Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Saltillo: Zetas Leave Manta with 2 Bodies of GDG

Chivis Martínez for Borderland Beat

Zetas dumped two bodies under a bridge in Saltillo, with a message, accounting for 3 executions yesterday.
Saltillo is the capital city of the northeastern state of Coahuila, and about 10 miles south of Ramos Arizpe, the city where 16 CDG were captured on Tuesday along with their regional  chief.  The capture was apart of a raid and a high speed chase. 
In a bad timing presser, Coahuila Governor Ruben Moreira announced how violence had tempered because of his policies and fight against organized crime. 
                                    - Click image to enlarge-
While it has become relatively quiet, CDG continues its pursuit of Coahuila, a state they once controlled before the split with their former enforcer group, Los Zetas.  After the split, Zetas were in control of the state and have not lost control since the split in 2010.
Coahuila is a state that Zetas move freely in and seemingly conduct business at their command,  without much interference. 
However, it is the state in which premier leader, Heriberto Lazcano was killed in the city of Sabinas, and Miguel Treviño aka Z40,   also a premier leader,  was captured near Sabinas, by federal forces.
Coahuila is not an important trafficking state, but it is logistically important as its massive land mass borders multiple key states in the narco world, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, SLP, Durango and Chihuahua.
Key cities are Torreon (La Laguna) in the southwest, Saltillo in the southeast, Piedras Negras which borders with Eagle Pass Texas, and Acuña which borders with Del Rio Texas.

Message says
We are here putos, cleaning the plaza
Big thanks to the reader who sent in information on the manta!
Menny Valdz source of fotos

Gulf Cartel plaza boss captured with 15 others in Saltillo, Coahuila

Borderland Beat
Elements from (GATE) captured 16 suspected members of the Gulf Cartel in southeastern Coahuila, including Julio César Aguirre Alday, 27, who was identified as operating boss of the Gulf Cartel in this region. They are suspected in connection with three homicides and for dealing drugs.

According to the Prosecutor General of Justice (PGJ) the detention was the result of an action by GATE, whose elements while cruising by Manuel Acuña Boulevard, upon entering the intersection Jaime Benavides Boulevard in the Capellanía neighborhood, where they saw two vehicles: a Dakota pickup and a Lincoln Mark LT.
Agents were made, which caused the cars to flee, and a chase ensued. The pursuit entered Santo Domingo in Las Haciendas neighborhood in Ramos Arizpe, the suspects tried to enter a home and opened fire on the members of the GATE.

Finally, the subjects were detained and one of them, Julio César Aguirre, a Saltillo resident, was identified as the operating area plaza boss of the Gulf Cartel.

The subject, according to the official report, confessed to having killed three men, including a ministerial police officer, this past Tuesday October 29, whose body appeared alongside another man on the Periferico bridge at Luis Echeverria Alvarez and Boulevard Vito Alessio Robles, in Saltillo.

Julio César Aguirre Alday; Juan Alberto Aguirre Alday; Angélica Karina García; Ismael Lara Cruz; Hans Preisser Davila; Nicolás Solís Tamez; Rafael Herrera González; Edgar Eduardo López Torres; Dalila Selene Torres Mata; Jesús Ángel Salazar Mendoza; Gilberto Gallegos Mendoza; Luis Sánchez Hernández; María Vargas Ramírez; Joselin Jazmín Lozano Ramírez; Karen Marlene Hernández Peña and a minor named Eduardo.

Also detained: Jesus Angel Salazar Mendoza, Gilberto Gallegos Mendoza,  María Vargas Ramírez, Joselin Yazmin Lozano Ramirez.

The detainees are likely responsible for the crime of homicide, retailing, resisting arrest, and firing weapons.

After their arrest, they secured from them 14 AK-47 weapons; an R-15, 120 chargers; for AK-47 rifle, of which 88 were found in their entirety.
In addition, seized 12 chargers and a bag of 25 cartridges 50 caliber, bullet proof vest, tactical belts and 5 pairs of tactical boots, and marijuana.

The only insured item that links them directly to the Gulf Cartel is a hat with the acronym CDG and 30 other logos on a black material with the same insignia, and 12 telephones.
The 16 detainees with the secured objects were placed at the disposal of the public prosecutor's Office which will give them over to Attorney General's Office (PGR) because it is federal crimes, organized crime and possession of firearms for the exclusive use of the army operation.

The Gulf Cartel criminal organization is present mainly in the north and east of Mexico, especially in the states of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and Veracruz.

Tijuana "narcotunnel" discovered 8 tons of pot, 147 Kilos of Cocaine

Borderland Beat
Informador says San Diego Authorities confirmed today that the tunnel located Wednesday night in a warehouse in Tijuana with drugs worth about $ 12 million, belongs to the Sinaloa Cartel. The Office Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that during the operation of finding the narcotúnel, they found more than eight tons of marijuana , as well as 147 kilograms of cocaine.  Three people so far were taken into custody.
Mexican security officials stood guard Thursday outside a factory in Tijuana where the tunnel’s starting point was discovered.

The tunnel, which was shut down Wednesday night after several weeks of surveillance, took about a year to build, the authorities said. Three people were taken into custody on Thursday, and federal agents seized eight tons of marijuana and 325 pounds of cocaine they said was connected to the investigation.

As security at the border — both at the ports of entry and between them — has heightened in recent years, drug cartels have increasingly sought other avenues, including tunnels, maritime smuggling and ultralight aircraft, to move drugs into the United States. This was the fifth large-scale drug smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2010, the authorities said, and the eighth since 2006, when the Sinaloa drug cartel took firm control of the smuggling corridor along this section of the border.

