Fallout from the La Barbie Arrest

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Sept. 7, 2010

MEXICO security memo

Fallout from the La Barbie Arrest

Mexican Federal Police apprehended high-level cartel leader Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal and six of his closest collaborators the afternoon of Aug. 31 at private residence in the village of Salazar, Mexico state. Valdez Villarreal’s arrest reportedly came after a Federal Police intelligence unit traced the location of a phone call Valdez Villarreal made to one of his accountants, Aaron Arturo Gines Becerril, who was arrested in a separate operation in Morelos state. As soon as authorities pinpointed Valdez Villareal’s position, two teams of Federal Police special operations forces launched two separate simultaneous operations to apprehend him and several of his top collaborators; the second operation occurred near the Guerrero-Morelos state border.

Valdez Villarreal’s capture represents a major success for Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his government in its war against the cartels on the physical and public relations battlefields, especially as conflicts in other parts of the country have escalated in recent weeks. Mexican authorities have gathered a tremendous amount of intelligence from the raids. Valdez Villarreal reportedly has been cooperating with authorities, providing additional intelligence on the inner workings of cartels in Mexico and abroad.

Several different international law enforcement and intelligence agencies reportedly had prepared the intelligence operation that brought down Valdez Villarreal and his network since June 2009. Mexican Federal Police had been close to capturing Valdez Villarreal twice before, with the second time coming Aug. 9 in the Bosque de Las Lomas neighborhood of western Mexico City; the authorities missed him by a few hours. Federal Police agents and military units remained on standby for another mobilization to go after Valdez Villarreal. When the call came Aug. 31, some 1,200 members of the Federal Police mobilized for the two operations. The raid on the rural residence that netted Valdez Villarreal took place without a single shot, indicating that the element of surprise was maintained and revealing the general unpreparedness of Valdez Villarreal and his associates. Authorities confiscated an M16 rifle with a grenade launcher attachment and an HK MP5 9 mm rifle from the residence where Valdez Villarreal was apprehended.

The intelligence acquired after the arrest included everything from a meeting of the major players of Mexico’s cartels to the logistics of moving a multiton shipment of cocaine from Colombia to the United States, and also yielded actionable tactical intelligence. Some of the information from the raid resulted in the Sept. 1 arrest of 11 individuals in Colombia that were collaborators with or cocaine connections of Valdez Villarreal. Some of those arrested in Colombia had connections to the guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. STRATFOR sources in the Mexican government have indicated that Mexican authorities have gained much information regarding the whereabouts of Valdez Villarreal’s rival and former colleague, Hector “El H” Beltran Leyva.

Valdez Villarreal was arrested along with six of his closest partners: Juan Antonio Lopez Reyes, Mauricio Lopez Reyes, Arturo Salas Ivan Arroyo, Jorge Landa, Valentine Coronado, Marisela Reyes Lozada and Maritzel Lopez Reyes. Members of the Mexican military detained Valdez Villarreal’s right-hand man, Jose “El Indio” Gerardo Alvarez Vasquez, on April 21. With Valdez Villarreal and the top tier of the leadership of his organization now gone, Valdez Villarreal’s faction of the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) has been rendered all but impotent.

Though many Mexican government officials and analysts have warned of a possible increase in violence due to a power vacuum created by these arrests, this may not necessarily be the case. A similar scenario played out earlier in the year with the dismantling of the leadership of the El Teo organization in the Tijuana and wider Baja California area. While violence has not completely disappeared from those locales, it has dropped drastically from when El Teo and his organization vied for control of the region. In many ways, the fight between Valdez Villareal and Hector Beltran Leyva and the conflict in Tijuana are quite similar, and Guerrero, Morelos and Mexico states all might see a decrease in cartel violence.

Signs of Increased Pressure on Los Zetas

Members of the Mexican army launched a raid on a ranch used by Los Zetas near General Trevino, Nuevo Leon state, near the Tamaulipas border the afternoon of Sept. 2. A total of 27 members of Los Zetas died in the resulting firefight, while three kidnapping victims were freed. Five more members of Los Zetas were killed the same day in another military operation in Juarez, Nuevo Leon state, on the outskirts of Monterrey. The operations, along with several other security-related events in the past few weeks — such as the discovery of the killing of 72 migrants near San Fernando, Tamaulipas state, and the use of two improvised explosive devices in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state — have prompted discussions and rumors of a large-scale military and federal police deployment to the Tamaulipas-Nuevo Leon region to help combat this recent spike in violence.

