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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cartel Violence, Kidnapping Haunt University in Mexico

By Thelma Gutierrez and Wayne Drash

Monterrey, Mexico (CNN) -- A college student at one of Mexico's top universities gets kidnapped. His abductors use his cell phone to text a friend: "Meet me here."
The friend gets snatched, too.

Working for drug cartels, the kidnappers keep trolling through the contact list to find more wealthy students whose parents can pay hundreds of thousands in ransom.
Another friend soon gets abducted -- his head shaved and a cartel insignia carved in the side of his head.

"The stories are so horrendous," says one worried mother, whom CNN has agreed to call just Francesca. "You're just like, 'Oh my God.' ...

"This is what we have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Right now, this is what we think about, this is what we talk about. It's taken over our lives."

Just five years ago, Monterrey was dubbed the safest city in Latin America and the commercial hub of Mexico. Now, it's fallen victim to the lawlessness and violence spreading throughout the country -- a cartel battleground where grenade attacks, shootouts and kidnappings dominate headlines.

At the prestigious Tecnológico de Monterrey, the escalating violence has led to an exodus of students. Many of the nation's wealthy send their children to the school. They now fear the cartels and other common street thugs will increasingly prey on their children.

"What comes with drug cartels is a climate of extortion and a climate of danger," Francesca says. "We don't know anymore who the enemy is. We're not sure. It could be my neighbor, it could be a security guard."

Two graduate students were killed in March when they got caught in the crossfire of a shootout between cartels and police just outside the university's gates. Last week, three cartel gunmen were killed when their car exploded after crashing just 200 yards from university dorms.

The school has added enhanced security measures, from armed police to cameras. The campus is completely gated, and anyone entering or leaving needs an ID.

Students -- and their parents -- stay in constant contact. They use Facebook, Twitter and text messages as a support network. When Francesca doesn't hear immediately back from her daughter, she pings her daughter's friends.

She was surprised recently to find her daughter at home and not in class.

"My friend just texted," her daughter told her. "She said there's been a shootout on the street she drives to school. I am not going to school."

Her daughter, whom CNN is identifying as Vivianne, says three of her friends have been kidnapped in the last three months. All three survived, but only after being brutalized. They've since left Mexico.

Seven others have dropped out of school as a safety precaution. Students don't go to nightclubs -- it's too dangerous to be out late. Even getting to school is stressful.

"I'm always in fear," says Vivianne.

Alberto Bustani Adem, a top school official, says the university is cognizant of the dangers and understands the fears of parents and students.

The university is not sure how many students have been kidnapped in recent months. Parents are scared to talk to the media for fear of reprisals.

"It's safe if you have precautions," Adem says. "Don't stay out late and walk outside at midnight in a dark area."

More than 100 exchange students from the United States have left this semester, Adem says. In September, the State Department issued a travel warning for Monterrey and advised that "the immediate, practical and reliable way to reduce the security risks for all children is to remove them from Monterrey."

Adem says the warning had a huge impact. "We practically didn't receive any Americans."

He says the university still has more than 600 foreign exchange students, from 50 different countries.

On campus, students say they're well aware of the violence all around. But they feel safe within the gated confines of the university.

"When you walk into school, you don't see someone getting beheaded. Like, you don't see a grenade being thrown," says Julian Cook, a sociology major from the United States.
Of the violence, he adds, "I don't really feel like it's any different than like New York or Baltimore or Philly."

Raffael Hirt, an international affairs major from Switzerland, says he's a "little concerned" by the violence, but it won't stop him from getting his degree.

For Francesca, though, the violence has gotten too close. She has made the agonizing decision to pull her daughter out of the university that she herself attended decades earlier. The violence, she says, "came out of nowhere" to one of Mexico's most amazing cities.

"We were pulled into this situation with no time to think or react," she says. "This is the kind of atmosphere we're living with in Mexico. Nobody can live like that, adults or students."


  1. This is the city. Monterrey--the model city--where Mexico needs to draw the line in the sand. "Not my city, not my amazing city, you will not destroy my city." Are there enough of you out there, loyal and fearless, who want to defend my city?

    If American marines can go to the most dangerous places in Afganistan, where they get shot at everyday, several times a day, and live through that for months on end, is there anyone in Mexico who will do it for our city, our country and our children?

    Why can't we stop this? Will there be a great "brain drain" in Mexico, where the wealthy, the businessmen, the students and future leaders leave the country to the criminals. What then happens to the average citizen, the poor, the old, the children? Who will they turn to for inspiration, hope, guidence?

    If you can't stop it in Monterrey, are we doomed?

    (I write from any place, any time in human history when there has been civil unrest of this nature. It could be Russia under the Soviets, it could be Iran or China--it could be Mexico. The results are the same.)

  2. The smoke has cleared but few details have emerged about a gun battle that reportedly took place outside a busy shopping center south of the border in Matamoros.

    Matamoros residents used the social media network Twitter to report a shootout between gunmen and Mexican Navy marines around 2 p.m. Monday.

