Mexican Chief Killed After Nine Hours On Job
Soldiers march in the streets in an attempt to calm the escalating situation.
For weeks, no one applied for the Nuevo Laredo police chief job. Many saw it as a death sentence. But Alejandro Dominguez proudly took office on Wednesday, saying he wasn't afraid of anything. Nine hours later, he was ambushed and killed by gunmen who fired three dozen times.
Dominguez's violent death was the latest blow to Nuevo Laredo, a city across from Laredo, Texas, that has been crippled by a wave of drug violence. The city is on the front line of a turf battle between Mexico's two largest drug gangs, the Gulf and Juarez cartels. Since January, more than 60 people have been killed there, including several city police officers.
President Vicente Fox's administration sent in 700 soldiers and federal agents in March to try to restore law and order.
Dominguez, a businessman who once worked at the federal attorney general's office, was sworn in Wednesday afternoon, and promised to weed out corruption in the city.
"I don't owe anybody anything. My duty is to the citizenry," he said. "I think those who should be afraid are those who have been compromised."
After dark, a group of assailants opened fire as he climbed into his Ford Lobo outside the city's business chamber, which he led.
State police director Fernando Vallejo said officials had recovered 35 to 40 casings from assault rifles similar to those used by drug gangs.
A witness told authorities Dominguez was targeted by a group of men who arrived in three dark Chevy Suburban SUVs.
"They cut him off so he couldn't go," said the witness, who asked not to be identified. "They shot him from inside (the vehicles) and then got out to shoot him some more."
The witness said that once Dominguez was dead, the gunmen climbed back into the Suburbans and drove slowly away, with their lights turned off.
Last month, Nuevo Laredo Mayor Daniel Pena said no one had come forward to replace Police Chief Jose Valdes, who left the post to become City Council secretary. Dominguez was selected from a group of three potential candidates. He was the only one to voluntarily seek the job.
Authorities say drug violence in Nuevo Laredo intensified after the 2003 arrest of Osiel Cardenas, the alleged leader of the Gulf cartel, in the nearby city of Matamoros. They say accused drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has been fighting Cardenas to gain access to drug smuggling routes in Nuevo Laredo and other border cities.
The U.S. government has issued a warning to tourists traveling to the border, at the request of U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza. Garza has come under fire from Mexican officials who say the warning is unnecessary. -AP
"Four killed in one day!" cried the headline of Nuevo Laredo's La Tarde newspaper on Monday.
Mounting Fear, Unprecedented Terror
Fear permeates every facet of life in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo. The nerves of residents are hardly calm, and many live in fear of retaliation -- refusing even to discuss the terror.
It started in August 2004, as Americans began to vanish -- some while visiting Mexico, and some from their own homes in the US. According to the FBI, thirty-one Americans have been kidnapped since August. Of those, 12 have been released, two were killed and 17 are still missing. They're all believed to be pawns in a war between drug cartels.
Arturo Fontes of the FBI said, "A lot of these drug leaders are suspicious, suspicious of people that are invading their territory. And they're picking these people up for suspicions of working with the other cartel. These people are vicious. They're ruthless. It's a serious group and we need to take these threats very seriously."
Nuevo Laredo residents live in trepidation that they too are going to get caught in the vicious crossfire. "They are understandably afraid," said one special agent for the FBI, Arturo Fontes.
What seems like permanent violence, might now cripple cross-border traffic. Many Texans who crossed the border regularly to shop, sightsee, or visit friends, are now paralyzed by a sense of growing danger. Now, many residents of Nuevo Laredo are crossing the border in hopes of making a permanent move, causing an unprecedented wave of legal migration.
From Bad To Worse
Yvette Martinez is one of many missing Americans »
31 Americans have been kidnapped since August »
Brenda Cisneros disappeared on a trip to Mexico »
Juan Carlos de la Reyna is the reputed head of the Gulf Cartel »
David Anguiano is a reputed member of the Arellano-Felix drug organization »
Rivalry between drug traffickers has spurred an outbreak of brutality and bloodshed from Matamoros to Nuevo Laredo, as powerful drug cartels fight territorial battles over coveted control of the border.
The Zetas are one such cartel engaging in this war over the border. The Zetas drew their name from the serial numbers they were given when the commando unit they were once a part of formed in the late 1980s, under the organized-crime unit of the attorney general's office. Each number began with the letter "Z." The original 31 members of the Zetas were paratroopers from an elite Mexican Air-Mobile unit who received special training in the United States. The commando unit was supposed to fight drug traffickers, but some members deserted in the 1990s and instead pledged loyalty to Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the head of the Gulf Cartel.
In the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas, more than 600 soldiers, federal and state agents have lined the streets in an attempt to quell an increasing wave of violence.
The hundreds of soldiers and federal and state agents who took to the streets of Nuevo Laredo last weekend are trying to bring back peace and regain some control from the violent drug traffickers. In the past week, two gunmen have been arrested for allegedly firing pistols at city police officers, and four men were shot to death with machine guns. "Four killed in one day!" cried the headline of Nuevo Laredo's La Tarde newspaper on Monday.