STRATFOR has also noted an increase in law enforcement and military attention on the operations and leadership of Los Zetas in recent months, particularly in the Monterrey region. By contrast, the Gulf cartel and its allies in the New Federation have remained relatively sheltered from any increase in law enforcement or military operations in recent months, though they operate in the same regions as Los Zetas. Mexican Interior Minister Francisco Blake has discussed the possibility of deploying additional federal security resources to the Tamaulipas region with Tamaulipas Gov. Egidio Torre Cantu, though no deployments have been announced. Given the recent incidents involving Los Zetas, their presence in the region and the already-increased focus on the group by federal law enforcement and the military, any new deployment of federal security forces to the Tamaulipas-Nuevo Leon region would likely be aimed at Los Zetas leadership and operations. Concerns are mounting that Los Zetas weakened status in the Monterrey region could see it resort to kidnapping and extortion to supplement lost income. An all-out federal assault on the organization in the Tamaulipas-Nuevo Leon region could cause a similar effect in the latter region.

Aug. 30

  • Unidentified gunmen killed a soldier and a civilian outside a conference hall in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state.

  • Mexican authorities confirmed the deaths of seven people in a firefight between suspected criminals and soldiers in Panuco, Veracruz state. Six people were arrested during the incident, which lasted approximately 12 hours.

  • Unidentified gunmen ambushed the security detail for the public security secretary of Jojutla, Morelos state, injuring a bodyguard.

Aug. 31

  • Unidentified men attacked a bar in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, using Molotov cocktails, killing eight people.

  • Authorities discovered the bodies of two adults and two children, all believed to be members of the same family, inside a house in Zapopan, Jalisco state. The victims had been shot to death and bore signs of torture.

  • Police rescued six Cuban migrants from kidnappers in Bonfil, Quintana Roo state. The victims had been held for approximately one month.

Sept. 1

  • Unidentified gunmen attacked the Noroeste de Mazatlan newspaper offices in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state. The attackers fired at the building, but none of the occupants were injured.

  • Unidentified attackers killed a municipal policeman in the Herreros neighborhood of Chimalhuacan, Mexico state.

  • Soldiers arrested two municipal guards in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, for allegedly acting as lookouts for drug cartels.

Sept. 2

  • The bodies of three people were discovered near a highway in Chamilpa, Morelos state. The victims were wrapped in plastic and had been blindfolded. A message attributing the crime to Cartel del Pacifico Sur was found near the bodies.

  • Police discovered the body of a man in the trunk of an abandoned car in the San Buenaventura neighborhood of Toluca, Mexico state. The victim had been shot to death and bore a message attributing the crime to Los Zetas.

  • Police discovered the body of a man in the Pozos de Tabla neighborhood of Ecatepec, Mexico state. The body bore a message attributing the murder to a drug trafficking cartel.

Sept. 3

  • Police in the Delegacion Laguna I neighborhood of Torreon, Coahuila state, arrested a suspected kidnapper believed to be part of the “La Familia de Juarez” kidnapping group.

  • Soldiers arrested seven men in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas state, during a raid on a house. Approximately 30 firearms, 6,500 rounds of ammunition and 16 grenades were seized during the operation.

  • Police arrested a suspected kidnapper in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. The suspect is believed to have participated in the kidnapping of a teacher in Santiago, Nuevo Leon state.

Sept. 4

  • Police discovered the body of a woman in the Burgos de Cuernavaca neighborhood, located four kilometers (2.4 miles) outside of Cuernavaca, Morelos state. The victim had been kidnapped from her house in Cuernavaca by unidentified gunmen Sept. 3.

  • Federal police prevented a kidnapping and arrested two suspected kidnappers during a patrol in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

Sept. 5

  • Federal agents arrested two suspected extortionists in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state.

  • A man was stabbed to death in the Fomerrey 36 neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, after being pursued by several suspects.

  • Soldiers fired on a vehicle that failed to stop at a military checkpoint in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state, killing two members of the same family and injuring five other people.

Sept. 6

  • Unidentified gunmen killed a man in the Ciudad Cuauhtemoc neighborhood of Ecatepec, Mexico state. The attackers shot the victim 17 times.

  • The Mexican army released information about the seizure of two drug labs and approximately 800 kilograms of marijuana during raids from Sept. 2-4 in several municipalities of Michoacan state.

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