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Jun 22, 2009 | 22:14 GMT

7 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: June 22, 2009

Mexico Security Memo

Deployments to Juarez

The Mexican military increased the number of troops deployed to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, by 1,500 June 20, as part of the ongoing joint law enforcement and military operation to combat drug cartels. The new deployment brings the total number of troops deployed in Juarez to 5,500, with 1,300 troops patrolling surrounding areas. The boost in troops in the troubled border town demonstrates the Mexican government's high level of commitment to maintaining a large deployment in Juarez, and comes at a time when the security situation is deteriorating. The initial troop increase to Juarez in March succeeded in significantly reducing violence, with an average of only two deaths per day by late March. However, over the past several weeks violence has surged to an average of more than eight homicides per day. STRATFOR sources in Juarez say declining violence between the large cartels (Sinaloa and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization), which remain the military's main focus, was the primary reason for the initial drop and that the recent violence is associated with increased competition among local drug dealers. It is possible that the government is seeking to combat the rise of smaller organizations with the recent deployment, but the operational goals of the deployment have not been divulged. Additionally, a little over 5,000 cadets from a Mexican military academy arrived in the Golden Triangle region of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango states, to assist troops already in the region in counternarcotics operations such as eradicating crops and establishing check points. Rugged and sparsely populated, the Golden Triangle is the center of marijuana production for many drug trafficking organizations. The deployment of cadets indicates how thinly spread the Mexican military's resources are — but it also provides an excellent training opportunity for the cadets. There are roughly 2,500 troops and federal law enforcement agents already in the region, and this deployment represents a significant increase of boots on the ground, but the cadets' lack of experience will likely limit their roles.

Narco Sharks from Costa Rica

On June 16, Mexican authorities in the port city of Progreso, Yucatan state, seized nearly 2,000 pounds of cocaine concealed inside some 100 dead sharks that had been shipped inside a refrigerated cargo container. The drugs were reportedly detected by customs and naval personnel performing a routine inspection. The shipment, which appeared to be intended for a company in Tonala, Jalisco state, that manufactures shark-skin goods, was sent on a commercial transport ship from Costa Rica, where the company had recently opened an office to facilitate its import needs. A Mexican navy official said it appears the shipment was organized by the Gulf cartel and that a member of Los Zetas was to be responsible for escorting the shipment once it reached Progreso. Following the discovery of the cocaine in Mexico, authorities in Costa Rica launched a series of investigations both in the city where the shipment originated and at a hotel compound farther south. Police there eventually arrested three Costa Rican citizens and named two Mexican men suspected of organizing the operation but who have so far evaded capture. The presence of Mexican cartels in Central America is something STRATFOR has been tracking for some time. Among the more noteworthy aspects of this case is the supposed presence of Gulf cartel operatives inside Costa Rica. Until now, all investigations of Mexican cartels in the country have appeared to point exclusively to the Sinaloa cartel. If, in fact, this latest shipment was a Gulf cartel or Zeta operation, it would be stronger evidence of another Mexican drug trafficking organization operating inside Costa Rica — a development that could have negative implications for the country's security environment. Not only would it increase the potential for corruption among local police and other officials, it also could lead to violent turf battles between the two Mexican cartels on Costa Rican soil. Click image to enlarge

June 15

  • A shipping entrepreneur was found murdered and handcuffed in a union office in Veracruz, Veracruz state. Police said the victim was handcuffed minutes before he was executed.
  • A methamphetamine laboratory was discovered by members of the Mexican army in a remote cave in Michoacan state, making it the sixth such facility found in the state in June.
  • A police commander was found executed with a single gunshot wound to the head at his home in Acapulco, Guerrero state. Authorities believe he was shot with his own weapon.
  • Members of the Mexican military arrested Juan "El Puma" Manuel Jurado Zarzoza, the reported head of Los Zetas in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. Juardo was allegedly part of the group of attackers that carried out the assassination of retired Gen. Mauro Enrique Tello Quinones.

June 16

  • A firefight between members of a local kidnapping gang and members of various law enforcement agencies in Uruapan, Michoacan state, resulted in the death of three kidnappers. Police received a report of a kidnapping minutes before intercepting the vehicle the kidnappers were driving. The man who was kidnapped before the incident was subsequently rescued.
  • Authorities found the bodies of seven unidentified people in Gomez Palacio, Durango state. The victims appeared to have been tortured but did not have gunshot wounds.
  • Three bodies were found in Guasave, Sinaloa state, with multiple gunshot wounds.

June 17

  • A deputy police chief in Tijuana, Baja California state, was shot to death by several armed men.
  • The attorney for a Gulf cartel suspect arrested in 2002 was shot to death in downtown Veracruz, Veracruz state, by several armed men.

June 18

  • The bodies of three men were found inside a vehicle in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, with a sign that read, in part, "We are the new group 'Zeta killers' and we are against kidnapping and extortion, and we are going to fight against [Los Zetas] in every state for a clean Mexico."
  • Eight police officers were wounded in Puebla, Puebla state, when the vehicle they were riding in was fired upon by several armed men.

June 19

  • Gunmen traveling in several vehicles opened fire and threw fragmentation grenades at an ambulance that was carrying an alleged gang member to a hospital in Morelia, Michoacan state.

June 20

  • Four people were shot to death in separate incidents in Acapulco, Guerrero state, including one victim who had recently been released from prison.
  • An attempted traffic stop in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, led to a firefight between police and drug gang suspects that left at least on person dead.

June 21

  • Federal police agents at a highway checkpoint near Las Choapas, Veracruz state, seized nearly 2,000 pounds of cocaine from a large truck. Authorities believe the truck was heading to Mexico City.

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