Increasingly sophisticated, drug cartels are camouflaged as Mexican security forces

Jorge Domene, a spokesman for the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, said on May 14 that 49 headless corpses found over the April 12-13 weekend near the city of Monterrey were probably brought from elsewhere to the place where they were found. Of the bodies, said Domene, “None have a head, and their upper and lower extremities were mutilated, thus complicating their identification.” Nuevo Leon prosecutor Adrián de la Garza said in a press conference that no missing person reports have been issued in recent days, which may mean that the dead may have come from other states in the Mexican union or from neighboring Central American republics. De la Garza said, “We cannot discount any possibility because the bodies have been here only 48 hours.”

Of the 49 corpses, 43 appear to be male adults while 6 appear to be female. Some may have been dead for less than 48 hours. This most recent find is similar to other recent incidents in which narcoterrorists have  dumped bodies in plain sight. In Nuevo Leon, before this incident, 23 corpses were found discarded on the ground or hanging in Nuevo Laredo – just across the border from Laredo TX, and 18 more were found on the highway leading south to Guadalajara. In September 2011, 35 bodies were found in the state of Veracruz, and another 36 were found in November in Guadalajara.

Forensic examination of the corpses appeared to show that the bodies were transferred to the outskirts of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, from elsewhere via non-refrigerated transport. Found at the scene was a banner that attributed the killings to Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s powerful narcoterrorist groups.  The bodies have been taken to a location in Monterey for examination. The governor of Nuevo León, Rodrigo Medina, has asked for assistance from federal law enforcement.

Complicating the Mexican government’s armed struggle against the heavily-armed criminal organizations are reports that criminals are now masquerading as law enforcement officers and military. Recently, Francisco Córdova Celaya, who heads public security for the state of Guadalajara, reported that narcoterrorists wear uniforms very similar to those used by the Mexican military and local government jurisdictions so as to confuse the public.  He also noted that law enforcement has seized three vehicles that had been modified to resemble those used by the government. One of them was a Hummer military vehicle equipped with a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle. In armed confrontations with security forces on April 28 and May 10, the presumed narcoterrorists who were killed were wearing military-style camouflage uniforms, boots and helmets. In a presentation last month in Washington DC, William Weschler - Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats - said in a presentation that Mexico's narcoterrorists are increasingly sophisticated, decentralized and adaptable, thus resembling other terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and Iran's covert operations. 

(Mexican special forces armed with U.S. made .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifles)

One of these incidents took place on the highway between Mexico City and Nogales and the state of Sinaloa, where five presumed narcoterrorists wearing military and police gear were killed in an armored truck. The five members of a narcoterrorist cartel were manning a checkpoint on a federal highway when they were discovered by state police on their way to the city of Los Mochis. After a firefight, the five criminals were killed and partly incinerated in their burning vehicle. Law enforcement in Guadalajara is examining the uniforms, armaments, and other gear found on the scene to determine their origin and whether they may have been used in other criminal activities.  Córdova Celaya gave assurances that all state police and other law enforcement can be easily identified by their uniforms and badges. He called on the public to report suspicious behavior citizens observe, or any doubts they may have about the identity of supposed law officers, to an anonymous tip line.

It was thanks to a tip line, said Córdova Celaya, that soldiers were called to Estación Bamoa in Guadalajara where they took fire from armed men holed up in a local hotel. In that incident, 11 criminals were killed. The army captured numerous weapons, including a several Barrett sniper rifles, grenade launchers, and automatic assault rifles. Previous such firefights and raids have yielded weapons such as U.S. made LAW rocket launchers, body armor, assault rifles and squad-level automatic weapons.

On May 14, the Attorney General’s office of Mexico and the Secretariat for Government issued a statement condemning the violence in Nuevo Leon and promised swift action.  Once again, the Mexican government offered a hefty bounty to information leading to the capture of the leaders of narcoterrorist organizations that are increasingly international in scope. Currently, the Mexican government is offering a bounty of 30 million pesos (US$2.19 million) in exchange for information leading to the arrest of Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, and Miguel Treviño Morales, all of whom are leaders of various criminal organizations.
 



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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