Local police were relieved of duty Tuesday in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros and Reynosa as army troops disarmed the officers and searched for evidence that might link them to drug traffickers, reports the Los Angeles Times. In Nuevo Laredo, soldiers surrounded police headquarters at 8 a.m. and ordered officers to remain inside. Federal troops conducted a similar operation in Tijuana last January, at the beginning of an offensive against Mexico’s drug cartels and their allies in the police. President Felipe Calderon has vowed to break the power of the traffickers, who wield wide influence over local authorities and intimidate news media.
At least two drug-trafficking organizations are fighting for control of Nuevo Laredo and its border crossings, a lucrative source of income for smugglers. Observers in Nuevo Laredo say it is an open secret that many police officers cooperate with traffickers. On Tuesday, all on-duty police officers there were confined to their stations and none patrolled the city. About 300 army troops established checkpoints throughout the city. The similar operation last year in Tijuana lasted three weeks, with more than 3,500 soldiers and federal agents sent into the city. Many police patrolled unarmed, and a few were seen with slingshots until their weapons were returned.