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

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Bloody Weekend That Left 16 Dead: Understanding The Wars in Zacatecas

"HEARST" and "Itzli" for Borderland Beat 

As previously covered on Borderland Beat by Sol, a total of 16 people were killed in cartel massacres this Saturday in Zacatecas, most with overt cartel messages from the various groups which are warring over control of the region. The following is an attempt to deconstruct and identify what the events of the weekend mean in terms of the cartel wars in Zacatecas.

Warning: Graphic images below this point.

Incident 1 

TIME: Approximately 6:00 am

DATE: February 05, 2022

LOCATION: On a street near the church of San Antonio de Padua

TOWN: Pardillo Tercero (also called Pardillo III)


STATE: Zacatecas

INCIDENT: Residents called the 911 emergency phone line and reported the discovery of dead bodies lying on two main streets in the town of Pardillo Tercero, near the church of San Antonio de Padua, within Fresnillo municipality. Some early photos show some of the bodies lying on the street in the pre-daylight hours. 

Unofficially, according to social media reports, some civilians who live on houses on the streets called police earlier in the night to report that they could see armed men dumping dead bodies outside their window but officers allegedly did not respond to their reports.  

At approximately 6:00am, police officers arrived on scene and confirmed the reports from the phone line were correct and they cordoned off the area with crime scene tape. Six were placed on one street and another four were placed on a second street nearby, making a total of ten bodies. The bodies were rolled in bed linens or garbage bags, then wrapped in duct tape. 

Local new website Zacatecas Online writes that the bodies showed evidence of torture and “some of them had messages from organized crime,” possibly referring to narco message signs being left either the exterior or interior wrapping of the bodies. Photos of said signs have not emerged online as of the writing of this story. 

Aristegui Noticias writes the bodies were scattered, between 5 - 10 meters apart (approx. 16.5 - 33 feet) away from each other. They also add they were placed “presumably by men in pickup trucks.” Critica writes that they are believed to have been thrown from a moving vehicle. 

Residents of the street appear to have been escorted out while forensic evidence teams from the State Attorney General’s Office documented and collected crime scene evidence. The bodies were then removed and taken for medical autopsy. 

Incident 2

TIME: Sometime before 9:21 am

DATE: February 05, 2022

LOCATION: On the fence around a warehouse 

TOWN: Between the towns of San Pablo and Santa Elena

MUNICIPALITY: Pánfilo Natera

STATE: Zacatecas

INCIDENT: Later, on the same morning as the Pardillo Tercero incident, a discovery was made of six men who were found deceased and hung from the railings of a fence which surrounds a warehouse. The time of the discovery and the time of the officers arrival on scene has not been reported but local news sites like NTR Zacatecas caught wind of the discovery by at least 9:21 am.  

The warehouse where they were hung is located between the towns of San Pablo and Santa Elena in the municipality of Pánfilo Natera. Two narco message signs were hung on the bodies. In alleged photos of the event, we can see that one sign, which was taped to a body, reads “Cartel de Sinaloa MZ”. 

The other sign, which placed on the ground next to a shoe, read as follows, as translated by Sol Prendido: 

This will be the fate of every extortionists, fee collectors, and kidnappers. 



Later, the State Attorney General’s office would confirm that all six bodies were male and all had been taken for medical autopsy. 

Two Persons of Interest in Custody

The State Attorney General, Francisco Murillo Ruiseco announced that two persons-of-interest had been detained the day earlier, on February 4, in Ojocaliente, which is near the Zacatecas state border with Aguascalientes. When they were stopped for a search, officers discovered that in the back of their pickup was a dead body.

They were considered to be people-of-interest particularly in regards to the six men found in Pánfilo Natera, because the two suspects were alleged members of “Operativo MZ” according to Infobae. The men were presumably detained and unable to have participated in the placement of the bodies, however they may have knowledge of other MZ cartel members who were involved in crime discovered the next day. 

The Attorney General of Justice of the State of Zacatecas, Francisco Murillo Ruiseco, in announcing the arrest, emphasized that "eventually" they could be related to the bodies found, but it will be the investigations that will determine if there is a relationship.

Murillo Ruiseco told reporters that "They are being processed at this moment. They are at the disposal of the corresponding Attorney General’s Office and we will continue with the investigations to establish the criminal responsibility of those who may have participated.”

The Larger State Context 

The practice of bodies being hung publicly after they are killed by cartel members is particularly prevalent within the state of Zacatecas. El Pais and Milenio report that last year there were more than 57 corpses found hanging from bridges or trees just within the state of Zacatecas. 34 of the 57 were found within the municipality of Fresnillo. 

On November 18, 2021, ten bodies were found hanging on a bridge that crosses over the highway in the municipality of Cuauhtémoc. 

