@BlacklistedNews Mexico: Los Zetas Drug Cartel Linked San Fernando Police to Migrant Massacres http://dlvr.it/7x7cvz
Source: Revolution News
Washington, DC, December 22, 2014 – With the Mexican government facing widespread public outrage over the alleged role of police and other officials in the September forced disappearance of 43 students, and the killings of at least six others, from Ayotzinapa Normal School, the country’s federal prosecutor (PGR) has for the first time declassified a document on the suspected participation of police in the kidnapping and massacre of hundreds of migrants in San Fernando massacres of 2010-11.
The new revelations, along with key U.S. documents on how violent drug cartels gained control of local police forces in parts of Mexico during the last decade, are the subject of “San Fernando-Ayotzinapa: las similitudes” (“San Fernando-Ayotzinapa: the similarities”), an article published online today in Mexico’s Proceso magazine in collaboration with Michael Evans and Jesse Franzblau of the National Security Archive.
According to declarations from members of the Los Zetas drug cartel named in the newly-declassified “Tarjeta Informativa” (“informative note” or “information memo”), the police acted as “lookouts” [“halconeo”] for the group, helped with “the interception of persons,” and otherwise turned a blind eye to the Zetas’ illegal activities.
Those crimes included the summary execution of 72 migrants pulled from intercity buses in San Fernando in August 2010 and an untold number of similar killings that culminated in the discovery, in April 2011, of hundreds more bodies in mass graves in the same part of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The victims were mainly Central American migrants making their way to Texas, which borders Tamaulipas to the north. The state’s highways are at once primary avenues for migrants and highly-contested narcotrafficking corridors.
One of the police detainees cited in the memo, Álvaro Alba Terrazas, told investigators that San Fernando police and transit officials were paid to deliver prisoners to the Zetas:
I know that police and transit officials in San Fernando help the Zetas organization, because rather than take detainees to the Pentágano, which is to say the municipal jail, they would deliver them to the Zetas. The truest one [“mero bueno”] is an elderly police officer and another named Óscar Jaramillo, who receive money from the organization to collaborate.If the facts surrounding the San Fernando case seem eerily familiar, it is because they follow pattern seen over and over again in recent years. Like the Ayotzinapa case, the San Fernando massacres are symptomatic of the dirty war of corruption and narcopolitics that has consumed parts of Mexico over the last decade. Killings like these are disturbingly common, and the forces behind the mayhem—usually drug cartels counting on the collaboration of, at a minimum, local police—are remarkably consistent.
This relatively limited release of new information from the PGR also leaves many questions unanswered. What happened to the police officials detained in connection to the San Fernando massacres? Where are they now? Why didn’t the prosecutor’s office locate and release any more responsive documents? And how to explain the fact that two of the people listed as among the 17 detained police officials, Álvaro Alba Terrazas and Oscar Jaramillo Sosa, were subsequently listed in media reports as members of the Zetas?
Human Rights vs. Investigative Files
Nevertheless, the release of even one document from the San Fernando case file marks a huge step forward for transparency on human rights violations in Mexico, and on this massacre case in particular. The prosecutor has long refused to release any information from the file, claiming protection under an exemption in Mexico’s transparency law that permits agencies to withhold information pertaining to an ongoing investigation.
But these protections are overridden by another provision in the law requiring the release of information on grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law and barring agencies from invoking any of the exemptions to deny information in such cases. This is the central issue in a pair of access to information cases that will soon come before Mexico’s Supreme Court.
The Foundation for Justice, which represents some of the victims in the case, and the Mexico City office of Article 19, which defends freedom of expression, are asking the prosecutor to produce a “releasable copy” of the investigative files relating to the San Fernando cases, arguing that the events at issue—by virtue of their scale and the likely involvement of state officials—clearly constitute human rights crimes. The problem is that, until recently, no Mexican federal agency had declared the massacres to be violations of human rights.
