2011 San Fernando massacre

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2011 San Fernando massacre
Part of Mexican Drug War
Location San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico
Coordinates 24°50′N 98°09′W / 24.833°N 98.150°W / 24.833; -98.150
Date 6 April – 7 June 2011
Target Civilians and Gulf Cartel hitmen
Attack type
Mass murder, kidnapping
Deaths 193
Perpetrator Los Zetas
Not to be confused with the 2010 San Fernando massacre, the killing of 72 illegal immigrants.

The 2011 San Fernando massacre, also known as the second massacre of San Fernando,[1] was the mass murder of 193 people by Los Zetas drug cartel at La Joya ranch in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico.[2] Authorities investigating the massacre reported numerous hijackings of passenger buses on Mexican Federal Highway 101 in San Fernando, and the kidnapped victims were later killed and buried in 47 clandestine mass graves.[2] The investigations began immediately after several suitcases and other baggage went unclaimed in Reynosa and Matamoros, Tamaulipas.[3] On 6 April 2011, Mexican authorities exhumed 59 corpses from eight mass graves.[4] By 7 June 2011, after a series of multiple excavations, a total of 193 bodies were exhumed from mass graves in San Fernando.[5]

Reports mentioned that female kidnapping victims were raped and able-bodied male kidnapping victims were forced to fight to the death with other hostages, similar to a "gladiator fight from ancient Rome," where they were given knives, hammers, machetes and clubs to find recruits who were willing to kill for their lives.[6] In the blood sport, the survivor was recruited as a hitman for Los Zetas; those who did not survive were buried in a clandestine gravesite.[7] After the massacre, thousands of citizens from San Fernando fled to other parts of Mexico and to the US.[8] The Mexican government responded by sending 650 soldiers to San Fernando and establishing a military base in the municipality.[9] The troops took over the duties of the police force in the city and worked on social programs.[10] In addition, a total of 82 Zeta members were arrested by 23 August 2011.[11] In 2012 tranquility slowly returned to the city, along with the inhabitants who fled because of the violence.[12]

Mexican authorities are not certain why Los Zetas decided to abduct people from buses, and then torture, murder and bury them. They speculate that the Zetas may have forcibly recruited the passengers as foot soldiers for the organization, intending to hold them for ransom or extort them before they crossed into the US.[13] The killers, however, confessed that they abducted and killed the passengers because they feared their rivals, the Gulf Cartel, were getting reinforcements from other states.[14] One of the leaders confessed that Heriberto Lazcano, the supreme leader of Los Zetas, had ordered the investigation of all buses coming in through San Fernando; those "who had nothing to do with it were freed. But those that did, they were killed."[14] In addition, the killers claimed to have investigated passengers' cellphones and text messages to determine if they were involved with the Gulf Cartel or not, and that they were particularly worried about buses coming in from the states of Durango and Michoacán, two strongholds of the rival La Familia and the Sinaloa Cartels.[14]


Before the violence[edit]

Local residents claim that arms trafficking, car thefts and drug trafficking have "always existed" in San Fernando, but in 2004 Los Zetas arrived at the area.[15] They began to establish themselves little by little, and local residents remember witnessing convoys of "luxurious trucks entering and leaving the city, going into stores and buying goods."[15] They claimed that before the Mexican Drug War (which began in 2006) and the rupture between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas (which happened in early 2010), the cartels "would not kidnap or steal. In fact, they would always pay for the goods they bought in stores."[15] They would live outside the city limits on ranches.[15] However, then they began to live in city neighborhoods, and the "people started to get involved with them."[15] A local resident claimed that many families had "at least one member involved in the drug trade," and that is why, he claims, many in San Fernando were scared when the violence erupted. In addition, his mother gave instructions on what to do if kidnapped by the cartels:

"If they come for you, do not let them take you alive. We will at least know where you are and we will have your body with us to mourn."[16]

Gulf–Zeta cartels split[edit]

Main article: Mexican Drug War

Before the violence erupted in Tamaulipas, San Fernando was known for its bass fishing and dove hunting, and the area had long been popular with outdoor enthusiasts from Texas and other US states. One day a group of dove hunters from Houston, Texas, reported being assaulted by a group of heavily armed gunmen in San Fernando.[17] Violence had erupted, and on 26 June 2010, just outside San Fernando, 15 bodies were found on Mexican Federal Highway 101.[18] The violence between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, their former armed wing, had started.[19]

