Video Shows Zetas’ Street Spies At Work

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The video offers a glimpse of the extensive street intelligence networks run by the Zetas, one of the most powerful and violent criminal syndicates in Mexico.

In the low-quality video, distributed by Blog del Narco, an alleged Zeta operative can be heard speaking rapidly into what is apparently a 2-meter radio. The video shows the operatives driving a car through city streets somewhere in Tamaulipas state, according to Blog del Narco. A military convoy can be seen passing in the background. “We’re arriving at the stoplight on 42nd street,” a voice on the radio is heard saying, while other voices rapidly list street numbers and directions.

The Zetas, whose stronghold is in Tamaulipas, have a faction dedicated exclusively to street intelligence, known as the Halcones or “falcons.” These vigilantes can consist of anything from street vendors to shop owners to corrupt police officials. Youths formerly employed by the Zetas as Halcones may be earning monthly salaries of up to eight thousand pesos (about US$665) a month.

While the Zetas are known for having access to high-tech equipment like bullet-proof vests and anti-tank weapons, this video is a reminder that the Zetas’ real strength comes from their low-tech, grassroots network of informants. The alleged operatives in the video are only shown wielding a cell phone and 2-meter radio and yet are still more than capable of tracking the movements of the nearby military convoy. The Zetas have already made serious inroads in criminal enterprises like drug trafficking and human smuggling, but perhaps where they have proved most effective is using the “Zetas” name to recruit informants and create a sophisticated intelligence network in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.

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