While daily violence in beleaguered Ciudad Juarez saturates the headlines in the US media, the two-year war between the Zetas and the Mexican military in Nuevo Leon has gone virtually unnoticed north of McAllen, Texas.
That changed about 2:30 Friday afternoon when a contingent of Mexican marines acting on an “anonymous tip” struck a Zetas safe house in Colony Woods near Benito Juarez, the bustling industrial outlier of Monterrey.The marines, in coordination with army units, were seeking to apprehend one of Los Zetas more notorious regional leaders, Ricardo Almanza Morales, el Gori 1–one of four brothers who have been with the Zetas since 1997 when they left the Mexican army and hooked up with Heriberto Lazcano and other ex-GAFEs to form the original Zetas.
Military intelligence had tagged the brothers Octavio, Eduardo, Raymundo and Ricardo–as being behind the executions of General Mauro Enrique Tello Quinones in Cancun earlier this year and General Juan Esparza Garcia in the town of Garcia, Nuevo Leon. Authorities eventually concluded that Ricardo was directly responsible for the hits and put a 15 million peso reward on his head.
Morales had just arrived at the estate in Colony Woods where he had scheduled to distribute Christmas bonuses to his regional street crew, los Falcones–the Hawks, when the Mexican marines, acting on an “anonymous tip” rolled in.
What ensued was one of the narcoguerra’s bloodiest days to date–beginning with a 45-minute full-auto gun battle that left 15 people dead and ended with a dramatic Zetas raid on a federal detention center that freed 23 prisoners, including 15 Zetas. According to military spokesmen twelve suspected Zetas gunmen were killed along with two federal police and one civilian. Two other bystanders were seriously wounded.
Sonia Hernandez Ovalle had just returned from a shopping day with her family in McAllen, Texas and was stopped at a red light when the mayhem erupted. She and her children were trapped in their Tacoma as the Zetas and the marines blazed away at each other. The 46 year old mother was struck by a bullet to the head and died immediateley. Her 16 year old daughter Jessica Anahi Gonzalez Hernandez and Alexis Izquierdo Tolentino, age 12 were also shot in the head and taken to hospital.
Two hours after the gun battle at the Zetas estate in Colony woods, a group of some 50 Zetas aboard ten trucks attacked a federal detention center in Escobedo. One of the trucks smashed through the gates the door of the center and the Zetas took command of 23 men in custody and escaped leaving two federal police dead. Fifteen of the escapees were Zetas, including Juan Carlos Martínez Hernández, El Camaleon-The Chameleon, second in command in the township of Guadalupe. All remain at large.
For a background on the Morales brothers and why the Mexican military had him at the top of their target list read Proceso reporter Jorge Carrasco Araizaga’s excellent investigative piece from last February Militares: el enemigo, de la misma familia–an English translation by the ever-dependable Kristin Bricker is available at The Narcosphere.
Here is unedited footage from the balacera in Juarez, Nuevo Leon–first arrival when gun battle is ending and Zetas SUV has caught fire..the ten-minute video closes with shots of the captured and the dead, including el Gordi 1..so if you have problems with such, don’t view it..