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Crossposted at Rantburg

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If ever there was a shooting which made zero sense, the July 18th massacre of 18 people at a late night party in Torreon was it. We have seen this pattern before. An armed group riding in SUVs drives up to an area late at night where there are lots of young people generally enjoying their lives, exit their vehicles, enters an area and then opens fire, hitting everyone inside. Happens a lot especially recently in Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon and even Tamaulipas.

But Torreon, Coahuila?

Coahuila is similar to Sonora, except for the mountains and the roads leading north. There isn't a whole lot north of Torreon, in fact, except for cattle ranches and farms. No major highways where it could pay to send armed groups to clear off rival gangs. The only main highway in Coahuila which leads north runs through the capital city of Saltillo, 100 kilometers to the east. Torreon sits astride a lateral road which runs east and west until it curves to the northwest and into Chihuahua, with a terminus at Juarez.

Even if you were a regional manager in Coahuila for Bad Guy Gang Theta, for example, keeping Torreon clear of rival gangs would be the easiest of tasks. No one wants this route, not even the Zetas and this is near their territories in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. Drug and human cargo heading north you want to run through Sonora, where at least they have a system of roads which are relatively unpatrolled; or through Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. Not in Coahuila.

Today a piece of the puzzle as to motive for the massacre was revealed in Blog del Narco, a counternarcotics blog which specializes in chronicling the Mexican war on drugs and gangs with graphic images and descriptions, as well as a rather vigorous and often profane readership.

A reader identified as "Informant 1" said in a May 17th blog entry warning that the next attack would take place at the Italia Quinta at Gayoso at the San Luis district of Torreon, so if the people who met at the Quita Italia continued "doing stupid things", they were warned.

The "stupid things" reference was to the ongoing and regular meeting of Coahuila's gay community, one of which was scheduled at the Quinta Italia but was cancelled due to torrential rains that week.

Usually when Mexican gangs want to control routes, they attack other gangs and security services. Sometimes with warnings, but sometimes not. Officially, this Torreon July 18th attack is a criminal act by criminals, but so far no officials have let on as to motive; they are either clueless or they don't want to say.

Just today a warning was scrawled onto the wall near a primary school in Juarez which warned officials to arrest Mexican Federal agents known to be assisting the Sinaloa criminal gang operating in Juarez or face a car bomb with 100 kilograms of explosives. A Chihuahua security official insisted last weekend the Juarez car bomb attack was revenge, not an act of terror, however, even the official must be wondering after the graffiti warning if even he knows what is going on.

The graffiti warning today is a clear terrorist warning. The government must do something or more blood will flow. However, Mexican officials, it seems, are taking a similar tack the current American administration is taking: it isn't terrorism unless we say it is terrorism.

Great public relations work if you can get it, but terrible security policy as we learned during the years before the Sept 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. And this is apparently a lesson our government and the Mexican government wants us to learn again.

The comments on the Blog del Narco reveal a tremendous frustration ordinary Mexican people are having with the current legal and security environment. Sentiments expressed run the gamut, from, let us pray everything will turn out alright, to the murders will stop if we drop a hand grenade into a Jeep full of bad guys.

And then there is talk of a grand Mexican tradition: revolution. Mexicans in nearly every forum point out a salient fact: In 1810, Mexico declared its independence from Spain; in 1910 began the Mexican Revolution, and now it is 2010.

Mexicans are justifiably proud of their revolution. Streets and towns are named after dates and icons of revolution in Mexican and in Latin America: Francisco I. Madero, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Lazaro Cardenas, November 20th and so on. They knew then as they know now they don't need a "Goat's Horn" to change things.

But a modern rifle for the purposes of self defense wouldn't hurt anyone.

How much would it take to push a people back to revolution?

Last week I read a story about a petty criminal having to be rescued by local authorities because townspeople were about to lynch him. A cat burglar, as I recall, could have died simply because it seems Mexican people are so frustrated with crime they are willing to snuff a life, to make an example, for a crime which should get the criminal six months prison max.

And that is the third act of attempted lynching in three months, all in central Mexico, well away from where the worst of the violence is.

Sun Tsu's famous quote roughly paraphrased, "Knowing is half the battle.", really is instructive in the times we refer to as Mexican Mayhem. And willful ignorance is no way to fight a war.

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