Paramilitary Drug Gang PR Flacks Finally Get Their Public Image Under Control

Public Domain image of Colt AR-15 Tactical Carbine by Stagg1500, via Wikipedia.

Does good press really come from the barrel of an AR-15?

Or is that just Silicon Valley?

In an analysis piece in the Global Post, Mike O’Connor says newspaper editors in Mexico are being forced to run press releases for Los Zetas, the US-trained paramilitary splinter group of the Gulf Cartel that is now vying with other gangs for absolute control of Mexico’s drug smuggling rackets.

Relating the experience of newspaper editor Martha Lopezin Ciudad Victoria, capital of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, O’Connor writes:

It’s the first time such a formal arrangement is known to be at work in Mexico. Journalists at the other three main papers in Ciudad Victoria — the capital of Tamaulipas state, across from Texas in the northeast corner of Mexico — confirmed her account.

In many parts of Mexico, organized crime and drug cartels have been able to terrorize journalists in local or regional news organizations into not running stories the criminals don’t want the public to know about. Reporters who try are threatened or murdered.

So, in much of the country, newspapers, TV and radio stations have just stopped covering stories that even hint about how organized crime is taking over.

The difference in the accounts of Lopez and other Victoria reporters is that newspapers are being coerced through violence not just into publishing positive articles on Los Zetas — but actually using press releases. O’Connor quotes Lopez in saying that they come by email and include PR photos, with thoroughly transparent content:

There are two editorial lines in the press releases. According to Lopez, the Zetas write their “stories” to make the Mexican army look bad. The army is deployed in the state to help fight the Zetas. So the Zetas send stories about army human rights abuses. “Some of those stories are accurate in a small way, but they are exaggerated. Sometimes they are not true,” Lopez said.

And, then, Lopez said, the Zetas want to make the local police look good. “They protect the police because the police are their allies,” she said. “We get stories about how the police or the chief are so wonderful, especially the chief.”

At first, Lopez said, there were three or four news releases a month. Now it’s two or three a week, and the releases are reaching into the society pages. Recently, there was one about the birthday party of a 5-year-old boy, apparently the son of someone high in the gang.


Oh, did I mention Los Zetas are US-trained? They sure as hell are (LOL!!!) The gang was founded by deserting members of the Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, the Mexican Army’s special forces branch — essentially parallel to the US Army’s Airborne Rangers. The group expanded to include former members of Guatemala’s famed Special Forces, the Kabiles.

As related by George Grayson, author of the 2009 book Mexico: Narcoterrorism and a Failed State, in an NPR interview back in September, the members of Los Zetas were trained by the U.S. by way of improving Mexico’s drug interdiction efforts.

Deserting from the Mexican Army, they were hired by the Gulf Cartel — then the leader of Mexico’s drug smuggling industry — to be that gang’s private army. When the Gulf Cartel’s leader Osiel Cárdenas Guillen was arrested, Los Zetas split off and took an active role in smuggling drugs.

Members of Los Zetas wear body armor and use military weapons like .50 caliber machine guns, grenade launchers, and helicopters. They were reportedly responsible for the mass grave of 72 migrants found in Tamaulipas in September.

According to an Italian-language article linked on the Wikipedia article about the group, they’ve also recently partnered with Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta, one of the most powerful Italian organized crime groups.

BTW, wanna know what this year’s death toll is so far in the Mexican Drug War, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma? 10,035. LOL!!!!!

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