War in Tamaulipas–The Petro Threat

This war raging through Tamaulipas must have the nervous attention of oil & gas interests on both sides of the border by now as it encompasses the Burgos Basin and major Pemex resources and activity which account for 25% of Mexico’s annual energy production.

In October Pemex reached a production record of 1.6bn cf/d of gas in the Burgos Basin in , a volume it maintained until the end of the year. It plans to invest heavily to maintain and increase gas production from the area, with the aim of reaching 1.8bn cf/d in 2011.–Petroleum Economist

Recent Items to Consider

  • Feb 18– The Attorney-General for Special Investigation into Organized Crime (SIEDO) reports that military units seized more than 4 tons of marijuana at installations of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. The discovery was made after Pemex security alerted officials that armed men were removing  Pemex employees  from a  fuel supply station. In response a Mexican Naval helicopter was dispatched to the scene but retreated after receiving heavy weapons fire from the ground. When military units arrived on the ground they found the weed loaded on  trucks abandoned at the site.
  • Feb 19–A  PEMEX trailer carrying 18 tons of explosives is  stolen,  hijacked on its way from Torreon, Coahula to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, according to the Attorney General’s office in Tamaulipas. The truck was found abandoned with the driver missing. Federal police and military units were placed on alert and began searching for the missing trailer and its cargo– Seismic Booster Pentolite, a TNT PETN mixture used as a “seismic booster.”  The next day Federal Police located the trailers with the explosives  left alongside a highway in Tamaulipas. No one was apprehended. (La Cronica de Hoy)
  • Feb 27— Pemex reports the discovery of three major taps into their pipelines in Tamualipas–two were 12″ in diameter and another illegal duct measuring  24 “.
  • Feb 28 – Sempra Pipelines & Storage, a unit of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), today announced that it will acquire the Mexican pipeline and gas infrastructure assets of El Paso Corp. (NYSE: EP) for $300 million. The acquisition involves El Paso’s wholly owned natural gas pipeline and compression assets in the Mexican border state of Sonora. The transaction also includes El Paso’s 50-percent interest in a joint venture with PEMEX, the Mexican state-owned oil company. The joint venture operates two natural gas pipelines and a propane system in northern Mexico. The joint venture with PEMEX owns and operates: the 23-mile, 24-inch Samalayuca natural gas pipeline and Gloria a Dios compressor station in Chihuahua that supply natural gas from the U.S. to various Mexican power plants; the 70-mile, 36-inch San Fernando natural gas pipeline in the state of Tamaulipas; and the 114-mile, 12-inch pipeline that transports liquid propane from the Burgos production area to a delivery facility near the city of Monterrey.–(Oil and Gas Online)
  • March 1-Pemex reports that at 8:16 pm they received an anonymous phone call on the Central Emergency 066, threatening to explode a bomb in the premises of the refinery “Francisco I. Madero”. Operational staff vacated the building and security was tightened at all entrances to the refinery. Navy special forces of Mexico, Intelligence of the 15th Infantry Battalion and staff of Physical Security of Petroleos Mexicanos, searched the facilities and found no device. (Hoy Tamaulipas)

Tamualipas is home base for Los Zetas which has effectively penetrated PEMEX security and middle management in that state and in Veracruz, most notably the $46 m theft of condensate in 2007 that was later sold to Texas energy brokers. For new readers, see extensive NGT posts on all that beginning in July  herehereherehere...hereherehere..and here .

There is suspicion floating that the hijacking of the explosives served as both a warning and means to extort ransom from PEMEX for their return. No one has been arrested.

Two Videos and Breaking News from the Narcoguerra Frontera Norte

Two videos from the war raging along the border in Northeast Mexico- mainly Tamaulipas-where a three-way death match between Los Zetas and “Nueva Federación” consisting of a faction of Cartel de Golfo (CDG) , sicarios from  Chapo Guzman’s Sinaloa franchise and the evangelical mob out of Michoacan, La Familia and the Mexican Navy’s special forces continues without let up–W

The first– an album of the carnage in Reynosa  set to a corrido on the CDG/Zetas war  (Graphic Content)……

The second–a six-minute drive through the deserted streets of Carmago, Tamaulipas where all activity is at a halt–virtually no pedestrians, no kids playing, shops closed, broken traffic lights, scores of shell casings scattered along the roadside..the young woman who made the video, apparently with her cell, says all this was the aftermath of a six-hour gun battle…


Just as I was about to post these,this came in from the San Antiono Express News

The U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo Tuesday reported an “ongoing gun battle” in the area of a main boulevard and the city zoo.

