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May 16, 2012 | 12:55 GMT

5 mins read

Mexico Security Memo: Zetas-Sinaloa Conflict Intensifies

Stratfor

Criminals have assembled dramatic displays of corpses throughout Mexico since May 4, when 23 victims were arranged in two separate displays in Nuevo Laredo. Narcomantas accompanied both, the first signed "El Chapo" and the other unsigned but denouncing Gulf cartel leaders and a former sicario, or hit man, for the Sinaloa Federation. On May 9, Mexican authorities discovered 18 bodies near Guadalajara, Jalisco state. According to state authorities, Los Zetas and the Zetas-affiliated Milenio cartel were responsible. And in the highest-profile incident, 49 dismembered bodies were dumped along a highway near Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state, along with a narcomanta in which Los Zetas claimed responsibility.

These public displays of violence all relate to the ongoing conflict between the Sinaloa Federation and its allies and Los Zetas and their allies in northeastern Mexico, in particular over Nuevo Laredo, a critical plaza for Los Zetas. This conflict has security implications throughout Mexico.

Since September 2011, the Sinaloa Federation and its allies, the Gulf cartel and Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), have challenged Los Zetas in cities along routes leading to Nuevo Laredo, such as Veracruz, Monterrey and Ciudad Victoria. Sinaloa announced its recent challenge to Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo in a March 27 narcomanta. Los Zetas responded in kind along the route from Veracruz city to Nuevo Laredo and in traditional strongholds of Sinaloa and its allies, including Culiacan, Sinaloa and Guadalajara, Jalisco state, areas as critical to Sinaloa as Nuevo Laredo is to Los Zetas.

Continuing pressure from Sinaloa in Nuevo Laredo may force Los Zetas to divert resources from their other plazas to defend Nuevo Laredo. This limits Los Zetas' ability to defend plazas from additional incursions or to counter existing incursions like one in Cancun, where CJNG is competing for control of the plaza.

051612 MSM Hot Spots in Mexico

The Mexican military also is mounting strong efforts against Los Zetas in states such as Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila. The arrests or deaths of Los Zetas members like the March loss of two Nuevo Laredo plaza bosses in military operations open up even more opportunities for the Sinaloa Federation and its allies. This could well translate into additional turf wars in Zetas-controlled territory — and in the turf of the Sinaloa Federation and its allies when Los Zetas strike back. While Nuevo Laredo is critical for Los Zetas, it is only one battlefield in the war.

May 7

  • Authorities seized 32 metric tons of monomethylamine, a chemical precursor used for the production of methamphetamine, from a ship in Veracruz city, Veracruz state. The shipment, which originated in China, was labeled falsely as containing aluminum sulfate.

May 8

  • Authorities rescued 12 kidnapping victims from a house in Tala, Jalisco state. Authorities were alerted to the house after one of the victims escaped.
  • Gunmen killed a Centro de Readaptacion Social prison guard director in Torreon, Coahuila state, in his vehicle at an intersection.
  • Authorities detained six members of La Oficina in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state. At the time of their arrest, the six were planning to kidnap a person who did not pay an extortion fee.
  • Gunmen established several roadblocks in central Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, by forcing motorists from their vehicles and then setting the vehicles ablaze.
  • Gunmen ambushed a group of police officers along a road near Xalostoc, Guerrero state, killing two officers.

May 9

  • Authorities discovered 18 headless bodies along a road in Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillo, Jalisco state, accompanied by a narcomanta signed "Milenio-Zetas alliance."
  • Authorities seized 766.35 kilograms (1,689 pounds) of marijuana from a vehicle in Tijuana, Baja California state.
  • Authorities seized approximately 14,700 liters (3,880 gallons) of chemical precursors used in the production of illicit drugs in Frontera Hidalgo, Chiapas state.

May 10

  • Gunmen opened fire on a police patrol in Torreon, Coahuila state. Casualty information was not available.
  • Authorities detained four people in possession of illegal drugs, a sidearm, seven cellphones, a radio and 135 voter ID cards in San Nicolas de los Garza, Nuevo Leon state.
  • A firefight between gunmen and the military in Salvador Alvarado, Sinaloa state, killed five gunmen after gunfire ignited their vehicle. Elements of the 9th Military Zone initiated the exchange after encountering a checkpoint set up by the gunmen on Highway 15.

May 11

  • Gunmen fired on newspaper El Manana's office in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, for several minutes and spray-painted an undisclosed message on the building. No injuries were reported.

May 12

  • Authorities arrested four people in Tala, Jalisco state, in connection with decapitated bodies found May 9 in Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, Jalisco state.

May 13

  • Forty-nine dismembered bodies in black bags were dumped near Cadereyta, Nuevo Leon state, along a highway leading to Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. "Z-100%" was spray painted on a nearby wall, suggesting Los Zetas carried out the attack.
  • Authorities found the body of Orta Salgado, a police reporter with 20 years of experience, handcuffed and bearing signs of torture in the trunk of a vehicle in Cuernavaca, Morelos state.
  • Authorities discovered a dismembered body in Ixlan, Michoacan state, along a highway. A narcomanta signed CJNG and threatening the Knights Templar accompanied the body.

May 14

  • Authorities in Luvianos, Mexico state, arrested suspected La Familia Michoacana (LFM) operator Juan Castelan Martinez "El Virulo" on the Tejupilco-Luvianos road. He is believed to have reported to "El Pony" and "La Marrana," the two principal LFM operators in Mexico state.
  • Soldiers in the municipality of Chapala, Jalisco state, discovered five bodies in an industrial freezer on a farm. The bodies matched severed body parts found May 9 in Jalisco state.
  • Seven men are being held in Chiapas state for allegedly trying to smuggle 6.4 kilograms of methamphetamine through a roadblock in Margaritas, Chiapas state. The drug shipment allegedly originated in Comitlan de Dominguez, Chiapas state, and was bound for Mexico state.
  • Authorities seized 136 metric tons of chemical precursors aboard a ship in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state. The shipment originated in China and had Honduras listed as its final destination.

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