September 1, 2010

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Latin America File: Los Zetas firebomb Cancun nightclub, kill 8 nationals; follows Aug. 22 grenade attack on Puerto Vallarta bar 


- Mexican Government Sacks 3,200 Police on Corruption and Incompetence Charges, Disciplines More than 1,000 for Dubious Loyalties

- Nuevo Leon State Attorney General: Seven Police Arrested in Murder of Santiago Mayor, Several Worked for Narco-Mercenaries as Lookouts

- Tamaulipas Morgue Where Bodies of Massacred Migrants Transported Bombed on August 28

- Washington to Deploy Total of 6 Aerial Surveillance Drones along US-Mexican Border

The drug cartels are out of control in Mexico, especially in the states bordering the USA. On August 31 New York Daily News journalist Helen Kennedy opined: “The Mexican government appears to be losing the war against the cartels, who are also fighting each other over the $25 billion-a-year cocaine smuggling business.”

In an escalation of tactics, on Tuesday narcistas firebombed a bar in Cancun, killing six women and two men. Shortly after 1 am gunmen pulled up to the Castillo de Mar in two vehicles and burst into the nightclub with long guns, herding patrons into a section of the bar with no exits as they tossed Molotov cocktails about the premises. The bar owner was not apparently one of the victims, but Mexican newspaper El Universal reports that he refused to cough up US$40,000 to extortionists from the Los Zetas cartel several weeks ago.

Castillo de Mar is several miles from those areas most frequented by visitors in the tourist mecca. Moreover, no foreigners were killed or hurt. Still this incident will likely force tourists to reconsider Cancun as their next resort destination.

In May federal police arrested Cancun Mayor Gregorio Sanchez for money laundering and links to the drug cartels. A past candidate of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party, Sanchez also has shady relations with “ex”-members of the Cuban military and security apparatus. In 2009 a former soldier of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba on the municipal payroll assassinated the federal government’s counter-narcotics chief for Cancun.

Narcistas have also targeted rivals and law enforcement in other resort cities, like Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast, but have not specifically singled out tourists. On August 22 at least 15 patrons were injured, some seriously, when someone threw a grenade into a crowded bar in Puerto Vallarta. Four of the injured people lost limbs in the midnight attack. In March two US citizens and a third victim connected to the consulate in Ciudad Juarez were gunned down in that city. Jesus Ernesto Chavez, an enforcer for the Juarez cartel who was arrested in July, alleges that he ordered the murder of Lesley Enriquez to thwart the plans of a rival cartel that had infiltrated the US consulate in order to secure visas.

This past Sunday in Tamaulipas, another border state, narcistas gunned down their sixth mayor in eight months and their second in one month, Marco Antonio Leal Garcia, mayor of Hidalgo. Leal was driving a truck on his property when assassins ambushed him, pumping 27 bullets into his body, and injuring his 10-year-old daughter, who was also riding in the vehicle. Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who initiated the federal government’s war against the drug cartels in 2006, and the state governor denounced the murder.

Last week, in the same state an Ecuadorean migrant led Mexican naval personnel to the site of 72 murdered migrants from other countries in Latin America. Los Zetas is suspected of the massacre. Shockingly, this past Saturday the morgue where those bodies were transported was bombed, presumably also by the narco-mercenary army that once provided muscle for the Gulf cartel.

Mexican authorities also believe that Los Zetas was responsible for kidnapping and murdering another official in the state of Nuevo Leon in August, Edelmiro Cavazos, mayor of Santiago. Nuevo Leon state Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza acknowledged that several of the seven police officers arrested in the killing of Cavazos admitted they worked for Los Zetas as lookouts.

In a related story, n Monday Mexico’s federal government announced that it had sacked 3,200 police on charges of corruption and incompetence and intended to discipline 1,020 more on grounds of dubious loyalties. When superiors asked the latter group whether it was permissible according to the law for police to accept a bribe, they were unable to provide the right answer: No. The 3,200 officers who lost their jobs represent 10 percent of the Federal Preventive Police.

Finally, earlier this week the US Department of Homeland Security announced that a new Predator aerial surveillance drone will begin patrolling the Texas-Mexican border on September 1, with two more drones deployed along the same stretch of border in 2011. Presently, Customs and Border Protection operates three Predators (pictured above) along the international border between El Centro, California and the Big Bend region of West Texas. The three new Predators will be stationed out of Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi. In addition, the Government of Texas will deploy 250 National Guard troops along the Mexican border.

These deployments are part of the Southwest Border Initiative launched in March 2009 by the DHS to assist the US Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in apprehending illegal immigrants and drug and human smugglers. While they are probably not enough to completely halt the illegal alien invasion or crush the Mexican drug cartels’ US-based operations, it’s certainly better than nothing.