“The U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo advises all U.S. citizens to shelter in place and take precautions until the fighting subsides,” said a message posted Tuesday on the consulate’s Web site.

The reported gunfire follows a weekend lull after a week of violence attributed to Mexican drug gangs fighting for control of transport roots through the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon opposite the Texas border.

Reports of an explosion in Reynosa, Mexico, briefly shut down a U.S.-Mexico bridge there Tuesday but were apparently unfounded.

Even the bears and monkeys are under the gun..More to follow…


From this evening’s news broadcast KRVG Channel 5 in Rio Grande Valley, Texas ..If they’re sources are correct on the number of Zeta reinforcements heading to Nuevo Laredo this war could shut down the border..the body count of 23 cited by the Mexican army is lowball– according to my sources..at least 30 were killed..liely more as  the Zetas and CDG commandos have been carrying off their dead and wounded..

WESLACO (TX)- CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned the Zetas are out of Reynosa tonight.

They’ve moved about 150 miles west to Nuevo Laredo. Our intelligence sources tell us the group wants to take over the city and make it their base of operations.

The U.S. Consulate General’s office has already confirmed a gunbattle in Nuevo Laredo. It’s happening near Boulevard Colosio and the city’s zoo. The consulate general’s office is telling all U.S. citizens to take shelter until the fighting stops.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned the Zetas are already calling in reinforcements. We’re told 700 Zetas from around Mexico are joining the 500 already brought to the area last week.

The Gulf Cartel also called in reinforcements last week. CHANNEL 5 NEWS learned they joined forces with two rival cartels, La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Our sources tell us the Sinaloa Cartel and LFM have a deep hatred of the Zetas. They could also benefit by getting a cut of the Valley’s drug smuggling business.

It was a rough week for the border. CHANNEL 5 NEWS was following an explosion of shootouts and grenade attacks in northern Tamualipas.

Violence was reported in border cities like Valle Hermoso, Reynosa, Guerrero, Miguel Aleman, Ciudad Mier, and Valadeces. According to the Mexican military and CHANNEL 5 NEWS sources, last week’s violence left at least 23 people dead.

Our sources tell us it was triggered when a Gulf Cartel member murdered a Zeta leader on January 18. The Zetas demanded the Gulf Cartel hand over the killer.

When that didn’t happen, the Zetas kidnapped 16 Gulf Cartel members in Miguel Aleman. We’re told that led to the shootouts up and down the border.

Link to video on KRVG website here

Calderon: “No Quarter”-Zetas Reply

In a speech in his home state of Michoacan yesterday President Felipe Calderon praised the 200 strong marine strike in Cuernavaca last Wednesday that resulted in the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva and  signalled his commitment to a fully militarized strategy as the solution to Mexico’s organized crime threat.

Criminal groups with their firepower and powers of corruption are waging a determined battle to subjugate the country,” said Calderon.  “We will not step back from this fight” and there will be no truce and no quarter to the enemies of our country (La Jornada)

Calderon’s statements underscore those made by a senior Mexican military commander, who was quoted saying that the “only organizations  trained, equipped and integrated with real unity of doctrine to ensure domestic order…are the armed forces”

“Lets act like we are in a war situation, because we are! We will exert as strong a force as they have And will go after them totally. that’s what that picture means. We will be ruthless.” (Milenio)

Hours after President Calderon declared there would be “no quarter and no truce” in the war with criminal organizations, a suspected Zetas commando team killed the mother and four relatives of a Navy Special Forces sergeant who died in the raid in Cuernavaca that killed Arturo Beltran Leyva, who allied his cartel with  the Zetas in 2008.

The Municipal Public Security Bureau in Paraiso, Tabasco reported that the multiple murders took place around midnight as the family slept. Three vans rolled up on the house and unloaded with AR-15s killing Mrs. Irma Cordova Palma, mother of  3rd Navy Special Forces Master  Melchizedek Angulo Cordova, whose funeral took place earlier in the day (El Universal)

It’s an official  military war now–no euphemism–in which the cartels are  no longer criminals but declared  “enemy combatants.”

Deguello, indeed.

The last time a Mexican general sounded that bugle call the odds were overwhelmingly in his favor.

Not so clear cut now.

The Killing of Don Arturo–Betrayal at the Top?