“These cartels have spent years and tens of millions of dollars trying to create a secret underworld of passages so they can move large quantities of drugs,” said Laura Duffy, the United States attorney for the San Diego region.

Derek Benner, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Department investigations in San Diego, said sophisticated tunnels like the one found here — which required not only laborers to build but also architects and engineers, and could cost upwards of $1 million to construct — were an investment only a well-financed cartel could afford to make.

He said the tunnel — like the two most recent “supertunnels” in the region, which were discovered in late 2011 — was shut down before any narcotics reached the market in the United States, which he called a major blow to the cartel.

“This serves as yet another warning to these organizations that mistakenly believe that tunnels will be their ticket to success,” Mr. Benner said.

It was the first time cocaine had been seized in connection with a tunnel operation, the authorities said.

“They’re desperate,” said William R. Sherman, special agent in charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego. “We’re starting to see them try to move cocaine through these tunnels, which we’ve never seen before. We’re seeing them try to move cocaine through ultra-lights into the desert, which we’ve never seen before. And those are simply acts of desperation.”

Tunnels have also been found around the Nogales area in Arizona, where cartels make use of underground drainage canals.

But the San Diego-Tijuana corridor has remained popular for tunnel construction because the clay-like soil is easy to dig and less susceptible to cave-ins, Mr. Benner said. In addition, the warehouse districts on both sides of the border offer cover for the drug smuggling operations.

The tunnel discovered on Wednesday was about four feet high and three feet wide, the authorities said, and zigzagged on its way across the border at about 35 feet underground, likely because the builders veered off course several times during construction.

The authorities insisted that no drug smuggling tunnels in the San Diego area were currently in operation.

“We have the border underground fairly well monitored,” Mr. Sherman said. “If you’re building a tunnel, we know about it. This is the third once since 2011. We’ve found them all before they could successfully get any drugs into the United States.”
Last Night's Version
Tijuana Municipal Police and Mexican Army discovered a new functioning drug tunnel on the border of Tijuana and San Diego. Apparently tons of drugs were found inside, according to official sources.  At the moment, the operation, headed by Secretary of Public Safety of Tijuana, Jesus Alberto Capela Ibarra, and military leaders, indicate the location has been secured and they are in the process of determining the amount of drugs on site.  According to the consulted sources by Efe, there could be 10 tons of drugs inside..

This new tunnel is near the Tijuana International Airport and was found in a warehouse.  It has rails for moving drugs on carts. The hole in about one square meter in diameter with a metal ladder to get to the interior.  The new tunnel is located just a few meters from the location where the first tunnel was discovered going between Tijuana and SanDiego in 1992.  No new data yet. We'll update with more information as it becomes available.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

He Denied Their Existence; Eight Months Later, Fausto Vallejo Wants Dialogue

After eight months with the emergence of the community guards in Michoacán, the governor, Fausto Vallejo Figueroa, anticipates that amid the critical situation that occurs throughout the state, he will finally talk with the leaders of the self-defense groups that maintain their presence in at least six municipalities in the state.

This occurs just after the violent weekend that the state suffered through, with the attempt to uprise a new self-defense group in the municipality of Apatzingán on Saturday October 26, when about 3,000 demonstrators were attacked in front of the town hall in the presence of the Mexican Army.

However, since the emergence of the first armed civil groups in the municipalities of Tepalcatepec and Buenavista on February 24, the state government not only denied the existence of the groups, but was also responsible for minimizing the situation in the region of Tierra Caliente.

CDG Leader Captured in Cancún

Borderland Beat
Cancun, Mexico, Oct 30 (EFE).- The suspected Gulf drug cartel boss in the Mexican Caribbean state of Quintana Roo was arrested by police in the resort city of Cancun, officials said.
Miguel Angel Villarreal Barajas, aka "El Mojón",  who was allegedly involved in 10 murders, was arrested early Tuesday, the Quintana Roo Attorney General's Office said.
"Miguel Angel Villarreal Barajas has been linked to at least six open cases of executions related to the settling of scores between rival organized crime groups," Quintana Roo Attorney General Gaspar Armando Garcia Torres said.
Villarreal Barajas faces charges in the murder of a high-level police commander, the AG said.
The Gulf cartel boss was arrested by municipal police officers along with four other people as they drove around a poor neighborhood in a vehicle that did not have tags, Garcia said.
Officers found powder cocaine and crack cocaine in the vehicle in packages that were ready for sale.
Villarreal Barajas tried to flee but was detained, Garcia said.
The suspect initially identified himself as Guillermo Martinez, but officers checked a database and determined that he was really Villarreal Barajas, who ran the Gulf cartel's operations in Quintana Roo, the AG said.
The Gulf cartel is no longer as powerful as it was in the past, partly because of its break with
Los Zetas, the criminal organization's former armed wing, which severed ties with the cartel in 2010 and now runs its own narcotics trafficking business.
The Gulf organization, which mainly deals in cocaine, synthetic drugs and marijuana, mostly operates in northern Mexico and the country's eastern coastal areas.
The cartel, like other Mexican criminal organizations, has branched out into kidnappings and running extortion rackets, targeting businesses.
Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, the Gulf cartel's leader, was captured by army troops during an operation in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on Aug. 17.
Ramirez Treviño took over the Gulf cartel's leadership in 2012.
The Gulf cartel, one of Mexico's oldest drug trafficking organizations, was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s and was later led by Juan Garcia Abrego, who was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the United States.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Electrical substations, Gas stations attacked in Michoacan and Morelia, also Water Facility and Wells Damaged in Morelia

Borderland Beat
Assailants early Sunday blew up at least twelve electrical power plants in Michoacan in one of Mexico's most troubled states, triggering blackouts that gunmen then used as cover to torch gasoline stations, residents and authorities said.