In early 2010 Los Zetas broke apart from the Gulf Cartel and both organizations began to turn their weapons against each other.[20] The clash between these two groups first happened in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and then expanded to Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros.[21] The war then spread out through 11 municipalities of Tamaulipas, nine of them bordering the US state of Texas.[22] Soon the violence generated between these two groups had spread to Tamaulipas' neighboring states of Nuevo León and Veracruz.[23][24] In the midst of violence and panic, local authorities and the media tried to minimize the situation and claim that "nothing was occurring," but the facts were impossible to cover up.[25] Confrontations between these two groups have paralyzed entire cities in broad daylight.[26] Several witnesses claimed that many of the municipalities throughout Tamaulipas were "war zones," and that many businesses and houses were burned down, leaving areas in "total destruction."[27] The bloodbath in Tamaulipas has caused thousands of deaths, but most of the shootings and body counts often go unreported.[28]

In the city of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, the Gulf Cartel forces of Antonio Cárdenas Guillén, alias Tony Tormenta, "strung the bodies of fallen Zetas and their associates from light poles."[29] The Gulf Cartel lashed out to attack Los Zetas at their stronghold in San Fernando. According to The Monitor, the municipality of San Fernando is a "virtual spiderweb" of dirt roads that connect with Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros—making it a prized territory for drug traffickers.[29] In January 2011 Nancy Davis, a US missionary, was traveling with her husband Sam through the municipality of San Fernando.[30] According to police in Pharr, Texas, both Nancy and Sam encountered a group of heavily armed men, who tried to force the Davis' blue 2008 Chevrolet 2500 pickup off the highway.[30] When the pair tried to flee, the gunmen shot at them, striking Nancy in the head. Sam drove back to McAllen, Texas, where his wife was pronounced dead.[30]

The first shootout that occurred in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, in 2010 is still remembered by some residents, which happened near a hospital, where the bullet holes can "still be seen."[31] According to local residents, heavily armed gunmen then began to fight in certain avenues throughout the city, and even opened fire on the local police station.[32] None of the shootings made it on the news.[32] One man who was interviewed mentioned that even before the two massacres were discovered, people were being kidnapped at an alarming rate, but "they were scared" of the reprisals by the cartels.[32] He then went on to mention that the cartels had San Fernando, "under control," and that they "were the authority."[32] Witnesses mention that the cartels would enter the city "in convoys with more than 200 SUVs," and that the police were no challenge for them.[32] The cartel gunmen wore military uniform, were heavily armed and would constantly attack police and other civilians alike.[32]

Previous massacre[edit]

On 24 August 2010 Mexican marines found 72 undocumented migrants dead—58 men and 14 women—in San Fernando, Tamaulipas. They were killed by Los Zetas for failing to pay for their kidnapping ransom and for refusing to work for the cartel.[33] One of the survivors, an Ecuadorian, faked his death and made it up to a military checkpoint to ask for help. He was then aided by authorities, who traveled to the place he had indicated and found 72 corpses inside a warehouse on a ranch.[34] Huerta Montiel, the main Zeta arrested for the massacre, said in an interrogatory video that "more than 600 bodies" are buried in clandestine mass graves near San Fernando, but Mexican authorities never confirmed that.[35][36] The massacre caused international reactions in the United States,[37] Ecuador,[38] El Salvador,[39] Honduras,[40] Guatemala,[41] Venezuela,[42] Brazil,[43] Organization of American States,[44] Amnesty International,[45] United Nations,[46] and all around Mexico.[47]


Between 24–29 March 2011, several public transportation buses that were heading to Reynosa, Tamaulipas, were hijacked in San Fernando.[48][49]

