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

Monday, November 21, 2011

San Fernando’s Residents Fear Drug Traffickers’ Return

By Juan Alberto Cedillo
The residents of San Fernando have become used to seeing soldiers patrolling the Mexican city, but they say they do not feel at ease because they believe drug traffickers have only withdrawn and could return once the military presence is reduced.

San Fernando, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas and some 130 kilometers (about 80 miles) from the U.S. border, has been the scene of some of the worst massacres in the wave of drug-related violence that has claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 people in Mexico.

The Los Zetas and Gulf cartels fought a turf war in this city of 30,000 in 2010 whose scars are still visible.

Gunmen massacred 72 migrants, the majority of them from Central America, a mass grave containing more than 230 bodies was found and several residents remain missing.

“The situation is much calmer now,” a farmer who drives his pick-up every day down a dirt road to reach the Mendez-San Fernando highway said.

Burned and abandoned SUVs, many of them with bullet holes, are scattered around the area, the detritus of battles fought by the rival cartels.

A burned car dealership, which was hit by large-caliber rounds and shredded by grenades, sits at the city’s entrance.

Los Zetas and the Gulf cartel fought for San Fernando, whose size belies its importance as a strategic stop on the smuggling route from Central America.

“San Fernando is a highway node,” Gen. Miguel Angel Gonzalez, who commands the 8th Military Zone in Tamaulipas, said.

One of the most important smuggling routes from the south passes through the city, from which drugs are shipped to various points along the border with the United States via dozens of highways and dirt roads.

During the turf war, the cartels were kidnapping “between seven and eight people a week” because many young men were involved in the drug trade, a woman told Efe on condition of anonymity.

“If the army wasn’t here, organized crime would return,” the woman said, adding that drug traffickers had withdrawn to nearby towns.

More than 1,500 army troops were deployed in San Fernando following the August 2010 migrant massacre, with 100 soldiers now performing traffic control and other law enforcement duties because the city’s police officers were arrested for aiding Los Zetas.

Residents say they “do not feel 100 percent safe” despite the constant army patrols around the city.

“We cannot be at ease because there are still women here who report everything they see and hear to the narcos,” a university student said.

After Los Zetas took control of San Fernando, Martin Omar Estrada, known as “El Kilo,” ran the police, bought officials and threatened others to become the city’s “absolute owner,” residents said.

Estrada was behind the massacre of the 72 migrants and the kidnap-murders of 236 people traveling on buses that passed through San Fernando.

Gunmen watched the buses that arrived from the south and searched them to make sure that hired guns from rival gangs did not enter San Fernando, Edgar Huerta, a former Zetas member, told the Federal Police.

Los Zetas founder Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” ordered the searches of the buses, Huerta told investigators.

“‘El Lazca,’ the top boss of Los Zetas, ordered us to investigate them and if there was something, to murder them,” Huerta said during questioning by federal investigators.

The suspect told investigators that Zetas gunmen checked where travelers came from and the messages on their cell phones to see if they were involved in the drug trade.

“Those who weren’t, no, El Kilo let them go and the other ones he killed,” the suspect said.

Suspected gunmen were taken to an abandoned warehouse about 17 kilometers (10.5 miles) from San Fernando and executed with assault rifles.

The bodies of dozens of people who disappeared during the turf war have not yet been found, San Fernando residents said.

Source: EFE


  1. im going to mexico and plan on traveling by bus since my vehicle stands out and the last thing i want is to catch the wrong attention. Im 26 yrs. old and live a hardworking honest american life. but my body shows my lifestyle from when i was younger (tattoos a lot of them if you were to see me you would think gang member) even though i don't live like that any more to the public it might still seem that way.i guess what im saying is that i hope i dont get mistaken for some looser crashdummie killer.i just want to visit my roots...

  2. Sounds innocent enough, no one on this site gives a fuck iyou decide to go or or not. if you go, it is on your own free will. I wouldn't be shocked if they chop your head off and use it as a bowling ball. Once a shithead, always a shithead!

  3. @6:34AM,

    It really depends on where you are planning to visit. Also, the article above is detailing events that were occurring last year (bus searches). I'm not saying bus travel within Mexico is 100 percent safe..I'm saying the busses in the above events were heading North towards the US border, while your travel would be taking you South into Mexico (I'm assuming). Anyways, it's a judgement call, along with common sense..

  4. It's cooler now, just cover up as best you can. The trouble is always worse heading north. There are more stops and passengers obviously seem more on edge. I've seen Men in sloppy uniforms ask for papers. I've seen the whole bus forced to empty at 4:00 am. 100 miles, from the border to search bus and luggage at a makeshift checkpoint.. When it goes smoothly, I'm always amazed and thankful.

  5. yeah ..what the fuck..the cabron is just asking for some honest advice ...why the punk ass attitude?

  6. November 22, 2011 6:34 AM My brother went to Mexico on a car and came back on a plane with no problem. He travel from California to El Paso Texas and all the way to Mexico City D.F.

    You said since my vehicle stands out, I will think you have money. Just take a plane, is not expensive and is a lot safer.

  7. my dad left to guanajuato mexico about a month ago. he got to nuevo laredo around 9 p.m and passd through monterrey around 11:30 p.m.. he drove all night through mexico n told me he didnt see anything suspicious.(this was on a friday).. so im guessing you should be ok. :D

  8. November 22, 2011 6:34 AM Bro, don't go innocent boy. Those tattoes = recruitment or rival drug cartel member = decapitation.

  9. Sold out in Mexico last year after twenty years of a wonderful life with Mexican friends and their families. San Fernando was a regular stopping point when I returned to the US for holidays. I couldn't imagine having to drive through the border anymore and risk the lives of my wife and children. My departure will cost Mexico about 25,000 bucks a year, as well as the skills I contributed where none existed before my arrival. I don't understand how the good folks of Mexico can allow these bastards to totally destroy their country. They need to turn in their brothers, their fathers, their cousins and anyone else who is a part of this disgusting trade in drugs and murder for hire conspiracy. We are all grateful for the risks the bloggers on Borderland Beat take to allow a little bit of push-back. I will now dedicate myself to seeing that no Mexicans have an opportunity to bring their Satanic industry into the United States. That will impact all immigrants and for that I am sorry.

  10. go but trust your instinct

  11. Thanks, reporter Juan Alberto Cedillo.

    The mentioned abandoned, shot up SUVs sounds surreal. A pictorial series would be a mind blow.

    Things are calmer in a hyper violent Zeta controlled area, eh? Don't get wrong, I'm not doubting it, its just strange trying to learn about the war. (Being as dumb as a box of rocks doesn't help me none.)

    Juan, could you talk one of the volunteers into getting the B.B picture section going? Why don't I join and do it? I work 12 hour shifts, non union. (refer to the box of rocks.)

    Best regards

  12. My little bro is talking bout going to montaray for Christmas with his Mexican girlfriend he's a white boy going to meet her folks ,he's a little concerned I say go don't b a puss go ......

  13. @ November 22, 2011 8:13 PM. Your ok dude,never apologize for any job.If you working you gettin off your ass,the worst job in the world,any job,called bein a man.And lets give a bit of thanks to our Mexican bros,for helpin dude with question at the top of page.


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