MEXICO CITY — Mexico will send more troops and federal police to try to control drug violence that has spiraled into warfare in parts of the northeast along the U.S. border, the government said Wednesday.
The goal of "Coordinated Operation Northeast" is to reinforce government authority in the two states most heavily affected by a surge in violence following a split between the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs, federal police spokesman Alejandro Poire said.
The new effort also aims to keep the two cartels from regrouping after the takedown of key leaders, he said. But in a media briefing with all federal security officials and governors of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, the affected states, Poire provided no details or numbers of reinforcements and answered no questions.
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Intense cartel violence has plagued the industrial city of Monterrey in Nuevo Leon and all of Tamaulipas, where cartel firefights and violence this month sent residents fleeing the once-picturesque tourist town of Ciudad Mier and where 72 migrants were found slaughtered earlier this year.
Tamaulipas shares 560 miles (900 kilometers) of Texas border, with some of the busiest border crossings in the world — Nuevo Laredo across from Laredo, Reynosa across from McAllen and Matamoros across from Brownsville.
Gov. Eugenio Hernandez said his state has been a major transit corridor for organized crime since Prohibition, when the U.S. outlawed alcohol in the 1920s into the early '30s.
"But the situation has recently become much more complicated," Hernandez said. "It's greatly affected the dynamic of our state."Story: Residents not returning to town hit by Mexico drug war
Poire touted recent government blows against the two cartels, including the killing earlier this month of Gulf cartel leader Antonio "Tony Tormenta" Cardenas Guillen and the 2008 capture of a founding member of the Zetas, Jaime "The Hummer" Gonzalez Duran, who was sentenced for money laundering and weapons possession earlier this year.
The government already has similar operations in other parts of Mexico, including Chihuahua state, where the border city of Ciudad Juarez across from El Paso, Texas, is considered one of the most violent cities in the world. Such efforts so far have failed to quell drug violence, which has killed 28,000 people since President Felipe Calderon launched his offensive on organized crime in late 2006.
An opinion poll released this week said 49 percent of Mexicans believe the government's drug war has been a failure, compared to 33 percent who said it has been a success.
The splintering of other Mexican gangs has added to the bloodshed.
Earlier Wednesday, federal police said they captured the new leader of a drug gang formerly led by jailed U.S.-born suspect Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, in a blow to a cartel fighting to control the region south of Mexico City to the Pacific resort of Acapulco.
Carlos Montemayor was arrested in Mexico City on Tuesday with the help of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and with information obtained after Valdez's arrest on Aug. 30, said Ramon Pequeno, the federal police anti-narcotics chief.
Montemayor, whose daughter is married to Valdez, took over his faction the splintered Beltran Leyva cartel after "La Barbie" was caught, Pequeno said.
Authorities say Valdez, a Texas native who faces possible extradition to the United States, tried to seize control of the gang after boss Arturo Beltran Leyva died in a December shootout with marines.
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The battle within the cartel was marked by decapitations, bodies hung from bridges and shootouts in the area from Acapulco to the picturesque city of Cuernavaca.
Montemayor also told police that his faction was responsible for kidnapping and killing 20 Mexican tourists in Acapulco, mistaking them for members of the rival La Familia cartel, Pequeno said.
The group of men, many of them mechanics and some of them related to each other, were kidnapped in September while traveling in cars with license plates from their home state of Michoacan — the birthplace of La Familia.
The bodies of the men were found in a mass grave outside Acapulco earlier this month.
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