Los Zetas Drug Cartel is now in the Philippines (Filipinas)and Worldwide
Founded 1999 (independent cartel since February 2010)
Founding location Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico
Years active 1999-present
Territory Mexico: Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, Quintana Roo,
San Luis Potosí, Chiapas, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Zacatecas, Durango, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, State of México, Michoacán
United States: Texas, California, New Jersey, Detroit, Colorado, Illinois
Central America: Guatemala
Ethnicity Predominantly Mexican, with some Guatemalan members
Criminal activities Drug trafficking, people smuggling, kidnapping, racketeering, murder, arms trafficking, terrorism, extortion, assault, rape
Allies Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, ‘Ndrangheta.
Rivals Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel, La Familia Michoacana, Knights Templar Cartel
Los Zetas (Zetas, Zs) is a powerful and violent criminal syndicate in Mexico, and is considered by the U.S. government to be the “most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico.”The origins of Los Zetas date back to 1999, when commandos of the Mexican Army’s elite forces deserted their ranks and decided to work as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, a powerful drug trafficking organization. In February 2010, Los Zetas broke away from their former employer and formed their own criminal organization.
Due to their military background, Los Zetas are well armed, highly organized and equipped;their brutal tactics, which include beheadings, torture and indiscriminate slaughter, show that they often prefer brutality over bribery.Los Zetas are also Mexico’s largest drug cartel in terms of geographical presence, overtaking its bitter rival, the Sinaloa Cartel. Besides drug trafficking, Los Zetas operate through protection rackets, assassinations, extortion, kidnappings, and other criminal activities. The organization is based in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, directly across the border from Laredo, Texas.
The group’s name Los Zetas is given after its first commander, Arturo Guzmán Decena, whose Federal Judicial Police radio code was “Z1″, a code given to high-ranking officers. The radio code for Commanding Federal Judicial Police Officers in México was “Y” and are nicknamed Yankees, for Federal Judicial Police in charge of a city the radio code was “Z,” and thus they were nicknamed as the letter in Spanish, “Zetas.”
After Osiel Cárdenas Guillén took full control of the Gulf Cartel in 1999, he found himself in a violent turf war. In order to keep his organization and leadership, Cárdenas sought out Arturo Guzmán Decena, a retired Army lieutenant who lured more than 30 army deserters of the Mexican Army’s elite Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFE) to become his personal bodyguards, and later, as his mercenary wing. These Army deserters were enticed with salaries much higher than those of the Mexican Army. Cárdenas’ goal was to protect himself from rival drug cartels and from the Mexican military.
Once Osiel Cárdenas Guillen consolidated his position and supremacy, he expanded the responsibilities of Los Zetas, and as years passed, they became much more important for the Gulf Cartel. The Zetas began to organize kidnappings,protection rackets, extortion, securing cocaine supply and trafficking routes known as plazas (zones) and executing its foes, often with barbaric savagery.
Guzmán Decena (Z1) was killed by a rival cartel member on November 2002 in a restaurant in Matamoros, Tamaulipas,allowing Heriberto Lazcano (Z3) to ascend to the apex of the paramilitary group. In response to the rising power of the Gulf Cartel, the rival Sinaloa Cartel established a heavily armed, well-trained enforcer group known as Los Negros. The group operated similar to Los Zetas, but with less complexity and success. Upon the arrest of the Gulf Cartel boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillen in March 2003 and his extradition in 2007, the Zetas took a more active leadership role within the Gulf Cartel and their influence grew greater within the organization.
In 2010, however, Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel broke apart.
Their operatives now include corrupt former federal, state, and local police officers, as well as ex-Kaibiles, the Special Forces of the Guatemalan military
Los Zetas have set up camps to train recruits as well as corrupt ex-federal, state, and local police officers. In September 2005 testimony to the Mexican Congress from the then-Defense Secretary Clemente Vega, indicated that the Zetas had also hired at least 30 former Kaibiles from Guatemala to train new recruits because the number of former Mexican special forces men in their ranks had shrunk. Los Zetas’ training locations have been identified as having a similar setup as military GAFE training facilities.