On 6 April 2011 Mexican authorities found 59 bodies in eight clandestine mass graves in San Fernando, Tamaulipas.[50] This discovery led officials to acknowledge that the Mexican drug cartels had begun to inflict fear through a new modus operandi: "stopping buses and removing passengers, some never to be seen again."[13] Two weeks before the bodies were found, there were reports of buses being hijacked by the cartels near San Fernando, where cartel members would "stop the bus, select passengers, take them hostage."[13] Fourteen cartel members were arrested too.[51] By 8 April 2011, the secretary general of Tamaulipas, Morelos Jaime Canseco, confirmed the finding of 13 more bodies, increasing the body count to 72.[52] When the death toll reached 72, bus lines in Tamaulipas refused to take people to San Fernando until the situation was resolved.[53] Investigators began to mention that those killed were not migrants (like the previous massacre of the 72 migrants in 2010), but "fellow Mexican citizens."[52]

On 10 April 2011, in four other mass graves, 16 more bodies were exhumed, increasing the death toll to 88.[54] Witnesses then reported that cartel members had stopped the bus at a fake military checkpoint, and that they had ordered the passengers to "pay up to $300 US dollars" for them to continue on their route.[54][55] The investigation continued, and on 12 April 2011 the Mexican military confirmed the finding of 28 more bodies, upping the death toll to 116 and the mass graves up to 15.[56][57] It was then proven by the PGR that the massacre was carried out by Los Zetas, a drug trafficking organization formed originally by former military soldiers in Mexico.[58] By 13 April the authorities found six more bodies, making the death toll 122.[59] The next day, on 14 April, 12 more mass graves were found with 23 bodies, and the body count reached 145.[60] Investigators mentioned that the bodies had been deceased for between "one and two months."[60] Also, 16 police officers from San Fernando were arrested for allegedly serving as accomplices to members of Los Zetas in the slayings.[61]

On 21 April 2011 authorities found 32 more bodies in eight other mass graves; the death toll went up to 177.[62][63] Five days later, on 26 April, the body count reached 183, and the mass graves found now numbered over 40.[64] Seventy-four suspected killers had been captured too.[64] By this date only two of the 183 bodies found had been "fully identified" by authorities, and around 120 bodies were sent to Mexico City for identification.[65] Finally, on 7 June 2011, the bodies found in clandestine mass graves in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, stopped at 193 corpses.[66] One US citizen was killed in the massacre.[67]

Alleged 'gladiator-like' killings[edit]

The Houston Chronicle's journalist, Dane Schiller, had an interview with an alleged drug cartel member in a restaurant in Texas on the condition that his identity remained completely anonymous.[68] He referred to the hitman as "Juan", who wore "designer sunglasses" and was carrying "Nordstrom shopping bags."[68] "Juan" reportedly moves more than $5 million worth of cocaine each month, and in his interview he explained that Los Zetas have been using an "ancient Roman gladiator blood sport" to groom new assassins and find recruits for their organization.[68]

Once captured, the kidnapped victims were forced to fight to the death with other victims.[69] Men were given knives, hammers and machetes and were ordered at gunpoint to fight for their lives like a "gladiator-style contest." The winners of the fights were ordered to go on suicide missions and shoot at rival drug cartel members in other towns and cities.[69] Those who did not win the "fight-to-the-death gladiator matches" were buried in clandestine mass graves.[68] The idea behind this tactic was to find new recruits willing to kill without mercy.[69] Almost all the corpses found in the mass graves had evidence of "blunt force trauma." Juan, the alleged cartel member, confessed that the game is called "Who is going to be the next hitman?"[69] Peter Hana, a retired FBI agent with years of experience in the development of the Mexican drug cartels, said the re-enactments of gladiator contests, where victims "cut guys to pieces" for the "amusement" of the drug lords,[70] was something that people a few years ago would not even think possible, but that now is "commonplace."[70]

The testimony of a cartel member tried in Laredo, Texas, claimed that the fighting contests between the kidnapped victims were ordered by Miguel Treviño Morales, alias Z-40, a high-ranking Zeta lieutenant, and that they were used to make the killers "lose their fear."[71] In addition, he mentioned that 100 Zeta recruits were being trained in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, and 300 more in San Fernando, Tamaulipas on January 2012.[71]

Alleged survivor's story[edit]

El Informador newspaper published a story of an alleged survivor of the massacres in San Fernando; below is the translated story of incidents involving the kidnappings and the killings done by Los Zetas:

