Bloodbath erupts on highway 57 in San Luis Potosi
Confrontations between gunmen and federal police officers and Mexican army troops on Friday, January 21 resulted in at least 8 deaths including six criminals, one kidnapping victim and one federal police officer.
At least four criminals were captured by the army and several vehicles seized.
There were at least two shootouts on national highway 57 between San Luis Potosi and the city of Matehuala as well as seizures of weapons and vehicles at various checkpoints between both cities.
Highway 57 is one of the main north-south arteries in Mexico, running between San Luis Potosi, a city of one million inhabitants and the capitol id the sate with the same name, and Nuevo Laredo. (the state of SLP has one of the highest rates of migration to the U.S. and is one of the main bases of recruitment for “Los Zetas”)
The incidents and checkpoints on the highway resulted in massive traffic jams several miles long and injuries due to at least one multiple accident.
Neither the PGR (Attorney General) or Sedena (National Defense Ministry) acknowledged any casualties among their forces but most unofficial reports stated at least one federal police officer was killed and five others wounded.
Some media sources initially reported as many as three federal police officers and two soldiers had lost their lives on highway 57.
The confrontations began Friday at 10:30 AM in the town of San Lorenzo, where federal police officers attempting to stop a vehicle were fired on by its occupants.
A federal police officer was killed and another injured in this first encounter. A second police unit arriving for backup was also hit by gunfire.
Soon after units of the Mexican army arrived and fought several skirmishes with groups of gunmen, according to witnesses.
Outside of Villa de Arista, Sedena reported an army patrol was attacked by a group of gunmen. According to Sedena it was here that the six attackers were killed and four others captured. At least five vehicles and multiple weapons were abandoned by the gunmen, an unknown number of which escaped into the surrounding desert.
The body of the kidnapping victim was found in one of the vehicles abandoned at Villa de Arista.
Outside of Matehuala, army units manning checkpoints reportedly seized three vehicles, eight weapons, 37 magazines, two grenades and 16 thousand dollars in two envelopes, addressed to two people with the alias "El Peje" and "Tiroloco."
There were also reports that a federal police substation at “el Huizache” was attacked by at least 16 gunmen traveling in several vehicles. One grenade blast also damaged the station and two police vehicles were described as total losses.
El Huizache is the site where several scenes from the movie “El Infierno” were filmed.
Unconfirmed accounts state that two federal police were killed and two were wounded in el Huizache.
At least 30 deaths of members of organized criminal gangs, civilians and law enforcements personnel have been reported since Friday, January 14 in Ciudad Valles, the city of San Luis Potosi and along highway 57 to Matehuala and Cedral.
Last night, Saturday January 22, a gunfight with two fatalities was reported between authorities and gunmen in the Peñasco section of San Luis Potosi. The encounter was reported in citizen’s online forums but did not appear on any of today’s daily newspapers.
This is the black hole that much of the news of gunfights disappears into since late in 2010 in the city of SLP.
Usually the first topic of daily conversation at work places is the location of “last night’s gunfire”. SLP is now a large city that empties its streets after sundown.
Telephone extortions are endemic. Caller ID is your best friend, unknown numbers are no longer answered.
Middle class citizens are pulling their savings out of banks, fearful that corrupt employees will sell the information to members of organized crime.
Strangers are not to be trusted. Old customs of friendship are crumbling.
This Sunday morning the discovery of an executed state police officer was reported in SLP. It was unknown if this death was related to the confrontation in Peñasco.
Abandoned bodies, some tortured and beheaded, others dead by gunshot, some with messages and all apparently the result of organized crime or extra-judicial executions are appearing almost daily inside and in the outskirts of the city.
The only incidents mentioned in the local press are the executed hung from bridges or deposited in front of law enforcement offices or in public areas.
Humberto Moreira’s visit hoarded the space on the local newspapers, with his anti PAN rants, demonizing PRI critics and his declaration of hero status to his fellow San Luis Potosi PRI Governor, Fernando Toranzo.
Chaos in San Luis Potosi
Saturday, January 15: A white ford pickup runs an army checkpoint outside of Matehuala. A high speed pursuit ensues with shots fired into the municipality of Cedral, a quaint town that is the gateway to the magical mountain location of Real de Catorce.
The pickup with the gunmen on board hit a barrier and came to a stop in the outskirts of Cedral, resulting in a 10 minute shootout. Four alleged gunmen were killed and, according to witnesses, an undetermined number of people were injured.
