Battle for CananeaMay 17th, 2007 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime, Politics
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THE BORDER REPORT
ARIZPE, SONORA – The teenage girls saw the dark green Cherokee too late. By the time 16-year-old Monica turned, three men were already upon them, scrambling to grab the girls before they could scream.
“They held a gun to my head and told me they knew where my mother lived, that they’d go after her if I didn’t do what they said,” the girl said, sitting in the back of a state police truck.
“They acted like maniacs,” she said.
The 14-year-old sitting next to her doesn’t say anything, her eyes hollow.
Mechanic shop owner Luis Villela was snatched by the killers as well. Somebody had taken a blade and etched a Z into the skin of his back.
Piecing together information from cops, Mexican army soldiers, Cananea residents, federal sources and the three rescued civilians, this is what transpired on one of the bloodier days in Mexico’s drug war:
The calls started to come in earlier Tuesday night when a convoy of 20-40 pick-up trucks and SUVs passed through the highways 2 and 15 intersection heading north.
Apparently the calls were ignored.
The killers stormed a police substation in Cuitaca outside Cananea, beating three of the officers inside and kidnapping two more.
A second commando stormed the Federal Preventive Police headquarters, disarming the officers inside and shutting down all police radios.
They threatened to return if anyone broadcast what was about to happen.
Then five cops and at least five civilians were snatched in Cananea, off the street, from cars, from substations.
“I thought they were federal officials, they were driving around the city setting up checkpoints; they wore military and AFI uniforms. One SUV had police lights mounted in the windshield,” said Juan, a Cananea resident who didn’t want to give his last name.
“God forbid they return,” he said.
The spin machine was slow to react; state officials finally released a statement at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Gov. Eduardo Bours came out to say that the cops who’d been kidnapped and killed were under investigation by the PGR for their involvement with Ramon Tacho, the Agua Prieta police chief gunned down earlier this year. Tacho was police chief in Cananea for several years before moving to Agua Prieta and the governor had told Mayor Antonio Cuadras not to appoint Tacho in Agua Prieta when he took office last fall.
I find that accusation against the dead officers a little suspicious; if they were being investigated for at least the last eight months why were they still on duty? There’s no presumption of innocence in Mexico.
By Wednesday afternoon, a State Preventative Police helicopter reported finding the convoy tucked away in the mountains north of Arizpe, Sonora.
More than 200 state police officers rushed to Arizpe from Cananea, Nogales and Hermosillo.
Some of the killers rushed a blockade, crashing into the Ford F250 trucks of the state police. A body lay face-down, blood drying on the desert floor from a head shot.
Military Humvees loaded with green-clad soldiers rumbled past the blockade into the hills. More state police arrived, bringing 57,000 rounds of ammunition.
Media at the scene were not allowed beyond the blockade where officers and soldiers were locked in a gunbattle with the killers.
Police say they killed 15 commandos in the hills yesterday. Sources say at least four officers and one soldier were also killed. That remains unconfirmed.
One man lay on the ground, his hands cuffed behind him.
When capture was imminent, he’d jumped into the back of the truck with Villelas, Monica and the second child, claiming to be a kidnap victim himself.
“You’re lying. Look at me; I said look at me. Do you want to know how I know you’re lying? Because I saw you running towards that truck,” said a police commander, pushing his finger into the man’s face.
A Mexican Army lieutenant from Nogales stepped up to the man.
“You tell your cuates that the greens captured you.”