One of the most closely watched battles of 2010 was between the Zetas criminal syndicate and their former masters, the Gulf Cartel. The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel had held a tenous alliance since 2007, when the Zetas declared themselves independent, but the two split completely earlier this year when Gulf members assassinated a top Zeta operative and refused to hand over the assassins.
The split has helped make this the most violent year since President Felipe Calderon took power, with over 12,000 dying in criminal related activities. It has also created a chaotic situation in the country's most important industrial corridor between Monterrey and Reynosa, and made for some of the most intense battles in the country.
These battles, as a U.S. cable from Mexico released by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks and published in the New York Times shows, are more troubling on a security level than even some of the things happening in the rest of this embattled country.
The cable, for instance, says one criminal group coordinated simultaneous attacks on seven municipal police offices in the Monterrey municipality on 27 February 2010.
Evidence of such penetration by the criminals is also available on YouTube. In the video below, suspected Zetas block a main road in Monterrey but go unchallenged by a state police vehicle passing the scene.
The Zetas, however, do not always get their way. One witness reported to the consulate seeing "carloads of gunmen, with automatic weapons hanging out the window, retreating to Monterrey along the highways linking the city to Reynosa."
These would be Zetas, who were initially beaten back from Reynosa, along the Texas border, and were taking refuge in Monterrey, including, according to the cable, the group's top commander, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias "Z-3."
UNCLAS MONTERREY 000066
DS/IP/WHA, DS/IP/DEAV, AND DS/PSP/DEAV
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC, KCRM, SNAR, CASC, PGOV, MX
SUBJECT: Grenade Attacks Against Monterrey Police; Feb. 26 and 28th
REF: 10 NUEVO LAREDO 56
1. (SBU). Late in the evening of February 27, hooded men
conducted simultaneous grenade attacks against the facilities of
five municipal police forces within the Monterrey metro area. At
police stations in the working class suburbs of San Nicolas and
Cadereyta, the grenades exploded, injuring two and causing
significant property damage; in Guadalupe, Escobedo, and Apodaca
the devices did not detonate. Law enforcement sources, but not the
press, report a sixth attack in the city of Santiago, south of
Monterrey, and there are sketchy indications of a seventh attack in
Sabinas-Hidalgo, about an hour north of Monterrey. The authorities
have arrested two attackers and recover three unexploded grenades
and one grenade spoon. ATF Monterrey is in the process of
obtaining access to the recovered physical evidence. Although
there were civilian witnesses to the San Nicolas explosion, no one
is likely to come forward to present evidence or testify. Law
enforcement sources report that the police present when the
stations were attacked fled their posts. It is now clear that the
ongoing war between the Gulf and Zeta drug trafficking
organizations (DTOs) has reached Monterrey.
Nuevo Leon Spin Control
2. (SBU). While Nuevo Leon Secretary General Javier Trevino Cantu
has characterized the coordinated attacks as a reaction by
organized crime to the state government's security efforts, this
explanation is not persuasive as the state's programs are still
notional at best. Neither the recently-announced
military/federal/state plan to install roadblocks (68 checkpoints
in 19 cities) along the Monterrey to Reynosa, Tamaulipas corridor
nor the state's new plan to install checkpoints in 11 Monterrey
metro area municipalities to stem car theft have begun. Given the
thorough penetration by the Zetas of the police forces in those
municipalities that were hit, a much more likely explanation is
that the attacks were a signal from the Gulf cartel to the police
to cease/desist their support of the Zetas and switch sides. Other
plausible theories exist as well -- such as the attack was an
attempt to "heat up" the Monterrey plaza -- but none involve
organized crime responding to "effective" state government
Public Worried and Distrustful
3. (SBU) Locally, the Monterrey public is worried as citizens
fear that if the war between the cartels were to hit the city in
earnest, Monterrey could experience the rampant violence seen at
the border. The continuing wave of car-jackings/car thefts -- the
DTOs appear to be using the stolen cars to fulfull their
transportation needs -- has many on edge. Citizens are curtailing
trips to the border, and several bus companies are cancelling runs
to outlying cities in the state. Indeed, if high-value targets
fleeing Tamaulipas take up residence in Monterrey and nearby
Saltillo, Coahuila, violence here between the cartels and between
the cartels and the military (both army and navy) will increase.
During the previous week reliable witness reported carloads of
gunmen, with automatic weapons hanging out the window, retreating
to Monterrey along the highways linking the city to Reynosa.
Indeed, DEA confirms a rolling confrontation between the military
and retreating Zetas on February 27 in the Nuevo Leon
municipalities of Zuazua and Pesqueria, both to the north and east
4. (SBU). A recent poll done by the Monterrey-based Grupo Reforma
-- publishers of the influential local daily "El Norte" -- revealed
that 58 percent of Tamaulipas respondents had seen or heard gun
battles or violent acts that the media/government had not made
public. From here, it looks as if Nuevo Leon residents share this
view. Indeed, post law enforcement has learned that six died
during the Zuazua/Pesqueria shoot-out, an incident which has not
been reported in the local press. The rumor that Tamaulipas
Governor Eugenio Hernandez had been kidnapped flew around among
Monterrey elites at light speed on February 26. The comparative
silence of Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina on security issues in
general has only heightened suspicions.
February 26 EAC Meeting and February 28 Follow-up
5. (SBU) Prior to the grenade attacks, Consulate General
Monterrey's Emergency Action Committee (EAC) met on February 26,
2010 to discuss the current wave of narco-related violence and its
potential impact on Consulate security and operations. The EAC was
chaired by Consul General with the presence of MGT, RSO, CONS, POL,
CLO, FBI, ATF, DEA, ICE, PD and OPAD. Among items discussed was
the continued increase in car-jackings and stolen cars. During the
previous evening, a local car lot was hit by a DTO and as many as
10 SUVs were taken. The group also kidnapped the owner and two
other family members. It was reported that local police seen in
the area did not respond to distress calls from the family.
6. (SBU) RSO relayed Unclass reporting that the Los Zetas leader,
Miguel Heriberto Lazcano-Lazcano is believed to be hiding in
Monterrey and was planning for counter-offensive strikes against
the Gulf Cartel in Tamaulipas. This information dovetailed with
reporting from other sources and the members of post's Law
Enforcement Working Group elaborated that Saltillo, Coahuila would
likely be considered a safehaven by the Zetas.
7. (SBU) The CG and RSO discussed obtaining further protective
equipment for the Local Guard Force. RSO will submit a request for
an emergency shipment of ballistic helmets and rifle grade body
armor from DS/PSP/DEAV.
8. (SBU) At a February 28 follow-up session of the Law Enforcement
Working Group, committee members discussed the probabilities of
further Gulf Cartel retributions against Zeta controlled police
departments in the Monterrey area. Various EAC members believe
that the next targets of attack by the Gulf cartel might be the
Monterrey and Santa Catarina police or Nuevo Leon state police
facilities. On February RSO office distributed a security notice
to Consulate employees reminding them of the need to remain