CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — For at least three hours early Monday, the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, just across from Laredo, Texas, was paralyzed by a ferocious shootout between alleged members of Cartel del Noreste and the Mexican authorities.
Locals reported several gunfights on social media happening simultaneously in different parts of the city, including a neighborhood just across the international bridge connecting Nuevo Laredo to Laredo. The bridge was closed for several hours, according to local news.
In images shared with VICE World News by local residents at least four cargo trucks burned in flames on both sides of a lonely highway. The city looked deserted at the time the video was shot, after dark. The trucks are almost completely destroyed, with the doors standing open. Further down the road, another burning cargo truck is blocking the street. The man recording from his car while driving says, “It's impossible to pass through here,” as he makes a U-turn.
Residents who spoke to VICE World News anonymously for fear of retaliation said the gunfight started at around 2 a.m. and went on for more than three hours.
“The city is still very tense. No one is going out and we can still hear the police driving full speed around the city. We are afraid,” said a man from Nuevo Laredo via telephone.
The U.S. consulate in Nuevo Laredo issued a warning on Twitter advising all U.S. citizens to avoid the area "or secure shelter.”
Nuevo Laredo’s mayor also issued a warning during the early hours of Monday morning, and confirmed some main highways were closed due to the gun battle.
"Due to the recent events this morning in the city, we ask everyone to take extreme precautions (…) God bless Nuevo Laredo,” said Mayor Carmen Lilia Canturosas on Twitter.
Following the firefights, a binational program to apply the COVID-19 vaccination booster for Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, Texas, residents at the border scheduled for Monday morning was canceled.
Nuevo Laredo is something of a black hole for news regarding violent events, enforced by cartels for some years.
Local independent news outlets reported the gunfight started after the government captured a known leader of the Cartel del Noreste (Northeast Cartel), created by former members of the Los Zetas cartel.
Juan Gerardo Treviño Chávez “El Huevo” (The Egg) was allegedly captured by Mexican federal authorities during an operation in the early hours of Monday. Treviño Chávez is said to be the leader of the Cartel del Noreste and nephew of Los Zetas founder Miguel Angel Treviño.
Mexico’s National Defense Ministry (SEDENA is its Spanish acronym) confirmed the arrest of Treviño Chávez in Tamaulipas on Monday.
“Organized crime members launch an attack against military personnel (…) and Juan Gerardo N. ‘El Huevo’ was captured under three warrants: one in Tamaulipas for extortion and organized crime, one in Coahuila for homicide and terrorism and an extradition order for drug trafficking and money laundering,” stated SEDENA in a press release.
For the last 15 years, Tamaulipas has witnessed frequent violent conflict like that seen overnight. In 2010, the Zetas Cartel started a bloody fight against the Gulf Cartel, following a split between the former allies. Both sides are known to have former elite-trained security forces amongst their high-ranking members.
A video leaked to VICE World News last year showed several armed men breaking into the attorney general's office in the northern state of Tamaulipas to free a powerful narco.
The shocking footage shows at least four gunmen wearing bulletproof vests with the logo of the Mexican Navy special forces (UNOPES for its Spanish acronym) storming a jail to break out José Alfredo Hernández Campos, alias El Calamardo or Metro 27, a high-ranking member of the Metros faction of the Gulf Cartel.
While the city of Nuevo Laredo slowly returns to its daily routine and the debris from the attacks are removed from the highways, real peace may never come. Local residents have seen many cartel bosses captured only for new ones to step in and replace them.
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