The attacks in Michoacan state, west of the capital, did not cause deaths or serious injuries, authorities said. But they served as a pointed reminder of the strength of drug gangs and other criminals.

Shortly after midnight, attackers armed with Molotov cocktails almost simultaneously disabled electrical substations in at least twelve cities and towns in Michoacan, plunging an estimated 1 million people into darkness. The power was out for 15 -18 hours.
CFE in Sahuayo
CFE in Sahuayo
Simultaneously, groups attacked four gas stations in Morelia, one in Apatzingán and another in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, again without any injuries.

Gunmen then torched four gasoline stations, and two in the state capital of Morelia, a popular tourist destination. a pump was burned down in Francisco I. Madero de Apatzingán Avenue and another on the Morelia-Uruapan Highway, 10 kilometers from Patzcuaro, where there was also damage to a convenience store.
The delegation of the Attorney General's Office (PGR) reported that a damage was detected 18 electrical substations, 6 gas station Michoacan and Morelia, as well as there were water facility attacks in Morelia. The mechanical, electrical, operating system for the treatment of drinking water was damaged at the Mintzita Spring. At the Morelia in Salamanca, Guanajuato, where an important plant  is located, the aggressors didn't detonate bombs against any mechanism, but more than 100 petrol bombs were found at the scene.

Along with the attacks to on the CFE electrical plants, the attacks affected the operation of 14 wells in Morelia. There was damage to the water treatment plant of La Mintzita, which supplies water to 35 per cent of the population,  This led to several colonias not receiving water on Sunday, said a  water, and sanitation and sewerage official. Augusto Arriaga Caire, director of water utility and waste water(OOAPAS) reported that after the power outage in 14 wells and Mintizita treatment plant for a period of 16 hours, energy was restored at 18:00 hours on Sunday, and immediately began trial assessment  investigation including computer synchronization, in order restart and restore water service in the city of Morelia.
Michoacan for years has been controlled either by the Knights Templar or its predecessor La Familia Michoacan cartels that specialize in methamphetamine distribution to the United States and have controlled many city halls and police departments. 

More recently, groups of citizens have taken up weapons forming self defense groups to protect communities from CT infiltration and domination.

MILENIO consulted state and federal sources who estimated 420, 000 people were left without electric power for about 18 hours, up to seven in the evening. The service in some affected areas was restored 95 percent.The assaulted CFE electric substations are located in Morelia, Apatzingán, Zamora, La Piedad, Ciudad Hidalgo, Uruapan, Sahuayo Tarímbaro, Zinapécuaro, Queréndaro, Tuxpan and Aguililla.

Counter-Offensive: Zetas In The Northeast

After losing several urban cells to the Gulf Cartel, the new leadership of Los Zetas rushed in to fill the gaps in order to organize a counteroffensive around all of northeastern México.  They turned to hiring very young hitmen, sending them from San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas to Nuevo León and Coahuila as reinforcements.  Nevertheless, governors Rodrigo Medina and Rubén Moreira announced that they have managed to reduce crime.
Reynosa, Tamaulipas.- Los Zetas are distributing dozens of hitmen throughout plazas all over the northeast, either to strengthen their control or to recover lost territory.  This is the case for some municipalities in the metropolitan area of Monterrey seized by the Gulf Cartel.

“In recent days they arrived in Nuevo León, coming from San Luis Potosí, around 40 trucks with armed men.  They traveled through dirt roads in order to not be detected”, a federal agent who requested anonymity reported to the magazine Proceso.

Templarios Blow Up 18 Power Substations-Death Toll Rises from Apatzingán Shootout

Chivis Martínez for Borderland Beat
Havana is working on a more detailed report which will be up later.....I wanted to post a  recap for now, as the story continues to generate updates....(afternoon update new video posted)
Just passed midnight Saturday, Caballeros Templarios used Molotov Cocktails to simultaneously blow up and destroy at least 18 power plants substations in Michoacán causing massive blackouts affecting over 1M people.  Then in the cover of darkness, they torched petrol stations and residences.
Six petrol stations were destroyed.

Authorities from the state prosecutor’s office, who initially reported no deaths, today reported at least 5 were killed in the shootout occurring on Saturday at the city hall  in  Apatzingán.

They gave an age range of the dead as late teens to early twenties, but claimed not to know what group the deceased  men belonged to.

Credible, but unconfirmed reports, from  libre social networks said  that CT had hired young people to infiltrate the auto defense planned protest to cause havoc that would lead to a massive shootout causing a large number of casualties among the auto defense 3000 member group attending the protest.  Initially, reports stated the large federal presence was in place because they had received word from the state that the auto defense group was coming and they feared violence. 

Social media has reported from the onset of the CT plan backfiring, as they wanted the defense group to be disarmed, but never expected as many federal elements being deployed so disbanded their original plan due to the large federal contingent.  Which explains why the attack was relatively mild considering what may have occurred.  The feds were quick to respond when gunfire erupted. 

Supposedly, this was a massive plan to cause major disruption in the city and blame criminal acts on the auto defense group.

Late this evening citizens were informed, via SDR reports, that CT had taken over gas stations and demanded identifications of patrons to single out defense members and kidnap them.  Other disruptions included large numbers of taxis being robbed.

