New Gang Targets Zetas on Mexico Gulf Coast

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An emerging criminal group, calling itself the “Zeta Killers,” has announced its formation, promising to rid the Mexican state of Veracruz of the Zetas drug gang.

A video, which was uploaded to the Internet in July, features roughly 30 ski-masked men toting assault rifles and arranged around a table the way a basketball squad might pose for a team photo. While the group remains motionless, a speaker inveighs against the malign presence of the Zetas in Veracruz, and announces the formation of the “Matazetas,” or “Zeta Killers.” (See video, below.)

The speaker goes on to declare the arrival of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation, (Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion – CJNG), to the Gulf region in east Mexico, and promises to target the Zetas and expose their political protectors. He also accuses former Governor Fidel Herrera, who left office in 2010, of having invited the Zetas into the state, but praises his successor, Javier Duarte, for fighting the group.

The CJNG began to appear in news stories last year, especially following the death of Ignacio Coronel, the Sinaloa Cartel big shot who controlled much of the Pacific region. Most reports focused on the group’s battles with the Resistencia, another local gang, for control of Jalisco’s biggest city, Guadalajara, and the surrounding region.

While the initial interpretation of the CJNG’s emergence was that they were merely a local iteration of the Sinaloa Cartel composed of Coronel’s erstwhile subordinates, recent weeks have provided evidence of a group striking out on its own. As Blog del Narco reported in June, the group attached messages to dead bodies dumped along a highway in the state of Guanajuato taunting a wide range of groups: the Familia, the Zetas, the Resistance, and, strikingly, the Sinaloa Cartel.

The decision to move into Veracruz is also a bold break with the past. The group has previously operated in the west coast region of Colima, Nayarit, and, of course, Jalisco. While Guanajuato is just one state removed from Jalisco, Veracruz is at the other extreme of the country, in a region where the Zetas have long had their stronghold. And as with the notes accompanying the bodies in Guanajuato, the moves suggests a group that is growing stronger and more confident about its ability to play a role across the country.

While the video follows a fairly standard format — groups often use videos and narcomantas to accuse their enemies of crimes that harm the general public, and identify these enemies’ supposed political collaborators. However, the video is unusual in the degree of its focus on the plight of the average Mexican.

At one point, the speaker says: “We say to all Mexicans that now is the moment to act, we are all free, drug trafficking will never end, but we can turn this around, for the sake of peace, tranquility, and the future of our children. If we don’t act, what will await us in life, to walk around with the fear that at any moment they will come to impose an [extortion] fee or kidnap a loved one to take from us what we have achieved with so much sacrifice, working honestly. These people don’t respect anything; they rape, kidnap, murder, and impose their famous fees.”

The video goes on to encourage all citizens to denounce criminal acts by the Zetas to the army and the marines, whom they deem the only agencies to remain uncorrupted.

The Zetas have long been on the wrong side of a growing coalition of adversaries. Earlier this year, narcomantas from the United Cartels — Sinaloa, the Gulf Cartel, and the Familia — began popping up around Mexico, and promising to rid the nation of the group. The Mexican government formally announced that the Zetas constituted their first priority a few weeks ago, and the Obama administration gave the gang a special designation, which allows for expedited seizure of the group’s assets in the U.S., earlier this week.

This is at least the second time a group calling itself the Matazetas has popped up. In 2009, the murdered bodies of alleged Zetas members began to appear in Cancun, with a group by that name claiming responsibility, though by the end of the year the bodies had ceased and the group had seemingly disappeared.

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