Mexico: Return Fire


June 20, 2011: The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) is facing heavy criticism for an operation that has apparently gone terribly wrong. Operation Fast and Furious (also known in the media as operation Gunwalker) was supposed to be a covert operation that would use weapon sales (from monitored U.S. sources to Mexico) as a means of gaining information about drug cartel activities then penetrating the cartels. Law enforcement agents would track the buyers and track the weapons. It didn’t turn out that way. U.S. agents lost track of the weapons and the weapons started being used to commit major crimes, including murdering a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona. The operation ultimately involved some 2,000 weapons (a lot of weapons), including AK-47 type assault rifles and .50 caliber sniper rifles. A U.S. congressional committee is investigating the operation. Allegedly, 150 Mexican security personnel were killed by weapons that came through the Fast and Furious program.

June 19, 2011: Mexican army soldiers killed 11 suspected cartel gunmen in a firefight in Veracruz state (eastern Mexico). Eight gunmen were arrested.

June 18, 2011: PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos, the Mexican national oil company) claimed that petroleum product thefts by criminal gangs have increased this year. In fact, in the first four months of 2011, PEMEX believes more fuel and petroleum products have been stolen than was filched all last year. PEMEX estimates that $236 million worth of petroleum products (refined and unrefined) were stolen from January to April 2011.

Mexican prosecutors reported that the bodies of eight people were found in Michoacan state (western Mexico). The victims had been reported kidnapped by the Knights Templar drug gang (a splinter faction of La Familia drug cartel).

June 17, 2011: Federal police arrested a Los Zetas hitman suspected of kidnapping 72 migrant workers then executing ten of them. Police identified the murderer as Edgar Huerya Montiel. Montiel is a Mexican Army deserter. He was arrested in the northern state of Zacatecas.

A fierce gunfight between Mexican Army soldiers and drug cartel gunmen in Matamoros (across the border from Brownsville, Texas) left two suspected gunmen dead. The government said the gunmen fired on the army patrol and the patrol counter-attacked.

June 15, 2011: Security authorities reported that 33 murders occurred in the greater Monterrey area, the majority caused by drug gang violence. Four million people live in the Monterrey metropolitan area.

June 12, 2011: Cartel gunmen murdered a family of five in the town of Guadalupe y Calvo (Chihuahua state). Apparently the gunmen asked where someone was living. When the family did not know, the gunmen killed them.

June 9, 2011: Texas law enforcement officers reported they were fired upon by Mexican smugglers from the Mexican side of the border. The smugglers fired four rounds. The Texas cops fired 300 rounds back at the smugglers, possibly wounding three. The law officers included Texas Rangers, U.S. Border Patrol agents, and Texas game wardens. Mexican Army soldiers reacted to the gunfire and seized over 400 pounds of marijuana from the fleeing smugglers. Four rounds met by 300. Don’t mess with Texas sounds macho. However, smart drug lords pay attention to incidents like this. There is a lesson in it. Unarmed civilians are unfortunately easy targets for heavily armed cartel gunmen. Texas Rangers and Border Patrol agents are not and U.S. soldiers definitely aren’t. Some of the cartel drug lords have intimated that they might try to get a border war started between the U.S. and Mexico. At this point in time (post-Bin Laden raid) that would be a very stupid stratagem, but criminals do stupid things.

June 8, 2011: Cartel gunmen attacked a drug treatment center in the town of Torreon (Coahuila state). They murdered 11 people and wounded two.

June 4, 2011: U.S. and Mexican security specialists are now starting to talk about criminal gangs and organized criminal networks (gangs linked by personal or business connections) as running criminal insurgencies in order to facilitate their large-scale operations. The term is useful, since the drug cartels use terror techniques to challenge local, regional, and national police and military organizations. In Somalia piracy (a crime) and criminal activity in Mogadishu blend into Islamist militant terrorism. Iraqi criminal gangs made money off of the Iraqi insurgency. That has certainly happened with narco-guerrillas in Colombia. They started out as Marxist revolutionaries then moved into protecting drug organizations then became a drug organization. The Mexican drug cartels are a little different, but they use widespread and horrific violence to intimidate law enforcement, frighten the population into submission, and shake the government. They bribe and buy politicians and judges, too. The Mexican drug cartels goals are not political per se, they are criminal. Mexican authorities get riled when Americans call the drug war an insurgency. But the techniques the cartels use are those of a violent insurgency. Hence the term criminal insurgency – and it becomes more palatable to Mexican officials.

June 2, 2011: PEMEX (Mexican state oil company) said that it is filing civil lawsuits in Texas against nine U.S. companies and two individuals that PEMEX alleges have helped Mexican gangs sell or process stolen petroleum products. The PEMEX statement specifically mentioned stolen gas condensate from northern Mexico. The Mexican government reported that some of the evidence was produced by a combined U.S.-Mexico investigation into stolen petroleum products.

June 1, 2011: Mexican security personnel arrest 25 people suspected of providing support to the Zetas drug gang. Nine of the people arrested were Mexican soldiers and one man was a municipal police chief. The soldiers were arrested in Hidalgo state. Three years ago Los Zetas began claiming that they could corrupt Mexican soldiers because the drug cartel pays more than the army.


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