Cartel turf wars in Chihuahua have claimed the lives of two local police chiefs within a week.
In one of the most recent attacks, the police chief in Casas Grandes, Marco Antonio Lopez Chavez, died during a targeted assassination as he drove his SUV down a local avenue. An unknown gunman pulled up alongside his vehicle and fired multiple shots from a .45 caliber handgun, killing him. According to Mexico’s Proceso Magazine, Lopez received multiple death threats prior to his murder.
Casas Grandes is one of six cities where their local police departments were taken over by the Chihuahua State Attorney General’s Office while the agencies undergo additional vetting and training. Breitbart Texas spoke with Mexican law enforcement sources who revealed that the new process is being carried out in key cities where the law enforcement apparatus is rumored to have connections with organized crime. The six cities are Casas Grandes, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Madera, Temósachi, Gomez Farías, and Ignacio Zaragoza; all saw numerous officers fired, while others chose to resign.
The murder of López Chávez follows Edgar Perez de Peña, a top police commander in the city of Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua. As Breitbart Texas reported, Perez de Peña was shot in the head from behind as he ate with his wife at a local restaurant. Over the weekend, in the city of Guerrero, gunmen murdered two off-duty officers attending a funeral. According to El Diario de Chihuahua, the officers were identified as 45-year-old Javier Eduardo Montes Olivas and 39-year-old Cristian Lara Zapata.
The ongoing attacks on Mexican law enforcement appear to be an escalation of violence between the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartels for control of key drug trafficking and human smuggling territories. Historically speaking, drug cartels in Mexico have relied on some corrupt law enforcement officials to aid operations. Recent efforts by the State to clean up security forces and target cartel operations led to a backlash by cartel hitmen.
The wave of violence also struck the border city of Juarez, which is immediately south of El Paso, Texas. In one attack, members of the Barrio Azteca gang (part of the Juarez Cartel) killed two agents with the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office and a third was wounded in an attack believed to be payback for targeting a cartel prostitution operation inside a state prison. Soon after, a team of gunmen ambushed two municipal police officers in Ciudad Juarez who were responding to a call about suspicious armed people outside a bank.
Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime and street gangs. Arce has worked in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, and recently completed a three-year assignment in Monterrey, Mexico, working out of the Consulate for the United States Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program, where he was the Regional Program Manager for Northeast Mexico (Coahuila, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas.)