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Sep 14, 2009 | 21:17 GMT

4 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Sept. 14, 2009

Mexico Security Memo

Security Concerns Over Independence Day Celebrations

Mexico will celebrate its Independence Day this coming week, with parades and other large festivities planned for Sept. 15 and 16. The largest public gatherings will take place in the public squares of Mexico City, but similar events will occur in cities all across the country. While this is naturally a celebratory time in Mexico, there is significant concern of cartel-related violence directed at civilians during this year's celebrations. Contributing to this concern are strong memories of the 2008 Independence Day attack in Morelia, Michoacan state that killed eight people and wounded nearly 100. In that incident, two men threw fragmentation grenades into the city's central plaza, crowded with some 30,000 people, at the culmination of the event. In addition, several weeks ago on Aug. 26, authorities in Guanajuato, Guanajuato state, discovered a note warning of several attacks on Sept 15. The note, purportedly signed by Los Zetas, specifically threatened attacks against police buildings, a local university, and the city's Independence Day celebration. While it is likely that the threat was propaganda or disinformation from a rival cartel, it raises the possibility of another attack this year. In the weeks following the September 2008 attack — the cartel war's first clear case of indiscriminate killing of civilians — several drug trafficking organizations went out of their way to denounce the attack. Los Zetas, for example, offered a reward for anyone that provided them with information about the perpetrators, so that the group could deliver punishment. That response highlights the fact that most criminal groups in Mexico have no reason to attack civilians, let alone on such a symbolic day. Despite the high levels of drug violence in Mexico, the cartels are selective in their targeting, killing and kidnapping mainly only members of rival cartels or government officials such as police and soldiers. That said, over the last year, STRATFOR has observed an increase in cases of indiscriminate killing. While those examples are still a far cry from the September 2008 Independence Day attack, they mark a steady escalation of organized crime-related violence throughout the country. In addition, it is important to consider the capabilities and intentions of less traditional organized crime groups such as La Familia Michoacana, who are the most likely to conduct such a provocative act of brazen violence against civilians. Also, such attacks could be used by one cartel in an attempt to turn public sentiment against a rival cartel by framing them for the attack. In any case, the high levels of corruption among Mexican authorities and general ineffectiveness in the cartel war make them essentially incapable of stopping any plot that may be planned for Sept. 15 or 16, leaving the country ultimately at the mercy of drug traffickers to decide the level of violence. (click here to enlarge)

Sept. 8

  • The beheaded body of an unidentified man was found along a highway near Minatitlan, Veracruz state.

Sept. 9

  • Military authorities announced the arrest of Sergio "Z-44" Ruiz Tlapanco, an alleged founding member of Los Zetas. Ruiz was arrested Sept. 8 in Puebla state.

Sept. 10

  • Military forces in Patzcuaro, Michoacan state, recovered some 10 vehicles that had been painted to resemble official military or law enforcement vehicles.
  • A fragmentation grenade exploded inside the offices of a news magazine in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, after several men forced entry into the building.
  • An alleged drug dealer in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state, was shot some 15 times and killed while sitting in a vehicle.
  • One police officer was killed and at least one was wounded when their patrol car was ambushed by several armed men in Fresnillo, Zacatecas state.
  • At least 11 people, including three minors, were abducted from their homes in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state.

Sept. 11

  • Shootings at two food stands in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, left three people dead.
  • The charred remains of three unidentified people were found inside a car along a road near Cuernavaca, Morelos state.

Sept. 13

  • Two fragmentation grenades detonated outside a police building in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero state, causing damage to the building but no casualties.
  • A police commander in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, was killed in a firefight with several gunmen traveling in a vehicle.

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