GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Authorities in Mexico’s second-largest city were scrambling Wednesday amid car thefts and other attacks, “narco-blockades” of its main streets, a grenade blast and clashes between criminal gangs and police.
Sources in the Jalisco state Public Safety Office confirmed that roadblocks had been set up in Guadalajara as well as on routes that link that city with the towns of Chapala, Zapotlanejo and Tepatitlan.
Criminals also set three public buses ablaze and forced drivers of cargo trucks and private automobiles to abandon their vehicles and then used them to obstruct roads.
Mexico’s drug gangs frequently use vehicles as barricades during attacks or gun battles to prevent police reinforcements from arriving at the scene.
No one was killed in the violent incidents, Jalisco authorities said in a preliminary report, while municipal officials in the Guadalajara suburb of Tonala said a police officer was slightly wounded in a grenade attack.
They said the grenade was launched at police headquarters at around 9:00 p.m. Tuesday by two assailants riding on a motorcycle.
Throughout the night, police and army troops were deployed to different parts of Guadalajara, resulting in shootouts and pursuits of suspects.
The security forces detained five people, including three minors.
Tuesday’s arrest of two suspected high-level drug traffickers may have triggered the attacks, Jalisco government chief of staff Fernando Guzman Perez Pelaez told a local television station without revealing the names of the detainees.
But banners signed by the Milenio cartel and hung on bridges in the city last Friday warned state Gov. Emilio Gonzalez Marquez that “Jalisco could go up in flames” and called on him to “impose order” on the state police, headed by Luis Carlos Najera.
According to anonymous allegations, Jalisco’s state police only combats some criminal gangs while protecting others.
Mayors of Guadalajara’s metropolitan area came together Wednesday for an emergency meeting to determine what actions were needed to guarantee citizens’ safety, while Gov. Gonzalez Marquez canceled a scheduled working tour of the southeastern state of Campeche and instead held talks with his top security officials.
Before this week, Jalisco had been relatively untouched by the drug-related violence that has claimed more than 34,000 lives since December 2006.
That was the month President Felipe Calderon took office and almost immediately declared war on Mexico’s cartels, deploying tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers nationwide.
The strategy has led to the elimination of several crime bosses and record drug seizures over the past four years, including the confiscation of 23 tons of cocaine in a single operation in November 2007.
But the amount of seized drugs represents a small percentage of the estimated total that originates in or is smuggled through Mexico. EFE