Mexico Crackdown – Federal forces in control of border

Mexican Army secures the borderMexican army units secure Reynosa

Nuevo Laredo Police, disarmed and suspended once again!

Special forces of the Mexican Army and federal agents surrounded municipal police headquarters early Tuesday all along the South Texas-Mexico border, seizing more than 1,000 police officers’ firearms and other equipment and holding an unspecified number at military headquarters.”It was a direct order from the highest level,” said a spokesman for the Army stationed in Nuevo Laredo. “Faith has been lost in the city police working in Tamaulipas.”

Nuevo Laredo Mayor Ramón Garza Barrios said his office was aware of the drastic action to be taken by the federal authorities, and is in complete support of the effort to get rid of corruption along the border.”General DEM Rigoberto García Cortez, garrison commander, had notified us,” the mayor said. “It’s part of the anti-crime operations that (national authorities) have activated in our city.”Nuevo Laredo streets, as well as those in Miguel Alemán, Río Bravo, Valle Hermoso, Reynosa y Matamoros, are now patrolled by heavily armed soldiers, federal agents and state police as every city police officer was relieved of duty until officials can ascertain whether any are involved with drug traffickers.

In Nuevo Laredo, some 500 officers were pulled off the street and disarmed. An untold number are in detention at the Army headquarters.

In 2005, the Army disarmed 600 local police and 40 of them were taken to Mexico City for interrogation at the federal public safety office. Several months later, firearms were returned to a select group of officers who underwent extensive background checks and completed new training designed to clean up the department.

All the weapons seized Tuesday were taken to the garrison in Nuevo Laredo to be checked by ballistics experts to determine whether they had ever been used in drug-related crimes.

In addition to checking the firearms, each officer’s personal documents and backgrounds will be under a microscope. Drug tests were administered to every officer.

The Army spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said every city grants its officers a license to use firearms. The checks will verify whether the weapons being carried by officers match the licenses they were issued.

The actions of the special forces, known by the Spanish acronym of GAFES, alarmed many officers in the six cities that border South Texas.

“They have us (stunned). If they know who to take, then they should fulfill their responsibility,” said one officer, who asked not to be identified. “They have lists. They have been working for some time on gathering intelligence and they know the bad officers.”

In Reynosa, soldiers and federal agents surrounded police headquarters. Some officers said they were afraid because the agents might make mistakes and arrest people who aren’t connected to drug traffickers. The police headquarters in Matamoros also was surrounded by armored vehicles, as agents and soldiers commandeered weapons and began checking identification.

Garza Barrios said that as soon as city police officers pass the inspection, they will be returned to the streets but no time frame has been established for that.

UPDATE: Nuevo Laredo Police back on the job without weapons or vehicles

Nuevo Laredo’s police force is back to its patrolling duties Wednesday but without their firearms, said city spokesman Alberto Rodríguez Wednesday morning.

All they have are night sticks and shields, he said.

El Norte (Monterrey) reported in the early afternoon that the police were being required to remain inside the city’s police station.

In a follow-up phone conversation with Rodríguez this afternoon, he said that the police don’t have access to their patrol vehicles either.

Officers are just doing foot patrols in some part of the city, he said.

No officers have been arrested and they are no longer being required to remain at police headquarters by the military, he said.

The 450-member police force is taking its normal shift changes, he said. It appears many officers remain at police HQ.

“They were just playing soccer right now,” said Rodríguez.

Local authorities ordered drug tests on the officers.

Police do not know when they will be given their weapons or vehicles or normal job descriptions back.