Brazen ambush of Mexico police chief leaves few options

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A police vehicle arrives to the place where an abandoned vehicle that is believed to have been used by gunmen in an attack against the chief of police was found, in Mexico City, Friday, June 26, 2020. Heavily armed gunmen attacked and wounded Omar Garcia Harfuch in a brazen operation that left an unspecified number of dead, Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said Friday. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY – The dramatic assassination attempt on Mexico City’s police chief was just the latest and clearest sign that Mexico’s powerful criminal element is bringing the violence it has unleashed on the general population directly to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s door.

More than 35,000 Mexicans were murdered last year, the highest number on record and a grave threat to the president’s ambitious agenda.

Police Chief Omar García Harfuch was nearly added to this year’s murder total Friday when more than two-dozen gunmen executed a carefully coordinated plan to intercept his armored vehicle at dawn with grenades, assault rifles and a .50 caliber sniper rifle on the capital’s grand boulevard. García survived with three bullet wounds and within hours blamed the Jalisco New Generation Cartel for the attempt that killed two of his bodyguards and a bystander.

It came less than two weeks after a federal judge and his wife were gunned down in their home in the western state of Colima. The Jalisco gang is also suspected in that attack.

“The cartel declared war on the government of López Obrador,” said Samuel González, a security analyst and the man who established the Attorney General’s Office special organized crime unit. “He doesn’t have any other option than to go after them,” because otherwise attacks on high-level government officials could continue.

It didn't take long for López Obrador to disagree.

“We’re not going to declare war on anyone,” he said Saturday afternoon in a video broadcast through his social media. “We’re not going to violate human rights. We’re not going to allow massacres. But we’re going to stop these attacks from being orchestrated, and we’re not going to make any agreements with organized crime as we did before.”

The president said the key will be perseverance, with help from the intelligence services, which reportedly gave some warning that García might be targeted by an attack.