Los Zetas

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    Los Zetas Image.JPG
    Headquarters Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico[1][2]
    Began Operations

    1998, psuedo-military extension of the Gulf Cartel[3];

    2008, began contracting services to other cartels[4];

    2009, gained autonomy from Gulf Cartel[4][5][1]

    Current Status Active
    Known Leaders
    • Lieutenant Arturo Guzman (original leader under Gulf Cartel, deceased 2002)[6]
    • Heriberto LAZCANO Lazcano aka El Lazca, aka El Verdugo, aka Licenciado, aka Z-3 (current leader)[6][7]
    • Miguel Angel TREVINO Morales aka Z-40, aka Zeta Forty, aka 40, aka David ESTRADO Corado, aka Comandante Forty, aka El Catorce (second in command)[8][9][10]
    Criminal Affiliations
    • 18th Street Gang aka Mara-18[11][12]
    • Barrio Azteca (U.S.)[13]
    • Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos (U.S.)[6]
    • Los Paisas (Colombia)[14]
    • Mara Salvatrucha aka MS-13 [15][16][11]
    • Mexican Mafia (U.S.)[13]
    • Los Surenos (Quintana Roo, Mexico)[17]
    • Texas Syndicate (U.S.)[13][6]
    Media

     

    Narco Banner Image.JPG

    Los Zetas recruitment banner (narco-message). It reads “Operations Group 'Los Zetas' wants you.  Military or ex-military.  We offer a good salary, food, and we care for your family.  Do not suffer bad treatment.  Do not suffer hunger.  We will not feed you Maruchan (noodle) soups.  Do not hesitate to call 8671687423.” [18] 

    Press and local authorities often deny the violence and constant firefights due to pressure from the warring groups. Often the attacks and violence are learned through the use of social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, being used by locals to alert each other[10]
    RSS

    Areas of Operation

    Los Zetas deploys its main members into varying plazas to control their regional cells and to maintain a larger presence in Mexico.[19] Those members are often sent to areas in order to recruit "common" criminals and turn them into killers and drug traffickers.[20]

    Each plaza will ideally have its own Halcones, Operativos (see Membership Section for details of each) and accountants. While one leader may control multiple plazas, each plaza will still operate as its own entity while working toward the goals of the Zetas organization.[21]

    Los Zetas' plazas include Matamoros[22][1][10], Reynosa[22][1][10], Nuevo Laredo[22][1], Valle Hermoso[10], San Fernando[10], Ciudad Mier[10], Miguel Aleman[10] and Camargo[10] among many others. Each plaza is generally operated by an independent cell who reports back to other leaders.

    Los Zetas influence has spread into the U.S., Central and South America, and Europe. 

    Mexico

    The following map shows all the states in Mexico. Links to the specific states are available on the map.

     


     

    Background

    Headquarters:       

    Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico[1][2]

    Leader:      

    Heriberto LAZCANO Lazcano aka El  Verdugo, aka El Lazca, aka Licenciado" [6][7]

    Immediate Subordinates:

    Miguel Angel TREVINO Morales aka Z-40, aka 40, aka Zeta 40, aka David  ESTRADA Corado, aka Comandante Forty, aka El Catorce[8][9][10]

    Current National Hierarchy:

    Publishing Date June 15, 2011.

    Los Zetas National & State Leaders 2.PNG

    History:

    Los Zetas were founded in 1998 by then leader of the Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, to be the enforcement specialists of the Gulf Cartel to control adversaries and maintain contested territories. The original members of the organization were former members of Grupo Aeromovil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFES), the Mexican Special Forces equivalent.[5]The original group is believed to have begun with approximately 30 military personnel ranking as high as Lieutenants.[4] Lieutenant Arturo Guzman, deceased 2002, was recruited to head the rogue military group which did Osiel Cardenas Guillen's bidding.[6]. Guillen was the head of the Gulf Cartel before his arrest (2003) and eventual extradition to the United States(2007). [23] Los Zetas, after serving under the auspices of the Gulf Cartel for a decade, began to contract out for other drug trafficking organizations in 2008 before gaining autonomy from the Gulf Cartel and other DTO's completely in 2009. Los Zetas are considered to be one of the seven Mexican Drug organizations that dominate the culture.[4]

     

    In February 2010, after Zeta lieutenant Sergio PENA aka Concord 3 was killed in Reynosa by Samuel FLORES Borrego aka Metro 3 (of the Gulf Cartel), Los Zetas told the Gulf Cartel to give them the head of the Metro 3. The Gulf Cartel responded with: "Come and get it."[10]In the year since, firefights and violence have increased throughout conflict areas and new alliances have been formed by both sides in an attempt to eradicate the new enemy.[10]

     

    After the split between the groups the Gulf Cartel has tried to persuade the public that Los Zetas are evil and the Gulf Cartel are modern day Robin Hoods. This idea is perpetuated by attacks on the public, often attributed to Los Zetas (though they are not always the responsible group), that further alienate the public from Los Zetas. One citizen described the common description as "good ones and bad ones," she went further to say "the Gulf protects people" while the Zetas are bad ones who kidnap, extort and kill indiscriminately. It seems many people have forgotten already that the Gulf Cartel formed and employed Los Zetas for over a decade while using those very tactics.[24]

     

    Since the time of the Los Zetas' founding, the dynamics of the organization have been constantly changing. No longer comprised strictly of former Special Forces members; former (and current) police officers, other military members, and even untrained citizens now make up the group. This has forced the group to hire outside help to train their forces, including groups and individuals from the Americans (especially Guatemala), Israel and some European countries. These  often younger, less trained individuals are referred to as "Zetitas."[8]

     

    Original Members

     