But earlier this year, and in response to an information request from the National Security Archive, the National Migration Institute (INM) made its first declassification on the case. Now, in releasing this document to the Archive, the prosecutor seems to have accepted the argument—now also ratified by Mexico’s panel of federal information commissioners (IFAI)—that it is obliged to release human rights information, even when those records form part of an ongoing investigation.
Still, the declassification by PGR in this case leaves much to be desired. The agency even withheld the case file number (“A.P. [Redacted]”) despite the fact that the information commissioners ordered INM to release the case number from the 2010 San Fernando massacre earlier this year.
Declassified U.S. documents, including a number of cables from the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey (along with a few diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks), provide an intriguing look at how the Zetas established control over the police and other officials in the state of Nuevo Leon (which borders Tamaulipas to the east) and how corrupt police officers were often the main targets of the rival cartels. Indeed, the available documentation leaves little doubt that municipal police in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Ciudad Juárez and elsewhere were in many cases little more than cartel enforcers, caught up in—and often the main casualties of—the inter-cartel violence that plagues northern Mexico. Some of these documents were published in “Mexico’s San Fernando Massacres: A Declassified History,” the source files behind a previous Archive collaboration with Proceso and journalist Marcela Turati.
Highlights from the documents listed below include:
- In April 2005, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in Little Rock, Arkansas, requested that the Bureau open a “control file” to “administratively capture information about the Los Zetas organization.” [DOCUMENT 01] A subsequent FBI report said the Zetas had “established control over Nuevo Laredo, Mexico” and “effectively controlled the city’s police force.” [DOCUMENT 02]
- The staff at the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey had front-row seats as the Zetas went on to consolidate control over other parts of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León. By 2010, Monterrey was “Zeta territory,” according to a Consulate cable from February. The city was a “safe-haven, source of revenue (mainly from extortion), and supply center for the Zetas.” The Consulate said it had “long connected former Nuevo Leon Director General of State Investigation Hector Santos (now serving in the same post in Coahuila) with the Zetas, and many other local and state police and government officials have ties to organized crime.” [DOCUMENT 12]
- A separate report from the U.S. Consulate described a chaotic atmosphere in Monterrey, with Zeta-controlled police forces under attack by the rival Gulf Cartel trying to force them to “switch sides” in the inter-cartel conflict. The Consulate’s Emergency Action Committee said, “It is now clear that the ongoing war between the Gulf and Zeta drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) has reached Monterrey.” [DOCUMENT 13]
- In March 2010, the Consulate noted that the governor of Nuevo Leon had suspended 81 police officials after admitting “that the Zeta drug trafficking organization (DTO) had co-opted some state and police officials” in setting up roadblocks around the city. [DOCUMENT 14]
- In April 2010, the U.S. Embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Section said that Mexican authorities had failed to manage the widening conflict, highlighting how “[Drug Trafficking Organizations] have operated fairly openly and with freedom of movement and operations…In many cases they operated with near total impunity in the face of compromised local security forces.” [DOCUMENT 16]
- An April 2010 cable from Monterrey noted an alarming increase in narcotics-related killings in Nuevo León, reporting that drug trafficking groups “have targeted military, state, and municipal police by killing corrupt officers affiliated with the opposing cartel, or as retaliation for military operations against them.” [DOCUMENT 17]
- In May, just five months before alleged Zetas members executed 72 migrants pulled from an intercity bus line, the Monterrey Consulate issued a prescient warning about the dangers of highway travel in northeastern Mexico, noting that, “Intense fighting between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas has made travel chancy on roads north from Monterrey to the U.S. border.” Of particular concern to the Consulate were the high levels of official corruption in Monterrey, where “165 out of approximately 1,000 state police have been dismissed in recent months due to ties to [drug trafficking organizations].” The problems facing Monterrey were “typical of those faced by…neighboring municipalities,” according to the Consulate, which cited several other instances where police officials from Monterrey and other towns participated or assisted in kidnappings and killings perpetrated by organized crime. [DOCUMENT 18]
