The Gulf coast city of Veracruz fired more than 800 police officers and 300 staff — the city’s entire municipal police force — in response to infiltration by the Zetas drug cartel. And until the city’s police force can be rebuilt, marines first deployed to the city in September to fight the Zetas will take over. “All those who belong to the now defunct Veracruz-Boca del Rio force can join the police again once they have passed the tests of trustworthiness demanded by the national system of public security,” Veracruz state governor Javier Duarte said.
The firings follow earlier dismissal of nearly 1000 Veracruz state police, and follows similar police purges in other Mexican cities, namely Ciudad Juarez.
“However, amid all this work to clean up police, the mass firings could have dangerous side effects,” writes Hannah Stone. “The Zetas — the very gang who supposedly controls the police force — was founded by members of the Mexican special forces who swapped sides. While the dismissed municipal officers are likely far from elite troops, they could be easy recruits for the group, which is likely in need of new footsoldiers.”
In other news, a series of killings made Christmas morning the “deadliest” holiday of the drug war thus far. The killings range from 13 bodies discovered in a truck bearing Veracruz license plates in southern Tamaulipas, and attacks on passengers buses in Veracruz state, which killed 16, including three U.S. citizens visiting for the holidays. Five people also died at a drug rehabilitation center in Jalisco after eating a poisoned Christmas dinner. Drug rehabilitation centers are frequently targeted by drug gangs.
Meanwhile, it was revealed Monday one of the Sinaloa Cartel’s top lieutenants, Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, dubbed “The Engineer,” was nabbed by army special forces in Sinaloa’s state capital Culiacan. Cabrera has been variously reported as in charge of the cartel’s operations and security wing.
Tensions are growing between Argentina and the Falkland Islands, the remote British-ruled archipelago where the United Kingdom once ousted an Argentinian invasion. Earlier this month, the Mercosur trading block — an economic and political partnership between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay — agreed to bar Falklands-flagged ships from docking in member state ports. “Malvinas is not an Argentine cause, it is a global cause, because in the Malvinas they are taking our oil and fishing resources,” Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez de Kircher said.
Uruguayan President Jose Mujica is reportedly not entirely on board with enforcing the ban in Uruguay proper, and said British-flagged ships will still be allowed to enter his country’s ports. However, Falklands Islands ships being barred from South America’s largest economic power, Brazil, will further isolate the islands. In a Christmas message addressed to the islanders, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We will always maintain our commitment to you on any question of sovereignty. Your right to self-determination is the cornerstone of our policy. We will never negotiate on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless you, the Falkland Islanders, so wish. No democracy could ever do otherwise.”
In other news, previously undisclosed secret papers from the British government revealed the ARA General Belgrano, an Argentinian light cruiser sunk by nuclear attack submarine HMS Conqueror during the 1982 war, was headed into the Falkland Islands 200-mile exclusion zone. The sinking of the Belgrano was a source of much controversy during and after the war, as it was torpedoed in supposedly neutral seas en route back to port. The report, rather, says British naval headquarters intercepted an Argentinian message ordering the Belgrano to enter the exclusion zone.
Regardless, “A peace plan had been floated shortly before the sinking, but Argentina had given no indication of willingness to withdraw. Similarly, both the British and Argentine navies understood that the exclusion zone no longer applied to Argentinian military vessels,” Robert Farley wrote last year at the Information Dissemination blog. Technically, the exclusion zone is intended as means to warn away neutral vessels. Military vessels at sea are legal targets, whether in an exclusion zone or not.