According to this report, Mexican police arrested 30 suspected members of Los Zetas, a paramilitary group and enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, formed by Mexican military turncoats who'd received US Special Forces training at Fort Benning, GA. "In a communiqué, the Public Safety Secretariat (SSP) said Sunday that the arrests were made following two separate operations in the northern state of Coahuila." The Dallas News suggested that the operations evidenced a new strategy by President Felipe Cardenas:
Meanwhile, according to the Houston Chronicle, "Five people died in fierce firefights between suspected Gulf Cartel gunmen and Mexican troops and federal agents in Rio Bravo and Reynosa." Several Gulf Cartel smugglers arrested recently were US, not Mexican residents. Authorities said the "Gulf cartel had cells in Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and other U.S. cities."
"Since the first of January we have changed our operations," Mr. Patiño Arias told reporters. "It's no longer just patrolling, but rather a direct fight, a direct fight against specific objects, against specific targets that has grown out of important intelligence work."
One U.S. law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Mexican government appears to be seeking a direct confrontation with the Zetas, many of whom are former military officers or police.
Calderon's doing the right thing by having the military take the fight to Los Zetas instead of simply patrolling the streets, which so far hadn't accomplished much. Los Zetas aren't just murderous thugs, they've become an iconic symbol of the Mexican cartels that cannot be tolerated: US trained elite soldiers and police officers, turncoats, and wealthy, feared drug titans with as much influence in some border towns as the government.
I can't help but wonder once again, though: Even if the Gulf Cartel were successfully decimated and the Sinaloa Federation takes control of their routes, will the Mexican and US governments declare "victory" because violence has declined, or continue to target Sinaloa and other criminal smuggling gangs? For that matter, I'm not sure, yet, that the Mexican government can defeat the Gulf Cartel and its associates. Only time will tell.
UPDATE: Yikes! These raids by the Mexican military produced new but predictable intelligence that Los Zetas allegedly are in cahoots with local municipal police and other border-area law enforcers at the highest and most intimate levels, according to media reports. From the Statesman's Jeremy Schwartz,
According to Monday’s Reforma newspaper, Alfredo Zamora, commander of the municipal police in San Pedro de las Colinas (located near Torreon, a good six hours from the Texas border) was in charge of hiding weapons for the Zetas. Another official was responsible for finding the homes of kidnapping targets, a third official alerted the group to legitimate police operations that might impinge on their activities, while others committed the actual kidnappings.Photo of federal anti-drug troops via the Houston Chronicle.
The feds say that in addition to kidnappings, the narco-cops sold drugs, found housing for hitmen, stole gasoline from Pemex pipes, trafficked in guns and engaged in telephone extortion.