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Apr-12-2010 21:05printcomments

Hand Grenade Tossed in U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo

A Mexican security memo issued 12 April over the increasing spike in violence by STRATFOR Global Intelligence.

Police in Mexico
Courtesy: casamerica.es

(NUEVO LAREDO, Tamaulipas) - On April 9, at approximately 11 p.m. local time, an explosive device detonated in the compound of the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state. The device was thrown over the wall of the compound by unknown suspects who then fled the area. There were no injuries and only minor damage to windows in the compound. While authorities have yet to confirm the exact type or composition of the device, STRATFOR sources have indicated that it was a hand grenade.

The U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo and the Consulate General and Consular Agency in Piedras Negras, Coahuila state, were closed April 12 and will reopen when U.S. authorities believe there is sufficient security at the facilities to keep visitors and staff safe. The Mexican government deployed 1,200 additional troops April 9 to the Nuevo Leon-Tamaulipas border region merely hours before the consulate attack to improve the general security situation in the region.

No suspects or criminal groups have been named in the investigation thus far, largely because of the widespread availability of hand grenades and the proliferation of this type of weapon among all manner of drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Mexico. The motives remain unclear for the consulate attack, which is the latest in a string of violent acts toward U.S. diplomatic missions and personnel in recent months.

In October 2008, the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, was attacked by two men who rammed their truck into the consulate's perimeter gates, fired several rounds at the main building and then threw a grenade over the fence that failed to detonate. More recently, the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey was the subject of a suspected Los Zetas probe of the consulate's physical security measures that resulted in a standoff between foreign national consulate guards and masked gunmen in two SUVs. However, the most publicized incident involving U.S. personnel was the March 13 killing -- apparently targeted assassinations -- of three people tied to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, Chihuahua state.

The uptick in attacks against U.S. diplomatic missions and personnel in Mexico has been attributed to two main groups, Los Zetas and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization (VCF), also known as the Juarez cartel, and their associates. Additionally, a Barrio Azteca (BA) leader who works in conjunction with the Juarez cartel recently divulged in an interview with a local newspaper that the organization was targeting U.S. personnel specifically to force the U.S. government to intervene in Mexico because the Mexican government is demonstrating favoritism toward the Sinaloa Federation. Both Los Zetas and the VCF have been bearing the brunt of an offensive by both Mexican federal forces and elements of Sinaloa. There are also reports that the VCF and Los Zetas have developed a working relationship on the basis of common foes -- namely, the Sinaloa Federation and the Mexican government. The statements made by the BA leader have yet to be verified by either Mexican or U.S. authorities, but the increased violence against the U.S. diplomatic community in Mexico and the developing relationship between the VCF and Los Zetas cannot be dismissed.

Sinaloa Takes Control of Juarez

An FBI intelligence report released April 9 indicated that the Sinaloa Federation, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, has taken control of the Juarez Valley drug trafficking corridor and appears to have the upper hand in the conflict with the VCF. The FBI cites information from confidential informants involved in the drug trade and located in and around Juarez, Chihuahua state, and El Paso, Texas. Additionally, drug seizures in the El Paso area show that upward of 60 to 80 percent of the drugs confiscated come from the Sinaloa Federation. This shift in power could mean changes for the long-term security environment in the Juarez Valley, but the violence will likely continue unabated in the short term.

STRATFOR sources have described the Juarez Valley landscape as largely under the control of Guzman and the Sinaloa Federation, with pockets of VCF control. Indeed, the Juarez Valley is the core turf of the VCF, and the organization has said on several occasions that it will fight to the death, along with its associates in La Linea, BA and Los Aztecas, in defense of the territory. This mindset could have inspired the BA leader's statement above that the organization was targeting U.S. personnel specifically to force the U.S. government to intervene in Mexico.

