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Jul 18, 2012 | 10:01 GMT

3 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Record-High Violence in Torreon

Members of Mexican federal police stand guard in the main entrance of the El Siglo de Torreon Newspaper, in Torreon, Coahuila State, on February 26, 2013.

Violence in Torreon

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed three police officers traveling in a car July 12 in Torreon, Coahuila state. A fourth officer was injured in the attack. The incident is the latest in a trend of increasing violence in Coahuila state, particularly in Torreon. 

Mexican law enforcement officials attribute the recent wave of violence in Torreon to the capture of a Los Zetas plaza boss, Alberto Jose "El Paisa" Gonzalez Xalate, who was detained April 29. In addition, homicide numbers released by the Executive Secretariat of the National System of Public Security reflect an uptick in murders in Coahuila state since the arrest. Homicides increased from 82 in April to 121 in May, the highest number of homicides in state history, according to previous figures from the same source. Media reports indicate Torreon specifically has seen a sharp increase, with 112 reported homicides in June, the highest count reported in 2012. Regardless of whether Gonzalez's arrest triggered the increased violence in Torreon, it is certain the struggle between organized criminal groups in southern Coahuila state has intensified since the end of April.

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Given the notable increase in violence since the time of Gonzalez's arrest, his fall likely contributed to the increase in organized criminal violence in the area. The death or capture of a plaza boss can create violence for a number of reasons, such as retribution against law enforcement, internal power struggles or rival cartels attempting to exploit the lack of leadership to gain new territory or further disrupt opponents' networks. Unidentified rivals of Los Zetas' top two leaders, Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano and Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, have used Gonzalez's arrest as an opportunity to subvert the Zetas leaders by posting narcomantas labeling Lazcano and Trevino as traitors in various areas of Nuevo Leon, Zacatecas and Tamaulipas states. The narcomantas mention Gonzalez's arrest as an example of an alleged betrayal by Lazcano or Trevino and imply that there is an internal struggle within Los Zetas by possibly hinting that a Zetas leader could have something to do with the arrest of one of their own. However, there are no external indications that such a struggle exists, and the narcomantas could be misdirection from a rival cartel.

CJNG in Colima

Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion recently lost two leaders in Colima state. Unidentified gunmen killed four individuals and wounded six others July 14 when the assailants opened fire on patrons at a restaurant in Cerro de Ortega, Colima state. Among the dead was Leopoldo "Polo" Gonzalez Aviles, the alleged CJNG plaza boss of Cerro de Ortega. The next day in Colima state's port city of Manzanillo, authorities arrested Jaime Ignacio "El Pelotas" Ramirez Jauregui, the reported CJNG plaza boss of Manzanillo, along with a colleague. The presence of CJNG leaders in Colima state shows their activity in a region where the criminal organization has only recently expanded operations.

CJNG, which originated from Ignacio "El Nacho" Coronel Villarreal's group within the Sinaloa Federation, rapidly expanded its operations geographically during 2011 from its home state of Jalisco to several states, including neighboring Colima state. Manzanillo has long been used by Mexico's drug trafficking organizations to acquire chemical precursors for the production of methamphetamine, an illicit product Coronel's group specialized in producing. While the loss of the two leaders could affect CJNG's ability to operate in the near term, the arrests will not likely have a significant impact on long-term operations because leadership can easily be replaced in order to hold the strategic location.

Editor's Note: We now offer the daily Mexico Security Monitor, an additional custom intelligence service geared toward organizations with operations or interests in the region, designed to provide more detailed and in-depth coverage of the situation. To learn more about this new fee-based custom service, visit www.stratfor.com/msm.

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