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Cablegate: Monterrey Shootouts Leave 17 Dead, Expose Shortcomings In

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DE RUEHMC #0453/01 3481523
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P 141523Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL MONTERREY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4146
INFO RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 5231
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239746
2009-12-14 15:23:00
09MONTERREY453
Consulate Monterrey
CONFIDENTIAL
09MONTERREY415
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PP RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHMC #0453/01 3481523
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 141523Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL MONTERREY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4146
INFO RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO PRIORITY 5231
RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQ WASHDC
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USNORTHCOM
RUEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHMC/AMCONSUL MONTERREY 9774

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MONTERREY 000453

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2019
TAGS: PGOV KCRM KCOR ASEC SNAR PHUM SOCI MX
SUBJECT: MONTERREY SHOOTOUTS LEAVE 17 DEAD, EXPOSE SHORTCOMINGS IN
STATE'S CRIME FIGHTING APPARATUS

REF: A) MONTERREY 415

MONTERREY 00000453 001.2 OF 003


CLASSIFIED BY: Bruce Williamson, Consul General, US Consulate
General Monterrey, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: A wave of gang violence rocked Monterrey on
December 4 as well-armed criminals faced down the Mexican
marines in the Monterrey suburb of Juarez during an attempt to
arrest a Los Zetas drug gang leader implicated in the
assassination of a suburban police chief. The day culminated in
a major jailbreak which saw 23 alleged gang members and
sympathizers set free and led to an hours-long shutdown of a
major northern thoroughfare. In the aftermath of the action,
termed by one newspaper as Nuevo Leon's "bloodiest day," 17
people lay dead, several more were wounded and authorities
arrested 16 gang members. Officials are still unsure as to
whether the original target of the operation, Ricardo Almanza
Morales, aka "El Gori 1" escaped or was killed in the fight.
The run-up to the firefight and the events surrounding it
underscored a concerning lack of coordination, and possibly
will, among key elements in the fight against the drug cartels.
End summary.

Arrest Attempt Becomes Battle
-----------------------------
2. (SBU) On December 4, Mexican marines, dispatched by Navy
commanders, stormed a ranch in the Monterrey suburb of Juarez in
an attempt to capture Ricardo Almanza Morales, aka "El Gori 1,"
the alleged planner of the November 4 execution of the police
chief in the Monterrey suburb of Garcia (ref A.) The fighting
began just before Friday rush hour and much of the later action
occurred in a suburban area, next to the major highway from
Monterrey to the border crossing in Hidalgo, TX, which was
closed for much of the evening. This phase of the battle
culminated in a thirty minute shootout during which eight
members of the Los Zetas drug gang and one marine were killed.
Nine Zeta gangsters were arrested.

Phase 2: Firefight Intensifies
-------------------------------
3. (C) The battle escalated when, following the initial
confrontation, the marines requested support from a local army
unit to transport a wounded marine and prisoners from the ranch.
A group of Los Zetas traveling in a convoy of 10 - 12 SUVs
attacked the army reinforcements using grenades and high-powered
assault rifles as they were en route to rendezvous with the
marines. A second shootout ensued, in which two more Zeta
members and one innocent bystander were killed and a young girl
was mortally wounded. Multiple vehicles exploded during the
battle, killing at least two unidentified passengers who were
handcuffed in the back of an SUV belonging to Los Zetas.
Military officials arrested seven Zetas during this second
confrontation and an unknown number of gangsters fled the scene.
The next day, local newspapers prominently featured graphic
photos of the dead and wounded along with burning vehicles. One
local newspaper, "El Milenio," termed December 4 Nuevo Leon's
"bloodiest day" in Mexico's drug war.

Jailbreak in Aftermath
----------------------
4. (C) Approximately one hour after the second gun battle, a
group of Los Zetas drove through the gate of a jail in Escobedo,
another Monterrey suburb, killed two federal police agents,
wounded several others and released 23 of the 24 prisoners being
held at the facility. DEA sources said that fifteen of the
escapees, including two police officers, were members of a Zeta
kidnapping cell arrested by the Mexican army in October. The
two officers in charge of the jail claimed that they were out
getting hot dogs when their jail was overrun. This was the
fourth jailbreak organized by Los Zetas in Monterrey's consular
district in the last eight months. (Comment: According to law
enforcement sources, the jailbreaks have become particularly
troublesome, not just because of their increasing frequency and
brazenness, but because prisoners (especially police officers)
who are released by Los Zetas become instantly beholden to them,
if they were not already. End comment.)

Victims or Perpetrators?
------------------------
5. (C) Press reports and law enforcement authorities claimed
that the handcuffed passengers killed in the second
confrontation were kidnapping victims, but Monterrey DEA sources
said the bodies were burned beyond recognition and may never be
identified. Mexican law enforcement sources told Post that
narcotraffickers now commonly handcuff themselves if it appears
that capture is imminent in an effort to look like innocent
kidnapping victims and avoid arrest. (Comment: High profile
kidnappings have continued in Monterrey and its affluent San
Pedro suburb. Three prominent San Pedro businessmen have been
kidnapped over the last two weeks, with one paid ransom

MONTERREY 00000453 002.2 OF 003


purportedly around US$ 5 million. Two of the kidnapping victims
are still missing. End comment.)

