Threatening Banners, 23 Dead as Zetas Fight Rivals in Nuevo Laredo

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In the latest outbreak of violence in Mexican border city Nuevo Laredo, 23 bodies were found on Friday accompanied by notes indicating that they were victims of a war between the Zetas, the Sinaloa and the Gulf Cartel.

Nine bodies with signs of torture were found hanging from a bridge on Friday, along with a banner suggesting that they were members of the Gulf Cartel. As Borderland Beat reports, the message was addressed to the Gulf, and said:

This is how I’m going to finish off every [expletive] you send to heat up the plaza. You have to mess up sometime and that’s when I’m going to put you in your place.

It also threatened “‘El Gringo’ who keeps setting off car bombs,” and mentioned “‘El Metro 4’ who asked Comandante Lazcano for mercy when he was kicking the [expletive] out of him.”

This is a reference to Zetas boss Heriberto Lazcano, also known as “Z-3.” The banner appears to be a threat from the Zetas warning the Gulf not to send operatives to cause trouble in Nuevo Laredo. The practice of carrying out killings in a drug trafficking territory, or “plaza,” controlled by a rival group in order to draw the federal forces into the area is known as “heating up the plaza.”

Fourteen decapitated bodies were found hours later in a minivan in the city, while the victims’ heads were found in cooler boxes in another van parked outside of city hall. Borderland Beat says that a message left with the bodies was a threat against the mayor from Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin Guzman, “El Chapo,” reading;

You want credibility that I am in NL? What will it take, bringing the heads of Zeta leaders? Or yours?

It also said:

Keep making Z-40’s case to say and deny that we already operate in Nuevo Laredo, just so that Lazcano will not scold this illiterate car washer.

Borderland Beat reports that the mayor recently declared in a press conference that the Sinaloa Cartel does not operate in Nuevo Laredo. “Z-40” is the alias of Miguel Angel Treviño, the Zetas’ second-in-command.

InSight Crime Analysis

In recent months, the bodies of dead Zetas members have begun appearing around Nuevo Laredo, in a sign that the Sinaloa Cartel is moving into the Zetas-controlled territory and making its presence felt.

The Zetas split with their former bosses in the Gulf Cartel in 2010, and since then have become one of the most feared criminal groups in Mexico. This inspired the Sinaloa to form an alliance of convenience with its old enemies in the Gulf to fight against the upstart group.

The description of Zetas boss Lazcano as an “illiterate car washer” refers to the fact that the Zetas are relatively new on the scene. There is a commonly-held view that the group pursues its business interests through extreme violence rather than by the more sophisticated means supposedly employed by more established cartels like the Sinaloa, such as making deals with the authorities. Though the Zetas’ founding members — including Lazcano — were members of the Mexican Special Forces, the Zetas is thought to have been unable to keep restocking its ranks with military-trained men, and to be reduced to recruiting young people and street thugs. A previous banner, known as a “narcomanta,” left in the city, apparently by the Sinaloa Cartel, also refers to this idea of the group as a lower class of criminal organization:

I’m going to show you how I manage my cartel that is 30 years old, not like you people who were shoe-shiners and car-washers and got to where you are through betrayal.

A version of this article appeared on the Pan-American Post.

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