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Oct 11, 2010 | 22:44 GMT

7 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Oct. 11, 2010

Mexico Security Memo

Los Zetas Guatemala Confrontation

Members of the Guatemalan military clashed with suspected members of the Mexican drug trafficking organization Los Zetas in the jungles of Guatemala's Peten department near the village of El Remate, leaving two Zetas dead, another two captured and a Guatemalan soldier injured the night of Oct. 5. Official reports indicate that a convoy of 10 vehicles (some of them armored) carrying eight to 10 Zetas each was traveling down a jungle road when it encountered a Guatemalan military patrol, at which point the Zetas opened fire on the soldiers. The Zeta convoy reportedly was based out of the village of El Chal (a significant distance away) and allegedly was searching for those responsible for stealing a cocaine shipment a few weeks ago. The group got lost on the jungle roads, however, before it stumbled upon the military patrol. As of Oct. 6, Guatemalan National Police had confiscated nine of the 10 vehicles, and were continuing to search for remnants of the Zetas with the help of the Guatemalan special operations forces unit known as Los Kaibiles. While confrontations between Mexican drug trafficking organizations and foreign militaries are fairly rare, it is not surprising that they occur. STRATFOR has tracked the southward push of Mexican drug trafficking organizations into Central America and South America for some time, with an emphasis on the Zetas' and Sinaloa Federation's push into the Central American trafficking scene. Los Zetas operate almost exclusively throughout the vast swaths of jungle from western to northeastern Guatemala, where they receive shipments of cocaine from South America on hundreds of clandestine airstrips throughout the region. Los Zetas also have established several training camps in the area where both Mexican and Central American recruits receive varying degrees of tactical training on drug trafficking. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the incident was its proximity to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, a popular tourist destination. Several thousand people visit the ruins every year, with the vast majority of these tourists flying into nearby Flores and then traveling on the road from Flores to Tikal National Park. Tourist buses have been hijacked and the passengers robbed before, but the large amounts of cash the tourists brought to the local economy and the resulting pressure against this kind of banditry minimized such incidents. Increased confrontations in the region between cartel elements and Guatemalan security forces would likely cause a decline in tourism not unlike the blow to Mexico's tourism industry dealt by the widespread violence in that country — and many tourists already were avoiding Guatemala due to fears of violence.

Hidalgo State Heating Up?

Hidalgo state police discovered a narcomanta (a banner with a message from a drug cartel) signed by Los Zetas hanging from a pedestrian bridge between two prominent state government buildings early Oct. 5. In it, the Zetas declared their rivalry with the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana, adding that they do not to kill or extort the people of Hidalgo. Later, at around 5 a.m. Oct. 7, the decapitated and quartered bodies of two men believed associated with the Zetas were found near Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo state, near a narcomanta signed by the Gulf cartel and La Familia Michoacana reading "Welcome to Hidalgo." Hidalgo traditionally has been one of Mexico's quieter regions, though it has experienced fleeting bouts of cartel violence. The region serves as a popular trans-shipment location for narcotics and alien smuggling as part of the Gulf route from Central America to the Texas-Mexico border and traditionally was Gulf cartel territory. After Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel split earlier this year, their conflict slowly has spread in regions where their operations overlap. These types of tit-for-tat assassinations and public displays of mutilated bodies often signify a declaration of war. Similar narcomantas from both Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel appeared in Reynosa and other parts of Tamaulipas before violence significantly escalated between the two groups in February and March. The events in Hidalgo could thus foreshadow a new wave of violence in the coming weeks as a new front in the Los Zetas-Gulf cartel conflict. (click here to view interactive map)

Oct. 4

  • The Mexican navy announced the seizure of 5,683 kilograms (about 12,500 lbs.) of marijuana from several abandoned vessels in Talchichilte Island, Sinaloa state.
  • Authorities announced the seizure of 77.5 kilograms of marijuana from a vehicle in the municipality of Silao, Leon state. Three people were arrested during the incident.
  • Naval security forces and customs agents seized approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine at the port of Manzanillo, Colima state. The shipment was discovered in a container that arrived from Callao, Peru.

Oct. 5

  • Police discovered the body of an unidentified man wrapped in plastic bags in the municipality of Tezoyuca, Mexico state.
  • Unidentified gunmen killed a man inside his home in the Tlalpan neighborhood of Mexico City and kidnapped four members of his family who were later found inside an abandoned car shot dead.
  • Soldiers freed 14 kidnapping victims from a vehicle at a roadblock near the San Miguel Bridge in Coahuila state. The driver of the vehicle was arrested.

Oct. 6

  • Soldiers arrested two people in the Valle del Sur neighborhood of the municipality of Juarez, Nuevo Leon state. The suspects were interrogated and subsequently led the troops to a safe-house where authorities freed a kidnapping victim.
  • Unidentified gunmen killed two men traveling in a car on Madero Avenue in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. A group of unidentified armed men later arrived at the scene to recover the bodies, causing police to retreat temporarily.
  • Unidentified gunmen killed one policeman and injured seven in an ambush in Coyuca de Catalan, Guerrero state.
  • Unidentified gunmen attacked an armored vehicle belonging to a restaurant owner in Leon, Guanajuato state, slightly injuring the owner. Police later arrested two suspected members of the Sinaloa cartel in connection with the attack.

Oct. 7

  • Soldiers killed two gunmen during a firefight in a rural area of the municipality of Paras, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Authorities discovered a dismembered body near the settlement of Tres Palos in Acapulco, Guerrero state, along with a message warning "those who back the Beltran Leyva cartel and Daniel Encinas."
  • Two dismembered bodies were found in the municipality of Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo state. A message attributing the crime to the Gulf Cartel and La Familia Michoacan was found nearby.
  • Police found the severed head of a kidnapped man in the El Troncal de Villa Union neighborhood of Mazatlan, Sinaloa state.

Oct. 8

  • Unidentified gunmen attacked a house in the Unidad Nacional neighborhood of Ciudad Madero, Tamaulipas state with grenades, destroying a vehicle in the garage.
  • Six suspected cartel gunmen were killed and one soldier was injured during a firefight in Nueva Ciudad Guerrero, Tamaulipas state.
  • A vehicle accidentally triggered an improvised explosive device in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state, injuring one person and damaging several buildings.
  • Unidentified gunmen killed the mayor of Martires de Tacubaya, Oaxaca state.

Oct. 9

  • Soldiers in Salvatierra, Guanajuato state, arrested two suspected cartel members after discovering three bodies in their vehicle during a traffic stop.
  • Police discovered the bodies of two men the Los Puestos neighborhood of Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state. The two victims had been shot to death.
  • One policeman was injured during a grenade attack on the Public Security Secretariat headquarters in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Oct. 10

  • Two suspected cartel gunmen were killed during a firefight with soldiers in the municipality of General Teran, Nuevo Leon state.

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