[Subject Matter: Gates (Groupo de Armas y Tacticales Especiales
Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required]
"Here there are no narco's of the last letter (Los Zetas), here we call them by their name and we combat them for what they are: killers and leaches: Military will change State Security"
Reporter: Acosta M
Saltillo, Coahuila: In Coahuila some come to the Grupo de Armas y Tacticas Especiales (GATE), created in 2009 by the State Government to combat organized crime, like a blessing, they are attributed a decrease in the crime rate, and have quelled related activities of Los Zetas and Cartel del Golfo, who have for years had a violent dispute over territory.
In 2013 in Coahuila occupied sixth place in the national league of the most violent states in the country, according to the statistics for 6 types of crimes for every 100,000 inhabitants, (homicides, kidnapping, extortion, rapes, robberies with violence), by 2014 it had improved and they were 11th in the list.
According to levels recorded by the Secretariat of the National Systems of Public Security, in 2010 Coahuila had 16th place in the national league for homicides, but one year after, with the increase in activities of organized criminals, things started to worsen, occupying 9th place in 2011, 8th in 2012 and also 8th in 2013. For the past year, things have got better, 12th place this year, and the first three months until March it shows 13th place.
For the crime of extortion something similar occurred, 20th place in 2010 and better with 24th in 2011, and this year 2015 we are in 28th.
When it comes to kidnapping, there have been fluctuations, Coahuila was third nationally in 2010, improving to 24th in 2011, and this year it is 11th.
In crimes of federal order, we see something similar, the majority are going down, after Coahuila being near the top of the list. According to the levels of the Secretariat, in 2012 Coahuila occupied 15th place out of 32 in the country in crimes linked to drug trafficking, (production, transport, traffic, commercial, supply, possession and others) we are in 16th place, and in 15th for crimes against the Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives, but stay in 7th place for violating the Federal Law against Criminal Organizations.
For 2013, it was better, 16th place for crimes against health, and 17th in narco trafficking. Also better in violation of Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives in 18th, even though it has worsened in violation of Federal Law of Criminal Organizations, in 4th place nationally.
In 2012, 74.6% of the inhabitants of Coahuila ( 10th place nationally) perceived their state to be insecure, according to the National Survey of Victimization and Perception about Public Security that every year publishes the INEGI. In 2013 things worsened: 82% of the citizens (7th place nationally), while in the past year the feeling of insecurity was at 78% and 8th place nationally.
At town level, things are better, in 2014 it was down to 62%, 9th place nationally.
The blessed and the narco C4
In the streets, where there are businessmen, students, taxi drivers, hotel staff, citizens walking, most of them recognise that they live in relative tranquility. The ambiance in the streets is very different to before, when gun battles were an everyday occurrence and people travelled in state of paranoia.
They had reason to be scared, already the criminal controlled the state in many ways: for example a high functionary of State Government revealed to Milenio that the plaza boss of one of the cartels in Piedras Negras had his own C4 ( closed circuit TV system). His own control centre, with feeds from 50 cameras elevated to a point where they can see all of the city on lamp posts and other high standing buildings and poles.
The Capo had access to the cameras via an application of his smart phone and a tablet. He didn't only rely on the work of his halcones, he had this system so his Lieutenants knew, in real time, the exact deployment of Municipal, and State Police and Federal and Army, with which in seconds he could prepare an ambush of not only Security Forces but against members of adversarial cartels.
This is the reason the citizens lived in fear.
Before, you left home when you had too and looked where the battle was, to know which different route to take, to one side or the other, or if it was better to stay at home. It was a case of dodging the bullets, remembers a chauffeur, who remembered that his children never left home other than to go to school.
When one sees the GATES, already I feel more calm because they carry arms. They are a blessing, said a woman business owner who approved of the general idea of these police, black uniforms, with square faces, armed with rifles and armoured vehicles, they confront whichever group of Sicarios they encounter, which inhibits the presence of the criminals.
In the Government of Coahuila, they have little doubt that GATES have been a good decision. The Commissioner for State Security, Captain Hugo Eduardo Gutierrez Rodriguez, who was in the State Mayor Presidential with Ernesto Zedillo and Vincente Fox, who doesn't hesitate to expound the elite Police unit, nine have died in combat and five have been reported as disappeared), they have received training from Army Special Forces, and training from Spanish and Israeli forces, they are paid 30k pesos monthly, they are provided with housing. Also they have a psychologist dedicated to them and their families to council for the constant stress they live in.
Here, they are taught to give no quarter to organized crime, a GATE has the capacity, the volume of fire, training specifically for the Military, by personnel from Special Forces for Special Operations and interdiction operations, urban combat, personal defence, and stress shooting situations.
This group was formed in 2009 from 60 elements. In actuality we have 215 elements competent and trained, and 200 more that belong to the Metropolitan Operations Reactions Group (GROM), that administratively depend on the Municipals and operationally they drive GATES at the State Commission for Security.
The Captain supposes:
"You ask a child :"What do you want to be?". and before the child answers, badly, with a big apology that he committed a crime, they say they want to be Sicario's. Now you go to the schools and ask a child what he wants to be and he says: Soldier or GATE".
To sacrifice your freedom in the area of Security: all that work in drugs, have the hands of killers".
