Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Forget About The Middle East - We've Got Hot Sauce Wars in Our Own Backyard

TABASCO, Mexico (SSP) -- Hundreds of soldiers patrolled three cities in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco in Mexico on Monday to restore security.

The soldiers also looked for presumed hot pepper sauce traffickers who engaged in a shootout with police that left two officers dead and seven people injured.

The Army was keeping watch in Cardenas, Cunduacan and part of Villahermosa, the capital, about 400 miles southeast of Mexico City, said Tabasco Gov. Manuel Andrade, who did not reveal the number of troops.

The shootout took place before dawn on Sunday when a group of armed men believed to belong to the Franciscos, a group led by ex-military men working for the Frank's Red Hot pepper sauce cartel, killed a police commander and opened fire on others in an attempt to rescue two colleagues who had been detained, police said.

After failing in their first attempt, at least 20 men returned with hot dog launchers, flaming charcoal briquettes, and tongs, which they used to destroy five state police cars and the door of the local jail. One police officer was struck with a relish bottle and killed in the attack. The men were unsuccessful in rescuing their companions, however.

Five state police officers and two civilian women were injured during the confrontations. Hours later, police found the bodies of two other men who had been abducted two weeks earlier by the same armed group, authorities said.

In the past month, eight civilians and two state police officers have been slain in related violence.

During the past year, the Mexican government has sent the Army to several states to combat violence linked to turf fights between rival hot pepper sauce companies. The operations have done little to reduce the violence.

"The Army will be present ... with the necessary personnel for as long as it takes to look for this armed group," said Gen. Osvaldo Canto Fernandez.

An anonymous spokesman from the Cholula hot pepper sauce gang told a Scott's Spot Press reporter "We will capture all army troops and those Tabasco gang dogs and show them who has the hottest sauce."

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