban environment and have specific training in how to interact with the Mexican civilian population, and the Mexican military's training and equipment better prepare the military for any security operation in a rural desert environment. As recently as November 2009, Calderon said he would continue to use the Mexican military as the primary tool to fight the ongoing war against the cartels. However, there has been mounting pressure and criticism over Calderon's use of the military in a law enforcement capacity due to how close it brings Mexico's armed forces to its civilian population. The military was not Calderon's first choice to fight the cartels, but a notoriously corrupt federal police left him no better options at the time. Calderon had been waiting for reforms in the federal police to take effect before allowing the newly vetted and trained force to take over as the primary agency used in the cartel war. As this long-awaited change in strategy plays out in the next couple months in Chihuahua, it likely will be used as a test to see whether it can be utilized viably on other joint counternarcotics operations throughout the country. Any hint of success in Juarez likely would mean a nationwide shift in strategy.

Another Kingpin Arrest

Eduardo Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental was arrested at a residence in La Paz, Baja California Sur state, on Jan. 12. Federal police launched a raid on the residence at approximately 6:00 a.m. local time that involved the use of 50 agents, two helicopters and four buses. Garcia Simental was the leader of a faction of the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO), also known as the Tijuana cartel, that had split from the core of the AFO in April 2008 after Fernando "El Ingeniero" Sanchez Arellano was chosen to head the cartel after the arrest of AFO leader Benjamin Arellano Felix. Garcia Simental reportedly joined forces with longtime AFO rival Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera's Sinaloa cartel in an attempt to take control of the Tijuana drug-trafficking corridor. The operation was reportedly the culmination of a three-month-long federal police intelligence operation that tracked the movements of the cartel leader. Several of Garcia Simental's top lieutenants were arrested in the previous weeks leading up to the arrest of Garcia Simental, and intelligence gathered from the previous raids and the debriefing of the detainees likely led authorities to the location of Garcia Simental. It is also possible that Garcia Simental's rival, Sanchez Arellano, could have tipped off authorities to his organization's activities and locations — a common practice in the Mexican cartel landscape. Garcia Simental has been an instigator for much of the violence seen in the Tijuana region over the past two years. At least 600 murders and executions can be directly traced back to Garcia Simental himself or from orders given by the kingpin. Most notable is Garcia Simental's tactic of dissolving bodies of rivals in caustic substances. Garcia Simental also was the leader for the majority of kidnapping and extortion operations that took place throughout the Tijuana metro area. Garcia Simental's arrest — and the arrests of his top lieutenants — is most significant for the security situation in the Baja region of Mexico; however, Gracia Simental's influence outside the region is minimal, and his arrest is unlikely to be felt outside of it. Additionally, the flow of narcotics through the Tijuana corridor has been significantly reduced in recent years due to heavy interdiction efforts by U.S. and Mexican authorities; and Garcia Simental's arrest likely will have little effect on what little narcotics do flow through the region. (click here to view interactive map)

Jan. 11

  • Police arrested nine men in the municipalities of Metapa de Dominguez, Tapachula and Benemerito de las Americas, Chiapas state, for allegedly transporting firearms illegally.
  • A man identified as Jesus Antonio Partida Lopez was killed by unknown gunmen after he left a bank in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
  • Two policemen and a civilian were killed after unknown assailants attacked a police vehicle in Tultitlan, Mexico state. Four people were arrested in connection with the incident.

Jan. 12

  • An unidentified person's head was discovered in a cooler in the main square of Celaya, Guanajuato state. The person's body was discovered in an area between the municipalities of Apaseo el Alto and Apaseo el Grande.
  • Unknown gunmen burned four private vehicles at separate locations in Morelia, Michoacan state, after a shootout with police. The vehicles reportedly were burned to distract the police.
  • Police in Ciudad Hidalgo, Michoacan state, killed one person and arrested two others after a shootout with suspected drug traffickers. One federal agent was injured in the firefight.

Jan. 13

  • Unknown gunmen shot and killed an unidentified man in the Benito Juarez neighborhood of Acapulco, Guerrero state.
  • Unidentified assailants robbed an armored truck in the Tlalpan district of Mexico City, killing one guard and stealing an undisclosed quantity of money.
  • Unknown attackers killed a man identified as Jesus Consuelo Xingu near his home in Zinacantepec, Mexico state.
  • Soldiers in San Nicolas, Guerrero state, killed one suspected criminal and arrested two others after an hour-long firefight. The incident originated after authorities received an anonymous call claiming a kidnapping had occurred in San Nicolas.

Jan. 14

  • Authorities announced the disappearance of a Culiacan area police chief identified as Eduardo Castellanos Salomon. Castellanos Salomon was assigned to the district of Quila and had not been seen since Jan. 5.
  • The body of an unidentified man was discovered by a worker at the Las Lagartijas water treatment plant near Gomez Palacio, Durango state. The body was floating in a water tank and bore gunshot wounds.

Jan. 15

  • A group of armed men killed a municipal policeman and injured another in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state.
  • An unknown person threw a tear-gas grenade into a shopping center in Toluca, Mexico state. No arrests were made.
  • Unknown gunmen killed the notary public of Santa Maria del Oro, Durango state, a person identified as Efren Escamilla Torres. Escamilla Torres was killed in his office less than two weeks after assuming his post.

Jan. 16

  • Four policemen were arrested in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, for allegedly conspiring to allow a team of gunmen to free 23 prisoners from the prison in Escobedo in December 2009.
  • Police discovered the body of journalist Jose Luis Romero in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state. Romero was abducted by unknown gunmen Dec. 30.
  • Police in the La Merced district of Mexico City arrested six suspected kidnappers after a woman on her way to pay a ransom for her husband and another family member requested help.
  • Police in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, arrested two suspected Gulf cartel members. One was identified as Esteban Maldonado Ramirez, who is believed to be the acting head of the cartel in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Jan. 17

  • The head of an unidentified man was discovered near the grave of former Beltran Leyva cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva. The head was in a black bag and bore a red rose on one of its ears.
  • Unknown attackers strangled four suspected thieves and shot another to death in Morelia, Michoacan state. Signs referring to the men as "rats" were found near their bodies.

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