A transportation bus of the company Autobuses de Oriente made its obligatory stop at San Fernando, Tamaulipas before reaching its destination in Reynosa.[72] At the terminal, two people got off the bus, and a couple of others got on board, making a total of 15 passengers. The bus then left the terminal at around 8:30 p.m. on 25 March 2011 as quickly as possible, fearing that they may be victims of the cartels that operated in the city.[72]

While the bus was leaving San Fernando, the bus driver saw at a distance that there were several trucks blocking the highway up ahead, and that there were several men wearing ski-masks and holding AR-15s. The gunmen ordered the bus to stop, and the bus driver obeyed. The cartel members approached the bus pointing their guns and yelling, "Open the door, asshole! Move, you son of a bitch, unless you want me to shoot you dead."[72] The chauffeur, trembling, opened the door for the gunmen, who quickly stormed the bus as soon as the door was opened. "You are all fucked," yelled one of the gunmen to the people on board; the passengers were frightened, and some of them cried, thinking it was simply a regular armed robbery. But that was not the case this time. The cartel members then ordered the bus driver to drive the bus deep into a dirt road for about ten kilometers before reaching a plain area, "in the middle of nowhere." In the area there were about twenty luxurious trucks and three passenger buses, some of them with bullet holes, flat tires, and broken windows.[72] The driver was then ordered to stop the bus, and all the men were then told to descend from the vehicle. They were asked to form a line, and the cartel members began to organize them from youngest to oldest and from strongest to weakest. Those who looked old or weak were separated from the group, tied from their feet, and then taken elsewhere.[72] Those who were left were ordered to take off their shirts and remain where they were. A man wearing black military uniform, a bulletproof vest, and a kit belt was called from the trucks that were parked nearby. All of the triggermen referred to him as Commander 40, better known as Miguel Treviño Morales, one of the top leaders of Los Zetas. The man approached the passengers that were lined up in front of him, and said in an energetic voice: "Let's see, assholes. Who wants to live?" But no one answered. One teenager accidentally wet himself out of nervousness, and Commander 40 killed him with a shot to the head.[72] Treviño Morales then yelled: "I will ask all of you one more time. Who the fuck wants to live?" All of the men raised their hands. "Good. We will test your abilities to see how capable you are. If you make it, you'll survive; if you do not, you're fucked." Commander 40 then asked his henchmen to bring the bats and clubs, and each of the passengers was given one. He then said, "Look, each of you will get in pairs and beat the shit out of each other.[72] Those who survive will work for Los Zetas, those who don't, well, they're fucked." All of the passengers were shocked at the order the individual in front of them gave them. Everyone got their bats and clubs, joined up as a pair, and stared at their partners nervously. Treviño Morales then said: "Now beat the shit out of each other."[72]

One of the passengers of the bus approached Treviño Morales weeping and saying: "Please, sir. I do not want to do this. I will give you all the money I have and my own house, but please let us go."[73] Treviño Morales stared at him firmly, took away his club and then said, "Okay, stupid asshole. Leave," and while the crying man was walking away, Treviño Morales swung his bat and hit him in the back of the head—and then struck him more than 20 times until his head was completely destroyed.[73] He then turned around and said to the kidnapped victims: "This is what you have to do. Have some balls (courage). Anyone who does not want to can tell me and I will beat the hell out of you."[73] All of the men started fighting. Several other Zeta members, who were still on a bus with other passengers, ordered the women whom they considered the most beautiful to descend the vehicle so they could rape them.[73] Then they took away the children from their mothers, and shot the rest of the bus passengers. The women were taken to a warehouse where many other women were held captive. Inside a dark room, the women were reportedly raped and beaten, while one heard the screams of the women and of the children being put in acid.[73] A driver of one of the buses was then asked to turn on the bus engine, and then ordered to move the bus to where the kidnapped victims were handcuffed and laid down on the dirt floor. "Drive on top of them," one of the killers told the bus driver, who stood there motionless. "Drive on top of them or I will put you there too, asshole," the killer repeated.[73] As the driver rode over his passengers with the bus, he felt like the vehicle was passing over speed bumps, but the only difference was that the bus driver and the passengers could actually hear the cries of the people as they were being run over. The gunmen, once the driver was finished, shot him in the head and shot the rest on board. The bus was then set on fire by the Zetas.[73] Treviño Morales then gathered all the Zetas and said, "We have had enough fun for tonight. Bring the winners."[73] His men brought all of those who had passed the gladiator-like competitions, and they were gathered in front of Treviño Morales.

