Mexican Officer: Military at War with Cartels in Nuevo Laredo

A Mexican officer claims the military is indeed at war with drug cartels for territory in northern Mexico and that vast numbers of children have been left homeless and hungry by the war in the seemingly unreachable cartel-controlled territory.

The officer spoke with me in person on the condition of anonymity. When I asked him to explain which cartels were fighting in Nuevo Laredo, he explained that things were not so simple and not so easily defined.

The officer did not speak in law enforcement terms but instead used military terms. It grew clear that the troubles facing Mexico had progressed from “criminal” to “fighting a well-armed insurgency.”

He stated that the Nuevo Laredo police force has been entirely disbanded, and only the military functions as law enforcement—that all order comes from the military presence in the city. He claimed that the police were not disbanded due to corruption but because they all fled for their lives. He said the cartels had begun targeting them and their families at their homes.

I asked the officer about the existence of children who had been left homeless, parentless, or were otherwise suffering due to the cartels. He replied that they would not be found in the city but that they existed nearby on the outskirts, towards the west. He stated that I could possibly go to see them, but the territory was controlled by cartels and that they would surely kill me if they knew why I was going there.

He stated that I would maybe live if I went but did not ask any questions of any person. I asked if the military or police were not present there, but he stated that the military was not able to go into that territory due to cartels.

Many of the details offered by the Mexican military officer were confirmed during a face-to-face interview with members of the Laredo, TX police department. Laredo Police spokesman Joe Baeza stated that “the entire police force in Nuevo Laredo had been disbanded,” and “there is no police presence there, no one to keep law and order, no one to guaranty anyone’s safety.”

Baeza contradicted the Mexican military officer’s assertion that the police had all fled and claimed, “Many of them were corrupt. There were instances of the Nuevo Laredo police shutting down entire blocks so the gangs could do their business and killings.” He alleged that the Nuevo Laredo police either helped the cartels or they were targeted and killed for not doing so. “But a lot of them were helping the cartels,” he said.

Baeza cited statistics showing how law enforcement has reduced crime on the US side of the border. He claimed, "Laredo, Texas is a safe city with a low crime rate. But Mexico is not safe and if you go there asking questions, criminals will likely kill you.” 

“There are children there who are in need, but there is nothing anyone can do at this time. If you go there trying to help, someone will tell the cartel bosses and they will simply send someone to get you,” said Baeza.


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