>Mexican Narco-State File: Narcistas kill Colima’s ex-gov, troops clash with gunmen in Nayarit, Ciudad Mier’s 6,000 citizens flee Zetas’ “Mad Max” tank

>Mexico’s drug war has moved into some of the country’s Pacific coast states. Regional politicians, including mayors and governors, are also increasingly being targeted by out-of-control cartels. Fourteen mayors and mayors-elect have been murdered across the country this year. A candidate for governor in the lawless northeast state of Tamaulipas was killed in June as he campaigned for election.

On November 22 gunmen attacked the former governor of Colima, Silverio Cavazos Ceballos, on the steps of his house in the state capital. Cavazos was hospitalized with fatal injuries, while his wife was also wounded. A member of the once long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, Cavazos was governor between 2005 and 2009. President Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s second National Action Party president, condemned the attack as a “cowardly murder.” Prosecutors are investigating the motive for the attack on Cavazos.

The previous day, Mexican troops clashed with five narcistas in Tepic, capital of Nayarit, another Pacific coast state. All of the gunmen perished. Found at the site of the gun battle, which occurred at a private residence, were six AK-47 assault rifles and military-issue ammunition and grenades. State police seized three vehicles.

In a separate incident, Nayarit authorities found three men decapitated inside two vehicles abandoned on Federal Highway 200. Last week, Nayarit Governor Ney Gonzalez complained that the drug war had come “uninvited” to his state. Grisly beheadings and dismemberments are SOP for Mexico’s mafias. More than 30,000 narco-traffickers, police, soldiers, civilians, and tourists have died in drug-related violence since Calderon deployed troops to crack down on organized crime in December 2006.

Meanwhile, the Mexican Red Cross is distributing at least 15 tons of aid to the 6,000 residents of Ciudad Mier who fled the colonial border town due to internecine warfare between the Gulf cartel and its former enforcement arm, Los Zetas. Most residents beat a hasty retreat to Texas or other Mexican cities, leaving only 400 people to cower behind bullet-scarred and rocket-blasted walls. At least 250 people from Ciudad Mier are living in a shelter established in the neighboring municipality of Miguel Aleman, where they are receiving food and lodging. Starting this week, they will also receive 500 pesos (US$40) to take care of personal needs.

Ciudad Mier, once a tourist destination known as “Magic Town,” is not the only Tamaulipas municipality that becomes a ghost town every evening. Residents of Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, and Tampico, expecting little or no help from the federal government, take measures to ensure their own safety and avoid venturing outside unless it is an emergency.

The Mexican army nervously patrols Ciudad Mier, mindful of the cartels’ firepower and ingenuity. In the municipal impound lot are the burned-out remains of five crudely armored, “Road Warrior”-style pickup trucks and SUVs. Each truck sports half-inch steel plate welded over most of the windows, leaving only narrow firing slits. Incidentally, the promotional poster for the first Mad Max movie (1979) reads: “When the gangs take over the highway.”

Outside of town squats another burned-out vehicle of war (pictured above) that definitely evokes images from the Mad Max movie trilogy. Fearful locals refer to the veritable tank as “The Monster.” The 10-wheel gravel truck has a five-yard freight box protected with 1 1/4-inch steel plates to cover firing positions for 10 gunmen. Thick steel plates also cover the engine, the windshield, and the doors. Hinged covers indicate the presence of gun ports. Massive steel rams are welded onto the “prow” of the gravel truck.

“What is terrifying about ‘The Monster,’” comments National Public Radio, “was not that the Zetas drug gang built it and used it in the almost medieval war for Ciudad Mier, but that the Cartel del Golfo—which roared back into Mier with a vengeance on Feb. 23, 2010, to retake the turf—brought it down.”

Tamaulipas Governor Eugenio Hernandez admitted to reporters earlier this month that “some cities had become ungovernable and authorities were overwhelmed.” This has particularly been the case since November 5, when Los Zetas launched a new offensive against the Gulf cartel after Mexican marines gunned down cartel boss Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen. Local and state police officers, Hernandez lamented, do not have the firepower to take on the cartels, requiring a larger federal presence in Ciudad Mier, Miguel Aleman, Guerrero, Camargo, and Diaz Ordaz.

In a related story that offers some hope in the midst of Mexico’s bloodshed, the government announced that, with the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, federal police had captured the new boss of the Beltran Leyva cartel, Carlos Montemayor. The crime chief was arrested in Mexico City on Tuesday. Montemayor admitted that his henchmen were responsible for kidnapping and killing 20 Mexican tourists in Acapulco, mistaking them for members of the rival Familia cartel.

The Beltran Leyva cartel’s previous boss, Texas-born Edgar Valdez (“La Barbie”) Villareal, is cooling his heels in a federal prison in the state of Mexico. He is awaiting extradition to the USA, where he faces charges of kidnapping, illegal firearms possession, and cocaine trafficking. Mexican authorities arrested Valdez in August. Control of the Beltran Leyva cartel has been up for grabs since Mexican marines gunned down its founder, Arturo Beltran Leyva, in December 2009.

2 responses to “>Mexican Narco-State File: Narcistas kill Colima’s ex-gov, troops clash with gunmen in Nayarit, Ciudad Mier’s 6,000 citizens flee Zetas’ “Mad Max” tank

  1. mah29001 November 27, 2010 at 4:33 am

    >Looks like even the cartels have problems with their own enforcers. I hope if it's foreign intel from the USA involved in causing disputes with cartels…they should do this to ensure the cartels would focus more on Mexico and be forced not to expand into the United States.That could explain why Los Zetas have some former Mexican special forces allegedly involved.

  2. mah29001 November 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    >Kind of also reminds me of how the fictional Brotherhood of NOD also had its own internal problems with the fictional GDI being the culprit in dividing them up…straight up from the Command and Conquer series…

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