Mexican Drug Mercenaries Operating in U.S.

The “Zetas,” a group of Mexican commandos trained by the United States as an elite anti-narcotics force, is now operating in U.S. border towns as mercenaries for the drug cartels.

Mexican mercenaries expand base into U.S.A. (Washington Times)

A renegade band of Mexican military deserters, offering $50,000 bounties for the assassination of U.S. law-enforcement officers, has expanded its base of operations into the United States to protect loads of cocaine and marijuana being brought into America by Mexican smugglers, authorities said. The deserters, known as the “Zetas,” trained in the United States as an elite force of anti-drug commandos, but have since signed on as mercenaries for Mexican narcotics traffickers and have recruited an army of followers, many of whom are believed to be operating in Texas, Arizona, California and Florida.

Working mainly for the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico’s most dangerous drug-trafficking organizations, as many as 200 Zeta members are thought to be involved, including former Mexican federal, state and local police. They are suspected in more than 90 deaths of rival gang members and others, including police officers, in the past two years in a violent drug war to control U.S. smuggling routes.

The organization’s hub, law-enforcement authorities said, is Nuevo Laredo, a border city of 300,000 across from Laredo, Texas. It is the most active port-of-entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, with more than 6,000 trucks crossing daily into Texas, carrying about 40 percent of Mexico’s total exports. Authorities said the Zetas control the city despite efforts by Mexican President Vicente Fox to restore order. He sent hundreds of Mexican troops and federal agents to the city in March to set up highway checkpoints and conduct raids on suspected Zeta locations.

Despite the presence of law enforcement, more than 100 killings have occurred in the city since Jan. 1, including that of former Police Chief Alejandro Dominguez, 52, gunned down June 8, just seven hours after he was sworn in. The city’s new chief, Omar Pimentel, 37, escaped death during a drive-by shooting on his first day, although one of his bodyguards was killed.

Authorities said the Zetas operate over a wide area of the U.S.-Mexico border and are suspected in at least three drug-related slayings in the Dallas area. They said as many as 10 Zeta members are operating inside Texas as Gulf Cartel assassins, seeking to protect nearly $10 million in daily drug transactions.

Lovely. Once again, one is left wondering whether the collateral damage caused by the “war on drugs” is greater than “winning” it is worth.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Cole says:

    That is a good point, James. I am not sure what the war on drugs accomplishes. As for these Zetas, they present a real threat, that’s for sure. I live only a few miles from Ciudad Juarez, a huge drug border city. As an attorney, I hear from several prosecutors and law enforcement-types that Zetas are no strangers to this area either.

    Exactly what threat the Zetas pose here in the El Paso/Las Cruces, NM, area is uncertain, but I can tell you that I will not cross the border anymore without a real good reason, and what constitutes a good reason is dwindling.

  2. […] James Joyner has some disquieting news, particularly for those of us that live near the border. The “Zetas,” a group of Mexican commandos trained by the United States as an elite anti-narcotics force, is now operating in U.S. border towns as mercenaries for the drug cartels. The WaTimes story. […]