A suspected member of the Los Zetas drug cartel was arrested and confessed to 75 murders, officials in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon said Monday.
Enrique Aurelio Elizondo "El Arabe" confessed that he is a member of a Los Zetas cell that operated for the past three years in the cities of Cerralvo, Paras, Agualeguas and General Treviño,” state Security Council spokesman Jorge Domene said.
Elizondo “participated in the kidnappings and murders of 50 passengers who were on a bus that came from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, while it was passing through the bus station in Cerralvo” in January 2011, Domene said.
Elizondo’s Zetas cell kidnapped people from two other buses and murdered 44 passengers suspected of being gunmen from the rival Gulf cartel, the security official said.
The suspect confessed that he shot several passengers with his AR-15 assault rifle and burned others, killing a total of 75 people.
Investigators, however, suspect that Elizondo may have killed more than 100 people, Domene said.
Los Zetas targeted intercity buses in an effort to recruit gunmen, extort money from migrants headed to the United States and murder suspected members of rival drug cartels.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed Los Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf drug cartel.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas, considered Mexico’s most violent criminal organization, went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
Elizondo also confessed to the murders of a woman and a girl in the city of Cerralvo, Domene said.
Investigators used information provided by the suspect to arrest three other Zetas members and locate a property used to burn and bury bodies, the state security official said.
About 2,000 people died in drug-related violence last year in Nuevo Leon, where more than 300 people are listed as missing.
Los Zetas has been blamed for several massacres in recent years.
The cartel was accused of being behind the Aug. 23, 2010, massacre of 72 migrants, the majority of them from Latin America, at a ranch outside San Fernando, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Los Zetas has also been blamed for the massacre of 27 peasants in May 2011 at a ranch in Guatemala’s Peten province, which borders Mexico and Belize.
Zetas gunmen set fire to the Casino Royale in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon, on Aug. 25, killing 52 gamblers and employees trapped inside, most of whom died of smoke inhalation.