On November 23, 2021, three more men were found hung, this time in San José de Lourdes in Fresnillo, Zacatecas. Later it was officially confirmed that another three were found hanging near the bridge, making a total of six found dead in the area that day.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador traveled to Zacatecas on November 24, 2021, in the midst of the murders, and took half of his Presidential cabinet with him to see how to tackle the danger and violence plaguing the state. 

The President developed a support plan for the state which included the arrival of 210 more soldiers to reinforce the 1,744 that were already deployed within the state, as well as sending 250 hybrid agents (considered to be both military and civilian). The plan also included providing three military helicopters to the state for security purposes. 

This did not stop the violent incidents as on January 6, 2022, a silver colored Mazda SUV was parked in front of the state capitol building at 5:14 am. The driver of the vehicle exited and fled the area by walking down an alley. A bit later, the abandoned vehicle was checked by officers and inside they discovered the dead bodies of ten people, evidently left as a flagrant sign in front of the capitol building as a message to the state and federal government. 

Then on January 26, 2022, two dead bodies were found hanging from a bridge over Highway 45 in Cuauhtémoc. 

On the day of the recent Pánfilo Natera and Pardillo Tercero discoveries, the state’s governor, David Monreal, spoke to reporters and said "During the preliminary investigation into the incidents early this morning, we can say that it is presumably related to members of criminal groups who are confronting each other. However, we will wait for the full investigation to conclude and give us certainty."

David Monreal also said that as soon as he was briefed on the facts, he immediately informed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the security cabinet about what had occurred. Monreal said that due to the implementation of the state's support plan, crime has decreased, but the plan has also generated an increase in violence. 

Governor Monreal stressed that he inherited the problem of crime within the state as he only took office five months ago. He said that he knew what he would face when he “received the state during the worst level of crime in the state’s history."

Monreal asked the population of Zacatecas to have confidence in him, saying "We will not give in, we will continue to act with responsibility and firmness." He said he trusted that in regards to peace and tranquility, "sooner or later we will achieve it and I sincerely hope that it will be sooner rather than later".

Current Cartel Landscape

There are primarily two major groups fighting in Zacatecas, the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel (Cártel de Sinaloa, CDS), specifically the Ismael Zambada García, “El Mayo”, aligned CDS groups. The general name for these El Mayo groups in Zacatecas is “Operativo MZ”, with MZ standing for Mayo Zambada. 

Two local groups, one led by “El Fantasma” and one called Los Talibanes have allegedly sided with the larger organization who are at war. El Fantasma’s group, which is a remnant of the Gulf Cartel, has aligned with the CJNG. Whereas a part of Los Talibanes, which is a remnant of a Los Zetas splinter, has allied with CDS. 

Los Talibanes emerged as a subgroup of Los Zetas during the era when they were an armed wing of the Gulf Cartel. Los Talibanes were founded by Iván Velázquez Caballero, along with support from his brothers Juan Daniel Velázquez Caballero and Rolando Velázquez Caballero. They were said to be friends of Miguel Angel Treviño, alias “Z40” and Alejandro Omar Treviño Morales, alias “Z42” since their days in Nuevo Laredo, when they all joined Los Zetas. 

The overall leader was Iván Velázquez Caballero, alias “El Talibán”, who grew to be a regional leader of Los Zetas in the states of Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas. In time El Taliban had a falling out with Z40 over accusations that he had betrayed fellow members of Los Zetas and Los Talibanes became an independent organization and aligned itself with the Gulf Cartel.

When El Taliban was arrested in September 2012, his brother Juan Daniel Velázquez Caballero, alias “El Talibancillo” took over leadership of the group. However in 2015, El Talibancillo was arrested along with two of his nephews, sons of El Taliban.

The next known leader of Los Talibanes in the state of Zacatecas was Juan Uriel Castro Rangel, aliases “El Cachetes” "El T-01" and "El Ruso”. 

During the reign of El Cachetes, the Talibanes leadership figure in charge of finances was Emanuel Gonzalez Flores, alias “El Chorizo”. Two lieutenants under El Cachetes, who were working as subleaders were “El Malo” and “El Draco”. Meanwhile José Sabas Ávalos Sánchez, alias “El Güero Saba” was the head of sicarios for the group. 

It is worth noting that, El Güero Saba was a former BLO member and acted as a link between Los Talibanes and the BLO subgroup Los Mazatlecos. 

At some point El Cachetes was captured and decapitated by hitmen from the CDG. The remaining leadership of Los Talibanes then went through an internal split. On one side was El Chorizo, supported by El Draco. On the other side was El Malo, El Güero Saba, El Ferrari and Martin Del Rio. 