Marcos Arturo Beltran Leyva, “jefe de jefe” of the Beltran Leyva cartel was betrayed by his chief lieutenant–Edgar Villareal Valdez, “el Barbie” who was head of the cartel’s  enforcement/security division according to testimony from Beltran Leyva’s chef and others arrested at the condo last Wednesday and investigators from Mexican security.

Read Ricardo Ravelo’s piece this morning en espanol at Proceso.–Ravelo is one of Mexico’s best informed organized crime reporters.

About 3PM last  Wednesday in Apt 201 of a residential tower in the upscale Lomas de Selva neighborhood of Cuernavaca,  the chef was preparing dinner for his boss, Senor Arturo Beltran Leyva who was in the living room with five of his lieutenants, including his chief of security and enforcement, Edgard Valdez Villareal–el Barbie.

The chef, who was arrested following the military raid on his boss, told agents that Senor Arturo was getting reports  of “strange movements” out in the street, but the cartel chief dismissed them, saying his men would take care of it and returned to his meeting with Valdez and his entourage.

The six men were preparing for a business meeting with Don Arturo’s expected dinner guests: Gen. Leopoldo Diaz Perez, commander of Zona Militar 24 (state of Morelos), along with two other Mexican army officers–a captain and a major.

Outside the apartment Mexican marines were crawling all over the perimeter. They dad been quietly evacuating the nearby buildings and apartments since noon. At 5pm they struck–200 strong– from the ground and by air.

At around 9PM, alone with no bodyguards remaining, Arturo ‘La Muerte’ Beltran opened the front door of his condo and met  a fusilade of armor-piercing 5.59 rounds to the chest, abdomen and head. He collapsed dead in the doorway. Whereupon the marines and other military personnel did “a number” on Don Arturo as seen here and in the photo below which shows what appears to be a postmortem bayonet or large knife wound to the left side of the chest.

(These and other pictures taken at the scene have become an Abu Ghraib-moment  for the Calderon administration and the military. Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont had to call a press conference to say that “the Mexican government fulfills its duty to stop criminal organizations and their leaders, but without personal abuse or scandalous and frivolous attitudes” and that an investigation was under “to find the person or persons responsible for capturing these images and disseminating them. “–((emphasis added))   He assured reporters that the federal agents who participated in the operation were not responsible.

Then who is the guy in this picture wearing the balaclava and BDUs?)

By this time Beltran Leyva  security jefe El Barbie Valdez was long since gone, disappearing “somehow” before the marines came rappelling down the side of the building and hasn’t been seen since. Gen. Diaz and his men were stopped on the way to their meeting with Don Arturo and were immediately disarmed, arrested and blindfolded before being driven off to some unnamed detention facility

With the  release of this information, Valdes has almost zero chance of heading the cartel–and may be just a dead man walking. He is either hidden somewhere by Mexican security–military or PGR, or has returned into the arms of Chapo Guzman and the Sinaloa cartel. Or, considering the acknowledgement by Mexican officials that US intelligence was key to the operation on Wednesday that ended with Arturo Beltran’s death, el Barbie may have found refuge with the gringos. If not, Valdez  better have some very convincing bullshit to throw the next time he meets one of the surviving Beltran brothers.

This news today suggests that the leadership of the BL cartel will fall to Arturo’s brother Hector who is the org’s financial chief.  And unless Arturo’s killing resulted from some fraternal intrigues, brother Carlos will be at Hector’s side.

The only clear-cut  big winner out of the spectacular  bloodbath in Cuernavaca–at least in the near term– appears to  be Shorty Guzman.

US Fingerprints Left on La Muerte’s Corpse

Posting on the Argentine/Mexico/Euro narco nexus  has to be delayed yet again because of  this..Covered in dollars, pesos, rosaries and his blood,  “Jefe de jefes” Arturo Beltran Leyva–La Muerte–the head of the Beltran Leyva cartel lies dead following a two-hour tiroteo with a combined force of  200 Mexican marines, Navy special forces and army soldiers in an air-and-ground assault on a high-dollar condo complex in the heart of Cuernavaca Wednesday evening.

The massive air-and-ground military operation on the Cuernavaca high-rise condo complex was planned and mounted with the assistance of “US intelligence”–specifically the DEA and FBI.

In his press conference on Thursday  Navy Department spokesman, Jose Luis Vergara said “This operation was the result of the intensive work done by intelligence elements of the Mexican Navy-Armada de Mexico, as well as exchange information with other national and foreign agencies.”

