Drug lords go on killing spree to search out corrupt officers who stole cargo in Mexico’s Tijuana

MEXICO CITY — A current killing spree within the Mexican border metropolis of Tijuana might have been lifted from a TV script: enraged drug lords searching down corrupt cops who stole a drug cargo.

Two of the officers suspected of the theft have been killed, prosecutors say. But so have no less than three different officers, in accordance with the town’s former police chief, suggesting the cartel believed to have owned the medicine might have launched a generalized retribution.

It is the most recent blow for Tijuana which has probably the most homicides of any metropolis in Mexico, with about double the variety of the place that comes second – the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. Tijuana, located within the border state of Baja California and with a inhabitants of over 2.1 million, has for a number of years seen round 2,000 murders yearly. By comparability, Houston, Texas, which has about the identical inhabitants, noticed 435 killings in 2022.

According to prosecutors, in mid-November, a half-dozen native and state cops in Tijuana allegedly hatched a plot to steal a big cargo of medication from a warehouse the place traffickers had been storing it.

Video emerged final week of the officers’ pickup truck pulling out of the constructing with massive, plastic-wrapped bales of cocaine filling the truck mattress.

State Prosecutor Maria Elena Andrade confirmed this week that three state detectives had been underneath investigation within the case, together with the same variety of Tijuana municipal police.

Alberto Capella, the previous head of Tijuana’s police power from 2007 to 2008 and once more from 2011 to 2013, instructed The Associated Press that the cache of medication appeared to have belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, particularly the wing managed by drug lord Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, in all probability probably the most highly effective gang on the town.

Apparently, the cartel knew virtually instantly who had pulled off the heist.

On Nov. 18, simply hours after the theft, gunmen sprayed the federal prosecutors’ workplace in Tijuana with no less than 30 rounds, pockmarking the constructing’s façade. Within an hour, one of many municipal cops allegedly concerned within the heist was gunned down on a road in Tijuana.

On Nov. 24, gunmen focused the state prosecutors’ workplace with a barrage of gunfire; no one was injured.

On Nov. 27, a state detective underneath investigation for the theft was gunned down in his automotive whereas filling it with gasoline at a station in Tijuana. It appeared the officer noticed the assault coming, and was capable of begin his automotive and advance just a few ft earlier than hitting a column and collapsing lifeless on the wheel. The attackers fled on a bike.

An worker of the state prosecutors’ workplace – who spoke to the AP on situation of anonymity as he was not licensed to speak publicly concerning the case – confirmed this week that two of the officers underneath investigation within the scandal had been shot and killed in broad daylight on the town’s streets, in obvious gangland revenge.

The worker mentioned the second officer declined a proposal for a spot within the state witness safety program in return for testifying within the case.

Capella, the previous police chief, mentioned no less than three different cops have been killed because the heist, suggesting the cartel might have launched a generalized retribution for the theft.

Tijuana isn’t any stranger to violence or corruption.

When he took over the police division, Capella recollects, he needed to hearth a couple of quarter of the power’s officers and he survived an assassination try. But police stealing a cartel’s entire drug cargo is a brand new low.

“This is very worrisome,” Capella mentioned. “Tijuana has never seen anything of this scale and that’s saying a lot.”

The roots of Tijuana‘s current round of violence date back to 2017, when murders practically doubled, rising from 919 in 2016 to 1,782 in 2017. Observers say turf battles between the Jalisco New Generation and Sinaloa cartels, and other groups – like remnants of the old Arellano Felix gang – are largely to blame.

And so pervasive is the violence in Tijuana that anyone, from singers to journalists, can fall victim to the killings. In January 2022, two journalists were shot to death in two separate attacks in one week.

On Nov. 20, the Tijuana city council voted to ban performances of drug ballads known as “narco corridos,” which glorify traffickers.

“If they come to sing other kinds of songs, they are welcome,” said Mayor Montserrat Caballero, threatening those who performed the ballads with fines of up to $57,000.

That followed the cancellation of a concert in October by well-known narco corrido singer Peso Pluma. His organization called off the performance “for everyone’s security” after hand-lettered banners appeared within the metropolis signed by the Jalisco cartel, which can have been angered by songs praising rivals.

“Don’t even think about performing on Oct. 14 because that will be your last performance,” in accordance with the banner. “You show up and we will destroy you.”

In June, Caballero, the mayor, introduced she had determined to stay at a military base for her personal security after receiving threats she didn’t specify, however which everybody assumed got here from cartels.

Caballero rose to fame in 2022 when she made a direct public attraction to cartels to cease focusing on civilians after gangs carjacked and burned no less than 15 autos all through the town.

In the published on the time, she mentioned: “Today we are saying to the organized crime groups that are committing these crimes that Tijuana is going to remain open and take care of its citizens.” She then requested “organized crime,” the time period utilized in Mexico for drug cartels, to ”settle their money owed with those that didn’t pay what they owe, not with households and hard-working residents.”

But it isn’t simply authorities officers or police who’re working scared; Tijuana is a hub for everybody from businessmen and vacationers to immigrants in search of to achieve the United States. The metropolis’s persistent violence drawback threatens all.

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