These attacks have created great terror in Apatzingán. Accordingly, tomorrow schools and all  shops will be closed until further notice. 

Although throughout the weekend authorities were firm that there were no casualties, Dr. Mierles has contended from the onset of Saturday's violence there were deaths and injuries, through trusted sources he estimated 13 killed, all belonging to Caballeros Templarios.  Dr. Mierles stated that CT is know for taking, at least in part,  their injured and  dead to cause confusion. 

The auto defense had been disarmed, however CT gunmen had stashed weapons throughout the main plaza, said to be with the assistance of the municipal police. 

Federal sources had disarmed municipal police and they had largely fled the city.  The shootout was between federal forces and CT.
Federal authorities are increasing  presence by additionally sending hundreds police and militars to reinforce security in the region. In the midst of the outbreak of violence, Governor, Fausto Vallejo, resumed duties after a long illness on Friday.
"The only thing we can conclude ... is that the organized criminals are winning the battle against federal and state authorities," Miguel Angel Chavez, head of the opposition National Action Party, told the Quadratin news agency, adding that the violence of the last 24 hours was a terrorist attack.
Eduardo Sanchez, Federal Security Affairs spokesman, said three men had been arrested in connection with the attacks on the substations and two additional men killed in a shootout with military forces.    This raised the official count for the related events to 7.


Below: Citizens record attack on substation of CFE in
colonia de Sol, La Pierdad, Michoacán

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Feds Disarm 3000 Auto Defensa Members as they enter Apatzingán for Protest-Attacked by CT

Chivis Martínez for Borderland Beat
UPDATE: New and better video of what transpired at bottom...

Auto defense groups (community police), with over 3000 members  from various municipalities arrived at Apatzingán, in the early hours of  Saturday, to stage a protest against organized criminal groups.  As they arrived at the city they found a containment had been created by federal police troops blocking entry into the city. 
Reports claimed that the feds were falsely advised there would be a conflict and that was the purpose of the auto defensas arrival, which is why they sought to disarm the group in order to avoid a blood spill.  
Hipolito Mora and José Manuel Mireles, leaders of the auto defense groups, explained they came to  Apatzingán, a stronghold of Caballeros Templarios,  to revalidate their repudiation to the climate of insecurity and anxiety, perpetuated by organized Crime to the inhabitants of the region.
The leaders along with other activists spoke  with State and Federal members of the armed forces, PF and Governments, requesting that they be allowed to go in armed, because of the obvious threat to their security to enter the city without them in a possible attack.  The request was firmly denied.
They proceeded to the main plaza with their cartulinas and banners to protest and at that time were fired upon.

The video below begins with footage from the attack, followed by Dr. Mierles.  the video has  the translated narrative, translated for BB by J.Lopez. (huge thanks my friend) 

In the video Dr. Jose Mireles gives the account of what happened in his words.
The  man tin the photo below, is being  held by angry defense members.  Members say the man is the Caballeros Templarios collector of cuota or tax.  He further angered the crowd by refusing to show his face to the camera, prompting them to physical force his face to turn and ace the camera. (Click to enlarge image)

 Video  includes interview with Dr. Mireles and attack footage

We got there late because we had to talk a lot with the Army , as they were not going to let us pass with our weapons. In fact, they didn’t let us pass until we agreed that we were only going to do a march for the freedom of Apatzingán. And they guaranteed that nobody would attack us. They disarmed all of us, and 3,000 of us came in our pickups on a dirt road that goes to the traffic circle/plaza at Chabgo. There was nothing there. Fortunately, there, we detained the guy in charge of collections on the plaza, from right here in Apatzingán. With the Los Templarios mafia. We still have him detained.
We got here and went to look at the Sales de Ahuacapan and came back without any problem until we established ourselves outside the Apatzingán municipal government building, in front of the house where the 1814 Constitution was signed.

It turns out that I came here to the radio station one half block from there to deliver my message about the march/meeting for the liberation of Apatzingán, and just as we were finishing my message, we began to hear bomb blasts, grenade blasts. They were launching grenades at us from the roof of the cathedral.
Stopped and Disarmed
We had already informed the Army that we had received reports of snipers on the cathedral, because somebody had seen them carrying rifles, and that there were also snipers on top of the municipal government building. We informed the Army and they told us not to worry, that they were Army personnel.

That's when we got there and parked our trucks outside the main square. And I began calling on the radio I have in my truck, telling people to settle down, that we are not criminals, we don't murder anybody, and that we are never going to become that which we are fighting against.

So, we were right here and we heard the bomb blasts and machine gun fire, and it turns out that the attack begins big time. Fortunately, there were a lot of federal and military personnel around the plaza and they were the ones who responded to the attack. They are still responding to it. There are still grenade explosions and sporadic gunfire, and you can hear them all the way here, where we are hiding inside the radio station.

But we are worried. An ambulance, on our side, just went by to the local hospital because there were some of our men... Although the grenades, thank God, did not fall in the direction that our demonstration was being held. If even one of those grenades they are shooting at us hits among us, it could easily kill 50 of us.

I think there has only been 3 wounded, one seriously and two with minor injuries, but we're waiting for a report. So we are still here, we cannot leave. It is a difficult situation for us because they did not let us keep our weapons to defend ourselves with, and now that we are being attacked, we cannot defend ourselves.

Fortunately, I repeat, there is a lot of Army and federal presence here, and they are the ones who are carrying out the defense at this time, Priscilla.

