2,500 Soldiers Arrive in Michoacán to Put an End to Drug Trafficking Violence

By Dialogo
July 22, 2009

Morelia (Mexico), July 20 (EFE).- The Mexican army today began to deploy 2,500 soldiers in the state of Michoacán in response to attacks by the cartel of ‘The Family,’ which have resulted in fifteen police officers dead in recent days. Motionless as terracotta statues, hundreds of soldiers were waiting in the patio of the military garrison in the capital, Morelia, for the order to join the counternarcotics operation seeking to undermine the criminal group’s control. In front of an enclosure packed with men in green uniforms, Gen. Mauricio Sánchez recalled that the operation should “respect the human rights of the civilian population.” These new forces bring to 3,500 the number of military personnel assigned to protect the suffering territory of Michoacán, which has seen resurgence in drug-related violence and a wave of arrests of officials with alleged underworld connections since May. In addition, 1,500 federal police and 1,500 marines were also ordered deployed last week to reinforce security in the region. Joint Operation Michoacán, opposed by state Governor Leonel Godoy for considering it as an invasion of states’ rights, is centered in Morelia, the nearby enclave of Uruapan, and the strategic port of Lázaro Cárdenas, on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. It is here that ‘The Family’ has established its base from which to conquer the drug market in Mexico, in a bitter struggle with the Gulf cartel and its armed wing, the feared and bloody group of assassins known as ‘The Zetas.’ There have been several states on which Calderón has fixed his attention in turn, having resolved to put a stop to the violence in the country, which has exceeded 13,500 deaths in the more than two-and-a-half years he has been president. Prior to Michoacán, it was the turn of the northern states of Chihuahua, where 11,000 members of the security forces are concentrated, and Sinaloa, with more than 5,000. In the face of the corruption rampant among municipal and state police and their lesser resources, no other option has remained but to use the army and the federal police. Following several attacks on police installations, last week assassins from ‘The Family’ left the bloody corpses of twelve federal agents along a highway, in response to the capture of Arnaldo Rueda, a.k.a. “La Minsa,” the cartel’s head of operations. Later, a state television program received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as Servando Gómez Martínez, a.k.a. “La Tuta,” who is replacing “La Minsa” in the cartel’s leadership. The speaker, who is thought to be “La Tuta” by the army, offered Calderón a deal that the Mexican administration rejected categorically. ‘The Family’ is said to “have eyes and ears” everywhere in Michoacán. It is not a typical cartel. Its leader, Nazario Moreno, a.k.a. “El Chayo,” is the author of a kind of Bible for his drug-trafficking soldiers. The cartel has its own detox clinics to which it is said to consign youths whom it then recruits. “Michoacán works,” says the state government’s slogan; so does ‘The Family.’ Without a pause, it is proceeding to oust the incumbent cartels of Sinaloa, Juárez, Tijuana, and the Gulf. The military personnel have three Blackhawk helicopters, among other aircraft, with which to prevent or respond to the assassins’ repeated and blatant attacks. From the air, the view is only of the green fields of Michoacán’s agricultural land, the occasional peasant plowing, the thousand roofs of Morelia, and its emblematic cathedral. “If someone who is looking for me is going to attack my father, my mother, my brothers, they’re going to find me, but in a different way,” ‘La Tuta,’ currently public enemy number one, threatened on Monday. Cutting through the blue sky, the Blackhawks search for his trail, although without success for now.