Cartels Waging Violent Turf Battle Over Control of Key Smuggling Corridor
Nuevo Laredo, Laredo’s
neighboring city on the Mexico side of the border, is the most
important launching point for illegal contraband entering the United States.
Nuevo Laredo is also where much of the violence and drug cartel activity has
taken place in recent years. The violence is due to the fact that the major
drug cartels are currently battling for control over this highly coveted
corridor into the United States known as a “plaza.”
The plaza proceeds through major cities with large highway systems where both aliens and drugs can be staged prior to movement to other parts of the United States. Control of this corridor translates into control of all illegal smuggling, both of humans and drugs. Any criminal organization that wants to smuggle through this established safe passage into the United States is required to pay a tax to the cartel that controls the plaza.
The Sinaloa cartel began to
contest the Gulf Cartel’s domination of this coveted corridor
To protect and expand their
criminal operations, Mexican drug cartels maintain highly
The Zetas have been instrumental in the Gulf Cartel’s domination of the drug trade in Nuevo Laredo, and have fought to maintain the cartel’s influence in that city following the arrest of Cardenas. The Zetas’ activities are not limited to defending the Gulf Cartel’s terrain in northern Mexico. The paramilitary force is also believed to control trafficking routes along the eastern half of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Zetas are believed to be a serious threat to public safety on both sides of the Southwest border. They are well-financed and well-equipped and have demonstrated a willingness to shoot, torture, and kill law enforcement officers, or rival cartel and gang members on both sides of the border. Federal law enforcement officials deem the Zetas among the most dangerous criminal enterprises in the Americas.
Reports indicate that while
the Zetas were initially comprised of members of the Mexican
The cartels’ methods of
torture and killing are particularly brutal. On September 6, 2006,
According to Federal law enforcement officials; this hideous act was a revenge killing between warring gangs. Decapitations are becoming quite common in many areas in Mexico where cartels and gangs battle for control over lucrative smuggling corridors.Heads are publicly displayed for the purpose of intimidation.Another brutal means of torture and death is called “guisoe.”
This practice involves putting a person into a 55 gallon drum, usually dead, but not always, and pouring various flammable liquids over the body and lighting it on fire. A variation on this method is toplace a burning tire around the neck of an individual, burning the victim alive. The remains are dumped on roadsides as a message to others who would consider crossing the cartels. The ruthless methods employed by these cartels to torture and kill their competitors are no different than the techniques used by Al Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations. This level of brutality is particularly troubling as the cartels are executing these vicious murders a mere stones-throw from U.S. soil.
Sometimes the violence and
intimidation is captured on video. In 2005, a video was anonymously
delivered to the Dallas Morning News showing four men, handcuffed and
U.S. law enforcement officials are struck with the resiliency and determination of these criminals. In the words of one law enforcement official: “They [the Zetas] have the Texas-Mexico border wired.” For example, in 2005, just six hours after being sworn in as Nuevo Laredo’s Police Chief, Alejandro Dominguez was killed. He had announced a crackdown on the cartels. He was shot more than 50 times.
During mid-September 2006, a
group of 25 individuals in Nuevo Laredo were gathered in a local hotel with
visas to travel to the U.S. for work. The Zetas mistakenly thought the
workers were from a rival cartel and kidnapped and tortured them. The
workers were released when the cartels realized their mistake. U.S. Federal
law enforcement authorities said Mexican police would not respond to the
emergency calls for help that were made during the incident.
The violence is beginning to spread to neighboring Mexican States also sharing a border with Texas. Nuevo Leon, once thought to be one of the safest States and home to some of the richest families in Mexico, has seen the murders of three top law enforcement officials who had spoken out against the drug cartels. Also, during September 2006, police chiefs were killed as well as the top crime investigator. In the past two years, six journalists covering drug trafficking along the border have also been killed.
The Zetas have now become completely entrenched in Nuevo Laredo and have grown to more than five hundred with hundreds more in a support network throughout Mexico. In an example of the Zeta’s capabilities, a shootout on September 22, 2006 in Nuevo Laredo between the Zetas and an assassination target lasted approximately 40 minutes. The shootout included bazookas and grenades and reportedly killed approximately five Zetas and injured approximately five others.
In response to such aggressive efforts on the part of the Zetas to defend and control parts of Mexico and its border with the U.S., the Sinaloa cartel established its own heavily-armed enforcer gang, “Los Negros.” The group operates in a similar fashion to the Zetas. Los Negros, attempting to wrest control from the Zetas over the local police in Nuevo Laredo are believed to be responsible for the recent rise in violence there. According to Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores, the warring cartels and the increase in violence wrought by these paramilitary enforcers have provoked a major cross-border human exodus from Nuevo Laredo into Laredo, Texas.