Los Zetas Investing in Legitimate Business

Ever since the original founders of Los Zetas were trained by US Special Forces personnel at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA, they’ve been upping the ante and redefining the very model of a modern major drug cartel. Reports Alfredo Corchado of the Dallas News (“Mexico’s Zetas gang buys businesses along the border in move to increase legitimacy,” Dec. 6):

The Zetas, Mexico’s notoriously brutal group of paramilitary thugs, are expanding their role as bully businessmen along the Texas-Mexico border, branching out from traditional criminal enterprises such as extortion and drug trafficking and buying legitimate businesses, U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials say.

The group, which authorities say operates a weapons and drug distribution hub in North Texas, now calls itself “The Company” and has over the past year evolved from extorting businesses to owning them outright, the officials say.

“They own used-car lots on both sides of the border, restaurants, discotheques, liquor stores,” said Robert García, a detective with the Laredo Police Department and an expert on the Zetas. “Basically, anything anywhere that moves to and from the border, or anything and anywhere they can launder large amounts of money, the Zetas have a hand in. They even own a dog-racing track.”

Aside from money laundering, the Zetas are seeking legitimacy from those they have terrorized over the years, using methods such as beheadings and burning rivals alive. Investigators and civic leaders say the Zetas are trying to position themselves to become movers and shakers, even political players, in communities where they have a major presence.

Authorities say their strongholds include Ciudad Acuña, Piedras Negras, Reynosa, Matamoros – where they were created – and Nuevo Laredo, their biggest base of operation. All five cities border Texas.

“We could see them running for mayor, even governor, in the future,” said one civic leader in Nuevo Laredo, who like most people interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

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