A troop surge has bought relative peace to a small north Mexican town which has seen hundreds of Zetas victims dug up from mass graves, though this triumph has not been trumpeted by the government.
To stand in the “Town of Death” in northeast Mexico, 90 miles south of Texas, is to know the ironies of Mexico’s public image: a lot of illusions, a lot of good people trapped in bad circumstances -- and a lot of disconnect when it’s all viewed from the United States.
San Fernando, the now-notorious Mexican farming center only two hours from Brownsville, Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico, has in the past 13 months made Mexican history. Since August 2010, San Fernando has suffered the largest mass executions of trapped civilians not only in the “drug war” of this decade but in modern Mexico’s lifetime, arguably dwarfing anything since the Mexican Revolution closed in 1920.
Last year, Mexico’s least-restrained drug trafficking cartel, the Zetas, began using the rural crossroads at San Fernando as a staging area for unparalleled -- and largely unexplained -- atrocities. There was a cold-blooded targeting of arbitrary pawns, seeming to actively cultivate a reputation for naked menace.
But in early April this took a twist. The massacre sprees ended -- and a new complication was added to San Fernando’s image, arriving by ponderous stages.
First, in August 2010, the atrocity series started with the lead-off Zetas massacre (an almost inconceivable 72 dead). And this brought only ambivalent government feints in response. So the pattern festered. By March-April of this year (with at least 193 more victims found in mass graves) things had gone from bad to worse in San Fernando -- which caused the scales to finally tip. At last, the beleagured Mexican government was moved to focus its resources massively and win an impressive victory -- which then remained almost invisible in the United States.
The tipping point, in early April, came as new horror stories were confirmed. The Zetas had begun going so far as to kill non-criminal Mexican bystanders in a kind of assembly line of gore, using sledgehammer blows (thriftily saving bullets). Amid such horrors, any previous central-government qualms about meddling in provincial affairs were swept away. By late June, so many troops and federal police had surged into San Fernando’s forbidding landscape that the seemingly impossible occurred:
Quiet. Suddenly, arrogant and long-standing signs of Zeta presence -- the pickups or SUVs openly cruising with brandished heavy weapons -- were gone from the streets. Where had the Zetas gone? More than 80 were reportedly arrested. Others seemed to evaporate, either fading into the populace or fleeing west or south beyond the surge area. The last dim report of a carjacking on the “Highway of Death” through San Fernando (Mexican Federal Highway 101) seemed to come in July.
Deep fear -- and very real danger -- still remained, but for the shell-shocked people of San Fernando, things had definitely changed. I went there in September, and the place was visibly more relaxed. A few days later the Spanish news agency EFE confirmed a similar improved picture in the same region, but closer to the border, at Ciudad Mier more than 150 miles northeast of San Fernando. These visits were media exceptions, however. What might be called the Massacre Zone, a 200-mile block of borderland leading out to the Gulf, has come to be viewed as impossibly dangerous by news organizations, leaving it mostly in darkness, uninvestigated.
Thus there are few observers to note what is in effect a triumph by government forces. Nor is the Mexican government itself quick to shout its own victory. For one thing, the move entails an affront to Mexico’s division of local-state-federal power. The feds found themselves forced (the sledgehammers were not subtle invitations) to surge into 22 city-county units, including San Fernando, as a reported 2,500 troops and federal officers kicked out and replaced local police. In San Fernando 17 local officers were arrested outright as Zeta henchmen and possible massacre participants. The rest were sacked, while state police in fatigues and troop trucks laden with Mexican marines or soldiers became the icons of law and order.
The new peace in San Fernando -- however imperfect -- contrasts with some statements in U.S. Congress. On September 13, Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla) called for current policy on Mexico to be scrapped because “there is an insurgency taking place in Mexico along the U.S. border” -- conjuring images of thousands of ideological guerrillas, a la Pancho Villa, setting up utopian mini-states. San Fernando’s reality is the reverse: convoys of drug thugs aren’t a mass movement, and what’s more they’ve been run out of their outlaw’s roost.