    At Large
    Heriberto LAZCANO Lazcano (as of December 2011)[25][6][7]
    Carlos CLAVA aka El Vera, aka Z-7[26]
    Rogelio GUERRA Ramirez aka El Guerra (as of May 2011)[27]
    Prisciliano IBARRA Yepis (as of October 2010)[26]
    Jorge LOPEZ aka El Chuta[26]
    Eduardo ESTRADA Gonzalez[26]
    Galdino MELLADO Cruz aka El Mellado, aka Z-9 (as of May 2011)[27]

     

     

     

    Captured

    Flavio MENDEZ Santiago aka El Amarillo (captured January 2011)

    Miguel Angel SOTO Parra aka El Parra (captured Janaury 2009)[28]

    Jesus ENRIQUE Rejon Aguilar aka El Mamito, aka Z-8 (captured July 2011)[29][27][30]

    Sergio Enrique RUIZ Tlapanco aka El Tlapa aka Z-44 (captured September 2009)[31]

    Jose Ramon DAVILA Lopez aka El Cholo (captured February 2007)[32]

    Gonzalo CERESANO Escribano aka El Cuije, aka Z-18 (captured November 2010)[33]

    Raul Lucio HERNANDEZ Lechuga aka El Lucky, aka Z-16 (captured December 2011)[25]

    Omar LORMENDEZ Pitalua aka El Pita, aka Z-10, aka Mono Tonto (captured 2005)[34]

    Jamie GONZALEZ Duran aka El Hummer (captured November 2008)[35][36][37]

    Mateo DIAZ Lopez aka Comandante Mateo, aka Z-10 (captured July 2006)[38]

    Eduardo Salvador LOPEZ Lara aka El Chavita, aka El Chavo, aka Z-48 (captured, sentenced to 20 years in February 2008)[39][40]

    Isidro LARA Flores aka El Colchon, aka Adrian RODRIGUEZ Alarcon, aka Isidro LOPEZ Lara, aka El Tierno, aka El Colchas (captured September 2005)[41]

    Alfonso LECHUGA Licona aka El Canas, aka Z-27 (captured May 2006)[42][43]

    Nabor VARGAS Garcia aka El Debora (captured April 2007)[44]

    Luis REYES Enriquez aka El Rex, aka Z-12, aka Carlos Enrique VELAZQUEZ Salazar (captured June 2007)[45]

    German TORRES Jimenez aka El Tatanka, aka Z-25 (captured April 2009)[46]

    Daniel PEREZ Rojas aka El Cachetes aka Juan GONZALEZ Diaz (captured April 2008, in Guatemala)[47][48]

    Daniel Enrique MARQUEZ Aguilar aka El Chocotorro (captured January 2009)[49]

     

    The following original members have been killed:

    • Arturo GUZMAN Decena, Z-1[26]
    • Gustavo GONZALEZ Castro aka El Erotico[26]
    • Luis Alberto GUERRERO Rees aka El Guerrero[26]
    • Efrain Teodoro TORRES aka El Efra, aka La Chispa, aka Z-14[26]
    • Braulio ARELLANO Dominguez aka El Gonzo, Z-20 (killed November 2009)[50]
    • Oscar GUERRERO Silva aka El Winnie Pooh[26]
    • Alberto TREJO Benavides aka El Alvin[26]
    • Ernesto ZATARIN Beliz aka El Traca[26]
    • Victor Nazario CASTREJON Pena[26]
       

    cartel.jpg

    The above image was retrieved from [51].

    Recent Notable Events

    A list of all event pages currently available can be found here.

    ICE Agent Murder:

    San Luis Potosi; February 15, 2011; Two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were shot after being stopped at a narco-bloque presumably controlled by Los Zetas. Narco-bloques are common techniques utilized by Los Zetas to control contested and desired territories.[52][53] Jamie Zapata was killed and Victor Avila was wounded in the attack, which took place while the two agents were traveling from Mexico City to Monterrey.

    Guatemala Prison Storming:

    Malacatan, San Marcos, Guatemala; December 8, 2010; Los Zetas are accused of being responsible for the attack on a Guatemalan prison to release a prisoner being held for a kidnap-murder of a professional soccer player. 11 individuals have been caught so far after the attack with assault rifles and grenade launchers.[54][55][56]

    U.S. Consulate Employee Murdered: 

    Juarez, Chihuahua; March 13, 2010; Lesley Enriquez, Juarez Consulate Employee, and her husband, Arthur Redelfs, a detention officer the El Paso County Jail, both American Citizens, were murdered by Los Zetas.[57] The DEA recently indicted several members of the Barrio Azteca, an affiliate of Los Zetas, with these murders.[58]

    Falcon Lake Murder: 

    Falcon Lake, Mexico/Texas Border; in Guerrero, Tamaulipas; September 30, 2010; David and Tiffany Hartley were fired upon while jetskiing on the lake. David was never found and is reportedly dead, while Tiffany was able to escape across the lake. Initial investigations have stalled when the lead Mexican investigator was beheaded after publishing the names of his suspects, both members of Los Zetas. Some sources suggest it was a mistaken identity case and Los Zetas are attempting to distance themselves from the murder. It is unlikely the jetski or David will be recovered.[59] The area is also a suspected smuggling route and Z-40 was attempting damage control around the murder for this reason.[8] 

    Tamaulipas Bloodshed:

    San Fernando, Tamaulipas; August 2010; 72 migrants from Central and South America were found massacred. Los Zetas were accused by a survivor who reported the migrants were killed for refusing to join Los Zetas and assist in moving drugs. [4][60]

    In April 2011 in the same area over 180 more bodies were located in mass graves to date, many more are expected as excavation continues. The investigation has led to the arrest of dozens of Zetas members and of local law enforcement officers who were protecting and assisting Los Zetas. The victims came mostly from bus trips that were taken hostage or kidnapped by Los Zetas.[61]

    Firsts

    • Los Zetas are the cartel first credited with recruiting common criminals and turning them into full members through training, since this began many other cartels have done likewise in an attempt to keep their membership ranks expanding.[20]
    • Los Zetas have been credited with the first Monstruo vehicle which was recovered in Tamaulipas. For more detailed information please see the Monstruo page.

