Sunday, January 1, 2012

Yucatán - and half of Mexico - belong to Los Zetas, says deputy attorney general

Some member of Los Zetas likely received special forces training in the U.S.

Mérida, Yucatán -
Mexico's SEIDO, or Subprocuraduría de Investigación Especializada en Delincuencia Organizada (Office for Special Investigations of Organized Crime), is a division of the Attorney General's office. Cuitláhuac Salinas, a deputy attorney general and SEIDO's chief, says that the Los Zetas cartel dominates organized crime in about half of the country. The findings were reported today by news services here.

Los Zetas is perhaps the country's most feared criminal organization, responsible for thousands of horrific executions and brutal attacks against drug trafficking competitors, police and civilians alike. The government says that the Zetas ("Z's") are composed of former elite special forces troops of the Mexican military. Apart from the narcotics trade the organization's principal businesses include robbery, extortion and ancillary crimes.

According to Wikileaks disclosures reported by CNN in 2011, since 1996 the United Sates has trained at least 5,000 members of the Mexican armed forces in anti-drug trafficking strategies, including special forces soldiers. Some were trained in Mexico, and others in the U.S., at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Among the American-trained forces are an unknown number of ex-soldiers now believed to be working for Los Zetas.

Salinas says that Los Zetas dominate organized crime in the Mexican states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Tamaulipas, the Federal District, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatán and Quintana Roo (map areas shaded in red). One of its chief competitors, the Sinaloa Cartel (also known as Cartel del Pacifico) of Enrique "El Chapo" Guzmán, is in turn active in Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Durango, Sinaloa, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Baja California, Sonora, Jalisco, Colima and Guerrero (green areas). But Salinas emphasizes that their territories not infrequently overlap, leading to violence.

SEIDO says that from December 2006 until August 2010, the Sinaloa Cartel was behind 84% of the more than 28,000 organized crime murders it has investigated. No statistics were given for Los Zetas, but the implication of the report is that Sinaloa has lost homicide "market share" to Los Zetas in the past 18 months.

SEIDO says that most of Mexico's drug cartels had their origins 15-20 years ago or more. Originally they were built around very traditional internal organizational structures, where one power figure at the top made all decisions, and inflexible directives were rigidly issued to subordinates. But their business models have changed over time, and nowadays they operate much more like modern corporate enterprises. Multiple persons have separate spheres of responsibility within an organization, each one focused on a different criminal activity or specialty. Inferiors know little or nothing of those working in another "division" of the organization, nor of their ultimate bosses, in a design which SEIDO calls "pyramidal." Such insulation of the highest ranking officials has made investigation and prosecution of cartel bosses difficult, says SEIDO, since the lower ranks never communicate directly with upper echelons. This model is said to particularly reflect the current Los Zetas structure.

The special anti-organized crime agency was created in 2003. Its assistant prosecutors are purportedly subjected to intense screening and rigorous background checks before hiring, to avoid any possible connection to or influence by drug cartels.

Dec. 28, 2012 - Cartels declare war on Los Zetas in Cancún; "brewing bloodbath" in Riviera Maya
Sept. 21, 2012 - Routine Mérida traffic stop yields "Boss of the Plaza" in Cozumel, Playa del Carmen
Nov. 12, 2011 - U.S. intensely focused on Yucatán security in 2008-2009, diplomatic cables reveal

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