Commander 40 then said to everyone, "Welcome to Los Zetas special forces, the 'other' military."[73]

'The Highway of Death'[edit]

Mexican Federal Highway 101, which extends from the border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, to the capital of the state, Ciudad Victoria, is known by local residents as the "Highway of Death."[74] Those who traveled through this highway in 2010 and 2011 used to see "burned vehicles, bullet-shot trucks on the side of the road, and dead bodies, often decapitated, that the cartels would leave behind."[31] Others who have traveled through this highway and have survived car hijackings and checkpoints the organized crime groups have installed from Padilla to San Fernando have reported what happens on the highway.[74] A man who managed to survive a hijacking relates what he saw:

"There were four SUVs, all grey and with tinted windows. Everyone was armed."[75]

The violence and constant car hijackings have been so bad that bus lines avoid Mexican Federal Highway 101 by driving miles out of their way to avoid the road.[75] Another report from a woman who survived a hijacking said through El Universal newspaper that heavily armed men would stop buses at roadblocks, and then force women and young girls at gunpoint, "strip them naked, rape them," and then drive away in trucks, leaving the passengers traumatized.[75] One bus driver, "who said he had avoided being stopped thus far," claimed that another bus driver at the station had said that 12 people were pulled off the bus just 30 minutes before him.[75] Other witnesses claim that once the buses were stopped, gunmen would storm the bus and point at certain passengers and say "you, you're coming down," and take them at gunpoint.[74] The buses were then ordered to leave.[74] Diamond, a study-abroad student, recalled the incident after having recovered from the brutal attack.

During normal times, Mexican Federal Highway 101 is the biggest and most important transportation system in the state of Tamaulipas, and it connects the state with Matamoros, Tamaulipas and Texas with the rest of Tamaulipas.[76] Local residents mention that there is only traffic on this highway during daylight.[31] As of 2012, they mention that the cartels "still kill people in San Fernando."[31] The US has issued travel warnings south of the border.[77]

Unconfirmed higher death toll[edit]

On 17 June 2011 Federal police captured Édgar Huerta Montiel, alias El Wache, a high-ranking boss in the Los Zetas organization and the man responsible for the 72 migrants killed in 2010. He confessed in an interrogatory video that "more than 600 bodies" were buried in clandestine mass graves near San Fernando, but Mexican authorities never confirmed it.[35][36] Isabel Miranda de Wallace, the leader of the organization Alto al Secuestro ("Stop the Kidnappings"), suspects that the mass graves in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, have more than 500 corpses, but that the government of Tamaulipas has not released such information because of the political troubles it may instigate.[78][79]



On 17 April 2011, in the capital city of Ciudad Victoria, Mexican authorities captured Martín Omar Estrada Luna, alias El Kilo, lieutenant boss of Los Zetas in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, and responsible for at least 217 killings in that locality.[80] Along with El Kilo, 11 additional Zeta gunmen were apprehended.[81] They were linked to the killing of a policeman and an investigator who were covering the massacres.[81] In addition, Estrada Luna was one of the masterminds of the massacre of the 72 migrants and of the mass graves found.[82] He was regarded by the DEA as "one of the most aggressive leaders in Los Zetas organization."[83] Federal Police captured Édgar Huerta Montiel, alias El Wache, a high-ranking lieutenant of Los Zetas and the man responsible for the killings of the 72 immigrants, on 17 June 2011 in Fresnillo, Zacatecas.[84] Huerta Montiel was an army deserter before joining Los Zetas.[85] Huerta Montiel was the boss of Martín Estrada Luna, alias El Kilo.[86] Other Zeta lieutenants, like Abraham Barrios Caporal, alias El Erasmo, were captured on 30 June 2011.[87]

The PGR offered up to $15 million for information leading to the capture of those responsible.[88] In addition, the PGR led the investigation and as of August 2011, 82 people had been arrested.[89] Some of those arrested were minors under the age of 18.[90] Top-Zeta leaders responsible for the attacks have also been arrested: Salvador Alfonso Martínez Escobedo, alias La Ardilla, was captured in late 2012 and Miguel Treviño Morales, Commander 40, was arrested on 15 July 2013. One Zeta leader accused of involvement was still on the run as of July 2013: Román Ricardo Palomo Rincones, alias El Coyote.[91]

