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

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Zetas may be smuggling weapons

Zeta weapons caches containing hundreds of assault weapons and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition were seized in Army and Marine raids in Coahuila in June, 2011. Coahuila borders the state of Chihuahua on its eastern flank.

Evidence of Los Zetas in Chihuahua was reinforced by the presence of "narco" banners in Ciudad Juarez and the municipalities of Cuauhtemoc and Namiquipa in which Los Zetas deny any role in the massacre of 20 bar patrons in Monterrey this past Friday. Identical banners were hung in Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Zacatecas and Queretaro.

Zetas may be smuggling weapons
By Diana Washington Valdez/El Paso Times

The brutally violent Zetas drug organization may be smuggling military-grade weapons through El Paso and Columbus, N.M., to feed its ongoing battles against other cartels and to possibly disrupt the 2012 elections in Mexico.

Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA's El Paso Intelligence Center and a former CIA operative, said the Zetas have shipped large amounts of weapons through the El Paso area.

A federal law enforcement agency in El Paso said it has no information about the allegations that the Zetas are smuggling weapons through El Paso.

"They are purchasing weapons in the Dallas area and are flying them to El Paso, and then they are taking them across the border into Juárez," said Jordan, a law enforcement consultant and former DEA official who still has contacts in the law enforcement community.

Jordan said the Zetas were flying weapons caches out of the Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, and after they arrive in the El Paso vicinity, the Zetas smuggled them into Juárez.

"What's ironic is that the DEA also uses the Alliance Airport for some of its operations," Jordan said. "The Zetas were working out of a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in the Dallas area to smuggle the weapons to the border."

The DEA has its Aviation Operations Center at Alliance.

Robert "Tosh" Plumlee, a former CIA contract pilot, supported Jordan's allegations and said the Zetas allegedly also purchased property in the Columbus-Palomas border region to stash weapons and other contraband.

He said purchasing property and setting up a weapons-smuggling network suggests that the Zetas were establishing a staging area for their operations.

DEA Special Agent Diana Apodaca, spokeswoman for El Paso's DEA office, said the agency did not have any information about the Zetas allegedly operating in this border region.

No one from the Border Patrol or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives returned calls Tuesday for comment.

Earlier this month, Plumlee had a debriefing with the Border Patrol in Las Cruces about the intelligence he gathered when he accompanied the U.S. military's Task Force 7 along the border. The military, which assists civilian law enforcement in counter-drug operations, was looking into allegations of gun smuggling along the border.

"The military task force became concerned that its information about arms smuggling was being compromised," Plumlee said. "From the intel, it appears that a company was set up in Mexico to purchase weapons through the U.S. Direct Commercial Sales program, and that the company may have had a direct link to the Zetas."

Under the Direct Commercial Sales program, the U.S. State Department regulates and licenses businesses to sell weapons and defense services and training for export. Last year, according to U.S. statistics, the program was used to provide Mexico $416.5 million worth of weapons and equipment, including military-grade weaponry.

The program is different from the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, which operates on a government-to-government basis.

Plumlee said military-grade weapons were found in a Juárez warehouse two years ago, and some of them were moved later to a ranch elsewhere in Juárez. Arms stash houses have also been reported in places across the border from Columbus and Antelope Wells, N.M.

"They've found anti-aircraft weapons and hand grenades from the Vietnam War era," Plumlee said. Other weapons found include grenade launchers, assault rifles, handguns and military gear including night-vision goggles and body armor.

"The information about the arms trafficking was provided to our U.S. authorities long before the 'Columbus 11' investigation began," said Plumlee, referring to recent indictments accusing several Columbus city officials of arms trafficking in conjunction with alleged accomplices in El Paso and Chaparral, N.M.

Jesús Rejón Aguilar, the number three man in the Zeta's hierarchy, disclosed last week that the Zetas bought weapons in the United States and transported them across the Rio Grande. Mexican federal authorities captured Rejón on July 3 in the state of Mexico, and presented him to the news media the next day. His recorded video statement was uploaded on YouTube.

Jordan agreed with Plumlee's allegations that the Zetas are operating in the Columbus-Palomas border.

Plumlee, who has testified before U.S. congressional committees about arms and drug trafficking, said the roads in Southern New Mexico provide smugglers easy access to Mexico's highway networks.

Recently, Juárez police removed a couple of "narco mantas" (drug cartel banners) allegedly signed by the Zetas that were left in two parts of the city. The message claimed that the Zetas had nothing to do with a July 8 massacre at a nightclub in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

Similar banners containing the same message appeared in cities in eight other Mexican states. The messages blamed the Gulf drug cartel for the attack in Monterrey that killed or injured 34 people.

