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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Yolk of Los Zetas in Coahuila

Translated by Otis B Fly-Wheel for Borderland Beat from a Proceso article

"The yolk of Los Zetas" in Coahuila: control of prisons, kidnapping, killings, burning of bodies....

Subject Matter: The Yolk of Los Zetas
Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required

Reporter: Patricia Davila
In a memo from 2003, the DEA assured that Los Zetas ( the then armed wing of the Cartel del Golfo), already controlled Ciudad Acuna and Piedras Negras, Coahuila. In 2010 and 2011, their control of the north of the State was total, and the towns their had already submitted, moreover the prison at Piedras Negras was a virtual extermination camp.

To this was added that the State Government was negligent and some of its officials accomplices. The Federation was indifferent and complacent, in an environment where victims were ignored. The Los Zetas violence described above was the responsibility of the DEA and the Mexican Federal Police, entities that refuse to reveal the identities of those involved.

The above facts were revealed by researchers Sergio Aguayo and Jacobo Dayan in the research piece entitled "El Yugo Zeta", North of Coahuila, 2010 -2011 and presented this Tuesday the 21st at the College of Mexico (Colmex).

Based on journalistic reports, including some published in Proceso, as well as unpublished information obtained from other files and testimonies, both specialists explain what happened in the Piedras Negras jail, the dimensions of Los Zetas revenge started on March 18th 2011, and the responsibility of the United States Government in that Massacre.

The Yolk of Los Zetas offers a detailed explanation about life, discipline and death inside the Piedras Negras prison, a prison controlled by Los Zetas, and the work exposed by the file APP 005/2014-BIS, of 1535 files, provided by the Attorney Generals Office, 49 inmates, 21 custodians and 18 employees of the prison. In total 119 involved in the this plot of revenge and death.

The jail was a barracks that played a key role in the Zeta business and terror scheme. Even when they knew what was happening, the state and federal governments subsidized the penitentiary. In 2011, the budget allocated to the prisons of Coahuila was 135 million pesos.

Between March 18th and 22nd, 2011, Los Zetas unleashed a vengeance throughout the region. From Allende and Piedras Negras,in the five days, nearly 451 calls to the 089 emergency telephone service were made.

The plot that points to the responsibility of the United States Government in the Zetas revenge operates like this: they buy the narcotics that the Mexican Cartels send, and in payment they provide the gunmen with the weapons that made them so lethal, while they have imposed upon the Mexican Government a wrong strategy.

Weapons cache seized from Los Zetas
The Piedras Negras prison resulted in a criminal enclave, one of the spaces that John Sullivan defines as " zones without laws ", "spaces without government" or "zones of impunity", where forces confronting the State create parallel or dual sovereignty's in a "neo-feudal" political system.

This enclave was vital for the zeta organization, because it was a safe haven for drug lords who wanted to hide from the feds outside of the criminal payroll; the same served to obtain income selling drugs, soft drinks and even pork rinds, charging fees for the use of the cells or renting the rooms used for conjugal visits.

This also gave Los Zetas a discrete and secure place to install secret compartments into vehicle for moving drugs to the United States, and also served as a base for recruiting sicarios, and finally it was an ideal center for temporary confinement for those who had been kidnapped, as well as a place to torture and execute elements of rival cartels and to dispose of their bodies.

Oven at Piedras Negras prison used to incinerate bodies
The prison depended on a Zeta identified as David Loreto Mejorado, El Commandante Enano, or Nano, he and his superiors were responsible for maintaining the place.

This "prison chief" was named in December of 2009 and governed the prison until January of 2012. When he gave his ministerial declaration in December of 2014, El Nano was 45 years old and was a Municipal Policeman.

In order to comply with his orders, the "prison chief" had a team of 92 collaborators, including Lieutenants, bodyguards and messengers.

He also defined the priorities in the prison: if the activity meant more profit i.e. drug smuggling, then the modification of vehicles was the main priority. Second priority was the development of war equipment, and thirdly the destruction of bodies.

