Monday, April 25, 2011

Police, bus companies failed to act as graves filled in Tamaulipas

There were clues but nothing was done, and now at least 177 bodies have been unearthed. Demand grows for dismissing the state's elected but apparently ineffective officials.



By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Matamoros, Mexico— Suitcases started piling up, unclaimed, at the depot where buses crossing northern Tamaulipas state ended their route. That should have been an early clue.

Then the bodies started piling up, pulled by forensic workers from two dozen hidden graves in the scruffy brush-covered ravines around the town of San Fernando, 80 miles south of this city that borders Brownsville, Texas.

At least 177 corpses have been recovered in the last few weeks, most of them, officials now say, passengers snatched from interstate buses, tortured and slaughtered. Women were raped before being killed, and some victims were burned alive, according to accounts from survivors who eventually overcame their fears and came forward.

The slayings have horrified a Mexican public already awash in violence and led commentators to call them "our Auschwitz" and a "Mexican genocide."

Worse yet is the realization that the killing in Tamaulipas state has been going on for months — including the brutal slayings of bus passengers — and no one, not the bus companies, nor the police, nor the officials in charge, acted to stop it.

Elida Martinez, a gray-haired woman in her 60s, was one of dozens of mothers, fathers and siblings of the missing who were waiting in the morgue here the other day to offer blood samples for DNA testing.

Two of her daughters disappeared in February, one kidnapped from the hotel in San Fernando where she worked and the other seized from her home in the middle of the night a short time later. Between them they left behind four children.

"You pray to God you won't find them here," she said. Yet the gut-wrenching uncertainty tears her apart. "You don't sleep. You can't work. You live in anguish."

After the massacre last year of 72 mostly Central American immigrants near San Fernando, the government of President Felipe Calderon promised the world, including angry Central American authorities, that justice would be done and the popular routes through northern Mexico toward the United States would be guarded.

It now appears, however, that the killings continued, and not just of immigrants but Mexican citizens and, perhaps, a handful of Americans. On Wednesday, authorities said they had rescued a group of 68 Mexicans and Central Americans who had been seized by gangsters from buses or from bus stations in the same area.

The motives behind the bus kidnappings remain unclear. Gangs may seize the passengers hoping to extort money from them, to forcibly recruit them or because they are searching for rivals.

The killings have galvanized an unusual if belated consensus, even among conservative commentators and politicians, that parts of Mexico have indeed been lost to criminal gangs such as the Zetas and the Gulf cartel that control (and are battling each other to dominate) the northeast. What does it mean, they ask, when the federal government cannot keep the nation's highways safe from brazen predators?



Even worse is the near-certainty that the police who are meant to be protectors have been involved. Among the more than 50 people arrested in connection with the latest killings are 17 local police officers accused of providing protection to the cartel gunmen believed responsible.

There is growing demand for a new government strategy and that the national Senate take the highly unusual step of dismissing the state's elected but apparently ineffective officials, a move that would also involve Calderon suspending civil rights in the region.

"If Tamaulipas is not a failed state, or a narco-state, it sure looks like one," political analyst Alfonso Zarate said. "The institutional powers are incapable of upholding the law."

Calderon has steadfastly resisted that characterization.

The top official in Tamaulipas is something of an accidental governor. Egidio Torre Cantu was elected last year, standing in at the last minute after his brother, a shoo-in for the job, was assassinated by a drug gang.

"We are prisoners in towns that we cannot leave," said Mario Alberto Alejandro, 43, who came to the morgue looking for his brother, Rigoberto, a U.S. citizen who vanished Feb. 23 on the road to Matamoros. "In whose hands are we?"

Alejandro echoed other families in saying authorities were giving them the runaround, sending relatives from the morgue to one government office after another and even in some cases to Mexico City, where most of the bodies have been taken, in part because the Matamoros morgue was full.

Alejandro said his brother Rigoberto has lived for 13 years in Texas, where he works as a forklift operator. He was in Tamaulipas to visit family, a trip he makes often.

"He never thought it would be this dangerous," Alejandro said. "There is no security."

So many families have shown up at the Matamoros morgue that locals set up a tent with chairs and a table offering coffee and water. Doors have been plastered with dozens of pictures of missing people.

