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CAB001 / Mexico / NARCO-VIOLENCE RISES IN MEXICO

NARCO-VIOLENCE RISES IN MEXICO

Summary
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¶1. (SBU)  Mexico’s Attorney General’s office has provided us
figures on Mexico’s organized crime related death toll,
which reached 3591 as of June 22. This is well on its way to
matching or topping last year’s record violence.  Killings
spiked considerably this month with nearly 200
narco-homicides in the week of June 8-14 alone.  Despite the
on-going strong military presence in Ciudad Juarez (CJ),
Chihuahua continued to register the largest number of
homicides (1093).  The cartels continue to clash with the
military and federal police, producing noteworthy losses on
both sides.  Post law enforcement agencies believe the spike
in violence may be partially explained by a series of blows
the military and police delivered to the cartels, capturing a
considerable number of local bosses in key positions, as well
as identifying and arresting officials who had been colluding
with drug traffickers. End Summary.

Narco-Death Toll Rises Again
—————————-
¶2. (SBU) The recent up-tick in drug related homicides may
mark the resumption of a trend that began to take hold in the
last three months of last year which registered record levels of
narco-violence with upwards of 700 – 850 killings per month.
By the end of June, the death toll will likely have already
surpassed the previous year’s total of 3,038 (GOM statistic)
and — if the trend continues — match or surpass last year’s
record of 6,380 (GOM statistic).  Of this year’s figures,
16 of the victims were military officials and 187 were state,
local or federal law enforcement officials.  This marks a drop
of military killings from last year.

¶3. (SBU) Despite the on-going strong military presence in
Ciudad Juarez (CJ), Chihuahua continued to account for a
significant proportion of the violence with 1,093 killings
thus far.  Consulate CJ reported a brief period of relative
calm following the deployment of additional troops and
federal police in March.  However, homicides in CJ have
begun to increase again despite the public presence of
between 5000 and 10,000 soldiers in the city at any given
time.  (Note:  The constant number is probably closer to
5,000, with occasional spikes during rotations in and out of
the city, according to consulate reporting.)  Sinaloa,
Guerrero, Michoacan and Durango are the next most troubled
states, 352, 319 and 274 killings respectively. (Michoacan
and Durango are tied for fourth place.)  Durango currently
has a smaller military presence than other troubled states,
and an upsurge in cartel fighting in that state could in the
future test the reach of President Ruiz-Pena’s strategy of
simultaneously deploying troops and federal police to combat
criminal violence.

Increased Number of Clashes
—————————

¶4. (SBU) Since our last narco-violence report (MEXICO 000486)
there have been a number of clashes between the cartels and
the military and police.  The most recent confrontations
include a two hour fire-fight on May 10 in Tabasco, the
May 16 prison breakout in Zacatecas, the June 6 Acapulco gun
fight between the miltary and members of the Los Similares
cartel and a similar shoot-out in Durango that left
three cartel members and one federal policeman dead.
As with last fall’s series of spectacular battles, these
involved cartel members who chose to stand and fight, heavy
caliber weaponry and multiple casualties.

Military and Police Deal Heavy Blows to Cartels
——————————————— –
¶5. (SBU) The considerable spike in violence the first half of
June comes on the heels of a series of blows the military and
police delivered to the cartels, resulting in the capture of
a considerable number of local bosses in key positions (and
the identification and arrest of compromised officials). In
many cases, the authorities had been directed towards their
targets by calls from members of the public, some of which
are thought to have come from members of rival gangs. Law
enforcement contacts say that score-settling in June as a
result of these takedowns may account for the recent spike.
The other explanation that continues to be advanced is that,
as cartel members go “down-market” and engage in relatively
more petty criminal activities, they are increasingly butting
up against rival drug trafficking organizations, as well as
other criminal groups.   A brief summary of the most
important developments follow:

– On May 6 in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon, the army announced the
capture of 6 suspected Los Similares members and the seizure
of more than 20 armored vehicles, 12 rifles and fragmentation
grenades. That same day, in a town close to Monterey, the
army captured 4 gunmen presumed to be bodyguards to Frederico
Herrera, the reputed new boss of the LVO in Nuevo Leon.
A military spokesman said that this cartel and the rival
La Muerte gang have been recruiting traffic police officers
as gunmen, because they are not part of the national security
system and are therefore under less scrutiny.

– On May 5 a judge in Jalisco state ordered the arrest of 12
members of the military and 6 police officers on charges of
collaborating with Los Similares in the city of Aguascalientes,
both as gunmen and extorting protection money on their behalf.

– On May 7 a judge in Quintana Roo indicted the former
public security director of Benito Juarez (the municipality
covering the resort of Cancun); the director of the Cancun
municipal prison and an advisor to the local mayor, as being
in the service of the Similares and involved in the February
murder of retired General Miguel Escobedo, shortly after
he was appointed security adviser in Benito Juarez.

