EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The State Department on Monday continued urging Americans to avoid travel to Tamaulipas due to recent drug cartel violence in Reynosa.
The warning comes despite the arrest of up to 13 people allegedly involved in the killings of 15 civilians. A man identified as Ivan Alejandro N., a reputed leader of a Gulf cartel cell, was among those arrested late last week, the Tamaulipas state police said.
The June 19 attacks are setting off red flags because innocent people were apparently targeted at random. A U.S. security expert says the attacks appear to be the result of a fight inside the Gulf cartel to control the flow of drugs and migrants north and guns and cash south in the Reynosa corridor. He says further such attacks are not out of the question.
“There’s been a pitched battle for Reynosa, which is not as lucrative as Nuevo Laredo but it’s worth a lot of money for whoever holds it,” said Scott Stewart, vice president of intelligence at TorchStone Global. “People continue to talk of the Gulf cartel as a single organization but it’s not. It’s been badly, badly splintered. Now it’s just a network of smaller, competing regional groups.”
And sometimes there’s competition inside the group’s themselves. The June 19 attacks were likely perpetrated by the Matamoros faction of Los Metros against their former brethren in Reynosa. The latter is facing pressure on several fronts and in order to survive is forging an alliance with an even more violent group – the Cartel Jalisco New Generation (CJNG).
Antonio Cardenas, the nephew of (Gulf Cartel leader) Osiel Cardenas tried to reestablish the Gulf cartel a few years ago but failed. So, he started to push from Matamoros into Reynosa with enforcer units called Scorpions and Cyclones to work with one faction of the Metros against the other, Stewart said.
At the same time, the rival Northeast cartel (CDN) is trying to take over Reynosa. The June 19 attacks were meant to bring the Metros even more heat, by forcing Tamaulipas state police and the Mexican National Guard to their territory.
The tactic is known as “heating up the plaza,” Stewart said. That is backing up the group into a corner, and they’re likely to strike back.
“They needed help from somebody to fight both the CDN and the Gulf cartel from Matamoros, so they sought help from the biggest dog out there and CJNG has been very aggressive in all of Mexico,” Stewart said.
That leaves open the possibility of continued violence all along the Tamaulipas border with Texas – Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros.
“We are going to continue to see all these factions fighting each other. We are going to see continued violence between these groups and the security forces called in to calm this down. That’s going to spark shootouts and there remains the possibility of civilians being caught in the crossfire or in more attempts to heat up different plazas,” Stewart said. “It could be possible to see a group of Metros and (Jalisco cartel) maybe go into Matamoros for a reprisal-type attack.”