The capo imposed order and obtained obedience by instilling fear and application of brute force at the slightest opportunity, for the fish, beatings were part of daily life.

The most frequent punishments were the Tablazos, with a wooden board and aluminum bats, the inmates were struck in their buttocks. This custom comes from the initiation rites in military colleges. In fact one prisoner declared that the "prison chief" gave the director of the prison this punishment as well as the Guards shift leaders, and the guards themselves.

The Zetas had their own jail inside the prison: it was known as "El Monte" and was located in the maximum security area of the prison. There they put inmates who committed some infraction and those abducted from abroad while negotiating the payment of the ransom. The place could be very busy, since on one occasion they had 50 inmates on punishment.

So much control was possible because of the type of weapons El Nano had at his disposal. The guards were unarmed, except for the shift bosses and commanders. The opposite was true for Los Zetas, who carried sidearms and short wave radios that allowed them to control all areas of the prison. Periodically, Zetas entered from outside carrying rifles.

The jail also operated as a drug store and, according to statements made during trials in the United States and analyzed by a team at the University of Texas at Austin, by Ariel Dulitzky, the criminals had a workshop to fix and adapt transportation for the selling and distribution of narcotics.

The Piedras Negras prison was also a center for narcotics consumption. Recognizing this fact, the "prison chief" explains that the supply was made in full view: The drugs were handed to me by an accountant who worked for Los Zetas... the guards let him through the main door of the prison and he handed me a backpack that contained envelopes with drugs.

At some point in 2010, El Commandante Enano demanded that they expand the sources of income, as in the Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas prison, where they made enough money "fucking the inmates with extortion and fines that prison director claims to have refused to do. Finally he collected a weekly fee of 25 pesos, which he then increased to 50. In other words, they rented the cells built and maintained by the State itself.

According to the reference file, Los Zetas spent approximately one and half million pesos a yer in payments to management and security personnel.

A key factor for the cartel was the control of the prison workshops. The metal working and painting shop being the most important, in the opinion of Aguayo and Dayan, the cars were adapted to introduce the drug to the United States. Stolen or purchased vehicles arrived, to be modified , painted tinted windows fitted and if required, the VIN changed.

An intern who worked in that workshop tell that he arranged around 150 or more vehicles to be modified. The business was internal as the paint was stolen from shops and the used auto parts were dismantled in a crane workshop, all in Piedras Negras.

For its part, the sewing workshop had an important military function. They made the military type uniforms in green and sand colors, Navy uniforms, GAFE uniforms and the AFI, all used by Los Zetas in their operations.

They also manufactured covers for plate carriers, tactical webbing and police type belts, slings for rifles, holsters for pistols and spare magazines. By the way, it was the only workshop in which some women worked. According to an inmate, every week a car arrived with Los Zetas Quarter-Master, leaving rolls of cloth and carrying off everything that had been produced.

In the welding shop, ponchallantas were produced for Los Zetas to puncture tires, also vehicle repairs were carried out on vehicles damaged in confrontations with the State forces and antagonistic groups.

Los Zetas control of the prison was such that there are indications that at least one of the two brothers who dominated the region, in this case Omar Trevino Morales, El Z-42, was hiding in the prison during times when the Navy carried out operations to capture him.

The irony was not lost on anyone, That prison was the safest place for criminals persecuted by the Federals who were not on their payroll, since Federal forces only may enter State prisons at the request of the Prison Director.

There were also moments for the celebrations. Sometimes, Capo's entered the prison to hold parties with musicians and prostitutes. The parties could last all day and all night, and on some occasions, they took cows and killed them inside the prison to feed the entire Zeta staff. In case of necessity, the "prison chief" authorized the exit of some Zetas to buy beers or visit their families.

However, the situation within the prison reached extremes: The "prison chief" tells that the first time Los Zetas arrived with the bodies of their victims to incinerate them, El Commandante Enano, threatened to do the same to them and their families but they learnt their method.

