Mexican Army units and Durango state police agents detained 21 suspected members of a kidnapping crew in the La Laguna region of Mexico, according to Mexican news accounts.
A news report which appeared on the website of Expreso news daily said that Durango state Fiscalia General del Estado (FGE) Sonia Yadira de la Garza Fragoso held a press conference announcing the arrests.
|Fiscalia Yadira de la Garza Fragoso|
According to Fiscalia Garza Fragoso, the 21 suspects had operated throughout the La Laguna region including in Gomez Palacio, Ciudad Lerdo in Durango, and in Torreon in Coahuila. The crew was allegedly responsible for attacks on the businesses and home of Gomez Palacio mayor Rocio Rebollo.
The crew is also suspected for the kidnapping of two employees of El Siglo de Torreon newspaper, and for the murder of Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) candidate for mayor of Ciudad Lerdo, Mario Alberto Landeros Campero and his driver Cesar Almilkar Valenzuela Morales, both found dead Wednesday in Ciudad Lerdo.
Durango is currently involved in primary elections for state deputies and municipal elections to be held July 7th.
Perhaps more importantly, the crew is allegedly responsible for the murder of six traffic police agents in Gomez Palacio last week.
The detainees were identified as Julio Cesar Najera Rosales, 24, Luis Fernando Martinez, 30, Alonso Ivan Ormero, Federico Aguilar Chaidez, Ruben Hernandez, Julian Valles, Hector Gomez, Uriel Reyes, Sergio Resendiz, Jaime Ramirez, Luis Resendiz and Fernando Martinez.
Separately, Saul Garcia, Sergio Garcia, Ramiro Hernandez, Miriam Aguilar, Hilda Mejia, Dora Luz Rodriguez, Miriam Muñoz and two unidentified minors were also detained.
The arrests also including the taking of six rifles, three machines guns, seven handguns, five bulletproof vests, telephone equipment, four vehicles and personal quantities of marijuana and crystal methamphetamine.
The detentions are the first major mass arrests since 700 Mexican Army troops were moved into La Laguna last week. Last week an additional contingent of Policia Federal troops had also been deployed to the area.
The arrests come on the heels of another announcement by Fiscalia Garza Fragoso Tuesday which was reported on the online edition of El Siglo de Durango Wednesday, who told local press that more progress was taking place in security operations in the region.
Senora Garza Fragoso also said during the press conference that she was unaware the reasons why a Policia Federal troop contingent had been deployed to Durango city. This admission means that neither her office nor apparently the governor, Jorge Herrera Caldera had been consulted by federal officials about the new deployment.
The new Policia Federal deployment is in contrast with the past in which federal security officials have made a point of meeting with state and local officials to detail their security plans. But it is also a likely break with past practices in which state officials are to take greater responsibility for their own security strategies, that federal officials will be keeping their plans secret whenever they can.
Separately, the newly installed Durango state Secretaria de Seguridad Publica Roberto Flores Mier said Tuesday that police who fail the new confidence test would be given a second chance to take and pass the tests.
According to the report 4,232 local and state police agents statewide had taken confidence tests. According to a report by the outgoing SSP, Jesus Antonio Rosso Olguin, on February 21st, roughly ten percent of the agents had failed the tests. Rosso Olguin was sacked the next day.
|Jesus Antonio Rosso Olguin|
The timing of Rosso Olguin's report is interesting, although his departure was timed just one day after six La Laguna police agents were killed in a single evening in Gomez Palacio. Durango state officials have not elaborated the reasons why Rosso Olguin left.
At least one Durango politician has disputed that police agents who failed tests will be given a second change.
Durango city mayor Adam Ramirez Soria was quoted in a El Siglo de Durango story Thursday that while the national average for police who failed tests is about 15 percent the rate in his municipality is less than 10 percent. He said that contrary to the earlier statement by SSPE Flores Mier, police agents who fail tests will not be given second chances.
Nationwide Mexican state SSPs are under increasing pressure by the new security strategy implemented by newly inaugurated President Enrique Pena to get local and state police agents certified by November. In January the Mexican national Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), or interior minister Miguel Osorio Chong, who is Pena's plenipotentiary in his new security plans has told SSPs nationwide that every police agent will be certified by November or will out of work.
Meanwhile in Durango, the capital of Durango state an unidentified judge has delayed until March 23rd whether to continue detaining the 64 local police agents from Ciudad Lerdo and Gomez Palacio, according to a separate report posted on the website of El Siglo de Durango.
Seven weeks ago 159 local police agents were disarmed by the Mexican Army and detained, 64 of which were placed in preventative detention colloquially known as rooting. Past news reports do not make clear the length of the detention,. Typically, rooting requests are for 30 days or more.
Rooting is a legal tool used by Mexican prosecutors to place suspects in detention without charge or trial until an investigation is complete.
It is most commonly used with drug trafficking suspects but it has also been used against errant state government officials. The maneuver is meant to keep otherwise dangerous suspects from escaping until trial. Rooting also known as arraigo has been severely criticized in the past, but it is also a legal tool that can only be used with permission of a judge.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com