Francisco Garcia's nephew Jose was on his way to Chicago from central Mexico when last heard from in early March. He was traveling with two friends, who are also missing, and all were going to join family in the U.S.

"We have not received any information, no phone call asking for ransom, nothing," said Garcia, a farmer. Too terrified to travel to Matamoros, Garcia was among scores of people who instead went to the morgue in Mexico City.

"Jose is just gone."

The Times reported in early March that several thousand people have disappeared since Calderon launched the crackdown on drug gangs in December 2006. Most vanished without a trace. Families nurse the hope that their loved ones were taken as forced laborers on marijuana farms or in meth labs. But the mass graves, here in Tamaulipas and in other parts of the country, are slowly destroying those hopes. At least 58 bodies were recovered last week from clandestine graves in Durango state.

The main bus companies that run through Tamaulipas have altered their schedules and eliminated nighttime trips through San Fernando. But they have not spoken publicly about the killings. One manager, speaking through a representative but insisting on anonymity, confirmed the existence of unclaimed suitcases but would not discuss why authorities were not informed about them.

"Maybe it's fear, or they didn't want to lose the business," said Jose Javier Saldana, a regional human rights official. "Maybe the drivers didn't report it up the chain [of management], either."

Although some of the families said the bus companies' failure to sound the alarm was unconscionable, most put the blame on authorities. Several families said authorities tried to pressure them not to speak to reporters. Furthermore, officials in three central states, Guanajuato, Queretaro and San Luis Potosi, say they have been asking the Tamaulipas government about numerous missing citizens as far back as 2009.

In the San Fernando case, in addition to the police officers, the arrested include Martin Omar Estrada, a.k.a. "El Kilo," whom authorities describe as a ringleader responsible for the latest dead as well as last summer's migrant massacre. If true, that means Estrada, who was arrested this month, and his gang continued to operate with impunity for months.

Calderon recently promised to take back Tamaulipas and flood the zone with troops. It was virtually the same promise he made five months ago.

19 comments:

  1. Calderon is a crook, he needs to be impeached and a REAL leader needs to take his place.

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  2. Its just a matter of time before the citizens and people of Mexico turn against the government, police and drug gang and turn into a Los Pepes/Farc organization.

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  3. It does not make any sense, that Mexico's failed policies of not allowing citizens to have private weapons for personal protection is an oxymoron given that the state can not protect it's citizens. Mexico is a failed state like Somalia where regional war lord rule the country.

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  4. Someone was either paid not to talk or pressured not to, and those are who should be held responsible for the deaths as well as those who did the actual killings.

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  5. Un-fuckin-believable! This kind of shit would be unheard of in America. How does a country that is relatively older than the U.S. and right next to it become a disgusting mess? Embarassing, for all of us. The people, the narcos, the government...they're all so backwards it's unreal. It's like they have no inkling whatsoever on how to behave like a normal society; it looks like they don't even try to make themselves a better nation. How long has it been, over 500 years since the Spanish so-called conquered this area and what good did it do? Tell me, how do hundreds of Indian nations with ancient wisdoms handed down generation after generation and the Spanish who were the center of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, come together to form the most vile, the most idiotic people on this Earth? It's like there was a curse inflicted on these people for having met. There is no excuse. You have people in Canada and in the United States establishing forms of government unthinkable and now seemingly impossible in Mexico. Why? If they're older than everybody else did they never make a healthy environment for everybody? I just want to slap the whole country to wake the fuck up.

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  6. This is a f****** disaster. It makes me angry that criminals can just buy off local and state police, then just operate like this. Mexico needs to get rid of all local, state, and federal police. Leave the military in charge, and execute any military member who commits treason by becoming corrupt. The money saved from firing all police could be invested in military personel. On top of this hiring military contractors (mercenaries) from other countries wouldn't hurt either. Mexico needs to label cartels as terrorists and engage them as such, shoot first ask questions later. An armed zeta road block is enough evidence that they are up to no good, light them up from a black hawk.

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  7. No government can ever protect it's people. The people have to protect themselves with the help of the government. In order to do that, the people have to be armed. It's surreal watching the response of the Mexican government as the only response is 'more of the same stuff that hasn't worked before'.