--Dr. Mireles, these three persons who have been reported as wounded, are they members of the self-defense groups, residents of Apatzingán, or members of organized crime?

Thinking Zetas are Finished?

Borderland Beat posted on BB forum by administrator "DD"

"Zetas are not finished yet" By Scott Stewart and Tristan Reed
During the question-and-answer portion of our quarterly Mexico Security Monitor webinar, we were asked a question pertaining to the current status of Los Zetas. The question was something to the effect of: "Some Mexican media outlets and analysts claim that Los Zetas have been dismantled as an organization and are now little more than a 'ragtag operation.' Why do you disagree with that assessment?"

This question apparently came in response to our quarterly cartel report (an abbreviated version is available here), in which we wrote that despite the leadership losses suffered by Los Zetas, including the arrest of their leader, Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales, there were no signs that other leaders were challenging the current leader and Miguel's brother, Omar Trevino Morales. We also wrote that we believed Los Zetas have maintained their operational capabilities in terms of drug smuggling and other criminal activity, and that they have retained the ability to defend their operations and to continue conducting offensive operations deep in the their rivals' territory.

Because of the interest Los Zetas generate among our readers and clients, we thought it would be worthwhile to explain why we believe Los Zetas have not yet been dismantled.

Violence Brings Attention

When they first emerged on the scene in the early 1990s as the enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas brought a new dynamic to the violence in Mexico. As deserters from Mexico's Special Air Mobile Forces Group, they introduced military tactics and weapons into the fight.

Although other cartels quickly followed suit and stood up their own enforcer groups comprised of former soldiers armed with military ordnance, like the Sinaloa Federation's Los Pelones, Los Zetas continued to generate much media and law enforcement attention. This was due not only to their background as special operations forces, but also to their penchant for gratuitous and overwhelming violence.
Unlike other enforcer groups, which tended to operate in more confined geographic areas, the Gulf cartel deployed Los Zetas across Mexico and even into Central America. The group has also publicly taunted the government, such as via the audacious signs Los Zetas hung in Nuevo Laredo in 2008 offering better-paying jobs to the Mexican soldiers deployed to the city to counter them.

Los Zetas' violent nature was clearly on display after they split from the Gulf cartel in early 2010 and became an independent cartel organization. The group's involvement in high-profile incidents, such as the September 2010 killing of U.S. citizen David Hartley on Falcon Lake and the February 2011 attack on two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents that left one of the agents dead, also helped bring Los Zetas to the attention of the American government and public.
This resulted in U.S. pressure on the Mexican government to act against Los Zetas. High-profile incidents such as the August 2010 San Fernando massacre, other large body dumps, attacks on media outlets and the killings of journalists also served to make Los Zetas public enemy No. 1 in Mexico's media and in the eyes of the Mexican government.

Both the Calderon and Pena Nieto administrations have specifically listed the group as a priority target. All this attention has impacted the organization. In addition to the arrests of several plaza bosses, the group also lost longtime leader Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano, who was killed by the Mexican military in October 2012, and his replacement, Miguel Trevino Morales, who was arrested in July 2013.

Los Zetas grew quickly after emerging as an independent cartel, rising to become the second-largest criminal organization in Mexico. But this rapid growth did not come without organizational challenges. In mid-2012, Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero, a high-ranking Los Zetas leader operating in Zacatecas, Coahuila and San Luis Potosi states, split with the group and rejoined the Gulf cartel, which was in the middle of a heated fight against its former enforcer group for control of Mexico's northeast.

During 2012, we also saw repeated reports in the media that a war had erupted between Lazcano Lazcano and Trevino Morales, but no evidence of such a split ever emerged. In retrospect, we learned that the transfer of leadership between Lazcano Lazcano and Trevino Morales had occurred in an orderly manner several months prior to Lazcano Lazcano's death.

Misinformation and Disinformation

Over a year later we do not know if the inaccurate rumors of the Lazcano Lazcano and Trevino Morales split were an incorrect understanding of the Velazquez Caballero defection (misinformation), or if they were a deliberate information operation conducted by the Mexican government or a rival cartel attempting to sow division among the ranks of Los Zetas (disinformation).

This situation highlights one of the big problems confronting those who track and analyze clandestine human networks such as terrorist groups or transnational criminal organizations like Los Zetas. In addition to disinformation and misinformation, there is simply much we do not and cannot know unless we have a source of information inside the organization. Even technical intelligence coverage of such organizations sometimes provides only a limited understanding of the exact structure of an organization and the members' intentions and motives.

It is also important to recognize that even in cases where inside information is available, rumors, disinformation and misinformation often run rampant inside organizations -- particularly organizations composed of brutal, paranoid criminals. In retrospect, it appears that it took some time for Trevino Morales to become aware that Velazquez Caballero's organization had declared war on him because of the disinformation spread by that group. Thus, even if one had been able to ask Trevino Morales himself in March 2012 who was causing the violence in Nuevo Laredo, he would not have known.

But beyond disinformation, rumors, false presumptions and a lack of knowledge or awareness are common within all human networks, from corporate offices and military units to jihadist groups and criminal cartels. Analysts and collectors tend to want to accept everything a source provides as accurate if the source has good placement and access. They seldom want to recognize that despite good placement and access, the source may be biased, completely uninformed, sincerely misinformed or may have bought into a false, conspiratorial hallway rumor.

This means that analysts and investigators can usually only infer what is going on internally within a group, and in many cases the information used to draw those inferences is misleading -- sometimes intentionally so. This applies not only to open-source press reporting and messages purportedly from the groups themselves, but also to the human and signals intelligence used by analysts and investigators with access to classified information. In fact, sometimes classified information can be detrimental to sound analysis when inaccurate classified reporting is given precedence over accurate open-source reporting simply because it is from a highly classified source, thus skewing the analytical process.

