Tamaulipas police had multiple kidnapping complaints prior to recent massacre

Latin America World

 “MX” for Borderland Beat

The Tamaulipas State Police and its elite unit, the Special Operations Group (Grupo de Operaciones Especiales, GOPES), have been accused of terrorizing civilians in Tamaulipas by taking people from their homes without due process and handing them over to cartel members.

It is not the first time that the Tamaulipas State Police has been involved in another disappearance or arbitrary detention scandal like the recent one in Camargo, Tamaulipas, where 19 people were killed. According to the Human Rights Commission in Tamaulipas (CODHET), the state agency received 91 complaints of such nature in 2019. The figures for 2020 were not released but are expected to be just as high.

One of the most recent cases that did not recent enough public attention occurred last month. State police officers kidnapped four people in Mier municipality following a routine traffic inspection. The victims were taken by the state police officers to the neighboring Miguel Aleman municipality and handed over to suspected Gulf Cartel (CDG) members.

The case sent shockwaves through the community in Ciudad Mier and prompted multiple protests. On 7 January 2021, dozens of people took the streets demanding authorities to bring the abductees back alive. During the protests, the highway connecting Miguel Aleman to Reynosa was closed for several hours.

State police kidnaps four 

The kidnapping in question occurred on 6 January 2021, when members of the Tamaulipas State Police mounted an operation in Mier municipality and arrested four individuals: Luis Alberto Herrera Avalos, Jaime Santacruz, Mario Alexis García Bocanegra and Brian Eduardo García Bocanegra.

All of them were taken to the nearest transit police office in Miguel Aleman, about a 20-minute drive from where they were arrested. At the time when the four were in police custody, their families began to receive calls threatening calls requesting them to pay a ransom.

“They asked me for MXN$50,000. When I told them I didn’t have the money, they started to curse at me,” said Anabel Bocanegra, the mother of the two teenagers kidnapped.

A relative of another of the victims was able to negotiate a ransom. “They took MXN$2,000 from us”, he said.

But something happened that changed everything.

The family received a call from Miguel Alemán in which they were informed that a group of armed men was taking their relatives. One of the victims told reporters that the head of the transit police, Monico Garza, met with suspected cartel members inside the police headquarters.

“The police chief left the building and in less than two minutes a man carrying an AK-47 came in. He was wearing a bulletproof vest with the insignia ‘Operative Delta 105’. We [the victims] all looked at each other and then at the police chief”, one of the victims explained.

Nora Estefanía Noyola Fernández shows a picture of her husband Luis Alberto Herrera Avalos, who was kidnapped by Tamaulipas State Police officers while he was at his home in Ciudad Mier. He is still missing.

The abductees explained that the man who was supposed to take them began to doubt himself. Apparently, he was told that there were two abductees, not four. Confused, the man left the building through a secondary door. Two of the victims, the Bocanegra siblings, were released.

“They told us that they had taken all four of them, but my children managed to return. My fear is that they, the police, are still asking about them,” says one of the family members.

While the Bocanegra siblings were able to see their family again, the relatives of Luis Alberto and Jaime received videos where their loved ones were being tortured. According to local media reports, their interrogators ask them about their alleged participation with the CDN. Nayala Fernández, the spouse of one of the victims, denies that her husband had any link with any criminal group.

“He never got into trouble,” she said.

CDN-linked policeman ordered police killings 

Another prominent case was one involving Jose Roberto Olivares Mujica (“El Chino”), a former Tamaulipas State Police officer who is under investigating for reportedly recruiting several of his colleagues as sicarios for the Northeast Cartel (CDN).

El Chino, acting as a CDN envoy, ordered the murder of several state police officers who refused to cooperate with the CDN and/or were involved with the rival CDG.

Investigators say that El Chino provided the CDN with confidential information about the Tamaulipas State Police. He was arrested in mid-2020 in Ciudad Victoria, the state capitol, and is currently in prison.

Reactions to massacre 

The Guatemalan government announced today that they want the “full weight of the law” against those responsible for the “horrendous events” of 22 January 2021 in Tamaulipas, where 19 people — most of them Guatemalan — were killed and burnt inside two vehicles. This announcement comes after 12 members of the Tamaulipas State Police were arrested for their possible involvement in the massacre, as reported by Borderland Beat.

Friends pray at the home of Gerardo Zacarías and his wife María Victoria Orozco, who fear that their daughter Paola Damaris is among the 19 bodies found shot and burned in Camargo, Tamaulipas.

Guatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working and communicating daily with their Mexican counterparts, and publicly thanked them for their ongoing support in the case. Mexican investigators say they have “clear” steps in the investigation that they will continue to follow.

After the migrant massacre, several relatives of the victims who were kidnapped by the Tamaulipas State Police in Mier and Miguel Aleman travelled to Mexico City to bring awareness to the case. People from that area said that the state police and its special unit, the Public Security Special Operations Group (GOPES), are intimidating local residents by kidnapping people from their homes and disappearing them. 

Sources: Milenio (1); Animal Politico; La Jornada


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