Tag Archives: los zetos

Mexican President Calderon

Christian Caryl: Why organized crime is a growing force in world politics

Mexicans are celebrating a victory over the drug mafia this month. The arrest of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the head of the Zeta drug cartel, is big news. Trevino, alias Z-40, made a name for himself as one of the most brutal gangsters in a country that has become sadly inured to violence. One can only hope that his imprisonment will put an end to at least some of the stomach-turning brutality he was accustomed to inflicting on his enemies. (At one point, it’s been revealed, he even considered shooting down the plane of then-President Felipe Calderon.)

But will Z-40’s arrest put an end to Mexico’s drug wars? There’s reason to doubt it. Demand for drugs from the cartels’ customers in the United States remains strong, and until that underlying structural cause is addressed, this lucrative trade will continue to thrive. Some experts point out that one of the biggest beneficiaries of Trevino’s downfall is likely to be Joaquín Guzman Loera (“El Chapo”), the head of the rival Sinaloa cartel, who can revel in the elimination of one of his most energetic competitors.

Analysts put the value of the global drug trade at some $350 billion a year — and that’s probably a conservative estimate. And yet narcobusiness comprises only one relatively small slice of the much larger world of global criminality. According to the World Economic Forum: “The cross-border flow of global proceeds from criminal activities, corruption and tax evasion is estimated at over $1 trillion, with illegal drugs and counterfeit goods each accounting for 8 percent of world trade.”

Organized crime lurks behind many of the stories in the headlines today, though the connection rarely becomes explicit. Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was just convicted on probably spurious charges of embezzlement, made a name for himself by targeting the corruption that is so deep-seated in today’s Russia that it’s often hard to see where the government leaves off and the mob begins. European Union law enforcement officials warned recently that mobsters are capitalizing on the European financial crisis by taking advantage of black markets in goods and services. Meanwhile, the increasing prominence of the Internet in the global economy is fueling worries about the rising power of organized cybercriminals.

Gangsters are cropping up in all sorts of odd places. Criminal syndicates are implicated in everything from the poaching of rare wildlife to the counterfeiting of drugs and manufactured goods. That growing range of activities attests to the criminals’ skill at exploiting the possibilities offered by deepening global interconnectedness. Consider the opening of this story about a recent global raid by Interpol: “More than 6,000 people around the world were arrested in a two-month anti-counterfeiting sweep that netted tens of millions of dollars worth of fake shampoo in China, phony cigarettes in Turkey and bogus booze in Chile.” The investigators discovered everything from a subterranean factory in Ukraine manufacturing counterfeit cigarettes to a workshop in Peru that puts false labels on motors from China.

Mobsters thrive on instability. In the Syrian civil war, the same criminal groups that once played on their close ties to the government of Bashar al-Assad have now mutated into the shabiha, the feared paramilitaries that do the regime’s dirtiest work on the battlefield. But they’re not the only ones. “The link between insurgent groups and organized crime has long been a feature of intra-state conflict,” notes Asher Berman, an expert at the Institute for the Study of War. “Rebels often turn to criminal activity to obtain the weapons and funding they need to maintain the fight.” The rebels in Syria, desperate for cash, are increasingly resorting to mafia-like tactics of their own, ranging from car thefts to the looting of antiquities. Reports of systematic extortion — the familiar phenomenon of the “revolutionary tax” we’ve heard about so many times before — and economically motivated kidnapping are also on the rise.

What we’re seeing, though, is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Criminals, by definition, prefer to avoid the light of day, so the dimensions of the real mafia problem remain obscure. Was that Vatican official who was arrested in June on money-laundering charges merely trying to make himself and some well-connected friends a bit richer, or is he part of a much broader pattern of institutionalized corruption within the bank of the Holy See? Was that recent police raid in New Delhi that netted a huge haul of black-market weapons a victory over mobsters or terrorists? Did that witness who met an untimely end just before he was to testify in the Whitey Bulger case here in the United States really die of natural causes? Why did the Chinese harbor one of Taiwan’s most prominent triad leaders for 17 years before handing him over to Taipei earlier this month? In most cases, we’ll probably never know the whole story.