Analysts indicate that the Zetas are the largest organized crime group in Mexico in terms of geographical presence.
Los Zetas are primarily based in the border region of Nuevo Laredo, with hundreds more throughout the country. They have placed lookouts at arrival destinations such as airports, bus stations and main roads. In addition to conducting criminal activities along the border, they operate throughout the Gulf of Mexico, in the southern states of Tabasco, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, and Chiapas, and in the Pacific Coast states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Michoacán, as well as in Mexico City.
They are also active in several states in the United States. The cartel also has important areas of operation in the country of Guatemala, they are active in Texas, other U.S. states and in Italy with the ‘Ndrangheta.
Early in 2012 it has been reported that ‘Los Zetas’ are operating in the northern Venezuela–Colombia border, and have teamed up with the Colombian outfit called Los Rastrojos. Together they control the drug trafficking routes in the Colombian La Guajira and the Venezuelan state of Zulia, Colombia as the producing country and Venezuela as the main port route toward the U.S. and Europe.
Alliances and rivalries
Indications of the broken alliance between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas began in September 2009. On 24 February 2010, gunmen onboard hundreds of trucks marked C.D.G, XXX, and M3 (the insignias of the Gulf Cartel), clashed against Zetas gunmen on the northern cities of Tamaulipas state. The clash between these two groups started in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and then expanded to Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros. The war then spread out through 11 municipalities of Tamaulipas, 9 of them bordering the state of Texas. Soon, the violence between these two cartels spread to Tamaulipas’ neighboring states of Nuevo León and Veracruz. Their conflict also spread to U.S. soil, where Gulf Cartel hit men killed two Zeta members in Brownsville, Texas on 5 October 2010.
Confrontations between these two groups temporarily paralyzed entire cities in broad daylight. Several witnesses claimed that many of the municipalities throughout Tamaulipas were “war zones,” and that many businesses and houses were burned down, leaving areas in “total destruction.” In the midst of violence and panic, Mexican local authorities and mass media tried to minimize the situation and claimed that “nothing was occurring,” but the facts were impossible to cover up.
The complexity and territorial advantage of Los Zetas forced the Gulf Cartel to seek an alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel and, the now disbanded, La Familia Cartel. Consequently, Los Zetas joined forces with the Beltrán Leyva Cartel and the Tijuana Cartel to counteract the opposing cartels.
Since February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel??; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel.
Anonymous’ Operation Cartel
On 6 October 2011 a man identified himself as a member of Anonymous posted a video on YouTube under the account MrAnonymousguyfawkes stating that Los Zetas had kidnapped one of their group members and demanded Los Zetas Cartel release the individual. If he was not freed, the man in the video threatened to expose photos and the names of several people who collaborate with the cartel, such as police officers and taxi drivers. The man in the video stated that they were “fed up” with the situation in Mexico where people are getting kidnapped and experiencing violence.
The operation to expose information of people who work with Los Zetas, dubbed “Operation Cartel”, was reportedly started as a result of an Anonymous member being kidnapped during Operation Paperstorm in Veracruz, a once peacefulcity. On 29 October 2011 the Global Intelligence group Stratfor released a report stating that if Anonymous did go through with OpCartel, most certainly it would lead to more deaths and could leave bloggers and others open to reprisal attacks by the cartels. Meanwhile, a retired head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Puerto Rico, Mike Vigil, warned that “Los Zetas should take Anonymous seriously.”
OpCartel also raised the concern that Los Zetas have experts in computer intelligence who are believed to track down the “anti-cartel” campaigns online, which helps experts understand the high rate of journalist executions. Additionally, the Mexican drug cartels generally have people monitor forums, news websites, and blogs to help them be in touch with what is being published and with what could affect their interests. The New York Times mentioned that Los Zetas has access to sophisticated tracking software due to the fact that they have infiltrated Mexican law enforcement agencies, and that online anonymity might not be enough protection for Internet users.
On 4 November 2011, Anonymous posted on the Iberoamerican Blog that the kidnapped member had been released and that they had confirmed his identity. They also stated that they would not be moving forward with releasing the information they had of several cartel members