Sunday, August 1, 2010
Urban combat is part of life in Monterrey now. Residents describe automatic fire in the distance as a normal component of the city’s ambient noise, especially at night.
The narco blockades of city streets and highways occurred just about every day in Monterrey this week. They too are a common hazard now, an impediment to commuters and commercial traffic and potentially deadly as residents increasingly do not stop for the carjackers who set up on intersections to confiscate vehicles for their barricades.
You just gun your car and pray to God. This is one of the only ways to resist the criminal terrorists on the streets. They haven’t started killing residents en masse for their cars, yet.
It is also sad but true that some residents risking their lives are also motivated in part to avoid the indignity of paying a bribe in order to retrieve vehicles from municipal authorities.
The blockades started early on Saturday, between 12 midnight and 1:00 AM in the suburbs of San Nicolas and Escobedo. The blockages of traffic only lasted 30 to 40 minutes in both cases as authorities are responding more efficiently to remove vehicles involved.
In San Nicolas the intersections of Juan Palo II and Lopez Mateos, Lopez Mateos and Moctezuma, and Ave. Los Angeles between Churubusco and Nogalar were blocked
In Escobedo the Libramiento Noroeste was blocked at kilometro 25 and at Camino Real
At 7:30 PM two rival groups of gunmen traveling in at least 7 pick-up trucks and SUV’s clashed on one of the city’s busiest main thoroughfares, Felix E.Gomez.
As one group of gunmen pursued the other on Felix E. Gomez one of their vehicles crashed into a taxi, overturning it and injuring a family of 3 inside the taxi. A gunbattle, lasting up to 20 minutes according to some witnesses, ensued there as both groups of gunmen fought each other at the site of the accident.
It was reported that a military patrol of 3 vehicles responding to the scene of the shooting also came under heavy fire.
Panic engulfed the area as motorists and pedestrians attempted to flee the crossfire at the scene of the fighting.
As the shooting died down and the remaining gunmen fled the area, paramedics and police reinforcements arrived to a scene where hundreds of bullet casings filled the street and vehicles were heavily damaged by gunfire.
One gunman was reported killed and two badly injured that were placed under arrest. Five innocent civilians were wounded including those in the taxi. Their condition was unknown.
No military casualties were reported.
Immediately after the gun battle more narco blockades were reported in the central area of Monterrey. Up to 18 blockages involving the usual busses, tractor trailers and automobiles taken at gunpoint from their drivers were put up. All the blockages had been cleared by 11:30 PM.
Another increasingly common tactic being used by organized criminal groups in Monterrey, and throughout Mexico, are grenade attacks, usually with the grenades thrown at buildings and groups of people from speeding vehicles.
In the early morning hours of Saturday one grenade was thrown from a motorcycle at a Monterrey municipal police substation which failed to explode.
This past Thursday night at 10:30 PM a police station in the Monterrey suburb of Guadalupe came under a grenade attack that injured one policeman and left one patrol vehicle in flames. This was the second grenade attack against a Guadalupe police installation in the month of July.
Hours before the grenade attack on Thursday a pursuit under fire by unknown gunmen of another vehicle on another busy main thoroughfare, Avenida Garza Sada, led to the deaths of two youths.
The youths were in the automobile being pursued which came to rest several feet from the spot in front of the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey where 2 students were killed in a crossfire during a confrontation between gunmen and soldiers this past March 19th.
Fighting was especially heavy in Nuevo Laredo on the U.S. border 120 miles north of Monterrey on Friday and early Saturday morning.
A massive firefight lasting almost an hour was reported in southern Nuevo Laredo Friday afternoon in the Colonia Concordia area close to the Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores on Avenida Reforma between army troops supported by a helicopter and a group of gunmen.
Civilians rushed out of the area, fleeing into stores for safety from the intense gunfire. Grenade detonations were reported on the Avenida Reforma.
Fighting continued as the gunmen dispersed and were pursued by soldiers.
No casualties or arrests were reported but there were unconfirmed witness accounts on social networking sites did mention that a number of casualties had occurred.
Friday night a grenade attack was reported against the building housing the offices and studios of the local Televisa network station in Nuevo Laredo located on Avenida República in the Colonia Infonavit area.
The attack occurred before the nightly newscast. According to witnesses a grenade was thrown from a passing vehicle and detonated outside the main entrance to the building.
Luckily there were no casualties in the attack but the building and several employee vehicles sustained damage.
Early Saturday morning after midnight another grenade attack was reported on Guerrero street one block from the International bridge #1 which resulted in the closing of the bridge for approximately half an hour on the Mexican side.
The attack occurred in a square on Guerrero street one block from the bridge. The attack may have been aimed at an army patrol that was in the area at the time.
The International bridge was closed while the area around the bridge was secured. Police reinforcements secured the U.S. side but left soon after the bridge re-opened to traffic.
Street to street
The nightmare scenario of Mexico is now being lived on a daily basis in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, across the border from Laredo, Texas.
Since July 16th of this year Nuevo Laredo has been under almost constant fire as Los Zetas and de Cartel del Golfo (CDG-Gulf cartel) battle for control of the Nuevo Laredo plaza and the Mexican military and federal police fight to contain and defeat both groups.
The fighting is often street to street between all three groups.
The municipal and state police have been pushed into their compounds and seldom venture out as they are outgunned, outmanned, outwitted and largely co-opted by the drug cartels.
The fighting is made more horrendous for the public by the fact that there is a complete news blackout on the fighting imposed on the local media by the criminal groups and some sources say perhaps the federal authorities as well as they seek to hide the damage from the rest of the nation.
Only the tip of the ice burg has been reported by the Mexican national media and the Laredo Morning Times, which absurdly enough, has prohibited Borderland Beat from referencing or posting any of its informative articles as it strictly enforces its copyright on its subscription only website.
One reads in the press of the improvised fountains of information provided through social networking via the Twitter and Facebook sites of the Nuevo Laredo city government. What is lost in the reporting is that the majority of the population of the city is too poor to own a computer or have internet access. Their cell phones only have the most basic service.
Residents speak of daily shootouts in all parts of the city. Casualties are largely unknown and may not be high but the insecurity has kept the level of fear at an unbearably high point. Especially hard hit has been the colonia Infonavit area in the southern sector of the city but all sectors have been affected.
Narco roadblocks and ambushes are occurring even in the central areas of the city close to the border between Guerrero and Degollado streets that lead to both international bridges.
Automatic gunfire and explosive detonations and the screeching of automobile tires keep the nerves on edge. To go to work or even leave the home from self imposed curfews to buy groceries often takes heroic efforts.
To travel on the streets in an automobile at night is a high risk invitation to a carjacking.
Relatives on the U.S. side of the border are warned not to enter Nuevo Laredo. Don’t worry, we’ll get by is the stoic response of many residents to offers of help.
Government spokesmen in Mexico City speak of the situation in Nuevo Laredo and other parts of northern Mexico as a show of desperation and weakness by the drug cartels in their efforts to maintain market share in the trafficking of drugs.
Many locals interpret the same situation as a show of terrorist domination and power by the drug cartels and the inability of the government to contain the instability and violence.
The pride of Mexican sovereignty has begun to crack among the civilian population in the northern states caught in the crossfire who see that their government fundamentally cannot ensure the safety of their families. Some people already hint at the longing for intervention of some sort by the U.S. to stop the violence.
The rule of law as we know it in the U.S. does not exist in Nuevo Laredo. The proud, innocent residents of this city, which are the vast majority, do not deserve this fate.