Sicarios de los Zetas

Power of Mexican drug cartels felt for hundreds of miles

A new report reveals that a half-dozen Mexican drug cartels have gained a stronghold in the state of Texas that reaches far and wide. This after mass arrests of Mexican mafia members and confiscations of their drugs and firearms in California.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment reveals that six Mexican drug cartels have a far-reaching stranglehold over several Texas cities. It also finds that Mexican cartels now smuggle more drugs into the US than any other criminal organization.

One of the criminal groups, the Gulf Cartel, has a hold on Texas cities such as McAllen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Houston and Beaumont in the state’s tip and coastal bend area. The group mostly brings in marijuana and cocaine in through between the Rio Grande Valley and South Padre Island in Texas.

In the western part of the Lone Star State, the Los Zetas Cartel controls two cities, while another group, the Juarez Cartel, has a hold on Lubbock, El Paso, Midland and Alpine.

The Sinaloa Cartel, which used to be run by Joaquin “El Chapo”Guzman, is primarily found in Dallas, Lubbock and Fort Worth, the report states.

Last week, authorities made 47 arrests in relation to the Mexican mafia, and Mexican drug cartels. Authorities seized 36 firearms and 200 pounds of drugs throughout the entire Southern region.

The seizures included items such as assault rifles, 120 pounds of marijuana, 60 pounds of cocaine and 12 pounds of methamphetamine. Thirty five thousand dollars worth of alleged criminal proceeds were also seized.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Pharr, Texas, seized more than $6 million worth of methamphetamine concealed in a shipment of fresh honeydew melons.

The April 12 seizure at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge cargo facility included 304 pounds of the drug, valued at $6.09 million hidden in the wooden pallets that containers holding the melons were loaded on top of.

The narco underworld in Mexico has also seen its major criminal groups split up into factions far and wide in recent years. The Gulf and Zeta cartels are cited as the main groups involved in the fragmentation.

The previous month agents intercepted nearly $13 million worth of methamphetamine inside a truck carrying frozen strawberries that came from Mexico.

This month agents found nearly 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine in a commercial shipment of fresh carrots. The fresh carrots coming from Mexico had 384 packages of methamphetamine worth $18.5 million.

Its just not in the United States either. Deep in Mexico near the Guatemalan border Los Zeta controls much of the shipping into Mexico.

Just as they have done in the north, groups claiming to be Zetas have set up criminal networks to control transit routes for drugs, migrants and contraband such as pirated DVDS, intimidating the populace and committing gruesome murders as an example to the uncooperative.

Four years ago they started preying on the south, Mexico’s poorest region. They moved into Oaxaca, Chiapas and other southern states and then northern Guatemala, where attacks on townspeople became so commonplace that the government last month sent in 300 troops to regain control of the border province of Alta Verapaz.

In towns on the Oaxacan isthmus and the center of Oaxaca city, the capital, the wealthy as well as street vendors and migrants have been kidnapped and subjected to extortion.

Authorities, however, contest the notion they are doing nothing. In Chiapas state, on the Guatemala border, more than 240 local and state police officers have been fired or arrested since 2008 for having links to the Zetas, according to the state Public Safety Department.

The Mexicans say the Zetas have hired Guatemalan former counterinsurgency soldiers to train new recruits, and a Zetas training camp for hit men was uncovered on the Guatemalan border last year.

Alejandro Poire, Mexico’s government spokesman for security issues, said the reported scope of Zetas activity in southern Mexico is hardly comparable to the turf battle raging between the Zetas and their competitors in the north, where a split from their former employers, the Gulf Cartel, has sparked regular grenade attacks and daylight shootouts.

The Zetas formed in the late 1990s from a small group of elite soldiers based in Tamaulipas who deserted to work for the Gulf drug cartel.

They earned their notoriety by becoming the first to publicly display their beheaded rivals, most infamously two police officers in April 2006 in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco. The severed heads were found on spikes outside a government building with a message signed “Z” that said: “So that you learn to respect.”

That year, the Gulf cartel, emboldened after retaining control of the northern border city of Nuevo Laredo, sent the Zetas to take over the south, which they kept after their boss, Gulf leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen, was extradited to the U.S.

By 2008, the Zetas had operations in 28 major Mexican cities, according to an analysis by Grupo Savant, a Washington-based security think tank.

They operate unchallenged in the south, the think tank says. While other cartels are preoccupied with maintaining their Pacific coast ports and northern border transit routes, the Zetas make hundreds of millions of dollars from extortion and trafficked goods coming overland via Guatemala.