"The first time they put a corpse in a two hundred gallon tank that they brought with them in their trucks, they threw gasoline in and set it on fire. We showed them how to do it properly, then twelve bodies came down on trucks... we cremated them. Another mode was to cut people in pieces before burning them. We cut them into sections, put them in drubs and burned them, dismemberment of victims was a common practise of this cartel."

A routine was established over time. "When they were going to have that type of order, they warned the "prison chief" and he in turn sent someone from his subordinates to warn the guards, so that they could open up immediately. Upon reaching the workshop area, the "prison chief" and his people unloaded the victims, alive or dead, they grabbed the lifeless bodies of the dead and deposited them on the ground, since the body was already inside a barrel, they began then to put diesel on them and light it, and they spent time topping up the diesel."

He also explained that when people were cooked, they were reduced in size, then were pulverized with iron until there was nothing left but ashes and bone fragments, then they tipped the residue onto the ground, there was very little left of them.

The victims, according to testimony were drug dealers who were not part of Los Zetas, people who owed them money, relatives of either, and other people with no ties to Los Zetas or criminal activities.

There were missing inhabitants of Piedras Negras, Acuna, five areas ( Allende, Morelos, Nava, Villa Union and Zaragosa) and other municipalities. There is talk of men, women, adults, young people and even children and the elderly, as well as of women who were pregnant up to seven months.

This jail also served as a social base for the recruitment of Sicarios. In the revenge that was unleashed on March 18th of 2011, the reason for the study of the researchers Aguayo and Dayan, was the events that affected Allende, Piedras Negras and the entire region of the Cinco Manantiales, for which the participation of the prisoners was documented.

According to testimonies, there were some inmates who came and went to the prison. An event confirmed this practise: In Septmeber of 2012 the media reported about the escape, through a tunnel, of almost a fifth (129) of the inmates of the Piedras Negras prison, which took only 15 minutes.

Statements contained in the prosecutors file and the trials in the United States indicate that the escaped was allowed because the "prison chief", already held staff ready in Saltillo to accomplish the escape.

However the violence in Saltillo caused by the Zeta revenge in northern Coahuila increased on February the 15th 2011, when Los Zetas executed DEA agent Jaime Jorge Cortes in San Luis Potosi.

After that fact, Washington demanded an end to the impunity enjoyed by Los Zetas, and then the Governments of Felipe Calderon and Barack Obama launched a bi national operation that in 12 days led to the arrests of hundreds of people. The Zetas felt betrayed by the attack and Saltillo experienced a bloody stage that altered the balance of the State capital and reached unprecedented levels of violence.

Simultaneously, the DEA put the heat on a capo in the United States to provide them with the information that would allow the capture of El Z-40 and El Z-42, the chiefs in Northern Coahuila. They obtained it and on Friday March 11th of 2011, a senior DEA official sent, to the Sensitive Investigations Unit of the Federal Police, the traceable identification numbers of the cell phones of Miguel Angel Trevino and his brother Omar.

A few hours later someone from that PF Unit informed the Trevino's, who immediately knew that the information had left the surroundings of his closest Lieutenant in Coahuila, Mario Alfonso Poncho Cuellar.

 Mario Alfonso Poncho Cuellar.

Journalist Ginger Thompson established, in her report " Anatomy of a Massacre", that Cuellar had the responsibility of getting his leaders new cells every three or four weeks, and that Cuellar had assigned that task to his right hand man Hector Moreno Villanueva, El Negro.

One of the witnesses in the trials of the United States said he was with El Z-40 when he learnt of the betrayal of Poncho Cuellar, who had committed a previous betrayal after escaping to the United States, owing him $10 million dollars.

El Z-40 was furious, he ordered the kidnapping of all the people and goods that "smelled" of Poncho Cuellar. The death penalty included those close to Cuellar, Moreno and another associate, Jose Luis Gaytan Garza, as well as men, women, children and the elderly, whether or not they were involved with the traitor.

Cuellar, Moreno and Garza fled to the United States, where the first two became protected witnesses of the DEA. However, before leaving, Cuellar warned those who worked for him to escape, although it is unknown if he alerted his family.