"Gori 1 - 4": The Almanza Brothers
-----------------------------------
6. (C) The marines' target, Ricardo Almanza Morales (aka El
Gori 1), is one of four brothers involved with Los Zetas. Each
of the Almanza brothers is known as "El Gori" (a derivative of
the word gorilla in Spanish) because of their distinctive facial
features. Brothers Raymundo Almanza (El Gori 2) and Octavio
Almanza (El Gori 4) are both in custody in Mexico. El Gori 2
was arrested in May and, according to DEA sources, had been in
charge of organizing Los Zetas arms shipments from Belize and
Guatemala. El Gori 4 is the suspected mastermind of the
February execution of General Mauro Enrique Tello Quinones in
Cancun and has been implicated in the 2008 slayings of nine army
soldiers in Monterrey.

7. (C) El Gori 3, Eduardo Almanza, is also associated with Los
Zetas, but law enforcement sources say that he is the least
important and influential of the brothers within the
organization. All of the brothers were close associates of
former Monterrey plaza boss Sigifredo Najera-Talamantes, aka
"Canicon", who was arrested in Saltillo, Coahuila this March and
are suspected to have been involved in numerous kidnappings and
homicides in the Monterrey metropolitan area.

Which "Gori" Was Killed? Confusion Over Identities
--------------------------------------------- ------
8. (C) The press has widely reported that Ricardo Almanza (El
Gori 1) died during the first firefight at the Juarez ranch on
December 4. However, Post DEA determined that, based on army
fingerprint records, only Eduardo Almanza (El Gori 4) could be
confirmed dead. To further confuse the situation, on December
8, a woman claiming to be the mother of the Almanza brothers
told the media that she does not have a son named Ricardo and
that only her son Eduardo had been killed. DEA sources also
confirmed that, contrary to media reports, Monterrey Zeta leader
Jesus Alvarado-Sigaros, aka "El Flaco," had not been listed
among those killed in Juarez.

Law Enforcement, Military Struggle to Effectively Face Cartels
--------------------------------------------- -----------------
9. (C) In Nuevo Leon, the public has applauded the army, with
many business and civic leaders noting that over the past
eighteen months it has been the only local institution capable
of directly confronting the cartels. In this case, despite
having intelligence as to Ricardo Almanza's location, army
officials declined to take action, claiming his hideout was too
well-fortified. In contrast, after navy officials learned of
his whereabouts, they sent the marines to arrest him - the first
such marine action in the state. The army was apparently
unaware of the marines' activities until they called the army
for support during the operation. Afterwards, army generals
complained to Post that the navy action had made them look
ineffective.

10. (C) At a December 7 meeting with CG, ICE, DEA and ATF,
Nuevo Leon State Prosecutor Alejandro Garza y Garza used the
events in Juarez to highlight shortcomings in the local law
enforcement community. He said that the first two local police
officers to arrive at the gun battle in Juarez fled the scene.
(Note: State Secretary of Public Safety Carlos Jauregui
confirmed to RSO on December 10 that several police officials
reportedly fled after the marines appeared. End note.)

11. (C) To further illustrate the complexity of coordinating
law enforcement actions, Garza displayed aerial photos of a
parking lot at the Santa Lucia Riverwalk (a popular Monterrey
tourist destination modeled after the river walk in San Antonio)
where gangsters armed with semi-automatic weapons were charging
visitors for parking and using the lot to store stolen cars. By
the time the state called the military in to dislodge them from
the lot (located on state land) and regained control of the
property, the stolen cars had disappeared.

Comment
-------
12. (C) The confusion surrounding this latest incident in
Monterrey served to highlight the lack of coordination and will
among law enforcement officials as they struggle to deal with
increasing organized crime violence. The army, long considered
the most reliable partner in the struggle to contain the
cartels, surprisingly refused to take the lead in capturing a
criminal responsible for assassinating a former army general,
leaving the navy as the only dependable actor in this case.

MONTERREY 00000453 003.2 OF 003

13. (C) Cartels have continued to operate with impunity in
Nuevo Leon. Ricardo Almanza (El Gori 1) moved openly in a large
convoy throughout the Monterrey metropolitan area for a month
after being named the prime suspect behind the assassination of
the Garcia police chief, the state was unable to stop a major
prison break despite having already been alerted to intense
criminal activity in the area, and organized criminals operated
a stolen car ring in broad view on state property. Authorities
also lack the forensic capability needed to identify victims
and, presumably, to conduct thorough crime scene investigations.
If there is a positive side, it appears that government
operations have forced Los Zetas to resort to risky jail breaks
to replenish their ranks with seasoned gangsters. However, due
to a combination of police incompetence and corruption, they
have been able to successfully do so.

14. (C) The long-term ability of the government to fight the
cartels is hampered by budgetary concerns (only around 3.5% of
the state's budget is dedicated to law enforcement and
prosecution) and corruption. Secretary of Public Safety Carlos
Jauregui and State Prosecutor Alejandro Garza y Garza confirmed
to RSO on December 10 that Nuevo Leon is having difficulty
recruiting competent police officers because of low pay and
safety concerns and that its new C5 command and control facility
is understaffed. (Note: In an effort to address concerns over
chronically low pay, Jauregui has sought to increase police
salaries and started a program to help officers pay for housing.
End note)

15. (C) Jauregui told RSO that his force of 4,000 police
officers is 1,000 members below its target size and that, of
those 4,000 officers, only about one quarter are doing
substantive police work, the rest being assigned to
administrative or protective duties. It is unlikely that the
state will be able to fill those 1,000 positions any time soon;
Jauregui admitted that only 10 percent of prospective police
recruits are able to clear the vetting process. Until state
officials address these inherent problems with law enforcement,
Nuevo Leon seems condemned to take one step forward and two
backward in its ongoing campaign against organized crime.
WILLIAMSONB

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