Police implications[edit]

Marisela Morales, the current Attorney General of Mexico, mentioned in a communiqué on 13 April 2011 that 16 of those arrested were municipal police officers in San Fernando. According to the investigations, the policemen offered Los Zetas "protection and help[ed] them cover up the killings."[92] The president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, criticized the governors of the Mexican states for failing to certify and regulate their police forces, who often aid criminal groups in their activities.[93] Calderón condemned the fact that policemen kidnap civilians and then take them in their own police vehicles to the place where they are to be killed.[93] The President then mentioned that although the government at a federal level is working to "clean up" the police forces, at state and municipal levels the improvements "have not been parallel."[93] A judge ordered the imprisonment of all police officers implicated in the massacre on 18 April 2011.[94]

Exodus in San Fernando[edit]

After the massacre of the 72 migrants, the discovery of the mass graves and the continuing violence between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, fear so overwhelmed the citizens of San Fernando that more than 10,000 of them left the city.[95] The city's mayor, Tomás Gloria Requena, estimates that "around 10% of the population" left to "other towns and cities in Tamaulipas, and possibly to other parts of Mexico and the United States."[95] A priest of San Fernando, however, noted that those who left the city were directly "threaten[ed] by the organized crime groups," and that the arrival of the military has brought some of the tranquility the inhabitants of San Fernando wanted.[95] The priest related that when he drove around the city to go to other parishes, "heavily armed men with ski-masks ordered [him] to stop and identify [himself]."[95] They would let him go after he said he was a priest at a local church, but mentioned that "these risks happened to the whole population."[95]

Newspapers mention that San Fernando, Tamaulipas, "stayed without policemen," and the ones who were from that municipality were either arrested or assigned different functions.[96] The government of Tamaulipas believes that the "exodus of the citizens of San Fernando is transitory, and once order is re-established, the families will be back again."[97] On 1 January 2012 the SEDENA thanked the soldiers in San Fernando for bringing order and for "reverting the exodus of San Fernando, an unfortunate phenomenon that occurred due to the violence and the criminal groups that operated in the region."[98]

Military-led responses and new base[edit]

On May 2011 the federal government sent more than 500 troops to Tamaulipas to combat the drug cartels in the area and work together with the state forces.[99] In addition, retired soldiers were also called to voluntarily join in the fight against the organized crime groups.[100] A military base was established in the municipality of San Fernando on 18 January 2012.[101] The headquarters were inaugurated by Egidio Torre Cantú, the current governor of Tamaulipas.[101] The base hosts more than 650 military personnel.[101] Below is the welcoming speech Torre Cantú gave to the soldiers on their arrival at Tamaulipas:

"You all come here today to collaborate with the people of Tamaulipas, to show your love for this country and your call for service, and to participate in the establishment of law to bring tranquility to the citizens of this state."

— Egidio Torre Cantú, governor of the state of Tamaulipas[99]

On another note, the troops also worked on "social projects" throughout San Fernando;[102] they provided medical care to the citizens, helped in the infrastructure of the city, provided free haircuts, helped repaint buildings and picked up trash.[102] In November 2011 the military took over the responsibilities of the police in San Fernando, and now patrols the city, answers emergency calls of civilians, mans military checkpoints on highways, guards the municipal palace, investigates passenger buses and cars for drugs and other illegal goods and directs traffic.[103]

In addition, another military base was opened in the city of Ciudad Mier, Tamaulipas.[104]

San Fernando after the massacres[edit]

Little by little, the people who left San Fernando, Tamaulipas, are slowly coming back to the city.[105] However, the citizens still find themselves "scared," and they reportedly "mistrust foreigners."[105] With the arrival of Mexican federal troops and the creation of the military base, San Fernando's social fabric and normality have been recovering.[105] In the city square, one can now see "a pair of lovers, bootblacks at work, people walking in the streets, and kids having fun."[105] Candy stores, restaurants, shoe stores, and other establishments have reopened.[105]

