The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
The command structure of the brutal Zetas gang appears to have suffered existential blows under President Enrique Peña Nieto, according to a list of 69 crime bosses either captured or killed in the past year. But the overall criminal picture feels eerily similar.
In October, the Mexican Navy killed the Zetas' top leader, Heriberto Lazcano, alias "Z-3." Lazcano was a mythic figure, evident in the way the group marshalled several fighters to steal his body from the morgue following his death. Lazcano was also perhaps the only thing standing in front of the complete fragmentation of this powerful organization. Indeed, the Zetas have been splitting at the seams since at least the middle of 2012. Various commanders have declared war on each other, and the new top commander, Miguel Treviño, alias "Z-40," is scrambling to keep the organization intact.
Just days after the fire at the Casino Royale, authorities captured five suspects, one of whom was a state policeman. Officer Miguel Angel Barraza Escamilla later admitted to investigators that he was a member of the Zetas. Investigators told the press that he had various jobs, including as a lookout during operations like the tragic shakedown at the Casino Royale and driving members of the criminal gang in stolen vehicles.
The Zetas have many sides. The group is at once sophisticated and ruthless, coordinating multi-caravan ambushes and sending hooligans to launch a wild assault on a police station. It has gang-bangers and Special Forces snipers on its payroll. It uses a sophisticated radio system and a machete in the same operation. It has a political platform that consists of shaking down the entire political class. And it has the accounting system of a multinational company, but the uncanny ability to destroy its own sources of income.