The retaking of San Fernando fits an old pattern. A year earlier and more than a thousand miles west, a smaller outlaw’s roost -- though still painful for trapped locals -- festered just south of the Arizona border (Arizona media, fixated on immigration chimera, rarely noticed such features over in Mexico). The Cerro Prieto stronghold finally forced a troop surge after a cartel battle on July 1, 2010, killed at least 21 pistoleros. There had been desperate cries for help earlier, but a high-visibility crisis seemed to be required to spur military action. This dynamic of reactive rather than pro-active force can be seen back through history and down through neighboring nations in Central America, where military bodies have been burned by politics. In Mexico, San Fernando suggests, unexplained slowness in restoring order doesn’t mean the capability isn’t there -- at least with regard to relatively small hideouts like San Fernando.
And even large riddles -- like the sprawl of Tijuana, the largest metropolis on the Mexican side of the border -- have shown that rampant chaos can at least be reduced to sporadic flares. With influence from California, 2,000 miles west of San Fernando, and other special factors to aid its reform, Tijuana has become a success story perhaps difficult to clone. Another urbanized nightmare, Ciudad Juarez, facing El Paso, Texas (1,000 miles west of San Fernando), has shuddered to only partial peace. Still sometimes called the most dangerous city in the world, Juarez has frustrated military surge tactics at least enough for other measures to be tried in embarrassment. Its carnage goes on.
Inside the 200-mile massacre sector around San Fernando the main fact is obvious: there is widespread relief that a troop surge has been applied -- and that it has seemed to work, at least for now. Those actually caught in northeast Mexico’s meatgrinder don’t have the luxury of worrying about whether the new move violates Mexico’s federalism, or is a temporary band-aid, or looks like a military coup. They have been rescued.
Against what had seemed enormous odds, Mexico’s vital northeast corner, bridging to the United States, has finally gotten a little breathing room. And the politics are such that few dare make the announcement.
This post was updated on .
The author has deleted this message.
Did you even read the story?? Its a success and thats all you have to say? To think, I thought you would be more happier jaja
In reply to this post by Guerro
I think the government should make an unofficial truce with CDS and CDG. If they keep things quiet for people who aren't narcos and fight Los Ratas and keep plazas clean of kidnappers and extortionists then the government should pretend it did not see a truck full of drugs going north.
It is not perfect but the violence against innocent people must be priority number one.
And that is why Los Ratas must be public enemy number one.
If the weathiest nation on Earth cannot stop street gangs from selling drugs in the ghetto then we are not going to stop the stronger cartels with our more limited resources.
Sending troops into the mountains to burn fields of Chapo's mota is a waste of troops. Chapo will plant more. He will plant enough to keep the trucks full knowing he will lose some.
The government should focus on the hot violent plazas. Send the troops to surround Cd. Juarez and set up checkpoints in and out. Then use more troops to search the city block by block. The troops will leave when Vicente and JL are dead. Then peace returns there.
Do the same thing in Nuevo Laredo. A CDG and Army alliance should clean that plaza. Catch Z40 then stand him on a platform in the middle of town then shoot him in the fucking head.
If they want to work on something then how about the 5% conviction rate for narcos and create a death penalty for killers and plaza bosses or higher. The executions can be done in the town they victimized by a dead innocent man's poor mother or widow. Give them a chainsaw and let them show narcos the same respect they showed the people.
If they catch Lazca they can hang him up from a tree with a rope that is too short so he struggles and kicks strangling for a few minutes. Then bring El Pozolero out of retirement to dispose of the filth.
I don't believe in a truce with any organization but I do believe that the Zetas need to be elimated first, they are the one victimizing the people. The Zetas take the war to a whole different level.
"If they catch Lazca they can hang him up from a tree with a rope that is too short so he struggles and kicks strangling for a few minutes."
When you said this I was thinking we need another President Plutarco Elías Calles aka "El Turco" he would probably end this war way quicker than Calderon because he was one ruthless a**hole. Just look at what he did in the Cristero War.
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|