According to reports from the Mexican Navy the raid that left Arturo Beltran Leyva and five other cartel gunmen dead was the result of a joint US/Mexico intelligence operation specifically targeting the Beltran Leyva leadership by the Mexican Defense Ministry (SEDENA), the DEA and the FBI that launched  more than six months ago. Vergara added that Wednesday evening raid was a follow-up to an operation conducted last Friday. (Excelsior)

On Friday Dec 11  a contingent of marines raided a Beltran Leyva Christmas fiesta in the exclusive Ahuatepec neighborhood in Morelos in which three gunmen were killed and more than 20 arrested,  including three-time Latin Grammy award winner and legendary ranchera superstar, Ramon Ayala who was performing at the party.

The target of this raid was reported not Arturo but his lieutenant, Edgar Valdes, alias “La Barbie”, head of Beltran Leyva enforcement. Valdes escaped capture following the  Christmas party balacera.  There later was speculation that  Valdes  was the primary target in the Wednesday night raid on the Cuernavaca condo complex–not Arturo.

But that is doesn’t appear to the case.

Mexican authorities were specifically targeting Arturo when they launched the operation based on information provided by  FBI and DEA  intelligence entities that Beltran Leyva would be at the location Wednesday night.

What was the objective –to arrest Arturo or simply kill him?

Given the known circumstances surrounding Beltran Leyva’s sensational prime-time killing, the hyperactive Mexican press and the political gaming, conspiracy theories are choking the air  and obscuring clarity as to exactly how–and why–Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed.

What is clear is that his killing will only exacerbate a gravely unstable security environment in the country.

In a press conference on Thursday,  Mexico’s  Attorney General  Arturo Chavez Chavez said “A wave of violence can not be ruled out” in the wake of Don Arturo’s death.

Chavez was equivocal as to who would take the reins of the Beltran Leyva cartel, but it appears that they would fall into the hands of Arturo’s brother Hector– “el General–who is considered by many to be even more dangerous than his late brother.

Chavez said that samples of  DNA were being taken from Don Arturo’s incarcerated brother and  tests would be conducted to positively identify the individual killed in Wednesday as Arturo Beltran Leyva.

While attending the global climate summit in Copenhagen,  Mexican President Calderón took the time to go before the cameras where he called the raid by marines and the killing of Arturo Beltran Leyva “a knockout blow…an important achievement for the government and people of Mexico.”

Back in Mexico City U.S. Ambassador  Carlos Pascual was  echoing Calderon saying the carnage in Cuernavaca suggests that Calderon’s  crackdown is working. “We have begun having an impact against the drug traffickers,” Pascual said in a news conference Wednesday in Mexico City.  “I don’t think it’s because we are doing something wrong.”

Pascual added that the United States is sending 45 more DEA  agents to Mexico to join the narcoguerra.

Despite such assurances from President Calderon and ambassador Pascual, the cartel v cartel wars and the cartels v Mexican government war are going to get much hotter, much more vicious and more costly–

Cartel v Cartel

The Beltran Leyva org must quickly come to terms with Arturo’s death. The most likely successor to the top spot is Arturo’s brother Hector. There is also another brother, Carlos but he is not expected to contend for the position. Also in the mix is Edgar Valdes, alias “La Barbie”, head of Beltran Leyva enforcement.  Despite the immediate chaotic situation, the Beltran Leyva leadership knows it must resolve the problem soon and avoid an internal split and bloodletting. Beltran Leyva chart

For its survival the org must maintain its alliance with the Zetas/La Compania  Gulf/Zetas chart and quickly  focus their considerable combined forces on Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel–‘la Federacion–not only in their battleground states of Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco but anywhere else they may find each other. If there is a split within Beltran Leyva, which ever faction remains with the Zetas will survive. The other will be swallowed by Guzman. Sinaloa/Guzman chart

Another contributor working against the breakup of Beltran Leyva is that the organization is very much a family affair. At the time of his death, Arturo Beltran Leyva was a sworn enemy of Joaquin ‘Chapo” Guzman, despite their being native Sinaloans and having shared power in the Sinaloa cartel leadership.

In 2008 Beltran Leyva broke with Guzman whom Arturo accused of betraying his brother Alfredo to Mexican authorities and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment. This led to Beltran Leyva allying with Los Zetas/La Compania.  Since then there has been a ferocious war between the two orgs marked by beheadings and narcomensajes  signed by “Jefe de jefes”– one of Arturo’s monikers.

