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Thursday, September 9, 2010

An In Depth Analysis of What's Happening in Mexico

September 7, 2010


Fallout from the La Barbie Arrest

Mexican Federal Police apprehended high-level cartel leader Edgar "La
Barbie" Valdez Villarreal and six of his closest collaborators the afternoon
of Aug. 31 at private residence in the village of Salazar, Mexico state.
Valdez Villarreal's arrest reportedly came after a Federal Police
intelligence unit traced the location of a phone call Valdez Villarreal made
to one of his accountants, Aaron Arturo Gines Becerril, who was arrested in
a separate operation in Morelos state. As soon as authorities pinpointed
Valdez Villareal's position, two teams of Federal Police special operations
forces launched two separate simultaneous operations to apprehend him and
several of his top collaborators; the second operation occurred near the
Guerrero-Morelos state border.

Valdez Villarreal's capture represents a major success for Mexican President
Felipe Calderon and his government in its war against the cartels on the
physical and public relations battlefields, especially as conflicts in other
parts of the country have escalated in recent weeks. Mexican authorities
have gathered a tremendous amount of intelligence from the raids. Valdez
Villarreal reportedly has been cooperating with authorities, providing
additional intelligence on the inner workings of cartels in Mexico and

Several different international law enforcement and intelligence agencies
reportedly had prepared the intelligence operation that brought down Valdez
Villarreal and his network since June 2009. Mexican Federal Police had been
close to capturing Valdez Villarreal twice before, with the second time
coming Aug. 9 in the Bosque de Las Lomas neighborhood of western Mexico
City; the authorities missed him by a few hours. Federal Police agents and
military units remained on standby for another mobilization to go after
Valdez Villarreal. When the call came Aug. 31, some 1,200 members of the
Federal Police mobilized for the two operations. The raid on the rural
residence that netted Valdez Villarreal took place without a single shot,
indicating that the element of surprise was maintained and revealing the
general unpreparedness of Valdez Villarreal and his associates. Authorities
confiscated an M16 rifle with a grenade launcher attachment and an HK MP5 9
mm rifle from the residence where Valdez Villarreal was apprehended.

The intelligence acquired after the arrest included everything from a
meeting of the major players of Mexico's cartels to the logistics of moving
a multiton shipment of cocaine from Colombia to the United States, and also
yielded actionable tactical intelligence. Some of the information from the
raid resulted in the Sept. 1 arrest of 11 individuals in Colombia that were
collaborators with or cocaine connections of Valdez Villarreal. Some of
those arrested in Colombia had connections to the guerrilla group the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. STRATFOR sources in the Mexican
government have indicated that Mexican authorities have gained much
information regarding the whereabouts of Valdez Villarreal's rival and
former colleague, Hector "El H" Beltran Leyva.

Valdez Villarreal was arrested along with six of his closest partners: Juan
Antonio Lopez Reyes, Mauricio Lopez Reyes, Arturo Salas Ivan Arroyo, Jorge
Landa, Valentine Coronado, Marisela Reyes Lozada and Maritzel Lopez Reyes.
Members of the Mexican military detained Valdez Villarreal's right-hand man,
Jose "El Indio" Gerardo Alvarez Vasquez, on April 21. With Valdez Villarreal
and the top tier of the leadership of his organization now gone, Valdez
Villarreal's faction of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) has been
rendered all but impotent.

Though many Mexican government officials and analysts have warned of a
possible increase in violence due to a power vacuum created by these
arrests, this may not necessarily be the case. A similar scenario played out
earlier in the year with the dismantling of the leadership of the El Teo
organization in the Tijuana and wider Baja California area. While violence
has not completely disappeared from those locales, it has dropped
drastically from when El Teo and his organization vied for control of the
region. In many ways, the fight between Valdez Villareal and Hector Beltran
Leyva and the conflict in Tijuana are quite similar, and Guerrero, Morelos
and Mexico states all might see a decrease in cartel violence.

Signs of Increased Pressure on Los Zetas

Members of the Mexican army launched a raid on a ranch used by Los Zetas
near General Trevino, Nuevo Leon state, near the Tamaulipas border the
afternoon of Sept. 2. A total of 27 members of Los Zetas died in the
resulting firefight, while three kidnapping victims were freed. Five more
members of Los Zetas were killed the same day in another military operation
in Juarez, Nuevo Leon state, on the outskirts of Monterrey. The operations,
along with several other security-related events in the past few weeks --
such as the discovery of the killing of 72 migrants near San Fernando,
Tamaulipas state, and the use of two improvised explosive devices in Ciudad
Victoria, Tamaulipas state -- have prompted discussions and rumors of a
large-scale military and federal police deployment to the Tamaulipas-Nuevo
Leon region to help combat this recent spike in violence.