For this reason, Los Zetas set up and operation in the North of Coahuila that included Allende, Piedras Negras, Ciudad Acuna, Morelos, Nava, Zaragoza and Villa Union.

Shortly after, the hit men sent to Allende received their orders, "that they were to check all the homes of the Garza family because they were going to kidnap and kill them." They also issued instructions to the 20 members of the Municipal Police of Allende not to go out on patrol or respond to calls for help.

The sicarios were reinforced with an undetermined number of inmates of the Piedras Negras pirson. To date, the number of dead and missing is a mystery, although it is possible to approach 300.

The CNDH provided the Colmex scholars with the progress of the investigation into the Allende case. Thus, the first visitor asked the C4 for calls from Allende and Piedras Negras. He found that, out of Allende, with 22,000 inhabitants, 26 calls were made, of Piedras Negras with 152,000 inhabitants, 1425 calls were made, a ratio of 55:1.

Something very serious must of happened in Piedras Negras he concluded. The same refers to the responsibility of the United States in the growth of Los Zetas and in the violence they generated: The Piedras Negras prison was an important piece in the Zetas machinery, whose origin, power and functioning has been linked in multiple ways with the US.

An example of this is that the elite troops that founded the cartel were trained by that country, where the buy the drugs that enrich the criminals coffers. From there they get smuggled military supplies that allows them to terrorize and kill. To understand their responsibility, security arrangements between the two countries should be mentioned.

Thus the security relations between Mexico and the United States, the plot revealed by Ginger Thompson, suggests that a DEA boss, whose identity is hidden within that organization, sent some sensitive information about the Zeta chiefs to the Sensitive Investigations Unit of the Federal Police.

He thought they had a friend there that they could trust. However, someone from that Unit informed Los Zetas of the risk they were running. Despite this, the Trevino Morales ordered the revenge.

The agreement with Mexico has been affected by corruption and infiltration, Despite this, there has been a deliberate effort to silence the facts and dilute the culpability of those responsible.

According to Thompson, the DEA spokesman simply denied that his agency had his hands stained with blood. The DEA did not make an internal evaluation of the role played by the agency and did not suspend its relationship with the Federal Police.

In addition, he granted the status of protected witness to Alfonso Cuellar and Hectar Moreno. The Federal Police simply kept silent and has never made a statement about it. For the researchers, "this leads us to ensure that revenge is a clear example of bi national criminal violence."

They also found that, since 2009, in Allende, the direction of the Municipal Police was already involved with organized crime and that, in 2010, the submission was total. In other municipalities in the region, something similar happened, abandoned to their fate by the State and Federal Governments.

On October the 9th, the former Governor of Coahuila, Humberto Moreira, wrote to the International Criminal Court a letter in response to the report "Mexico: murders, disappearances and torture in Coahuila de Zaragoza constitutes crimes against humanity", where it delimited: " On the occasion of the criminal situation that the Piedras Negras prison was suffering, since 2009 and, as a model of security strategy of the then President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, the center was militarized...."

On the other hand, in the trials carried out in the United States, the drug trafficker and former production manager for Televisa in Piedras Negras, Adolfo Efren Tavira Alvarado, declared that the Army did not work with Los Zetas, but certain groups of the Army worked with them, apart from the fact they they had agreements with the PF

Adolfo Efren Tavira Alvarado
A key figure is Jorge Torres, the Attorney General appointed by Governor Humberto Moreira in May of 2009. After several administrative reforms, the prosecutor had under his responsibility the Attorney Generals Office, the Ministry of Public Security and the organization, direction, monitoring and control of the Cefereso's, that is to say jails like that in Piedras Negras. This powerful prosecutor held the position until 2011, and at the same time was responsible during the violent events recorded there.

By a citizen report, it was known that on March the 22nd of that year a State authority in Saltillo knew what was happening in Allende. Five years later, on July 19th of 2016, the powerful prosecutor appeared. They only asked him seven questions.