- Three months after the August 2010 San Fernando massacre of 72 migrants, FBI authorities in Mexico report information connecting police officials in Saltillo, Coahuila, to the Zetas and to “drug trafficking and homicides.” A list of officers who “provided support and information to Los Zetas” is redacted from the document. [DOCUMENT 26]
- Summing up information taken from official sources, the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros reports that a total of 36 grave site containing 145 bodies had been discovered in the San Fernando area and that 17 Zetas and 16 members of the San Fernando police have been arrested in connection with the deaths. The police officials are being charged with “protecting the Los Zetas TCO members responsible for the kidnapping and murder of bus passengers in the San Fernando area.” [DOCUMENT 33]
- Off the record, Mexican officials tell Matamoros consular staff that “the bodies are being split up to make the total number less obvious and thus less alarming.” Consulate officers also comment that, “Tamaulipas officials appear to be trying to downplay both the San Fernando discoveries and the state responsibility for them, even though a recent trip to Ciudad Victoria revealed state officials fully cognizant of the hazards of highway travel in this area.” [DOCUMENT 33]
- A June 2011 Embassy report notes the sacking of seven top INM officials “amid allegations that some agents had been involved in the kidnapping of migrants.” It adds that “Immigrants from Central America (namely from El Salvador and Guatemala) accused the immigration agents of pulling them off buses and handing them over to drug gangs in the state of Tamaulipas.” [DOCUMENT 37]
- In a message transmitted through the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, the DEA reports in October 2011 on the arrest of a “Zeta plaza boss” who was formerly a police officer in two different municipalities of Nuevo León. [DOCUMENT 39]
April 22, 2005Los Zetas; ITAR – Violent Gangs
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, memorandum, classification unknown, 2 pp.
July 15, 2005Los Zetas: An Emerging Threat to the United States
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Assessment, Unclassified/For Official Use Only, 15 pp.
In June 2005, the Government of Mexico sent federal forces to Nuevo Laredo to restore order to the city. As Los Zetas has corrupted many Mexican public officials in the Nuevo Laredo area, the government will likely achieve limited success at controlling their activities.
Los Zetas emerged from the Grupo Aeromovil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFE), a Mexican army unit created in the mid 1990s to combat drug trafficking organizations along the US/Mexico border. The GAFE received special training in tactics and weapons. The US military provided some of this instruction at Fort Benning, Georgia. These elite counter-drug troops learned to use sophisticated intelligence-gathering equipment, advanced weaponry, and specialized tactics to combat drug traffickers. They fought to limit the escalating warfare among traffickers in Tamaulipas after the 1996 arrest of Juan Garcia Abrego, the Gulf Cartel’s leader at the time. An unknown number of GAFE soldiers under the command of Arturo Guzman Decena deserted and joined the Gulf Cartel in early 2002. Reports differ on exact figures but range from 31 to 67 deserters. They dubbed themselves Los Zetas after Decena’s GAFE radio call signal, “Zeta 1.” Subsequently in a March 2002 shootout, group members helped a [excised]elude capture by Mexican authorities. In May 2002, Los Zetas delivered control of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico to [deleted]by murdering his primary rivals Dionicio Roman Garcia Sanchez and Juvenal Torres Sanchez.
November 7, 2005Los Zetas Using Kaibiles to Train New MembersExtract from DIA [redacted]Intelligence Summary-EH for 04 November
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Summary, Top Secret, 5 pp.
As of June 2005, the Zetas were continuing efforts to recruit new members with military or law enforcement experience and especially sought to attract former or current Mexican special forces troops. The Mexican military’s anticorruption efforts apparently have stymied these efforts. However, Guatemalan military downsizing from 1996 through 2004 created a pool of special forces-trained candidates for the Zetas to draw on to train new Zeta members or offset personnel shortfalls.
January 15, 2009
Arrest of [Deleted] a Former Member of the Mexican Military Special Forces (GAFE) and Original Zeta Operative, in Mexico City, Mexico, on January 9, 2009.
U.S. Embassy Mexico City, cable, Unclassified EFTO Sensitive, 3 pp.
March 12, 2009Arrest of Zeta Operative [Deleted] a former member of the Mexican Military Special Forces (GAFE), in Queretaro, Queretaro, Mexico, on March 4, 2009U.S. Embassy Mexico City, cable, Unclassified EFTO Sensitive, 3 pp.
