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f_0018900_16161 - Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone are...

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AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico—Just before noon on February 15, 2007, four municipal police officers in Aguascalientes, the pictur- esque capital of the central Mexican state bearing the same name, were called to a mundane road accident. An overturned, black Chevy Suburban with out-of-state license plates was blocking traffic on the quiet Boulevard John Paul II that runs through the city’s sleepy western suburbs. When local police commander Juan José Navarro Rincón and his three colleagues ar- rived, they saw two men who did not appear to be hurt, removing AK-47 assault rifles and police uniforms from the crashed vehi- cle to a white Nissan sport utility vehicle ( SUV ) parked nearby. Navarro Rincón called for reinforcements. He was about to arrest the pair when two other cars came to an abrupt stop just up the road. Three gunmen climbed out and opened fire with automatic weapons. Navarro Rincón was killed in- stantly. Three other officers also died. The killings, dubbed “Black Thursday” by the local press, were the first shootings of police officers in Aguascalientes by drug gangs. Until then, Aguascalientes had been a quiet place, immune to the violence that was raging in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border and elsewhere in the country. The firefight sparked a manhunt throughout the state’s rocky plateaus, involving some five dozen federal police patrol cars and a mili- tary helicopter. Later that day, with the gunmen and the drivers of the escape vehi- cles captured and in police custody, Aguas- calientes State Attorney Xavier González Fisher tried to reassure the rattled public. He told the media that the burst of violence was an isolated incident. “Aguascalientes is quiet, is at peace...this does not happen every day.” For a long time, his words might have served as an accurate description of the state of affairs in Aguascalientes. But the incident was a telltale mark that the bloody, corrosive nexus of drugs, crime, and corruption growing malignantly along the Mexico-U.S. border has metastasized to re- gions previously immune to this cancer. Moving Northward In some respects, the Mexican problem is the result of Colombia’s successful war on the Cali and Medellín drug cartels in the 1990s. Pablo Escobar Gaviria, the notorious leader of the Medellín Cartel, was gunned down by police commandos in 1993. Broth- ers Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Ore- juela, who formed and ran the Cali Cartel, were captured in 1995, and later extradited to the United States to serve 30-year prison sentences. Although the Cali and Medellín © 2010 World Policy Institute 29 Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone are senior directors of Kroll Associates. Inside Mexico’s Drug War Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone
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cartels continued to operate, the removal of their leaders weakened them and created an opening for Mexican organized crime groups, such as the Guadalajara Cartel led by Miguel “El Pardino” (“the Godfather”) Ángel Félix Gallardo and his successors, to seize control of the lucrative North Ameri- can drug trade.
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