Zetas have been reported in Juárez and other Chihuahua cities, but so far they have kept a low profile.

According to an FBI Investigation Intelligence Bulletin, "Los Zetas activities in the United States to date have largely been limited to the U.S./Mexico border area," but have expanded their reach into the Southeast and Midwestern United States.

Authorities in Arizona previously reported that Zetas dressed up as SWAT officers were implicated in the 2008 murder of a man in Phoenix.

The FBI said the Zetas emerged from an elite Mexican army unit known as Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, or GAFE, that was created to fight drug-traffickers. Some GAFE members received special U.S. military training.

In 2002, "an unknown number deserted and joined the Gulf cartel, serving as the hired guns for cartel leadership," the FBI bulletin said. "Since that time Los Zetas has grown into a sizeable, semi-independent organization."

The FBI said the organization has been tied to public corruption, immigrant smuggling, kidnapping, assault, murder, extortion and money laundering.

"The group is well-armed, highly trained, and reputed for their brutal tactics as cartel enforcers," the FBI memo said.

Plumlee said most of the military-grade weapons that made their way into Mexico are not showing up at crime scenes where drug violence is rampant.

"Most of the military-type weapons have been found in stash houses, being stored up," Plumlee said. "This is getting into theory now, but I think the Zetas are saving them for the (2012) election season. They probably want to be included in a part of the government."


  1. They probably want to be included in a part of the government."
    Who writes this crap?

  2. What's so ironic about the dea being in the same place as the dea? Atf, fbi, cia, all of these u.s government entities are a part of operation "FAST AND FURIOUS". Connect the dots, they are selling the cartels weapons. Period!

  3. they are NOT getting rpgs and grenades in the US you dip shits, and if they are then it is from our own government...which wouldnt really surprise anybody!!

  4. Do you REALLY think ZETAS are smuggling weapons,surley not ??

  5. Our system is totally screwed up. We can't stop the flow of weapons into Mexico because the NRA, jobs, and money won't allow us to crack down. Let's face it the NRA has grown to be an unstoppable lobbying force and we profit too much as a country from these weapon sales. These Zetas and other enforcers are too well trained and have access to too many weapons, something has to be done on our side of the border.

  6. Didn't Mamito already confirm this?

  7. What else is new?

  8. Well they are not very good at hiding them... There would be more information out in the public domain concerning the ZETAS but Mamito was the last one that knows how to read/write...

  9. @ 10:20

    I was just about to say that.

    These American "special agencies" are just playing stupid. They know EXACTLY what's going on. They are simply being paid not to care.

  10. "they want to be included in the government", now that is a scary thought right there.. dayum

  11. Wait Zetas are smuggling weapons?? Now the other cartels are going to have to start buying weapons or they'll never be able to keep up!

  12. No really jaja I'm pretty sure all the cartels do the same thing.what's up with all this zetas zetas zetas why not talk about the Juarez cartel or other cartel ooh that's right they are too low key.

  13. Phil Jordan was the head of the DEA in El Paso years ago. There is an incredible book about him, "Down by the River", by Charles Bowden. It is all about the Juarez Cartel when it was the most powerful criminal organization in the world. It has some incredible stuff on governmental and military corruption in the 90s and into early 2000s. It is a must read.

    @ 8:54 PM "Who writes this crap." Someone far more knowledgeable than your dumb ass. The author of this article is Diana Washington Valdez. She has been with the El Paso Times for probably 20 years. She has written more on the serial killings of women in Juarez and on the Juarez Cartel than anyone. She is one of the most credible writers on these topics. She wrote an incredible book, "The Killing Fields, A Mexican Safari," about the serial killings of young women in Juarez and most of the charged or accused of those crimes. She published the book knowing that points in the book and implications directed at very wealthy people and the Juarez Cartel could get her killed. It wouldn't hurt you to read that one either. It was great.

    What the statement "They want to be included in a part of the government", meant was probably deeper than you can think. PAN leadership has declared an all out war on the Zetas and for that matter all the cartels except Sinaloa and to some degree CDG. If the PRI take majority in 2012, this will likely change. If a cartel can create enough problems at the polls during the elections to swing votes for a political party, they will likely be the cartel in favor during that term. That is what was meant by the statement and it is far more likely than you think. It will probably occur. This has been very common in Mexico's elections.

    Please don't just sit back and read an article looking for something in it to slam the author about. They make assumptions that readers have some knowledge about what they are writing and can read between the lines. Thanks BB for putting this article up.


