When American kidnapping expert Felix Batista was himself apparently kidnapped in Saltillo, Mexico, in December 2008, it made international headlines. Authorities said Batista had been at a restaurant when he went outside to receive a message, entered a vehicle, and was never heard from again. But who took him? And what kind of message was he hoping to receive?
Authorities in the Mexican state of Coahuila told U.S. consular officials that they believed wich cartel took Batista, a lead that they didn’t share with the public. At the time of his abduction, Batista was working on getting the release of a friend who was kidnapped, according to a confidential State Department cable.
The truth? Batista was murdered and Coahuila´s government made silence. Here is the confidential cable published by Wikileaks:
Hide header C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MONTERREY 000251 SIPDIS DS FOR IP/ITA AND IP/WHA E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/26/2019 TAGS: KCRM [Criminal Activity], CASC [Assistance to Citizens], PINS [National Security], SNAR [Narcotics], ASEC [Security], PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], MX [Mexico]
SUBJECT: COAHUILA STATE GOVERNOR SPONSORS SECURITY OUTREACH: FORWARD MOVEMENT ON THE BATISTA KIDNAPPING CASE REF: MONTERREY 218 MONTERREY 00000251 001.2 OF 002 CLASSIFIED BY: Bruce Williamson, Principal Officeer, Consulate Monterrey, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) ¶1. (C) Summary. On June 23 Consulate Monterrey officials traveled to Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila state, to meet with Governor Humberto Moreira and his new law enforcement team. Per reftel, the latter now consists of Mexican Army flag officers seconded to various posts within the state and local public security apparatus. While the session was principally intended to allow post’s law enforcement agency reps to meet their Coahuila counterparts, the two sides did engage in valuable information exchanges on arms trafficking, training and emergency response issues. In a side meeting afterwards, the Governor and the State Attorney General updated us on their inquiry into the December 2008 kidnapping of Amcit Felix Batista. They stated that their intel information indicated that Mr. Batista had been killed shortly after his abduction; they expected to arrest individuals identified as the perpetrators shortly (strictly protect). End Summary. ¶2. (SBU) The impetus for the June 23 meeting came from Governor Moreira, see reftel, who in earlier conversations had stated that he wanted to establish direct contacts between Consulate law enforcement agencies and the 7 Army generals and 2 Army colonels that were in the process of being assigned to key state/local public security posts. In addition to the seconded Army personnel, Moreira brought General Gonzalez Barrera, the 3-star head of the Coahuila/Chihuahua military region, General Serrano, head of the Saltillo military zone, State Procurador Jesus Torres Charles, and Moreira’s Chief of Staff. The U.S. side consisted of the Consul General, RSO, DEA, ICE, FBI, and ATF. ¶3. (C) Moreira and Torres led off the meeting by describing the security situation in Coahuila. They stated that reported kidnappings were on the decline, although, they noted, these figures did not reflect the cases (in reality, the vast majority) that were not reported to law enforcement authorities. Both detailed ongoing efforts to convert the current penal facility in Monclova into a maximum security prison capable of holding organized crime figures. In response to Consulate inquiries, they admitted that the Laguna region of the state — along the southwest border with Durango — was problematic. Armed gangs roamed the city of Torreon and its suburbs, with the situation even worse across the river in Gomez Palacios, Durango. The state/local police forces in the Laguna region were of little use as organized crime had either corrupted or intimidated officers there. Note: Moreira is the Governor of a decidedly PRI state; Torreon is the one major municipality governed by the PAN and its leaders continually complain that the state government starves them in terms of security resources. ¶4. (C) Our Coahuila interlocutors raised several specific issues on which they sought USG cooperation and assistance. First, they requested greater action to stem the flow of arms from the U.S. into Coahuila. In response, ATF briefed on its ongoing programs and initiatives, including Project GunRunner and E-trace. The state offered to make available for inspection the seized weapons that it held in its inventory, although both sides recognized that the arms of most interest to ATF would be held by either the military or federal PGR . ¶5. (C) Second, Coahuila made a pitch for increased U.S. training — particularly crime scene investigation courses. Coahuila officials plan to forward to the Consulate a prioritized list of their training and equipment needs, a document which, once received, we will send on to the Embassy for consideration under the Merida Initiative. Note: Eventually A/Legatt will likely be able to provide training/equipment to a vetted state anti-kidnap unit. End Note. Consul General also urged the Governor to pursue training opportunities through the U.S. border states; Moreira indicated that he would approach Texas Governor Rick Perry about this at the upcoming U.S.-Mexico Border Governors Meeting in Monterrey in September. ¶6. (C) Third, Coahuila requested that the two sides facilitate the informal flow of information rather than relying on data to slowly wend its way through the respective bureaucracies. RSO recommended that the state afford the Consulate a channel to its new C-3 (Command/Control Center) to promote better communication. A/Legat briefed on the efforts of the Transfrontier International Police, a bi-national information exchange group, created under the Border Governor’s Framework, which has met twice during the past 16 months. MONTERREY 00000251 002.2 OF 002 ¶7. (C) During the full session, Consul General queried the Governor and state AG Torres about the status of the investigation into the kidnapping of U.S. anti-kidnap expert Felix Batista in Saltillo in December 2008. Torres, who is heading that inquiry, then suggested a smaller, side meeting to discuss the issue. In that side meeting, attended by the Governor, Torres, and the Governor’s Chief of Staff, and the CG, RSO, and A/Legatt, our interlocutors related the following: — per intel information they had uncovered, Mr. Batista was murdered a few days after his abduction, with the body being `cooked’ to dispose of the remains. — The state had identified the Gulf Cartel Saltillo plaza boss, `Tatanka,’ as the intellectual author of the crime. Tatanka had been previously taken into custody by the Mexican military on drug-trafficking charges. The state would arrest two other suspects shortly and planned to offer the FBI access to these individuals once they were detained. (Torres requested that we strictly protect this information given Coahuila’s plans to conduct additional law enforcement actions). — State law enforcement authorities had not uncovered information as to why Mr. Batista was abducted in the first place, although they speculated that he was executed once his captors could not figure out what to do with him (no ransom demand was ever made). ¶8. (C) Comment. It’s a positive sign that the Governor has reached out to the Consulate in an effort to promote closer ties with USG law enforcement agencies. That said, Coahuila made no effort at the meeting to provide contact data, although we expect this information to provided shortly. While ascertaining which portions of the state/local law enforcement apparatus have been penetrated — or are controlled by — organized crime will be difficult, there are several baby steps that can be taken to determine both the reliability of our potential interlocutors and their capacity to take action against organized crime. Continued dialogue with Coahuila will help to flesh this out. ¶9. (C) Comment continued. With respect to the Batista case, we are encouraged by the information we received and the new willingness of state AG to push forward on the case. The real test, however, will be when (or whether) the expected arrests take place. Post’s view is that we are seeing the results of a chain reaction initiated by the military’s detention of `Tatanka.’ Now that the Gulf Cartel has installed a new plaza boss in Saltillo, there is less for the cartel to cover-up – and this more liberal attitude has been conveyed to state law enforcement authorities. WILLIAMSON