The United States government is offering a US $20,000 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the person or group responsible for a grenade attack on the U.S. consulate in Guadalajara the night before the inauguration of President López Obrador.
A statement issued yesterday by the United States Embassy in Mexico said that “on November 30, 2018 at 10:48pm, an unidentified individual threw two grenades, which exploded on the United States Consulate compound in Guadalajara, Jalisco.”
The person who threw the grenades was caught on film by surveillance cameras.
A separate statement issued the day after the attack said that “no one was injured and there was minimal damage to the structure.”
It added: “Mexican and U.S. authorities are investigating and strengthening the security posture around the Consulate facility. U.S. government personnel are advised to review personal security measures.”
The consulate resumed normal business yesterday after limiting its operations on Monday.
The Jalisco Attorney General’s office said “the investigation has been handed over to federal authorities, who will give information on developments in due time.”
The timing of the attack, just 12 hours before Andrés Manuel López Obrador was sworn in as president, has caused alarm among officials and security experts who are questioning whether it was meant as a test for the new federal government, to provoke the United States administration, or both.
United States Vice-President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka were among a delegation of U.S. dignitaries who attended López Obrador’s inauguration.
“The situation in Mexico is a powder keg,” Arturo Fontes, a security consultant and former FBI agent who was once stationed in Guadalajara, told The Dallas Morning News.
“The timing and target are key: a presidential inauguration. Political transition. The Chapo trial, which threatens to expose names of corrupt officials, and the migrant caravan.”
The Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), considered Mexico’s most powerful criminal organization, is suspected of being responsible for the attack and two weeks ago allegedly posted a video online in which it threatened to attack the consulate.
However, The Dallas Morning News, which reported the contents of the video, said it couldn’t independently confirm its authenticity.
The recording shows a man with part of his face bandaged who appears to be under interrogation. He says he was ordered to attack the consulate and, with the help of municipal and state police, to kidnap Central American migrants and hold them for ransom to generate income to pay corrupt authorities to overlook criminal activity.
The planned attack on the Guadalajara consulate was designed to send a message to the United States to leave “Mencho alone,” the man said, referring to CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes.
In October, the United States government doubled the reward being offered for information leading to Oseguera’s arrest to US $10 million.
Attacks on United States facilities and personnel in Mexico are rare but not unprecedented.
A U.S. consular official was shot in a Guadalajara shopping center in January 2017 , U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Jaime Zapata was killed in San Luis Potosí in 2011 and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 1985 on the orders of Guadalajara Cartel founder Miguel Ángel Felix Gallardo.
Gunmen also shot at the United States consulate in Monterrey, Nuevo León, in 2008 and threw a grenade at the building although it didn’t explode.
The attack on the Guadalajara consulate Friday serves as yet another reminder of the security crisis López Obrador inherits 12 years after the military was deployed to combat the nation’s notorious drug cartels.
There were more than 31,000 homicides last year, according to statistics institute Inegi, and 2018 could go down in history as an even bloodier year.
López Obrador, who made no mention of the consulate attack at his first daily press briefing Monday, announced last month that his administration intends to create a National Guard under the control of the army to combat high levels of violence.
The idea to create the new security force, a central element of a new national security plan, was criticized by a range of non-governmental organizations who said that it only perpetuates the unsuccessful militarization model.