Open battles cease, pointing to Sinaloa Cartel stranglehold
Guns go quiet in uneasy Nogales
Tim Steller Arizona Daily Star
| Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2012 12:00 am | Comments
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
The bullet holes remain last week in a house in Colonia Kennedy, one
of two shot up in March 2011, the last month with more than known 10
organized-crime related murders in Nogales Sonora.
NOGALES, Sonora - The eruptions of gunfire that ripped through
everyday life in this border city during recent years have finally
Recently released statistics show the monthly number of drug-war
killings in Nogales, Sonora peaked at 45 in January 2010 - which was
the top year for murders in the city - but fell to one per month in
Residents have enjoyed the quiet of the last six to 12 months. But
they don't trust it.
Victor Guerrero awoke one night in March 2011 to the sound of
automatic weapons heaving hundreds of rounds at two houses within a
block of his home in the wealthy Colonia Kennedy neighborhood. The
scars remain on the houses and in the minds of the residents.
"I think it made the city more cautious," Guerrero said of the years
of gun violence. "It's something that's going to be here for a while."
One reason the caution persists is that the industry that brought the
gun violence, drug trafficking, remains strong. There's a simple
reason for the recent calm, said Tony Coulson, who retired in August
2010 as the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Tucson office.
"The only thing that means is the Sinaloa Cartel has complete control
of the corridor," he said. "There are less gunbattles 'cause there's
less warring factions that are openly trying to kill each other."
Nogales was one of the three Mexican cities with the greatest
declines in drug-war murders from 2010 to 2011, concluded a March 2
report by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.
The other two cities are Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas and Culiacan,
Sinaloa - both notorious for their drug-war violence.
The gunfire that shook Nogales, Sonora from late 2007 to early 2011
stemmed from a conflict between two major drug-trafficking factions,
the Beltran-Leyva group and Chapo Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel, Coulson
said. They started battling openly for control of the Nogales
corridor, or "plaza" in 2007.
Their battle turned shockingly violent in the months after the Dec.
17, 2009 killing of Arturo Beltran-Leyva by Mexican marines, as the
Sinaloa faction tried to purge the city of its rivals, Coulson said.
In the six months from December 2009 to May 2010, 149 murders in
Nogales were attributed to criminal groups fighting each other,
according to data released in January by the office of Mexico's
The open fighting continued spasmodically through March 2011, when 16
people were killed, but after that it began to ease, the data show.
On Feb. 13, 2011, Gustavo Salcido was working as a manager of Sushi
House, an Asian restaurant around the corner from federal police
headquarters in central Nogales. He heard gunfire in the dining room
and joined the crowd as it surged away from the shooting scene.
A group of gunmen had leapt from a car outside, charged into the
restaurant and opened fire on a couple apparently connected to a
rival criminal group. The gunmen killed those two and hit several
bystanders, killing one who was protecting a child, Salcido said
Salcido was somber as he recalled the night and the impact of such
incidents on him and others in the city.
"We're losing the ability to be shocked," Salcido said in Spanish.
"We who lived here before this began, we dream that the city will
return to its tranquillity."
Exodus of Snowbirds
Another casualty of the gunbattles was Nogales' image among foreign
visitors and investors, who have been crucial to the city's economy
Between the recession that hit in 2008, the flu epidemic of 2009 and
the gunbattles, the casual tourists who used to boost the downtown
area practically disappeared, although gunfire didn't enter the
tourist zone, said Nora Licón Perea, owner of one of the few
remaining curio shops on Avenida Obregón, the main tourist street.
"Last year, you didn't see anybody. This year there are a few
snowbirds," she said in Spanish.
The draw that's bringing in foreign visitors now is cheap medical
care, especially dentists and eye doctors, Licón Perea said. Those
visitors will see that the atmosphere is fine and re-establish the
flow of cross-border visits, she and others hope.
In 2008, the U.S. State Department issued its first travel alert
mentioning Nogales, Sonora, citing the spike in organized-crime
violence. The U.S. consulate in Nogales elevated that alert to a
"warning" in March 2010 and renewed that warning in February this year.
The warnings mystify Rene Moreno, one of the contingent of
maquiladora executives who travel frequently across the border and
work daily in the Mexican city's factories.
"We are clueless as to what is generating those concerns," said
Moreno, who is vice president of the Nogales maquiladora association
and works at the huge Chamberlain assembly plant.
Anyway, he noted, they have not stopped major investments: Jabil
Circuit Inc. opened a major new factory in the city last year that
will employ 1,000 people, he said.
Invisible body count
While the silencing of the gunbattles has brought a degree of
normality back to the city, some killings apparently have gone
At Radio XENY, the station at 760 AM that the whole city seems to
monitor for local news, listeners occasionally bring in flyers
identifying people who have disappeared.
