Tuesday, August 7, 2012
The Zetas: The new fourth estate(*)
Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez
(Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat)
Mexico, D.F. Proceso. 8-7-2012. In July, attacks against communications media facilities in Monterrey increased. The daily El Norte was the object of three attacks, and another victim was Dipsa (the company that distributes Proceso weekly magazine, among others). These attacks take place in a context of aggression against the principal print media in the northeast part of the country: El Norte had already been the target of attacks on at least three occasions since 2010; El Manana, in Nuevo Laredo, has been attacked twice this year, and in 2011, the facade of El Siglo de Torreon was hit with a burst of gunfire, and that of El Buen Toro, in Veracruz, was set on fire. Another relevant fact: of the 12 journalists murdered this past year, eight were in Veracruz. A common feature in the geography of these attacks is that they have happened in places where the Zetas have a predominant presence.
Why would the Zetas undertake a campaign of systemic aggression against communications media? This last year, the Zetas have faced a series of external pressures. The federal government has carried out operations aimed at reducing their operational capability, which has resulted in the capture or arrest at least 13 of its leaders. The Sinaloa Cartel has capitalized on the vulnerability these operations generate and has carried out incursions intended to extend its presence into places where the Zetas operate. Also, this past June 11, Jose Trevino Morales, brother of Miguel Angel, El Z-40, and other members of the organization were arrested in the United States.
These pressures have generated tensions and created a crisis of trust within the Zeta power structure. There are even rumors of a split. At this juncture, the Zetas' priority is to prevent the spread of information that would result in one or more of the following: weaken the public's perception that they are a united and powerful organization; exacerbate their reputation of being an armed group prone to extreme and indiscriminate violence (an feature skilfully exploited by the Sinaloa Cartel), or that reveals the ties it maintains with extensive networks of government officials to create profitable illegal businesses. With respect to this last point, the Zetas are particularly vulnerable to information leaks about its operations. Unlike the Sinaloa Cartel, which focuses to a greater degree in international drug trafficking, the Zetas derive a substantial portion of their revenues from crimes at the domestic level, such as extortion, kidnapping and fuel theft, activities that require a greater degree of collusion with authorities and other actors in formal sectors of the economy.
This is why recent attacks against El Norte and Proceso's distributor in Monterrey are part of a strategy to prevent the dissemination of information contrary to the interests of the organization. The daily newspapers of the Reforma Group were the only ones to disseminate a translation of a note that the New York Times published on June 13 (2012), in which were revealed details of an extensive money laundering network that one of it leaders operated in the United States. On July 19, El Norte also revealed the existence of a motor vehicle license plate trafficking network in Nuevo Leon (that presumably generated substantial profits for the Zetas), and this same newspaper daily publishes timely information about crime and violence in Monterrey. As for Proceso, on July 19 it published an extensive article about the presumed schism within the Zetas and repeated the principal accusations of betrayal made against one of its principal leaders. In addition, in May and June (Proceso) published a two volume special edition that contained 44 extensive articles about the Zetas.
In short, through their violent and intimidating actions, the Zetas are (or will soon be) the new fourth estate in several states around the country.
*The author is an expert in security, transparency, access to information and professionalizing public service. This article was published originally in the daily newspaper, Reforma, on Friday, August 3, (2012) .
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat