Monday, July 16, 2012

Narco Convoys: Power in Numbers

By ACI for Borderland Beat
They moved in on the small town of Creel in the early hours of March 15, 2010.  A convoy of three luxury SUV’s pull off one of the main drags.  Through tinted windows gunmen filled the cabs.  They pulled over to a stop.  Many jumped out guns at the ready; they converged around the capo, Enrique Lopez Acosta, alias El Cumbias. 

The men wait, snorting lines of cocaine, more trucks arrive and more gunmen step out.  They converge and several gunmen block off access to the town.  They set up roadblocks, each of the trucks that block the road have lights which mimic police vehicles.  There must be at least forty or fifty gunmen.  A man and his truck approach the check point, he is pulled out and thrown against his vehicle and patted down, the man is later allowed to turn around and leave the way he came.

As the sun rises in the sky a large group of gunmen run towards what appears to be a very large house.  Sources claim this to be the mayor’s house, one of the biggest in town.  It is thought the occupants were involved in La Linea.  The gunmen fan out overtaking the property.  Several of the gunmen approached the front of the house; they kicked down doors and shot through windows.  After they killed who they came for they run back toward the street filled with trucks and gunmen.
A SUV pulls up to the check point, several other gunmen run up, they fire into the SUV.  Several shooters get in the vehicle and move the bodies out of the way.  One of the gunmen commandeers the vehicle and drives out of town with the rest of the convoy.
This video shows how small town are most vulnerable to cartel violence simply because they are outnumbered and outgunned.   The video cameras were installed because of a massacre of 13 people that had just occurred.
Lopez Acosta ran a cell of Gente Nueva in the state of Chihuahua.  He worked directly with Noel “El Falco” Salgueiro who at the time was the man behind much of the violence in Juarez.  La Gente Nueva is a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel; they operated mostly out of Chihuahua however have now branched out and operate in several states within Mexico, including Veracruz, Durango and Guerrero.  Most of the original members of this faction were former Juarez Cartel members, who defected to Sinaloa.  Greed lead many to wage war against “Viceroy” Carrillo Fuentes and his sicarios, La Linea.  To date at least 3000 people have died in the conflict between the two cartels.         
"El Falco"
Lopez Acosta was arrested in December 2010 at his lavish home in Delicias, Chihuahua where he was having a celebration.  In the operation he was wounded, and his brother killed.  Noel Salgueiro was said to have been at the party but was able to escape prior to the Mexican Armies arrival.  Salgueiro was eventually arrested in October of 2011.  He was arrested in Culiacan, alone and without incident; many believed he was turned over by Chapo because he had caused too many problems.    

This video shows a convoy of Zetas in San Fernando.  This has been site of several of the worst atrocities of the cartel wars.  This is where 72 migrants were massacred at a ranch because they refused to join the organization.  This is also the location of several mass graves which totaled more than 200 bodies.  It was said the Zetas roamed the streets freely, forcing many locals to abandon their town due to the lack of security.  In the following video a convoy can be seen traveling throughout the town unabated till some sort of confrontation ensues.   This was before either atrocity occurred, after both incidents the town was swarmed by Federal Troops and order was briefly restored.  The Mexican Government is now building a permanent military base outside of the town in an attempt to wrench the area back from Los Zetas. 
The smaller communities are not the only places vulnerable to convoys, in the town of Apatzingan, which has a population of 115,000 people, and is the home base of the Caballeros Templarios a convoy of fifty trucks can be seen driving through the town.  The video which is from May 2011 is incredible, as gunmen drive by onlookers wave and cheer on the convoy as it passes.  You can clearly see the Knights Templar logo on several of the trucks as well as many being equipped with lights to resemble the authorities.

In another video, one made famous on YouTube, a convoy is seen in Valle Hermoso which is in the state of Tamaulipas.  The dramatic footage, which shows gunmen blocking off roads, protecting a convoy as it makes its way through town, is simply riveting.  This powerful footage which clearly shows gunmen crouched down, firing their weapons at some unknown adversary as a large convoy of Narcos speeds by.  The video has become a symbol of what has happened to Mexico.   

In another yet another video this time in Nueva Laredo, a Zeta convoy get caught up in a shootout with the military, several vehicles are seen disabled as civilians try their best to find cover.  The video last for almost ten minutes and clearly shows why attacking a convoy of gunmen is highly risky for both the military and the civilian population.  The battles often last for hours, and are especially dangerous in densely populated areas.
These shocking scenes seems as though they fit the dynamic of an insurgency or low intensity war, rather than that of criminals.  One can see how entire police forces could be intimidated, how entire communities are held hostage and how difficult it is for the Mexican Military to deal with the problem.   The cartels today more resemble the Colombian cartels of old.  They operate in the open, highly organized, well-funded and equipped to do battle not only with rivals but the government as well.     

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