Sunday, January 16: At approximately 9:30 PM a convoy of 3 pickups acting suspiciously is pursued by an army patrol while traveling on the San Luis Potosi-Rio Verde highway.
Two of the pickups crash with other vehicles during the pursuit, allowing the occupants to flee. The third pickup enters the Colonia San Rafael where a gunfight between the occupants and army troops ensues.
Four gunmen are killed during the confrontation. Army troops report that grenades are used against them but they do not report any casualties.
A handcuffed and blindfolded body is found in one of the other abandoned vehicles. Eighteen side arms and nine assault weapons are seized by the military.
Monday, January 17: On Monday morning Candido Ochoa Rojas, the state Attorney General, holds a news conference that strengthens the grip fear holds on the city.
On what appears to be a clear message sent to San Luis’s security establishment, Ochoa announces that in the pre-dawn hours of Monday, two decapitated bodies are left in front of a state ministerial police installation on Xochitl street.
A message is left with the bodies “Esto les pasara a todos los que siguen a Felix Escobar” (This will happen to all who follow Felix Escobar).
Ochoa also announces that a battered body was left at the doorstep of the building housing the state Attorney General’s office, his headquarters.
The Attorney General states, unconvincingly, that he is unaware if this morning’s news is related to the deaths of the four gunmen the previous night.
At 8:40 AM the decapitated bodies of two other victims are found at the intersection of Villa Vista and Leavi in the municipality of Soledad de Graciano Sanchez, a San Luis Potosi suburb. One of these bodies is identified as Victor Manuel Maza Resendiz, a state ministerial police agent.
Another message was left by their killers, “San Luis se Respeta, no esta Solo” (Respect San Luis, he/it is not alone)
On Tuesday the heads of Maza Resendiz and his fellow victim were found in an ice chest just across the state line in the city of Ojuelos, Jalisco. According to news reports in Jalisco a message signed by “Los Zetas” was attached.
Tuesday, January 18: A political three ring circus entertains the state.
The Secretary General of the state government, Marco Antonio Aranda, blames the week’s violence on organized crime’s response to the naming of a military general to the post of state Public Security minister.
After a meeting with representatives from the chamber of commerce and the military, the Secretary General assures the public that disarming them will decrease the violence.
General Javier Aguayo y Camargo, the newly appointed military head of the state Public Security Secretariat, announced that his police force will stop all investigations into the week’s violence, stating that this falls under the jurisdiction of the state Attorney General’s office.
However, he promised to improve cooperation with the Attorney General’s office and other law enforcement officials to decrease the violence.
It was also learned that the Attorney General’s family has been living for some time in the U.S.
Wednesday, January 19: Around 5:00 AM the bodies of two men are found hanging from an overpass on highway 57 to Queretaro, on the south side of San Luis Potosi.
One of the bodies falls to the ground shortly after the authorities arrive, possibly the result of executioners new to the practice that did not fasten the rope correctly.
A narco message is found at the site that reads, "Estos son los mentados enguilados, los que mataron a un indigente. Según los de la limpia pensando que era halcón. Primero enseñense a limpiarse el culo. Aquí entran la pura verga Chapos y C.D.G. Atte. Zetas" (These are the celebrated roped ones that killed a homeless person. The cleaning crew thought he was a lookout. First learn how to clean your ass. Only real dicks enter here, chapos and CDG. Sincerely, Los Zetas)
The Attorney General resigns.
The state Attorney General (PGJE), Candido Ochoa Rojas, held a news bizarre news conference Wednesday afternoon where he read a four minute statement and refused to take questions afterwords.
In his statement Ochoa Rojas said that the acts of violence seen during the week would continue into the future, and that it is necessary that the population of San Luis show the highest possible level of serenity.
The Attorney General stated that it was of the up most importance that the citizens remain calm and avoid being intimidated by organized crime.
In his position as Attorney General, Ochoa Rojas promised to use all means necessary to restore security and tranquility, and stated that the public does not doubt his competence or tolerate arguments that lengthen the task at hand.
He explained that the violence of the past week fell under federal jurisdiction but that he had taken charge of the investigations.
Ochoa Rojas said that the violence of the past week is due to two factors that also affect the rest of the country. First, that the violent backlash of criminal gangs is due to the coordinated action of the three levels of government against them; and second, that criminal gangs are fighting among themselves for disputed territory.
The next day, Thursday, the Attorney General, Candido Ochoa Rojas, resigned from office and immediately joined his family already living in the U.S.
Telephone interviews with residents of San Luis Potosi