In Mexico, it just fades into the white noise of a constant drone of violence, especially in a week as bloody as this past one (see yesterday’s posting and photo above of slaughter in Nayarit). Yet Thursday’s killing of nine police is important for what it reveals about the tactical military capabilities of drug gangs.
The attorney general’s office just issued a statement an hour or so ago giving details of an ambush of a convoy of vehicles in rural Jalisco state. Nine state police officers were killed, two were wounded and one is missing. The ambush was laid by a group of “at least 50 armed people,” the statement said.
President Felipe Calderon gripes about characterizations by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that narcotics gangs in Mexico appear to be acting increasingly like insurgencies.
This ambush will only feed such allegations. After all, it takes military tactics to conduct such an ambush. It involves reconnaissance of a quickly moving target, radio communication from lookouts to attackers, positioning of marksmen, overwhelming use of lethal force, and careful execution among dozens of gunmen.
According to Spanish-language press reports, the assailants set up a roadblock ahead of the state police convoy in a mountainous area 150 miles south of the state capital, Guadalajara. The assailants were in Chevrolet Suburbans, Liberties and pickup trucks. They fired upon the police with AK-47 and AR-15 assault rifles and employed grenade launchers. The police traveled in seven heavy vehicles themselves, including some that were armored. It didn’t do any good.
This kind of ambush reminds me of those carried out by the FARC guerrillas in Colombia during the 1990s. The cartel gunmen may not have overt political aims _ they just don’t want interference in their murky dealings _ but their tactics aren’t much different than those used by guerrillas.