Mexico: Anti-Cartel Militias Become Legitimate

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May 17, 2014: On the 10th the many informal local defense forces fighting the drug cartels for over a decade were officially recognized as components of the Fuerza Rural (Rural Police Force or RPF). The RPF will be trained by the police and cooperate with them. The government will pay them as part-timers as well. But because local police forces are often corrupted (bribed or intimidated) by the cartels, the RPF will still have a lot of autonomy and are expected to report police corruption. This could get interesting because increasingly the cartels see these local defense groups as their major opponents in rural areas. The cartels often avoided areas where self-defense groups were operating but as the presence of RPFs expand that will eventually force the cartels to fight back if they wish to stay in business. Since the local militias are defending their homes and businesses and know each other they are somewhat resistant to cartel intimidation. That’s a tough circle for the cartels to break into and corrupt. While the government worried that some of these self-defense groups might turn into bandits or private armies for some local leader that has now become a risk worth taking because of the years of persistent and often growing cartel violence.

May 16, 2014: The government of El Salvador confirmed reports made earlier this month that the Los Zetas cartel is supplying criminal gangs in El Salvador with weapons. One of the gangs receiving the weapons is Mara 18.

May 15, 2014: Additional military and police units are being sent to Tamaulipas state (north-eastern Mexico, Texas border region). The first reinforcements arrived May 13. In recent weeks the turf war between Los Zetas and Gulf cartels has intensified. Major firefights have occurred between cartel gunmen and security forces in the cities of Reynosa, Matamoros and Tampico and the Interior Ministry acknowledged that the federal government has been slow to respond.  To deal with that the state will be divided into four security regions, with a senior military officer in charge of each region. The Tamaulipas operation appears to be similar to the federal security operation in Michoacan state. Military and police reinforcements will man additional observation and control points at airports, border crossings and seaports. Security forces will also expand road network surveillance and patrol. (Austin Bay)

In Guatemala police captured a major Los Zetas associate Jairo Orellana Morales after a gun battle that saw two Los Zetas gunmen and a policeman killed. Seven other Los Zetas men were arrested as well. Morales is wanted in the United States as a major drug smuggler and that is where he is apparently being sent.

May 12, 2014: Government security forces have killed one of the founding leaders of Los Zetas cartel. On May 9 security forces killed Galindo Mellado Cruz (nom de guerres: El Mellado and Z-9) in a gun battle in the city of Reynosa (Tamaulipas state).  Five other Zetas gang members died in the firefight as well as one soldier. Mellado Cruz was one of the original 30 special operations soldiers the Gulf cartel hired as elite enforcers. The former soldiers became the nucleus of Los Zetas.

May 10, 2014:  The government claimed that it has driven the Knights Templar from several key towns in western Michoacan. Security forces also began reorganizing local community defense groups communitarios or autodefensas) in Michoacan state. In the town of Tepalcatepec, the government swore in 120 local self defense militiamen as members of the new rural police corps (the Fuerza Rural or Rural Police Force). Security forces then gave the militiamen new pistols, rifles and uniforms. However, many residents in Michaocan’s rural areas are still concerned about threats from Knights Templar gunmen.

May 8, 2014: The Honduran Supreme Court gave the Honduran government the right to extradite Carlos Arnoldo Lobo Aleman (aka El Negro Lobo) to the US. Lobo, though Honduran, is a member of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. He is wanted in the U.S. on narcotics trafficking charges. Authorities contend that Lobo handled Colombian cocaine shipments for Mexican, Guatemalan and Honduran criminal organizations. Honduras also reported that it is continuing to seize the Honduran assets of drug smugglers. So far the government has seized 17 fishing boats allegedly used for drug smuggling.

May 6, 2014: The Tamaulipas state chief of police intelligence and investigations, Salvador Haro Munoz, was murdered in an ambush outside of Ciudad Victoria (state capital) as security forces moved against a suspected cartel safe house. Security forces later killed four cartel gunmen in a related incident.  Three marines and one police officer were wounded in the gunfight. The Gulf cartel and Los Zetas cartel are fighting a turf war in the state. In April 2014 gang-related violence in Tamaulipas state killed 64 people. The biggest incident was the April 29 shootout in Reynosa. 14 people were slain in that incident. The death toll of 64 is an estimate and is not an official figure. It is based on news reports in Mexican and American media.

May 5, 2014: Honduras confirmed that it will extradite Sinaloa cartel member Carlos Arnoldo Lobo Aleman to the US. Lobo was arrested in March 2014.

May 4, 2014:  Cartel gunmen shot at the regional prosecutor's office in the city of Zamora (western Michoacan state). One state policeman and a civilian were killed in the attack.

 

 

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