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May 17, 2010 | 21:31 GMT

7 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: May 17, 2010

Mexico Security Memo

Sinaloa Corruption Scandal

Reports emerged May 10 from media outlets throughout Latin America that sensitive documents belonging to the Mexican Federal Police had been found in the possession of a known smuggler associated with the Sinaloa Federation. Roberto "El Doctor" Beltran Burgos was pulled over by federal police May 29, 2009, in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, whereupon the police found the classified documents in his car. The documents detailed aspects of the federal government's campaign against the Sinaloa Federation and the other cartels in Mexico gleaned from alerts issued by the Public Security Secretariat in Mexico City to federal police support forces deployed throughout Mexico. The documents also included e-mail addresses, passwords and phone numbers of the main commands of the Mexican armed forces and classified reports from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. It's no mystery that groups like the Sinaloa Federation have a robust and professional intelligence apparatus. Mexican authorities have seized highly sophisticated communication towers and signals-intelligence equipment reportedly belonging to the Sinaloa Federation. Additionally, the 2008 corruption scandal involving former members of the Sinaloa Federation reached all the way to the head of Mexico's counternarcotics efforts. However, specific, actionable and classified intelligence in the hands of a mid-level trafficker like Beltran takes corruption to a new level and raises the question: If Beltran had information like this, what kind of information do senior members of the organization have? In June 2009, in response to the documents' discovery, nine people were arrested, and the ongoing investigation into the leak was likely the reason for the yearlong delay in reporting the case. While corruption is nothing new in Mexico, highly classified material intended only for the eyes of a select few in the upper echelons of the Mexican security apparatus found in the hands of a mid-level drug runner underscores how pervasive the problem is — and how far the Mexican government still has to go to effectively deal with the issue.

Los Zetas Camp Seized

At approximately 9 a.m. on May 11, some 60 members of the Mexican army descended upon a suspected Los Zetas training camp in a wooded area near Higueras, Nuevo Leon state, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Monterrey. The Mexican troops arrived in four helicopters and an unknown number of vehicles and quickly secured the area, but not before engaging in a brief firefight with members of Los Zetas attempting to flee the area. This resulted in the death of one Zeta and the arrests of several others. What was most noteworthy about the operation was the discovery of a large cache of weapons and gear, a sobering reminder of the resources Los Zetas have at their disposal:
  • 124 long arms, including AK-47s, AR-15s, shotguns and Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles
  • 15 handguns
  • 77 40 mm grenades
  • 32 fragmentation hand grenades
  • 4 rocket launchers
  • 3 rocket-propelled grenades
  • 3 anti-tank rockets
  • 5 grenade launcher attachments
  • 1,375 ammunition magazines
  • 5,000-plus rounds of ammunition
  • 15 vehicles (trucks and SUVs)
  • Body armor
  • Mexican military uniforms
  • Clothing with Los Zetas insignias
The raid on this particular camp likely resulted in a trove of valuable intelligence as well as the arms cache. Los Zetas are reported to have several of these types of "camps" scattered throughout the countryside of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states. While this raid will probably not cripple the Los Zetas organization as a whole, it did come at a time when the group was vulnerable and on the defensive, fighting the New Federation for control of drug trafficking routes in the region as well as the federal government as it wages its campaign against the cartels. (click here to enlarge image)

May 10

  • The body of an unidentified man was discovered in Zitacuaro, Michoacan state. The victim had been shot and wrapped in a blanket. A message attributing the crime to La Familia Michoacana-sponsored "La Resistencia" was found near the body.
  • Two unidentified people fired at a car that contained several people in Nombre de Dios, Durango state. One victim later died at a hospital.
  • The bodies of four men were discovered in the bed of a pickup in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

May 11

  • The bodies of two men were discovered in Apatzingan, Michoacan state, near the settlement of Corondiro. Both bodies had gunshot wounds and showed signs of torture.
  • Seven people were injured during an attack by unidentified gunmen in northern Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.
  • One suspected member of Los Zetas was killed and authorities seized a cache of firearms, grenades and ammunition during a raid on a suspected training camp for organized-crime gunmen in Higueras, Nuevo Leon state.

May 12

  • The body of a state investigative agent was discovered in Tepotzotlan, Mexico state. The agent had been kidnapped May 11 in the Canada de Cisneros neighborhood.
  • The bodies of seven people were discovered in Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua state. Five of the bodies were found near the Autonomous University of Juarez.
  • Soldiers seized two explosive devices near a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Leon, Guanajuato state. A message demanding "the liberation of the political prisoners" was discovered near the devices.

May 13

  • Six policemen, including two mayoral guards, were arrested in the municipality of Cardenas, Tabasco state, for alleged links to organized crime.
  • The body of a man identified as Jose Ruiz Garcia was discovered in the municipality of Santiago Papasquiaro, Durango state. Ruiz had been tortured and subsequently dragged by a vehicle.
  • Five men were killed at a bar in Tultitlan, Mexico state, by unidentified gunmen who fired from a vehicle. The attackers left a message at the scene attributing the crime to La Resistencia.

May 14

  • The municipal director of primary utility services for Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, was killed by unidentified gunmen who fled in several vehicles.
  • Six men were killed and two were injured during an attack by suspected cartel gunmen in Loma Blanca, Chihuahua state.
  • Soldiers in Pueblo Nuevo, Durango state, seized nearly two tons of marijuana.

May 15

  • Eight people were killed and 19 injured during a firefight at a bar in Torreon, Coahuila state.
  • Two policemen were killed during an ambush by unidentified gunmen in the municipality of Tlalchapa, Guerrero state.
  • Former Mexican presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos was reported missing after authorities discovered his abandoned car at his ranch in the municipality of Pedro Escobedo, Queretaro state.

May 16

  • Eight suspected kidnappers allegedly linked to eight murders were captured in Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico state. The group was reportedly led by a former policeman, identified as Juan Gonzalez Velasco. Several weapons were confiscated during the arrests.
  • Mexican naval troops freed eight hostages held at a residence in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state.

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