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Mexico Strikes Drug Trafficking, but Violence against Civilians and Police Continues

By Dialogo
July 30, 2009

Mexico City, July 29 (EFE).- The war between the Mexican authorities and organized-crime groups got hotter once again today with the arrest of six members of the La Familia Michoacana cartel and the murder of a police chief and his family in Veracruz. On Wednesday the Department of Public Security (SSP) arraigned six alleged members of La Familia, including financial operative Armando Quintero Guerra, alias “El Licenciado.” Quintero is alleged to be responsible for maintaining contact with drug buyers in Los Angeles (U.S.) and “keeping track of and accounting for the criminal group’s income and expenses related to drug sales,” specified the head of the Anti-Drug Division of the Federal Police, Ramón Eduardo Pequeño. The arrest of Lourdes Medina Hernández, a 24-year-old identified as the supposed romantic partner of Servando Gómez Martínez, alias “La Tuta,” one of La Familia’s leaders, was also confirmed. After the cartel attacked several police stations and murdered twelve federal agents, whose bodies were found on July 14, in recent weeks, the authorities have intensified their pressure on the organization, which operates primarily in Michoacán in the western part of the country, but also in Guerrero in the south, and in the State of Mexico in the center. So far in 2009, 120 members of this criminal group have been arrested, sixty percent of them in Michoacán. The arrested individuals include Arnoldo Rueda Medina, alias “La Minsa”; Rafael Cedeño Hernández, alias “El Cede”; Óscar Barajas Landa, alias “El Perro”; Baltazar Valencia Gutiérrez, alias “El R”; Francisco Javier Frías Lara, alias “El Chivo”; and José Alberto López Barrón, alias “El Gordo.” The series of anti-drug actions, such as the recent deployment of 5,500 marines, soldiers, and federal agents in Michoacán, has enabled the authorities to lessen the “capacity to shoot and the mobility” of the cartel’s assassins, as well as to hinder the organization’s efforts to become involved in the designer-drug business, according to the SSP. Nevertheless, these efforts have not yet lessened the wave of violence through which Mexico is living; so far this year there have been 3,911 murders linked to organized crime, according to unofficial data published today by the daily El Universal. Last year there were around 6,000. The most recent bloodshed took place early yesterday morning. The deputy coordinator of operations for the Veracruz-Boca del Río Intermunicipal Police, José Antonio Romero Vázquez, two of his children, his wife, and two other youths were murdered in the police commander’s residence in the port of Veracruz, in the eastern part of the country. The authorities confirmed that the assassins’ six victims were all related and that they included at least two minors, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old, who have still not been fully identified. The investigations indicate that an initial shooting attack was followed by an attack on the residence using hand grenades, sparking a fire. The Veracruz public prosecutor, Salvador Mikel Rivera, said that he was unaware whether Romero, who had not been in his job long, had received threats from organized crime. In addition to this case, another incident cost the life of the police chief of the municipality of Praxedis G. Guerrero, Juan Manuel Carvajal, in the northern state of Chihuahua. It became known on Wednesday that Carvajal, who had been on duty for two months, was riddled with bullets on Monday in the town of Juárez y Reforma, around forty-five kilometers from Ciudad Juárez on the border with El Paso (United States). Sources in the state public prosecutor’s office indicated to EFE that the police chief was killed by shots from AK-47 rifles, commonly used by drug traffickers, while driving in his vehicle.