    Links to Other Organizations

    Positive (Allies)

     

    Group Last Reported Interaction or Time Frame Source Notes
    18th Street Gang aka Mara 18 January 2011 - April 2011 [11][12] U.S., Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico; U.S. Members do not like being referred to as Mara because it is associated with Mara Salvatrucha (MS-18), a rival.
    Arellano Felix Organization (AFO) aka Tijuana Cartel March 2009 [62][10] The U.S. government prefers the name Arellano Felix Organization, the press prefers the Tijuana Cartel
    Beltran Leyva Organization March 2011 [4][5][62]  
    Juarez Cartel March 2011 [4][5][62]  
    Los Kaibiles March 2011 [4] [62][63] Guatemalan Special Forces, supposedly paid 5,000 dollars (USD) for their membership
    Los Surenos September 2010 [17] Quintana Roo, Mexico
    Mara Salvatrucha aka MS-13 December 2010 [15][16][11] U.S., Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico
    'Ndrangheta March 2011 [64] Italy
    Texas Syndicate May 2008 [6][13] United States
    Mexican Mafia March 2009 [13] United States
    Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos May 2008 [6] United States
    Barrio Azteca March 2009 [13] United States
    Southern Pacific Cartel November 2010 [65]  
    Los Paisas February 2010 [14] Colombia
    Fulton Locos Salvatruchas September 2011 - Present [66] Los Zetas are reported training members of this group in Guatemala
    Los Perrones

    March 2011

    [67] El Salvador
    Hezbollah Reported December 2011, occured 2005 - 2007 [68] A Lebanese drug king pin, Ayman Joumaa, has been charged by the US Justice department and DEA with numerous charges including the sale of nearly 100 thousand kilograms of cocaine to Los Zetas and laundering nearly $1 billion of Los Zetas money.
    Gulf Cartel Founding (1998) - Schism (2010) [6] See "Founding" above


     

    Negative (Enemies)

    Group Last Reported Interaction or Time Frame

    Source

    Notes
    The New Federation aka Familia Mexicana February 2011 [4][5][8] Alliances of the following groups: the Gulf Cartel, La Familia Michoacana, the Sinaloa Cartel, Familia Guanajuatense, Familia Mexiquense
    the Gulf Cartel 2010 - March 2011  [4][5][8] Los Zetas served as the armed branch of the Gulf Cartel for many years before going into business for themselves; see the History section above for more details.
    La Familia Michoacana October 2010 - January 2011  [4][5][8]  
    La Gente Nueva March 2011 [69]  
    the Sinaloa Cartel October 2010 - January 2011  [4][5][8]  
    Familia Guanajuatense October 2010 - February 2011  [4][5][8]  
    Familia Mexiquense October 2010 - January 2011  [4][5][8]  
    Cartel Del Milenio March 2011 [10]  

    Corruption

    Politicians

    • Former Cancun Mayor, Gregorio Greg SANCHEZ Martinez, was detained by federal police in 2010 on suspicions of money laundering and helping to protect both the Beltran Leyva and Los Zetas cartels. Sanchez was also accused of participating in the execution of former General Mauro Enrique TELLO Quinones, who was killed one week after taking his new position as the head of a police task force aimed at ending drug-related violence and crime in Cancun. [71][72]

    Law Enforcement Organizations and Officers

     

