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Mexican Cartels: Los Zetas

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Los Zetas really has control of vast area, stretching from the south in Mexico and even into Central American in Guatemala and Honduras all the way up to the border. As far as along the border, one of their main strong points at this point is Nuevo Laredo, which is the busiest border crossing point into the United States. But they also controlled towns such as Monterrey, a critical transportation hub, and all the way over to Piedras Negras on the Texas border.

One of the things that's interesting about Los Zetas is that they didn't really evolve as trafficking group. They started out as an enforcer unit for a trafficking group. They were basically hired by Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the former head of the Gulf cartel, and he was looking for this tough enforcer unit that could counter the enforcer units of his rivals. So because of this, though, they're a little bit different from other cartel organizations in that they always tend to be military guys first and smugglers second. And so they seem to approach things whereas most of the trafficker groups will always resort to violence a lot of times they kind of will try to work other ways around before using violence, whereas Los Zetas, it does seem like the violence is kind of their first solution to everything. Really because of their history, because of their penchant for violence — and not just violence but extreme violence — Los Zetas have become kind of public enemy number one in Mexico, for the Mexican public but also for the government. And they have become the primary target for the government to attack and take down because they see them as being one of the large problems of Mexico, and because they are also involved in so many different types of crime. They don't just smuggle narcotics, they are also involved in extortion, kidnapping, alien smuggling, DVD and CD piracy — just many, many different types of crime and because of this they are seen as a real public menace.

Well that means for the future it's going to be difficult because they're being pressed on all sides. They have the Gulf cartel and its allies pushing against them from the east and south. We have Sinaloa on the other side and groups like Knights Templar pushing from the south and the west. And so they're under a lot of pressure right now while at the same time having the government come against them. They're struggling very hard to hold on to their key positions or keep plazas — cities like Monterrey, cities like Nuevo Laredo — and should they lose those cities it would be very difficult for them continues as a large, centralized-type force. At that point, they may have to fragment or do something else organizationally. But right now, they're under a lot of pressure. We don't see any real signs of them cracking so as far as we can see, unless something really unforeseen happens, at least for the next few years Los Zetas are going to continue to be a very powerful force in Mexico and in the cartel wars.

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