Sometimes the disappeared show up a few days later after a runaway
jaunt or a binge, said César Barrón, who covers crime at the station.
But other times the disappeared stay gone, Barrón said.
That fact, plus the buried bodies that occasionally turn up around
town, make him wonder if there's a death count yet to be tolled. If
so, those would be the killings that are more traditional in the drug
world than the gunbattles of recent years, Coulson said.
"Now it's just internal discipline within the organization," he said.
"They're not message-sending to someone else."
The open violence of recent years could return if another faction or
government forces threaten the control of the drug trade, experts
said. But smart traffickers in the Sinaloa Cartel have an interest in
today's relative peace, said Scott Stewart, a vice president for
Stratfor Global Intelligence
"They're very, very shrewd business-wise," said Stewart, who served
at Fort Huachuca in the 1980s and got to know Sonora's border towns.
"It's ideal for the cartel organizations to have things 'tranquilo.' "
by the numbers
Number of organized-crime-related murders in Nogales Sonora, by year
19 - 2007
102 - 2008
123 - 2009
47* - 2011 * 2011 figures through September
SOURCE: Mexico Office of the President
Where Nogales fits in
In January, the Mexican president's office released new figures on
organized-crime-related homicides. Nogales, Sonora registered 11th in
drug-related homicides among Mexican cities from December 2006
through September 2011, the last month for which the report had figures.
The 489 homicides in Nogales during that span put the city well
behind Mexico's most violent city, Ciudad Juarez, which had 7,643 in
the same period.
The city ranked ninth in drug-related killings from December 2006
through the end of 2010. But a relatively quiet 2011 helped Nogales
drop out of the top 10.
Homicides shot up, down
YEAR HOMICIDES IN PIMA COUNTY HOMICIDES IN NOGALES, SONORA
2006 77 35
2007 84 52
2008 105 116
2009 64 130
2010 79 210
2011 75 83
Sources: Tucson police, Pima County sheriff, Oro Valley police,
Marana police, Sonoran Ministry of Public Safety.
Star reporter Brady McCombs contributed to this story. Contact
reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/education/guns-go-quiet-in-
Note: No charges for the grenades ??
Former Gulf Cartel plaza boss says feds conducted illegal raid
March 10, 2012 8:21 PM
Jared Taylor, Twitter: @jaredataylor
A former Gulf Cartel plaza boss facing indictment in Houston claims
federal authorities illegally searched his home looking for one of
the organization's bosses.
The Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Eudoxio Ramos Garcia
after raiding his home near Roma on Oct. 27, 2011.
Court records filed in U.S. District Court in Houston say the U.S.
Marshals, DEA and other agencies arrived at the two-story home at 600
River Point about noon that day.
The Marshals apparently had learned Gulf Cartel kingpin Juan Mejia
Reyes, known as "R-1," was at the house, armed with high-powered
rifles, handguns and hand grenades.
Ramos, the former Gulf Cartel plaza boss of Miguel Alemán, accuses
more than a dozen federal agents of entering his house without his
permission, a warrant or any probable cause.
Ramos, known as "Comandante Carrito," claims agents pointed their
laser-sighted guns on him, his wife and their three 11-year-old
daughters as they walked down a staircase in the home. When he
reached the bottom of the stairs, Ramos said agents shocked him with
a stun gun.
The Marshals then interrogated Ramos, he said, claiming he was Reyes
— a high-ranking figure in the Gulf Cartel. Upon learning Ramos'
identity, he said the Marshals began to "threaten" him, or they would
deport him to Mexico, "so he could be quartered, burned and killed by
the Gulf Cartel."
Ramos' lawyers published the allegations against the government in a
motion to suppress Ramos' statements filed in federal court in January.
U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison heard Ramos' allegations at a
hearing Feb. 24 in Houston. Ramos' wife reportedly broke down during
her recollection of the raid on her home.
"All they said was 'Everybody out and on the ground,'" Maria de Los
Santos Garza testified, the Houston Chronicle reported. "I have never
seen so many armed men. I thought they were people from Mexico who
were going to kill us."
But federal prosecutors say despite her tears, de Los Santos lied
when she testified at that hearing.
The U.S. Attorney's Office on Wednesday formally asked the judge to
deny Ramos' motions to throw out testimony that incriminates him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard D. Hanes said the deputy U.S. Marshal
who approached the residence received consent from de Los Santos to
enter her home.
Hanes noted that de Los Santos testified that she does not own the
home agents searched. But federal prosecutors pointed to the title
for the property was in the name of her company, American Quality
Homes, and not Ramos.
Ramos had been formally charged with drug conspiracy in a complaint
filed Nov. 2 in federal court in McAllen. That case was dismissed in
December when he was linked to a larger drug conspiracy tied to the
Gulf Cartel filed in Houston.