Heavily armed Mexican army troops and federal police guard the principal intersections of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, on the Texas border. The Houston Chronicle says the guards visible reminders of the Mexican government’s campaign to quell a bloody battle between warring drug cartels.
Police say 75 people were murdered during 2003 in Nuevo Laredo, population 309,000; most killings appear to be drug-related. Recently, the violence has spilled across the Rio Grande to Laredo. In November, three men were gunned down in Laredo in contract killings linked to the cartel struggle across the river.
The Nuevo Laredo battle is for control of one of the Southwest border’s most lucrative drug trafficking corridors. Mexican drug smuggling organizations from the Pacific states are in a deadly faceoff with resurgent members of the Gulf Cartel, law enforcement officials say.
Nuevo Laredo merchants hope the gangland murders, kidnappings and brazen shootouts — some in broad daylight on busy streets — won’t wipe out the vital tourist trade.
FBI agent Rene Salinas in San Antonio said that even though the fight has bled into Texas, the bureau is staying away: “Unless we determine it is, in one way or another, terrorist-related, the FBI considers it a local issue. We’re mandated to work terrorist cases at this point.”