Military official says rifles used in Zetas' training.
Soldiers escort five alleged members of the Zetas drug gang during their presentation to the press in Mexico City, Thursday, June 9, 2011. Over 200 weapons have been seized after arresting the five men at a Navy check-point yesterday, near the city of Villa Union, in Mexico's Coahuila state.Photo: Alexandre Meneghini / AP
By Dudley Althaus
Mexican marines seized 201 automatic rifles, nearly 600 camouflage uniforms and 30,000 bullets from the Zetas gangster army in a raid a few dozen miles from the South Texas border, the Navy's spokesman said Thursday.
The guns and uniforms were seized Wednesday in the ranchlands near the village of Villa Union, just south of Eagle Pass. Marines had stopped a truck with some of the guns at a roadblock.
The men arrested there led troops to the ranch where the rest of the equipment was found, Adm. Jose Luis Vergara said. The hardware presumably was “used for the training of the Zetas in that area,” Vergara said at a news conference in Mexico City.
The seizure was the marines' second this week in Coahuila state, which borders Texas from the Big Bend to just upriver from Laredo. On Monday they seized 80 assault rifles, four grenade launchers and 50,000 rounds of ammunition in Monclova, a mining and steel-making center 150 miles south of Eagle Pass.
The weapons seizures were trumpeted as President Felipe Calderón's government attempts to counter growing public weariness with gangland violence, along with demands that the military be pulled from the fight.
A protest caravan of 13 buses, led by poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was murdered in March, has spent this week traversing the violence-wracked cities of northern Mexico pressing those demands.
But it's most likely to be a long time before local and state police can overtake the gangsters, especially those like the Zetas who are equipped and act like well-armed militias.
Coahuila is a stronghold of the Zetas, who for 18 months have been waging war with rivals from the so-called Gulf Cartel and with Mexican security forces. The fighting has killed hundreds from the industrial city of Monterrey up to the Rio Grande.
Between them, the Zetas and Gulf Cartel have more than 4,000 armed members in the greater Monterrey area alone, the public security spokesman for Nuevo León state estimated recently. Further west, where the Zetas have allied with local drug-smuggling gangs, Chihuahua's attorney general said 15,000 organized gunmen are operating in the state, Mexico's most violent.
Monterrey's gangsters this week have taken to hanging their rivals, both dead and alive, from overpasses on busy downtown streets. Bound with ropes around their wrists, two men were hung alive from a bridge Wednesday and then shot by their tormentors. A third victim, an adolescent boy, was shot to death as he tried to escape the assailants.