MEXICO CITY (AP) — A current killing spree within the Mexican border metropolis of Tijuana may have been lifted from a TV script: enraged drug lords looking down corrupt law enforcement officials who stole a drug cargo.

Two of the officers suspected of the theft have been killed, prosecutors say. However so have no less than three different officers, in line with the town’s former police chief, suggesting the cartel believed to have owned the medicine might have launched a generalized retribution.

It’s the newest blow for Tijuana which has essentially the most homicides of any metropolis in Mexico, with about double the variety of the place that comes second — the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. Tijuana, located within the border state of Baja California and with a inhabitants of over 2.1 million, has for a number of years seen round 2,000 murders yearly. By comparability, Houston, Texas, which has about the identical inhabitants, noticed 435 killings in 2022.

In keeping with prosecutors, in mid-November, a half-dozen native and state law enforcement officials in Tijuana allegedly hatched a plot to steal a big cargo of medicine from a warehouse the place traffickers have been storing it.

Video emerged final week of the officers’ pickup truck pulling out of the constructing with large, plastic-wrapped bales of cocaine filling the truck mattress.

State Prosecutor Maria Elena Andrade confirmed this week that three state detectives have been underneath investigation within the case, together with an analogous variety of Tijuana municipal police.

Alberto Capella, the previous head of Tijuana’s police drive from 2007 to 2008 and once more from 2011 to 2013, instructed The Related Press that the cache of medicine appeared to have belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, particularly the wing managed by drug lord Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, in all probability essentially the most highly effective gang on the town.

Apparently, the cartel knew virtually instantly who had pulled off the heist.

On Nov. 18, simply hours after the theft, gunmen sprayed the federal prosecutors’ workplace in Tijuana with no less than 30 rounds, pockmarking the constructing’s façade. Inside an hour, one of many municipal law enforcement officials allegedly concerned within the heist was gunned down on a avenue in Tijuana.

On Nov. 24, gunmen focused the state prosecutors’ workplace with a barrage of gunfire; no person was injured.

On Nov. 27, a state detective underneath investigation for the theft was gunned down in his automotive whereas filling it with gasoline at a station in Tijuana. It appeared the officer noticed the assault coming, and was capable of begin his automotive and advance just a few toes earlier than hitting a column and collapsing useless on the wheel. The attackers fled on a motorbike.

An worker of the state prosecutors’ workplace — who spoke to the AP on situation of anonymity as he was not approved to speak publicly in regards to the case — confirmed this week that two of the officers underneath investigation within the scandal had been shot and killed in broad daylight on the town’s streets, in obvious gangland revenge.

The worker mentioned the second officer declined a proposal for a spot within the state witness safety program in return for testifying within the case.

Capella, the previous police chief, mentioned no less than three different law enforcement officials have been killed because the heist, suggesting the cartel might have launched a generalized retribution for the theft.

Tijuana isn’t any stranger to violence or corruption.

When he took over the police division, Capella recollects, he needed to fireplace a few quarter of the drive’s officers and he survived an assassination try. However police stealing a cartel’s entire drug cargo is a brand new low.

“That is very worrisome,” Capella mentioned. “Tijuana has by no means seen something of this scale and that is saying quite a bit.”

The roots of Tijuana’s present spherical of violence date again to 2017, when murders virtually doubled, rising from 919 in 2016 to 1,782 in 2017. Observers say turf battles between the Jalisco New Technology and Sinaloa cartels, and different teams — like remnants of the previous Arellano Felix gang — are largely responsible.

And so pervasive is the violence in Tijuana that anybody, from singers to journalists, can fall sufferer to the killings. In January 2022, two journalists have been shot to loss of life in two separate assaults in a single week.

On Nov. 20, the Tijuana metropolis council voted to ban performances of drug ballads generally known as “narco corridos,” which glorify traffickers.

“If they arrive to sing different kinds of songs, they’re welcome,” mentioned Mayor Montserrat Caballero, threatening those that carried out the ballads with fines of as much as $57,000.

That adopted the cancellation of a live performance in October by well-known narco corrido singer Peso Pluma. His group referred to as off the efficiency “for everybody’s security” after hand-lettered banners appeared within the metropolis signed by the Jalisco cartel, which can have been angered by songs praising rivals.

“Do not even take into consideration acting on Oct. 14 as a result of that shall be your final efficiency,” in line with the banner. “You present up and we’ll destroy you.”

In June, Caballero, the mayor, introduced she had determined to stay at a military base for her personal security after receiving threats she did not specify, however which everybody assumed got here from cartels.

Caballero rose to fame in 2022 when she made a direct public enchantment to cartels to cease focusing on civilians after gangs carjacked and burned no less than 15 autos all through the town.

Within the broadcast on the time, she mentioned: “At this time we’re saying to the organized crime teams which are committing these crimes that Tijuana goes to stay open and maintain its residents.” She then requested “organized crime,” the time period utilized in Mexico for drug cartels, to ”settle their money owed with those that didn’t pay what they owe, not with households and hard-working residents.”

However it isn’t simply authorities officers or police who’re working scared; Tijuana is a hub for everybody from businessmen and vacationers to immigrants in search of to succeed in america. Town’s persistent violence downside threatens all.

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