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Nov 10, 2008 | 23:17 GMT

11 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Nov. 10, 2008

Mexico Security Memo

Deadliest Day in Mexico

Nov. 3 was the deadliest day in Mexico to date in terms of drug violence, with more than 58 deaths related to the activities of Mexico's various drug cartels. The 2008 death toll related to drug trafficking reached 4,325 on Nov. 3, far exceeding the total of nearly 2,500 for all of 2007. The day was highlighted by the gruesome murder of a man who had entered a Red Cross hospital in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, with a gunshot wound to the chest. While he underwent surgery, several hooded, armed men stormed the operating room. They ordered the surgeons and nurses out before executing the patient, most likely finishing what they had started. Attacks on hospitals and medical staff have occurred before, and this most recent one further highlights the danger doctors and nurses face when they treat victims of cartel violence. Sinaloa state saw the most violence in a single state that day, with 15 deaths in different locations throughout the state. This included the deaths of two women and the burning to death of four others in a car in the beach town of Sinaloa de Leyva. Although the Mexican government has made some significant strides in their war against organized crime, days like Nov. 3 further indicate how violence is still increasing as the federal government continues to pressure organized crime.

Mourino, Vasconcelos Deaths

The Nov. 4 plane crash in Mexico City that took the lives of Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino and Deputy Attorney General Jose Luis Vasconcelos represented a huge blow to the Mexican government's fight against drug trafficking. According to the authorities, the initial evidence provides no indication of sabotage or of a bomb on board the plane, and the mostly likely cause was human error. The two black boxes have been recovered and are being analyzed by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board at the request of the Mexican government, a good indication that the analysis and investigation will be handled competently, though results may take a few weeks. These two individuals were an integral part of both the political and the tactical fronts of Mexico's fight against drugs, and it will take some time to bring their replacements up to speed. As of this morning, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced that he has appointed Fernando Francisco Gomez Mont Urueta as the new interior minister. Gomez Mont is the son of one of the founders of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) and has a law degree from the Escuela Libre de Derecho, as does Calderon. He is also a member of the PAN National Executive Council. Although Gomez Mont looks to be a very qualified replacement, it will still take time for him to adjust to the new responsibilities of being interior minister.

El Hummer Arrested in Reynosa

The Nov. 7 arrest of Jaime "El Hummer" Gonzalez Duran was a major victory for the Mexican government and a major blow to the Zetas. Elements of the Mexican military and federal agents raided one of Gonzalez Duran's many residences in and around Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. Gonzalez Duran was apprehended without a shot. The authorities quickly began transporting him to Reynosa's airport to be flown back to Mexico City, a standard security protocol with high-value targets. A group of Los Zetas attempting to free Gonzalez Duran attacked the convoy, however. A lengthy shootout ensued, involving Zetas crashing their cars and tractor trailers in an attempt to block the road and exit paths for the Federal Police (PFP) convoy. Even so, the federal agents succeeded in putting Gonzalez Duran on a federal plane to Mexico City. El Hummer was one of the original Zetas who deserted the Mexican military in the late 1990s to work as enforcers for Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen. Gonzalez Duran reported directly to the apex of the Zetas' leadership, Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano and Miguel "Z-40" Treviño Morales. Gonzalez Duran also reportedly controlled the Zetas' operations in nine Mexican states. According to an FBI intelligence memo dated Oct. 17 and leaked to the media, El Hummer had authorized those under his command to defend their turf at any cost, including engagements with U.S. law enforcement agents due to recent law enforcement advances in southern Texas. Although the Mexican government has suffered several setbacks recently in the fight against organized crime with the deaths of Mourino and Vasconcelos, the infiltration of the anti-organized-crime unit of the Office of the Mexican Attorney General, corruption involving the former PFP director and various other scandals, El Hummer's arrest indicates that the government still has the operational capability to derive actionable intelligence and execute the take-down of a high-value cartel target. Authorities also made the largest weapons seizure in Mexican history when they raided a safe-house Nov. 6 that belonged to Gonzalez Duran. Agents found 540 assault rifles, more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 14 cartridges of dynamite, 98 fragmentation grenades, 67 bullet-proof vests, seven Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles and a LAW rocket. The most interesting aspect about this raid, other than the sheer quantity of the weapons found, is the presence of the .50-caliber sniper rifles. While we have seen seizures of this weapon before in Mexico, (and in shipments of arms bound for Mexico from the United States), we cannot recall having seen this weapon used in any attacks or targeted assassinations. The Barrett .50-caliber rifle is an incredibly powerful military weapon very accurate up to 1.5 miles (if fired by a trained individual) and capable of piercing even the heaviest body armor, punching through lightly armored vehicles, and even of taking down the rotary-wing aircraft commonly used by the Mexican government in counternarcotics operations. (click to view map)

Nov. 3

  • Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna named Rodrigo Esparza Cristerna interim director of the PFP after the resignation of Gerardo Garay on Oct. 31 amid allegations of ties to drug traffickers
  • Three bodies in an advanced state of decomposition were discovered in the small town of Navajas, Durango state, along the Durango-Mazatlan highway.
  • Three police were killed within hours of each other in two separate incidents in Guanajuato state. Two police were killed around 12:40 p.m. local time in Uriangato, while the third policeman was killed an hour and a half later in Celaya.
  • The severed head of former transit policeman Salvador Mireles Medina was found in the bathroom of a gas station in Irapauto, Guanajuato.
  • Four individuals were executed with large-caliber weapons in two separate events in Tijuana. These murders bring the total killed in Tijuana to 184 in the past month and 555 for the year.
  • Fifteen individuals were executed in different locations throughout the state of Sinaloa in a 24-hour period. Two of the victims were women; four others were burned inside a vehicle.
  • Néstor Peña Sánchez, a commander in Mexico state's investigative police, was shot dead as he walked from his house to his car around 9 a.m. in the town of Toluca.
  • Juan Manuel Pavón Félix, the director of the Sonora state police, died after suffering several gunshot wounds and a blast from a fragmentation grenade in a Nogales hotel the evening of Nov. 2.

