Cablegate: Narco-Violence Spikes; Border Affected

Published: Fri 5 Dec 2008 12:32 PM
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1. (SBU) Summary: Mexican media redoubled their focus on
the country's spiral of violence, noting that
killings had either approached or topped
5000 for the year, so far. While tallying the actual number
of such killings is a highly inexact science here, it is
clearly evident that the past several months have been
particularly bloody. Moreover, geographic patterns that
emerged some months ago are holding ) and strongly suggest
that the cartels remain engaged in a violent struggle over
key trafficking routes into the U.S. Much of the violence is
concentrated along the U.S. border, and in particular in the
states of Chihuahua and Baja California. Although Calderon
has managed to maintain relatively high levels of popular
support nationwide, there is increasing concern in the border
region that his counternarcotics operations are not working.
End Summary.
Narco-Homicides Said to Top 5000
2. (SBU) The running tally of cartel-related slayings in 2008
is on track to easily double 2007,s figure of approximately
2,500 which was itself a record in Mexico. The GOM's own
statistics through September register 3,636 narco-related
homicides, and local newspaper Reforma tallies 669 in October
and 559 through November 28 contributing to a figure of some
4,864 thru the year. The six Mexican border states account
for more than 50 percent of these types of killings, with
more than 1400 (30 percent) in Chihuahua alone ) a dramatic
increase from approximately 300 in 2007. (Note: The total
body count in the state stands at 1900 for the year, with
over 1400 in Ciudad Juarez alone. End note.) Baja
California has the third highest narco-death-toll following
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
3. (SBU) The state of Chihuahua, accounting for close to a
third of the entire country's drug-related killings, has not
registered a significant uptick in killings over recent
months. Rather, violence has occurred at such disturbingly
high rates beginning in March 2008, and now only intermittent
incidents of a particularly gruesome nature (such as two
Thanksgiving weekend mass killings which resulted in 15
deaths) seem to capture the broader public's attention.
Historically, Chihuahua has been a violent state. Law
enforcement (LE) sources, however, attribute the origin of
Chihuahua's most recent wave of violence to a decision in
December 2007 on the part of the Sinaloa Cartel, under
Joaquin Chapo8 Guzman to take over the state of
Chihuahua and the Juarez from the Carrillo Fuentes
drug trafficking organization (aka Juarez Cartel). (Note: A
previous cooperative arrangement between the Sinaloa and
Juarez cartels fell apart beginning in September 2004, when
the Sinaloa Cartel was alleged to have directed the murder of
Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes and his wife in Culiacan, Sinaloa.
4. (SBU) As the cartels have found it more difficult to
transport narcotics through the Juarez ,8 they have
branched out into other forms of criminality in order to meet
their expenses. In 2008, auto theft has doubled from 2007,s
already record-setting number to 15,000 incidents. Bank
robberies have risen from six in 2007 to 78 in 2008. There
were no reported incidents of kidnapping in 2006, and 9 in
2007. The number of reported kidnappings stands at 36 for
2008, an many more are thought to have gone unreported.
Incidents of extortion have increased dramatically as well.
Threats and extortion attempts against business owners and
even school teachers (in which criminals insist that teachers
turn over their year-end bonuses), have become a constant
5. (SBU) In addition, tit-for-tat attacks between the Sinaloa
cartel and the Juarez-ABLO-Zeta cartel alliance have created
a chaotic atmosphere, where local gangs )
such as the Barrio Aztecas -- are increasingly engaging in
illicit activities. Disturbingly, consulate law enforcement
officials and contacts, particularly businessmen who have
sought safe haven in El Paso have reported some spillover
north of the border.
6. (SBU) The violence in Ciudad Juarez and throughout the
rest of the state has contributed rifts between the federal
and local government, with local authorities complaining that
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their resources are strapped and accusing the federal
government of ignoring their plight. In October, Chihuahua
Governor Jose Reyes Baeza Terrazas complained that the
federal Attorney General,s Office (PGR) had not investigated
a single killing in the state in 2008. Baeza and other
elected officials also question whether the Army, which is
deployed in large numbers but rarely engages directly with
cartel shooters, is committed to restoring security in the
state. Meanwhile, on November 16, representatives of the
business sector, religious leaders ) both Roman Catholic and
evangelical, university rectors, and 62 of the state's 67
mayors wrote an open letter to President Calderon describing
the state's murder rate as completely out of control and
calling on the President to order the Mexican Army to engage
in more direct and aggressive action against the cartels.
