Banners Pledge ‘Zetas’ Support for Drug Legalization

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Banners calling on President Otto Perez to legalize drugs, signed in the name of the Zetas, have appeared in Guatemala City, but are unlikely to be the work of the drug gang.

One banner, hung on a major street, read, “Perez and [vice president] Baldetti, legalize drugs and we will support the fight against the maras [street gangs].” Another banner read, “Thank you General Otto and Baldetti for legalizing drugs.” Both were signed “Zeta 200.”

Perez’s spokesperson said the president thought the banners were a ploy by his opponents. Since taking office in January, Perez has called for debate on the issue of drug legalization.

InSight Crime Analysis

In Mexico, the Zetas often leave public messages to threaten their enemies or announce their plans. There are examples of them using this strategy in Guatemala; in May 2011, a group of alleged Zetas were caught trying to hang banners which blamed the Gulf Cartel for the massacre of 27 farm laborers earlier that month.

In January, messages purporting to be from the group were hung in the Peten department, berating outgoing President Alvaro Colom for supposedly turning back on agreements with the Zetas. It is not clear whether these were indeed left by the group or by enemies of the president.

“Z-200” is the alias of a Zetas commander based in Guatemala, and is also the name used for the local Zetas cell. As InSight Crime has reported, commander Z-200 is thought to be the nephew of a high-ranking Mexican Zetas leader.

It seems unlikely that these latest banners were left by the Zetas, as, according to Perez’s statements on drug legalization, the aim of the policy would be to destroy the revenue stream of trafficking groups. In addition, it would not be clear what the Zetas hoped to achieve with the banners, as having the support of the Zetas for his policy would not encourage Perez to follow it. It is more likely that they were hung by a group or individual with an interest in damaging Perez, by painting him as soft on crime to the point that the Zetas are rewarding him for his policies.

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