Overall, the development of the Mexican cartel was influenced by the intense process of cocaine smuggling from Colombia to the United States in the 1980s. US law enforcement officials who devote all their focus to eradicating the Colombian cartel, forget and let the narcotics cartel in the Aztec Country grow and develop.
In the 1980s, two major Mexican cartels developed Guadalajara and the Gulf. Over time, due to internal conflicts, three Guadalajara officials formed three new cartels, Sinaloa, Juarez, and Tijuana.
Internal conflicts also plagued the Gulf, and members of the cartel formed a new sub-cartel, namely Los Zetas in the 1990s.
Initially, Los Zetas, aka the Z, only had 34 members. However, even though the quantity is small, the quality of the 34 individuals is considered very qualified in Mexican cartel circles. Because originally, they were a ‘kill team’ for the Gulf cartel.
In 2003, Los Zetas members increased to 300 people. And in 2010, the cartel officially split from the Gulf.
The US government describes the Z as ‘Mexico’s most technologically advanced and operating sophisticated and dangerous cartel’. Why?
From various examples, here are 5 facts about Los Zetas, the most terrible Mexican drug cartel, as we have summarized from Listverse.com.
Members of US-Trained Ex-Special Forces
A country’s military is designed to be a force to protect its homeland from aggression that comes from outside or threats to security in the country. In several countries, retired officers and veterans are honored as heroes and serve as examples of national patriotism.
However, it is ironic for Mexico that some of its ex-soldiers have become members of a narcotics cartel, one of which is for Los Zetas.
Of the 34 Los Zetas embryos, most of them are ex-special forces and former ‘kill team’ for the disbanded giant Mexican cartel, the Gulf.
They were briefly trained by the United States 7th Special Forces Group in the 1990s. During their training, they receive standard Special Forces courses in map reading, communications, and tactics, such as operating light and heavy weapons, machine guns, and some other automatic weapons.
The training provisions are intended to prepare a number of Mexican army personnel for counter-militant and counter-narcotics operations. Ironically, a number of retired army officers became members of the cartel, which was their initial opponent.
The Biggest Cartel in Mexico, Today
Los Zetas is the largest drug cartel in Mexico in terms of the scale of operations. They operate in 16 states or half of the total 32 states in the Land of the Aztecs.
By the end of 2011, Los Zetas’ area of operations had defeated the Sinaloa cartel, making the Z the largest drug lord group in Mexico geographically.
Los Zetas’ status as Mexico’s largest drug cartel carries additional implications. It is believed that they are now the number one distributor of narcotics from Mexico to the United States.
Bribing and Sponsoring Mexican Politicians
It is a fact that cartels like Los Zetas and others sponsor and bribe a number of Mexican politicians. And that fact is a big problem.
Since 2011, there have been many collusion scandals between politicians and narcotics cartels that have been exposed to the public. If politicians become ‘puppets’ of narcotics cartels, it is very unlikely that the ‘War on Drugs’ in Mexico will be won by the government.
Worse yet, politicians in Mexico are also interested in establishing collusive relationships with narcotics cartels like Los Zetas. Call it the Governor of Tamaulipas, Tomas Yarrington, and the former Governor of Coahuila, Humberto Moreira.
Yarrington, for example, is strongly suspected of receiving bribes from the Los Zetas cartel so that they can operate freely in Tamaulipas without interference from the authorities. According to Mexican media, SDP Noticias.
If the governor of a state in Mexico has been indicted as a collaborator of Los Zetas, then there is a possibility that one day, the criminal organization may remove the governor from its ranks.
Recruiting Achilles and Manufacturing Narcotics from Overseas
Los Zetas reportedly recruit members from prisons and gangs in the United States. They were recruited as accomplices who distributed narcotics on a small to medium scale in the field.
Not only recruiting, Los Zetas has also collaborated well with US gangs since 2010, in order to smooth distribution in Uncle Sam’s country.
Meanwhile, the cartel manufactures natural and synthetic drugs in developed countries such as the United States. In 2015, US law enforcement found a cannabis farm in Webb County, Texas that allegedly belonged to Los Zetas worth US$2 million. The field is associated with the Los Zetas cartel.
Los Zetas are also alleged to have operated overseas, purchasing raw materials from Argentina and operating in Asian countries such as Malaysia.
Committing Organized Crime
Los Zetas carry out other organized crime activities besides narcotics, namely by carrying out all forms of criminal acts that are able to support their financial structure and funding.
The cartel is also involved in kidnapping and extortion. In August 2017, the cartel kidnapped 17 people and held them in a house in Nuevo Laredo. Those who were kidnapped were used as objects of ransom to obtain money from the victims’ families.
To make matters worse, the gang also becomes smugglers of migrant workers. They allegedly control most of the trafficking networks of migrant workers sneaking into the US.