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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Initiation Ritual of Los Zetas; A New Book by Ricardo Raphael, Hijo de la Guerra

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Proceso
                              The Initiation Ritual of Los Zetas: A New Book by Ricardo Rafael

For more than a year and a half, writer and journalist Ricardo Raphael visited Galdino Mellado Cruz, a founding member of Los Zetas, in Chiconautla prison.

Based on his conversations, he wrote Hijo de la Guerra (Son of War), a book that “is a debate between fiction and reality” and that “reconstructs the great tragedy of a nation in which uncertainty, drug trafficking, and corruption were the breeding ground perfect for elite military to become the largest criminal group ” in the country. 

Fragments of the first chapter are reproduced with permission from the author and the Grupo Planeta publishing house:

I went down to breakfast early, I was among the first to enter the restaurant. Gradually our people arrived, but nobody spoke. The bosses noticed the circumstance of silence. Then "El Cos" was encouraged to ask:

- What do you have, you bastards? Are they badly caught or they went to hell?

We wait to see who will speak \first.  "El M" got up and interrogated again:

"Let's see, you, Galdino." He talked to me like that because I was his driver. "What the fuck happened?"

–Nothing, Sir.


-I don't know how to say it ...

- Was there any discomfort? Did they lack money? Did you see abuse?

"No, no," I replied, not wanting to talk about more.

"Let go, so we can talk," insisted "El M", addressing the bunch of assholes so they would to leave us alone.

"Excuse me, Sir..." I dared to open my mouth, although my voice was very small. "Sorry to have to tell you, but yesterday, when everyone was here at the hotel, we saw you and other people that were on television, accused of ... well, they said in the news that they are looking for you, boss ... for drug trafficking."

A laugh of ''El M'' broke the silence in the dining room.

- Before you  suspected nothing?

"Well, something," I said.

"Do you know my name, Galdino?"

–Now yes, Sir.

-What is it?

–Osiel Cárdenas Guillén.

- What do you think, gentlemen? –He interrogated the rest of the bunch.

"Hey, boss ... and why hadn't they told us the whole truth?" - Oscar Guerrero intervened.

"I left that responsibility to Decena and Lazcano," "El M" defended himself and continued to laugh and laugh while it was clear that, because of his reaction to us, only "Lazca" was uncomfortable.

Osiel proposed that we go out to the hotel parking lot, and we all follow him.

"Choose a truck, Betancourt, whatever you want," he ordered as soon as we were outside; Betancourt walked to the Escalade that Rejón brought that day. Open the driver's door - he instructed again and Betancourt obeyed.

From the pocket of his jacket the boss took out a razor and with it he tore the skin from the back of the seat; without much effort he extracted a wide plate covered with synthetic fiber that was part of the frame, and inside the cavity several packages covered with plastic and cinnamon tape appeared. He withdrew one to show that cocaine was inside. According to "El M", each front seat contained 30 kilos and the two rear seats about 120 more.

"Choose another truck," the boss asked, now addressing Guerrero Silva. Oscar pointed to a gray Suburban, parked in front of the Escalade.

The man repeated the operation in one of the front seats and removed the plate again, which he explained later was lead to avoid X-rays; however, there were no drug inside the compartment, but packages with green bills. According to the pattern, the other trucks were carrying, each, 750 thousand dollars (...) $750,000 .

We returned to the hotel restaurant. No one outside of us could have entered or left the place; We occupied the chairs where we had been before. "El  Cos", Trevino and Tony Tormenta had not moved. Osiel Cárdenas took the floor again.

- Well, guys, now that there are no more secrets and everyone has the same information, I want to ask if you all will continue to serve the company.

An incomprehensible spokesman ran inside the place.

- Speak freely, nothing will happen to you. Tell them, Heriberto, ” the boss insisted.

Heriberto Lazcano threw himself into the ring with some difficulty because he knew that with his silence he had blistered the trust:

- Look, compas, whoever does not want to follow you, better say it at once; There is no mistake, I swear. Whoever wants to, leaves. But it must be said right now, no waiting  until tonight or tomorrow.

