Jan 16, 2008

Violence rocks the U.S.-Mexico border, again

Copyright () 2007, 2008

Jan. 19, 2008

Special dispatch to this blog

Since the new year began - murders, narco graves, corruption, combat-style violence ... Mexico lindo y bonito?

Ex-state police commander Loya among the victims?

By Kelly McKenzie

JUAREZ -- The authorities have reported 26 homicides in this city since Jan. 1, and no arrests to date for any of them.

They attribute the deaths to gangs and organized crime. Some of the deaths began with a series of kidnappings.

The wave of violence was preceded by seizures of large shipments of cocaine and marijuana by U.S. federal officers at the international bridges, a typical pattern in border communities where drug-trafficking is an essential industry.

U.S. authorities in El Paso announced the arrests of alleged Barrio Azteca members from El Paso. The Aztecas in Juarez are a powerful gang, which has been tied to drug and arms trafficking, and riots and deaths at the Cereso prison.

This week, U.S. federal officials announced the arrest of Saulo Reyes Gamboa, 36, a prominent Juarez businessman and former Juarez city police official, who was accused of drug trafficking. He is listed as the owner of the Epicentro radio station in Juarez, and several eateries, including the Silver Streak fast-food outlets in Juarez.

Gamboa, an accountant, worked in the police department and in other city government positions during the administrations of former mayors of different political parties: Hector Murguia (PRI), Gustavo Elizondo (PAN) and Ramon Galindo (PAN).

Before this week ended, federal and state Mexican officials reported finding the bodies of six people in a clandestine grave south of Chihuahua City, the state capital. There was speculation that one of the victims was a former state policeman who worked for the Juarez cartel.

Tijuana, in the state of Baja California, was the scene of a three-hour shootout between police, soldiers and a group of kidnappers allegedly tied to the Arellano Felix cartel.

The bodies of six men were found insider the compound the kidnappers used as a safe house. Children in a nearby school were evacuated during the shootout. Several men were arrested after they surrendered.

Things are no better in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, where violent confrontations between rival drug dealers linked to the Gulf cartel and police continue unabated.

Kelly McKenzie is author of the forthcoming book Mexican Roulette