The Zetas

The Zetas are the armed force of the Gulf Cartel, a drug trafficking organization in Mexico. It is believed that the Zetas are a group of former military men who belonged to the Airmobile and Amphibian Groups of Mexico’s Special Forces, trained by the U.S. CIA to face the Zapatista revolt of Chiapas in 1994. They have been associated to kidnappings, extortions, murders, tortures and the liberation of prisoners throughout the country.

The Zetas were commissioned to intimidate and finish off rivals of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, leader of the Gulf Cartel, who was apprehended in March 2003 and extradited to the United States. After the fall of Cardenas Guillen, the Zetas acquired autonomy and they might have made a pact with the Beltran Leyva brothers, leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Even though the Federal Public Safety office originally thought that by capturing the heads of drug trafficking organizations, such as Osiel Cardenas or Benjamin Arellano, the cartels would seize their operations, what really happened was that removing the leaders prompted an internal war for the control of criminal operations, an opportunity that the Zetas took advantage of. They have been in control the US-Mexico border for some years now and operate in both countries to be in command of the passage of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and weapons.

The creator of this dangerous criminal group was Arturo Guzmán Decena, who defected from the Mexican army in 1997, after being expertly trained by American and Israeli military men. Upon his exit from the army, he took members of the infantry and parachute battalions with him. In 1999, he began collaborating with Osiel Cárdenas Guillén by recruiting former military men to create the armed force of the Gulf Cartel. Guzman Decena died during a confrontation in November of 2002 in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Stopping them has been an endless titanic struggle because they were trained to handle the intelligence, defense and communication operations against drug traffickers, for which they are capable of predicting and escaping from the army’s attempts.

The Zetas are the group from who the most weapons have been confiscated ever, including anti-tank missiles M72 and AT-4, missile launchers RPG-7, bombshell launchers MGL caliber 37 mm, 37 and 40 millimeter bombshells, in addition to caliber .50 sniper rifles and weapons capable of penetrating armor.

Mexico is headed to becoming a “drug state” dominated by the mafia, as declared by The Wall Street Journal in its Latin American edition. The newspaper has warned that drug traffickers have overtaken the State, by charging their own taxes and blackmailing business men and public officers, which the State is incapable of avoiding. On February 2009, it was reported that 80 city mayors have been victims of blackmail by organized crime. The mechanics of these extortions are always the same, mayors receive telephone calls from people demanding money in exchange of “protecting” companies and citizens; by personal threats against their family members and collaborators. Some of the blackmailed mayors confess to have paid the “ransom” with public resources. Blackmailers are not faithful to any particular political party, they have equally threatened all. City mayors are added to the list of blackmail victims, of which the federal forces report 50 thousand cases a year on average; without including the cases registered by local authorities or the ones that have not been reported.

After threatening the police forces of the US to operate in the State of Texas, one of the Zetas founders, Jaime Gonzalez Duran “The Hummer”, was captured in November 2008 in the State of Tamaulipas. During his capture, the army confiscated an arsenal of 400 weapons, 500 thousand bullets and 287 grenades when searching a Zetas safety house.

In February 2009, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced a program called Operation Border Star Contingency Plan to safeguard the border if Zetas carry out their threats to attack US safety officers. This project includes the use of tanks, airplanes and the National Guard “as a preventive measure upon the possible collapse of the Mexican State” in order to protect the border from the attack of the Zetas and receive an eventual exodus of Mexicans fleeing from the violence.

Article Produced by Explorando Mexico Editorial Team.
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Photo: Vanguardia