Friday night’s warning by the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana that Americans in the northwest Mexican city should “seek secure shelter” due to rampant violence south of San Diego has put law enforcement officials and communities on alert on both sides of the 2,000-mile U.S. / Mexico border.
The Consulate warning in Tijuana came on the heels of significant cartel violence the day before in Ciudad Juarez across from El Paso. It is a situation border sheriffs, including Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, are closely following as the violence could spread quickly to Mexican border communities along Arizona.
“These Criminal Transnational Organization working along our southern border thrive off violence, greed and fear to accelerate their criminal ways,” Dannels told Arizona Daily Independent. “Cochise County law enforcement and my office will continue to stay attentive working with intelligence experts at all levels in protection and public safety awareness for our citizens.”
It is unclear if Gov. Doug Ducey’s decision to begin filling in border wall gaps near Yuma on Friday was motivated by intelligence reports. But the project slated to be completed Monday will significantly reduce the options for cartels involved in smuggling drugs and people into Arizona.
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Dannels, like Ducey, puts the blame for the volatile situation along the southwest border directly at the feet of President Joe Biden and his administration.
“Over the last 18 months, the cartels continue to exploit our southern border based on an open border practice-policy by those in Washington D.C.’s leadership,” Dannels said. “This intellectual neglect has increased violence on both sides of our border that only serves to promote fear and unrest for our citizens.”
For now, the active cartel violence remains hundreds of miles from Cochise County, but Dannels understands the situation is fluid and that it is alarming to all who live along the southern border.
Dannels is also reassuring local citizens that any acts of violence or intimidation targeting local citizens will be taken very seriously. “I encourage our citizens to reach out to their local law enforcement to report any crimes of this nature as we all remain vigilant,” he said.
Meanwhile, about 600 Mexican soldiers were deployed Friday to the Ciudad Juarez area across the border from El Paso to restore order after 11 people were killed across the city during several hours of violence on Thursday.
The violence began with a deadly fight between factions of the Sinaloa Cartel
at a Mexican prison near Juarez, a city of 1.5 million. Within a few hours, there were numerous reports of vehicle and building arson fires, as well as reports of gunfire.
One of the dead was a 12-year-old, according to Mexican authorities.
The violence prompted Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to publicly address the fact that innocent civilians were targeted in Juarez.
“It wasn’t just the clash between two groups, but it got to the point in which they began to shoot civilians, innocent people,” the president said during a Friday press conference. “That is the most unfortunate thing in this affair.”
It is unknown at this time what prompted the prison fight, but the Secretariat of National Defense of Mexico announced Thursday the seizure of nearly 1.5 tons of methamphetamine headed toward the U.S. along with more than 800,000 fentanyl pills. Reports in Mexico are that the seizure in an area in northern Sonora controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel was the result of a tip from a competitor
But the uptick in violence is not a surprise to law enforcement officials on either side of the border. Warnings of jostling between various groups within the Sinaloa Cartel and territorial battles with other cartels were renewed last month following the arrest of Rafael Caro Quintero, one of Mexico’s most prolific drug lords for the last 40 years.
Caro Quintero, who operated a drug trafficking operation even while in prison for murdering DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985, is now cooling his heels in a maximum security prison near Mexico City while he fights extradition to the U.S.
RELARED ARTICLE: Mexico Judge Says U.S. Can’t Have Captured Fugitive Drug Lord Yet
This leadership void offers other drug trafficking groups including the family of former Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera an opportunity to expand territories.
The violence in Tijuana prompted the U.S. Consulate’s warning shortly after 9 p.m. It advised Americans in the area to be aware of their surroundings and monitor local media for updates. The advisory also called on Americans to “notify friends and family of your safety.”
The warning also cited reports of violence in other Mexican cities located south of California, including Mexicali, Tecate, Rosarito, and Ensenada. There was no update released by the Consulate on Saturday, leaving Americans in Tijuana to rely on sporadic and unconfirmed news reports.
1/2 The U.S. Consulate General Tijuana is aware of reports of multiple vehicle fires, roadblocks, and heavy police activity in Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito, Ensenada, and Tecate. U.S. government employees have been instructed to shelter in place until further notice. pic.twitter.com/oghBX1P7qX
— U.S. Consulate Tijuana (@ConsuladoUSATJ) August 13, 2022
In early July, a Consulate advisory was issued about the potential for confrontations between criminal organizations and Mexican security forces in Tijuana and Rosarito, Baja California in connection with another cartel arrest.
“U.S. citizens should expect to encounter increased Mexican law enforcement presence in those areas,” the advisory stated. “Criminal organization assassinations and territorial disputes can result in bystanders being injured or killed.”