Since last January the DEA considers Los Zetas to be the ninth cartel in Mexico. Now, the organization headed by "Hidalguense" Heriberto Lazcano is the best armed and has influence in over 20 states across the country.
Mexico - At year end in 1997, the armed group Los Zetas burst into the public arena as a protective shield of the Gulf cartel and its leader, Osiel Cardenas Guillen.
Thirteen years later, with reinforcements and diversification of their criminal activities, the group named the "armed forces of the narco" is a cartel that is actively in a struggle for control of a dozen Mexican states.
The majority of the members of this organization came from the Mexican Army, in particular the Special Forces Airmobile Group (GAFES).
In 1997, many of them had joined the Attorney General of the Republic (PGR) as reinforcements in the fight undertaken by the federal government against drug trafficking. But soon they became engaged in the drug trafficking business.
By 2003, the year that Osiel Cardenas was captured, Los Zetas changed their pattern of operation, after an acute domestic crisis for control of the Gulf Cartel.
Overtaken by grudges, betrayals and disorder in the operations, Eduardo Costilla, "El Coss," became the new leader, while the armed group started to form their own criminal structure.
Over the next two years, "El Coss" had at least two meetings with Ignacio Nacho Coronel and Ismael El Mayo Zambada, the representatives of the powerful Sinaloa cartel.
The purpose: to seal an alliance in order to control drug trafficking and to form a criminal mega-consortium to end the killings for at least the two regions controlled by both criminal groups, this according to preliminary investigations and PGR PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/147/2007/SIEDO/UEIDCS/082/2009.
And even if that Zeta's ambition was never fully agreed by the Gulf cartel, the second most powerful organization after that of the Sinaloa cartel, in January the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confirmed that Los Zetas had become a new cartel, well structured and with large presence in domain in both the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
Intelligence reports from the DEA indicate that the breakup of the Zetas was due to their differences with the cell of the Gulf Cartel for being too friendly with their rival group Sinaloa cartel, as well as the partnerships with La Familia of Michoacán and the heads Milenio cartel, the brothers Valencia Cornelio, whose seat is the state of Michoacán.
Glaspy Hill, head of the DEA in McAllen, Texas, addressed the alliance of the capos from the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels in these terms: "It is well documented that the Gulf cartel has formed alliances with the Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Michoacana for waging war against Los Zetas."
Los Zetas broke off from the Gulf cartel on January 8, 2010, confirming the thesis of the DEA: the links between both criminal organizations were supported in weak agreements, said Glaspy.