Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) appear to be in agreement that Los Zetas have become a common threat to their operational venues. However, the common belief among the narcoterrorists is that the Zetas are much too powerful to be challenged without help from those with similar massive narco-dollar pursuits.
These interesting alliances of convenience are actually an act of desperation for each DTO to slow down or stop a rival opponent from monopolizing the drug trafficking trade. There are no real loyalties in these alliances and the chess-like movements of all the major DTOs is a recipe for disaster.
The Zetas (their moniker "zeta" is the name of the letter z in Spanish) rise to power and influence has been through ruthless murdering modus operandi and superior firepower. A violent behavioral identifier, the result of these bad apples upbringing as former paramilitary commandos — trained killers and weapons experts.
The growth of the Zetas from humble beginnings as recruited enforcers for the Gulf Cartel in the 1990s, led them opportunistically into a realm of extended organized crime as kidnappers, extortionists, and agents of human smuggling. They were quick to expand their power and influence stature by beheading rivals and others that stood in their way.
And now it appears that the not so clever decision of three rival DTOs (Sinaloa, La Familia, and Gulf), to merge into a mutual agreement to target the Zetas for extinction, was an unwise act of believing there is strength in numbers.
In what one might see as somewhat morbid humor, the united cartel’s bold placing of banners around cities announcing the stand against the Zetas as if they were saviors of the streets. Too, a banner was reported to urge President Felipe Calderon to remove the Army and allow “them” to eradicate the plague known as the Zetas. This, their version and a convenient way of toning down the violence so business as usual can prevail and murder more cleverly concealed as a rite of passage.
The rival DTOs and some recent media accounts of the Zetas portray a Zeta organization heading south into El Salvador and Guatemala, as if in fear or retreat of this unholy alliance in pursuit of their heads.
The facts add up to the Zeta movement being a proactive movement and not a reactive strategy of retreat. This is a fluid organization that trains professionally as a force of power and instruments of death as their guiding mandate. Their “reach” into Central America corrupts police, recruits talent, and trains willing agents in Guatemalan camps.
The Zeta area of influence is a clear indicator of turf superiority, for that territory range extends from Central America, along the Caribbean and Atlantic coastal states, and into the lower Texas border. This transnational influence is responsible for the long distance cocaine shipping from South America, and through the risky Central America drug pipeline into the lucrative North American drug markets. This awesome endeavor requires a power that must prevail against all obstacles designed to interdict.
Do the Zetas have a real concern of the rival DTOs alliance against them? They would be foolish not to. However, they have not come this far to turn tail and run from violence directed at them. In fact, they appear to be in the right geographical location to expand and strengthen not only in power, but also in massive numbers.
In El Salvador alone, the strong and violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) gang is a ripe recruiting ground for the Zetas. There are law enforcement and government concerns, and fear that power alliances by the Zetas could lead to jail breaks to free previously captured members. Some captured Zetas are in custody in Guatemala. Guatemalan police have reported death threats made by the Zetas against their President.
The current threat assessment for Mexico reveals a potential reality that is a culmination of greed, vengeance, and preparation for battle. At the other end of the spectrum is the real catalyst of all the motivation — the drug trade billions of U.S. dollars which, eventually, DTOs will not want to share with any rival.
This equation is the new crime-terror nexus. The organizational similarities of organized crime and terror have merged to essentially form a single merchant of violence and death, available to the highest or most powerful bidder or survivor.