The official said that the first news on the part of a victim, arose when the complaint was filed in the kidnapping group, in May of 2011. He said that when he heard about the events of Allende, he did so with the knowledge of Patricia Bugarin, then head of SEIDO of the PGR.

"As far as we know, said official has not been investigated by the PGR or by the authorities of Coahuila. We also do not know what trades, reports or memoranda that Cisen preserves," says the research.


  1. Adolfo looks like a tweaked out Tony Montana in scarface in his picture, lol, lmao!!!!!

  2. Thank you, Otis.
    What an overview.

  3. Been trying to locate the report of 1,500 pages for 2 days which documents everything. It includes trial testimony in several Texas Zeta trials, public record, social media and witnesses. If someone can locate the complete report please post the link here. Thanks! The Dayan co-authored report.

    1. The report is in the original article in Spanish via Scribd. I know Chivis has access to this so she may have access to an english version. If Chivis can find this I will embed it into the article.

    2. Thx Otis, greatly appreciated. I searched for the English version and came up blank on countless attempts. The parts I would like to read are the trial testimony and original complaint filed to the ICC.

    3. Otis, I too would like to read the English version. Can you just put the link to the Spanish version of the full report here as it can be easily translated via Scribd. Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving!

    4. Ok I embedded the Spanish version into the article, just right click on the text in the scribd window, right click and click on translate, should give you the English version if you don't speak spanish

    5. If that doesn't work, expand the scribd window then try highlighting the text and translating, it will be using auto translate so I cant guarantee it will be accurate

    6. Thanks Otis once again. BTW let me ask you something, this report is supposed to contain the ICC complaint correct? If it does contain the complaint that means the ICC is not going to investigate the rights abuses as everything is classified going into the courts. I never heard of them releasing any complaint (for further investigation) since everything is very classified at the ICC. Same troubles occurred with the Bosnia investigation which took years because of non disclosure. Do you know anything about that aspect of secrecy?

    7. I have that copy but thanks for putting it in for others. The full report consists of over 1,500 pages. That is the complete one I am looking for as it has the whole agenda examined with the complete testimony and all the public records accounts, social media acoounts, witnesses, depo’s, affidavits, receipted documents, etc. Unless it is an addendum that consists of that as attachements, references, etc. The report is voluminous and is extremely detailed. I did however on the other hand send several emails to individuals and the College of Mexico (El Colegio de México) in hopes of somehow retrieving the entire report. If I do in fact obtain or can locate where to find that I will forward to you and Chivis. Thanks for all your great work!!

    8. This is great. We have some people posting on BB with a vernacular that exceeds four or five words! Attracting a more educated crowd! Way to go BB.

  4. Maybe “The Yoke of Los Zetas in Coahuila”

    1. Maybe, good guess, just ask tony

  5. Ironic that mordidas accepted by corrupt government officials manifest themselves into pure evil.
    As if Calderon and his administration did not know what was going on or could not have stopped it sooner.
    And the Moreira brothers, along with Yarrington and the other multitude of corrupt govenors have the most blood on their hands.. because the zetas kicked up a portion of extortions, piso, etc to them.

    1. A quote best describes what society we live in. An analogy to be true.
      Quote from Morgan Freeman’s “ The story of us”.
      Every society is ruled by a set of rules;
      Whether by cultural, religion or economic.
      These rules are never perfect. They can favor one over another. They can be exploited by people of power.

      Question we need to ask oneself? In which society do we reside in?
      Just something to ponder on.


  6. Don't blame the USA for the failed Nation that lacks the ruke of law, due process, due course of law, and a Bill of Rights. We ain't perfect, but Mexicans can only blame their government for it's own failure. Or are you saying, y'all don't have the fortitude to do it on your own?

    1. Yes, don't blame the US for our thirst of drugs! It's not our faults that we don't understand the results of our actions!!! Right!!!

    2. Whe the U.S. of A decides to do something about being the #1 drug consumer in the world things will change drastically in Mexico.