"What role did GATES have in reducing the crime rate?"
What's more important, is that I feel that GATE would be the nerve centre, a neurological point to combat the narco traffickers and organized criminals, that have free reign. They start by selling all types of drugs, after they start extortion's (cobra de piso), they control the sale of alcohol, they control the black market, they control money laundering, slot machines, and kidnapping. Its no only a question of reaction, but through proposed legislation. The Law of the land, to not permit licenses for table dancing, for the black market. So they cant present semi-nude or nude in spectacles or in bar events. They cannot install casinos.
Sacrifice certain freedoms in areas, to cut the financial flow to these people?
Exactly, but it will not violate or cut the freedoms of the citizens. This we have been permitted to use in some towns to reduce by 90% the deaths that are catalogued for violent collisions in road traffic accidents, related to ingestion of alcoholic beverages. After two in the morning, already, one cannot sell, nor have an establishment open that sells alcoholic beverages.
Here they speak a lot about the Zetas leaders. Is this territory free of this cartel?
With certainty one can say right now that we don't have any grand capos of this criminal group. We are combating the cartel that is, the group concerned, we are trying to eliminate to the minimum to its minimum expression this scourge of society. For us all here that sell drugs in the streets have the hands of killers, who decimate humanity.
Do you combat everyone?
What are you trying to say? Here we call them by their names, here we have no fear. To know that Coahuila is a place where order prevails, where the law prevails, and where the State Force prevails.
What do you mean you call them by their names, to ask, alluding that usually nobody wants to mention them.
Inferring the group of Los Zetas, of the group Cartel del Golfo, or inferring La Familia Michoacana, because there are some that say: the last letter. Here we call them by their names, and what they are: criminals, killers, leaches of society.
The houses that are confiscated (from criminals) are destroyed? I'm asking about the tens of houses of capos that have been destroyed after confiscation.
A raid in which we make confiscations and detentions stay abandoned, and become populated with homeless, or wrong doers that use them to take drugs or steal, and its a symbolic, an apology for the lavishness in which they felt untouchable. They search for legal mechanisms to proceed with destruction of the same.
Welcome to Hell
This is what they call the place where GATES are trained: Hell. This represents the extreme training that they receive. Practising shooting with rifles, training in the desert sun, explosions in underground caverns, tunnels filled with water. GATES are people of few words, they are addicted to adrenaline and danger.
They talk about Ranger, 25 years of age, two years in GATES. By trade he is a mechanical engineer. He climbs in a armoured vehicle today his is the top gunner. His face covered by a balaclava like all his companions, so they are not identified by organized criminals who will move against them and their families.
What motivated you to come here?
Well I saw in the streets the black uniforms, the pride they have you can see it. They come to the streets full of criminals and want to help to clean this. This is what motivates me most. To see that GATES are making the changes.
What did you say to your family, were they scared?
Yes, they said to me it would be very risky and dangerous, but I don't want to look at other work, an other vocation, but inside I want to be GATE and change things, no other vocation calls me.
Is it stressful?
Since the start I believe God guides and cares for me, I leave with him and return with him, and I like the adrenaline rush.
Is the six months training difficult?
No, whatever I have to do to qualify for GATES, its very difficult training that nobody want to finish
Our weapons are a trusted part of us, and like the military we will never give them up or lose them.
Your weapon is like your woman, always be faithful, never leave it alone, never abandon it. Its that it is going to save your life, you and your gun are together.
They live for confrontations, risky situations...
Yes if we come up on them, a brief confrontation with criminals, in which you can hear the wizzing of passing bullets. Here you are going to learn to control your impulses. To know how to manage the risk.
When bullets whizz by what do you feel?
A cold chill, more than anything because you feel that one centimetre either way and it could have been you. To control yourself is the best help.
How do you keep cool during battle?
To think, to feel the pulsations, to calm yourself, to think of tranquil things and to have vision. To have the field of vision for where you are working and to have control.
She is 29 years old, with six months service in GATES, she is one of the few women that form part of this elite body. She wants to be the Commander of the Group, as one of her colleagues has already done. They call her "Roja", the mother of three children, she says she is treated equally to the men.
The women are treated the same as the men, we have the same training, the same tiredness, everything. We are equals. There is no distinction, and no allowances. The truth is the training is very hard, we sleep very little, and all day is forces training, physical training.
Your family say you are crazy to come here?
The truth, yes, to start with it took them by surprise and they didn't accept it. But now after a little insistence, they have given me their support. My brothers support me a lot. They told me they would come and look after my children whilst I was training.
You are not scared?
Yes I get scared, it worries me, I have two very young children and sometimes I feel anguish for them, but I like that. The stress. I put my faith in god and I have the support of my family, when god decides it, I know my children will be ok.
The gun battles
The truth is they stir up strong emotions, and I like the adrenaline.....
The commissioned, the Military in the streets carrying a Glock pistol and two rifles, a Galil and a Beretta, and in their office are photos of Bill Gates or Tom Hanks, are proud of their own. But there are people that have denounced their excesses, some of which have been documented by the State Commission for Human Rights. There is a video, where an apparent execution by GATES in front of Soldiers, that is another story.
Part 2 GATES accumulate allegations of Police Abuse (the other side of the coin) coming soon
Original article in Spanish at Milenio