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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reports from Drug War Frontline in West Mexico

Five years ago, the central-west states of Jalisco and Zacatecas were a relatively peaceful backwater in Mexico's battles with organized crime, but today the region is the site of growing violence as criminal groups compete for territory.

The region is appealing to drug traffickers for a number of reasons, but one in particular stands out: the two states offer a valuable passageway from the Pacific Coast, where two of the country's more important ports are located, to the northeast, home to several of the busiest U.S. border crossings.

It’s no surprise, then, that two of the main groups fighting for Zacatecas and Jalisco -- the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas -- are based in northeastern Mexico. While these two groups are locked into a battle for control of the remote sierra at the border between the two states, further south into Jalisco the competition is more complicated.

The Sinaloa Cartel has long been dominant in coastal region of Jalisco, but with the death of local Sinaloa boss Ignacio Coronel in 2010, the group’s monopoly has been challenged. The Zetas had been making inroads into the region since even before Coronel died, and in the months since, other groups -- some old, like the Milenio Cartel, others new, such as the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) -- have also appeared in the state.

As a result of these tensions, the murder rate in the region has spiked. According to figures from the newspaper Reforma, the number of murders linked to organized crime in Zacatecas has jumped six-fold since 2010. In Jalisco, 690 people were killed in the first half of 2011, which puts it on track for a 50 percent rise in the year.

According to many analysts, the mayhem in the region is likely to worsen. In a piece reprinted by InSight Crime, Southern Pulse recently suggested that as the Zetas move further into Jalisco, they will come into contact with ever-greater resistance from the Sinaloa cells already entrenched there. Under this view, the recent spikes in violence are unlikely to level out.

To get a sense of life in the Jalisco-Zacatecas border region, reports from Grupo Imagen Media rode along with a Jalisco police unit operating in both states. The following is InSight Crime's translations of some sections of the report.

Between Jalisco and Zacatecas, every town that you pass through has a story of blood and fire; in San Cristobal de la Barranca, the police killed six gunmen; in Garcia de la Cadena, 3,000 bullets were seized; in Santa Maria de Los Angeles there was a gunfight in May; in Colotlan five agents were murdered...

This border region has turned into a war zone. The most recent episode occurred on September 23, in Huejucar: a midnight attack in which gunmen suffered various casualties, fled toward Jerez and kidnapped doctors so that they would treat their wounds.

Grupo Imagen Multimedia covered 240 kilometers in the region, in a convoy of rural police in Jalisco, known as Los Negros. “The zone is really hot,” explains a commander. “We can arrive tonight without any problem or suffer an attack at any moment,” another says. 

“What’s my name? I have no name. Nor do I have a face and you don’t know the number of the police cruisers nor of the police officers,” he declares.

The patrol begins in Jalisco’s Secretariat of Security. There there are 27 plaques with the names of the agents murdered this year. A bend in the road could be hiding anything. The tension is permanent. Suddently, a man abandons his truck, and the alert sounds: “He’s a lookout, he just got off the highway!” Time for action.
We are in San Cristobal de la Barranca. We are still in Guadalajara territory. The commander of the rural police signals toward the highway’s left, where the vegetation hides a mountain village.

“It is called La Lobera and the gunmen hide there.” It’s a village of less than 300 inhabitants in which there are 62 houses, the majority with just a single room and a dirty floor. It is a difficult place to patrol, because there are only narrow passageways and a path through which animals wander.

There was a clash there last June. The rural police had a confrontation with the Zetas, killing six and capturing 10 more. The gunmen were traveling to Zacatecas to attack the Gulf Cartel, and they ended up losing a battle that they weren’t expecting. Furthermore, that day they seized trucks, grenade-launchers, automatic weapons, and more than 500 cartridges.

Garcia de la Cadena is the first municipality in Zacatecas that we pass through, traveling at a good speed and with all five senses on alert. Though it has almost 3,000 residents, that morning there were just a few kids that gathered in the patio of an austere school, a pair of old men seated next to the solitary highway and two or three small cows, as skinny as dogs. The dirt fields remind you that at one point there were residents playing football there.

The police commander says that easy money makes many youths in Zacatecas -- both women and men -- allow themselves to be recruited by criminal groups. “Many have left town and those that have stayed don’t come out of their houses very often,” he said.

In July, "El Choche," an 18-year-old who had turned into a lookout for the Gulf for 5,000 pesos every two weeks, was detained. That afternoon the police also confiscated 3,000 bullets for an AK-47.

