By Chris Covert
In an unusual speculative Sunday morning report, El Diario de Coahuila news daily reported that Policia Federal (PF) units have abandoned the La Laguna region.
La Laguna region encompasses the cities of Torreon, Coahuila and Ciudad Lerdo and Gomez Palacio, Durango, where since October 2011, a major security operation -- dubbed Segura Laguna -- has been underway including Mexican Army PF units, Coahuila and Durango state police and local police in a comprehensive plan to tamp down on cartel violence in the region.
According to the report, Policia Federal Preventativa (PFP) patrol units have not been seen in the region for at least two days prompting speculation PF units have been ordered to leave La Laguna. The report cites recent violence, the latest of which was the discovery of three dead in Gomez Palacio, Durango three days ago and the murder of the Saltillo, Coahuila police chief -- the second such murder in as many months.
The report also charges PF agents with adding to the problems of violence.
Other violent incidents have taken place as well, but in Saltillo mainly involving Los Zetas cartel operatives. Those confrontations have included firefights between Los Zetas and federal and state security forces, as well as intergang fighting.
Los Zetas maintain a presence, if weakened, in neighboring Zacatecas state, that despite an increase in deployment of Mexican Army troops to that state.
A month ago, a senior commander, General Marco Antonio Gonzalez Barreda was replaced by another field commander, General de Division Roberto de la Vega Diaz, who was assigned as commander of the Mexican IX Military Region, based in Saltillo. That command encompasses Coahuila and Chihuahua states, including the La Laguna region.
The rotating of Mexican Army field commanders is not ordinarily done, because commanders tend to remain at their posts until their mission is complete, or if a sharp reverse has taken place. The ongoing violence in Saltillo prior to the January 18th, 2012 rotation may have been as much a factor in the decision to replace General Gonzalez Barreda, as recent violence in the same time frame in Chilipancingo, Guerrero, where General de la Vega came from.
A total of 4,000 federal and state effectives have been deployed to the region so far.
Last May, 2011 1,500 Mexican Army troops and another 300 PF troops were sent to Coahuila. Last September, 2011, additional troops were deployed to the La Laguna region, in apparent anticipation of start of the Segura Laguna security operations.
Late in December, 2011, parts of the Mexican 15th Motorized Cavalry Regiment were deployed to Saltillo, Coahuila after a two day road march to reinforce security efforts in northern Coahuila, including Piedra Negras. Those troops were earmarked to participate in the ongoing security operations in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon states
This latest report is surprising in light of President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa's remarks in Juarez last Friday when he credited the presence of federal security forces including PF operatives with reducing the violence in that border city.
Chris Covert writes Mexican drug war and national political news for Rantburg.com