HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Cartels Kill 5 Mexican Police
Pubdate: Wed, 07 Feb 2007
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2007 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Laurence Iliff, The Dallas Morning News


Gunmen Posing As Soldiers Launch Attacks In Face Of Federal Crackdown

MEXICO CITY -- Drug cartel assassins posing as soldiers disarmed
police at two stations in Acapulco before shooting five officers and
two secretaries to death Tuesday in the face of anti-drug operations
ordered by President Felipe Calderon, authorities and analysts said.

The brazen morning killings came as thousands of federal police and
soldiers, some in helicopters, patrolled the beach resort in an
attempt to reduce violence from a fierce turf war between the Nuevo
Laredo-based Gulf cartel and its Sinaloa state rivals.

A police commander also was gunned down in the Sinaloan capital of
Culiacan, and on Monday a grenade exploded outside a police building
in a town near Acapulco.

Witnesses said the Acapulco gunmen brought video cameras to document
the slayings. They apparently used the presence of the military to
fake a weapons examination at the two police stations, such as one
carried out legitimately by soldiers in Tijuana. The Acapulco officers
readily handed over their weapons to the fake soldiers, some of whom
wore the red berets of army special forces.

"Our colleagues accepted turning over their guns to the seven presumed
soldiers. Later they went to a storage area, and then they [the fake
soldiers] opened fire on them," said Jesus Aleman, deputy attorney
general for the state of Guerrero.

Authorities said the cartel hit men rode in a large SUV painted olive
green with stenciled numbers on the side in lieu of a license plate,
just like those used by the army.

The assassins were able to travel from the first police station in the
poor neighborhood of Renacimiento to the second one in Zapata without
being detected. Then they disappeared into the city of 1 million.

"This is a demonstration of force," said Javier Trujillo, who writes
on the drug cartels for two local publications in Acapulco. He said he
could not remember a greater number of police killed in one day in
Guerrero. More than 400 people died in drug violence in the state last
year, a dozen of them decapitated.

But Tuesday's message, Mr. Trujillo said, is as much for rival
traffickers as for the government.

The state police killed in the attack, he said, were alleged to have
been working for the Sinaloa cartel and its enforcement arm, Los
Pelones. For two years, they have been fighting an incursion in their
Acapulco "turf" by the Gulf cartel and its enforcers, Los Zetas, who
are based along the Mexico-Texas border.

"To me, this is an operation carried out by the Zetas because they
knew that the police commanders in Zapata and Renacimiento were with
the Pelones," said Mr. Trujillo. "What's surprising is their use of
army uniforms. This was a very clean operation."

Witnesses told police that two men with video cameras filmed the first
three killings in Renacimiento and the final four in Zapata. One
secretary was killed at each station, apparently to prevent them from
sounding the alarm.

Last month, huge convoys of soldiers and federal police were sent into
the state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is the largest city, as part of
Mr. Calderon's nationwide crackdown on drug traffickers. U.S.
officials have applauded the president's tough stand.

At the time, military officials detailed their superior firepower in
Guerrero: 6,388 soldiers, 246 vehicles, 18 planes, 16 helicopters, 130
bases of operation in 29 counties and 14 roadway checkpoints.

Violence was not limited to Acapulco on Tuesday.

In the Sinaloa capital, Culiacan, a police commander was riddled with
more than 100 bullets by men who fired at his pickup. And on Monday a
grenade exploded outside a federal police building in Tecpan de
Galeana, Guerrero, about two hours up the coast by car from Acapulco.
No one was injured.

The one-day death count of six police officers and two police
secretaries was one of the highest for law enforcement in many months.
In November, six police officers were slain in the central state of

If cartel enforcers continue to operate in Acapulco and elsewhere
despite the mobilization of tens of thousands of troops and federal
police, then Mr. Calderon's biggest public relations success so far
could turn sour, said newspaper columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio.

His newspaper, El Universal, published an opinion survey Tuesday that
showed Mr. Calderon with a strong 58 percent approval rating, based
heavily on his anti-drug crackdown.

Mr. Calderon won last year's July 2 election with just 35 percent of
the vote and faced months of protests that were organized by leftist
candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who claims the election was
stolen from him through vote fraud.

The drug crackdown, with military checkpoints and tons of destroyed
marijuana fields, "is something very sexy for people in terms of media
images; it gives quick, positive polling numbers," said Mr. Riva
Palacio. "But if killings like this in Acapulco continue, it is
destined to become a failure." 
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