Meanwhile the BL/Zetas must continue their battle with La Familia for control in the strategic states of Michoacan, Guerrero and Chiapas. La Familia will certainly take advantage of the situation. It has a choice to either  push harder against Guzman/ la Federacion and Beltran Leyva  on the Pacific coast north of Michoacan or come to some agreement with Sinaola.

Clearly, there is no end in sight with these wars.

  • The 200-man military assault in Cuernavaca upped the ante in the war between the cartels and Calderon’s forces.
  • The killing of Arturo Beltran Leyva will certainly not weaken the cartels. It is not even certain that his death will cause more than a stutter-step in his own organization.
  • The cartels’ larger-scale counterattack strategy that began six months ago against police and military facilities across nine states of the republic and then escalated during the fist two weeks of this month will continue and likely intensify. We also may see some tactical upgrades.

Examples to consider::

  • assassinations of high-profile military and federal government targets. Given the circumstances in Beltran Leyva’s killing and his position, FBI, DEA and other US agents and contractors may now be targeted by the cartels–something they’ve avoided since the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in Februrary 1985. Reprisals against US business personnel should be considered as well.
  • deployment of large IEDs and truck bombs (something the cartels have refrained from in the past, though they are fully capable of producing them).
  • major sabotage of infrastructure and state-owned industries, including petroleum and mining.

The killing of   ‘La Muerte’  at the hands of the Mexican military and US intelligence is a “victory” limited to the very expensive death of one man who will soon be replaced by another of equal ability that will only inflame the cartels resolve and further exacerbate a gravely unstable security environment in the country.

As veteran journalist and columnist, Federico Arreola warned on Thursday, “Abróchense el cinturón, entramos a zona de todavía mayor turbulencia”–Fasten your seatbelts, we are heading into more turbulence.


Video from El Universal

Readers en espanol simply go to the News links on the right of this page and click Kidon, La Jornada and El Universal for extensive coverage.)

Washington Post ‘Discovers’ Zetas Stealing Petro

“Front Page News” at Washington Post this morning..Dec 13 2009

Mexico’s drug cartels siphon liquid gold

Bold theft of $1 billion in oil, resold in U.S., has dealt a major blow to the treasury

Visitors here may recall reading most of this  months ago, beginning in May…then on through the summer herehereherehere..here

….Just sayin’..

Zetas and Marines Exchange Paybacks in Nuevo Leon

While daily violence in beleaguered  Ciudad Juarez saturates the headlines in the US media, the two-year war between the Zetas and the Mexican military in Nuevo Leon has gone virtually unnoticed north of McAllen, Texas.

That changed about 2:30 Friday afternoon when a contingent of Mexican marines acting on an “anonymous tip” struck  a Zetas safe house in Colony Woods near Benito Juarez, the bustling industrial outlier of  Monterrey.The marines, in coordination with army units, were  seeking to apprehend one of Los Zetas more notorious regional leaders, Ricardo Almanza Morales, el Gori 1–one of four brothers who have been with the Zetas since 1997 when they left the Mexican army and hooked up with Heriberto Lazcano and other ex-GAFEs to form the original Zetas.

Military intelligence had tagged  the brothers Octavio, Eduardo, Raymundo and Ricardo–as being behind the executions of  General Mauro Enrique Tello Quinones in Cancun earlier this year  and General Juan Esparza Garcia in the town of Garcia, Nuevo Leon.  Authorities eventually concluded that  Ricardo was directly responsible for the hits and  put a 15 million peso reward on his head.

Morales had just arrived at the estate in Colony Woods where he had scheduled to distribute Christmas bonuses to his regional  street crew,  los Falcones–the Hawks, when the Mexican marines, acting on an “anonymous tip” rolled in.

What ensued was one of the narcoguerra’s bloodiest days  to date–beginning with a 45-minute full-auto gun battle that left 15 people dead and ended with a dramatic Zetas raid on a federal detention center that freed 23 prisoners, including 15 Zetas. According to military spokesmen twelve suspected Zetas gunmen were killed along with two federal police and one civilian. Two other bystanders were seriously wounded.

Sonia Hernandez Ovalle had just returned from a shopping day with her family  in McAllen, Texas and was stopped at a red light when the mayhem erupted. She and her children were trapped in their Tacoma as  the Zetas and the marines blazed away at each other. The 46 year old mother was struck by a bullet to the head and died immediateley. Her 16 year old daughter Jessica Anahi Gonzalez Hernandez and Alexis Izquierdo Tolentino, age 12 were also shot in the head and taken to hospital.

