AP: Mexican Army Deserters Form Drug Gang
Somehow the AP lede seems redundant.
Members of an elite Mexican army unit have deserted and formed a drug gang, using their military training to launch a violent battle for control of this border city. The war for Nuevo Laredo is unlike other recent drug conflicts — it’s a turf war involving most of Mexico’s major cartels in broad alliances not seen in a decade. It has the Mexican army fighting an organized unit of former comrades, and it has cost American lives.
I think that qualifies for the WoT.
``They are extremely violent, and they are very much feared in the region because of the bloodshed they unleash,’’ Jose Santiago Vasconcelos, Mexico’s top anti-drug prosecutor, told AP.
Mr. Fox, we can solve this if you can’t.
The battles, which have taken 87 lives since 2002, have involved unprecedented alliances among Mexico’s drug cartels, according to Nuevo Laredo police commander Martin Landa Herrera. ``I don’t think anything like this has happened before in Mexico,’’ he said in an interview. ``I have never heard of this many cartels fighting for one piece of territory.’’ Known as the ``Zetas’’ or ``Z``s, the new drug gang — which appears to have won control of the city — is led by former members of an elite paratroop and intelligence battalion that was posted to the border state of Tamaulipas in the 1990s to fight drug traffickers. Vasconcelos said about 31 of the estimated 350 members of the Special Air Mobile Force Group, posted to the border state of Tamaulipas in the 1990s, had deserted and joined the drug turf war.
Got the idea that the money wasn’t in chasing drug dealers but in being one.
``They have high-powered weapons, training and intelligence capabilities,’’ Landa Herrera said of the Zetas, whose name comes from the radio code word designating a police commander. ``They have even tapped our radio communications. They listen in on us.’’ The Defense Department has refused to confirm any of its soldiers formed the Zetas. But the army recently began posting wanted posters across the country offering rewards for the deserters, some still pictured in army uniforms. That led to certainty speculation the soldiers were behind the Zetas. The skirmishing began in 2001 as a dispute among local drug gangs that operated with the permission of reputed Gulf drug cartel leader Osiel Cardenas. By early 2002, the battle had heated up enough that the Zetas appeared, working as hit men for Cardenas in a bid to restore order. But Cardenas’ arrest March 14 during a shootout in the nearby border city of Matamoros opened the floodgates for a wider conflict. With Cardenas in jail, cartels across Mexico — Michoacan, Ciudad Juarez, Sinaloa and possibly Tijuana — sensed weakness and tried to move in on the territory. Such alliances — and an all-out war between multiple cartels — haven’t been seen since the wars between Mexican gangs in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ``We’re seeing these alliances, but this is just proof of the crisis these gangs are in,’’ Vasconcelos said. ``There is no one single group strong enough anymore to dominate the territory.’’ The Zetas do appear to have the upper hand and are still linked to Cardenas, city police say. While dozens of hired gunslingers from other cartels have died, Vasconcelos said only a few Zetas have been killed and only one or two have been captured.
They may be dirty, but apparently they’re also really good at this.
The Zetas have killed dozens of rival traffickers, trading shots from passing sport utility vehicles on the streets of Nuevo Laredo. In one attack, they engaged in a shootout in broad daylight just yards from where the city’s mayor was attending a flag-raising ceremony. Nobody has to tell Houston resident Noe Villarreal how vicious the war has become. On Sept. 27, a commando of at least 30 masked men carrying assault rifles kidnapped his brother - Hayward, Calif., businessman Juan Villarreal Garcia — from his Mexico home in Sabinas Hidalgo, a town south of Nuevo Laredo. Villarreal remains missing and is presumed dead. The area is so violent that nobody is sure who kidnapped him or why. ``I don’t know if it was the Zetas,’’ said Noe Villarreal, ``because the Zetas have never released anyone alive. That’s not their style.’’ It wouldn’t be the first time that Americans have died in the conflict. A wild pre-dawn battle on Aug. 1 in Nuevo Laredo left at least three dead — one of them a man from Laredo, Texas — and six wounded. Police and army troops exchanged fire with cars believed to be carrying drug traffickers. The three were killed when their SUV exploded after police bullets hit the vehicle’s gas tank. And in June 2001, a couple from Laredo, Texas — Sylvia Solis and Juan Villagomez — were kidnapped by drug traffickers, although it is unclear why. She was raped and strangled. He was beaten and buried alive.
This makes the Zetas our problem.
Posted by: Steve White 2003-10-11