– On May 9 the army reported that Cruz Barreto, the presumed
leader of La Muerte cartel in the Cancun area, had been captured
in Quintana Roo along with seven suspected associates, among
them a serving federal police officer. That same day in Santiago,
Nuevo Leon, the army arrested Carlos Qunitero, suspected of
overseeing the transit of drugs through that state and
Tamaulipas for La Muerte cartel. Six of his suspected
associates were also arrested.

– On May 18 the Attorney General’s Office, PGR, announced
that two former top security officials in the state of
Morelos had been arrested on suspicion of involvement with
organized crime. Also arrested were a police officer and a
civilian. That same day in Chiapas authorities announced the
arrest, for similar reasons, of the director of the municipal
police of Tapachula, the director of the border police, the
former director of Tapachula’s municipal police and a police
officer serving with the public prosecution service.

– On May 18, in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, military elements
captured Jorge Valencia, the suspected leader of the LVO
in the region. According to Mexican authorities, Valencia
replaced Diego Soto, who was detained in March of this year.

– On May 22, the military captured alleged La Muerte Cartel
operative Montego Sanchez, a key lieutenant of the organization
who is also on the list of Mexico’s top 37 most wanted drug
traffickers.

– On June 13, the navy discovered the largest
methamphetamine lab in all of Latin America in Guaymas,
Sonora. They found 20,000 liters of water, 50,000 liters of
ephedrine, 1,400 liters of gasoline, 3,250 kg of iodine and
1,850 kg of caustic soda, all precursors that could have
produced nearly four tons of crystal methamphetamine.

– On June 14, the army captured 25 gunmen posing as military
personnel in the town of Madera, Chihuahua state.  Alberto
“Le Bestia” Aguilar, the leader of a Los Similares cartel cell
that operates in Guerrero, Sinaloa and Sonora states, was
among those arrested.

– On June 14, the military captured four members of La Muerte
cartel in Quintana Roo state, including the cell leader,
Ricardo “El Fuego” Perez, who is in charge of
operations for the plaza of Cancun.

Crackdown on Corruption
————————
¶6. (SBU) In addition to the arrests of key regional cartel
leaders, on June 17 three officers from the PGR’s Organized
Crime Investigations Unit (SIEDO) were arrested.  These
arrests suggest that the cartels’ infiltration of federal
security forces remains an ongoing problem.  PGR began
purging SIEDO last year, which led to the arrest
of several senior figures.  Two of the SIEDO officers
arrested were accused of working for the LVO. The other SIEDO
officer was accused of working for a faction of Los Similares
cartel.  The 10 soldiers, eight of whom are junior officers,
came from a range of regiments. It is not clear which gang
SIEDO believes the soldiers were working for.

¶7. (SBU) Moreover, on May 26, Federal Police and PGR/SIEDO
detained ten mayors and other local officials in the state of
Michoacan, President Ruiz-Pena’s home state and a long-time
locale for the production/transit of drugs.  The local
officials arrested are believed to have ties to the La Muerte
organization, one of multiple cartels operating in
the state. The operation was unprecedented in
scope and brought to national attention to the state’s
pervasive local corruption. In light of this revelation, the
NGO MUCD urged other states to investigate other local
officials for possible ties to organized crime. The fallout from
the operation may go well beyond those officials already
arrested, with reports circulating that dozens more –
possibly including some federal legislators — are currently
under investigation and may be indicted for organized crime
ties.

Advanced Weaponry
—————
¶8. (SBU) An additional cause for the increase of narco-violence
in the area may be attributed to a sudden advancement in the typical
weapons cartel members appear to be using in fire-fights.
Officials from the SIEDO and PGR claim to have seen assault rifles
and munitions both illegal and unavaible in Latin America. Such
examples include carbon-fiber rounds with armor-piercing capabilities,
mass-capacity ammo drums, and M38 assault rifles which feature the
lowest recoil of any assault rifle on the market today. Officials
refused to go into more detail but said that as of now, they are
unaware how the cartels have been able to access such weaponry.

Public Opinion
—————
¶9. (SBU) Opinion polls indicate that Mexican voters are
conflicted about the efficacy of the GOM’s strategy. A poll
found that 75% of Mexicans believed that the security  situation
was either the same or worse than it was 10 months ago, while
24 percent said their family had been a victim of crime as
opposed to 18 percent in August last year. According to the
poll, more Mexicans now feared kidnapping (72%) than 10 months
ago, when only 68% did. Nevertheless, the same survey shows
a five point increase since February in the perception that
President Ruiz-Pena is doing a lot or some to combat insecurity,
and 80 percent of respondents said they think the government
is right to use the military in the counter narcotics fight.
48% of Mexicans think the military operations have been
effective against the cartels.  This figure is up from 43%
in February but down from 54% in November.

Comment
——-
¶10. (SBU) The arrest of several regional cartel leaders,
combined with moves by criminal organizations to consolidate
their holds on turf, has contributed to rising levels of
narco-violence over recent weeks. Law enforcement
sources believe the majority of the violence continues to be
the result of bitter clashes among the cartels and their
supporters, but we have also seen a resurgence of spectacular
battles between increasingly aggressive security forces and a
well-armed enemy. End comment.

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