The Mexican government has arrested the third known female leader of a Zetas cell, whose Nuevo Leon-based group included several active duty police and a former member of the Navy.
On November 19, the government of Nuevo Leon state announced that it had arrested Irma Valentina Ramos Espinoza, alias "Comandante Rojo," who they claim served as the head of a Zetas affiliate in the center of the state. Authorities say that Ramos' group included five municipal police officers, as well as a man who had previously served in the country's navy.
A total of 19 individuals were arrested in the operation, and the group has been linked to a number of crimes in the state, including several extortion rackets, 16 kidnappings and 12 murders.
InSight Crime Analysis
Ramos is the third woman that Mexican officials have identified as a local Zetas boss since September 2011, when officials announced the first such arrest. While there have been rare cases of women filling leadership roles in a number of Mexican drug trafficking organizations, the trend suggests that female commanders may be more prevalent in the Zetas' structure than in other criminal groups.
The fact that Espinoza commanded a group of active-duty municipal police officers is also significant, as it illustrates the level of corruption common among many local police forces in the country. This has caused the government to rely more on federal officials in its fight against organized crime, but federal police have proven to be susceptible to criminal influence as well.
Mexico is currently attempting an ambitious reform at all levels to counter the problem, performing background checks and other vetting procedures, but progress is slow. According to official figures, 80 percent of all police who have failed these tests are still employed, and most states have yet to fully assess their entire police forces.