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  8. use force and bigger guns than they do!!!! DUH!

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  9. I think the only reason Zeta's set up road blocks is to stop cars and busses and give the owners candy and little gift trinkets.

    Nice of them really.

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  10. THE power of fear and intimidation, for some time posters from Mexico have talked about the fact that there is NO law enforcment, if you call the police they come for you ,or their criminal sponsors come for you,the bus company, anybody there are no limits. THATS WHY!! Now can this be changed, yes, but not without sacrifice and effort, keep the faith keep PRI out.

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  11. Mexico is ruled by ignorant, paranoid, elitiests who fear revolution and who have frozen the country in time ,say 1920, protectionest legislation, gun control,ineffective judiciary, 0 law enforcment,rule by bribrey,this is Mexico.The wheels fell of the wagon , criminals IF UNITED WOULD RUN THE COUNTRY, but they to are MACHO ignorant low class, and are to busy killing each other.Mexico Does NEED TO ALLOW QUALIFYING CITIZENS TO BE ARMED(GRINGOS ALSO) How do you get through to these IDIOTS??

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  12. THE old joke when the state outlaws guns only outlaws will have guns, MEXICO is proof in spades. FEAR of revolution, So Fed law NO GUNS, the FED feels safe?? Mexican law is still stuck in 1918!!

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  13. 'Keep PRI out???' They've never been out of power in the the state of Tamaulipas though, Anonymous 7:16pm. The old PRI one party dictatorship system lives on in this region still.

    Eugenio Hernández Flores is the PRI governor of Tamulipas (in office until 2011 for 6 years) most responsible for these murders, and should be investigated and jailed for his corruption. The new PRI guy who replaced him should be investigated also. The problem though, is that PRI and PAN de facto have a national alliance together with each other, which is very similar to how in the US the Republicans and Democrats collaborate with each other in corrupting our own country's political process. Now Mexico has the same messed up pretend democracy as we do north of them. They have a two party kleptocracy now just like us. It will be hard to get any real investigation or accountability build into that system of misrule. The foundation of any two party elite kleptocracy will be corruption.

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  14. I am ashamed to say that I am laughing at some of these comments:

    "The wheels fell off the wagon...criminals, if united would run the country" but they are, in affect, stupidly killing each other instead...

    "There is NO law enforcment, if you call the police they come for YOU, or their criminal sponsors come for you, the bus company, anybody, there are no limits!"

    Doesn't any state or national official realize how ridiculous this sounds! AND how TRUE. If the wheels have fallen off, abandon the wagon and make a new one! Heads in the sand will not get you a new wagon. Only thinking, deciding, and doing will.

    Officials, you are up to your necks in shit of your own making. Most average citizens have better ideas than you do! But your pockets are lined, you communities are gated and armed, and you can ride around surrounded by bullet proof glass. If you don't take more drastic action you will wake up one day without a country to run or defend.

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  15. Texcoco Mex said.

    Mexico is ruled by ignorant, paranoid, elitists who fear revolution.

    What are you talking about? Do you mean like George W Bush when he said that Iraq has or was producing weapons of mass destruction and attack the country. But yes Good Bless U.S

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  16. the UN needs to label these guys as terrorists with the quickness

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  17. Texcoco Mex said.

    In respond to anon April 25, 2011 2:38 PM

    How embarrassing it is for you really. The U.S has had many wars in 200 years killing millions of people and destroying many governments just for power or just to control the region. How many times the U.S has attack a country equal in power. Was the 2003 war with Iraq legal or illegal? The war with Somalia was legal or illegal?
    What about Panama what about Iran Air Flight 655, what about Operation Praying Mantis, Cambodian Campaign, Invasion of Grenada, Vietnam and others. How embarrassed are you really? Do you know what a violation of international law is? Have you asked your self what is the U.S real purpose or motive in all those foreign countries? Is the U.S all of the sudden the liberator or protector of the world? I think eminent domain, imperialism are the values of the U.S and are you people are the so-called normal society or a better nation. After the defeat of the Aztec's in 1521 we were control by Spain until 1810 and then we had 119 years of conflicts until 1929. I think we are O.K out of the 182 countries we are on the 11TH place on the GDP list. Rome was more impressive than Mexico and look what happened to them. The U.S 14 trillion dollars debt is also impressed for the #1 country of the world. I hate the narco violence but I think the narcos want to be #1 too. War is War a lot of bad things happened in War. Mexico is not a FAILED STATE and Mexico will win this narco war. People is calling Mexico a FAILED STATE just because Mexico is fighting criminals and Calderon is a good man.