    • Eleven municiple police officers from Mina found guilty of working as informants for organized crime, bribery, crimes committed against official institutions, and public services in the Third Penal Court of San Nicholas.  Additionally, 11 municiple officers from Municipality of Hidalgo were guilty of the same crimes.  All 22 received $3000 and $6000 MXN/month from Los Zetas to keep tabs on the location federal forces in muncipalities. [73]
    • Mexican Army Major Arturo GONZALEZ Rodriguez is suspected of leaking military intelligence, training cartel hit men through a private security company and supplying military weapons to cartels including Los Zetas. Gonzalez is alleged to have been on the cartel pay roll since 2005.[74]
    • Yesenia Elizabeth BOCONEGRA Garza, a police officer in Guadalupe, was arrested with Juan "El Sonrics" Carlos Olvera Acosta, the leader of Los Zetas in Nuevo Leon, in February 2011. Corruption exists at the lower levels of law enforcement as well as on the higher levels.[75]
    • Marcos CARMONA Hernandez aka El Cabrito, the former Los Zetas leader in Oaxaca, reported he had the support of municipal, state and minsterial police who provided protection and advanced warning about anti-Zetas operations.[76]
    • In January 2011, five municipal police officers from Aguascalientes were placed in custody, suspected of giving information to Los Zetas and along with protection. They are suspected of committing crimes of Organized Crime. The five officers are: Efrain HERNANDEZ Garcia, Juan Fernando DE LUNA Diaz, Antonio GARCIA Romero, Alejandra DE LUNA Rodriguez and Ernesto CASILLAS Padilla.[77]
    • In April 2011, multiple municipal police officers were arrested in Tamaulipas for their participation, including covering up and protecting, with Los Zetas involved in the murder-kidnappings of hundreds of immigrants. See the Tamaulipas State page and the Tamaulipas Bloodshed page for more details.[78] Several rescued kidnapping victims have reported that buses are boarded by police officers who remove all the immigrants from the bus and place them in their official vehicles to transport them. The immigrants are made to believe they are being returned home before being delivered to cartels. It was reported that the cartels, Los Zetas in particular, pay 5,000 pesos (or about $(USD)430) per central American immigrant delivered to them. This is more than most local police make in one month. Reports suggest about 20,000 immigrants are kidnapped every year, many of whom do not survive the ordeal. According to this report Los Zetas and Gulf Cartel contend for the kidnapping victims in the state of Tamaulipas.[79]
    • Victor Emmanuel DELGADO Medrano aka El Chumil, after his arrest in March 2011, reported that several members of the Judicial Police (PJE) were on the payroll of Los Zetas in the state of Quintana Roo. El Chumil was a boss in the Quintana Roo state at the time of his arrest. Jose Idelfonso SAANCHEZ Chan, a first commander, was reported to be the go-between for the two groups, taking money in and dispersing to appropriate personnel. Municipal commanders Hugo GARCIA Quintal and Manuel OLIVERA aka El Primo, as well as homicide commander Hugo GONZALEZ Pamplona and theft commander Justo MORENO Lopez, are a few of the named police receiving bribes from Los Zetas (reportedly). The bribes provided were standardized based upon rank; commanders received 7,500 pesos and troops received 6,000 pesos. These were delivered in envelopes, as many as 80, and two envelopes reportedly contained 15,000 pesos, but the destinations of those were "unknown" to El Chumil. El Chumil reported that his knowledge of the bribes indicate it has been ongoing for at least several months. Reports have surfaced of PJE members asking Los Zetas for money for hospital bills for individuals injured in battles with Los Zetas. Los Zetas are known to keep reports and payrolls on who receives what "payments," some of these documents have been discovered and used to investigate corrupt officials. One such list had a reported 25 PJE members indicated.[80]
    • In a Nuevo Laredo prison a recent breakout of 153 inmates was reportedly orchestrated by Los Zetas. All the prison employees working at the time of the breakout were arrested and are awaiting trial as it is reported the inmates walked past the guards and into waiting vehicles including a yellow school bus. One guard not working at the time confidentially reported the entire prison of 1,200 prisoners was controlled by Los Zetas and that even after the breakout was still under their control as several members were left behind to maintain that control. Prisoners are reportedly forced to pay a fee to Los Zetas for their safety.[81]
    • Albino SANCHEZ Osorno aka El Babalucas, Abuit ESTUDILLO Ortiz aka El Eco 06, aka El M2, and Francisco Manuel MORA Lopez aka El Pinguino, all former members of the State Investigation Agency (AEI) of Oaxaca were charged for collaborating with Los Zetas by protecting the group in the cities of Istmo de Tehuantepec and Oaxaca de Juarez (the state capital) in March of 2011.[82] 
    • A report from the Guatemalan vice minister of Security, Mario Castaneda, suggests that ex-Kaibiles, soldiers, are recruited to Los Zetas at a fee of $5,000 USD. The recruits then undergo further training in Guatemala with members of Los Zetas.[63]

    Other

    • Churches in Mexico have been accused of accepting "narco alms" from known or suspected drug traffickers. One church even has a plaque dedicating the church to the leader of los Zetas, Lazcano, which states the church was "donated by Heriberto LAZCANO Lazcano.[83]

    Membership

    Membership is made up of different operational levels.[84][85] According to one report, Zetas members are sent to new areas in order to recruit "common" criminals into Los Zetas and they are then trained for a specific task/role, new members can advance to other positions. The tactic of recruiting criminals and military/police is reportedly used by many Mexican cartels now but was pioneered by Los Zetas.[20] It is also reported that new recruits can be "promoted" all the way to the position of hit man, or operativo, in one month, a process that historically took as long as numerous years. This may be a result of rapid turn-over in personnel due to arrests and deaths, as well as an increasing presence in more locations requiring more members.[20] A Recent report suggested that Los Zetas had around 17,000 members, second most behind only the Sinaloa Cartel.[86]The call sign of "Z" or "Zeta" is generally reserved for original or "near-original" members who were in the military where the call signal was used to designate rank. "L" is used for other members of note who cannot be designated with the "Z" call signal.[21]

    Each membership level is paid the same amount throughout the organization. Reportedly, Halcones are paid 8,000 pesos a month and Operativos are paid 20,000 pesos a month. According to one halcon, in order to become an operativo, a halcon must decapitate at least 3 targets.[84] (note: this has not been verified through other reports or accounts)

    There is also evidence that members are transferred from plaza to plaza when particular areas become too "hot" for them. This suggests an extensive intelligence sector in which Los Zetas are retrieving information about which members are under the scope of the authorities.[84][85] It has been suggested that rival cartels will intentionally "heat up" an area in order to force a member of the opposition to transfer to a new location.

     

    Membership Levels:

    Zetas Viejos

    Plaza leader, control operations of entire plaza from assaults, to drug trafficking, to bribery and intelligence gathering. Most Viejos were original members or have been in Los Zetas since shortly after the group's formation. Only those with military experience may be Zetas Viejos, cell and plaza leaders are, however, increasingly made up of non-military and/or non-original members due to the expansion of the group and the capture/death of many original members.[87] Members of this level refer to themselves as Licenciados (Lawyers/attorneys), Maestros (Teachers/masters) or Ingenieros (Engineers).[21]

    Operativos (Operatives)

    Operatives pick up and kill targets, carry out missions

    Zetas Nuevos

    "Shock Troops"[87] are operativos who carry out particularly gruesome and and bloody assaults. Zetas Nuevos are made up of those with military or police backgrounds almost exclusively.[87] Including Kaibiles from Guatemala.[21]

    Cobras Viejos

    Experienced Cobras in charge of coordinating trafficking and security matters

    Cobras

    Provide security for drug shipments and higher level members and leaders, often designated with the call signal "L," which stands for Levantones.[21]

    Halcones (Falcons)

    Monitor military and police activity, informants who most often have no criminal record

    Las Panteras (Panthers)

