As Omar Pimentel was sworn in Wednesday as police chief in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, he said he didn’t want to dwell on the fate of his predecessor, Alejandro Dominguez Coello. With good reason, reports the Los Angeles Times. Coello was assassinated last month hours after he took the same oath. The city has assigned four bodyguards to protect its new top cop.
The sweltering city of nearly half a million people just across the river from Laredo, Texas, is at the center of a battle between rival drug gangs vying to control smuggling routes into the United States. More than 80 people have been killed in Nuevo Laredo this year, more than in all of 2004. Many of those corpses have shown signs of mutilation, torture or execution, the calling cards of organized crime. In the wake of the brazen hit on Dominguez, the federal government suspended Nuevo Laredo’s corrupt police force. More than 10% of the city’s 700 cops have been fired for failing drug tests and background checks. In the meantime, army units, state police and agents from Mexico’s version of the FBI have taken over security in Nuevo Laredo, setting up checkpoints and patrols. But the mayhem continues.