It is still a friggin war zone down there, coming soon to a neighborhood near you
Mexican federal agents fail to stop violence in border town
New recruits scarce
By Olga R. Rodriguez
February 17, 2006
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico – The weary residents of this border city at the center of an escalating drug war hoped hundreds of federal agents would end the violence that last year killed 181 people.
But drug-related crime has not let up since the “federales” arrived, and 31 people have been killed so far this year, a significant increase from the same time last year.
Eight months after President Vicente Fox sent soldiers and federal agents to take back the city from drug traffickers, the killings in Nuevo Laredo continue and brazen attacks remain commonplace. Plans to gradually withdraw federal agents have been put on hold, and police are having trouble recruiting new officers.
In the latest attacks, heavily armed men forced their way into a hospital Tuesday and killed a teenager receiving treatment after surviving an earlier attempt on his life.
A week before, two men wearing ski masks tossed grenades and opened fire inside the office of El Manana newspaper, seriously wounding one reporter. Editor Ramon Cantu quickly announced his paper would do even fewer stories on drug traffickers in an effort to protect its reporters.
The drug war heated up with the capture of the region's alleged drug lord, Osiel Cardenas, who was arrested in 2003 during a shootout in Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas.
Investigators say another reputed drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has been fighting smugglers loyal to Cardenas since then to gain access to Nuevo Laredo, the busiest commercial crossing along the 2,000-mile border and a popular drug route.
Government officials say they are making inroads against organized crime, but the relentless violence has intensified a climate of fear in this city of 300,000 across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas.
U.S. tourists have nearly stopped coming. Too many businesses have closed along Guerrero Street, a thoroughfare once bustling with visitors. Few venture out after dark.
Trying to bring back tourists, the city has held a three-day celebration wrapping up this Saturday, including live bands, folk dances and parades. But so far the carnival has attracted few visitors.
Tourists are not all the city needs. After firing about half the 700-strong local police force to weed out corruption and links to organized crime, it's hurting for 275 replacements.
Few have answered the call. The police academy is currently training just 34 recruits.
Among them is Violeta Tobias, a 22-year-old mother of four who said she has grown tired of the violence in her hometown.
“When you hear about the killings, I do feel fear,” Tobias said. “But here we lack authorities to uphold the law. I'm joining because I want there to be justice.”
Federal agents armed with automatic weapons patrol most of the city in pickups and are responsible for going after drug traffickers. But officials want to train local police to replace them eventually. The local, state and federal police forces in Nuevo Laredo are currently led by Mexican Army Gen. Alvaro Moreno, who says the drug traffickers' grip is slowly loosening.
“Before, you would see gunmen toting their weapons and driving around in caravans of up to five cars. But that has ended,” Moreno said.
The violence spiked to previously unseen levels last year after the city's police chief, Alejandro Dominguez, was gunned down hours after taking office. Two months later, gunmen killed the city councilman who oversaw public security in a daylight attack outside city hall.
This year's deaths are on pace to exceed last year's record toll.
“The violence hasn't stopped,” said Jose Ramirez, who spends his afternoons waiting for the rare tourist to hire his horse-drawn buggy. “There's always news of people getting killed or burned bodies being dumped on dirt roads.”
Associated Press reporter Jorge Vargas contributed to this report.
this crap will bleed over into Texas
The illegal alien crime wave with drugs, kidnappings, killings and forced prostitution of CHILDREN has ALREADY spilled over