Two hours after the gun battle at the Zetas estate in Colony woods, a group of some 50 Zetas aboard ten trucks  attacked a federal detention center  in  Escobedo. One of the  trucks smashed through the gates the door of the center and the Zetas took command of 23 men in custody and escaped leaving two federal police dead. Fifteen of the escapees were Zetas, including  Juan Carlos Martínez Hernández, El Camaleon-The Chameleon, second in command  in the township of Guadalupe. All remain at large.

For a background on the Morales brothers and why the Mexican military had him at the top of their target list read Proceso reporter Jorge Carrasco Araizaga’s excellent investigative piece from last February Militares: el enemigo, de la misma familia–an English translation by the ever-dependable  Kristin Bricker is available at The Narcosphere.

Here is unedited footage from the balacera in Juarez, Nuevo Leon–first arrival when gun battle is ending and Zetas SUV has caught fire..the ten-minute video closes with shots  of the captured and the dead, including el Gordi 1..so if you have problems with such, don’t view it..

Serbs At Swim with Zetas and FARC

Some 500 kilos of cocaine were seized Nov 25 in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Núñez.  Investigators said the drugs belonged to a Serbian criminal  organization –the same one that shipped more than two tons of narcotics on a yacht bound from Buenos Aires only to be busted by the Uruguayan navy on October 15 when the boat was  at anchor at a fishing pier in Santiago Vasquez, near Montevideo.  Arrested on board were Serbs Cetinje Mark and Daniel Tatar Radonjic and Croat Marian Blazevic.  The three were carrying   Croatian, Bosnian, Canadian, German and U.S. identity documents.

On Nov 19 Interpol arrested one of the leaders of that ill-starred smuggling endeavor   in the Slovenian port city of Koper. According to authorities the individual– identified only as “GD”–was a 34 year old Croatian carrying a Serbian passport.

Sources said  detectives in the Nunez operation found the cocaine hidden in the walls of an elevator shaft and a basement constructed by drug traffickers below a parking garage in the same building.
No one was arrested.

Serbia has issued arrest warrants against five Serbians and Montenegrins in connection with the 500 kilo seizure– Nenad Novakovic, Draško Vukovic, Boris Laban, Marko Pandrc and Igor Stijepovic–all believed to have been operating in Latin America over the past several months.

The raids in  Buenos Aires and on the coast of Uruguay  were part of  “Balkan Warrior”, a joint transnational operation by  the DEA, Serbian Security and Intelligence, the Argentine Federal Police and the Uruguayan Navy.

The Serbian traffickers use two major routes to import large quantities of cocaine from South America.

The first route runs  from Uruguay and Argentina via South Africa to Northern Italy and Montenegro and a second route ships from Colombia via central Africa and Turkey to Montenegro.

Over the past several years the Serb mafia has established vital business relationships  with the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) in Colombia and in Mexico with Sinaloa/Guzman and  Zetas/La Compania, which in turn  interfaces with another partner of the Serbs– the Ndrangheta in Calabria, Italy. (See September posting on that here.)

According to Serb police sources  jointly organized criminal groups from Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina take in 200 million Euros per year off the cocaine trade.

The price per kilogram at port  is 36,000  Euros, but rockets to  four times that amount when it hits the retail markers,  according to police sources in Milan.

European law enforcement  experts believe that the Balkan route for smuggling drugs, arms trafficking and migrants  connects all transnational organized crime groups in Europe and beyond.

Experts from the Organized Crime and Terrorism in Southeast Europe office warn that the “Balkan mafia with the support of the political centers of power creates a new criminal-terrorist infrastructure with serious armed force.”

Among the leaders of this Balkan mafia are former Serbian military officers and  intelligence agents.

According to Aleksandar Fatic, director of the Centre for Security Studies in Belgrade, Serbian organized crime has gained a stronger foothold in the international drug trade by exploiting political corruption in the Balkans and offering heroin and cocaine at record low prices– the lowest street price for cocaine and heroin in its history.

Fatic said heroin was selling for as little as one euro a gram while the street price for cocaine was between 30 and 50 euros per gram.The heroin coming into the Balkan  network via Iran and the Middle East originates in the world’s leading producer state–Afghanistan. European counternarcotics agencies have established that the Balkan network has nimbly worked drug deals  with both elements of Hizballah and Hamas and Israeli criminal organizations.

