Mexico bar shootings leave nine dead in Coahuila state

January 7, 2013

Guns by Flickr user barjackBBC News, 1/6/2013

Heavily armed gunmen in northern Mexico have stormed two bars, killing at least nine people. The attacks happened within minutes of each other in the city of Torreon. Police believe they were carried out by gangs fighting for control of drug trafficking in Coahuila state. No arrests have yet been made, police say. Three other bars were targeted in similar attacks in Torreon in the past few days. Most of the victims were in the Tornado bar and nightclub. Witnesses say armed men burst into the bar in the early hours of Sunday and began shooting randomly. Minutes earlier, a similar shooting had taken place at another bar, called Futuro, in another area of the city. Two people were killed there.

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Black sand in the desert

September 1, 2011

The Economist, 9/1/11

DUSTY brown mountains surround Torreón, a big industrial city in the north of Mexico. But one sandy desert hillside shines jet-black. The cerro negro (“black hill”), as it is known locally, is composed of deposits from Latin America’s largest non-ferrous metal smelter, which has blackened the air for more than a century. The plant has created not just an ugly slag heap but a public-health problem whose true extent is still unknown.

The smelter, owned by Met-Mex Peñoles, part of a big Mexican mining group, ran without a roof from 1901 until 2000, blanketing the surrounding area with layers of fine black powder. That mattered less when the smelter was isolated in the desert. But in the 1970s Mexico’s government sold plots of land it owned next to the plant for housing.

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Mexico Soccer Shootout Reflects Nation’s Struggle

August 26, 2011

InSight Crime, 8/26/11

Torreon city has long been popular for drug traffickers, for a number of reasons. Geographically, it lies along a major transportation hub. Torreon is the site of the divide of a major highway coming up from Mexico City and the Central Valley: Monterrey, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo are just a few hours to the east, while Juarez is half a day’s drive west. Torreon is also located on one of the principal eastbound routes out of the Sierra Madre mountain range, the notorious drug-producing region where Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” is rumored to be holed up.

At the same time, as the center of an economically vibrant region of more than a million people, Torreon is also attractive for money launderers. The export-driven growth in Torreon — along with neighboring Gomez Palacio and Lerdo, which together form the metro region known as La Laguna — has brought a welter of international companies like John Deere and Delphi into the area, which in turn has fueled an upsurge in high-end restaurants, luxury car dealerships, and casinos, all of them cash-dependent businesses ideal for hiding the proceeds of the drug trade.

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To Root Out Dirty Police, Mexico Sends In a General

December 23, 2010

The Wall Street Journal, 12/23/2010

His grandfather was the cross-eyed cousin of Mexico’s legendary revolutionary Francisco “Pancho” Villa. Like his famous ancestor, Carlos Villa is a hard-charging general who is charismatic, foulmouthed and not afraid to use his gun.

And some say he is just what Mexico needs as it wrestles with the corruption and violence spawned by the country’s powerful gangs of drug traffickers.

Retired Gen. Villa is the 61-year-old police chief in Torreon, an industrial city in Mexico’s violent northern badlands—a central drug-running route currently being fought over by two of Mexico’s biggest cartels.

Since taking over as the city’s top police officer in January, Mr. Villa has battled not only the city’s drug lords, but also his own police force, which was on the payroll of a powerful cartel.

In March, nearly the entire force walked off the job to demand the general’s ouster. The mayor faced a choice: Fire nearly every officer and leave the city at the mercy of drug gangs, or dump the general and keep corrupt police on the street. He fired the officers.

“It was the best decision I ever made,” says Mayor Eduardo Olmos. “It’s not that our cops weren’t fighting the bad guys—they were the bad guys.”

Crime nearly tripled in Torreon during a summer that saw some of Mexico’s bloodiest drug-related crimes, including the massacre by gunmen of 17 civilians at a party in August. But the mayor and his soldier-turned-police chief are building a new force and seeing some success against crime.

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Freed inmates carried out killings, Mexico police say

July 25, 2010

Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2010

Prison inmates allowed to leave their cells with weapons borrowed from guards carried out last week’s killing of 17 people in northern Mexico, federal authorities said Sunday.

Ricardo Najera, spokesman for the federal attorney general’s office, said prison officials in the northern state of Durango lent the inmates weapons and official vehicles to carry out several tit-for-tat killings on behalf of organized crime.

The deadliest was the July 18 attack on a birthday party at an inn in Torreon, in neighboring Coahuila state. Gunmen sprayed gunfire at revelers who had been summoned by an invitation on Facebook.

Authorities have not specified a motive for the attack, which also left 18 people wounded.

Mexican prisons, overcrowded and poorly run, are hotbeds of violent criminal activity, including telephone extortion schemes and drug operations. Allowing inmates out to act as hit men would mark a new extreme.

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To learn more about Mexico’s judicial system and see what life is like in its prisons watch Presumed Innocent, a documentary airing this week on PBS.


Federal Police Arrive in Torreón (in Spanish)

July 22, 2010

Reforma, 7/22/2010

A contingent of about 200 agents of the Federal Police arrived this morning in Torreón, Coahuila, coming from Mexico City in response to the of the state government following the killing of 17 people attending a party.

The uniformed officers, members of the Federal Support Forces, arrived in 15 pick-up trucks and will wait until Thursday to begin patrolling the metropolitan area Comarca Lagunera.

Federal Police sources indicate that intelligence personell, who will be responsible for the collection and analysis of information regarding local organized crime activities, will also be moved to Torreón.

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Deployment of Federal Police to Torreón Announced (in Spanish)

July 20, 2010

El Universal, 7/20/2010

At the request of the Governor of Coahuila, the Federal Police will arrive to the region of La Laguna to strengthen the combat of organized crime following the massacre of seventeen people at the Italia Inn in the city of Torreón.

In a statement, the Secretary of the Interior indicated that armed forces will reinforce the state in response to the request of Governor Humberto Moreira Valdés, who remarked that since March he has been pointing out the absence of federal agents to address to the lack of security…

At a press conference, the State Attorney Genereal, Jesús Torres Charles, said that according to preliminary investigations, the victims have no connections to any illegal activities.  He detailed that at the site of the massacre, a man identified as Carlos Mota Méndez, who was killed, was celebrating his birthday in the company of the members of an amateur soccer team, friends, and family.

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