Fear brews in Laredo amid border gun­fights

Austin American-Statesman - - A WORLD & NATION -

NUEVO LAREDO, Ta­mauli­pas — Late-night gun­bat­tles with gangs who forced cit­i­zens from their cars and used the ve­hi­cles to block streets par­a­lyzed Nuevo Laredo, as sounds of gun­fire alarmed Tex­ans on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.

The Nuevo Laredo city govern­ment posted mes­sages on Face­book warn­ing cit­i­zens to stay in­doors as the bat­tles erupted at sev­eral in­ter­sec­tions in the city across from Laredo.

Fright­ened peo­ple on the U.S. side of the border called emer­gency dis­patch­ers af­ter hear­ing gun­fire, Laredo po­lice spokesman Joe Baeza said Thurs­day. But he said there was no spillover vi­o­lence.

“We were get­ting re­ports from peo­ple who live on the river’s edge that they could hear gun­fire and ex­plo­sions from the Mex­ico side,” Baeza said.

“We didn’t have any in­ci­dents on the Amer­i­can side. It’s hard for peo­ple to un­der­stand who don’t live here,” he added. “They’re not Vik­ings. They’re not go­ing to in­vade us. It doesn’t work that way.”

Gangs used stolen cars and buses to block sev­eral main av­enues in Nuevo Laredo.

“For your se­cu­rity, stay in your homes un­til the alert has passed,” the Mex­i­can city’s govern­ment wrote on Face­book.

When the vi­o­lence sub­sided, the govern­ment urged cit­i­zens to come for­ward and re­claim their stolen ve­hi­cles.

Nuevo Laredo is among sev­eral north­ern cities un­der siege from a turf bat­tle be­tween the Gulf drug car­tel and its for­mer en­forcers, the Ze­tas gang of hit men. Vi­o­lence has surged along the northeastern border with the United States since the two gangs split ear­lier this year.

To the west, eight sus­pected drug gang gun­men died in a bat­tle with Mex­i­can sol­diers in the re­mote moun­tains of north­ern Chi­huahua state, the fed­eral Pub­lic Safety Depart­ment said Thurs­day.

The depart­ment cited an in­ter­nal army re­port say­ing the clash oc­curred near the ru­ral town of Madera, about 145 miles south of the U.S. border.

The gun­men ap­par­ently opened fire on an army pa­trol, but Mex­ico’s army didn’t of­fer any in­for­ma­tion on the at­tack or the iden­tity of the at­tack­ers. The area is fre­quently used by gangs to pro­duce and traf­fic drugs.

In Chi­huahua’s state cap­i­tal, also called Chi­huahua, a ban­ner ap­peared on a bridge threat­en­ing vi­o­lence against “in­no­cents” un­less the state govern­ment fires its chief of po­lice in­tel­li­gence, Fer­nando Or­nelas, the Diario de Juarez news­pa­per re­ported Thurs­day.

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