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  18. (((How embarrassing it is for you really. The U.S has had many wars in 200 years killing millions of people and destroying many governments just for power or just to control the region. How many times the U.S has attack a country equal in power. Was the 2003 war with Iraq legal or illegal? The war with Somalia was legal or illegal?
    What about Panama what about Iran Air Flight 655, what about Operation Praying Mantis, Cambodian Campaign, Invasion of Grenada, Vietnam and others. How embarrassed are you really? Do you know what a violation of international law is? Have you asked your self what is the U.S real purpose or motive in all those foreign countries? Is the U.S all of the sudden the liberator or protector of the world? I think eminent domain, imperialism are the values of the U.S and are you people are the so-called normal society or a better nation. After the defeat of the Aztec's in 1521 we were control by Spain until 1810 and then we had 119 years of conflicts until 1929. I think we are O.K out of the 182 countries we are on the 11TH place on the GDP list. Rome was more impressive than Mexico and look what happened to them. The U.S 14 trillion dollars debt is also impressed for the #1 country of the world. I hate the narco violence but I think the narcos want to be #1 too. War is War a lot of bad things happened in War.)))

    In response to your response I'd like to say that I agree with the quote above completely. I agree, my U.S. government is the most corrupt, the biggest cartel in fact. You don't have to give me a history lesson, I know exactly how cowards in our military, our politicians, and our complacent citizens, have all horrendously contributed to the deaths of millions of innocent people around the world. I've mentioned this already in another article. And like you we too are helpless in changing them for the better. They're too big and have suppressed us whenever we protest, arresting us by the thousands. We too have a huge drug-related problem, the consumption. Still, there is an obvious difference in how our societies function. We have laws set up to give us a fighting chance. What do you have? And I ask in full befuttlement, tell me, how does a people let themselves be enslaved like this? If you've been around these woods for some time, why the chaos, why the self-destruction, why the lack of respect for rule of law, for civil rights, for gun-rights, for justice? I know of the student massacres in 1968 and how perhaps this has instilled the fear in everybody of what the military is capable of. And yet, I wonder how you can look at death straight in the eyes and deny that it has you by the neck as it shakes you violently. I brought this up recently on another forum and do you know what somebody said to me? That it was our fault, the U.S. policies were at fault. I practically fell out of my chair. No sir, fair or not, you cannot pin this on anybody else. Somewhere along the way your people made a series of mistakes, huge mistakes. You may see hope at the end of the tunnel but that's probably just your Stockholm syndrome getting the best of you. Out here, from where we stand, things are looking pretty grim for your country, for your people. I am not trying to show off how better we are, because believe me, I know how sick our country is too and far off the tracks we have gone. This is what I never hear from Mexicans, that you have been swindled by the people that had sworn to protect you; not just the police, but your very own leaders. They never gave you a fighting chance. You were stripped of any freedom from the beginning you just didn't know it. Until the whole people realize this and revolt, you will continue living like slaves.

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  19. Texcoco Mex said.

    I did not say the U.S. government is the most corrupt or the biggest cartel. I know I have a low level of education. Only 9 years in school, and the little English I know I learn it all by myself. I also know how much the U.S has help Mexico since the Second Mexican Empire under the rule of Hapsburg Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria.

    My point was that we all make mistakes and this is something new for Mexico under Calderon political party PAN fighting Organized Crime, Corruption and Drug Cartels. Under the PRI they didn't care about Corruption, Organized Crime or Drug Cartels. War is not easy look at what happened in the war with Iraq, it wasn't easy, and you people have good technology. We don't have good technology, I'm sure it will take Mexico a lot longer then that to defeat the enemy.

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