  14. Well this is certainly groundbreaking information.

  15. whats this recorded video statement from zeta 3rd in charged they captured that was uploaded to youtube?? was it him snitching?? and if so can we please get a translation in the forums

  16. Wow am I the only one that paid attention to zetas dressing up as SWAT in Phoenix???.Now that's crazy.To all those that believe that what's happening in Mexico can't happen in the united states,well this proves that it can.

  17. You got to love the NRA it's the only thing wetbacks and rednecks have in common(besides pickups)

  18. @ TRC:

    OMG! ¡Ja, Ja, Ja! This article is obviously on here as one of those jokes that everyone "gets" except the "gringo" in the room.

    Did anyone at the EPT even Google Robert "Tosh" Plumlee? One site even interviews him and says this guy was involved in trying to stop the JFK assassination!! FOR REAL!!! ( Now he's getting briefings from the BP and hanging out with "the military?" (Contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe, NO ONE JUST HANGS OUT WITH THE US ARMY OR DIA, CIA.) He must really be in the know, huh? YIKES!!

    If someone uses a statement like "they probably want to be included in a part of the government" (referring to the z) in their article, then clearly that reporter's and the source's credibility is fucked. It is obvious to me that the theorizing that this Plumlee guy is getting into is the same dumb and typically "gringo" geo/political analysis done around the family room computer while sitting on his BarcaLounger, and not even as a result of consultation with anyone that knows anything about the zetas or Mexico. Heck!; I recommend he hang out at the BorderlandBeat for a month or two; then he can draw some conclusions about the z that would greatly diverge from this embarrassing article.

    Its alright, though. Anyone can make a mistake.


  19. Diana Washington Valdez has been writing for the Times for twenty years.
    Yet she still quotes "90% of guns come from the US" etc.
    I have come to the conclusion that accurate reporting is lost to selling papers by making inflammatory statements.
    When is someone other that Straford going to investigate the arms from South America, Eastern Europe, and China?

  20. did we alll the sudden forget that they also get guns from Guatemala? from Korea? if they are buying sea cans of chemicals for meth from china, do you think they also might be getting sea cans of cheap norinco ak47's???

  21. Jees, Louise! This is what happens when you're on a deadline and there's nothing on the word processor.

    Hijole! The guy in the article is like Forest Gump; he shows up in all the important places in the last 60 years! He's even "Madrina" for La Migra.

    And who gives a rats butt if 90% is not exactly accurate? Neither you or anyone can definitively attest to the accuracy. the number is off by 10%, or 20% or 30%. Of course they're getting weapons from everywhere! Are you stupid enough that ZERO comes from the US? Either smurfed or otherwise? Don't be stupid, man. If you were anywhere in Mexico and have seen the prevalence of the American equipment everywhere, you would just shut your trap and postulate the premise; at 90% or 80% or 70% or whatever...

  22. well, this war will never end there is to much money to be lost for both, that is why our gov. agencies look the other way, how can the dea not know of this when they share the same airport thats an embarrasment, now think about it if the war is won, where are our agents going to work!!!!! they need to feed the beast to just a bit to keep themselves from being unemployed corruption is everywhere its just not as obvious as in Mexico, Uncle Sams agents just keep it on the DOWNLOW from the CIA to DEA
    remember Oliver North, if you dont google him,

  23. LOL @ "military grade weapons." What does that mean? Something that looks like an AK or an AR but is only semi-auto? That is NOT a military grade weapon, just like the grenades, grenade launchers, etc aren't being bought in gun stores. The whole reason for the military mindset changing to smaller caliber rifles is for automatic burst firing, which the ak or ar variant available at gun stores do NOT have.

    Those are available from certain sources in China, Eastern Europe, Russia, and many other places, just as terrorists buy from them year round. LOL @ at the image of grenades being available at the local gun stores.

    The 90% lie has been discredited over and over. The only people who believe that are the same types who think the ATF did not intentionally provide thousands of arms to the drug cartels to only then turn around and use that as justification for more nazi gun laws and regulations, just as the government scares the hell out of people with lies to justify taking away other rights with the TSA stormtroopers and the Patriot Act.

    With the US federal government keeping its insane Drug War ongoing that creates insane black market prices for drugs that creates the cartels in the first place, training the Zetas, and then the ATF arming various cartels, no wonder they are so powerful!

  24. i love the heading to this story, The zetas are smuggling weapons, really? We didnt know that? come on tell us something we dont know please. Who else would be doing it the great citizens of mexico that love their war torn country? next heading should be zetas are kidnapping, or sinaloa is smuggling drugs, come on this type of article makes me think there is no good news outlets anymore.

  25. I see the usual brain dead comments about the NRA. Do you realize why the NRA is powerful? Because the majority of Americans support gun rights and are against further restrictions of the 2nd amendment.