As of 2012 life in San Fernando appears to be calm, but once nightfall comes around, people are no longer in the streets.[106] After 10:00 p.m. "San Fernando is a ghost town."[106] The last bus departure from Ciudad Victoria or Matamoros to San Fernando is at 6:10 p.m.; before the violence, buses drove to San Fernando throughout the night.[106] Taxi drivers used to wait for people arriving at San Fernando throughout all hours of the night, and now the last bus arrives at around 9:30 p.m., and everyone then closes their doors and goes home.[106] In 2012 it had been more than three years since the city of San Fernando had a carnival dance; the Ramón Ayala pub used to be the get-together place every weekend, and now it is closed.[107] Other bars have also closed too, as well as the cinemas.[107] According to Alberto Torres from El Universal, the people of San Fernando are resentful toward the government, from the federal level to the state and local ones.[107] For more than two years "they were abandoned and forgotten, left at their own luck, in the middle of a raging drug war."[107] A resident recalls what he feels when people from other parts of Mexico hear he's from San Fernando:

"You have no idea what it feels to go to a different place and say 'I am from San Fernando' and be discriminated."[107]

In addition, although the highways and dirt roads in Tamaulipas are sometimes the scenes of armed confrontations, as of February 2012 there have been "advancements" in the security situation of highways in the state.[108] The PGR has not identified 159 of the 193 corpses exhumed as of April 2012.[109]


Tamaulipas as a 'failed state'[edit]

The massacre of the 72 migrants,[110] the mass graves with nearly 200 bodies, the assassination of the PRI candidate for state governor, Rodolfo Torre Cantú,[111] the murder of two city mayors,[112] the numerous prison breaks and killings,[113] the escalating violence in Tamaulipas and the lack of media coverage,[114][115] along with the political and police corruption,[116][117] have brought analysts to conclude that Tamaulipas may in fact be (or become) a "failed state."[118][119][120][121][122][123][124][125][126][127] According to Gary J. Hill, a drug war analyst and chief member of the DEA, the organized crime groups have "gained ground over local governments," and have gradually subverted the abilities of the politicians in Tamaulipas.[127] The drug cartels corrupt and control the police forces in the state behind "the barrel of a gun" or with more money than what politicians can give them.[127] The cartels then enforce their own rules in the territories they control, and anyone who opposes them can be "threatened, kidnapped, tortured, and killed."[127]

The Televisa program of Tercer Grado, which hosts discussions of several journalist from different programs, concluded that Tamaulipas is a failed state.[125] Manuel Suárez-Mier, an Economics and drug war expert, believes that Mexico and Tamaulipas are "not failed states," since their economies are projected to grow starting in 2010, and the security measures stand in "a phase of reconstruction."[128]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hallan ocho fosas con 59 cuerpos en Tamaulipas". El Universal (in Spanish). 7 April 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "Aumenta a 193 los muertos por matanza en San Fernando, Tamaulipas: PGR". Milenio (in Spanish). 7 June 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "México: Maletas abandonadas, pista para esclarecer asesinatos en Tamaulipas". Terra Networks (in Spanish). 19 April 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Chapa, Sergio (6 April 2011). "59 bodies found in eight mass graves near San Fernando". KGBT-TV. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Chapa, Sergio (7 June 2011). "San Fernando body count climbs to 193". KGBT-TV. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  6. ^ "Zetas recrean peleas del Coliseo Romano con secuestrados: Houston Chronicle". Animal Politico (in Spanish). 13 June 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Los narcos mexicanos obligan a los secuestrados a pelear como gladiadores". ABC Internacional (in Spanish). 14 June 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "SAN FERNANDO: Huyen seis mil por narcoviolencia". El Nuevo Heraldo (in Spanish). 10 November 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Confirma Egidio Torre Cantú que ya opera otro cuartel militar en el estado". La Jornada (in Spanish). 28 February 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "San Fernando, seguro al 100%". El Universal (in Spanish). 3 February 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Ya son 82 detenidos por fosas de San Fernando, Tamaulipas; son presuntos Zetas". Animal Politico (in Spanish). 23 August 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 24°50′51″N 98°09′30″W / 24.84750°N 98.15833°W / 24.84750; -98.15833