STRATFOR has also noted an increase in law enforcement and military
attention on the operations and leadership of Los Zetas in recent months,
particularly in the Monterrey region. By contrast, the Gulf cartel and its
allies in the New Federation have remained relatively sheltered from any
increase in law enforcement or military operations in recent months, though
they operate in the same regions as Los Zetas. Mexican Interior Minister
Francisco Blake has discussed the possibility of deploying additional
federal security resources to the Tamaulipas region with Tamaulipas Gov.
Egidio Torre Cantu, though no deployments have been announced. Given the
recent incidents involving Los Zetas, their presence in the region and the
already-increased focus on the group by federal law enforcement and the
military, any new deployment of federal security forces to the
Tamaulipas-Nuevo Leon region would likely be aimed at Los Zetas leadership
and operations. Concerns are mounting that Los Zetas weakened status in the
Monterrey region could see it resort to kidnapping and extortion to
supplement lost income. An all-out federal assault on the organization in
the Tamaulipas-Nuevo Leon region could cause a similar effect in the latter

(click here to view interactive graphic)

Aug. 30

Unidentified gunmen killed a soldier and a civilian outside a conference
hall in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state.
Mexican authorities confirmed the deaths of seven people in a firefight
between suspected criminals and soldiers in Panuco, Veracruz state. Six
people were arrested during the incident, which lasted approximately 12
Unidentified gunmen ambushed the security detail for the public security
secretary of Jojutla, Morelos state, injuring a bodyguard.

Aug. 31

Unidentified men attacked a bar in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, using
Molotov cocktails, killing eight people.
Authorities discovered the bodies of two adults and two children, all
believed to be members of the same family, inside a house in Zapopan,
Jalisco state. The victims had been shot to death and bore signs of torture.
Police rescued six Cuban migrants from kidnappers in Bonfil, Quintana Roo
state. The victims had been held for approximately one month.

Sept. 1

Unidentified gunmen attacked the Noroeste de Mazatlan newspaper offices in
Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. The attackers fired at the building, but none of
the occupants were injured.
Unidentified attackers killed a municipal policeman in the Herreros
neighborhood of Chimalhuacan, Mexico state.
Soldiers arrested two municipal guards in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, for
allegedly acting as lookouts for drug cartels.

Sept. 2

The bodies of three people were discovered near a highway in Chamilpa,
Morelos state. The victims were wrapped in plastic and had been blindfolded.
A message attributing the crime to Cartel del Pacifico Sur was found near
the bodies.
Police discovered the body of a man in the trunk of an abandoned car in the
San Buenaventura neighborhood of Toluca, Mexico state. The victim had been
shot to death and bore a message attributing the crime to Los Zetas.
Police discovered the body of a man in the Pozos de Tabla neighborhood of
Ecatepec, Mexico state. The body bore a message attributing the murder to a
drug trafficking cartel.

Sept. 3

Police in the Delegacion Laguna I neighborhood of Torreon, Coahuila state,
arrested a suspected kidnapper believed to be part of the "La Familia de
Juarez" kidnapping group.
Soldiers arrested seven men in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, during a
raid on a house. Approximately 30 firearms, 6,500 rounds of ammunition and
16 grenades were seized during the operation.
Police arrested a suspected kidnapper in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The
suspect is believed to have participated in the kidnapping of a teacher in
Santiago, Nuevo Leon state.

Sept. 4

Police discovered the body of a woman in the Burgos de Cuernavaca
neighborhood, located four kilometers (2.4 miles) outside of Cuernavaca,
Morelos state. The victim had been kidnapped from her house in Cuernavaca by
unidentified gunmen Sept. 3.
Federal police prevented a kidnapping and arrested two suspected kidnappers
during a patrol in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

Sept. 5

Federal agents arrested two suspected extortionists in Monterrey, Nuevo
Leon state.

A man was stabbed to death in the Fomerrey 36 neighborhood of Monterrey,
Nuevo Leon state, after being pursued by several suspects.

Soldiers fired on a vehicle that failed to stop at a military checkpoint in
Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, killing two members of the same family and
injuring five other people.

Sept. 6

Unidentified gunmen killed a man in the Ciudad Cuauhtemoc neighborhood of
Ecatepec, Mexico state. The attackers shot the victim 17 times.

The Mexican army released information about the seizure of two drug labs
and approximately 800 kilograms of marijuana during raids from Sept. 2-4 in
several municipalities of Michoacan state.

Copyright 2010 STRATFOR.

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