A daily newspaper in Cancun published an inside look at the day-to-day life of an assassin for one of Mexico’s most aggressive criminal groups, the Zetas. What emerges is a picture of a highly organized, militaristic and vengeful organization.
Novedades de Quintana Roo reports that its primary source was declarations made during a court hearing in Cancun on June 17, 2010. The 24-year-old accused Zetas operative, Nicolas Ortiz Javier Mirando or “El Javi,” was dispatched from the Zetas’ stronghold in Reynosa, Tamaulipas to Cancun, where he apparently worked as a guard and an assassin.
The testimony highlights the casual violence that low-level members of the Zetas must confront. It gives a picture of an organization that is highly militarized and organized, with recruits working towards rank “promotions” while assigned to different factions. These include the vigilante wing, known as the “Halcones,” in charge of monitoring police movement, or another wing responsible for kidnapping and guarding hostages. The reported salary paid to entry-level recruits is about US$655 a month.
Details from the testimony present a self-contained world with its own slang, saints and deadly, ritualistic violence. Rival drug dealers are called “Chapulines” or “grasshoppers,” an apparent reference to a popular TV personality. “Santa Muerte,” the death saint venerated by drug traffickers, is tattooed in three different places on El Javi’s body. The most brutal act of violence is reserved for a local drug supplier acting without the permission of the plaza “chief.” He is tortured and beheaded with an onion knife.
“Nicolas Ortiz Javier Miranda, alias ‘El Flaco’ o ‘Javi,’ currently incarcerated in the Cancun prison, belonged to a cell of the Zetas during the bloodiest period of violence in 2010. Working with a group of assassins he participated in over 23 executions in less than six months, including the murder of two bailiffs.
El Javi was born November 20, 1986, in the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas. He has a high school education and says his main job is working as a hitman for the Zetas. He earned eight thousand pesos a month as payment from this criminal organization.
This is how his ministerial statement begins, realized on June 17, 2010, in the preliminary hearing AP/ZN/CAN/01/06/2886/4-2010 on charges of murder.
In his presentation before the public ministry, he said he is financially supporting three people and is addicted to marijuana and cocaine. His distinguishing marks include a tattoo of a clown with a hat, another in the shape of a crown of thorns. On his right arm is a tattoo of the Santa Muerte holding a pistol, on his back, another one, on his right leg, another Santa Muerte with the name Javier. He also has tattoos of the names ‘Monica’ and ‘Irma.’
In the confession obtained by Novedades de Quintana Roos, he accepted charges for kidnapping and homicide. He said that he arrived to Cancun five months ago. He was invited by Commander Pelon, whom he met in Reynosa, to become a ‘Halcon’ (vigilante) for the Zetas.
He accepted without thinking. In his hometown he ran the risk of being killed by members of the Gulf Cartel, thanks to the rivalry between this group and the Zetas, which is why he took a bus to the tourist resort city.
For his “work” as a Halcon he was paid four thousand pesos every fifteen days. When he arrived to the city he was assigned to watch the entrance to the residence Pok Ta Pok, in the hotel district.
Among his duties he reported all suspicious police activity to the chief of his plaza, so that his companions could move freely in and out of Pok Ta Pok, where the group’s leaders lived: Commander Pelon and Commander Mayuyu, who were the ones who gave the orders, paid the salaries and decided who they were going to kill.
“For three months I worked as a Halcon and once in a while I talked to Commander Pelon, who said they were going to promote me, so after May I was paid as an operative,” said El Javi during his interrogation, although he did not specify his salary.
As an operative, he was charged with guarding a security house in Region 103, where they kept their kidnap hostages. In those days (April 2010) they had five people deprived of liberty, including a 17-year-old girl and her father who was a ‘Chapulin,’ that is, a drug dealer who worked for a rival gang.
“The girl was kept in the house for about two days and the only thing I did was give her food sometimes, but I always saw that ‘El Jairo’ bathed her and when he did this he shut her in the bathroom and raped her several times, which we would always hear,” he said slowly.
They had also kidnapped ‘El Gramero,’ a drug dealer whom they had kidnapped in “El Crucero” because he refused to work for the Zetas. Likewise they held the owner of a restaurant, Las Palapas, for whom they were demanding one million pesos in ransom. Likewise they held another person whom they called ‘the Architect,’ they called his family demanding one million pesos for his release, but when they didn’t pay they had to kill him.
‘El Javi’ also made reference to the kidnappings of ‘El Pocho,’ ‘Chapayanki’ or ‘El Chapa,’ ‘El Chiquilin,’ and Joel Antonio Solis Ramayo, alias ‘El Zaico.’ All were tied and gagged in a warehouse in Region 233, close to Tulum highway, the same place where the group ambushed three military vehicles with at least 15 soldiers because they had been reported as a ‘narcowarehouse,’ located near Lots Three and Four, where several luxury vehicles were later seized. This act was said to be related to the Zetas.
Here there was a confrontation thanks to the carelessness of one assassin nicknamed ‘La Pulga.’ One of the hostages known as ‘El Chapa’ managed to break free of his bonds, seize a nearby AR-15 and fire until he managed to escape.
It was after this that Commander Pelon ordered that they execute the other three hostages. Their bodies were dumped in a sinkhole in Region 246, near where the Police Academy is being built. The executed were identified as Victor Arturo Garcíis Diaz, alias ‘El Pocho’; Joel Antonio Solis Ramayo, alias ‘El Zaico,’ (whose real name is unknown) and ‘El Chiquilin’ or ‘Jarocho,’ who were Chapulines.
In early May 2010, a woman who’d been held hostage for a month was dumped near the same sinkhole in Region 246, near some greenery. The assassins, thinking her dead, abandoned her in the sinkhole. The next day she managed to get out and ask for help. That was how the judicial police found the decomposing bodies of ‘El Pocho,’ ‘El Zaico’ and ‘El Chiquilin’ or ‘Jarocho.’
‘El Javi’ affirmed that he was witness to the assassination of a man nicknamed ‘El Chilango,’ killed by a member of the Zetas known as ‘El Memin,’ on the orders of Commanders Pelon and Mayuyo.
He explained that ‘Chilango’ was executed because he’d arrived from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, with the intention of forming his own rival criminal group, and he smuggled drugs under the radiator water in taxis from the hotel district, without the permission of the chief of the Zetas cell.
“He was kidnapped and taken to a house in Las Americas residence where ‘El Mermin’ cut off his head with an onion knife while he was still alive,” said ‘El Javi,’ who added, “I found myself watching how he did it, he stabbed the knife into the body then kicked it.”
The assassin also tortured ‘El Chilango,’ trying to get him to say who supplied him with the drugs he sold. He cut ‘Chilango’s’ face so that he bled slowly and suffered. Then he was decapitated.
Ortiz Mirando is currently facing charges for the murders of 12 people found June 18, 2010, in sinkholes near the Villas Marino subdivision, six bodies found in a hole near the Merida highway June 6 the same year; as well as investigation for other charges. Javier Nicolas Ortiz Miranda was detained June 17 by the judicial police.”