Mexico: Several incidents in the past two days point to a significant increase in the threat to the southern US border. The first was the cartel takeover of al Porvenir, a town three miles from Fort Hancock, Texas. Cartel leaflets demand payment or children will be murdered. They also warn of a pending inter-cartel fight in the town, many of whose residents have fled to Forth Hancock and requested asylum.
The other incidents were attacks by cartel fighters on Mexican Army facilities in Reynosa, Matamoros and General Bravo. Mexican General Edgar Luis Villegas said gunmen staged seven separate attacks on the Army, including three blockades, according to The Associated Press 1 April.
Gunmen parked trucks and SUVs outside a military base in the border city of Reynosa trying to block troops from leaving and sparking a gun battle with soldiers. Gunmen also blocked several streets leading to a garrison in the nearby border city of Matamoros. Another gang of armed men opened fire from several vehicles, shooting at soldiers guarding a federal highway in General Bravo, in Nuevo Leon State. Troops fought back, killing 18 gunmen, wounding two and detaining seven more suspects.
Many of the attackers in the past two days are Zetas, according to The Associated Press. The Zetas are Mexican Army deserters trained as assassins. They began as a mercenary force for the Gulf cartel, but evolved their own independent operations and are fighting the cartels, who reportedly want to eliminate them as bad for business.
Attacks against the Army create terror by establishing that the premier defense forces of the state cannot defend themselves, much less its citizens. They also establish that the attackers have the capabilities to deliver on the threat. If these attacks continue in the border region, that part of Mexico will begin to resemble the warlord enclaves of Somalia or Afghanistan.
One commentator worried that the cartels are attempting to establish a lawless buffer zone just inside the Mexican border patterned after the Taliban base areas in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Northwest Frontier Province. If that occurs, or perhaps when that occurs, the refugee flow will increase and violence will follow the refugees.