InSight: ‘Kilo’ Photos a Window into Mexico’s Future

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The intimate photos of Martin Omar Estrada Luna, alias “El Kilo,” the reputed killer of hundreds in the state of Tamaulipas, say more about the future of these criminal organizations than they do about Estrada himself.

The photos, published by the Blog del Narco in two parts, are a mixture of shots of Estrada and his friends. There are young men and women in the photos. They are set inside cars and apartments, on the street or in backyards. Some are intimate. Others are raunchy. They are all personal.

Estrada is in most of them, often alongside his seemingly endless stream of young girlfriends, the names of whom he appears to tattoo on his body. Others are of him and his male friends, striking poses and flashing gang signs.

Not one of them shows Estrada with a weapon, although there are single shots of pistols, one of them with a gold cartridge and an engraving of Santa Muerte, the patron saint of the Zetas (and many other criminal gangs).

Perhaps what is most illuminating about the photos is that Estrada allowed them to be taken at all. He is, according to the Mexican government, the Zetas’ commander who systematically killed over 200 people over an 18-month period, then buried them in nearly 30 mass graves in the state of Tamaulipas.

One of the photos, of him and some friends inside a car, was taken just a three weeks before he and his cohorts in the Zetas allegedly intercepted 76 migrants, brought them to an abandoned farm house, then assassinated them one by one when they allegedly refused to work for the gang (four miraculously escaped death).

The veracity of the story has been challenged on more than one level. And if we are to believe Estrada is the hardened criminal mastermind behind this massacre, we would expect him to be reluctant to appear in such photos, and almost certainly to be developing an asocial nature.

Very little of either is apparent in the snapshots. Instead, Estrada appears to be what he most likely is: a low-level gang-banger with little responsibility or connections to the powerful upper echelons of the most feared criminal group in Mexico.

Authorities in Washington state, where Estrada grew up, were equally miffed by his apparent rise through the ranks.

“I can’t see it, but who knows? I don’t know what the investigation part of it established. If they have that, who knows?” Tieton Police Chief Ted Ketchum told the Yakima Herald.

Estrada has undoubtedly evolved. Ketchum described him as a “career criminal” who freely told people he was affiliated with a gang. But to go from Washington state gang banger to Mexican drug lord is a leap that would be difficult for most.

Following his arrest, Estrada’s nickname became “Comandante Kilo.” He was “psychotic … narcissistic, cold, calculating,” according to one article, quoting from the Mexican Marines’ account of the man.

All of which could be true; we may never know. But he was also an amateur who took these pictures of himself and his friends.

The last of the photos in the set show Estrada, shirtless. He is posing, giving his finest “cholo” look — the Mexican gang-banger stare into the camera. Mexico should not be afraid of him. They should be afraid of hundreds of gang-banger, narco-wannabes like him who may confuse wanton killings with actual power.

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