    The battle reportedly took place on the city's westside just outside the Plaza Sendero shopping center where a Soriana supermarket and other popular businesses are located.

    Residents reported explosions, gunfire, grenade explosions and heavy smoke. Some area residents posted photos and their accounts on-line.

    Local officials told Action 4 News that they did not have information about the incident.

    A Mexican Navy spokesman in Mexico City said the agency could not confirm the incident at this time.

    Mexican authorities broke their silence regarding a shootout at a busy shopping center south of the border in Matamoros.

    Federal police have identified five men who they say were involved in an incident that left four federal police officers wounded.

    It all took place outside a Soriana supermarket at the Plaza Sendero shopping center around 2 p.m. Monday afternoon.

    Local officials and federal authorties did have any information to report on Monday afternoon but residents posted pictures and accounts on the social media network Twitter.

    Federal police released information late Monday night and identified five suspects arrested at the scene as:

    Name Age Origin
    Héctor Manuel Arratia-López 25 Valle Hermoso, Tamps
    Marco Antonio Moedano-De la Cruz 27 Alamo, Veracruz
    Miguel Covarrubias-Cruz 24 Tula, Tamps
    Diego Armando Alejandro 18 Unknown
    Carlos Nava-Treviño 40 Reynosa, Tamps

    Federal police reported seizing assault rifles, guns ammo and two fragmentation grenades.

    Investigors told Action 4 News it all started when the men opened fire on federal police on the Matamoros-Reynosa highway.

    A brief chase ended with a shootout at the shopping center.

    Four federal police officers wounded in the incident are recovering at local hospitals.

  3. Where did you guys post these vids on your website that I didn't notice them? Shootout yesterday in Moros.

  4. El corrido de don Alejo

  5. my cousin told me that the zetas kidnap her friend who is from sinaloa to tell everyone who is a student at TEC and UDEM who is from Sinaloa or Sonora to go back how be cause they are not good enough to live in MTY...a few weeks ago gunmen broke in to the dorms at UDEM with a list of students from Sinaloa y SOnora and that they were going room by room and took one student but the school is only saying that it was a "test" far she told me that 100+ students have left MTY back home

  6. I was saving up to go Monterrey for some extensive cosmetic dental work. I almost have enough saved to do what I want. The plan included flying into Monterrey being picked up at the airport by the dentist both ways. Now I am about to say forget that and just go to Costa Rica. These Drug Cartels are punks nothing better than every day trash people who harm kids are not men there ponocho's

  7. 'At the prestigious Tecnológico de Monterrey, the escalating violence has led to an exodus of students. Many of the nation's wealthy send their children to the school. They now fear the cartels and other common street thugs will increasingly prey on their children.'

    No, that's not the real reason the Mexican Richy Richies are being pulled out of Tech by their mommies and daddies. The real reason is that Mexico's elites really are cruisin for ALL reasons to send their babies to the Ivy League in the USA, so that some day they might be pulled to rule over the rest of Mexico. That seems to be the prerequisite for the top dogs in Mexico these days. You got to go ot the Ivy Lague and talk Ingles perfecto for the Gringo whips.


  8. Drug traffickers wouldn't make things very difficult for almost everyone in the country only IF the government approved of drug business and those rival drug gangs to do the work in a nice way - not killing each other. But the government says no and the rival gangs are in the kill for their own cartels, and look at the victims - they died because of them.

  9. not all the students at the tech are innocent rich kids...there a a lot of sons and hijas of the narcos there also, being groomed to intimidate their way into every facet of Mexican would you like to be un maestro and be told , you give my kid a good grade ..or else...

    i lived in the same departmento complex as some of these rich spoiled fucks , and they partied all night every night ...they took all the parking spaces..they kept every body else awake all night ...but if you want to say something, you risk your valor

    it was hard to stomach as an American who is used to being able to say , shut up, go to sleep, or hey , that is my parking place, it really sinks in that there is no protection from these bastards...not from the police, you call them they might come and arrest you....everyone is afraid, and they really like to push their weight around, when you see their sicario bodyguards hanging around it becomes very real, they WILL kill you for any reason

    who do you think writes the list for the levantones?

    rich arrogant spoiled American frat brats can't hold a light to these fuckwads

  10. i will volunteer to defend Monterrey soon as the Mexican gob gives the ok ..I am there....hell yes...even though i am no is still my city too..i love that big stinking dirty beautiful place

  11. Maybe they might have a position for you as sailor in the Mexican Navy flotilla on the regio river walk, Brito?

    'lito 'brito said... -i will volunteer to defend Monterrey soon as the Mexican gob gives the ok'


  12. this is a bunch of bs these dam cartels think their bad asses and all that crap they aint nothing without weapons in their hands and getting money easy grow up yo work hard for your money and for your family dont be a punk and try 2 make it easy lifes hard deal with it dont go and follow all those people they might say u will have money power fame but u will get caught and were r u gonna be u will help you out cuz i would put my life on it that the cartel members dont care about you like your family does make THE RIGHT CHOICE.


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