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Nov 8, 2010 | 21:40 GMT

7 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Nov. 8, 2010

Mexico Security Memo

Silencing the Storm

Gulf cartel leader Antonio Ezequiel "Tony Tormenta" Cardenas Guillen reportedly was killed Nov. 5 during a large operation by the Mexican navy in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state. A spokesman for the Secretary of the Navy confirmed that Tony Tormenta had been killed in a three hourlong firefight between Mexican Marines and members of the Gulf cartel in the Victoria neighborhood of Matamoros at approximately 2:50 p.m. local time. Mexican security forces had been closing in on the Gulf cartel leader the past six months, and had launched at least three operations to capture him during that time. During one operation Sept. 14, Tony Tormenta mounted a dramatic escape from Mexican security forces, fleeing a building in an armored car under a hail of bullets being exchanged by his security detail and Mexican Marines. Photographs of Tony Tormenta's body have yet to surface. Over the years, he has been reported killed and arrested only to re-emerge several weeks later. However, the degree to which the government has responded to reports of his Nov. 5 death has been unprecedented. Tony Tormenta shared the leadership of the Gulf Cartel with Eduardo "El Coss" Costilla Sanchez after Mexican special operations forces arrested Tony Tormenta's brother, former Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen, in March 2003. Tony Tormenta reportedly oversaw trafficking and enforcement operations in the Tamaulipas border region and commanded an enforcement group known as Los Escorpiones, Spanish for "The Scorpions," that served as his personal protection detail. He was known for his sometimes unpredictable behavior and outlandish lifestyle, which many in the Gulf cartel organization questioned at times. Costilla Sanchez was said to be the operational leader of the cartel, with Tony Tormenta enjoying his position only due to his relationship to his brother, Osiel. In many ways, Tony Tormenta's death could prove beneficial to Gulf cartel operations. Tony Tormenta's organization was active in the recent conflict between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas. Los Escorpiones played a key role in forcing the Zetas out of the Reynosa and Matamoros regions in the first half of 2010. Tony Tormenta's death means Los Zetas are likely to attempt to regain influence in these regions, and perhaps even mount an all-out assault. As a result, violence in the region is likely to spike in the short term. Officials have warned of such a scenario, and are preparing to deal with an onslaught of violence. If Costilla Sanchez can fend off an assault by Los Zetas and maintain control of the Reynosa and Matamoros regions, the absence of Tony Tormenta's volatile personality might bring relative peace to the region in the next few months.

Hermosillo Warden Message

The U.S. Consulate in Hermosillo, Sonora state, issued a Warden Message on Nov. 4 prohibiting State Department personnel from traveling to portions of southern Sonora and northeastern Sonora except in armored vehicles with police escorts. Increased security concerns stemming from drug trafficking organizations operating in the region sparked the message, specifically, a recent uptick in cartel elements targeting travelers in carjackings. Sonora is no stranger to cartel violence. This region of Sonora is known for its lawlessness, having been home to a wide variety of criminals over the years from 19th century bandidos to today's drug traffickers. The remoteness and vastness of the Sonoran desert and the Sierra Madre Occidental makes the region exceptionally difficult to police. In recent months, however, much of the activity taking place there has been overshadowed by the extreme violence in neighboring Chihuahua state and by multiton drug seizures in Baja California state. The particular areas outlined by the State Department as no-go regions lie along a route from northern Chihuahua state to the home regions of Sinaloa Federation leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) organization in northern Sinaloa state. Spillover violence from the conflict in Chihuahua state between the Sinaloa Federation and the VCF has accounted for much of the violence in this particular region of Sonora. This conflict in Juarez and Chihuahua began as a personal spat between Guzman and Carrillo Fuentes, who had been partners in the Sinaloa Federation for several years, in which Guzman initially targeted members of Carrillo Fuentes' family. The conflict later spread throughout their organizations and into Sonora. (click here to view interactive map)

Nov. 1

  • Police announced the seizure of approximately 13 tons of marijuana from a residence in the Buenos Aires Norte neighborhood of Tijuana, Baja California state.
  • Three policemen and a civilian were found dead in Acapulco, Guerrero state, after an anonymous phone call to authorities regarding two injured people.
  • A man's decapitated corpse was found in Sabana, Guerrero state. The victim's feet were tied and his hands had been severed.

Nov. 2

  • Unidentified gunmen killed two American students from the University of Texas at El Paso in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
  • Police discovered the bodies of six men in the municipality of Panuco, Veracruz state. The victims, who reportedly were from Tamaulipas state, bore signs of torture.
  • Soldiers killed four suspected cartel gunmen during a firefight in the municipalities of Poanas and Vicente Guerrero, Durango state.

Nov. 3

  • Authorities in Mexico and the United States seized 24.5 tons of marijuana from a smuggling tunnel and a warehouse connecting Tijuana, Baja California state, and Otay Mesa, California.
  • Soldiers in Matamoros, Tamaulipas state, seized 230 grenades and about 65,000 rounds of ammunition during a raid on a house.
  • Unidentified gunmen opened fire on police officers, injuring two police at a guardhouse in southern Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Nov. 4

  • Authorities announced 45 arrests in Atlanta as a part of Operation Chokehold, which began in May 2009 and targeted La Familia Michoacana (LFM) operations in the Atlanta area. Law enforcement agencies have seized 1,868 kilograms (4,120 pounds) of marijuana, 20 kilograms of methamphetamine and approximately 43 kilograms of cocaine.
  • Unidentified gunmen killed four policemen during an attack on police cars in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
  • A police officer was injured in a grenade attack on a guardhouse in the Dos Rios neighborhood of Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Unidentified gunmen killed the security chief for the mayor of San Pedro, Nuevo Leon state, in the Camino Real neighborhood of Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state.

Nov. 5

  • Security forces arrested a Colombian national in southern Mexico City identified as Harold Mauricio Poveda Ortega. Poveda Ortega is suspected of smuggling approximately 150 tons of cocaine into Mexico and working with the Beltran Leyva Organization and Edgar Valdez Villarreal.
  • One man was killed and two were injured in a drive-by shooting by unidentified gunmen in two vehicles in the Vicente Guerrero neighborhood of San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Suspected cartel gunmen set up five roadblocks, set several vehicles on fire and attacked a gasoline station in Morelia, Michoacan state. The arrest of two suspected LFM members is thought to have prompted the incidents.

Nov. 6

  • Police seized 300 kilograms of cocaine from a truck in the municipality of Frontera Comalapa, Chiapas state. The driver was arrested at the scene.
  • A firefight between soldiers and unidentified civilians was reported in the Riberena neighborhood of Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. Several roadblocks were reported throughout the city.
  • Unidentified gunmen killed seven people inside a house in the Frida Kahlo neighborhood of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

Nov. 7

  • Unidentified gunmen killed two police officers inside a patrol car in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.
  • The decapitated body of a man was found in the La Maquina neighborhood of Acapulco, Guerrero state. A message left near the body attributed the crime to an unidentified drug cartel.

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