I watched for  "El Hummer's" look, because I was surprised that this guy didn't say a word. It was  Arturo Guzmán "Decena's" turn to intervene:

–Think about it before answering. Now those guys have a good salary, respect, identification, nobody stops them; Each time they release a new truck, they go with fucking rags, come back with good clothes and walk with good old ladies. Whatever you want, you guys, you are the envy; They all will give up their asses  and don't tell me it's because of your  little face. Analyze it and, if you don't want to, then you only roll once!

As if playing football, Decena passed the ball to Heriberto:

- The situation is this: if you guys stay, you will earn 120,000 pesos a month, which you will not spend because we will be givingyou per diem all the time.

- Wear good clothes, wear a good watch, fine jewelry, carry the weapon you want; If you enter a restaurant, the most expensive in the country,   you don't have to worry about the price. "El M" spares no resources when it comes to you - the words Decena  repeated.

–As Arturo says, reflect on that too: how does your family live? Remember the salaries that are paid out there. When we were only military, how much did we earn? There is no comparison with what the employer is offering us, ” said "El Lazca".

With those arguments "El Lazca", "Decena" and "El M" got into our heads. But there were also other powerful reasons to consider: where were the other twenty-four fellow Zeta Group members who also went to Fort Hood? We had heard rumors. That one was taken, that another died in a car accident, that his family was not seen again by this guy. For me , that those bastards didn't want to work for the company and that's why they were no longer among the living (...)

Finally "El Hummer" decided to speak:

- But things have changed, employer. The police are looking for you, and even if we stay, because the desire of so many people against us you will be of little use.

- That's why you guys don't have to be alarmed. You must understand that the media, the reporters must do their job; Do not be angry with them and ignore them. We are well arranged, ” said Osiel Cardenas Guillen.

- All Fixed? -I asked.

- Yes, Galdino, all fixed. I repeat that reporters do their job, and well, some are with us, others are not. But to you it's  nothing, walk straight and nobody will bother you, I assure you. Do you think I would be here so calm if I was afraid of being caught?

-And the government? Is the government with us? - Betancourt asked.

- Quiet, everything is in order; We work with the government. You are still part of the government, or what?, have you already been cut off from the Army payroll? The fortnight payday girl  is coming: when you have their paycheck, you remember me.

Again there was silence in the restaurant.

-So? –"El Lazca" pressed, because he wanted a quick response.

"There is no mistake, we are here," Oscar Guerrero reacted.

"we got in," said Betancourt.

"I'm in," added "El Mamito".

"Me too," said Efraín Torres.

–And you, Galdino? - "Decena" demanded just to fuck with us; I didn't need much reflection because fear won over me and I bowed to the situation:

"I'm in," I answered in a louder voice than the rest.

In the end none cracked. The 21 of us who were there meeting with the bosses accepted the new reality.

"Think, think," ordered Osiel Cárdenas. This is a new family contract, so I want to hear everyone accept it.

Guzmán Decena, who was standing in front of "El M", took a military step and said: - I will be the Zeta 1.

Alejandro Lucio Morales Betancourt got up: –Zeta 2.

Heriberto Lazcano joined: –Zeta 3.

Then Jaime González Durán: –Zeta 4.

And so the others continued.

Mateo Díaz López: –Zeta 6.

And Jesús Enrique Rejón: –Zeta 7.

Óscar Guerrero Silva: –Zeta 8.

My turn came: –Zeta 9.

Omar Lormendez Pitalua: –Zeta 10…

It is not necessary to believe what the press later said: that numbering of Los Zetas never had to do with the hierarchy of command within the organization, they were keys to identify among us and were assigned by chance (...)

"Don't be leaving so quickly," Mr. Osiel told us. Before we have to separate the bad chaff from the good.

We all turn toward the boss, wondering.

- Ciro Justo Hernández, you leave the formation - ordered "El M".

"El Cos" and Treviño advanced towards that guy and flanked him.

"This son of a fuck talks too much," they informed us. Because of him, the police investigate the old lady's employer and the DEA knows things that should not be known (...)

" Judas will take care of all of you," ordered "El Cos".

Ciro Justo Hernández was a corporal who was always silent, he carried on with few and was only a friend of Óscar Guerrero; that morning we found out why.

