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CAB002 / Mexico / MONTERREY SHOOTOUTS LEAVE 17 DEAD,…

MONTERREY SHOOTOUTS LEAVE 17 DEAD, EXPOSE SHORTCOMINGS IN
STATE’S CRIME FIGHTING APPARATUS
¶1.  (C) Summary:  A wave of gang violence rocked Monterrey
on December 4 as well-armed criminals faced down the Mexican
marines in the Monterrey suburb of Juarez during an attempt
to arrest a Los Similares drug gang leader implicated in the
assassination of a suburban police chief.  The day culminated
in a major jailbreak which saw 23 alleged gang members and
sympathizers set free and led to an hours-long shutdown of a
major northern thoroughfare.  In the aftermath of the action,
termed by one newspaper as Nuevo Leon’s “bloodiest day,” 17
people lay dead, several more were wounded and authorities
arrested 16 gang members.  Officials are still unsure as to
whether the original target of the operation, Armando Jose
Sanchez, aka “El Huron,” escaped or was killed in the fight.
The run-up to the firefight and the events surrounding it
underscored a concerning lack of coordination, and possibly
will, among key elements in the fight against the drug
cartels.  End summary.

Arrest Attempt Becomes Battle
—————————–
¶2.  (SBU) On December 4, Mexican marines, dispatched by Navy
commanders, stormed a ranch in the Monterrey suburb of Juarez
in an attempt to capture Armando Jose Sanchez, aka “El
Huron,” the alleged planner of the November 4 execution of
the police chief in the Monterrey suburb of Garcia (ref A.)
The fighting began just before Friday rush hour and much of
the later action occurred in a suburban area, next to the
major highway from Monterrey to the border crossing in
Hidalgo, TX, which was closed for much of the evening.  This
phase of the battle culminated in a thirty minute shootout
during which eight members of the Los Similares drug gang and
one marine were killed.  Nine Similares gangsters were
arrested.

Phase 2:  Firefight Intensifies
——————————-
¶3.  (C) The battle escalated when, following the initial
confrontation, the marines requested support from a local
army unit to transport a wounded marine and prisoners from
the ranch.  A group of Los Similares traveling in a convoy of
10 – 12 SUVs attacked the army reinforcements using grenades
and high-powered assault rifles as they were en route to
rendezvous with the marines.  A second shootout ensued, in
which two more Similare members and one innocent bystander
were killed and a young girl was mortally wounded.  Multiple
vehicles exploded during the battle, killing at least two
unidentified passengers who were handcuffed in the back of an
SUV belonging to Los Similares.  Military officials arrested
seven Similares during this second confrontation and an
unknown number of gangsters fled the scene.  The next day,
local newspapers prominently featured graphic photos of the
dead and wounded along with burning vehicles.  One local
newspaper, “El Milenio,” termed December 4 Nuevo Leon’s
“bloodiest day” in Mexico’s drug war.

Jailbreak in Aftermath
———————-
¶4.  (C) Approximately one hour after the second gun battle,
a group of Los Similares drove through the gate of a jail in
Escobedo, another Monterrey suburb, killed two federal police
agents, wounded several others and released 23 of the 24
prisoners being held at the facility.  DEA sources said that
fifteen of the escapees, including two police officers, were
members of a Similare kidnapping cell arrested by the Mexican
army in October.  The two officers in charge of the jail
claimed that they were out getting hot dogs when their jail
was overrun.  This was the fourth jailbreak organized by Los
Similares in Monterrey’s consular district in the last eight
months.  (Comment:  According to law enforcement sources, the
jailbreaks have become particularly troublesome, not just
because of their increasing frequency and brazenness, but
because prisoners (especially police officers) who are
released by Los Similares become instantly beholden to them,
if they were not already.  End comment.)

Law Enforcement, Military Struggle to Effectively Face Cartels
————————————————————–
¶5.  (C) In Nuevo Leon, the public has applauded the army,
with many business and civic leaders noting that over the
past eighteen months it has been the only local institution
capable of directly confronting the cartels.  In this case,
despite having intelligence as to Armando Jose Sanchez’s
location, army officials declined to take action, claiming
his hideout was too well-fortified.  In contrast, after navy
officials learned of his whereabouts, they sent the marines
to arrest him – the first such marine action in the state.
The army was apparently unaware of the marines’ activities
until they called the army for support during the operation.
Afterwards, army generals complained to Post that the navy
action had made them look ineffective.

¶6.  (C) At a December 7 meeting with CG, ICE, DEA and ATF,
Nuevo Leon State Prosecutor Juan Martínez Villanueva used the
events in Juarez to highlight shortcomings in the local law
enforcement community.  He said that the first two local
police officers to arrive at the gun battle in Juarez fled
the scene. (Note:  State Secretary of Public Safety Carlos
Jauregui confirmed to RSO on December 10 that several police
officials reportedly fled after the marines appeared.  End
note.)

¶7.  (C) To further illustrate the complexity of coordinating
law enforcement actions, Villanueva displayed aerial photos
of a parking lot at the Santa Lucia Riverwalk (a popular
Monterrey tourist destination modeled after the river walk in
San Antonio) where gangsters armed with semi-automatic
weapons were charging visitors for parking and using the lot
to store stolen cars.  By the time the state called the
military in to dislodge them from the lot (located on state
land) and regained control of the property, the stolen cars
had disappeared.

Comment
——-
¶8.  (C) The confusion surrounding this latest incident in
Monterrey served to highlight the lack of coordination and
will among law enforcement officials as they struggle to deal
with increasing organized crime violence.  The army, long
considered the most reliable partner in the struggle to
contain the cartels, surprisingly refused to take the lead in
capturing a criminal responsible for assassinating a former
army general, leaving the navy as the only dependable actor
in this case.

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