But there are a few things that we can say with certainty. First, organized crime in cyberspace is becoming a core problem, one that’s particularly hard to combat precisely because of its amorphousness. Indeed, there’s considerable anecdotal evidence that hackers-for-hire are increasingly lending their services to both governments and gangs. But the opacity of the culprits shouldn’t delude us about the scale of what’s at stake. A report issued earlier this week by a global financial organization noted that half of the world’s securities exchanges came under attack by hackers last year. That means that web-based criminals are potentially in a position to destabilize the global financial system — entirely aside from the untold losses to individuals and companies from mushrooming cybercrime.

Second, illicit financial flows are a big part of the problem. The biggest problem for large-scale criminals is banking their ill-gotten gains, and right now there are plenty of entirely legal lawyers, accountants, and offshore tax havens that are happy to help. Let’s put aside for the moment the theoretical arguments over the virtues and drawbacks of secrecy jurisdictions, and note simply that preserving the present system, which allows criminals to shift their profits almost effortlessly across the globe without scrutiny, will lead to disaster if allowed to continue unchecked. One recent report co-published by Global Financial Integrity and the African Development Bank claims that Africa alone lost up to $1.4 trillion to illicit financial flows. Surely the continuing existence of a system that allows for the existence of a “shadow financial system” on this scale is not good for anyone — countries developed and developing alike.

Third, powerful global crime syndicates are the enemy of good government. Democracy can hardly flourish when politicians meld with the shadowy forces of the mafia. It’s precisely this understanding that has spurred the recent wave of protests in Bulgaria, where demonstrators took to the streets after a thuggish young tycoon was appointed as the government’s top security official. Such concerns are by no means restricted to Eastern Europe, though. The wave of recent protests in places from Turkey to Brazil shows that citizens are increasingly worried about official malfeasance and the lack of transparency that allows it. From what I can see, they’re right to worry.

Christian Caryl, the editor of Democracy Lab, is a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and a contributing editor at Foreign Policy. He is also the author of “Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century.”

Source: twincities.com


Mexico’s ‘new’ drug war

President Peña Nieto’s strategy is a lot like his predecessor’s. For obvious reasons.


By Ricardo Ainslie
July 26, 2013

Last week, Mexican authorities arrested Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the leader of the Zetas, Mexico’s deadliest and most feared drug cartel. In Mexico, the news was met with relief, although there is also apprehension that his arrest will lead to a convulsion of violence; historically, taking out cartel kingpins has meant power struggles within organized crime groups, schisms that leave many dead in their wake.

Treviño Morales, known as Z-40, was apprehended — along with a bodyguard and a third man, reported to be the cartel’s accountant — without a shot being fired as he traveled along a back road near Nuevo Laredo and the U.S. border.

For observers of the Mexican drug war, his arrest provides an unanticipated window into how President Enrique Peña Nieto will address his nation’s entrenched organized crime problem.

From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Peña Nieto, who assumed office in December 2012, vowed a different approach to the drug war from that of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon. Calderon’s frontal assault, though initially popular, very soon became the object of criticism as violence soared. Last summer, the electorate handed Peña Nieto a decisive victory over Calderon’s party, the PAN. Having suffered about 70,000 deaths (a conservative estimate) over the course of Calderon’s presidency, the country was exhausted by the violence, anxious for change.

Calderon pursued a kingpin strategy: Drawing from American counterinsurgency tactics developed in Iraq, his administration declared war on a list of 37 most-wanted cartel operatives. In contrast, many Mexicans believed Peña Nieto would negotiate a peace agreement with the cartels, allowing them free rein in exchange for ending the violence. In addition, Peña Nieto signaled that he might be reevaluating Mexico’s close cooperation with American law enforcement in the drug war.

The arrest of Z-40 would seem to prove those notions wrong. Within days, the national director of Calderon’s party accused Peña Nieto of disingenuously building expectations of a new approach when, for all practical purposes, he was continuing Calderon’s tactics. Indeed, the arrest had all the familiar hallmarks: Treviño Morales’ moves were tracked in real time by a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement drone, while American intelligence monitored his communications and shared what was learned with Mexican authorities.

Pragmatism may be one explanation for Peña Nieto’s decision not to jettison the kingpin strategy altogether. His administration simply could not ignore that Mexico’s drug cartels are criminal organizations that not only operate an international drug trade but also commit brutal acts against ordinary Mexican citizens on a daily basis, including kidnapping, human trafficking and extortion — on a massive level — of individuals and businesses. The Zetas, in particular, are infamous for having a “diversified business plan” when it comes to criminal activity.

