By Chris Covert
A new security operation set to begin in 30 days in western Chihuahua will include elements of the new Gendarmaria Nacional police, according to Mexican news accounts.
According to a news story posted on the website of El Mexicano news daily Chihuahua governor Cesar Duarte Jacquez announced Thursday that a large security operation would begin in the sierras of western Chihuahua state centered around Guachochi municipality
According to the account the security operation would include federal, state and local security forces, including the new Gendarmaria Nacional. The Gendarmaria Nacional is the centerpiece of Mexico's latest security strategy. The new operation was discussed during what was termed in the article as a security roundtable attended by several northern Mexico state governors and federal security officials.
The announcement, made by Governor Durate in Guachochi municipality, probably refers to the security meeting held last Saturday in an Chihuahua, Chihuahua airport hangar. That meeting was attended by Procuraduria General la Republica (PGR) or attorney general, Jesus Murillo Karam, Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) General Cepeda Salvador Cienfuegos, Secretaria de Marina (SEMAR) Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberon Sanz, undersecretary of the interior for Security Manuel Mondragon y Kalb, as well as governors of Sinaloa, Baja California, Baja California Sur and Sonora states.
What was specifically discussed in that meeting was not disclosed to the press, although the governors in attendance were placed on notice that things have changed with the newly elected government of President Enrique Pena Nieto.
According to a separate news report which appeared on the website of Sin Embargo news, part of the operation will include conducting checkpoints at specific locations in the region, which is already established practice in some Mexican Army commands.
The area around Guachochi municipality is included in the command area of the Mexican 42nd Military Zone, which maintains at least one infantry company sized base in the region.
It should be noted that last May, during the Choix, Sinaloa shootouts, it was reported in Mexican news agencies that drug gang shooters from Sinaloa had exfiltrated from Choix municipality into western Chihuahua to escape Mexican Army and naval infantry counter operations in the area. By this writer's count, a total of 56 individuals were killed in May in northern Sinaloa state that month, making it one of the bloodiest battles in Mexican Drug War history.
The sierras of western Chihuahua are also known as the Tarahumara Sierras, the home of the Tarahumara Indians. The area suffered greatly in the drought which gripped the region a year ago and sparked a nationwide relief effort. The Taramhumara Indians are subsistence farmers.
A few areas in the Tarahumara region also aid drug cartels in growing drug sometimes by force, and are often treated like serfs by local drug gangs.
During the relief efforts last year, news reports from the area leaked out that local government officials had withheld aid from residents in exchange for promises of votes.
According to a separate El Mexicano news account last November, some local private aid agencies have been robbed by millions of pesos by local criminal gangs. Eight robberies had taken place in Chinipas, Guachochi, Temoris and Palmillo and Parral.
President Pena's big social initiative, La Cruzada Contra la Hambre, or Crusade against Hunger will likely use local and state government agencies to distribute aid to the region. Chihuahua state is facing midterm elections for local deputies in July, and those elections could be a a factor in this new security operation.
The El Mexicano report failed to state in specific detail how the new Gendarmaria Nacional would be used except to gather intelligence on criminal activities in the area.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com