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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mexico's Tales of Bus Passengers Forced to Fight to the Death

By: Adam Clark Estes
The Atlantic Wire
The cinematic nature of one reporter's take on violent new extremes in Mexican drug wars beg for scrutiny. Prefacing a Senate call to reduce arms trafficking to Mexico by a few hours, the Houston Chronicle's Dane Schiller described the chilling account of a member of the Zetas cartel who asked only to be referred by the apparent pseudonym "Juan" that combines Scarface, Saw and, unexpectedly, Gladiator:

If what he says is true, gangsters who make commonplace beheadings, hangings and quartering bodies have managed an even crueler twist to their barbarity. Members of the Zetas cartel, [Juan] says, have pushed passengers into an ancient Rome-like blood sport with a modern Mexico twist that they call, "Who is going to be the next hit man?"

"They cut guys to pieces," he said.

The victims are likely among the hundreds of people found in mass graves in recent months, he said.

Over the past few weeks, authorities have discovered a number of mass graves in and around San Fernando in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The road between the state capital Ciudad Victoria and Brownsville, Texas runs through San Fernando, and locals now call it either "the highway of death" or "the devil's road." The highway is often empty now as many bus companies cancelled routes after repeated kidnappings from buses hijacked by the Zetas and other cartels. According to Juan's account and local authorities, the kidnappings served as a means for recruiting new gang members, but intimidation techniques have gotten out of hand.

"It would be more for amusement," Peter Hanna, a retired FBI officer who investigated Mexican drug cartels, told the Chronicle. "I don't see it as intimidation or a successful way to recruit people." He added, "The stuff you would not think possible a few years ago is now commonplace … It used to be you'd find dead bodies in drums with acid; now there are beheadings."

To corroborate Juan's story, Schiller points to Borderland Beat, a blog run by a former law enforcement officer in the Southwest United States, who published a more detailed account of the death battles in April. We talked to the blog's founder, Alejandro Marentes, who explained that a writer sent him the story which had been published on a blog in Spanish, and Marentes translated and republished it on Borderland Beat. After the post got some pickup on the internet, Marentes added this editor's note: "To this point we have not been able to confirm its validity, we publish it for information purposes and for you to formulate your own conclusions."

It's easy to see why some readers might find the story unbelievable. From the post on Borderland Beat:

"Ok listen up assholes, the trick is this, we are going to pair you in twos, and you are going to fuck up each other with the sledgehammers, and the one who survives will join us in our work and you get to live, while the one who does not survive, well you get fucked," he said sarcastically making his men laugh out loud. The passengers were stunned by the instructions from a narco who resembled more a nazi than anything else, they could not believe this was happening to them. Everyone grabbed their sledgehammer and took their position with their pair. They stared at each other with a look of pure fear. "Ok, fuck each other up," ordered El 40.

After the fight Comandante 40 gathered all the Zetas and said, "that is all for fun and game for tonight cabrones. Bring me all the winners" and they brought all the men who had killed their partner with the sledgehammer and El 40 said," Welcome to the Special Forces of the Zeta, the other military."

"It's hard to get any type of confirmation from anything that's happening there," Marentes told The Atlantic Wire. "We have some people in Mexico that have good contacts, but many times we have a hard time."

Marentes continued by describing a lack of journalists on the ground in the San Fernando area. Most journalists don't dare enter without police or military protection, but even then, many are threatened if not attacked. We contacted Dane Schiller, the Chronicle reporter, to find out more about how he found his source, he asked not to be interviewed. "I don’t want to make the story about me and my efforts," Schiller said in an email.

However, the original report is written like fiction. Victims from bus kidnappings--many of whom are illegal immigrants passing through Mexico to the United States--have reportedly been rescued from gang members, but there's no indication that the post's author was one of them. (Besides the fact, that they survived the tell the tale, if it's true.)

We asked Marentes, who's been covering the cartel wars for years, his gut feeling on whether the reports of gladiatorlike battles could be true based on precedent in the Mexican drug wars. "The story's realistic," Marentes said. "All you've gotta do is look at what's going on with the brutality of the violence over there--I can see that happening very easily over there."