For Peña Nieto — and Mexicans tired of the violence created by the government crackdown — it is one thing to entertain a live-and-let-live strategy toward the cartels when their primary activities are understood to revolve around servicing the high demand for drugs in the U.S. However, that strategy is no solution if Mexicans continue to be victimized in the absence of government protection in their communities.

It is also likely that Peña Nieto was presented with a politically awkward choice vis-a-vis the United States. The Mexican president apparently faced incontrovertible evidence from U.S. sources indicating that the head of Mexico’s most feared cartel was, literally, in their sights. To have not acted on that intelligence would have certainly raised speculation that the Peña Nieto government was protecting Z-40, which wouldn’t have played well at home or helped in negotiating a new relationship with Washington.

Still, it would be a mistake for Peña Nieto to simply pick up where Calderon left off. The previous administration overemphasized a militarized law enforcement strategy, only belatedly looking at the social conditions that helped create a culture that allowed the cartels to thrive (lessons important in tamping down cartel violence in Colombia and Brazil).

That said, the kingpin strategy is not going to go away. There is no sign that the U.S. will end its intelligence work in Mexico, with or without overt cooperation from Mexican authorities, and the U.S. will undoubtedly continue to exert pressure on those officials to act on that intelligence. But so will everyday Mexicans, with their sometimes conflicting needs for peace and protection. In Mexico’s budding if imperfect democracy, the latter pressures can no longer be ignored.

Ricardo Ainslie, a native of Mexico City, is the author of “The Fight to Save Juárez: Life in the Heart of Mexico’s Drug War.” He is a psychoanalyst and a professor of education at the University of Texas at Austin.

Source: latimes.com


Mexican Drug Cartel Structures (2006–present)


Mexican Drug Cartel Structures (2006–present)

Beltrán Leyva Cartel(Armed wing: Los Negros)

Arturo Beltrán Leyva • Alfredo Beltrán Leyva • Mario Alberto Beltrán Leyva • Carlos Beltrán Leyva • Héctor Beltrán Leyva • Edgar Valdez Villarreal •
Current leaders:
Héctor Beltrán Leyva • Mario Alberto Beltrán Leyva • Edgar Valdez Villarreal • Sergio Villarreal Barragán •

La Familia Cartel

Nazario Moreno González • Carlos Rosales Mendoza • José de Jesús Méndez Vargas • Julio César Godoy Toscano • Enrique Plancarte • Arnoldo Rueda Medina • Servando Gómez Martínez • Dionicio Loya Plancarte • Rafael Cedeño Hernández • Alberto Espinoza Barron •

Gulf Cartel(Armed wing: Los Zetas)

Juan Nepomuceno Guerra • Juan García Abrego • Arturo Guzmán Decena • Jesús Enrique Rejón Águila • Jaime González Durán • Heriberto Lazcano • Miguel Treviño Morales •
Current leaders:
Osiel Cárdenas Guillén • Antonio Ezequiel Cárdenas Guillén • Jorge Eduardo Costilla • Heriberto Lazcano • Miguel Treviño Morales •

Juárez Cartel

Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo • Rafael Aguilar Guajardo • Amado Carrillo Fuentes • Pablo Acosta Villarreal •
Current leaders:
Vicente Carrillo Fuentes • Juan José Esparragoza Moreno •

Sinaloa Cartel

Héctor Luis Palma Salazar • Joaquín Guzmán Loera • Adrián Gómez González •
Current leaders:
Joaquín Guzmán Loera • Ismael Zambada García • Ignacio Coronel Villarreal •

Tijuana Cartel

Ramón Arellano Félix • Benjamín Arellano Félix • Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix • Carlos Arellano Félix • Luis Fernando Arellano Félix • Eduardo Arellano Félix • Francisco Javier Arellano Félix •
Current leaders:
Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano • Edgardo Leyva Escandon •

Sources: geo-mexico.com, borderlandbeat.com


U.S. government sells Zetas horses for $8.8 million

CHICAGO — More than 300 race horses allegedly owned by a top leader of Mexico’s feared Zetas drug gang have been sold for $8.8 million after being seized in a June raid, US officials said Monday.

