158 cops detained in La Laguna
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By Chris Covert
A total of 158 police agents from two eastern Durango cities have been detained by Durango state authorities for their alleged connection with organized crime, according to Mexican news accounts.
In an news article posted on the website of Animal Politico, Durango Fiscalia General del Estado (FGE) or attorney general, Sonia de la Garza Fragoso was quoted in an interview featured on Radio Formula Friday that 110 police agents from Gomez Palacio and 48 from Ciudad Lerdo were placed on at least six buses and taken to the state capital to face confidence tests and possible criminal charges.
According to a news report on La Silla Rota news daily Friday, a total of six arrest warrants were issued including two for police chiefs. The two police chiefs were identified as Gomez Palacio Secretaria de Seguridad Publica (SSP) or police chief Victor Hugo Cordero and Ciudad Lerdo SSP Andres Balderas Perez.
In the account of the radio interview Fiscalia Garza Fragoso said that the detainees were suspected of having ties of Los Zetas and Pacifico cartel. Some of the police agents were also suspected of kidnapping and of being lookouts for organized crime.
Garza Fragoso was also quoted as saying while some of the detainees were facing warrants from a Durango state judge, some would likely be released if no connection with organized crime could be found.
Ciudad Lerdo and Gomez Palacio form the Durango part of La Laguna, which includes Torreon in western Coahuila and several municipalities from both states.
Late Friday El Siglo de Torreon news daily reported a gunfight between a Policia Federal road patrol and armed suspects in Moderna colony in Torreon near the intersection of bulevars Ramos Arizpe and Constitucion, which left one Policia Federal agent wounded. The operation to counter armed suspects in the area included the use of a helicopter. The report also said that Mexican Army and other federal security forces were present in the Durango side, presumably meaning naval infantry units, or possibly Polica Federal units.
La Laguna had a security operation in place dubbed Seguro Laguna, which began in October of 2011. The operation was ended by then interior minister Alejandro Poire last November 30th, who declared the operation a success. Violence had been in decline just prior to the operation's cessation.
However, renewed concerns over the lack of federal security in the area sent Durango state officials, including Durango governor Jorge Herrera Caldera, scrambling to seek more security from the federal government.
At the time, Federal security forces had been shifted from the south such as in La Laguna to the north to deal with the fallout from a mass prison escape in Piedras Negras, leaving other parts of Coahuila with a reduced level of security. Since December 1st, violence has slowly been on the upswing in the area.
Last week Twitter reports said that Mexican naval infantry units were in the area patrolling in the Durango side of La Laguna, while Policia Federal units were observed in the Coahuila side. All of this renewed federal activity has come without any formal declaration by Mexico's new interior minister Miguel Osorio Chong, who is now under a newly implemented requirement to release information on new and ongoing security operations.
According to La Silla Rota, Mexican Army units had moved into the Durango side in order to disarm police. The Mexican army is normally charged with enforcement of Mexico's gun and munitions control law, the Firearms and Explosives Act which allows military Zone commanders to routinely disarm police to check weapons for illegal use or possession. Last week traffic police were disarmed among other police elements, so presumably the disarmament was in anticipation of Friday's detentions.
Fiscalia Garza Fragoza was quoted in the La Silla Rota article as saying Mexican Army units have already started routine patrol duties in the area.
Chris Covert writes Mexican Drug War and national political news for Rantburg.com
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