  1. Next, an un named source or Ex Zeta or CDG
    FBI, DEA type vato
    undercover of course,so we can never know his identity, but he said so and it must be true. Faux News will ask a Christian minister- politico to put his 2 words in
    and claim Hezbola provided the hammers
    China provided the swords,
    Chapo Bin Ladin provided the popcorn.

    1. damnnn .. you did good on that reply/comment ,, got me thinking, even in humor twist

  2. This " story" has been around for a while. It was published at BDN, then here. It has not been authenticated. I don't buy it. Read the original Spanish and see for yourself. There are a lot of problems with the " first hand" account.

    1. seems creepy, and a set up type incident/event/occurence ... i wouldnt want to look into it

  3. What about the story seems unbelievable to you? When I saw that they uncovered 200 bodies in the area...i figured something similar to this had to be going down

  4. Something seems off about this to me too, like someone who reads a lot of narco blogs wrote the account, I'm not saying I don't believe it, I just have a feeling. I think there may be another explanation then Zeta's playing gladiator games in the middle of the desert, or it happening so many times. It is possible it has happened though, I just don't think it's likely it's common practice or protocol. Although, you never know.

  5. Entire busloads come up from Guatemala to work for the CDG, women included, which is confirmed in this video:

    It wouldn't suprise me if that was another contributing factor in the attacks on bus passengers, to catch possible CDG recruits and to scare others away from going.

  6. The only reason I think their might be some truth to this is that most of the bodies in mass graves were killed by blunt force trauma and not any other method.

  7. Don't underestimate the possibility that the account is actually from a Zeta. All through history, warring factions have engaged in propaganda operations. The Zetas have a lot to gain by planting such a story on an unsuspecting reporter.

    A grain of truth, exaggerated to a point, contributes to the pattern of terror that is the Z's calling card. The brutality is only a few steps beyond what is current.

    It doesn't really matter what is true here. What matters is that the story is not completely outlandish, and that is what makes it scary.

    1. yes, scary is a word like evilish, i wont be investigating

  8. The first time this tale came on Blog del Narco, it said that the account came from a survivor who managed to escape, now this new articles say that it was a Zeta in Texas.

    It might be true, Zetas are animals, cruel and vicious, but it's hard to trust something that reads just as a creepy rumor.

  9. The truth is horrific enough. people laughed at this account and I for one do not want people to wonder about what is happening in Mexico is truth or fiction or something to laugh about.

    or blow actual events off as so much hype.
    if it were my call, which is was not, it would not have been posted

    however, most bodies DID NOT show any blunt force trauma...and that has been reported many times. so the poster that says other wise, where did you see differently?

  10. I didn't believe this story when it came out on all narco blogs it just seemed like the person who told the story had to be everywhere at once. But yes that last we heard most of the 200+ bodies in San Fernando died of trauma to the head. but thats tamaulipas for you once the government gets in there no word gets out.

  11. The comments by all of you well-versed bloggers are pathetic. You are so eager to participate in Mexico's violence from the sidelines and experience the vicarious thrill of the Mexican reality. You sheild yourselves behind a porous border, the relative safety of your home, and the advantageous anonimity of the internet to "discuss" matters completely outside any of your understanding. No amount of chit-chat on the web over the veracity of an "uncomfirmed" report written by a would-be informant will affect anything that happens in Mexico. Your reflection on events as they develop are meaningless and at most laughable for any Mexican that can read and understand english and the particular nuances of the ridiculously ignorant bloggers that pass thenselves as aficionados of the EXTREME violence that persists south of the U.S. border. Before any of you go on to claim that this comment is hypocritical or "stupid" at best since I am probably some disgruntled American leisurely writting from the very safety of U.S. soil let me tell you something: I live on the border on the Mexican side, I have seen gruesome acts of violence first hand and personally witness the physical results of this violence. Picture a quiet noon disrupted by the sound of an AK-47 being fired by a teenager 30 feet from a kindergarden with little kids fleeing for their lives. The result being three people dead and one injury. The injured man happened to be driving right by the scene of these exuctions as they were about to begin. He reversed his car filled with his family consisting of two women and four kids. As he got shot throught the car on the lower leg everyone abandoned the car throught the passenger doors including the man who tried to run but fell because of his useless leg and dragged himself half a block to a store. Meanwhile as this ocurred the executions left one man laying on a street corner his body riddled with bullet holes that shredded his muscles and his head completely hollowed out with a huge crater on the back of his head and all his brains splattered on someones front door. The other was even worse because the executioner took the time to aim at the victim, leaving his head literally split in half from the shoulders on up the gore I cannot even describe. That was enough for me and I did not even venture inside the abandoned house were the other victim layed but others assured me he was shredded as well. Think about it.

