by Javier Rodriguez from Torreon Mexico September 23, 2012

For the third time this year, on September 17 I left Mexico City toward the Northern State of Coahuila, where the PRI has never lost an election in over 80 years of rule and it is also my homeland. On that same day there was a spectacular escape of 132 prisoners from the State Social Rehabilitation Center in the border city of Piedras Negras that made world news. Coincidence perhaps, but when I left the Mexican Capital to the north for the second this year, on that day retired General Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro, one of the master minds of the dirty war in the 70s against the guerrillas, was violently executed not far from where I was momentarily.

On the way north, we passed through several war zones that have drowned the country in violence since 2006, a war that was agreed upon at a meeting in Cuernavaca, Morelos between representatives of the American Embassy and members of the incoming administration of President Calderon. Today, the war that began with “the michoacanazo” has exacted nearly 100,000 deaths. We crossed Jalisco, where the day before in another incident, authorities discovered 17 dead bodies, including several former police officers, with signs of torture and all executed with a shot in the temple. This is the second slaughter this year in the state. In May in Guadalajara, 18 bodies were found dismembered in two vans, apparent victims of the Zetas Cartel and La Resistencia.

We passed Zacatecas and later at night we crossed the convulsed state of Durango, said to be controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel and my mother’s land. Already in the border triangle of the cities of Gomez Palacio and Lerdo Torreon, traffic was bottled up for a few kilometers. At a very slow pace the bus I was traveling in finally reached the point of what looked like an accident, but no. There were dozens of federal police, patrol vehicles, ambulances, cars and trucks outside a hotel and a passenger commented, “There are several lying on the floor in the middle of the road.” For the first time since March 2 of this year, after four months of travel throughout Mexico, Calderon’s war approached me; a war which was actually and still is instigated, financed and coordinated by the United States and its intelligence agencies and the Merida Plan. What happened, we learned later, was an armed attack by an apparent convoy of Narco cartel members against federal police and the shooting occurred in front and into the Hotel Monarrez, which is one of many sleeping quarters  for some of the hundreds of federal police assigned to the region. The surprise attack, with high caliber weapons, left a toll of three policemen seriously injured and the death of the manager of the hotel.

That’s not all, about two hours earlier in Torreon, just meters away from the Military Barracks XI, there was an arson attack with Molotov cocktails against a gas station, but luckily the gas bombs did not generate explosions of the pumps. In another attack almost at midnight in Gomez Palacio, after tying up employees, three men threw bombs causing severe damage. And finally on that night of the unconventional warfare in Torreon,  another armed confrontation ensued outside the premises of the Federal Preventive Police Headquarters, located in the peripheral “Raul Lopez Sanchez,” where a patrol truck hit a trailer causing one fatality and three wounded, all federal police, and no arrests were made. It is noteworthy that since September 6 there have been six bomb explosions at gas stations in Torreon. Moreover at one of the attacks a banner was left, with a message, attributed to organized crime. And on Friday 21, on an open boulevard, witnesses observed a vehicle from which shots were heard and then saw the fall of two bodies of young men 18 and 20 years, with signs of torture and had been executed.

Yesterday Saturday at half past five in the afternoon, two dead bodies were found in the trunk of a taxi, they were also tortured youth and both executed in the right temple. Half an hour later the war approached me again when two blocks from my family’s house two young men were shot to death. The violent event was meters away from a huge proletarian flea market that extended several streets and around the house, and hundreds of merchants and customers present. My niece informed me that three months ago there was another shooting of three people, but this time, it happened inside the same street market.

Later at 9:30 PM, nearby in Gomez Palacio -the same city where some time ago on December 31, a teacher and school counselor from the City of El Monte, California, was riddled to death along with five friends, at a downtown bar- two hotels, including Monarrez for the second time this week, were attacked by armed groups, just a few meters from the town City Hall. These, in brief were some of the violent events of the war in the triangle-Gomez Palacio and Lerdo Durango, Torreon Coahuila during the past two weeks and on the night of my arrival in the Comarca Lagunera, region where I was born. But further out, in the Michoacán-Jalisco border, yesterday 70 human parts and charred bodies mutilated and burned were found in a van. This in the same area where 17 bodies were also found and mentioned above.

Since arriving to Torreon, every day and night, without exception, there have been clashes, including armed attacks against entire families without regard to the executions of minors. This is because the region has a spike in violence, armed attacks, killings, kidnappings and robberies. Ironically, all this developments in this un-conventional, have surged at the same time that the government has launched the national security operation surrealistically called “Laguna Segura.” At ten months after the operation was pompously launched and with the aim of reducing the number of violent homicides, the number of killings has reached 717, that is 15% higher than in the same period of 2011 and the robberies are 8 per day compared to six last year. Given this grim outlook in the Laguna region, crime rates against the population have no end, that is, along with general social insecurity, robberies, kidnappings, extortion of businesses and families, more corruption, impunity and poverty continue without abatement.

