Los Zetas is a Mexican criminal syndicate. The origins of Los Zetas date back to the late 1990s when commandos of the Mexican Army deserted their ranks, in February 2010, Los Zetas broke away from their former employer and formed their own criminal organization. Their brutal tactics, which include beheadings to terrorize their rivals and intimidate them, torture, Los Zetas are Mexicos largest drug cartel in terms of geographical presence, overtaking their rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel. Los Zetas also operate through protection rackets, assassinations, extortion, kidnappings, the organization is based in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, directly across the border from Laredo, Texas. As of December 2016 Los Zetas Group & Zetas Vieja Escuela formed an alliance with the Gulf cartel to fight against Cartel Del Noroeste. The groups name Los Zetas is given after its first commander, Arturo Guzmán Decena, whose Federal Judicial Police radio code was Z1, after Osiel Cárdenas Guillén took full control of the Gulf Cartel in 1999, he found himself in a violent turf war. These Army deserters were enticed with salaries much higher than those of the Mexican Army, Cárdenas goal was to protect himself from rival drug cartels and from the Mexican military. Once Osiel Cárdenas Guillen consolidated his position and supremacy, he expanded the responsibilities of Los Zetas, the Zetas began to organize kidnappings, protection rackets, extortion, securing cocaine supply and trafficking routes known as plazas and executing its foes, often with barbaric savagery. Guzmán Decena was killed by members of the Mexican military on November 2002 in a restaurant in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, in response to the rising power of the Gulf Cartel, the rival Sinaloa Cartel established a heavily armed, well-trained enforcer group known as Los Negros. The group operated similarly to Los Zetas, but with less complexity, in 2010, however, Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel broke apart. Their membership ranges from corrupt federal, state, and local officers, and former US Army personnel, to ex-Kaibiles. It is unclear which of the two – the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas – started the conflict led to their break up. It is clear, however, that after the capture and extradition of Cárdenas, Los Zetas had become so powerful that they outnumbered and outclassed the Gulf Cartel in revenue, membership, and influence. Some sources reveal that as a result of the supremacy of Los Zetas, the cartel felt threatened by its own enforcers and decided to curtail their influence, in addition, Los Zetas charged that the cartel also kills innocent civilians, and then blames the Zetas for their atrocities. Other reports mention, however, that the divide occurred due to a disagreement on who would take on the leadership of the cartel after the extradition of Cárdenas. The candidates from the cartel were Antonio Cárdenas Guillén and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, while Los Zetas wanted the leadership of their then head, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano. Some sources mention that the cartel began looking to form a truce with their Sinaloa Cartel rivals, other sources suggest that Los Zetas separated from the Gulf Cartel to form an alliance with Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, which led to conflict with the Gulf Cartel. Soon after Mendozas death, Los Zetas demanded that the Gulf Cartel hand over the killer, they refused, when the hostilities began, the Gulf Cartel joined forces with its former rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Michoacana, aiming to take out Los Zetas
Logo of the Los Zetas Cartel
Los Zetas gunmen interrogating a member of the Gulf Cartel.