In just four months, between November 2009 and February 2010, the U.S. consulate in Nuevo Laredo reported four battles in heavy transit areas between the army and drug gangs. Three of the conflicts were fights with Los Zetas, and only by the grace of God was there no casualties of innocent bystanders."
According to investigations by U.S. agents, none of these incidents were results of plan actions by the armed forces. None of the incidents reported any arrest or casualties of any criminal group.
This is the same timeline of the predicted break up between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas in Tamaulipas. In the areas of Reynosa, Matamoros, Valle Hermoso and Rio Bravo, there were similiar reports of confrontations "topadas." This was considered a new turning point in the drug war.
In his analysis of the incidents, consulate Donald Heflin concluded that during the first weeks of February 2010 there was "obvious nervousness" within the criminal group of Los Zetas, which controls part of the border city: "They deployed in the streets, including near the consulate and even near the residence of our staff. The level of the tension increased when the local press reported of the arrival of a Mexican government plane heavily guarded. Apparently, Los Zetas had launched an operation called Laredo."
The diplomat sent two vivid chronicles of these episodes of violence in cables; 10NUEVOLAREDO56 and 10NUEVOLAREDO44.
According to the first cable, U.S. security agents of the consulate and agents of the DEA were driving the night of February 19 toward the International Bridge number 2 when they heard automatic gunfire, mortars and grenades. In reports from local authorities, who seemed confused and contradictory to the incidents, denied any involvement from the military in a possible shootout. However, intelligence reports gathered by U.S. officials learned that some soldiers were hospitalized, although a military spokesman "could not confirm nor deny" the alleged version of the information.
The cable provides two hypotheses about the conflict: either "a convoy carrying a high command of Los Zetas accidentally ran into the military" or a military patrol crossed a line (ring) of security of Los Zetas near the international bridge without realizing it."
This episode happened to occur at the time when the mayor of Nuevo Laredo was attempting to present an image of calm and tranquility in the city to restore the flow of tourists. "There could have been no worse timing," says Heftin, as the heat of battle was heard all the way to the auditorium of the mayor of Laredo, on the Texas side, where the congressional leader Nancy Pelosi was holding a celebration for the anniversary George Washington.
Barely a week later, the city known as “la puerta aduanal” or "the customs gate" of the border, named because the majority of commerce trade that transits between the two countries, was witness to another battle, this time between members of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. Because of the seriousness of the incidents, this forced the consulate to convene a meeting of its Emergency Action Committee, known as EAC (this is a mechanism for immediate response from the U.S. diplomatic mission, which is activated only in times of crisis).
In fact, this battle had already been announced 48 hours before by the consulate's security agents and their informants in the city. On February 26, around nine o'clock at night, the Gulf cartel simultaneously attacked two police stations in the city with grenades and later it was learned, with explosive Satchel type IED's. According to the press on the Texas side, it was a "message" that the Gulf Cartel was ready to regain ground lost to Los Zetas.
Cable continues: "At approximately 2230 hours, members of Los Zetas in balaclavas blocked the street in front of a restaurant where U.S. Consulate staff was dining. With AK-47 weapons they cleared the area. It is believed that they were searching for Gulf cartel members who had attacked the police stations."
At the EAC meeting they discussed the possibility of closing the consulate and to suspend the service of issuing visas, as in Reynosa, but at the end it was decided to keep the doors open.