For this reason, sensitive intelligence should never outweigh common sense and observation. Indeed, analysts should not hold any item of intelligence, whether from a contact or open-source media, above another -- they must all be carefully evaluated.  (Taliban below left)

While analysts may not know for certain what is happening inside an organized crime group, or what the dynamic is between groups like the Trevino Morales and Velazquez Caballero families, taking a holistic approach and correctly using available intelligence can allow them to form hypotheses. Those hypotheses must then be refuted or confirmed based on whether they conform to observable behavior of the groups and their members. In the case of Mexican cartels, internal shifts such as leadership losses, new strategies or tactics, new campaigns, new alliances, new rivalries and new operations are often manifested into quantifiable and irrefutable occurrences.
These observable occurrences can include things such as shifts in drug routes, upticks in overall violent crime such as homicides and robberies, arrests of individuals with credible reported affiliations in new places, and so on. Hypotheses can be validated or invalidated based upon such observable indicators.

In the case of Los Zetas, observable events have repeatedly contradicted the reports that began in 2010 describing the downfall of Los Zetas. If the capabilities of Los Zetas had really begun to decline in 2010, we would not have seen them expand so rapidly in 2011, both in Mexico and internationally. Observing Los Zetas conducting body dumps in Culiacan and Guadalajara during 2011 and 2012 contradicted the idea that El Chapo and the Mexican government had crippled Los Zetas.

Current Hypotheses Regarding Los Zetas
With that in mind then, let's consider some of the hypotheses we are currently working off of regarding Los Zetas.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

15,000 murders in Mexico since December 2012

By Chris Covert

The latest data on murders in Mexico are in and whatever the administration of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto is doing to deal with its pervasive organized crime problem, the results are mixed.

According to data supplied the the Secretaria de Gobernacion (SEGOB), or interior ministry, the total of murders nationwide reached more 15,000 since December 2012, the first full month of the new administration.  Intentional homicides totaled 1,478 for the month of September, 2013. The total number of murders since December, 2012 was 15,352.  The average for the previous ten months is more than 1,535.  The average for the previous nine months of 2013 is 1,487.

At the current average rate, the total of intentional homicides in Mexico could reach more than 17,000, which would be the lowest number for homicides since 2009, when 16,118 murders took place.

In 2010 through 2012, including the month of December 2012, homicides  were at an all time high of 20,681, 22,856 and 21,768, respectively

President Peña came into office ten months ago with promises of dealing more effectively with organized crime, first by moving all federal law enforcement and military counternarcotics activities under the auspices of its interior ministry.  Since that time every crime, especially violent crime reported through the federal government became a statistic, with no or few details.

Despite Mexico's transparency requirements at the federal level, Peña administration officials have interpreted the transparency requirements to reporting only the statistics of crime, not the details.

Since the start, it has been clear that some Mexican news outlets, most of which rely heavily on the federal and state governments for their crime news, were willing to self-censor crime news.

Some government officials, for example last July in Coahuila, have deliberately distorted crime statistics, only to be called on it by private organizations.

Whatever other efforts have been made to spike crime news in Mexico, the statistics that have been compiled by SEGOB are grim.

According to data supplied by Animal Politico news website,  kidnappings and extortion attempts have soared in Mexico to all time highs.  In September a total of 135 kidnappings were reported, a number exceeded twice since December 2012 -- in March (141) and April, 2013 (136) -- and matched in two other months, June and July.

Going by an annualized rate, the rate of kidnappings will exceed 1,606, an increase of about 10 percent from the previous year and an all time record.

Similarly, the crime of extortion going by its average current rate could reach almost 8,000 by the end of the November, 2013, another all time record.  The year 2013 totals could exceed the last highest year, 2012 (7,272), by more than 700 cases.

As with homicides, two other crime categories have been reduced, albeit showing downward trends which began in 2011, in carjackings and auto theft.

In the previous three years, carjackings hit an all time high averaging more than 65,000 with 2011 being the high mark at 71,784.  So far in 2013, total carjackings are down 41,916 for the calendar year. At the current annualized rate total carjackings could reach 55,887, the lowest number since 2009 when 42,673 were reported.

Auto theft is also showing a dramatic drop with a projected number of 132,941 for 2013, the lowest number since 2006, before the start of the previous Calderon administration.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for and  He can be reached at

Former Police Commander/Gulf Cartel Boss sentenced to 12 1/2 Years in Jail

Borderland Beat

Ildefonso Ortiz | The Monitor

McALLEN — A former commander with the Tamaulipas State Police and ranking member of the Gulf Cartel is to spend close to 12 1/2 years in prison.

Thursday morning, Gilberto Lerma Plata went before U.S District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., where she handed down the sentence and ordered Lerma to forfeit a whopping $10 billion in drug proceeds as part of a money judgment against him and the Gulf Cartel, a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice shows.
The money judgment was based on the prosecution’s assertion that during the time that Lerma was active in the Gulf Cartel, the organization distributed more than 1.4 million kilograms or cocaine and more than 8,000 metric tons of marijuana. The money judgment represents the gross receipts of the Gulf Cartel’s drug sales into the U.S. from its distribution centers along the U.S.-Mexico Border, records show.

The Gulf Cartel is a crime syndicate based in northern Tamaulipas that is involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, human smuggling, contract killing, kidnapping, extortion and other criminal activities.

