EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The president of Mexico this week will visit three states immersed in drug cartel violence.
The three-day tour will take President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to Guanajuato, Jalisco and Colima starting on Wednesday.
Guanajuato is home to thousands of American ex-pats and the site of the recent massacre of 27 people at a drug rehab clinic. Jalisco is a stronghold to the drug cartel blamed for the failed assassination attempt of Mexico City’s police chief late last month. In Colima, a federal judge and a state lawmaker were murdered this year.
“We will be in those three states to support the actions taking place to bring about peace and protect and support the people,” Lopez Obrador said at a Monday morning news conference.
The president did not say what specific support he’d be bringing to police forces there. Lopez Obrador drew anger and disbelief the last time he visited a region controlled by a drug cartel for publicly showing sympathy to the mother of a drug lord jailed in the United States.
The drug cartels since late last year have aggressively used firepower to tell the Mexican government to stay away from their business, U.S. analysts say.
Cartels in open rebellion against Mexican government
Last October, hundreds of Sinaloa cartel gang members laid siege to the city of Culiacan following the arrest of Ovidio Guzman, son of jailed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The army released Ovidio Guzman after the cartel set fire to numerous cars and buildings and shot several people dead.
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is being blamed for the June 26 assassination attempt on Mexico City Police Chief Omar García Harfuch and has engaged a local gang — the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel — for control of drug sales and other criminal activities in Guanajuato.
“They are most likely responsible for the attack on the Mexico City police chief. In that sense, they are now engaged in full confrontation with the Mexican government,” said Cesar Martinez, Latin American analyst for Stratfor, an Austin-based geopolitical security firm.
The assassination attempt may have come in response to the June 3 seizure of $1.1 billion in Jalisco cartel assets in Mexico and the United States, Martinez said.
Mexico’s financial intelligence unit played a prominent role in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-led “Operation Blue Agave.” The seized bank accounts and other assets were linked to alleged profits from the trafficking and sale of fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin in the United States.
Politics get in way of peace in Guanajuato
The street war in Guanajuato stems from the Jalisco cartel seeking to control the highways leading to the U.S.-Mexico border, analysts say.
“It is a very important state commercially. It is the center of highways leading to most of the states — north, south, east and west,” Martinez said.
It’s also a state where partisan politics — and the resilience of a local gang — have added to the violence.
“One of the (events) that brought this about was the failed operation to capture the leader of this (Santa Rosa) cartel. Now there are arguments between the federal government and the state government over what went wrong or who was responsible for this failed operation,” Martinez said.
In June, Mexican authorities effected search warrants in the city of Celaya, Guanajuato looking for Jose Antonio Yepez Ortiz, a.k.a. “El Marro” (The Sledgehammer), the alleged leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima group. They failed to find him but arrested his mother.
What followed was a spree of street violence not quite on the level of Culiacan, but with a similar result. A judge not only freed Maria Eva Ortiz, the mother, on insufficient evidence, but also allowed bond for Rodolfo Juan Yepez. The latter is The Sledgehammer’s father who had been jailed since March for driving a stolen car.
Not long after, gunmen broke into a drug rehab center in Celaya, executing 27 recovering addicts. The Jalisco cartel and the Santa Rosa de Lima gang are accusing each other of committing the massacre.
Guanajuato was the state in Mexico where Lopez Obrador got the lowest vote percentage in the presidential election.
“They voted for PAN (National Action Party). What we have there is also a political confrontation between the state and federal government. That would be part of it,” Martinez said regarding the unchecked violence in one of the states the president of Mexico will visit this week.