    A group of mostly women they perform several functions including; obtain safe houses, purchase provisions and clean/care for wounded. Their main role is to infiltrate authority figures and their organizations, contact police officers, military personnel, mayors and politicians, and civilians, who are targeted to assist Los Zetas. If the target refuses, the women are trained killers and do not hold back their skills. This group was first noted in 2006 and was formed by El Lazca. Men in this group function mostly as body guards and hostage controllers.[88] Panteras are known to use costumes and to change their appearance depending on their current mission.[88] One Pantera recently captured was Gloria ROJAS Valencia, captured in Venezuela and turned over to U.S. officials, was known to have ties with and worked with Colombian drug cartel member Luis Frank TELLO Candelo, also recently turned over to U.S. officials.[89] Ashly "La Comandante Bombon" NARRO Lopez and Yaneth DEYANIRA Cruz were known Panteras leaders who have been captured already.[88]

    Accountants

    Also, it has been reported that each plaza also, ideally, has its own accountant. The accountant is tasked with controlling all of the funding for their plaza and making sure all the members are paid as well as bribes paid and that payments are collected from merchants and others being extorted. The main accountant for the entire organization has been reported as Comandante Sol, who reports directly to El Lazca.[21]

    When Carlos Adrian MARTINEZ Muniz, number 2 leader of a Los Zetas cell in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, was arrested in October 2009, in addition to drugs and weapons he had deposit / payment slips for 7,150 different people.[90] The number of payment slips may indicate how large the network of members and associates actually could be and the extent to which corruption may go.

     

    Recruiting

    Los Zetas use banners and other advertising, like the flyer below, to recruit new members, especially targeted are ex-military and ex-police.

    Recruiting Flier.bmp

    Image retrieved from [91].

    The translation of this flyer reads:

    "IMPORTANT NOTICE

    Operations Group Los Z[etas]

    Offers Dirty Work

    To "YOU" military or ex-military

    We Offer:

    GREAT SALARY: $(MXN)5,000 / PER WEEK

    Benefits

    Good Food

    No (picture of instant noodles)

    Don't miss (this opportunity)

    Relax"

    Tactics and Operations

    The following are the different tactics and operations used by Los Zetas as outlined by specific incidences and reports.

    Arson

    In December 2010, Los Zetas set fire to a small town in Durango, Tierras Colorados, made up of mostly indigenous Tepehuanos. Los Zetas showed up looking for a man who lived there and was known to cultivate Marijuana. The area is in the heart of the "Golden Triangle" known for its marijuana and poppy production. In total, several dozen homes, two schools, 17 trucks and a local store were all set on fire by Zetas.[92]

    Los Zetas set fire to several buildings in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas on April 21, 2011 in an alleged attempt to gain control from the Gulf Cartel in the area. See Miguel Aleman Arson

    Assassinations

    Assassinations and assassination attempts are frequent and often involve narcomessages explaining the reason for the assassination. These are left to deter others from opposing Los Zetas and to control the actions of the public and of politicians and military personnel.[93]

    The mayor of Garcia, Nuevo Leon, near Monterrey, Jaime RODRIGUEZ, survived two assassination attempts in a matter of a few weeks. According to Rodriguez, in the latest attempt, March 2011, several vehicles approached his convoy and opened fire on an SUV transporting eight of the mayor's body guards before opening fire on the mayor's vehicle. Fortunately for Rodriguez his vehicle was armored and none of the rounds penetrated the vehicle's protection. Rodriguez believes his body guards were targeted first in an attempt to neutralize some of his protection. One bodyguard was killed while four more were injured. In the previous attack, February 25th, 2011, three gunmen were killed. Rodriguez reported that Los Zetas were responsible for the attacks.[94] A previous attempt resulted in Army casualities and eventually the capture of several Zetas members.[95]

    Zetas are known or suspected of killing three retired Mexican generals between 2006 and 2010.[96] Mexican Army Brigadier General Juan Arturo Esparza Garcia was killed by Los Zetas while attempting to protect the above Rodriguez in an armed assault.[95]

    Bombing

    Car bombings are becoming more and more common place. Often times authorities and law enforcement are the targets of the attacks. Recent incidences suggest Los Zetas are filing false reports of bodies being located in vehicles and when law enforcement arrives the bombs are detonated. Additional Narco messages, claiming responsibility and notifying the "next" targets have been recovered at some of the scenes.[97]

    Bombs are being detonated in some cases by cell phone triggers, indicating a rise in complexity. It has also been reported that the techniques are similar to those used in Iraq and Afghanistan.[15]

    A car bomb in January 2011 was used as retaliation against Hidalgo State Police and killed a Commander. Suspects have been arrested.

    Extortion:

    • Reported on 9/9/2011 the Technological Institute of Monterrey suspended its football programs in Texas. Alleged members of “Los Zetas” demanded 30,000 dollars for the team to cross the border, according to Jorge Lozano Guzman.  Guzman, a spokesperson for the athletic institution, received the phone call.  Guzman said that this has never happened to either to their high school or college teams and the trip was canceled as a precaution.  {{ Ref.Cite{reference: "(2011, September 9). Monterrey Tech Cancels Football Programs in Texas, \"Zetas\" Demand 30,000 Dollars. La Redaccion. Retrieved from www.proceso.com.mx/?p=280988."} }

       

    • Los Zetas are accused of extorting business owners, politicians, and immigrants. One business owner in Matamoros reported that one day in 2001, prior to the Gulf Cartel and Zetas split, a member showed up and demanded a fee, "derecho de piso" for her to continue operating her business, which included the sale of contraband liquor. It is also reported that Los Zetas will intercept "polleros" or human traffickers and demand a fee for each of the immigrants being transported, if they do not pay they will not be allowed to continue or in some cases will be executed.[98]

    Hostage Taking:

    Immigrants are often taken hostage until a ransom is paid by the families of the immigrants or until the immigrant agrees to work for Los Zetas. In cases where the family is unable to pay or the immigrant refuses to cooperate, the immigrants may be executed as an example or simply abandoned in the desert.[99][100]

    See Tamaulipas Bloodshed

    Kidnapping:

    Though originally involved in drug trafficking enforcement, Los Zetas have branched out to include other financial operations including kidnapping for ransom. The number of kidnappings in Mexico states has increased exponentially in the last several years and Los Zetas are believed to be responsible for much of it.[101] Kidnapping is used as a form of intimidation, both specific and general, and as a way to fund other operations.[101]

    Recent reports suggest that due to the poverty of many central American countries their citizens are willing to risk death and extortion to continue traveling through Mexico, hoping to get into the U.S. It is due to this continued desire to make it to the U.S. that Los Zetas have expanded how much they rely on kidnapping and extorting the immigrants, as a steady flow of them travel through their plazas and other locations. Entire train and bus loads of immigrants are being taken hostage at one time and being demanded to call family in America for money or work for Los Zetas, if neither is completed, they are killed.[102][103] See Tamaulipas Bloodshed for more information regarding the massacre of migrants.