Fatic said there were five major mafia clans operating in Serbia with up to 10,000 foot soldiers. The groups are organized as networks, rather than hierarchical structures, so they can expand according to the needs of the market or shrink if there is intense police scrutiny,

“There is no such thing as a constant number of group members, as they drift in and out., said Fatic. “Most maintain independent criminal careers and are involved in large cocaine trafficking ‘projects’, some are legitimate business people.” Adding that there was an enormous amount of cash flowing through the economy due to drug trafficking and money laundering.

He warned that the mafias involved were connected with corrupt local and national authorities and corrupt parts of the state apparatus and were not hesitant in using extreme violence, saying machine gun shootouts were commonplace in Serbia–just as they are in Mexico.

While the narcoguerra  extends from Mexico to Montenegro (and all points in between) –the players all speak the “it’s-a-small-world-after-all” language of 5.56 and Euros.

Blowback Still Blows–Zetas, Kaibiles and MS-13

On Nov 25 Salvadoran federal police intelligence reported that no fewer than 40 gang members from several countries in Central America  were  recently trained at a Zetas training camp alongside Laguna  El Tigre  in Guatemala across the border from Tabasco. A dozen were members of Mara Salvatrucha  (MS 13) cliques from  several municipalities in El Salvador–a new wrinkle as most Maras working for the Zetas have been from southern Mexico and Guatemala.

According to these police sources the young gangsters were being skilled in light weapons tactics by former Kaibiles, the notorious Guatemalan special forces counterpart to the Mexican GAFE which produced the original Los Zetas cadre.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering the longterm alliance between rogue Kaibiles and the Zetas, one that dates back to the late 90s when they were being schooled together in advanced special operations skills at Ft Bragg, Ft Huachuca and Ft Benning. See June posting-Blowback from Bragg.

Since being arrested  in July 2006 three mid-level Zetas–“Mateo”, “Rafael” and “Karen”–have been secreted  in the witness protection program of the  Procuraduria General de La Republica (PGR) (the  Mexican Attorney General’s office) .  Over the past three years the three have provided  lengthy insiders’ reports on the Zetas La Compania.. “Comandente Mateo” was a member of Los Tangos, the Gulf cartel security and assassination squad.

A transcript is available as  open source courtesy reporter Jose Reyes at Contralinea .. LINK-in Spanish.
Some highlights:
“In September 2001 Osiel Cardenas (head of Cartel del Golfo) issued a directive ordering a whole group of sicarios–assassins–to Monterrey to get better military training “, said  Rafael. “There were over fifty of us.  The course instructors were Daniel Pérez Rojas, el Cachetes ; Héctor Robles Duarte, el Caballo ; and Isidro López Arias, el Colchón . The course lasted two months. After that we were Los Zetas and started doing bigger operations.” 

“Following the arrest of Osiel Cardenas (head of Cartel del Golfo) in March 2003, there were many problems within the organization, said  Mateo. “Its leaders, like Eduardo Costilla and Gregorio Sauceda, they became disoriented and wanted to hide, so Z-3–Heriberto Lazcano took command and calmed everything down.”   



Comandente Karen added that “by June of that year (2003), we were receiving training from the Kaibiles in the town of Valle Hermoso. What we learned from the Kaibiles we took back home and used it to teach the rest of  our people. “

The Kaibiles  are a prized employee pool for private military and security contractors. Their most recent controversial appearances have been in Iraq and the Congo. Their notoriously ruthless reputation dates back to their days  as  CIA-backed death squads.

What is important here is the year this took place–2003–which predates what has been reported about Kaibiles involvement with Zetas. Conventional take has been that Zetas allied with some rogue Kaibiles  in Guatemala over the past year–if the above statements are true (and in this instance, I believe they are) not only has the Zetas/Kaibiles partnership been underway for over six years but the Kaibiles  have been operating with Zetas in Mexico since that time.

This is  adds a whole other dimension to the Zetas portrait. It was enough to know that the Zetas core leadership out of GAFE was trained at Ft Bragg, Ft Benning and Ft Huachuca and that the Zetas had made partnerships with some kaibiles in Guatemala–but to learn that the Zetas set up in-country training bases staffed by  elite Guatemalan soldiers in 2003 must have been more than disconcerting for counternarcotics agencies on both sides of the border.

