Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Monterrey: Season of Grenades

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 |

Source: Milenio

Within 24 hours, from the first to the second of October, four grenades exploded in Monterrey, injuring children and innocent civilians. They were not attacks between sicarios, but narco terrorism against government facilities.

To get from Santa Catarina to Ciudad Guadalupe you have to travel by the edge of the river. In normal times the journey only takes less than half an hour. But due to the recent storms the journey by car or bus now takes at least two hours.

The city is still lethargic from the ravages of Hurricane Alex. There has never been so much rain in this city, a city founded by Sephardic Jews in September 20, 1596. But it's not the streets dotted with craters, or landslides that endanger both the poor and the rich, nor is the talk in the city about the alternate routes that the State Transportation Commission has designated for people to use in order to reach their destination, what is mainly spoken here are the four grenades that have exploded within 24 hours. Another record. For years there have been evidence that the capos of the country's main cartels operated in this northern region, but it was just until recently that the devil let loose.

It's Sunday. The main plaza of the town of Guadalupe rests next to the imposing Cerro de la Silla appears like the set of a wake. A couple of women talk quietly of the event last night while a family buys candy from an old lady who is sitting in a wheelchair who claims to have heard the news. She thought that the scandal would fill the square with people and the candy of guayaba, cacahuate and cajeta would fly like hot cakes, "but the times have changed," she adds resigned. "People rather stay home and not be exposed to the danger. Why go outside, don't you think?" Like a journalist friend says "in the wake of the people who lost their lives, the people joke a little to the beat of the night and drinks."

At one end of the plaza there is a primary school and on the other side is the Municipal Theater. In between them there is kiosk and at the other end there is a church and the city hall, twinned by history and now an accident. In the upper part of city hall you can still see the neon lights in three colors announcing the celebration of the Mexican Independence, "Viva Mexico 2010." Behind city hall there is another school. All around the plaza there are restaurants, places where they sell "aguas," hot tacos and tax collection office of the municipality.

The only two show shiners prefer not to talk about the incident. They merely show the newspapers and that is that. The local police guarding the area that is now cordoned off with orange crime scene tape speak even less. Others whisper that four units of the Guadalupe Police cleared the path for the getaway of the two trucks full of commandos who threw the grenade that wounded 14 civilians, including six children.

The corn vendor walks away and the ice cream man (paletero) refuses to stop when they find out we are not here to buy but to are here to ask. Traffic officers are also not to be trusted: on Wednesday September 29 Cerralvo Transit director was arrested by army personnel for having ties to a gang that had kidnapped four people. Jose Gerardo Garza Mendoza, El Gory, was turned over to the Attorney General charged with kidnapping, auto theft, possession of weapons typically used by the military and organized crime.

It's noon. Part of the plaza, which overlooks the city hall and the church, is restricted. In the nearby streets you can see big guys with sunglasses that could very well be hawks (lookouts for the cartel), police or both. It is better not to confirm it. They have faces that do not seem real friendly. A photographer takes a few shots and one police officer asks him he better leave, that the plaza is hot. Obviously, he is not referring to the temperature, which seems to burn the skin.


The faces of fear

At 2200 hours on Saturday the families in Guadalupe were cooling off with a cold drink or chatting on the benches of the plaza. There were about 60 people. Fifteen minutes later a aloud rumble tears in to the quiet ambience of the place. Some people dropped to the ground, while others seek cover behind the kiosk, some hide in the bushes around the plaza and yet others simply run away.

Among those running away is a tall young man about 23 years old. Before he jumped over the kiosk on one of the platforms, he threw an object. He ran down the street named Hidalgo where he got inside one of two SUVs parked in a double line when the blast was heard. When they took off they turned south on Arteaga and when they came to Chapultepec, a group of municipal police blocked the street to allow a safe escape. The criminals fled without delay on Eloy Cavazos, where they got lost in the pitch of darkness.

Soon the plaza began to settle again. This time the scene was full of military troops, federal and state police, members of the Red Cross and personnel of the bomb squad. For attorney general, Alejandro Garza and Garza, "the rate of insecurity in the state has fallen due to the blows that organize crime has received from the authorities." But four explosions in less than 24 hours seem to say otherwise.

Rodrigo Medina, governor of the state of Nuevo León, showed his face hours after reaffirming the values of society during the inauguration of the Second Global Values and Culture of Lawfulness.

The bitter dinner

Guillermo Berrones was dining with his wife and daughter in a Mexican food restaurant across the plaza. "There was a festive atmosphere, the weekend, and before entering the restaurant he had mentioned to his daughter that he liked to live in downtown Guadalupe.

It was 1025 when we heard a terrible blast in the place. The restaurant owner tried to reassure his clients, with his pale face he peeked through the door. We stood up but no one dropped to the floor as one should do in these cases, but we also did not expect to experience anything like this."

"A bomb! Yelled my wife and my daughter was pleading for us to take refuge in the back of the restaurant. She was trembling with fear. I tried to reassure her, telling her that we were safe but in reality, I had my doubts.

I took the phone and called my older daughter, who lives in downtown Guadalupe, to make sure that she was at home with her husband and not in the plaza where they usually walk their 5 year old. I looked out the door just waiting, hoping that it had just been a blown tire or some sort of accident, but the sound had been more than a mere '"oflazo" (a muffler)

Between the church and city hall a heavy puff of smoke dissipated to the air. From the door I could see an overweight police officer running away seeking refuge. I could hear men and women screaming for help, but for some reason did not hear the children crying that I would see wounded a few minutes later. A girl was bleeding from the head, a pregnant woman was crying and a young bald man was asking for someone to attend to his children.

Near the church others were injured. Two police officers arrived along with an ambulance, and they loaded three of the injured children in the emergency vehicle. Nobody knew what to do. Then more ambulances and patrols arrived. They cordoned off the area and, as always happens, the firefighters and the army appeared 20 minutes later."

It is said that October 2 will never be forgotten.

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