05/31/14 — In response to the escalating violence in Tamaulipas, the federal government began operating its new statewide security strategy there this month, similar to the ones launched in previous years in Michoacán and Ciudad Juárez. On May 13, Ministry of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong announced the “New Security Strategy in Tamaulipas,” effective immediately. As translated by Mexico Voices, the strategy, has three objectives: “to dismantle the composition and operation of criminal organizations; to seal the trafficking routes of drugs, weapons, and undocumented persons; and to guarantee efficient and reliable security to local institutions.”
As the federal government takes control of the state’s security, the state has been broken up into four monitored regions—Frontera, Río Bravo, Valle Hermoso, and Matamoros—and will see the deployment of an undisclosed number of federal troops on the ground. An influx of Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) will join the troops as they begin providing 24/7 security watch in the urban zones, along specified highways, and at the airport. Four new regional prosecutors will also be named—one for each of the partitioned zones—and a new Institute for Police Training and Investigation will soon be created, which will serve to train and strengthen state and municipal police forces. The institute falls in line with one of the security strategy’s objective of cleaning and vetting all police forces in Tamaulipas in an effort to root out corrupt ties with organized crime.
Having only been in effect since mid-May, the strategy’s presence has already been felt. On the one hand, the security’s targeting of high level members of criminal organizations operating in the state has quickly delivered on some of its objectives. The federal government has named 12 high-priority suspects and members of criminal organizations for federal forces to focus their attention. Within ten days after announcing the new strategy, three of the 12 persons-of-interests were arrested, two regional leaders from Los Zetas—Fernando Martínez Magaña, “Z-16,” and Juan Fernando Álvarez Cortez, “El Ferrari”—and one regional leader from the Gulf Cartel—Juan Manuel Rodríguez García, “Juan Perros.” Through the new security strategy, and targeted blows like this to criminal organizations, Tamaulipas Governor Egidio Torre Cantú is optimistic. “We are going to reestablish the environment that allows citizens of Tamaulipas to recapture the tranquility and peace that they deserve. Therefore,” he continued, “we are going to strengthen the coordination among federal resources and the other orders of government.”
Yet on the other hand, there are expressed concerns about an increased military presence in domestic matters, and the resulting civilian human rights violations at the hands of unaccountable soldiers. (See Justice in Mexico’s “Armed With Impunity: Curbing Military Human Rights Abuses” for more information on the topic). The Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Committee (Comité de Derechos Humanos de Nuevo Laredo, CDHNL) in Tamaulipas reported only two days after the new strategy was announced that soldiers and military personnel were already making the center and residents in the surrounding neighborhood feel threatened by their presence. As Proceso reported, “more than 100 members of the Secretary of the Navy [Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR] deployed to Nuevo Laredo surrounded the [CNDHL] office, an ’intimidating and threatening’ act, accused the organization’s president, Raymundo Ramos Vázquez.” Ramos also claimed that unidentified soldiers without authorization demanded entrance to his office “to review files of documented abuses,” referring to the Committee’s ongoing work to document cases of military human rights abuses.
Nevertheless, the increased military presence will remain. For his part, Brigadier General Miguel Amado Giménez González, who recently took over control of security in three municipalities in Tamaulipas, said the strategy is much needed, calling the current security situation “grave, very grave.”