Tijuana, Baja California
7.(SBU) This past weekend (November 28-30), a total of 42
people were murdered in Tijuana including nine decapitated
bodies discovered on November 29. Consulate law enforcement
officials believe the weekend at least part of the killing
spree was prompted by the killing of a 25 year-old woman
thought to be the friend/girlfriend of a cartel member.
8. (SBU) Baja California Governor Jose Guadalupe Osuna Millan
expressed his concern in August about a renewed surge in
cartel-related violence in Tijuana after weeks of relative
quiet. In the past, the victims have generally had
narco-trafficking links, but more recently the killings have
become a bit more indiscriminate with a 3 year-old and 13
year-old caught up in the latest violence. Much of the
violence is attributed to less mature, lower tier
players/leaders of cartel factions (i.e. Arellano Felix's son
and nephew Teo) as the GOM as taken out top-tier leaders.
The US Consul General notes that tourism to the city from the
U.S. side has plummeted and 40 percent of the businesses in
the tourist district have closed down over the last year.
Despite the spike in narco-homicides, there is little
evidence to suggest the violence is spilling over to the
other side nor that Amcits are being targeted.
9. (SBU) As part of an effort to clean-up the 2,000 officer
strong Tijuana police force and restore a sense of order, the
GOM sent marines, soldiers and federal and state police
officers onto the streets of Tijuana on November 18,
replacing the better part of its police in over half of the
state's nine boroughs, located primarily on the east side
where much violence has occurred historically. Once the
police officers from the east side have been either trained
or purged, they will return to the streets and the same
process will be applied to the police on the west side. The
mayor of Tijuana Ramos has denied that Tijuana is effectively
under martial law. Meanwhile, according to the US Consul
General in Tijuana, the federal police and military
replacements seem to be winning the respect of the population
and extending dominion slowly over the entire city.
Calderon Promises to Fight On
10. (SBU) President Calderon appears undeterred in his
commitment to fight the cartels. In a November 30 speech, he
maintained that organized criminal gangs had become powerful
as a result of past governments, failure to confront
corruption. He, on the other hand, was committed to rooting
out corruption as evidenced by the government's
anti-corruption initiative Limpieza8 (See
reftel) which has produced the arrest of senior law
enforcement officials over recent months. Calderon also drew
attention to record breaking numbers which spoke to the
effectiveness of his government's two-year efforts to combat
narcotraffickers ) the arrest of over 53,000 people linked
to organized crime and the seizure of over 70 tons of
cocaine, 3,700 tons of marijuana, 28,000 guns and 2,000
11. (SBU) A series of recent high profile arrests )
including the October 20 arrest of Sinaloa cartel leader
Jesus "El Rey" Zambada and the Nov. 7 arrest of Zeta leader
Jaime "El Hummer" Gonzalez -- has contributed to the spike in
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already high-levels of narco-violence along the border.
Although we may see a lull during the holiday season
(December 15 ) January 6), most expect the violence to
resume shortly after the new year and likely not abate until
the rival cartels strike a truce or one side wins. Lacking
confidence in the ability of local police to tackle organized
crime effectively, the GOM will continue to rely on the
military to assume a major role in this battle while it seeks
the adoption of legislation to strengthen security measures
and reform the police. The uptick in violence has not hurt
Calderon's approval ratings which registered 64% in a
December 1 Reforma poll -- up 2 percentage-points from the
newspaper's September poll. Moreover, at least 40% of those
surveyed said Calderon was doing a good job fighting crime
and drug gangs ) up from around a third in the September
survey. Nevertheless, while Calderon has managed to maintain
popular support, there is increasing concern in the border
region ) particularly the state of Chihuahua ) that the
government's counternarcotics operations are not working. As
Mexico heads towards mid-term elections in July 2009 and the
opposition parties turn up their criticism of the GOM, his
popularity could take a hit.
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