Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Los Zetas' grip on Zacatecas slips as fighting shifts to the cities

By Chris Covert

An anonymous correspondent living in Zacatecas state says that last weekend's shootings and gunfights in Zacatecas municipality were the worst violence so far, and that armed confrontations between Los Zetas and their principle rivals the Sinaloa cartel has shifted to the cities.

Monday morning, two men were found shot to death in Zacatecas city, the capital of Zacatecas state.  News accounts posted on the websites of El Sol de Zacatecas and NTR Zacatecas simply reported the discovery of the victims on Calle Aldama  in Guadalupe colony of the city.

The victims were found dead aboard a Nissan Versa SUV.  They were identified as Martin Hilario Barajas, of Sain Alto, and Joel de Jesus Castro Miranda, from Fresnillo.

A 9mm pistol and an AK-47 rifle were found at the scene.

The anonymous source said that Monday morning's shooting was "not an isolated situation, there have been more smaller ones in different areas and several executions and shootings between police and cartel members lately.

"The shooting last night happened all around the city but it wasn't until 2-3 am that I heard them in the historic center; I heard it from home 2 long rafagas (bursts?) with a few minutes between them and later more but further away, this morning I read that 2 bodies had been found inside a car just by the laberinto downtown market."

Later that afternoon in Guadalupe municipality just southeast of Zacatecas municipality one armed suspect was killed and another was wounded in an encounter with municipal police agents near the village of Tacoaleche.  Police agents were dispatched to the scene on a report of a stolen vehicle and were fired on.

The news account of that incident reported on a separate article which appeared on the website of El Sol de Zacatecas said that a police helicopter was dispatched the the area along with a state police contingent.

"... sending even the helicopter seems to mean it was much more than some bad guys who had stolen a car."

The correspondent confirmed a separate helicopter overflight Monday morning in Zacatecas: "...there have been helicopters flying around up until a couple of hours ago."

The reporting in Zacatecas local press seem to treat the shooting deaths as isolated incident which the correspondent disputes:

"... it wasn't just your usual quickie 4 bullets and off we go."

"This is definitely not like Tamaulipas or  la comarca lagunera but it has become quite violent and very quickly as CDG/CDS (Gulf and Sinaloa cartels) started kicking out the zetas and the areas in dispute moved from the mountains to the main cities."

Two women were found tortured and beaten to death in Enrique Estrada municipality last Saturday.  The report which appeared in several Zacatecas news outlets reported the discovery, but  failed to report one salient fact:

"...they could be part of a group of women kidnapped the night before in Zacatecas while waiting to go to a concert," said the correspondent.

An uptick of violence appears to have started against women in Zacatecas state in the last 60 days.  Zacatecas Procuraduria General de Justicia del Estado or attorney general Arturo Nahle Garcia has so far dismissed any comparison to the mass killings of women that took place in Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua state, but which mysteriously ended two years ago.

Special Thanks to our Zacatecas correspondent for the updates

Borderland Beat reporter Chivis Martinez contributed to this story.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for