- Did you know that Ciro changed his name when he was sent to Fort Hood? –Asked "El M".

Oscar looked down.

- Did you know, Oscar? The real name of this traitor - he pointed with his finger - is Ciro Guerrero Silva. How do you see that Ciro and Óscar are brothers, children of the same mother and the same father?

No one dared to move from his place.

- But Oscar is clean, we already investigated that and there is no problem with him. On the other hand, Ciro does not deserve to work for the company. He delivered our radio codes and provided information on what we do and do not do; because of him we got into trouble with the DEA, but that  fuck up is already resolved. Now what is missing is that we settle accounts here.

Ciro Justo Hernández was not the only one of the Zeta Group who had a false identity and Oscar told "El M"; He wanted to save his brother's skin.

- Excuse me, boss, I'm going to make sure he doesn't screw  up again.

Osiel thundered:

- Here the one who shit, cleans it! That is the rule and all of you are going to clean it, if you really want to stay with me. That includes you, Oscar. It's your decision: do you stay with your brother or do you come with us? (...)

After "El Cos" and Treviño took him away, "El M" ordered us all to go to a safe house 20 minutes from the hotel (…)

When we arrived at the house there were: "El Lazca", "Decena", "El Hummer" and Betancourt; Minutes later, nobody was missing. We had met again the 20 Zetas, 21 counting Ciro Justo, and the four main ones: Osiel, Tony, Trevino and El Cos. Oscar's brother, Ciro,  was completely naked, tied to a metal chair; others started the work without waiting for us, blood was coming out of his  mouth because several teeth had been knocked out already. As soon as he heard us, he called his brother to defend him.

"Brother," said Oscar.

With courage, Oscar approached "El M" to insist on the argument that several of us had changed names. "It's not fair that only Cyro pays for that," he reasoned.

The employer hurried to clear the mistake. Cyro was not a traitor for using a false identity, but for passing information that he should not.

"First of all, he betrayed you," he said to Oscar. You, who put him in the Army and then helped him to be bad. You proposed to go to Fort Hood. You are the first betrayed (…)

–There is only one way to treat them, you understand?

Oscar looked straight at "El M" and sideways at his brother . " El Lazca" approached Ciro Justo and struck him a blow on the head with his palm open; the guys skull thundered dry.

"Because of you, the operation may have been lost," added Heriberto. Because of you now the boss is in the news. It cost the employer many millions to build this organization so that a fool like you comes to spoil everything.

When Oscar saw that there was no remedy, he tried to become strong:

- I understand, sir, I understand what you explain. If my brother went over as a cock, I am not the one who can defend him.

–Then, are you with me? Asked Osiel.

-Yes sir.

The others nod together with Oscar.

- Even if it's your brother?

–If you can't help him, neither can I.

Lazca knelt by the chair where Cyro was and with a hammer slaughtered his bare toes until they became small fragments of busted flesh; Then "El Hummer" approached the unfortunate and gave him a tremendous kick on the chest. Cyro went flying, chair and all. Betancourt took charge of picking him up so that the others could continue.

"Brother, help me, please, help me," Ciro babbled, trying to find his brother's face in the bunch of guys that wanted to be part of the group of "El M". Oscar stayed with the boss without getting involved, but without opposing punishment. "Mercy, friends, mercy. Oscar, brother, help me!"

The screams inflamed the mood of the group; several began to enjoy torture. "El Hummer" took out a serrated knife and cutting across  his upper lip, and then tore off a piece of his cheek: I could see his cheek bone above the molars (...)

"Making sure you suffer a fuckover, "El M" said.

20 bastards participate in skinning. Betancourt and I took care of keeping him alive while the others took one trophy each.

That was the first fucking death in which I participated: a mother of those makes you feel powerful (...)

Every time Ciro confessed something, the rigor came worse: "El Hummer" castrated him and "Decena" tied a firecracker to blow off his cock. It is not easy to describe the emotions generated by getting involved in such a party; you feel fear, but it is not an unpleasant fear because it is loaded with adrenaline. You want to see more, more blood, more blows, you want to hear more screams and it gives it to you too, give the "güey a chilazo". It is not sexual arousal, because I am not fucking, but you do get excited and do not want it to stop.