    Intimidation / Blackmail:

    Rival cartel members, police and other law enforcement and political figures, and insubordinate members are killed and often displayed as a means to control others who are considering going against Los Zetas. Often times markers or messages are left with the corpses claiming responsibility by Los Zetas.[101]

    Just as useful for controlling the public is the number of unresolved missing persons reports. Many times people go missing with no trace and family and friends are left to wonder whether they are alive or dead and if they will ever find them. This unknown can be as distressing as any other form of intimidation.[101][104]

    The threat of and use of kidnapping of family members has also been used to intimidate others into cooperation.[101]

    Los Zetas are known for their extreme violence and brutality, including beheadings, dismembering, and skinning in an attempt to intimidate others into cooperation. The victims of these acts are often left in highly traveled areas such as malls and shopping centers to draw attention to the brutal tactics used.

    Threats against specific military or political figures are common. Often times narcomessages are left with corpses and scenes of attacks or kidnappings explaining why the victim was chosen and how to avoid the same. Also, future victims are occasionally named and told to expect the same treatment if they do not conform to their demands. [93]

    Seizure:

    The seizure of land by Los Zetas is becoming more common. The land, often farms or ranches, is seized in order to store drugs, weapons, people and other contraband. See the 77 Year Old Man Fights Back.

    Media:

    Use of narco banners recruiting potential members, videos of operations including executions and beheadings, and blatant membership identification, such as large "Z"'s painted on the side of vehicles and on the corpses of enemies.[101]

    In 2010 Los Zetas used narco banners to celebrate the death of rival and leader of the Gulf Cartel Antonio Ezequiel CARDENAS Guillen ala Tony Tormenta.[105]

    A Guatemalan radio station was forced to broadcast a message for Los Zetas. The message was a response to the martial law imposed by the Guatemalan government in an attempt to deter Los Zetas from creating a strong hold in Guatemala. The message read "We will start the war in this country, in malls, in schools and in police stations. If this message is not put out on the air in an hour, the radio station burn... The families of those who work at the station will be executed if you do not read it." A blast on a public bus shortly afterwards has been attributed to Mara 18, M-18, but it was reported that the blast may have been ordered by Los Zetas. [15]

    Los Zetas have carried out assassinations of media members. Rodolfo RINCON Taracena, a reporter in Villahermosa, Tabasco, was kidnapped and murdered, dismembered, and burned in metal tubs by Los Zetas cell members in Villahermosa for writing about "small-scale drug-dealing" in the city of Villahermosa for the newspaper Tabasco Hoy.[106]

    Technology:

    Some of the bombings attributed to Los Zetas include remote detination devices, often utilizing cell phone devices as the trigger. The devices are reportedly similar to some used in Iraq and Afghanistan.[15]

    See also Training: Communications, below.

    Other:

    Los Zetas have been accused of using threats against PEMEX and its employees to retrieve payments for "protection" of its drilling sites and employees. Los Zetas have also been accused of stealing $1 billion worth of petroleum.[101][107] As of December 2010, it was reported that Los Zetas were smuggling approximately $1,500,000 (USD) per month from PEMEX into Guatemala.[108]

    A recent conflict between Los Zetas and the Mexican Navy highlights the operational capabilities and influences of Los Zetas. In Veracruz, the large port-city, it has been reported by eyewitnesses that on March 27th, 2011, in the early hours of the morning gunfire erupted between Los Zetas and Mexican Military personnel. According to reports, the Mexican Military attempted to stop a vehicle convoy supposedly transporting Los Zetas members and particularly a highly armored Hummer, the type normally reserved for the high ranking bosses of the group. The group was supposedly headed for a local bar providing liquor and table dances known as "Noctambulos," that is known to be frequented by high level cartel members and their "protection". The convoy attempted to lose the military tail which involved the use of military-style weapons, possibly a .50 caliber fully automatic, and evasive driving techniques. The Hummer escaped, however another cartel vehicle was trapped and opened fire on the military. The ensuing stand off resulted in a several casualties, including military, cartel and civilian. At a nearby concert the gunfire was heard and caused a panic resulting in further injuries as people stampeeded to leave the area. Review and compilation of multiple reports suggest atleast five total casualties resulted from the ninety minute plus altercation; official reports released by government officials claimed three casualties, one each of a civilian, cartel member and soldier, and failed to detail the chase that traveled through city blocks, the vehicles that escaped, including the armored Hummer, or the reason for the confrontation. The limited reporting has earned the government more distrust from the public, particularly those who witnessed portions of the incident and noticed large pieces of information missing. The full details of this account are available here, and is a compilation of numerous Spanish sources, including print and television sources, that have been verified[109]. This account details the ability of Los Zetas to not only encounter and succesfully flee the authorities, but also of their ability to control, directly and indirectly, the amount of official reporting regarding their activities.