A grand jury handed up a sealed indictment against Lerma on July 29, 2011, accusing him of drug conspiracy charges and drug smuggling for his role as a leader in the drug trafficking organization. Federal agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Lerma in McAllen on April 6, 2012, and he pleaded guilty March 1, 2013, to the conspiracy charges and the importation of several tons of drugs into the country.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Nuevo Leon youth Confesses to Killing 45 people, he's linked to 79

Borderland Beat
Monterrey - Jorge Domene, spokesman for security in Nuevo Leon, said that elements of the State Investigation Agency (AEI) detained in Monterrey Juan Pablo Vazquez Garza, El Almoloyita, 20, who is linked to 79 murders.

"He confessed to his direct involvement in 45 murders and is related to 34 more in other investigations," the official said at a press conference 

Vasquez Garza was arrested along with Marcela Ortiz Sanchez who is 25 years old.

Both youths were captured as they rode in a van down B. Mitre Street in the colonia Artíclo 27 Constitucional

In the vehicle were found 35 bags of marijuana, 12 mobile phones and 260 pesos, the official said.

He added that the alleged serial killer is a member of a criminal group operating in Tamaulipas and lives in the Valle de Santa Lucía neighboring area. At first he confessed to being involved in 79 murders, including five people in a neighborhood events/meeting room last year as well as the killing of two Transito agents, one from Monterrey and another Escobedo.

According to the State Attorney, Vazquez Garza is also responsible for the murder of two men in the San Bernabé and a table dancer dancer who was abducted in Progreso.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Captured Manuel Aguirre Galindo, "El Caballo" one of the founders of AFO

Borderland Beat

Update and Original Post Follows

U.S. Attorney's Office drops Arellano case

By Sandra Dibble Oct. 25, 2013
Manuel Aguirre Galindo, a former high-ranking member of the Arellano Felix Organization captured Saturday in Mexico City. — Reforma

In an unusual move, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego has dismissed a case against a long-sought senior member of the once-powerful Arellano Felix cartel detained in Mexico.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Friday confirmed the arrest Saturday of Manuel Aguirre Galindo, also known as “El Caballo” (“The Horse”). But the charges against Aguirre for drug trafficking and money laundering in San Diego federal court had been dismissed just days earlier.

“Our case against Manuel Aguirre Galindo was more than 15 years old,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement on Friday. “Given the passage of time, the United States faced challenges with evidence and availability of witnesses that could not be overcome.”
Duffy’s office dismissed the case against against Aguirre on Oct. 11. He was arrested in Mexico City eight days later, last Saturday, according to reports in the Mexican media.
“It’s a really big deal to dismiss a federal indictment,” said John Kirby, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego who worked with Duffy on two indictments unsealed in 2003 that named Aguirre and other ten other senior cartel members. “It doesn’t happen very often.”
Kirby said that the case the case against Aguirre “was strong when I left,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in 2005. “It was a witness-based case, and over time witnesses disappear, commit other crimes, they get deported. So who knows what it looks like now.”
Mexican authorities had issued no statements about the detention as of Friday. Reports in Mexican media stated that Aguirre faces charges in his own country of organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering, and that he is in custody at the federal Altiplano penitentiary outside Mexico City.

Duffy said in her statement that “this is a very significant arrest for both countries, and we recognize the hard work and commitment it took to bring charges against this elusive figure who was once of the highest-ranking leaders of the Arellano Felix cartel.”

Aguirre is 70 years old, according to a U.S. Marshal’s wanted poster. Born in Mexicali, “he had been moving drugs into the United States for decades, even before the Arellanos were anybody,” Kirby said. “He was the guy the Colombians knew and trusted.”
Aguirre served as the Arellano’s liaison with Columbian traffickers and was “one of the four primary leaders of the organization.”

In 1998, Mexican federal authorities seized the Oasis Resort Hotel at the northern end of Rosarito Beach, saying they had found evidence the hotel belonged to Aguirre.
Following the detention of cartel leader Benjamin Arellano in 2002, Kirby said, Aguirre "disappeared and went off the map.”

Aguirre was one of seven senior Arellano Felix members portrayed on a 2003 U.S. State Department wanted poster that offered $2 million for information leading to his capture. The six others are behind bars in Mexico and the United States.

In 2004, the U.S. Treasury Department took action against two Chula Vista homes linked to Aguirre, citing the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act. They identified the owner of the properties as Esperanza Galindo Leyva, Aguirre’s mother.

Captured Manuel Aguirre Galindo, "El Caballo" 

Although federal authorities have not officially released the arrest  of the "financial brain" Arellano Felix Cartel (CAF), Manuel Aguirre Galindo, it has been learned that he was transferred to the maximum security prison "Altiplano" in Almoloya.

Manuel Aguirre Galindo, El Caballo one of the founders and most important men in the structure of the Arellano Felix brothers cartel, is now prisoner in the Federal Center for Social rehabilitation, number one, Altiplano. Known as Almoloya.

According to information from Reforma, the finance manager of the criminal organization was captured on Saturday October 19 in Mexico City, one day after Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix "la Pancha" was killed  in Baja California Sur.

Manuel Aguirre, about 70 years old and who also calls himself Estanislao Olmos
González and “El Galán,” is designated as the major money launderer for CAF. 

