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Cablegate: Matamoros Officials: Intel, Coordination, and Convictions

VZCZCXRO3959
RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #3018/01 2922229
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 192229Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8666
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQS USNORTHCOM
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 003018

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SNAR ECON KCRM MX
SUBJECT: MATAMOROS OFFICIALS: INTEL, COORDINATION, AND CONVICTIONS
ELUSIVE IN DRUG FIGHT

1. (U) Participants:

U.S.
The Ambassador
DCM John Feeley
Consul General Michael Barkin (Matamoros)
RSO Michael Flynn (Matamoros)
Mexico
Matamoros Mayor Erick Silva Santos
Tamaulipas State Attorney General Jaime Rodriguez Inurrigarro
SEMAR Vice Admiral Daniel Bozada Sanchez
SEDENA General Brig. D.E.M. J.A. Sanchez
City Council Secretary Raul Cesar Gonzalez Garcia
Public Safety Director Ruben Hiram Gonzalez

2. (SBU) SUMMARY: Matamoros Mayor Erick Silva, local security
commanders, and Tamaulipas Attorney General Jaime Rodriguez
Inurrigarro described a strained security environment and weakened
economy in a 24 September luncheon with the Ambassador.
Conversation focused on deficits in intelligence generation,
coordination among agencies and between levels of government, and
drug offense prosecutions, as well as the limited role of
civil/police forces. The Mayor and Attorney General called for
government reform and consistent delivery of resources. Apart from
SEDENA and SEMAR, whose temporary deployment they praised, civilian
officials portrayed a low-bandwidth relationship with the federal
government. Based on visits to Tijuana and Juarez, the lack of
cooperation between police and military in Matamoros may reflect the
worst of the worst. END SUMMARY.

FIGHTING BLIND AND DISJOINTED
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) The Ambassador asked first about intelligence production
and dissemination. General Sanchez listed his primary intelligence
gathering activities: overflights searching for trafficker routes,
street patrols, intel analysts, and a citizen hotline. His
regimental command is located in Reynosa, along with most of the
analytical operation (apart a small Matamoros-based cell). He
allowed he did not believe he was receiving sufficient, actionable
leads to drive operations. The General qualified the situation in
Matamoros as "not a front of war." The enemy is organized gangsters
who at least in Matamoros look to lay low out of reach of the state.
But they are well armed, he granted. SEDENA's Matamoros street
strength is 100 men; reinforcements from neighboring garrisons of
300 can respond within an hour. Air assets are based in Reynosa;
the General wished he had that capacity locally. The local
Seguridad Publica force is 615 people, but its mission is
maintaining order rather than combating drug traffickers. When
asked whether the varied government forces conducted joint patrols,
the General said that while SEDENA, SEMAR, and PFP were all present
in Matamoros, each operated independently. They request
cross-service assistance in emergencies, but there is little
day-to-day coordination.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador turned to a much-publicized September 4
gunfight. The General said the action began when an army patrol
encountered suspect vehicles (a convoy of SUVs with tinted windows).
The engagement was not a raid and not intel-driven. Spotted on the
street, the suspects tried to flee. The General said they were
transporting a senior drug trafficking organization (DTO) leader;
they fought ferociously, knowing their chain of command would kill
them were the chief in their care apprehended. Local police did not
respond to the firefight. Stray bullets landed on the U.S. side of
the border, compelling the University of Texas-Brownsville to close
early.

ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE AND TRANSITION TO CIVILIAN LEAD
--------------------------------------------- ------

5. (SBU) The Ambassador noted the security forces rarely assembled a
crime scene and that the overwhelming majority of those detained in
operations do not go to court. The army is limited in what it can
do at a crime scene. Local and state police do not enter the crime
scene because drug offenses are jurisdictionally outside their
scope. Either a narco dies in a firefight, he confesses under
military interrogation, or in time he goes free. Without criminal
convictions and jail time, the fight is ultimately not sustainable.

6. (SBU) The Ambassador emphasized that the Mexican military needed
an exit strategy. Mexico must build up its civil police and
prosecutorial forces to fill much of the space currently occupied by
the military. The DCM asked how the Merida Initiative could best
push aid to the state and local level. The Mayor said Mexico needed
trustworthy people in security jobs ("gente que sea confiable"),
more arms and equipment to mount more patrols, more investment in
the army and navy, and better salaries. He underlined the need for
follow-through. Who would fund initiatives after USG funding runs
its course? It's great to stand up a new unit, but how would he pay
for its fuel and maintenance?

REFORM AND COORDINATION
-----------------------

7. (SBU) The Mayor, formerly a representative in the federal Chamber
of Deputies, listed three reforms he considered necessary to win:

*Wholesale reform by the state to clarify the roles of the various
federal forces. For example, the local Seguridad Publica force has
more elements than SEDENA in Matamoros, but does not have the
statutory authority to hunt drug traffickers.

*Social reform to provide the jobs, education, and opportunity
necessary to prevent young Mexicans from joining the cartels.

*A new approach to public communications that reins in irresponsible
journalism, better conveys the government's message and shapes a
less hostile operating environment.

The Attorney General concurred that constitutional reform was
needed, driven by President Calderon. He added that SEDENA, PGR,
and SSP are all short resources. Salaries are too low. The major
mechanism in the area for interagency coordination is a state-level
committee that meets in Ciudad Victoria, the state capital, every 15
days. Its readouts go to CISEN but are not in real time and do not
drive operational activity. Noting the value the state government
placed on cooperation with the USG, he mentioned Tamaulipas
officials had met with ICE Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Pena on
20 September and were optimistic of concluding an information
sharing agreement.

8. (SBU) The Ambassador asked how local and state level government
communicated with the federal level. The Mayor said that at the
local level, he lived with and reacted to the drug-driven troubles
daily. The federal government, at a strategic remove, acts via
programs and plans. Local-federal channels of communication are
poor. In Ciudad Victoria, the Governor of Tamaulipas has more clout
and a more direct link to Mexico City.

RECESSION, VIOLENCE, AND INVESTMENT
-----------------------------------

9. (SBU) Stepping back from security, the Mayor detailed five chief
concerns: crossing time at the border, illegal crossings, the effect
of the U.S. economic downturn on Matamoros, distribution of wealth
and social problems, and security. The weakened local economy was
of particular worry. Declines in tourism, remittances, and oil
receipts and the H1N1 influenza have combined to push up
unemployment (a potential boon to DTO recruiting efforts). The
economy will improve, but fear in the business community of the DTOs
and kidnappings may still drag on investment. An indicator to watch
is the number of Tamaulipans living in McAllen and San Antonio.
Perceptions are worse than reality, but the Mayor admitted he faced
a challenge convincing residents, tourists, and businesspeople to
return to Matamoros.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: While violence is not at the level seen in border
cities to the west, security forces in Matamoros are
underperforming. They are not generating actionable intelligence,
coordinating among security agencies, patrolling jointly or
effectively, or getting prosecutions. Measures to protect the
population and disaggregate citizens and drug traffickers are
underdeveloped. Local citizens seem to support the military
deployment but steer clear of patrols for fear of cross-fire.
Government hotlines receive few tips, a sign would-be informants
doubt the government can protect them from retribution. In the
search for better results, Matamoros may benefit by applying lessons
learned in positive trending areas of operation such as Tijuana.

PASCUAL

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