Nov. 4

  • A fragmentation grenade was found in the streets of the Iztapalapa delegation in the western sections of Mexico City by the Federal District police.
  • PFP members will begin conducting drug testing, polygraph tests and psychoanalysis of agents and commanders of the Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Municipal Preventive Police.
  • Personnel from the 43rd Military Zone took eight members of the municipal police of Buenavista Tomatlán, near Morelia, Michoacan, into custody for an undisclosed reason.
  • The charred body of a 15-year-old was found around 8 a.m. in Mazatlan, Sinaloa.
  • Luis Roberto Marroquín Sandoval, a presumed associate of Los Zetas, was arrested in the Guatemalan capital. A high-ranking Guatemalan drug trafficking prosecutor said Sandoval worked with Daniel "El Cachetes" Perez Rojas, who was detained earlier this year, to help the group establish control of drug trafficking routes through Guatemala.
  • Three men between the ages of 20 and 30 were gunned down as they drove in a truck in the city of Aguascalientes.
  • Arturo Díaz Venegas, an agent of the attorney general's office of Mexico state, was gunned down as he drove on the Mexico-Cuautla highway in the eastern portion of the Valley of Mexico.
  • Three men, including a local municipal policeman, were killed inside a truck by a group of armed men in central Tijuana, Baja California.

Nov. 5

  • A group of armed men opened fire on the mayor of Navolato, Sinaloa, wounding him and killing three of his passengers as traveled on the Navolato-Altata higway.

Nov. 6

  • Almost 200 passengers were forced off of two planes due to bomb threats at Mexico City International Airport. No explosives were found after authorities swept both planes.
  • A male body was discovered in Xalapa, Veracruz, with his hands bound and his head enveloped in duct tape along with a note claiming Los Zetas were responsible.
  • A new Special Anti-Kidnapping Unit in Tamaulipas state has 27 agents. Gov. Eugenio Hernández gave the go-ahead for the group to begin operations after the delivery of vehicles and special technical equipment.
  • An additional 150 members of the Mexican military arrived as reinforcements in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, as part of Operation Northeast, which was implemented by the federal government to combat organized crime and drug trafficking.
  • Francisco Javier Grajeda Castillo, a former director of police in Tonalá, Jalisco, was executed in the driveway in front of his home as his child waited in his car.
  • Sinaloa Attorney General Alfredo Higuera Bernal will begin new police reforms and new police restructuring to improve state police capabilities and accountability.
  • Elements of the Mexican military and federal agents made the largest weapons seizure in the history of Mexico in a stash house in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. Agents found 540 assault rifles, more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 14 cartridges of dynamite, 98 fragmentation grenades, 67 bullet-proof vests, seven Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifles, and a LAW rocket.

Nov. 7

  • Federal agents arrested Jamie "El Hummer" Gonzalez Duran at one of his homes in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. As the agents transpored him to Reynosa's airport to transport him to Mexico City, Gonzalez Duran's men ambushed the convoy in an attempt to rescue him. The agents successfully put him on an airplane to Mexico City, however.
  • Paraguayan authorities announced that Mexican national Jesús Martínez Espinoza, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel's Southern Cone operations, is to be extradited to Argentina on Nov. 14 on drug trafficking charges.
  • Rolando Paredes Robles, a hit man for the local narcotics gang El Concord, was arrested in Chiapas state for the execution of the Municipal Police Tactical Group Commander José Luis Altuzar Zamudio.
  • Five individuals were executed in the Libertad Parte Baja neighborhood of Tijuana, Baja California. A note near the bodies indicated the victims were involved in the drug trade. Separately, a group of armed men executed a policeman as he traveled on the Ensenada-Tijuana highway.

Nov. 8

  • Mexican military members detained two presumed members of Los Zetas. Authorities also discovered radio communication equipment, equipment to intercept calls, fragmentation grenades, several firearms and a small amount of cocaine.
  • Two messages appeared in Juarez, Chihuahua, from La Linea, the enforcers for the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organizations. The messages were directed to Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, telling him to leave the people, police and the streets of Juarez alone so they can return to normal.
  • A policeman died and two others were wounded in different incidents throughout Hidalgo state. Police say the violence is likely related to the mayoral elections set for Nov. 9.

Nov. 9

  • A report from Mexico's Defense Department states that the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking has left 564 soldiers dead. The report also states that nearly 1,600 members of the Mexican special operations forces have deserted their posts.
  • Carmen Leticia Sánchez Gutiérrez, a commander in the Sinaloa state preventive police, was seriously injured in an attack by an unknown number of armed individuals at her home in Culiacan, Sinaloa.
  • In two separate incidents, armed men attacked two men, leaving one man dead and the other gravely injured. Jesús Alberto García Lara died after being shot several times in the Infonavit Aeropuerto neighborhood of Juarez, while Heriberto Velásquez was in grave condition after suffering a gunshot wound to the abdomen in the Luis Olague neighborhood.

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