Violence exploded in northeastern Mexico this week following the arrest of a Gulf Cartel leader, demonstrating the ability of drug cartels to brazenly create chaos in this hotbed of criminal activity.
On April 22, the reported capture of Jose Silvestre Haro Mayo, alias “El Chive” or “R1” -- the alleged leader of the Gulf Cartel in Altamira, Tamaulipas -- and three of his accomplices sparked a wave of reprisal attacks across the state, as cartel members went on a rampage in an attempt to free their leader, reported Proceso.
Violence affected the municipalities of Tampico, Madero, and Altamira, where cartel members engaged in shoot-outs with security forces. Dozens of vehicles were set ablaze and used as roadblocks, meant to impede the transfer of captured cartel members to Mexico City.
According to Proceso, as many as six people are believed to have been killed in shoot-outs, with life in the Altamira coming to a standstill. “The city was paralyzed,” an anonymous source told the news magazine. "They had to evacuate a store, close schools, and cancel classes.”
The Mexican Marines have reportedly arrested nine suspects following the outbreak of violence. The Tamaulipas Coordination Group, which oversees federal and state security forces, said the situation was under control, although a state police officer had been killed. However, the capture of “El Chive” is still unconfirmed, with some reports suggesting he remains a fugitive, and that authorities arrested one of his underlings.
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The captures are said to be part of an operation that began in May 2014, in order to dismantle organized crime networks in Tamaulipas, and has since resulted in security forces arresting 14 high-value targets in the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.
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Back then, news of shoot-outs between drug traffickers and security forces in Tamaulipas were common, with the government routinely sending in army reinforcements in an effort to quell the bedlam. The state has also been home to some of the worst atrocities seen in Mexico in recent memory, including the murder of 72 Central American migrants in 2010.
Nonetheless, it appears that the Gulf Cartel -- despite fragmenting in recent years due to the capture of key leaders in recent years -- still has the capacity and the confidence to violently challenge the government and essentially shut down an entire city.