    In April 2011, Los Zetas attacked members of the Mexican Army on the Riberana highway in Reynosa, Tamualipas. Miguel Aleman and Ciudad Mier also had shootouts related to the initial attack.[110]

    Training 

    Operational:

    Original Members were mainly trained by the Mexican military as members of GAFES. Following desertion and entry into Los Zetas further training was conducted in Matamoros by Alberto "Z-5" Guerrero Reyes (deceased) and Carlos "El Comandante Hau" Hau Castaneda (status unknown).[26] 

    In 2001 the majority of training, while still operating for the Gulf Cartel, was transferred to Nuevo Leon. Specifically a ranch in China, Nuevo Leon, known as "Las Amarillas", and a ranch near San Fernando (along the Ciudad Victoria-Matamoros highway), served as the main training headquarters for the early members of Los Zetas.[26]

    Currently there are still "ranches" designed to train recruits, however they know exist throughout their region and the recruits are trained near where they are recruited from until their training commanders believe they are ready.[26]

    One report indicates training is currently around three months long and takes place at ranches known as Arroyos (Creeks) that are located in the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila. Training includes operational, survival, invasions and defenses.[21] Also, the hierarchy is taught and maintained.

    A training facility in El Salvador was recently uncovered and with it over $15 million (USD) in plastic containers has been uncovered with more expected to be located.[67]

    A 13 year old girl reported that Los Zetas hired children as young as 13 and trained them at camps located throughout the state of Tabasco. The girl reported that youths were hired because of the presumption that if caught, they would be sentenced to centers for youths due to having more relaxed juvenile laws. They were trained to use firearms and to fight, as well as how to transport drugs and weapons.[111]

    In October 2011 it was reported that two former Colombian Army majors and two former non-commissioned officers are in Mexico training Los Zetas. It was reported that the four had been doing so since 2006.[112] 

    Communications:

    Radios have been utilized for the main method of communications in the past to prevent the interception of any phone conversations. Hidden video cameras have been utilized to gather covert information on enforcement tactics and operations.[101][113]

    A recent military operation in Veracruz highlights the sophistication of the Zetas communications network. During the multi-location operation high-powered transmitters, computers, radio scanners, encryption devices and solar power cells were all seized from atleast 10 towns in the Veracruz.[114]

    A full synopsis including a map of seizure locations can be seen here.

     

    Communications Equip 1.png

    Communications Equip 2.png

    Communications Equip 7.png

    Images of some of the confiscated equipment.[115]

    Weapons and Ammunition

    Type:

    Seized weapons include:

    Firearms Explosives Other
    9 mm Pistols Rocket Launchers Armored Vehicles, some with hidden compartments for trafficking drugs and weapons
    Shot Guns Grenade Launchers

    Motorcycles

    Rifles Fragmentation Grenades

    Bullet Proof Vests

    .22 Caliber Rifles

    Body Grenades

    Long-range Weapons

    .45 Caliber Rifles

    40mm Grenades

    Short-range Weapons

    High Calibered Military Weapons

    Practice Grenades (inert)

    Crossbows

    AR-15's

    60 mm Mortars

    Machetes

    Ak-47's Explosive Devices

    "a wooden shovel used to beat victims"[116]

    Machine Guns Industrial Hydrogel Explosive Cartridges Anti-tank weapons
    7.62 mm Machine Guns M433 grenades  
    Submachine Guns    
    UZI's    
    M-16's    
    50 Caliber Rifles    
    G36's    
    .40 Caliber handguns    
    Sources [101][113][117][118][119][120][121][122][123][124][125][126][127][128][129]

    A single recent seizure in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, included the following items:

    • 1 x 7.62mm machine gun
    • 59 x long range weapons
    • 21 x short range weapons
    • 7 x submachine guns, UZI style
    • 1 x rocket launcher
    • 1 x crossbow
    • 412 x rounds of industrial hydrogel explosives
    • 36 x electronic detonators
    • 12 meters detonating cord
    • 6 x 60 mm mortar rounds
    • 3 x rifle grenades
    • 5 x dull grenades
    • 1 x RPG rocket
    • 50 X fragmentation grenades
    • 2 x body grenades
    • 4 x 40 mm practice grenades
    • 2 x other explosives
    • 2 x 3 way connectors
    • $59,700 USD

    As reported by the Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional.[121]

    One of the more concerning developments has been the increased use of armored vehicles by cartels in Mexico. Many times these vehicles are armored more heavily than the ones deployed by the Mexican Military.[130] See the page for the Monstruos for more information and descriptions.

    Origins:

    It has been reported that a majority of the sidearms, such as pistols, come from the U.S. but that a large portion of military grade weapons come from Central American militaries.[101][131][120][128]

    Origins
    Texas Arizona New Mexico Central American Militaries
    Romania China Honduras Guatemala
      Sources [101][131][120][128]

    A report that some members of Los Zetas are traveling from town to town demanding the inhabitants turn over all the weapons in the town surfaced in the state of Zacatecas and Durango. Villa Cardenas' residents were informed by their county representative that Los Zetas had demanded all weapons be placed in a hall and left for Los Zetas to collect by the next day. The community of just over 500 was told they would be attacked if the weapons were not handed over. On February 27th, 2011, two days after the demands were made, Los Zetas searched home by home in the community because residents had been reluctant to turn over their weapons. The county representative, Jesus TORRES, was kidnapped and a shootout ensued when one young resident refused to turn his weapons over and instead fired upon Los Zetas. Two Zetas members were killed while the others fled the town. A similar incident occured three months earlier in a Durango city, San Lucas. [132] 

    Routes:

    Guns are often purchased through legitimate businesses by citizens of the U.S. or individuals who are permitted to make such purchases and then sold into the Mexican cartels for a large profit. The guns travel along the same paths as the other trafficked items (persons, drugs) back into Mexico.[101]

    Guns are also stolen or purchased from Central American militaries. A recent report indicated that several Honduran military weapons, supplied to them by the U.S. have surfaced in Los Zetas and other cartel groups in Mexico and other areas.[128]

    Weapons from Guatemala are reportedly brought through Mexico in trucks with hidden compartments, much like other contraband, and if caught Zetas will attempt to pay off authorities. These trucks are reportedly traveling through Chiapas and Tasbasco specifically.[133]

    Payment:

    Drugs, cash, protection[101]

    Funding / Money Laundering

    Laundering of money takes place through a number of businesses including restaurants, car dealers and meat markets in the Northern Texas area.[101] Laundering has been reported in Kansas, Minnesota, Atlanta and Chicago[101].