We have seen time and again throughout Mexico that DTOs can be remarkably innovative and resilient when they are backed into a corner. The VCF will fight to stay relevant on the drug-trafficking scene, and it will likely pursue this ambition violently -- as will the Sinaloa Federation -- in an attempt to dominate the Juarez Valley drug trade. Eventually, this could lead to the VCF's extermination. Or the current situation could result in a truce between Sinaloa and VCF, since both have had previous arrangements with each other. In any case, the VCF is down but not out, and violence in the greater Juarez area will not be ending any time soon.

April 5

Two soldiers were injured in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, during a grenade attack on military barracks. Four people were killed during a firefight between police and suspected DTO gunmen in Torreon, Coahuila state.

April 6

One man was killed and another was injured in Atizapan de Zaragoza, Mexico state, after being shot from a vehicle driven by unidentified gunmen.

The decapitated body of a kidnapped businessman, identified as Roberto Martinez Frias, was discovered in El Chilillo, Sinaloa state.

Eleven gunmen were killed during a firefight between unidentified criminal groups in the municipality of Xalisco, Nayarit state. Three of the victims were shot and the charred bodies of eight others were found in a burned vehicle.

April 7

The body of an unidentified man was found in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The man's body had its hands bound and bore a gunshot wound on the neck.

Unidentified gunmen fired at a border control post near the Guatemalan border in Las Champas, Chiapas state. One bystander was killed and another was injured in the attack. Approximately 200 kilograms of marijuana and several weapons were seized by soldiers during a raid in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan state.

A Mexican customs and immigration official, identified as Alejandro Solis Vallarina, was killed in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, by unidentified gunmen.

April 8

Two people under 18 years of age were reportedly kidnapped and subsequently released following a ransom payment in San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon state.

Several gunmen stole almost 500,000 pesos from the offices of Compania Mexicana de Gas in the Cementos neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

Naval troops arrested an unspecified number of policemen in Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas state.

April 9

The bodies of two unidentified men were found hanging from a bridge in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. Both men had been shot to death.

The dismembered bodies of two men were found in plastic bags in Ecatepec, Mexico state.

Approximately 80 suspected members of the La Linea criminal group occupied the town of Maycoba, Sonora state, for an hour. Ten people were reportedly kidnapped during the incident.

Arturo Lopez Maravilla, the regional police commander of Autlan de Navarro in Jalisco state, was killed by unidentified gunmen.

April 10

One policeman was killed and another was injured by unknown gunmen in the municipality of Huitzilac, Morelos state. Two policemen were kidnapped by unidentified persons in Escobedo, Nuevo Leon state. The men abducted were not identified, but one was believed to be a police commander. The bodies of three men were found in a car after a shootout in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state.

April 11

Soldiers seized a suspected drug laboratory in the municipality of Mocorito, Sinaloa state. Chemicals and weapons were found at the location.

The mutilated and decapitated body of an unidentified man was found along the Mexico City-Acapulco highway in El Polvorin, Morelos state.

A man was killed at a police roadblock in the municipality of Zinacantepec, Mexico state, after he refused to stop for an inspection and instead fired a gun at police. A passenger in the vehicle was reportedly injured.

Courtesy: STRATFOR Global Intelligence




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Diana Fuentes April 21, 2010 6:18 pm (Pacific time)

Greetings from sunny Laredo! I'm editor of Laredo Morning Times and thought your readers might be interested in this update. The consulate in Nuevo Laredo, which is across the Rio Grande from us in Nuevo Laredo, was closed only one day. The grenade was thrown at the empty building at about 11 p.m. on a Friday night; there was no one on the grounds. The offices are closed for the weekend. The consulate stayed closed Monday when the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico visited, but it reopened Tuesday with additional security. The consulate staff saw about 800 people during the business day Tuesday.

Editor: Hi Diana, thanks for dropping by.  We do appreciate this and are enthused to hear from local media.  My email is tim@salem-news.com.  We are covering more and more on this and seeing so little from most national groups is discouraging.  Again, thanks!

Tim King 

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.