As we move into the remaining months of 2011, Mexico appears to be on the verge of a new wave of violence that has less to do with vigilantism -- a passing fad -- and more to do with building tension between the country’s two top criminal organizations: the Sinaloa Federation and Los Zetas. Guadalajara is the city where the next battlefront between these two offensive-heavy organizations is likely to play out before the end of 2011.
As we continue to observe activity in Mexico through the lens of our Zetas Cross theory, the 14 September 2011 official confirmation of a Los Zetas alliance with break-away members of the Milenio Cartel brings the paramilitary group one step closer to claiming Guadalajara.
Firefights in Chapala and in Jardines del Bosque suggest that Los Zetas are already testing the groups set in place to protect El Chapo’s investment in the state and the city where his organization has held sway for decades.
There is also a possibility that members of Los Zetas are supporting their Milenio Cartel partners with arms, though this level of direct support remains less clear. Either way, the Milenio Cartel's long-time presence in Guadalajara increases Zeta intelligence gathering in the plaza, could lead to the solidification of a network of Zeta safe houses in the city, and presents an opportunity to pierce the battlefront the united cartels against Los Zetas have formed in southern Zacatecas.
Meanwhile, the current news of vigilantism in Veracruz, and the Mata Zetas specifically, appears to be little more than a nuisance, and not a sign that Los Zetas are weakening as some analysts have concluded. The Mata Zetas, likely a formation of men from El Chapo’s Gente Nueva and young gunmen from the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generation, may be brutal, but they’re not new. According to one journalist, "Mata Zetas" as a criminal brand has been used in the past. By our count, this is the third time a group of sicarios has used the term to announce a new vigilante effort to remove Los Zetas from the earth.
If the Carteles Unidos, formed in February 2010 between the Sinaloa Federation, the Gulf Cartel (CDG), and La Familia Michoacana (LFM) at the height of CDG and LFM power was not able to take out Los Zetas, this new group of upstarts poses little threat.
So far, this new group of Mata Zetas has been more adept at spreading criminal public relations videos and narco-banners than presenting a tactical front that threatens Los Zetas' well-entrenched operations throughout the Gulf state. Indeed, it is possible that the Veracruz massacre of alleged low-level Zetas operators was an attempt to distract "El Lazca" from his current offensive push into Jalisco. It looks like something "El Chapo" would try to do his newfound nemesis, El Lazca.
Possibilities aside, the Zeta boss -- and likely his enemies -- will suspend any major activity in Guadalajara until after the Pan-American games. With over 10,000 police and a quantity of soldiers -- pulled from their duties in Ciudad Juarez -- on special assignment during the games, we would be surprised to register anything more than a slight blip during the games. Though when they are over, a major criminal offensive for the city could surface in early November, developing into a protracted battled for the city that will last though the end of the year, and possibly well into 2012.