    If the majority of americans didn't support gun rights, then why did Obama and the democrat majorities in the house and senate pass laws from 2008 to 2010 allowing guns to be carried in national parks and amtrak? Because they know supporting gun rights is what the general public wants -- just ask the democrats who lost control of congress in 1994, Al Gore from 2000, and Kerry in 2004. They all LOST races they should have won because of the gun issue.

    That is because the American people support gun rights -- which is what gives the NRA the power it has.

  26. Does this mean la linea is going to merge with the Zetas? It seems like la linea is dying and their only solution is to join the Z. What do you guys think?

  27. AR is a gang member/cartel affiliate who hates white people and has an opinion. He thinks he has something to say because he can put two sentences together without making too many mistakes. He also likes to pose a condescending, know-it-all attitude.

    This is a good, well-written story that contains valuable info. BB makes a good move again. Thanks BB.

  28. Los zetas and cartel de Juarez are connected they have been for awhile. La linea is only one of ciudad Juarez hitman squad the biggest one actually I think I'm not too sure.The other one is Barrio aztecas or something like that and I don't know if they have more squads or sicario groups.

  29. haha.."May" be smuggling them.."may"!

  30. uh....Sorry. I guess I'm just not cut out for Blogosphere etiquette. I'm constantly getting talked-to about it. Haven't you called me on it before? Maybe not? Your writing feels familiar to me...I'd take a guess, but, I respect your "Anon" handle.

    I am an avid consumer of media. So, sometimes I pickup on little frays at the edge of "copy;" not to mention big gaping holes. Like I said, we all make mistakes.

    ...btw... I definitely have a point of view; and its probably biased toward the narco "establishment." I feel alot of whats going on in Mex right now is as a result of a disequilibrium from what was a system of discipline and self-policing that the narco elite had always had over their troops. I grew up with the belief that there was plenty of money to be made from supplying a market full of self-destructive lunatics up north; and all without having to exact kidnappings, extortion, and violence on your neighbors. One could, in relative safety, get across the river with few problems. It used to be that relatively little BS was tolerated; now you can't even go get some tacos at the corner for fear of having your life taken. There is no nightlife on the Mexican side of the border. Family weddings and gatherings only expose you to becoming a victim; so you just call. So, my bias is toward what had traditionally kept it a relatively safe business (the biggest fear was getting robbed by your counterpart or getting pinched by the cops).

    Also, I love white people!! I really, really, really like white people!! Why are you gonna say something like that to me? ...instead of chewing on what I'm commenting about? Did you follow the link? Did my comments make sense? I guess it might be easier to direct the flame away from my comments, tho. To you, is "Gringo" a pejorative? Its sometimes useful for people to think it is...

    That same abrasive know-it-all, holier-than-thou-it-all, attitude is the same asshole attitude I see in Sheriff Joe Arpaio or Tom Tancredo; Tom Delay, Governor Brewer, the late Fallwell, the MinuteMen and a whole host of people that insist on making me think they hate brown people. ...people who seem to feel that their disdainful attitude is justified by their having won the "I was born here" cosmic lottery. [Now, what the heck did they have to do with having been born in the US? Not a darn thing!] So why so sanctimonious and pompous about their gate keeping ( long as workers are productive, of course)? Why the insistence on injuring me by using the term "illegal?"

    So whenever I see an opportunity for tit-for-tat, I can't help myself; its an embarrassing personal defect. Its also why people like me (albeit a socially conservative guy) don't foresee themselves as being American political conservatives (Republicans). ¿Una de cal por dos de arena?

    I've got issues. Maybe a Groupon for some therapy? I'll look.

    ...he, he...

  31. "Zetas may be smuggling weapons" really? they may be smuggling drugs and people too. HELLO! OF COURSE THEY ARE SMUGGLING WEAPONS.. THAT IS WHAT SMUGGLERS DO - THEY SMUGGLE. WHERE U BEEN?

  32. For those brain dead liberals who keep thinking that the NRA is like the Umbrella corp in Resident Evil, you guys need to let in a little more information into your skulls. The NRA is a group of people who FIGHT for MY RIGHTs and every other civilian out there who wishes to USE his or her right in keeping firearms. Now while you idiots are fighting for gay marriage the NRA is FIGHTING for everyones right that is ALREADY there to begin with.

    With that said, if the Zetas are smuggling out of airports, then what the hell is TSA doing? And according to the article someone with ties to cartels (not the NRA dumbass, and keep in mind that they are probably fooling American companies into thinking they are legit) in Mexico set up a corporation that would allow American companies to export Military weapons as a way to "help" the mexican gov in defeating the cartels, only that the cartels pay that company to turn over the weapons to them. So holy shit, this is big if it is true.


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