US officials allege that Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, who is believed to be in Mexico operating as the cartel’s second in command, and his brothers hid millions of dollars of drug proceeds in a horse racing and breeding operation.

One of the brothers, Jose Trevino Morales, and his wife Zulema Trevino were among seven people arrested in a massive raid which also saw the seizure of the prize-winning horses.

The quarter horse racing front appears to be more than simply a shell corporation. Several of the horses have won major races, including A Dash of Sweet Heat, which sold for $1 million.

Nor were the accused making major efforts to stay under the radar — some of the horses ran with names like Number One Cartel and Corona Coronita Cartel.

The US government still retains possession of 45 quarter horses which it plans to auction at a later date, including “Mr. Piloto” which won $1 million at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day 2010.

“Like all criminal organizations, the Zetas are motivated by money,” US attorney Robert Pitman said in a statement. “Identifying and taking their assets is an important way to lay an axe to the root of the tree.”

“This investigation has helped to disrupt this alleged international drug cartel’s US-based money laundering operations and demonstrates the lengths that US law enforcement will go to deprive criminal organizations of the fruits of their illegal activities,” said Steve McCullough of the Internal Revenue Service.


Source: rawstory.com


Drug Cartel Kingpin’s Death May Make the Zetas Even Deadlier


When Mexican marines killed the leader of the Zetas earlier this month, they killed the only person capable of holding Mexico’s most dangerous cartel together. But instead of collapsing, the cartel could become even more dangerous. That’s the conclusion reached in an upcoming report from West Point.

“I think it will be harder to detect and determine who the heads are of these smaller groups, and by that defeat them,” Samuel Logan, the director of intelligence firm Southern Pulse and the report’s author, tells Danger Room. The reason why involves the complex and shifting allegiances and economics of Mexico’s drug trade, and the risks in killing or capturing drug lords. Like insurgent warlords, killing one can provoke more bloodshed as rivals scramble to fill the vacuum.

The report appears in the forthcoming issue of CTC Sentinel, a monthly security newsletter from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, one of the military’s premiere think tanks on terrorism. Now, as the Afghan war winds down, it’s turning its eyes to Mexico — and specifically, to the Zeta Cartel.

Which isn’t exactly a cartel, at least not fully. Yes, the Zetas make money by trafficking narcotics from Guatemala to the U.S. border. They engage in extortion, kidnapping and smuggling. But the Zetas are structured differently from a traditional cartel, and are more like a decentralized network of criminal cells. Where a traditional cartel like the Sinaloa Federation is structured from the top-down like a pyramid, a Zeta cell may only be loosely connected to another in a nearby town, though they share the same brand name and the same distribution network. It’s the Zetas brand, and the cells are the franchises like armed and deadly fast food restaurants.
Nor did the Zetas start out as drug dealers at all, but as former Mexican army commandos who turned into enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, now the Zetas’ enemies. After a split with the Gulf Cartel in 2010, the Zetas applied their military training and loose structure to create an entire nationwide criminal enterprise. The formula worked regardless of the fact that few Zetas today have any military training, but because of who held the whole structure together: drug boss Heriberto “Z-3″ Lazcano. Individual Zeta cells would pay a cota, or tax, to Lazacno and his second-in-command Jose “Z-40″ Trevino. In return the cells would be allowed to operate relatively freely.

Other than the tax, all the ex-military boss asked of his franchises was their loyalty. Logan notes the Zetas would distinguish themselves not only by their brutality and precision, but through “a level of espirit de corps more recognizable in a military unit than a criminal organization” seen in organized prison breaks, refusing to leave their dead Zetas behind, and “the dogged pursuit of arrested plaza bosses by their rank-and-file.”

After Lazcano was killed in a military operation earlier this month, the Mexican government handed his body over to a funeral home. What did the Zetas do? They showed up with guns and seized the remains. But with Lazcano gone, the loose franchise structure he built could be in trouble. Trevino was never a member of the Zetas’ old-school founding military cadre. ”Trevino is prone to confrontation and violence,” Logan writes. But Trevino also “likely does not receive the same level of respect Lazcano enjoyed among the rank and file.” The break-up could also spark violence that’s “spectacular at localized levels in cities and states where the organization once controlled its own rank-and-file.”

