Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What's Behind Mexican Migrant Killings Still Unclear

By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Newspapers
President Felipe Calderon on Friday accused the gunmen who killed 72 illegal migrants in northern Mexico this week of "incalculable savagery" as his government attempted to depict the major drug gang implicated in the slaughter as weakened and desperate.

The discovery of the grisly massacre Tuesday night at a ranch near San Fernando , about 45 miles southwest of Brownsville, Texas , put the spotlight on Los Zetas, a crime syndicate based along the Gulf Coast of Mexico that has international tentacles.

The massacre — and its murky motives — continued to shake Mexico on Friday.

A small car bomb blew up near the local offices of Mexican network Televisa farther south in Tamaulipas state, in Ciudad Victoria , causing damage but no injuries. Calderon himself also confirmed that two state criminal investigators who'd been assigned to probe the slayings had vanished.

In an interview on W Radio, Calderon searched for words to describe the contempt he felt for the gunmen who lined up the migrants — mostly from Central America but also from Ecuador and Brazil — and sprayed them with bullets.

"They are simply beasts," Calderon said.

The sole apparent survivor, an Ecuadorean, feigned death and escaped the San Fernando ranch, stumbling with a bullet wound in his neck to alert Mexican marines who were stationed nearby.

A top aide to Calderon blamed Los Zetas and said military pressure on the group had left it weakened and in need of reinforcements. Alejandro Poire of the National Security Council said the gunmen had captured the migrants and given them a choice: Work for Los Zetas as gunslingers and peons, or face death.

When the 58 male and 14 female migrants resisted, they were killed.

"Rather than a kidnapping with an apparent financial aim, it was done fundamentally with the goal of detaining these people and forcing them to join the structures of organized crime," Poire said, according to a transcript of his remarks, made in another radio interview, that Calderon's office issued Friday.

Human and civil rights groups voiced outrage that the Calderon government used the massacre to defend its military campaign against drug cartels, even as the human toll grows.

Poire "tries to diminish the magnitude of the massacre, affirming that it is a sign that organized crime has been hit by the government," 39 groups from around Latin America said in a statement.

However, an Austin, Texas -based strategic intelligence research group, Stratfor, said in a report Friday that Los Zetas, sometimes called simply the "Z's," indeed are hurting.

Los Zetas, which arose more than a decade ago as a paramilitary shock force for the Gulf Cartel, broke away from the struggling Gulf drug lords in February and have been locked in a bloody war with other trafficking groups since then.

The group has branched into other areas of criminal activity, including piracy of consumer goods, extortion and taking control of human smuggling routes from traffickers known as coyotes, reaping from $2,000 to $10,000 per migrant.

Needing more gunmen against its rivals, Los Zetas called up Central American gang members with whom they're allied, the Stratfor report said.

"This latest incident shows a continued desperation for manpower and ability to put boots on the ground to defend Los Zetas' home territory," it said.

Another analyst of Mexico's security situation, Edgardo Buscaglia , cast doubt on official accounts of the massacre and criticized Calderon's handling of it.

"First, we have to find out whether they really were Zetas," Buscaglia said, or whether they might have been crime gangs further down the chain.

Buscaglia said Calderon had glossed over evidence that all of Mexico's major crime groups had grown stronger during his term, and that he has used military force against the cartels without taking other steps to deal with pervasive government corruption, which allowed the cartels to strengthen.

"The president, unfortunately, looks at all of this as a media war," Buscaglia said. The portrayal of Los Zetas as weakened "is a marketing story" to deal with the international black eye Mexico has suffered with the massacre, he said.

"Every serious expert in the world agrees that Mexican organized crime groups are more powerful than ever before," Buscaglia said.

Los Zetas have moved into parts of Central America . In March, police in Guatemala said the group had threatened to kill President Alvaro Colom , and a month later El Salvador's president warned of Los Zetas' presence in his country.

Police in Bolivia and Colombia also have reported ties between local drug clans and the violent Los Zetas.


  1. Its hard to say whether or not the Z's got their backs to the ropes. From what my relatives tell me who live South of the border there are people out there that will claim Zeta to rob,kill, and rape with impunity. This usually works for a while until a real Zeta gets wind of this and the perpetrating Zeta catches a few bullets to the head in broad daylight.

    I also find it hard to believe they are as weak as the Calderon administration would like you to think. If anything their numbers seem to be growing more rapidly than any other Cartel I've read articles on.

  2. "Incalcuble savagery" more like "uncounsciounable savagery" still, it get treated like petty crime. In a country falling apart with no law and order,and it's existence under threat. Calderon should stop pussey footing and just cancel the Mexican constitution and declare himself the benevolent dictator - if there is such a thing, LOL - and take out the long knives against those politicians who are feeding and enriching themselves on this monster.

  3. One HUGE component of responsibilty is..August 29, 2010 at 12:29 PM


    There’s no capacity to regulate or punish them because they’re too big to be threatened with failure,” Blum says. “They seem to be willing to do anything that improves their bottom line, until they’re caught.”

    Heartbroken but pissed.. Chivis

  4. @ BB

    sorry i meant my post to be on the thread re:

    Stepped-up Efforts by U.S., Mexico Fail to Stem
    please place there

    thanks chivis

  5. I wonder if the Zetas actually killed these people, did the Zetas set off a bomb?It would be textbook Mexican for another cartel to set up the Zetas on this deal then let the FED help clean up Zetas, Gulf Cartel?? Who knows?? Hope they all kill each other and soon.

  6. Anonymous (August 29, 2010 at 3:37 PM):

    I doubt they were set up, because the sole survivor identified them. And I doubt any of the cartels are actually going to take time to 'set up' Los Zetas. These guys have enough to deal with, they are not going to go out of their way to set them up.

    You should read Proceso's Julio Scherer Garcia article regarding migrants and the kind of torture they experience while crossing the border. I think it's from his book, it was on Proceso's facebook and also on their website. Scherer Gracia is an amazing writer, he was able to capture each account (all of them were courtesy of Los Zetas) and didn't taint anything with his own personal views. His writing is perfect and seemingly pure, that can't be said for every journalist (most are not cut out to be writers, so they settle for journalism instead). But Scherer Garcia is clearly a master at both and Proceso is far more credible than anyone whos says something like the following: "Are you sure it was The Zetas."

    Not only are we sure, but it has Los Zetas written ALL OVER IT.

    That said I'm going to do my best and translate the article, although, I doubt any translation would be as pure as the original Spanish version. I've read Garcia Marquez in English and Spanish, but the English version of his work is never the same, it's never as pure. The same goes for Neruda (the poet), his poems don't feel the same in English - they don't have the same effect. Come to think of it, I don't think I would enjoy my brother's poetry in English, it's perfect in Spanish.

  7. embed some under-cover goverment agents with the migrants, they've got to do more to infiltrate so they can get to the head of the snake and cut it off.

  8. Jefferson said, to understand and appreciate the work, it should be read in its original language.

    Fue fácil para él decir.

  9. why would the only survivor lie?, especially when it is dangerous to say the name z in mexico

  10. and theyre still asking themselves if it was the zetas that committed the massacre of course it was the zetas besides them there are also other gangs known as the maña, la letra that also commit crimes. mexico should stop blaming the u.s. for its problems and implement the Death penalty automatically kill and get rid of filthy trash once they catch them red handed. a far away relative owns a ranch not so far from san fernando tamps and on his property the zetas go and dump dead people on his property since theres over grown grass they just throw them there and leave them there to rot. they have to inspect the area from aboved and look for these poor people that have fallen prey to these animals. this has to be stopped the u.s. needs to intervene and send man power to kill these beasts.


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