Michoacán, déjà vu
One hundred and fifty days ago today, Mexico's Secretary of Government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong stood before a packed press conference in Morelia, Michoacán and announced an emergency plan to save the state, which was bordering on civil war.
This afternoon he delivered a similar speech, but this time from a podium in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, the latest ground zero in Mexico's 89 month old drug war. On the border: Tamaulipas, now a virtual Michoacán II.
Osorio Chong said the PRO administration was determined to help "the men, women and children of Tamaulipas take back what belongs to them: the right to be safe and secure from violence."
Acting in response to what he said was a directive from president Enrique Peña Nieto, the secretary told a full house of state government and law enforcement officials and media representatives that effective immediately Tamaulipas would be divided into four security districts, with a focus on three goals: disrupting and destroying cartel networks, sealing off northbound drug and southbound arms trafficking routes and the creation of reliable local security forces in which the public could have confidence. Four special federal prosecutors experienced in organized crime operations will be sent to Tamaulipas, while the state prosecutor's office will be purged to eliminate endemic corruption.
Osorio Chong did not say how many troops might be sent to the war torn border state, but Mexican marines are already present to assist overwhelmed local law enforcement departments. Almost 80 persons have died in drug war violence since Apr. 1. Many such cases are never solved.
Mexico City's promise of direct security assistance was welcome news in Tamaulipas. Admitting the severity of the situation, state government press secretary Guillermo Martínez García said in a radio interview today, "We're hoping for more help from the federal government, because no state by itself can possibly contend with problems of this dimension. Federal help is indispensable in the face of crime coming at us from all directions; we're talking about organized crime at work here. These have been very dark and difficult days for us."
Corruption in police and prosecutorial ranks is part of the problem in Tamaulipas, as it is in many Mexican states. Half of all officers subjected to so-called confidence exams failed them, suggesting widespread infiltration of local agencies by organized crime forces. Martínez García did not deny the disturbing numbers today, but he said his state was trying to clean up law enforcement departments. The same long running process is going on all over the country, with an October deadline not likely to be extended again. Mexican senators seek yet another delay in police vetting.
Tamaulipas Gov. Torre Cantú. His own personal security chief was charged with homicide yesterday.
On May 5 the head of the Tamaulipas state police intelligence division was shot to death, together with two escorts. The men were gunned down in Ciudad Victoria by 20 Los Zetas sicarios who had set up an ambush. On Monday the chief of the escort division which protects Gov. Egidio Torre Cantú was arrested and charged with plotting the crime. Torre Cantú appeared and spoke at today's forum in Reynosa, appealing for help in the face of what he called "unprecedented circumstances" in his state.
May 14 - Manuel López Obrador: "Peña Nieto is the new Calderón"
May 16 - Mexico announces capture of another top Zeta, Z-16, in Monterrey
May 20 - Los Zetas boss of Ciudad Victoria captured by Mexican troops, government reports
May 25 - Mexican security forces capture Gulf Cartel kingpin in Tamaulipas
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