Drug cartel internal feud leaves 28 dead in Mexico11 april 2014, 13:36
An internal power struggle within the once-powerful Gulf drug cartel has left 28 people dead in gunfights on Mexico's northeastern coast this week, AFP reports according to authorities.
Ten suspected criminals were arrested after a series of shootouts rocked the Gulf of Mexico towns of Tampico and Ciudad Madero, in the state of Tamaulipas, between Saturday and Tuesday.
Authorities also seized cocaine, 16 high-caliber rifles, three handguns and 11 vehicles, said the Tamaulipas Coordination Group of federal and state security forces.
The group said in a statement that the 28 deaths were linked to "clashes or score-settling between criminal groups" and that calm had been restored in the area on Wednesday.
Separately, a Lancair plane belonging to the Navy crashed during a reconnaissance mission near a highway close to Tampico, killing the pilot and another soldier, officials said.
The head of the federal police, Monte Alejandro Rubido, said the violence stemmed from an internal dispute that followed three "significant" arrests, though he did not name the suspects or criminal organizations.
A Tamaulipas government spokesman told AFP that the street battles were a struggle for control of the criminal business following the February detention of suspected local Gulf Cartel leader Javier Garza, alias Comandante 14.
"With the downfall of the suspected leader of the southern region, this group was left headless and began an internal battle to see who would take it," the spokesman said on condition of anonymity.
The spokesman said the violence took authorities by surprise because the area had been calm for a while. He said the port of Tampico was a strategic shipping point, including for the cartel.
Tampico Mayor Gustavo Torres said earlier this week that the violence in his port city was apparently linked to the Gulf Cartel.
Weakened drug cartel
The Gulf Cartel was once the dominant gang on Mexico's northeastern coast. But it has been weakened by the arrests of several leaders and a bloody turf war with its former ally, the Zetas.
Last year, the authorities captured Gulf Cartel leader Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, who had taken over the group following the September 2012 arrest of top capo Jorge Eduardo "El Coss" Costilla.
In addition to the violence in the south of the state, Tamaulipas was rocked by skirmishes that left seven more people dead along its border with the US state of Texas last weekend.
Three people were killed Sunday in clashes between criminals near the Rio Grande in the border town of Ciudad Mier.
Another four armed civilians died on Saturday in a gun battle between soldiers and suspected criminals that erupted in nearby Ciudad Miguel Aleman after a hotel was attacked.
Earlier this month, the border city of Reynosa -- a key crossing point for goods between the two countries -- was rocked by shootings and street blockades by gunmen following the arrest of another suspected Gulf Cartel leader, Jesus Alejandro Leal.
More than 80,000 people have died in drug violence in Mexico since 2006, when then president Felipe Calderon deployed troops to crack down on cartels.
Rubido said the government would deploy federal police reinforcements to the southern part of Tamaulipas.
The Tamaulipas Coordination Group has also decided to step up patrols in the area and important highways.
Governor Egidio Torre Cantu insisted on Wednesday that his state does not need a special federal security envoy such as the one who took over security matters in the troubled western state of Michoacan in January.