Wednesday, 20 July 2011

A Head Scratcher

Ado Bus Line Mexico Images: Ado Bus Line Mexico Images: Ado Bus Line ...
This is a standard 1st Class Autobuses del Oriente Bus
Also click here for more pictures of Mexican bus facilities in these times
     This one is a real head-scratcher.   Three busses are sequestered at gun-point near Las Norias (19 miles south of San Fernando, Tamaulipas) and driven about 70 miles further south....turning off the Matamoros/Reynosa to Victoria highway and onto the recently nicely rebuilt highway to Tampico and points south, along the coast.     The three busses are driven off this main highway down a dirt ranch road (brecha) for some distance, perhaps 1,000 yards, where a fourth bus is already waiting.   The four busses have 8 drivers and about 100 total passengers.   All of the busses are superior quality either 1st class or deluxe long-haul conveyances operated by famously quality businesses.
       This all takes place beginning at 08:30 on Saturday morning, the 17th of July of the current year.   Las Norias is a famous place as a rest-stop, roadside diner, fresh and dried shrimp producing, bean farming, and cattle/goat ranching.    People know it by the folks standing along the highway or operating from tidy, rustic stalls just off the right-of-way selling plastic bags of medium-large to colossal shrimp from the nearby Mexican Laguna Madre.  Perhaps the bus drivers had yielded to the petitions of the passengers to stop briefly for them to buy the very popular dried shrimp as a gift to those back home upon arrival.   Perhaps the assailants used this brief stop to pile into the bus and take control.
     Whether by this method or some other, three busses were taken at this point.    Once arriving at the dirt trail detour just north of  an historical town named Soto la Marina....about 5 miles distant...and very close to an ejido community named  Tampiquito (little Tampico)....the assailants drew the first bus across the trail, flattened its tires and began to talk among themselves at a position equidistant and central to the four kidnapped units.
      It is still a bit before noon.   The dust had settled, but barely, since the arrival at this recess in the dense chaparral....a hilly area with mountains both to the east and higher ones to the west.     Suddenly a bus driver, or both drivers from one unit, and about 10 or 12 male passengers bolt from their bus and run into the thicket....each in a slightly different direction.    They run with desperate abandon, and by the time 90 seconds have passed each is individually consumed by the chaparral.  None of the group can see much of anything, but better yet, none can be seen by the assailants.
      In fifteen minutes there is another development.    The thudding, whirring, jet engine cacophony of four lumbering Naval Infantry helicopters.    They are like B-52s in a way....1950s technology but still useful.   Each is carrying 22 heavily armed, well-trained, battle-tested infantrymen.   While they seem clumsy and slow....within seconds they are landing on tiny clearings, almost directly upon the busses.    Two in the center and two slightly removed.
       The assailants have made a break for it....with only about a minute head start.    Down the dirt trail, a complete company of Army heavy infantry is running in from where the first bus had been parked across the brecha.   They begin peeling off, trying to head off the escape of the assailants.   If they can make it into the dense brush, their chance of escape is good.    The Armed Forces will have an advantage at night with FLIR searchers, but these hills and mountainsides have more bear, mountain lion, and bobcats who will give heat signatures than there are assailants running away.

     Within a minute or two all the passengers are being attended to.   Mostly women, children, and older people....they are glad to have water and rations and someone friendly with whom they can re-establish contact with reality.    The Navy personnel are bringing in the ones who ran during their break for freedom.   They have their hands behind their heads and a cautious covering by infantrymen holding their rifles low-but-ready.    In short order the people from their bus identify them as those who said they were going to make a break for it and make more calls for help or make it to the highway.    Once identified they join the ranks of those called "rescued".

      The ground commanders decide to leave the assailants to the snakes and mountains lions and to take their charges and troopers out of this spot.    They further determine to take the people to Tampico, some three hours journey, and get them back on their way.    The passengers from four busses are loaded onto the three busses that still have good tires, and they are escorted to Tampico by the Army.   The Navy takes off, makes several low-elevation passes to see if they can make a chance sighting of an assailant in the sea of mesquite, cactus, yucca, and other prickly things.