During this period, it was said that El Chorizo and El Draco had the municipalities of Loreto, Villa González, Villa Hidalgo, Pánfilo Natera, Villa Garcia and Pinos under their control. The two sides of Los Talibanes fought against each other for years and leadership figures fell on both sides. 

This split within Los Talibanes continues up until today. With El Chorizo still leading his side of the split while Martin Del Rio leads the opposing side, after figures like El Güero Saba were arrested and others fell to the wayside. 

One of our first glimpses at the new leader Martín del Río appeared in a March 2019 narcomanta which shows an alleged photo of him at the bottom. Martín del Río allegedly has the lieutenants “El Comino”, “El Gary”, and “El Cachacuas” working under him. 

Martín del Río was arrested in November 2020. At the time of his arrest it was said that Martín del Río’s Los Talibanes group controlled the municipalities of Pánfilo Natera, Ojocaliente, Luis Moya, Villa González Ortega, in Zacatecas, marked on the map below. 

It is currently being reported on social media that El Chorizo needed aid in his war against Martín del Río so he created an alliance with a leader of a different Los Talibanes group, which operates mainly in the state of San Luis Potosí which is led by a son of the original leader El Talibán, named Raúl Velázquez Caballero, alias “El Talibáncito”.

Confusingly, most social media users seem to refer to El Talibáncito as El Talibancillo, the same alias that his uncle used. 

Martín del Río’s Los Talibanes group chose to align themselves with Sinaloa Cartel and their subfaction Operativo MZ, so they now primarily fight the CJNG however they also fight with the other Los Talibanes group which is led by El Chorizo and El Talibáncito.

So where does this leave us in terms of the recent incidents? The muncipality of Pánfilo Natera, where the six men were found hung, is believed to be the territory of Martín del Río who leads a Los Talibanes group that is working for Operativo MZ. The bodies were left with messaged signed by “MZ” making it likely that the perpetrators were either from Martín del Río’s group or were allowing CDS MZ men to operate in their territory, considering the alliance. 

The victims, if we assume they were genuinely cartel members, could either be members of the CJNG group from the municipalities of General Codina or Cuauhtémoc. Or they could be members of El Chorizo’s Los Talibanes group, which still operates nearby.

Sources: FGJE Statement, El Sol de México, TV Azteca, Aristegui Noticias, Critica, NTR Zacatecas, Zacatecas Online, El País, La Prensa, Milenio 

Pardillo Tercero Specific Sources: El Universal, Zacatecas Online, Proceso, Jaime Núñez Piña Post 1, Post 2

Pánfilo Natera Specific Sources: Imagen Zac, CNN Espanol, Joker Peñaloza, El Blog de los Guachos, El Canidato

Current Cartel Landscape Sources: La Silla Rota, Infobae, Acciones Anti Narcos, Milenio, EME Equis


  1. Zacatuercas is a war zone..
    Grandpa mayo trying hard to stop cjng advancement
    Grandpa AMLO sits back and let's Mexicans commit GENOCIDE against one onother..
    Grandpa amlo is a COWARD

    1. Oh yeah afgan this afgan that, I always like to cry about afganistan.
      Michoachangos Cjng going down.

  2. Hang those MUTHAFUKRZ by the feet and gut'm all their insides spill out n hang too

  3. As horrible as it is to say all this beheading,burning,hanging,even eating corpses is old news.Wonder if these demons will ever go back to just shooting each other? All this other garbage is just a waste of time.The videos and mantras just expose these idiots to what ever law enforcement exists down there and also gives a heads up to their enemies.Of course I understand that a great majority of the police, politicians,and even soldiers are all corrupt.I often wonder for how many more presidencies and decades this will go on and on.Maybe having the U.S. Marines on speed-dial wouldn't be such a terrible thing. Smh

    1. Right on bro... Because all that over kill shit. Is just a waste of time

  4. Let Mexico burnt it self baby!!! They are only killing themselves!! Let it burn!!!!!

    1. Mr. 6" hotdog
      Mexico is not burning.
      Mexician people are getting killed, like never before.
      Innocents getting killed for the fun of it.


    3. How can you say let it burn! Hundreds of thousands of dead, hundreds of thousands more have been disappeared.A great many innocents-teachers. Ranchers. Farmers truckers etc are all innocent victims Ina great many cases.Abandoning what is left would be the final death knell for countless other innocents. Just my thoughts

  5. Talibanes ain't no cartel just bunch of extortionist thieves

  6. Sad to say I don’t see this getting better... it will get much worse before it gets better...

    -Holden D. Cash

  7. Wow great read that provide previous cartel history of the state. I remember the talibanis group during early days.

    1. I'm glad you liked it. Let me know if there's any group or region in particular that you want me to research and write about next.

      You can leave a comment or email me at letting me know.


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