MEXICO CITY – The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration warned the Mexican government that this country’s powerful drug cartels may launch attacks around the New Year’s holiday, capital daily El Universal said Wednesday.
Citing what it said was a confidential DEA report, the newspaper said Mexican officials were told the cartels could strike both “civilian targets” and the security forces.
Efe contacted DEA headquarters in Washington to seek additional information, but personnel there declined to confirm or deny the existence of the report.
The ostensible DEA document said Mexican cartels were planning terrorist attacks on shopping centers, bridges, the Mexico City metro and bus stations, as well as assaults on public New Year’s festivities.
El Universal said the DEA specifically mentioned a planned Jan. 1 strike by “Los Zetas,” a band of Mexican special forces veterans and deserters now working as enforcers for the Gulf drug cartel, though the U.S. agency did not identify the location or target.
The cartels have recently intensified attacks on police, troops and public institutions, often mounted in reprisal for the arrest or death of a prominent kingpin.
Cartel gunmen also shoot up restaurants, bars and gas stations, though usually in pursuit of targeted individuals.
So far, the cartels have been blamed for only one instance of indiscriminate violence toward civilians: a September 2008 grenade attack on an independence-day celebration in the western city of Morelia, where eight people died in the blasts.
El Universal said the DEA urged U.S. diplomatic personnel in Mexico to avoid crowds and public events.
Since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon ordered the Mexican military to wage “war” on the drug cartels, more than 15,000 people have died in drug-related violence. EFE