    A group of Los Zetas members were recently arrested, accused of dealing in stolen petroleum, the individuals were linked to bank accounts with over $1.4(USD) million.[134]

    The amount of cash a person may carry, legally, over the border between Mexico and the U.S. is set at $(USD)10,000. However, a loop hole is helping to move money back into Mexico and the cartels via an unconventional method; pre-paid credit/debit cards. These cards require no identification or credit check, can be filled up over and over, often are limited at $(USD)500, and most importantly are currently limited to any number of cards or total value for transporting over the border. Cartel members are being caught carrying dozens of these cards. Even if a limit is imposed, discovery would be very difficult because while canines can sniff out the ink in currency, no process for detecting plastic cards is currently available[135].

    Drug Cartels, especially Los Zetas, have expanded their operations beyond traditional drug trafficking, including human trafficking. In 2010 45,280 non-Mexicans were apprehended attempting to get into the U.S. illegally through Mexico. 32,900 of that total was through the Texas border. This is a minor increase of 2009, however a major reduction since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office (2006) and began his "war" on cartels, the year prior to his election a total of 138,700 non-Mexicans were apprehended at the Texas-Mexico border attempting to gain entry. Cartels charge a "fee" to smuggle the individuals across Mexico and into the U.S., however, the "customers" are not always left satisfied as there are numerous cases of them being left in the desert, or murdered unless they agree to increase the "fee" payments being made. There is a concern that terrorist organizations and members could gain entry to the U.S. through this border.[136]

    Los Zetas charge "derecho de piso" or dues to businesses. If it isn't paid the businesses are victimized, as are the owners. The dues vary from 2,000 to 50,000 pesos a month, dependent upon the business's success and size.[137]

    The size and extent of the Zetas financial status may be somewhat understood by an incident in 2009 when a Monterrey, Nuevo Leon plaza leader was captured carrying deposit slips for 7,000 plus persons.[90]

    Effectiveness

    Outside Support:

    Some have suggested that the cartels, and especially Los Zetas, act like Robin Hood, providing financial and other means of support to the communities they are in. The conflicts, propurtedly, occur when a community does not fully support the members or are seen supporting conflicting organizations. Narco-messages from cartels are often asking for community support in order to eradicate another conflicting cartel.[138]

    Rival cartels battle each other with weapons and public relations. The use of media, banners, pamphlets and other forms of advertising is commonplace in areas with conflicting cartels. The public historically allowed the cartels to operate as long as they followed a few set rules. In recent years those rules have been broken and some suggest that the cartels desire a return to the "simpler" times when those rules were followed. The public relations of cartels is an attempt to persuade the public not to report incidences involving their respective group but to place a high level of pressure on the other cartels.[139]

    Internal Control Mechanisms:

    Important to the success of the group is its ability to control its members. Making examples of those who disobey orders or are accused of crimes against the group is one method of doing so. A Quintana Roo boss, Victor Eammanuel DELGADO Medrano aka El Chumil, who was recently captured (March 2011), and three other Los Zetas members from the area; Luis Enrique PAZ Sosa aka El Max, Jose Salvador REYNAGA Zuniga aka El Gordo and Ramces ARREOLA Sanchez aka El Ramces, were charged with killing and dismembering "La Loba." La Loba was a member of Los Zetas who was accused of keeping money he was supposed to divide up with other members of the group.[93]

    Martin Omar ESTRADA Luna aka El Kilo, was arrested in April 2011 as the cell leader of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, location of the Tamaulipas Bloodshed. It has been reported that Estrada may have been turned in by his superiors, mainly Alejandro TREVINO Morales and Miguel TREVINO Morales for his role in the massacres. Allegedly, Estrada had been told to keep the body counts low and he failed to do. Instead of risking further alienation with the people who generally put up with the narco-violence, the TREVINO brothers turned him in to authorities.[140]

    Los Zetas utilized an advanced business model to maintain control of their operations and use computers and technology to track drug and other contraband shipments, as well as to document local leaders and those in charge of the shipments. Detailed information regarding monies and bribes paid out and to whom, and payments received are all documented and kept on laptops to maintain the system even if one individual is taken down.[101]

    Intimidation:

    Los Zetas use intimidation to force public officials and citizens to do as they demand. The use of narco messages and banners, as well as simple insignias, usually the letter "Z", is used to remind people what they are capable of. One recent example is from Oaxaca where at a local tourist attraction a human head was found with a narco message signed by Los Zetas.[141]

    Zetas are known or suspected of killing three retired Mexican generals between 2006 and 2010.[96]

    Gallery

    droga31.jpg

    Drugs confiscated in one operation by military personnel.[142]

    guns.jpg

    Cache of Zetas weapons confiscated in a single raid.[120]

    mexico-zetas-gang-2011-03-30.jpg

    A medal of Los Zetas, on display at the Museum of Drugs in Mexico City.[15]

    Drug_routes_2010_800.jpg

    Known and suspected drug routes by type of drug being smuggled. The plazas are located next to American cities to make moving the contraband easier once over the border.[8]

    Mexico Kidnapping numbers by state.jpg

    Number of kidnappings, by state, from December 1, 2006 until August 31, 2010.[143]

    interogando4zetas.jpg

    Still shot from a video of Los Zetas being "interrogated" by unknown captors, presumably rival cartel members. A transcript of the "interrogation" can be found at the cited webpage.[144]

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