Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bus driver executions surge in Guadalajara, but why?

An atypical motive, but many drivers quit following random violence in public transportation system

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
In this sprawling metropolis of 4.5 million people, where competing drug cartels and organized crime gangs duke it out daily, bus drivers have become the latest casualties. No one seems to know just why.

Transportation workers have sometimes been drug war victims, particularly taxi drivers. As MGRR reported last April (Another bad week for Mexican taxi drivers),

"Taxi drivers in Mexico are often in the bull's eye of drug cartel execution squads. Besides picking up fares they frequently moonlight for one organization or another, working as delivery boys, messengers and halcones - spies whose job it is to report on police and military movements, and to keep an eye on competing narcotics traffickers in the area. Because they're driving cabs they easily blend in with routine street traffic. They're alert to the slightest changes in the neighborhoods they traverse. Cabbies quickly learn 'who belongs where' and who doesn't. The narco-taxistas operate heavily in Cancún, and on the other side of Mexico in the sprawling city of Monterrey, in northern Nuevo León state."

But for the most part bus drivers have not been in the narcos' cross-hairs. Now things have changed in Jalisco state. Nine drivers have been executed in this capital city in 2012, and many believe more killings are inevitable. On Friday morning, 1,500 terrified drivers failed to show up for work. At least 50 have resigned from their jobs.

On the routes most affected, especially to and from suburban communities in Zapopan, passengers reported long delays, with minimal or no night bus service. Drivers have demanded extra security, but no easy fix to the problem is apparent, given the huge number of buses on Guadalajara streets.

The Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación - better known by its street name, Los Matazetas - has taken credit for most of the bus driver murders. Assuming they're the responsible party, the question is, to what end? Robbery has been ruled out, investigators say, since the assailants took nothing from the drivers or their passengers.

Four drivers were executed on Thursday, as was a bus company dispatcher sitting in his office. The first was killed about 7:00 a.m. when a passenger calmly got up from his seat, walked towards the 50 year old driver and shot him in the head twice at close range. Police said the driver had a history of narcotics addiction, and had been threatened by unknown drug suppliers.

Later in the day two other drivers were killed by unknown assailants at a local bus terminal, where a third victim was gravely wounded. The executioners left a Matazetas (the "Zeta killers") calling card. Thursday night a hit team stopped a bus on its route and killed the driver in front of 20 passengers, before escaping in their own vehicles. They, too, left a Matazetas warning.

A driver told a local newspaper, "I'm afraid of what they're going to do to me, but we have to work; there's no other option. I'll be honest, with what's going on at night, I haven't let on everybody along the route; you don't know who's getting on. But we have to work to eat a little something."

The open season on drivers began last February, when three were executed. A note warned the city that for each death of a pedestrian allegedly caused by bus negligence, two drivers would be killed. That's exactly what began to happen after a six year old girl and her mother were run over by a unit and killed. According to the Milenio news service, 41 persons have died in Guadalajara this year in public transportation accidents.

Authorities claim to have identified the boss of a local Matazeta cell as the person probably behind the February executions, although why he would have taken such a personal interest in bus drivers' imprudent driving is unclear. In any case he was killed in a shootout with police on Feb. 18. The hits stopped for several months, but then they resumed in September.

Jalisco is the only state in Mexico, says Milenio, which has experienced direct attacks against bus drivers, and a union spokesman told the network, "Unfortunately, we really don't know who we're up against."

There are alternative theories for the unusual killings, however. One is that organized crime gangs are "settling accounts," which would necessarily imply that some bus drivers are on the cartel payrolls, just as are many cabbies in Cancún. Another is that the murders were purely diversionary - designed to focus limited law enforcement resources on a series of brutal executions, while drug traffickers and other criminals go about their business in a city of proud tapatíos, which, according to some, is about to become the newest battleground in Mexico's endlessly chaotic drug war (Mexican drug cartels will morph into "super gangs," threatening Guadalajara).

Oct. 15 - Still another theory is that the bus drivers were executed by friends or family members of persons killed by in ordinary vehicular accidents involving buses (41 so far in 2012). The Matazeta notes were just a ruse, intended to mislead authorities, if that's what really is going on. It seems a long shot, but local prosecutors are considering every possibility.

Oct. 22 - Over the weekend a local bus driver ran over and killed a 21 year old pedestrian. More driver resignations are expected imminently, since many of them believe that the retaliatory executions will follow. Now the rumor is that for every citizen death due to driver negligence, three of the latter will be killed.

Oct. 11 - Jalisco homicides continue unabated in September
Sept. 6 - Six murders in 12 hours alarm Guadalajara metro and suburbs; security sweeps underway
Aug. 27 - Mexico, "deadliest country in the world"
Aug. 26 - More narco blockades in Guadalajara, by Los Matazetas
Mar. 9 - Narco terror in metropolitan Guadalajara
Mar. 4 - In Cancún, Los Pelones happily deliver drugs by taxi and death on demand
Feb. 21 - Five taxi drivers executed in Monterrey
Jan. 22 - Murder of another taxi driver has Mérida police on alert in "immune City of Peace"
Nov. 24, 2011 - Narco terror strikes Guadalajara

Oct. 12 - In less thant 24 hours, Los Matazetas gunmen executed five public transportation workers in the metro area, including four bus drivers and a dispatcher. Here's a video clip about the murders from Milenio news - WARNING, gruesome footage.

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