There are some signs this is happening. Following Lazcano’s death, narco-banners appeared in the border city of Nuevo Laredo announcing a declaration of war against the Zetas. The group, calling itself the Legionaries, described themselves on the banners as “renegade Zetas who were betrayed by ‘Z-40′” and promised “an eye for an eye” killings of “people from the Zetas and their families.”

They’re not the first. Prior to Lazcano’s death, Trevino was already muscling his way to replace the now-ex-kingpin. Another Zeta franchise boss named Ivan Velazquez Caballero — known by the alarming name “El Taliban” — waged a brief war on Trevino until he was captured by the Mexican military. He likely won’t be the last.



Mexico: 7 killed in shootout with marines in a Zetas cartel stronghold

Mexican authorities say seven people, including two women, have been killed in a shootout with marines in the northern state of Zacatecas, a Zetas cartel stronghold.

A spokesman for the state’s prosecutors says the marines arrived at a safe house just outside the city of Zacatecas early Tuesday when they were attacked by an armed group. Jorge Flores says the shooting lasted two hours.

The seven alleged criminals killed have not been identified.

The Mexican Navy said it has no information on the shootout.

The state of Zacatecas appears to have been a hot spot in the falling out between the leaders of the brutal Zetas gang. One of them, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed two weeks ago by marines in the neighboring state of Coahuila. Miguel Angel Trevino remains a fugitive.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Castillo-Chavez, a Los Zetas hitman, will spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison.

Los Zetas hitman gets life plus 40 years in prison

Two members of a notoriously powerful Mexican organized crime gang may spend the remainder of their lives in a U.S. federal penitentiary, according to a Texas law enforcement source on Friday.

Los Zetas hitman Gerardo Castillo-Chavez, aka “Cachetes” or “Armado Garcia,” and Eduardo Carreon-Ibarra, aka “Negro,” have been sent to federal prison for many years following their multiple convictions stemming from a lengthy Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said in Laredo, Texas.

The 26-year-old Castillo-Chavez, a resident of Tamaulipas, Mexico, was convicted on all counts as charged following five days of trial on Jan. 25, 2012. The Zetas member was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 40 years.

Meanwhile, 28-year-old Carreon-Ibarra, a Laredo native, and pleaded guilty on June 1, 2012. On Friday, he was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison to run consecutively to his previous 20-year sentence.

Los Zetas is considered the most powerful of all the Mexican drug cartels, with members who allegedly served in the military and Mexican police. During the trial of the hitman Castillo-Chavez, jurors heard testimony outlining murders and links to the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.

After deliberating for only six hours, the jury convicted him of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, interstate travel in aid of racketeering (ITAR), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence.

Carreon-Ibarra pleaded guilty to interstate travel in aid of racketeering (ITAR) and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez , who presided over the trial and the plea agreement, handed Castillo-Chavez and Carreon-Ibarra their lengthy sentences. At the hearing, the court reviewed the evidence and testimony presented during the trial and Castillo-Chavez was ordered to pay a $8,000 fine in addition to his lengthy prison sentence.

The charges stemmed from a Feb. 17, 2010, indictment charging Castillo-Chavez and 33 others with 47 counts of conspiracy to kidnap and murder U.S. citizens in a foreign country, drug conspiracy, kidnapping conspiracy, firearms conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, use of juveniles to commit a violent crime, accessory after the fact, solicitation, as well as money laundering, drug trafficking, and ITAR charges.

During the five-day trial, jurors heard testimony from several Los Zetas hitmen who committed murders in Laredo, Texas, as well as Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, and Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico.

Their shocking testimony outlined murders and attempted murders committed by “sicario” (assassin) cells in Laredo between June 2005 and April 2006. The prosecutor also presented telephone interceptions that described in detail the gruesome murders and disposal of the bodies of two U.S. citizens kidnapped and killed in Nuevo Laredo.

Their testimony also implicated Castillo-Chavez, or “Cachetes,” in the double murder of two males on Apr. 2, 2006, the attempted murders of two others in March 2006 and in the grenade attack of a nightclub in Monterrey, Mexico, where four people were killed.

Castillo-Chavez and Carreon-Ibarra will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Source: examiner.com