       Several things happened here.    The assailants did not count on the fact that all Mexican busses of this category and even most of lower category, now have GPS.   Not only that, they have GPS that works....with interactive or passive response OnStar.    Next, for some reason the assailants did not take the passengers' cellular telephones.  (???)   Next, they did not handle, assault, or molest the girls and women.   Then, they did not immediately take all the jewelry and currency being carried or worn by the passengers.
       Each Company took note almost immediately that their vehicles had fallen well behind their schedule and/or had deviated from its required route.   Those companies are TransPais, Autobuses del Oriente (ADO), and Transportes del Norte (operating the class of service bus known as FUTURA, which is between Ist class and deluxe).    Their security agents informed the Federal Highway Police and the two military emergency numbers as early as 09:20 on that Saturday morning.    The locations being reported to the bus companies was shared between them and they quickly realized that they were all literally in the same bowl of soup.
       The passengers, at considerable risk, continued calling their homes, people, boyfriends, etc. , all of whom flooded the appropriate military and police agencies with extremely precise fixings concerning location, size of possible resistance, condition of the passengers, and so forth.   The two drivers and their passengers who escaped also had done what they said they would do....calling incessantly with detailed information.   The drivers' information about location along with the GPS made the finding a matter of inches in terms of accuracy.
       The calls were all so similar and so insistent that each military and police response force were "saddled and riding" before even knowing the precise destination of their march.   They knew it was "over there".   With the guidance of the GPS and continuous cellular telephonic contact, "over there" soon became "right here".

NOW, this is all a good story.   It is probable that it is essentially true.   The Old Gringo has added in a bit of colour, but only because it is reasonable colour based upon many, many years of experience driving those roads, visiting those off-road people in the little communities, seeing military actions, riding the busses, eating at the roadside diners, etc.    The response by the authorities and the deportment of the drivers and their passengers, the numbers of assailants and military, the cellular telephone interventions, and all the mechanics have been reported, semi-officially, in the press and by reliable source.      ONCE.     Una sola ves.

      Now, it is Wednesday.   With such an heroic story, why has it not filled the airways in Mexico, the United States, nay...verily...the entire Planet??
       We remember the story about the primary school teacher in Monterrey who put her 1st graders on the floor and led them in song...cheerfully....while cockroaches with AK-47's blasted away 70 feet from their front door.   She didn't give a flip about the five dead juveniles who were trying to murder some taxi drivers for not paying extortion money, when it was over, only two things concerned her.    Her charges and that she comply since she was the designated training officer for such situations, and she wanted to be sure to get it all on camera for use during the next week's training episode.    That is when it came out to the public.....she did not run it over to the TV stations or to a police magazine.   Her fellow teachers demanded that it be shown to the world.    And it was shown, worldwide, humiliating some teachers....inspiring others.
       There have been no announcements or statements by the State security officers, the military, the bus companies, or even some of the passengers.   The local Texas press, which is always quick to use any incident to hark their ratings and to scare the bejeebies out of people.....not a word, since the first two airings back on Sunday and Monday....the latter being a word for word repeat of the first prepared release in the famously myopic McAllen Monitor.
        So neither detractors nor one is commenting.   The busses kept running even through this....I drove through Las Norias on my way to Reynosa/ McAllen that 09:00 that same morning.   I saw a bit of the after effects....huge Army deployments at Las Norias....Federal Police whishing in the opposite direction at great speed, they to the south, I to my north.    Numerous busses were encountered....perhaps 50 heading south during the rest of my journey north.   Everything seemed normal....and was normal....except my fuel pump.
          The Old Gringo has delayed his comments on this story because he wanted to know a little wider, a bit more deeply, somewhat higher and to be able to put a little more detail into the picture...names, personalities, final outcomes.   But I am sending this to your kind attention because I know that you all think that I at least try to keep you informed with a bit of a different point of view, with all the veracity that can be mustered.

         Were speculation to be "reasonably" extended with my colouring, it might be possible to assume that the assailants were Centro Americanos...Guatemalans, Hondurans...who had escaped from Matamoros due to the heavy losses recently suffered by both cartel groups in fighting there earlier this month.   These CentroAmericanos were probably conscripted "fighters" who had no dog in the fight.   They "deserted" because they did not want to become bullet catchers in the next firefight with the opposing cartel or with the military.   They had no money and probably no functional weaponry, save perhaps for pocket knives.   They made it as far as Las Norias by hitching and walking, but knowing that there is a huge highway checkpoint just 7 miles to the south blocking their flight back to Central America, they decided to have their Butch and Sundance moment.   They told each other that they would meet up where their "coyotes" had shaken them down a couple of months before, telling them that they were not going to America until they had done a couple of "favours" for the Zetas first.  (Favours means "Catch Bullets").
       That is why the kidnapping of the busses was done as it was.   That is why there were no women molested, that is why they did not immediately steal any and every thing of value, and that is why none of the passengers were killed.  They just wanted to take their different from Mexican Spanish accents, their different-from-Mexican appearance, their lack of money, and their homesickness  and go back to Tegulcigalpa and Quetzaltenango and drink some beer and see their families.

Thanks for your patience.   When more is known...and more precise information can be forwarded, it will be before your eyes quickly.
El Gringo Viejo