    3. Was also my thinking.always blaming The gringos. Whats with the trial of all the politicians involved in Mexico?nothing. Truth came to light due to the zeta trials in the States. Without the pressure from the states there would be not a Single trial in mx.

      But nevertheless Thanks a lot for This post.keep on The good Work.

    4. 90% of weapons used by cartels come from USA...but they should not be responsible for that, right?

    5. It’s clearly evident that the blame falls on many. Governments and politicians from all fences bear much of the responsibility. Along with the individuals who contribute by dealings or by usage.
      Clearly a failed drug war.


    6. I agree with Anonymous Nov 25 2017 625a; The blame falls on both Governments, but please don't keep blaming the US for its stupidity of trusting the Sensitive Investigations Unit of the Federal Police of MEXICO...and all the Mexican Prison & Government officials, politicians, etc., for their part in this entire tragedy.

  7. here is an interesting read from the University of Texas School of Law called “Control...Over the Entire State of Coahuila” Which is a short but precise analysis of testimonies in trials against Zeta members in San Antonio, Austin, and Del Rio, Texas ===>> excerpts of some were previously posted but this is the complete analysis. Very interesting read.

  8. Beautiful insight Otis.
    You always do great reporting.

    This cartel was a priority to the US government.
    An alliance with another cartel ( primarily CDS) were formed to eradicate the Zetas. This was something told to me by someone within law enforcement. An agreement of uninterrupted distribution of narcotics into the states, alongside with firearms.
    Clearly evident during “The Fast and the Furious” operation.
    Never gave mind to it until that operation was exposed.

    Nevertheless, a horror in the making with this cartel. And a perilous one for many of their victims.

  9. Zetas were crazy as hell back in the days, all you see is litlle kids in the front lines of their sicarios instead of gafes or ex military.

  10. Happy Thanksgiving to Chivis and staff at BB. Thank you guys for all the time and work you put into this wonderful site. Saludos from Los Angeles. El Nemesis-

    1. Nemesis, 40, 42, 40 and sol prendido along with all the others!!

    2. 1:18 I am jealous, and sorprendido.
      el sol prendido only qualifies for tomarrah's list for the firing squad. But thanks for the reportings

    3. Best wishes to all the same.
      Also to all those commentators who comment.

    4. @1:18, with all due respect, please don't group me with those others. Nothing against them, but I'm me and I'm good with that. Gracias, El Nemesis-

  11. Does BB have a Gofund?

    1. 12:27 NO, we don't want the administraters getting taken to the woodshed for suspicions of robbing, stealing or mismanaging the centabos, ordering pretified photos of DD or el nameseis, with their big eyelashes and cat claws on their eyes.
      You know, normal woman's needs, or chole, the US government will not be paying for his surgeries anymó, orders from abovine.

  12. Coahuila . my grandmother was born and there all life. A blessing she is not alive to the terriorism her state is experiencing

  13. Every morning,noon ,and night I read BB I am always watching for the next storie that you guys write, very well written with feeling, almost like you are there at the scene live!!!!! I love it! From, LA GUERA PAISA

  14. "
    The plot that points to the responsibility of the United States Government in the Zetas revenge operates like this: they buy the narcotics that the Mexican Cartels send, and in payment they provide the gunmen with the weapons that made them so lethal, while they have imposed upon the Mexican Government a wrong strategy"... conspiracy theories being pushed in a book.. shocker. what a joke.

  15. That report is disgusting. El chano is a piece of fucking shit...dismembering a 6 year old girl whole she's alive...i just can't fathom the evil

    1. 11:15 That right there I won't put up with ! Nor do I want to hear about children getting hurt in any way or form !

    2. Piece of shit should have his arms and legs cut off. Turn him into a chicken nugget.

  16. Can someone confirm if Humberto’s first wife was related to zeta or cdg member? My people in Coahuila say Humberto’s first wife is the daughter of a old school narco.

  17. @Arturo salgado, I'm glad to read what you posted about smashing on the z's. That is some true justice for animals like them.


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