According to interim manager Antonio Esparza of the Juan Gerardi Human Rights Center, whom I interviewed in his office the San Juditas Church in northern Torreon, “this region is disputed between Los Chapos and Los Zetas. The latter dominate the towns of Torreon, Matamoros, Chavez and San Pedro and Lerdo and Gomez Palacio is the “plaza” under the Sinaloa Cartel.”


The capture of the leaders of the Gulf Cartel, El Coss and El Gordo

In the neighboring state of Tamaulipas the violence level is equal to or worse than  Coahuila and this has intensified due to the arrest of Gulf cartel leaders, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias “El Coss” and Mario Cardenas Guillen, alias “El Gordo.” Just yesterday three members of the state Public Safety Department were killed and identified as Jose Luis Orozco, director of Strategic Police, Arturo Alvarado, manager of Armament, and Guillermo Hernandez, director of Analysis. Besides “last Friday 16 men were found dead, nine hung from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, apparently members of the criminal organization Los Zetas, and seven on a rural road in the municipality of San Fernando, with bullet wounds and handcuffed.” This region of northeastern Mexico along the U.S. border is in dispute by the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas, following their split in 2010. The same levels of violence and clashes between the cartels and against federal police and soldiers of the army and navy have been taking place in other states such as Chihuahua, Michoacán, Guerrero, Veracruz and Nuevo Leon.
The Great Escape of 132 members of the Zetas cartel in Piedras Negras was the prelude to ‘drain the century’
At six days from the escape of the 132 prisoners from the Social Rehabilitation Centre (CERESO), an even that went around the world, there is  already extensive information and critical analysis of the “Great Escape of Piedras Negras,” starting with the fact that 86 prisoners of the escapees were under federal jurisdiction, but the outgoing president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa quickly washed his hands, flatly charging that “the problem belongs to the states because until now there have been no escapes from federal prisons in my administration.” We also know that the escape was led by Los Zetas and that exited  through the front door, much like the flight of Chapo Guzman years back when he escaped from the Puente Grande Federal Maximum Security Prison in Guadalajara. According to research by the author and journalist Anabel Hernandez, Guzman also went out the front door. In Piedras Negras, the now former prisoners of Coahuila were mounted on two buses and taken to another area of ​​conflict to reinforce northern Tamaulipas. It is also said that they were preparing the escape of this century, combining various prisons in the state of Coahuila. It should be noted that in these war years there have been spectacular escapes from in various prisons in the north, for example the biggest one in the history of contemporary Mexico occurred on December 17, 2010 in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas where 141 inmates escaped. The total number of mass escapes of cartel members is six and apart from Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo, there is Zacatecas, Reynosa, Matamoros and Monterey and the sum total of  prisoners liberated is more than 500. All these, under the watch of the two PAN presidencies.

This brings us to the stark reality that the national prison system is in crisis, it is anything but a social rehabilitation system where the country’s prisons are overcrowded, there are  no human rights nor is there rule of law and corruption and impunity abound. Rather, the country’s prisons are like small towns, self governed by the cartels and they controlled and pay all prison authorities. In fact the leaders make millions for every living space they rent out, as well as the sale of security for inmates and paid for by relatives on the outside. Lastly the powerful prison lords are also colluded with the political establishment because they also dominate the streets and cities of vast regions in the nation.

The sensational escape in Piedras Negras is a clear example of a failed war where general fear reigns and where much of the population lives under the whip of a major and widespread social psychosis. All this points to the grand failure of a national ultra right neo liberal policy, sadly supported by the globalizing American empire.

The Capital of Mexico is consideredthe safest city in the country and lauded internationally as a world model city.

However, the war and all its condemning social  implications, the massive social collective pain and death that permeates the country today, incredibly, does not exist directly in Mexico City, now ruled by 16 years of left-progressive consecutive governments and a continuing left administration was just elected by an overwhelming majority of “Chilangos,” for 6 more years. The capital of Mexico, the historical center of power and culture in the country, is considered the safest city in the country and it has also earned its place as an international secured model city, with an excellent growing transportation and educational systems. Contrary to US policy, the successive governments of the 10 million people city, are building more schools as well as subway corridors and double decked city peripheral highways, instead of prisons.  

Furthermore since 2007, the government has instituted a vanguard intercultural program of protection, assistance and integration of migrants, regardless of country and immigrant status. I have witnessed the institutional “guest approach” to all visitors by the city’s government, and this includes free health services, and for the US born children of deported Mexican parents, they are automatically given their free of charge naturalization certificates and bi national citizenship status for life.

Javier Rodriguez is an independent journalist and a media and political strategist. He is now on his third trip thru Mexico since March of this year, observing and writing about Mexico’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election and also on the drug war. A long time social activist, he was the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 MILLION historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006 as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott. Blog