Mexico’s government is analyzing video footage in which a group of self-styled vigilantes who may have killed 35 people in the Gulf coast port of Veracruz claimed to be waging an extermination campaign against the Los Zetas drug cartel.
The interior ministry said in a statement that the Attorney General’s Office has already launched an investigation.
Five hooded men dressed in black appear in the most recent video, distributed Sunday but supposedly filmed a day earlier, one of whom says that the “Mata Zetas” (“Kill Zetas”) are the “armed wing of the people” and that their “only objective is to wipe out the Los Zetas cartel.”
“Only by fighting them on equal terms can the Los Zetas cartel be eradicated from the root,” said the man, who instructed “officials and authorities who support Los Zetas to stop doing so.”
The Zetas, whose area of influence extends along Mexico’s Gulf coast, is one of the country’s most powerful and violent crime mobs and is notorious for the massacre of 72 undocumented migrants in August 2010 in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas and an Aug. 25 arson attack on a casino in the industrial city of Monterrey that killed 52 people trapped inside.
“Society can be sure and can trust that the Mata Zetas don’t extort, don’t kidnap, and will never affect people’s personal patrimony or that of the nation; that we respect the executive, federal, state and municipal powers in their fight against organized crime,” the group said in the five-minute clip.
On Sept. 20, two pick-up trucks were left abandoned in broad daylight on a busy Veracruz boulevard with 35 bodies in their beds and on the ground.
Investigators found a banner alongside the corpses in which the killers urged people not to allow themselves to be extorted by the cartel anymore and warned other Zetas members that they would meet the same fate if they remained in Veracruz.
In the video, the Mata Zetas did not refer directly to the 35 slayings but there were some similarities between the message on the banner and the content of the video.
“In Mexico, there’s no room for declarations or actions by people, groups or organizations that undermine or violate the rule of law, regardless of their cause, motivation or ultimate aim,” the interior ministry said in its statement on the videos.
Following the appearance of the clips, some analysts said the group could be an independent death squad that enjoys some support from the authorities or from business leaders tired of being extorted by organized crime elements.
Veracruz is home to one of Mexico’s largest Gulf of Mexico cargo ports and is famous for its boardwalk, 16th century fort, traditional Cafe Parroquia restaurant/coffee house and carnival celebrated in February and March.
Located some 410 kilometers (250 miles) east of Mexico City, it is a destination for domestic tourists who come to enjoy its white sand beaches and other attractions.
But its tranquil reputation is under threat from a recent spate of violence blamed on a bloody turf war involving the Los Zetas and Gulf drug cartels and breakaway members of the once-powerful La Familia Michoacana mob.