Written by Pablo De Llano (El Pais)
Within the records of extreme violence in Mexico, the name of Los Zetas stands out. The cartel created during the [late 90s] by deserted Mexican soldiers, incorporated the tactic of civil terror to organized crime. The more savage, the more fear they caused among society and the more that the authorities became submissive, also causing the silence on behalf of the media while they enjoyed an uncontested control of territory. The machine of death of Los Zetas reached its climax during two tragic episodes, which an academic report is currently trying to clarify: the murder of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas in 2010 and the disappearance of an uncertain number of people (estimated at 300) in 2011 in Coahuila.
Under the direction of Political expert, Sergio Aguayo and the sponsorship of the Comisión Ejecutiva de Atención a Víctimas, the Centro de Estudios Internacionales del Colegio de México, an investigation was carried out; that report was named “Abandonment (en el Desamparo).” This report analyzed these two terrible cases and highlighted the lack of attention received on the victims and with the conclusion that didn’t surprise anyone: “The state has not done its homework.”
San Fernando Municipality, Tamaulipas-August 2010, witness statement of one of the survivors: “They tied our hands, they covered our eyes, and then they made us form a “U,” first the women and among them was a pregnant one. They told us to shut up, to not scream because they would kill us.” At that time, according to the report, San Fernando was an “extermination camp.” These 72 migrants that passed by San Fernando en-route to the American dream actually experienced their worst nightmare. Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel were at an open war with each other for the control of Tamaulipas and the Zeta strategy was to annihilate everything that smelled like the enemy. Amid rumors that the Gulf Cartel was recruiting migrants to fight against them, Los Zetas, a group so violent that the citizens wouldn’t dare to even mention their name, intercepted these 72 migrants, took them to a ranch, and offered them to join their organization. Three said yes according to the survivor (the report couldn’t determine of these three survived and became sicarios for Los Zetas or if they were part of the 72 murdered). Then, the carnage began. “El Alacran, El Chamaco, and El Sanidad killed them all with 9 millimeter coup de grace.” This according to a confession made by cartel member. “ When it was over, we slept normally.”
Allende Municipality, Coahuila- March 2011. What happened in Allende? Did it last days, weeks, or months? How many died? Allende is the darkest mystery during the Zetas reign of terror. Witness statements that have never been confirmed have talked about 300 disappearances. The report believes that the official number is of 42 disappearances in a 14 month period, 26 of them from a single weekend in March 2011. During this weekend, a group of Los Zetas on behalf of the Treviño brothers, summoned the 26 victims (all 26 were relatives, friends, and associates of three Zeta members that were on the hit list) to Allende so that they could kill them in retaliation for the three Zeta members that cooperated with the DEA and also for stealing between 5 and 10 million dollars. As it was tradition, they killed people, burned their bodies with gasoline, destroyed their homes. Meanwhile, the municipal police in Allende, at the service of the Treviños, simply looked the other way and did nothing.
The three Zetas that collaborated with the DEA are currently living in the U.S. and at least two of them are under the federal protected witness program. The report has criticized the lack of transparency of the U.S. after requests on information pertaining to the three of them.
Police for hire-“ The police forces obeyed the orders given to them.” According to the report, orders were to “not go out on patrol and to ignore calls for service.” The only humanitarian deed on behalf of the corrupt officers that day was that of a female officer working for Los Zetas who found a little girl of 5 years and a 3 year old boy and got them out of there and took them to another town. Nothing guaranteed that the Zetas would have mercy: a year later in Allende, some family members of the three “traitors” were found and killed. This was a family that consisted of the husband, wife, and their two children, ages 6 and a newborn. This new act of retaliation was carried out by both sicarios and police officers.
According to the report, “In 2010 and 2011, Los Zetas had at their service the 38 police officers of San Fernando and the 20 from Allende.” However, the officers got involved with Los Zetas in a different ways” Some became complicit while others kept their distance but didn’t confront or fight the criminals. The report explains the easiness of buying police officers in Mexico. The report highlighted that an officer would charge at least 300 dollars per month in that region. For example, to have the entire police force in Allende in their payroll, Los Zetas only needed [$6,000] dollars a month. This amount is nothing compared to the millions of dollars that this organization made from the sales of cocaine, kidnappings, and extortion.
The analysis of the major blood baths of Los Zetas highlighted the complicity or lack of operation on behalf of the institutions from the different levels of government. “The municipal governments were complicit of grave human rights violations; the state government of Tamaulipas was indifferent and in Coahuila insufficient. What did the federal entities do or didn’t do? The information that we have is enough to help us understand the actions and inactions of the federal government.” And “we hope to close this gap during the second phase of this investigation.”
Today, the Zetas Cartel has lost its unity. Its historical leaders are no longer in the game. Heriberto Lazacano AKA El Verdugo was killed and his body was mysteriously stolen by a Zetas commando. Miguel Angel Trevino AKA Z40 is currently incarcerated. The organization has become fragmented to the point that the current status of the cartel is unknown; however, its violence is very alive in Gulf States; especially Veracruz and Tamaulipas. Meanwhile, Mexico tries to understand the deadly episodes in the history of this young criminal organization.