Signs that two of Latin America's most powerful drug gangs, Zetas and Maras, are joining forces

In a piece for AP, Romina Ruiz-Goiriena reports from Guatemala City on signs that two of the most powerful and brutal organized crime groups in Latin America, the Maras and the Zetas, may be joining forces.

"A formal, durable alliance with the Maras could bring the Zetas thousands of new foot soldiers, extending the cartel's reach into the cities of Guatemala, and, potentially, other countries in Central America where the Maras maintain a grip on urban slums."

As Cory noted in a previous BB post, the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, which will be attended by many latinamerican heads of state as well as Barack Obama, is expected to be the site of "an historic debate over the legalization of drugs and the end of the war on drugs."

(via Daniel Hernandez)

Photo: A relative of Jose Yovanny Bocel Conoz, a Guatemalan immigrant whose body was found in a mass grave in Tamaulipas in northern Mexico, mourns over his coffin at the air force base of Guatemala City March 21, 2012. The bodies of 11 Guatemalans, who were among a group of 193 immigrants believed to be killed by members of the Zetas drug gang and whose bodies were found in a mass grave in Tamaulipas in April 2011, were repatriated to Guatemala after DNA tests confirmed their identities. REUTERS/Jorge Dan Lopez.


    1.  Impossible, especially in an election year. One only needs to look at Oaksterdam to see what the future holds for any progress on the war on drugs (aka the war on poor people of color).

      1.  I have a question for everyone with this attitude: If Obama decided to end the war on drugs would you vote for him?
        I think Progressive America has forgotten how big it is.

  1. Time to write an alternative-history book where the cartels stage a successful assassination of the president during his visit, touching off a war between the United States and Mexico, Colombia, etc.

    BTW, if this actually happens, it wasn’t me.

    1. Hard to imagine a motive for such an assassination. Every U.S. President since Nixon has contributed to the conflict that helped bring the cartels to power in the first place.

      1. Because this president is talking seriously about *ending* it. I suppose it depends on how much credibility that talk has.

        I think we’re at most 10 years away from ending this thing, so maybe it’ll be the next guy.

      1.  1. I don’t believe they know better. US Security teams might be the best-trained in the world (or they might not), but does anyone really know whether they can handle this kind of attack? Do they actually come in sufficient force to stop an all-out war? Recall that the cartels literally control entire cities in Mexico. And that’s not a sloppy/incorrect use of the word “literally”.

        2. I don’t believe they wouldn’t dare, either. They’ve assassinated many, many public officials throughout Latin/South America. They might simply see this as a little bigger challenge.

        I’m honestly a little afraid they will at least try, because even an unsuccessful attack could have serious unforseeable consequences for a conclusion to the drug war.

        1. Recall that the cartels literally control entire cities in Mexico. And that’s not a sloppy/incorrect use of the word “literally”.

          Hmmm… I’d say they have the ability to hijack and paralyze a city in short-term bursts, but I wouldn’t call it literally control as in all the time.

          1.  Nobody controls a city all the time the way you’re thinking of it.  Cities are inherently out of control, with myriad actors and activities all directing their own courses every day.

            The question is: who has the power to intervene forcefully in the affairs of everyone else with impunity?  Who commands enough fear and respect to dictate the rules that everyone else follows?  That is: who governs the city?  I think the answer is probably a toss-up between the cartels and the “official” government (which could itself be considered a competing cartel).

      2. If the Talaban could give our troops a good fight for the past decade, imagine what the cartels could do.  Keep in mind the Zeta’s have access to stupid amounts of cash.

        1. Yes, but there’s going to be a lot less loyalty and/or more indifference among the populace for the cartels. People fall in line with the Zetas out of fear and greed. People fall in line with the Taliban out of religious fervor on top of fear and respect (and in some cases nationalistic pride against unwanted occupation). That’s a much tougher nut to crack, IMO.

          The South American populace is getting tired of this shit:

          With decriminalization, we wouldn’t be in the same situation we’re in Afghanistan where they are without an alternative crop to opium. Let’s face it, the Zetas and other cartels do NOT want any drugs decriminalized.

          Also, you’re forgetting about Satan on Wheels.. the USA military-industrial complex. There’s lots of money to be made decimating Zetas and there’s plenty of war profiteers chomping at the bit to lay expensive waste to drug cartel strongholds.

