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Jul 23, 2007 | 19:10 GMT

6 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: July 23, 2007

A Difficult Truce to Assess Last week's Mexico Security Memo reported that back-to-back attacks against two police officials in Nuevo Leon state could indicate a fracture in the apparent cartel cease-fire in the northern part of the country. These attacks were the first in more than a month, meaning they likely did not occur by coincidence. Violence in the north continued this week as well: Among other indicators, a body was found wrapped in a sheet and stuffed into a dumpster in Nogales, Sonora state — a key shipping point for the Sinaloa cartel — and a man from Sinaloa state was shot at point-blank range at a festival in Nuevo Leon in front of 2,000 people. The status of the apparent cease-fire is difficult to assess, although the coming weeks certainly will see more acts of violence. Any truce likely will be transitory, with periodic violent flare-ups. Such violence must be closely monitored to determine whether the incidents are anomalies or if they serve as indicators that the truce has ended and the cartel war has resumed. Violence North of the Border As our reports have demonstrated, Mexican drug cartels certainly have the capability to reach anywhere inside Mexico for a variety of purposes. However, it also is important to note their activities inside the United States. In addition to establishing drug-trafficking networks on the northern side of the border, the cartels have exported drug-related violence. A former member of the Gulf cartel's enforcers, Los Zetas, testified July 18 in the United States about Zeta activity in Texas, including targeted killings in the border town of Laredo as recently as 2006. The witness also testified that several separate Zeta teams were deployed in Laredo to secure resources for the cartel in order to facilitate drug shipments into the United States or supplies back into Mexico. Other suspected cartel murders have taken place in the United States all along the Mexico border. The teams deployed in Laredo were similar to those deployed in Mexico, though it is important to note that drug cartels also have attempted to recruit local Hispanic gang members called Zetitas — Spanish for "little Zetas" — to assist in their tasks. This is an evolution in cartel tactics that deserves greater attention.
New Pharmaceutical Law The Mexican federal government announced July 18 that, as of Sept. 1, pharmacies in Mexico will require prescriptions in order to sell medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, precursor chemicals in the production of methamphetamines. The move is designed to curb the rampant increase in methamphetamine production Mexico has experienced during the last several years. Methamphetamine has a much higher profit margin for Mexican drug cartels than does South American-produced cocaine or heroin, since cartels control the entire process with meth — from manufacturing to distribution. However, the new prescription law will do almost nothing to stop cartel production of methamphetamine. In order to produce large quantities, cartels do not acquire precursor chemicals over the counter from pharmacies. Instead, they either steal bulk chemicals from warehouses or, more commonly, establish phony front companies to import large industrial shipments or bribe legitimate companies to order more than necessary. The cartels use enormous quantities of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in their meth "super labs," and it would take an astronomical number of cold pills to acquire that amount of the substance. July 16
  • Police in Acapulco, Guerrero state, reported that two men were killed in a drive-by shooting as they traveled along a highway.
  • A man in Acapulco, Guerrero state, died after being shot once in the head as he left a gymnasium near a university.
July 17
  • A group of gunmen waiting outside a man's home in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, fired at least 20 shots at him, killing him at the scene.
July 18
  • Mexican federal police arrested Jesus Arturo Martinez Gutierrez, a Tijuana police officer, for suspected links to the Arellano Felix organization, also known as the Tijuana cartel.
July 19
  • A group of gunmen killed a man in a parking lot in Zapopan, Jalisco state. Witnesses said the gunmen approached the man, asked him a question and then shot him in the head.
  • The body of a man was found wrapped in a sheet in a dumpster in the border town of Nogales, Sonora state.
  • A man and a woman were found dead along a highway in Guerrero state's Costa Chica area. The hands and feet of both had been bound and the two had been shot in the head.
  • Prison officials in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, said they will strengthen security measures at a jail that recently was the scene of gunfights between inmates.
  • A group of men armed with assault rifles stole about $620,000 worth of gold from a mine in Sonora state after rounding up several employees and temporarily taking them hostage. Several aspects of the robbery suggest it was an inside job, and the gunmen were armed and deployed similarly to cartel hit men.
  • A Mexican manager for Carnival Cruise Lines in Cancun, Quintana Roo, died after being shot several times in the torso and head while driving his car.
July 20
  • A man from Sinaloa state was shot several times in the head at point-blank range at a festival in Nuevo Leon state in front of more than 2,000 people.
  • The attorney general's office announced the arrest of 18 police officers in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, for the kidnapping of four federal police officers and for suspected links to the Gulf cartel.
July 21
  • A man was found dead in his car in Acapulco, Guerrero state, with a single gunshot wound to the neck.
  • A Mexican army sergeant was found dead in Atoyac, Guerrero state. A police official said the man died after his throat was cut.

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