The arrest of this drug trafficker, for whom the United States offered a reward 2 million dollar and up to $ 5 million for information leading to his capture, was apprehended in Mexico City on Saturday. Officials involved in the national security cabinet, revealed that Aguirre Galindo had three arrest warrants issued by Mexican judges, for the Commission of crimes with operations of resources of illicit origin (money-laundering), against health and Organized Crime (drug trafficking). 
Since July 2003, the United States State Department offered a reward for information on the whereabouts of Aguirre Galindo, who was responsible for the financial management of the Organization and  also considered to be one of the main operators of Arellano Felix Organization. U.S. Authorities included an order of provisional detention for purposes of extradition to the Mexican Government, since he is also accused of various offenses related to the trafficking of drugs into U.S. territory. Aguirre Galindo was, according to the United States drug enforcement agency, the last of the founders of the Arellano Felix Organization who was at large.
Enedina Arellano Félix y Fernando Sánchez Arellano “El Ingeniero” are still at large.

Among other properties with which the U.S. authorities identified Manuel Aguirre Galindo as the financial leader of the group related to the Oasis Resort built in 1998 in Baja California.

Manuel Aguirre has a criminal record since 1981 when he was arrested for alleged involvement in drug crimes in the vicinity of San Felipe, Baja California, by offloading drugs in a clandestine airport runway and is reported to launder money through the resort Oasis Resort Playa Mar,

Manuel Aguirre Galindo's arrest took place in Mexico City by the Federal Police; 

However, so far the capture has not been officially announced, and the Attorney General of the Republic said he is still being interrogated with the Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (Seido) Attorney. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mexican Army shifts counternarcotics strategy in Chihuahua

By Chris Covert

As shootings and drug and gang related violence continues in southern Chihuahua,commanders with the Mexican Army are announcing their intentions to stay in northern border states, according to Mexican news accounts.

Gen. Cienfuegos

A news account which appeared on the website of Azteca Noticias reported a joint announcement of Chihuahua Governor Cesar Duarte Jaquez and Mexican Army chief General  Salvador Cienfuegos that a new army base would be built in Guachochi municipality housing 600 soldiers and their families.  No date was given for either beginning or the conclusion of the construction of the army base.

If the number of soldiers to be deployed at the base is accurate the base will be one of the largest non garrison facilities in Mexico.  Mexican Army bases which dot the country usually house a company sized element including about 100 effectives with support staff adding even more.  The base in Guachochi will house 600 soldiers including support staff, or the equivalent of a rifle battalion.

Guachochi is in the Mexican 42nd Military Zone command area.

The new deployment adds credence to the notion that Mexico's military commanders are concentrating their efforts in the Mexican sierras where law and law enforcement are at  premium, leaving the cities and the highway to Mexican civilian security forces.

Earlier in the year Mexico's military commanders made much of the intention of the new national administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto to return the military to the barracks and to have Mexico's police forces take over security duties nationwide.

Sometime last summer, commanders signaled a definitive shift in strategy, by making much of their intentions to remain in areas where drug and gang related violence is the worst.

The most recent announcement by General Cienfuegos was that the Mexican Army would remain also in Nuevo Leon state.

Pena's security strategy of making states take on more security duties was also amplified by dividing the country into five regions and holding numerous meetings between state politicians and their security staff, and Mexico's federal security apparatus.  Central to that is to include all national police and militaries under the Secretaria de Gobernation or interior ministry.

But problems with the strategy in using state resources abound. 
SEGOB Osorio Chong

Last December as President Peña was taking the reins of power, his Secretaria de Gobernation, Miguel  Osorio Chong continued to push a police certification program requirement begun during the term of the prevous President Felipe Calderon, that all police agents are certified, or they should lose their jobs.  The original time period began in 2011, and was extended by the national Chamber of Deputies for a deadline of November 1st, 2013.

But now it appears with barely 75 percent of all state and local police certified nationwide,  the deadline has been extended yet another year.

Results in the various state were mixed at best, with two on the six northern border state with percentages of certified police above 80 percent.  That was in August.  Since that time Nuevo Leon has announced their police certification program completed.

Chihuahua state, where the new military base is expected to be built, as of last August, was in the bottom 10 with just over 51 percent certified. Tamaulipas, easily Mexico's most violent state. was reported dead last with just under 40 percent.

Problems in security continue in Chihuahua state, especially in the southern municipalities.

In El Diario de Juarez Wednesday it was reported that only five municipalities out of 51, have submitted candidates to be approved by the state Chamber of Deputies.

According to Antonio Andreu, President of the Chamber of Deputies, the five municipalities with police chiefs confirmed by the Chamber of Deputies include Nuevo Casas Grandes, Camargo, Ahumada, Ciudad Juarez and Aquiles Serdan.  All are northern or central municipalities.

According to the news story, Chihuahua state's failure in police certifications has led to the large number of municipalities with no confirmed police chiefs.  Andrieu said that no deadline exists for confirming new police chiefs, and new police chiefs must be certified.

Chihuahua state went through a mid term election earlier in the summer.  Normally by this time all municipalities should have their staff appointed, approved and in place.

Elsewhere in southern Chihuahua, eight unidentified individuals are being investigated as disappeared according to a news account which appeared in the online edition of El Sol de Parral news daily.

Quoting head of the Policia Estatal Unica Division Investigaciones, Pablo Ernesto Rocha, police will begin search operations in Guadalupe y Calvo municipality, focusing in the villages of Corta, Los Charcos and El Vergel.  Earlier in the spring and summer, kidnappings and shootings in southern Chihuahua were do bad that young males were refused public transportation for fear of recruiting efforts by local criminal gangs.  The latest admission of missing persons by a top state police officials indicates that the violence in the region has not been tempered.

Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for and  He can be reached at