Monday, October 28, 2013

Cartel attacks power plants, gasoline stations in violent Michoacán, using homemade bombs

Los Templarios focus on infrastructure systems and widespread terrorism

Guadalajara -
Drug traffickers attacked 18 electricity substations and at least six gasoline stations in the western Pacific coast state of Michoacán over the weekend, officials in the capital city of Morelia reported Sunday.

Government sources attributed the assault to the Los Caballeros Templarios drug cartel, which was formed in December 2010 when another organized crime group, La Familia Michoacana, disintegrated. The attack was carried out with automatic weapons and what one law enforcement official called "artisanal bombs."

Now well established, the Templarios control many parts of Michoacán. But they do not enjoy absolute dominion. Powerful organized crime groups from neighboring states, especially Jalisco, are staking their own claims to lucrative drug trafficking routes and a share of the plaza, which has led to a sharp increase in violence in the region since PRI president Enrique Peña Nieto took office on Dec. 1. Jalisco-Michoacán violence claims 28.

In May Peña Nieto was forced to send federal troops into the state in an attempt to restore civil order. In many communities legitimate local police forces have been replaced by civilian militias, some of which are alleged to be affiliated with cartels and drug traffickers. Mexico's "policías comunitarias" prompt some to argue Failed State theories. The entire region remains a cauldron of incessant narco violence and political instability, despite the fact that federal units were first dispatched there almost seven years ago, in December 2006, by then president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa in the opening act of the 82 month old drug war. Fiasco in Michoacán suggests little has changed under new government.

In July heavily armed traffickers and cartel operatives assaulted convoys of Federal Police in broad daylight on several occasions. Michoacán erupts; 22 dead as regional violence escalates. On July 25 Peña Nieto told reporters, "Regrettably, parts of the state have passed into the hands of organized crime." Federals will remain in Michoacán, promises president. Three days later, the highest ranking federal official to die during the current PRI administration was ambushed by narco gunmen. Mexican vice admiral killed in further Michoacán violence

Sunday's two dozen attacks against the power plants and service stations were well orchestrated, the government reported, and occurred hours after civilian militia forces had launched an operation against cartel gunmen in Apatzingán county, where the Templarios have a heavy presence. Narco assault teams struck just after midnight, armed with rifles and bombs. The electricity substations belonged to Mexico's Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), providing power to locations in western and central Mexico. The attackers focused on control modules and computer centers. without which the substations cannot function. Many communities across the state suffered partial or complete power outages, with the Milenio news network reporting that at least 420,000 customers were without electricity for up to 18 hours. CFE officials sent mobile substations to some areas in an effort to restore normal operations.

In the capital of Morelia the remnants of 130 homemade bombs were found near power substations and gasoline dispensaries, several of which were destroyed. A news source reported that legitimate police units did not show up at the scene of the attacks until two hours after the Templarios launched their offensive. The cartel was apparently enraged after civilian militias confronted members in several Michoacán counties on Saturday, trying to expel them from the region and prompting the intervention of troops and federal and state police to avoid a bloodbath.

Michoacán's PRI governor Fausto Vallejo called the attacks "acts of terrorism focused on strategic services of the state," an analysis shared by most Mexican security analysts who were interviewed on the subject. A civilian militia leader said "it was an exhibition of force by Los Templarios to prove that they're everywhere."

Authorities say the Templarios transport South American cocaine, most of it originating in Colombia, along coastal highways bordering the Pacific. Such roads, although scenic, can be dangerous for just that reason. University of British Columbia student, boyfriend found murdered in Oaxaca state. The product is ultimately destined for the U.S. market. "Drug users are killing thousands of young people in the developing nations," Felipe Calderón tells U.N.. Templarios also manufacture synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine in the area, often in remote and well hidden laboratories. Most is shipped to American consumers. Sen. Patrick Leahy blocks $95M in Mérida Initiative funds.

In a July 12 travel alert, the U.S. State Dept. warned Americans,

"You should defer non-essential travel to the state of Michoacán except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas, where you should exercise caution. Flying into Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas is the recommended method of travel. Attacks on Mexican government officials, law enforcement and military personnel, and other incidents of TCO-related violence, have occurred throughout Michoacán. In the northwestern portion of the state, self-defense groups operate independently of the government. Armed members of the groups frequently maintain roadblocks, and although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable. Groups in Michoacan are reputed to be linked to TCOs."

TCO means a Transnational Criminal Organization, as determined by the U.S. Depts. of State and Justice.

Aug. 25 - Civilian militias soar, with citizen police now patrolling 50 counties in 13 Mexican states
Aug. 31 - Mexico admits 52 daily drug war deaths in EPN administration - 12,598 through July 31
Sept. 7 - Ambush of Mexican army leaves 11 dead near Acapulco
Oct. 25 - Drug war deaths on Enrique Peña Nieto's watch: 15,552

Sept. 1 - Narco attacks on security forces continue in Zacatecas
July 11 - Mexican army kills 13 sicarios in Zacatecas shootout

Feb. 1, 2013 - Human Rights Watch condemnation of Mexican drug war reveals little understanding
July 15, 2012 - Political power is ultimate goal of Mexican drug cartels, says U.S. security expert

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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