In the end, Osiel decided to end the show: he handed Oscar the Colt 9mm he always carried and ordered him to give him, Cyro, his brother,  the coup de grace (...)

When it was all over, the boss gathered us around him again, recovered the weapon that came from finishing off Cyro and hugged Oscar tightly telling him that he regretted his loss.

–Warrior, today you lost a brother, but you won a family, 20 brothers and I who are now part of you. With this betrayal a brotherhood is born, and so it will last. Think of it as a ritual that unites us forever.

The blood that circulated in our veins had us very alert, more than any drug. That day a legion of soldiers willing to do anything to survive was born (...)

Fragment of the book Son of War, by Ricardo Raphael © 2019, Seix Barral. Courtesy granted under the permission of Grupo Planeta México.


  1. Yaqui, you read? recommend? If you haven't, no worries, you've been busy.

    1. No ! I have not, but just ordered it.
      We have a plan to do some book reviews, but you are right on;
      we have been a tad busy !

    2. Where did you order the book ?

  2. Man WHAT THE FUCK skinning cutting off body parts i would've thrown the fuck up and fell into depression.

  3. Clearly this guy has a huge self-interest in tailoring his story to shine himself in a superior light, given that he is undoubtedly a sociopath whether born that way or turned into one by going against his conscioince until he no longer had one, by committing atrocities with the company. Still. Ima read it

  4. I’d never heard of Z9/Mellado being imprisoned. I’ve read about him being arrested and quickly released once or twice, but never being held for a year-and-a-half. What was the timeline of the interviews?

  5. Fuck that is some twisted shit man, if it was my brother I would have requested a chair beside him and most definitely wouldn’t have stood by and let that happen.

    1. Would you when money and ego are at play.

    2. Exactly my thoughts... if I was in that situation when osiel handed him the gun I would've shot osiel

    3. @11:38, would I when money and ego are at play? What a fucked up thing to even ask or assume. Most brothers that walk the earth are best friends and I would trade places with my brother if he was to endure anything horrible without needing time to think about it. If this story is true though, and it may not be because it is so fucked up it seems almost Hollywood, Lazca is what they say he was as I’m sure he was probably the one to throw the first punch.

    4. If it was me and my brother in the situation were in I would do it.beside his dumbass FUCK UP so he should know better. WERE ALL MAN HERE IF YOU FUCK UP YOU PAY THE PRICE BIG BOY.

  6. "a debate between fiction and reality..." I don't think I'll be reading this. If it's an insider account then why the need to concoct stuff?

    1. exactly. imagine the book we could write and have the same disclaimer? actually most torture deaths have been discounted as myth---not to say torture did not happen. but boiling babies etc did not. follow the trials of narcos read transcripts of testimony of those who cut deals, there lies the scope of killings.

    2. There was a video on YouTube where Tommy tormenta was assassinated

  7. Trevino was a boss even before the zetas were created

    1. There was no Treviño at that meeting !!!

    2. It was another Trevino not related

    3. Different Trevino, junior.

    4. For those of you guys that dont know miguel and omar were personally recruited by osiel in the mid 90s

    5. This is true the Treviños have been putting in work for CDG for years.. L-40's name runs strong in Tamaulipas

    6. I don't know but this book sounds like made up bs to me.. yea right all of a sudden they got stories of all the Zetas and Golfos main heads lol please.. I don't buy it, then it says Decena stood up and said "I'll be Zeta1" then the next then next until 21??? Mamito said in his interview that there were 7 and then 7 more came after which made them the first 14 og guys recruited each by Z-1 not a bunch in a room like it says lmaooooo you all can believe that BS if you want to...

      P.S. you know this shit came out cause it's what every one wanted.. the whole Zeta profiles come to life in this book xD

  8. Smashing his toes with a hammer? Can’t imagine

  9. Too bad that book is only in spanish... I'd buy it right now if there were an english version.

  10. Killing his own bro!!!!! Wow Sad.

  11. I hope they make it into a broadway type production... Oh the theater of it all .


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