  12. Anon 11:14
    Here you go...

    most died of blunt force trauma to the head, and a sledgehammer found at the crime scene is believed to have been used in the executions,

    Forensic photographs shown to The Washington Post depict mummified bodies caked in dirt and badly decomposed, with signs of extreme cranial trauma.

    Read more:

    1. BLUNGEONED !! damnnnn ūüė≤ its all evil though, i thank god almighty i am not in that game

    2. lots of blundgeoning .. damn evil .. thats awful

  13. I'm not saying the story is 100% true, clearly it was an exagerration, but why would the person have to be everywhere at once? It sounds to me like the story was told by a zeta, not a hostage as ppl assumed, so why wouldn't he know everything that's going on? If he was busy watching ppl fight with sledgehammers, wouldn't he still know if his buddies are throwing kids in acid? And what makes u think they only did this once? Probably a few times. Anyway i don't think the story is "true" in the sense that it went down the way it was told. But we know they fry bodies in acid. We know they fight with sledgehammers. We know they rape women. So someone put the stories together to make a point. Makes sense

  14. By his own admission, the informant had NO first hand knowledge of this, it was merely told to him.

    DO we know they fight with sledgehammers? Really? We don't KNOW that.

    This story is bullshit, start to finish until proven otherwise. Repeat a lie enough and it becomes the truth.


  15. Is is probably a true account and if it did not really occur you can bet your ass it will happen now that the idea has been given to the sons of satan who roam Mexico and slaughter people at will!!

  16. Look from my experience in the military, the more someone talks about the things they have seen or have done. The more bullshit it really is, and that applies to every guy out there. The real ones who actually seen some crazy shit or have done it, never and I mean never talk about it.

  17. @12.16, exactly.

    Reality check. If the informant is to be taken so seriously, why haven't LE picked him up and questioned him about WHO WAS INVOLVED? Or are we to believe only OUR officials know who he is, and the Mexican's don't? Please...

    The very fact he is talking still and not be seriously questioned and being forced to out members of the Zetas or whomever shows this is BS.

    @3.01 am....I witnessed the same thing, only worse growing up in Pomona California...and with regularity by the 12th Street Gang and others. You have no idea of the violence here, so you probably don't want to comment on things north of the border.


  18. Fiction or not .. think about all that DOES happen. And all the things U NEVER heard about.

  19. It's a whole different reality when you are living in Mexico and in the area near the frontera where the violence and killing is nonstop! Seeing the victims who have been beheaded or blown apart with a shotgun or military grade ordnance is much worse than any Hollywood gore and is the stuff of nightmares! I knew a guy from Veracruz who thought it might be nice to bring his American girlfriend down to Mexico to meet his family? What he didn't count on was the local cartel members who found his girlfriend to also be quite attractive so they told him that they liked his girlfriend too and that they would pay him some plata for her or if he didn't go along with it then they would just kill him and take her anyway? He didn't go along, but he somehow escaped, however she didn't and hasn't been seen alive since? Probably gang raped and killed or worse put out on the street or in a whorehouse as a sex slave? If people think that that these things don't happen then just check out the cartel vids on BestGore? Those are real people being tortured, killed and dismembered or boiled, sometimes still alive? Sometimes they hang a live guy up and cut off his 'frank and beans' while he is still wriggling around hanging upside down from a rope? These are the things we see, what happens unseen is worse.....


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