          As far as who is better trained? Well, the South Americans come to the US to learn how to get really deadly…


          Nobody does killing and mayhem better and more “efficiently” than the United States… nobody. You may not know this, but the Zetas do.

          I’m not advocating for war, but if I was the leader of a drug cartel, I sure as hell wouldn’t start provoking the USA to come hand my ass to me either. We’re the country that’s dropped nukes on countries we don’t like. We’re the country that froths at the mouth with “patriotism” at football games as birds of death jet across the sky above the stadium.

          It’s not wise to fuck with us. We’re basically insane.

  2. Wonder if Barack doubles down on the drug war on this visit. If the Zetas and Maras are joining forces, we may be in for another foreign intervention for freedom.

  3. Ay Xeni… for some time now, I’ve suspected as much.  For many years the cartels took down their rivals in mafia-style, “strictly business” executions, with relatively little “collateral damage”, even when they took down Cardinal Posadas at the Guadalajara Airport.

    The mindless orgy of brutality started emerging since the 1998 Ensenada massacre of 19 men, women (one of them pregnant) and children in a family gathering, where all evidence pointed to recruited gunmen from either San Diego (Barrio Logan) or Los Angeles, although the intellectual authors were a local rival cartel.

    In an attempt to “teach a lesson” and “send a message”, local petty narcos made a pact with the devil and needlessly unlocked a door they never should have, importing a level of cruelty that is now a part of daily life in many cities.

    As for the Mara Salvatrucha, it is a legacy of 1980’s Reagan meddling in Central America, via “death squads” and the like, a full generation experiencing what it is to brutalize and be randomly brutalized, their children growing up and being initialized into this poisoned milieu.

      1. Would be thrilled to be wrong on this one. You have some information that leads you to believe he’s going to legalize or decriminalize and reduce the flow of cash to the drug war machine and the associated jackals?

        1. You have some information that leads you to believe he’s going to legalize or decriminalize

          Not in particular. But, there is some background noise rumblings that he might be a trojan horse in his second term especially if the American public steps up and throws out a lot more republicans in the Senate and House.

          But really, I gave up a long time ago trying to predict for sure what humans will do… especialy retarded Americans.

  4.  I’t wouldn’t accomplish anything since the cartels’ aim is not to replace goverment, it would be too much of a hassle.  Better wait for legalization and setup a multinational  import-export company with wildly tatooed CEOs

    1. Cartels are replacements for governments. Or maybe shadow governments would be a better way to say it.  They exist to regulate and manage industries that the government refuses to handle.  They are organized and oriented towards operating in the margins – in the areas where the government cannot or will not.  They draw their power from the margins, that is their native habitat.

      One theory is that if you take away the margin (by legalizing drugs, bringing an underground economy above ground) that the cartels will die like fish out of water.  Another theory is that they will grow legs, and learn to integrate themselves into the legal economy.  Maybe, but like fish with legs, they would fare poorly in the new environment, competing against well evolved land creatures.  More likely they would just move to a smaller pond, continuing their activities in other marginal rackets, and shrink to fit their new environment.  Meanwhile, people would stop having to die or go to jail over drugs.

  5.  When considering what to do about drug use in general, I think it’s a good thing to look at the level of damage we’re talking about. Alcohol alone kills 2,5 million people around the world every year, which is more than all violence combined. Drug use has a devastating effect on the society. In many cases restrictive rules or bans on drugs have been very useful for keeping the consumtion low. If bans are impossible to uphold, it’s often useful to have as restrictive rules as possible. Commercial interests have a terribly detrimental effect where drugs are concerned, and needs to be kept at bay as much as possible. Increased acceptance of drug use is also a great danger.

    1. When considering your argument in general, I think it is a good thing to examine how you paint all drugs with the same brush, as though they were all equally harmful. Not all drugs are the same. It is a distortion to make an argument in which you speak as if they were.  Alcohol does cause many deaths, but perhaps if there were more benign choices, we would see alcohol consumption decrease. In any event, you don’t hear the anti-drug lobby arguing to reinstate prohibition. In many cases restrictive rules or bans on drugs have been very useful for keeping prison populations full. What kind of harm do you think that does to communities, to families? History showed us what a ridiculous failure prohibition was and it is nothing compared to the failure of the drug war that is going on now. It would seem that was a ban that was impossible to uphold. Increased acceptance of anti-drug propaganda when there are so many who are profiting mightily from the drug war is also a great danger.

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