Thursday 22 December 2011

Is there method to the madness in Veracruz?

Sixteen people – 11 civilian passengers and five assailants – died early Thursday when gunmen attacked buses and then clashed with security forces. In the municipalities of Panuco, mid way up the Gulf coast, and El Higo, further inland – both in the State of Veracruz and near the city of Tampico in the southeast of the State of Tamaulipas – armed groups attacked three buses. They then clashed with soldiers, police officers, and navy units.

It all began when the armed group, according to witness accounts collected by the authorities, killed four people in the municipality of El Higo, where the group of criminals murdered three people in a vegetable truck, with another person killed in Panuco when a grenade was thrown.

After that, on the road to Tempoal, the gunmen stormed a bus and killed two passengers. They then continued down the same road and stopped a second bus, which they fired upon, killing four more civilians. The driver of a third bus, trying to determine what was happening, exited his bus and was also killed.

After the initial attacks the Army, the Navy, and the Department of Public Safety initiated a unified response to stop the attackers. When the dust settled five criminals were killed and authorities had secured an armored van, five assault rifles, 54 magazines, and eight mobile phones.

The spokesperson added that, in order to ensure public safety, state and federal authorities will be strengthening their surveillance on all roads in the region during the holiday season.

The logic of the seemingly random attacks seems hard to fathom: the victims were not criminals, and the gunmen themselves were almost certain to come to a bloody end. It was, in effect, a suicide mission conducted against civilians.

Assuming there is any logic to these actions, the intention could be to prove to the people that the government is unable to maintain peace and security. By sowing terror, the cartels prove their power. Young gunmen, eager to prove their worth, are then encouraged or coerced to go on a shooting spree, perhaps helped along with ample quantities of crystal meth, alcohol, and cocaine.

As far as a cartel boss – are at least a boss of the “plaza” in northern Veracruz – is concerned, the government is now forced to respond, with increased militarization both taxing resources while also increasing the likelihood that the military will over-step and commit abuses.

In October the Mexican government launched its "Secure Veracruz" operation with the deployment of federal forces and a strengthened intelligence work. And just this week it was announced that the city of Veracruz was firing every member of its 1,100-member police force, with the Navy put in charge of civilian security. The de facto state of martial law was deemed necessary due to the extent of police corruption.

The intention was also to ensure security in the area after 32 bodies had been found in three homes, and another 35 bodies were dumped on a busy avenue in the city.

Those killings were attributed to the New Generation cartel from Jalisco, also known as "Kill The Zetas". This most recent event looks more like the behavior of Los Zetas as opposed to New Generation, however, given that in the bloody history of this five year drug war Los Zetas have been notorious for upping the ante.

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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