MONTERREY, MEXICO — I was in the middle of writing about a badass Colombian drug trafficker who’s taking over huge swaths of Mexico when convoy of green Army trucks fully packed with G3-carrying soldiers rolled through my hometown of Monterrey — and stopped. If there’s one firearm that can intimidate a narco, it’s gotta be a powerful long-round rifle like the G3. There was not doubt about it, the soldiers were hunting druggers.
You probably heard something about Mexico having, from time to time, to deploy soldiers to keep the peace because local police are too corrupt to do anything? Yes, it’s true. But out here in Monterrey, it’s been quiet for a some time now. From what I know, that’s because of a truce between a couple of different factions. There’s been very little killing and very little violence. Very little for Mexico, that is.
So why the sudden surge? Why did the army roll into town? Good question. If you ask me, it had something to do with the sicario (hit man/enforcer) they recently captured in Cancun, a badass named Gori Four. He was arrested, along with his entire narco cell, in southern Mexico. The man is believed to be guilty of ordering the levanton and execution of an Army General and a Lieutenant. Yup, this guy does not fuck around. I have no clue what the “four” stand for, but I do know for sure that he was the right-hand man of the guy who controls the plaza, or drug territory, here in Monterrey. It seems the army managed to torture some info out of the poor, sick bastard. Now it’s simply a matter on his operation, mainly any and every tiendita they can find and pillage. (See my first column on Mexico’s drug stores.) And therein lies there problem.
See, our soldiers have little regard for obnoxious subjects like “human rights” or “probable cause.” A good and abundant example of this is the tradition of robbing blind the houses which are used as tienditas. Yeah, yeah, you’re probably saying that this is the risk that you have to be willing to take if you are gonna start dealing, right? True. But the problem is that the intel is very rarely to be trusted. Sometimes the soldiers will bust the wrong house, rob it, go on to the next “suspected point of sale” and on and on. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll make that mistake on purpose. Maybe a house has a nice Italian leather couch and one a big projection TV, who knows what these army types fancy. If you have a problem with that, maybe you can file a complaint with an army commissioner. Maybe the soldier can come back and rape your daughter and kill your family while you watch. Anyway, you get the picture. People don’t like it.
The army had been operating here for a few months in a light sort of way. But since November 15, the army has been taking on larger and larger assignments. Soldiers can be seen conducting various operations all over the city, detaining people involved with organized crime and making “important” drug and weapon busts they can show off at press conferences. I haven’t seen any checkpoints. The army likes mobility, I guess. So I only see convoys moving around town, going to the next tiendita on the list. I think someone very, very high is putting el dedo (the finger) on those places. As usual, these sweep and clean jobs fuck with the poorest inhabitants of Monterrey the most. And a lot of people have been getting very pissed off. If you ask me, the army has been told to cleanse Monterrey of the zetas’ presence. But the zetas aren’t just gonna stand by and watch some Mexico City politician take what’s rightfully theirs.
Tapping into popular fervor, the narcos have started recruiting “demonstrators” to block the city streets. Called tapados (hoodeds or hooded ones) by the media, these people come from the worst ghettos in town. The narcos get supporters like this: They go from house to house in their luxury SUVs, offering $300-500 per demonstrator (which is a HUGE sum for these people) and give them backpacks crammed full of school supplies. Seriously. Drug dealers are like that here. They care about your kids’ education.
Anyway, the rioting and spontaneous road blockades started at the begining of last week. Groups of tapados, women and children among them, blocked streets and protested army abuses and disregard for human rights. Some used huge stones and wooden slabs, which they got from a “captured” truck, to firmly block of traffic. Some lit fireworks. Some are chanted. Others just stood around smoking weed, enjoying the fun.
After a few days of rioting and causing havoc, the young tapados finally revealed their demands: General Cuauhtemoc Antunez Perez, the guy in control of the army in Monterrey, must step down. So far, the request had not been met. Meanwhile, the riots continue at a leisurely pace.
Last week on Tuesday night, an army convoy ran into a suspicious looking guy in an SUV. Upon seeing the soldiers, the man tried to escape on foot but was finally captured. He had the usual stuff in the back of his truck: rifles, AFI clothes, radios and 71 backpacks crammed with…pencils, paper and erasers. These are what caught the soldiers attention. It seems they had stumbled upon the leader of the blockades, a guy name El Queco. He was quickly handed over to the police to be investigated. This caused an uproar with the locals that quickly turned bloody and the police commander in charge of the investigation was gunned down the next morning. He should’ve paid closer attention to the threats and demands to release Queco that had been coming in the whole day.
Witnesses of the murder say the cop was left unrecognizable. I guess that’s a lesson in what happens when a civilian vehicle gets sprayed with no less than 120 rounds of AK, R-15 and Five-seven fire. Yet, El Queco, who is said to be working for the zetas, was not released. He ended up being sent to prison, charged with possession of weapons meant for the exclusive use of the army.
Last Friday, a contingent of 50 local anti-riot cops tried to stop the rioting. They were a pitiful bunch to look at. They didn’t know what to do. Some of them were wearing riot gear and shorts. The tried to advance slowly on a mob of demonstrators blocking a big street, hitting their shields in unison in hopes of instilling fear in the demonstrators and dispersing them. They failed, of course.
The crowd, numbered in a little more than 200, stood its ground. People’s faces were covered and they were armed with steel tubes, wooden sticks, stones and firecrackers. They held their ground, chanting “NO TO THE ARMY.”
Behind the protesters, you could see a couple of luxury SUVs with a bunch of guys watching the action unfold. These are the men behind the anti-government demonstration, the puppeteers behind the curtains.
At some point, the tapados attacked the anti-riot cops and the gang of reporters hanging out with them with firecrackers. Some threw them at the choppers hovering overhead. (These choppers are bought with American aid. Thanks reader!) One reporter described seeing a young demonstrator, cellphone in hand and wearing expensive clothes, approach one of the leaders of the anti-riot unit. The cop took the phone and intermediately returned it to the young man. He says he didn’t know who it was. “Sometimes they just call to threaten us,” he says.
There are way more demonstrators than cops. They begin to swarm the riot police. Eventually the cops order a ceasefire/truce and retreat.
Another day of blockades is over. It wasn’t stopped by the government. The protesters retired when they felt like it. Nobody was detained.
Pancho Montana is an eXiled Special Mexican War on Drugs Correspondent. As a native of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, located in northern Mexico, Mr. Montana lives in Gulf Cartel territory. That means the streets belong to the Zetas, a paramilitary organization trained by the Yankees and hired by the Gulf Cartel to keep things civilized and business booming. Read his last dispatch, How My buddy Was Kidnapped and Pistol-whipped for 22 days…and other Mexican Kidnapping Stories.
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