April 15, 2009Human Rights in Nuevo Leon: Police Impunity but Few Complaints Regarding the Military
U.S. Consulate Monterrey, cable, Unclassified/Sensitive, 5 pp.
The low number of complaints reported by the CEDH of Mexican military abuses is consistent with conversations that [U.S. Embassy political officiers] have had with public official [sic]and various NGO’s. In the two years the Mexican military has had a presence its favorable ratings have remained consistently high. Even though state and local officials often talk of cleaning up their police forces, corruption and police abuses remain and the military is still the most effective means of combating crime.
June 26, 2009Narco-violence Spikes Again U.S. Embassy Mexico, cable, Confidential/Sensitive
[U.S. Embassy] law enforcement agencies believe the spike in violence may be partially explained by a series of blows the military and police delivered to the cartels, capturing a considerable number of local bosses in key positions, as well as identifying and arresting officials who had been colluding with drug traffickers.
c. July 2009
Assessment of “Los Zetas” Evolution and Expansion (2001-2009)
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), cable, sensitive, 9 pp.
November 24, 2009Arrest of Former Police Chiefs of Monterrey, Guadalupe and Monrelos [sic], Nuevo Leon and Ten Other Officers on 11-19-2009
U.S. Embassy Mexico City, cable, Unclassified EFTO//Noforn Sensitive, 5 pp.
January 29, 2010Scenesetter for the Opening of the Defense Bilateral Working Group, Washington, D.C., February 1 U.S. Embassy Mexico, cable, Secret
Calderon has aggressively attacked Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations but has struggled with an unwieldy and uncoordinated interagency and spiraling rates of violence that have made him vulnerable to criticism that his anti-crime strategy has failed. Indeed, the GOM’s inability to halt the escalating numbers of narco-related homicides in places like Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere – the nationwide total topped 7,700 in 2009 – has become one of Calderon’s principal political liabilities as the general public has grown more concerned about citizen security.Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency’s success is viewed as another’s failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of. Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among “clean” law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants. Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; two percent of those detained are brought to trail [sic]. Only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime.The failure to reduce violence has focused attention on the military’s perceived failures and led to a major course change in January to switch the overall command in Ciudad Juarez from the military to the federal police. The military was not trained to patrol the streets or carry out law enforcement operations. It does not have the authority to collect and introduce evidence into the judicial system. The result: arrests skyrocketed, prosecutions remained flat, and both the military and public have become increasingly frustrated. The command change in Juarez has been seen by political classes and the public as a Presidential repudiation of SEDENA. When SEDENA joins you at the DBWG, it will be an agency smarting from the very public statement of a lack of confidence in its performance record in Juarez.…Currently, the military is the lightening [sic]rod for criticism of the Calderon Administration’s security policies. We are having some success in influencing the GOM to transition the military to secondary support functions in Juarez. Still, the GOM’s capacity to replicate the Juarez model is limited. They simply lack the necessary numbers of trained federal police to deploy them in such numbers in more than a few cities. There are changes in the way that the military can interact with vetted municipal police, as we have seen in Tijuana, that produce better results. But in the near term, there is no escaping that the military will play a role in public security.
c. February 2010Los Zetas Fact Sheet
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Huston Field Division, report, classification unknown, 2 pp.
February 26, 2010Border Violence Spreads to Nuevo Leon U.S. Consulate Monterrey, cable, Confidential
Zeta influence here is longstanding and widespread throughout local and state government. Gang members hung the recently discovered narcobanners in a least one area, near the Palacio del Gobierno, under state police observation. RSO [U.S. State Department Regional Security Officer] sources indicated that state police officers’ calls for backup went unheeded. Post has long connected former Nuevo Leon Director General of State Investigation Hector Santos (now serving in the same post in Coahuila) with the Zetas, and many other local and state police and government officials have ties to organized crime.