We travel over the route to Colotlan and the highway toward Lagos de Moreno. The commander signals toward the other side of the road and makes us turn around. A few meters from the road there was a niche in a wall with five crosses. It is the homage to the police murdered in October of 2008, when they stopped near a gas station to check a suspicious car, and were met with machine gun fire and two grenades coming from Suburban trucks. Three more police were wounded, but they survived to tell the tale.

Commander 3 grabs some CDs and plays some norteña music to lower the tension on the Zacatecas highway. The rest of the police remain alert.

The convoy passes through Teul, still enemy territory, when the police radio announces the presence of an “unsavory character.”

“That mother-----er is a lookout, he just left the highway!” The chase immediately begins, adrenaline for some and arrhythmia for others. Police run toward a suburban truck with California license plates that had just been abandoned on a dirt road, the uniformed men point their guns forward and others cover their rear.

No one who doesn’t belong appears. The informant is captured, without a shot, but the revision continues 100 meters away. The man confesses to being an RT (a leader of the lookouts), who says he is from Zacatecas and works for the Zetas because he can’t find work. He, together with his truck, is taken to Guadalajara. The group communicates with other teams and the return trip turns out to be stressful.
One of the officers gets into the armored car with a nervous laugh. It turns out that in the chase, the officer was himself chased by a bull that was loose on the grassland -- an anecdote to break the tension of the moment.



  1. I still don't know if CJNG is allied with Chapo, seems to me like they are there own orginization and will treat Chapo's people just like all the other competitor's, whether it be Zeta's, Golfo's, or Caballero's. I feel like if a leader like Nacho was rumored to have been set up by Chapo, and the CJNG know this, then why make any kind of pact or alliance with this organization?

  2. This is old news n zetas are not as strong as u think. The sinaloa cartel is way more powerful. Theirs a new video were this guy from lfm reveals EL CHAYO IS ALIVE. I been telling you all thats the reason michoacan been clear of zetonas bcuz of CHAYOS leadership. Arriba michoacan hijos de la verga!!!

  3. @7:22pm
    That the is reason that the rumor the Guzman set up Coronel is not true. CDJNG is led by Mencho who was one of Coronels right hand men. Coronel always kept things under control in this area for cds, what would be the point in turning him in and the risk the plaza (an important one at that)? Why are there so many people from Sinaloa inside Jalisco working for CDJNG? Why would they be fighting zetas in Veracruz alongside gente nueva if they weren't a CDS cell? Everyone in Jalisco and colima knows this.

  4. @8:37am
    Chayo is about as dead as fried chicken.
    Oh and LFM members are currently being slaughtered in their own state by LCT. LFM returned to their makers, los zetas for help.

  5. Chapo is making his move on Veracruz. Good tactical move, if you cut the Zetas in half they wont be able to bring drugs or recruits from South America

  6. @ the video, it seems like they work for Cartel Del Golfo. Its an old video, but it proves that Zetas had controlled the area since 07.. Now Chapo is going for that plaza again.

  7. I wanna see this video of Chayo being alive seems like it could be true

  8. "El Colombiano" leader of one of the cells of" Los Mazatlecos" a group loyal to the Beltran Leyvas was killed in Mazatlan Sinaloa,anyone who knows about the dispute between la gente nueva and Los mazatlecos for the control of Mazatlan knows that this was a big hit for los mazatlecos,and will most likely cause Gente Nueva to increase its efforts in controlling that city,with that being said eventhough the leader of the Mazatlan plaza for the Beltran is Samuel Lizarraga and is still alive and operating,El Colombiano was said to be an important/influencial person in that group.

  9. are you guys following the iran terror plot via cartel that was actually dea? it has been making the rounds of the talking heads all day.

  10. Its on youtube a lawyer hiden under lfm clearly states EL CHAYO IS the leader of the ct like I been sayin. The only thing dead is your fried chicken fool. They never found his body. Arriba michoacan hijos de la verga.

  11. The bitch ass zetas are getting weaker by the day. They just captured one of lazcanos most trusted men and third in charge. He was in charge of slp zac and coah. Now i bet chapo will step up his efforts and pounce on the oppertunity to take all of jalisco zacatecas and coahuila, probably san luis potosi too. So more blood is probably going to spill on a big level.
    Puro durango cabrones, y un saludo cordial pa los compas de sinaloa y michoacan y jalisco.


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