Mexico: crackdown on armed forces narco links?
On May 19, the Mexican army announced the arrest of eight suspects in the massacre of 49 people who were decapitated, mutilated and left in plastic bags on the side of a highway in Cadereyta, Nuevo León, just outside Monterrey last week. Among those arrested was suspected ringleader Daniel Elizondo, AKA "El Loco"—said to be a member of the Gulf Cartel. Drugs, guns and hand grenades were seized during the arrests. However, authorities earlier said that the graffito "100% Zeta" found near the bodies indicated that Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel's bitter rivals, were responsible. At the time of the massacre, local authorities resorted to the now common tactic of playing down its significance. "This continues to be violence between criminal groups," said Jorge Domene, Nuevo Leon's state security spokesman. "This is not an attack against the civilian population." Yet authorities admitted the victims had not been identified, and may have been migrants attempting to cross into the United States. (AlJazeera, May 20; AP, May 19; AP, May 15; CNN, May 14)
The massacre came days after Mexican army troops detained 17 suspected Gulf Cartel members and a Cuban man who was allegedly providing them with weapons training in the Nuevo León town of China. On May 18, authorities announced the discovery of five clandestine mass graves in China, containing a yet to be determined number of bodies. (Sexenio, May 18;EFE, May 9)
Authorities are also investigating following the discovery of 15 dismembered bodies inside two vehicles on the highway between the cities of Guadalajara and Chapala in western Jalisco state, and suspect a connection with the kidnapping of 12 people in a nearby municipality, Coronado. (CNN, May 9) On May 19, federal police were ambushed by presumed Zeta gunmen on a highway near Concepción del Oro in Zacatecas. Army troops were called in, and a fierce gun-battle ensued, leaving presumed Zetas six dead. (Sexenio, Sol de Zacatecas, May 19) On May 11, the Mexican navy announced the arrest of the the supposed top Zeta hitman for Veracruz state, Marcos Jesús Hernández Rodríguez, wanted in the torture-slaying of four marines who were kidnapped while returning from a training course in Xalapa, the state capital. (AP, May 11)
Finally in recent days, Mexico's federal government appears to have launched a serious investigation of narco corruption within the armed forces. Tomás Ángeles Dauahare, sub-secretary of defense in the first two years of President Felipe Calderíon's term in office, was detained for questioning May 18 at his home in Mexico City. He was brought by Military Judicial Police to the notorious Military Camp No. 1, and then turned over the federal Sub-prosecutor for Special Investigations in Organized Delinquency (SIEDO).
Also detained were two army officers, Gen. Ricardo Escorcia Vargas and Lt. Col. Silvio Isidro de Jesús Hernández Soto, who are reportedly being held by SIEDO on suspicion of ties to the Beltrán Leyva cartel. The officers have not been formally charged, but are being held under arraigos—special judicial orders that allow detention for questioning for up to 40 days. (Proceso, La Jornada, AP, May 19; AP, May 18)