How such information was obtained from the three Zetas is speculative. A variety of means are available for authorities:  deal-cutting, competitor snitch-out or, with the proper training, more stringent “enhanced” measures…

Women in the Narcoguerra/Las Mujeres en la Narcoguerra

Mexico Saint of DeathCourtesy AP

The grisly discovery of a woman’s body and her separated head  on a roadside in Ciudad Juarez last Tuesday brought renewed attention to women in the narcoguerra– as victims or players or both.

In the case of the decapitated woman in Juarez–a first in the drug war according to police and  researchers–she was first identified as a former police officer, now working as a human rights advocate. She also had Santa Muerte tattoos on her lower back but that in itself  doesn’t mean she was a  gangster–despite the hype that  Saint Death is the narcos’ patron saint. See report at  El Heraldo de Chihuahua.

For more context on this and the nightmares of violence women face in  Juarez on a daily basis–read this excellent piece from Diane Washington Valdez in the El Paso Times

Those who’ve been visiting here for awhile  may recall reading about  the Zetas women’s division last June–  Zetas: Everywhere on Everything.


This morning the BBC Mundo’s Alberto Najar follows with a little feature on women in the narcoguerra-Las Sicarias Mexicanas. . .

Zeta Factor

Las mujeres sufren la crisis económica tanto como los hombres, y para sentirse integradas se incluyen en los ámbitos de violencia

(Women suffer economic crisis just as much as men, and for that reason are  drawn into a world of violence.}

De acuerdo con el Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (Inegi), unas 7.700 mujeres están encarceladas por delitos relacionados con drogas.

(According to the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI), approximately 7,700 women are incarcerated for drug offenses.)

La mayoría de los casos fueron “por cuestiones sentimentales”, ha dicho la presidenta del Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, Rocío Gaytán, porque las detenidas pretendieron introducir droga a reclusorios de varones, para sus hijos o parejas.

(Most cases were “for emotional issues,” said the president of the National Women’s Institute, Rocio Gaytan, because the prisoners sought to introduce drugs into prisons for men, their children or partners.)

Hay otras que tuvieron un papel más activo, como ancianas que vendían droga a pequeña escala, y algunas más que participaron directamente en la línea de fuego.

(Still others took a more active role, as old women selling drugs on a small scale, and some more directly involved in the firing line.)

Es el caso de Margarita García, La Margot, acusada por la Procuraduría General de la República (fiscalía mexicana) de custodiar cargamentos de droga de la banda criminal de Los Zetas, y que en algunas ocasiones participó en conflictos armados contra grupos rivales.

(There is the case of Margarita Garcia, La Margot, accused by the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) to guard drug shipments for the criminal gang Los Zetas, and sometimes participated in armed conflict with rival groups.)

De acuerdo con la fiscalía, Los Zetas han entrenado a varias mujeres como sicarias y guardaespaldas.

(According to prosecutors, Los Zetas have trained several women as assassins and bodyguards.)

Mujeres destacadas

Prominent women

The "Queen of the Pacific", Sandra Avila Beltran
La Reina del Pacífico, Sandra Ávila Beltrán, fue detenida en México en 2007.

(The Pacific Queen, Sandra Avila Beltran ,arrested in Mexico in 2007.)

La Reina del Pacífico. The Queen of the Pacific. La Pantera. La Pantera. La Canti. The Canti. La Ma Baker… The Ma Baker …

Sobrenombres de algunas mujeres que han tenido posiciones destacadas en el narcotráfico mexicano.

(Nicknames of some women who have had prominent positions in the Mexican drug trade.)

Las tres primeras fueron señaladas por las autoridades de lavar dinero para grupos de narcotraficantes.

(The first three were charged by the authorities with money laundering  for drug groups.)

Pero la Ma Baker creó el llamado Cartel de Neza, asentado en el oriente de la capital mexicana y que en su momento de esplendor vendía 10.000 dosis de cocaína a la semana, según la fiscalía.

( Ma Baker created the so-called Neza Cartel, based in eastern Mexico City and in its heyday sold 10,000 doses of cocaine a week, prosecutors said.)

Y no es la única líder de un grupo del narco.

(She is not the only leader of a narco group.)

Enedina Arellano Félix asumió el control del Cartel de Tijuana después que su hermano Benjamín, líder del grupo, fue detenido.

(Enedina Arellano Felix took over the Tijuana cartel after the arrest of  her brother Benjamin, the group’s leader.)

Enedina dejó el puesto a un sobrino, pero según la fiscalía, mantiene su posición de consejera cercana del nuevo líder.

(Enedina later  gave way to her nephew, but according to the prosecution, she maintains a close position as counselor to the new leader)