February 28, 2010Grenade Attacks Against Monterrey Police; Feb. 26 and 28th EACsU.S. Consulate Monterrey, cable, Unclassified/Sensitive
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.
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 of Monterrey.
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.
It is now clear that the ongoing war between the Gulf and Zeta drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) has reached Monterrey.
March 23, 2010
Nuevo Leon: Citizens Wonder Who’s Winning in the Fight Against Organized Crime
U.S. Consulate Monterrey, cable, Confidential, 5 pp.
March 25, 2010Continuing Violence in Northern Mexico Between Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, Possible Gang Threat Against U.S. Law Enfocement in El Paso, Texas
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, cable, unclassified, 6 pp.
April 16, 2010Narcotics Affairs Section Mexico Monthly Report for March 2010U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, unclassified, 11 pp.
April 28, 2010Alarming Increase in Drug Cartel Violence in Monterrey Metro Area
U.S. Consulate Monterrey, cable, Unclassified/Sensitive, 6 pp.
May 21, 2010Civilian Law Enforcement Outmatched by the Cartels; the Public Frustrated in the Search for Solutions
U.S. Consulate Monterrey, cable, Confidential, 7 pp.
Roads North Continue to Be Dangerous
Intense fighting between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas has made travel chancy on roads north from Monterrey to the U.S. border. On April 30, gunmen killed an employee of the Nuevo Leon state Committee for Livestock Protection as he drove his mobile office towards the Colombia border crossing. (Comment: Over the past month, Post has received reports of numerous Cartel hijackings and hijack attempts, including the recent carjacking and robber of [deleted]on the road to Reynosa. End comment.)
May 28, 2010 FW: SEARS NBR 6152 for North & Central America case [redacted]
Drug Enforcement Administration, cable, classification unknown, 4 pp.
c. July 2010GFM7-10-9448; Southwest Border Intelligence Collection Plan
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, cable, classification unknown, 8 pp.
Cartel operations against Mexican law enforcement officials have been a major component of the CDJ Plaza battle since its beginning. The primary reason is the heavy reliance Mexican cartels have in the use of corrupt officials.
Calderon’s anti-crime strategy had “unintended consequences”: “For example, the removal of DTO leadership has allowed less experienced and undisciplined personnel to fill the leadership vacuum, contributing to the spike of drug-related murders.”
c. August 2010
State of Cartels
U.S. State Department, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, memorandum, Secret/NOFORN/ORCON, 3 pp.
August 26, 2010
Zetas massacre 72 migrants in Tamaulipas
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 3 pp.
August 27, 2010Timeline of violent events occurring in Matamoros consular district August 22-27, 2010
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 2 pp.
September 3, 2010Timeline of major violent events occurring in Matamoros consular district August 29 through September 3, 2010
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
September 10, 2010Timeline of major violent events occurring in Matamoros consular district September 4 through 10, 2010
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
November 19, 2010
Administrative Revision – Provision of Support to Los Zetas by Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, Municipal Police Officers and Polic [sic] U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Information Report, Secret/Noforn, 3 pp.
December 16, 2010Mass Murder, Extortion, and Abuse Conducted by Los Zetas Against Migrant who Traveled via Los Zeta and MS-13 Controlled Train Smuggling Routes from Central America to Mexico, as of October 2010U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Intelligence Information Report, Secret, 7 pp.
January 31, 2011A Perilous Road through Mexico for Migrants
U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, sensitive, 6 pp.
February 15, 2011February 14: A Day of Violence in Tamaulipas
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
April 6, 2011
Two Mass Graves Containing 48 Bodies Discovered in the San Fernando Area
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
April 6, 2011Juarez Police Accused of Involvement in Disappearance of Four Men
U.S. Consulate Ciudad Juárez, cable, Unclassified/Sensitive, 2 pp.
April 8, 2011
More Mass Graves Found in Tamaulipas: Body total Now 81
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 3 pp.
April 15, 2011Tamaulipas’ Mass Graves: Body Count Reaches 145
U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 4 pp.
April 29, 2011Holy Week Vacations Marred by Violence; San Fernando Body Count Reaches 196U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 4 pp.<