Pubdate: Tue, 21 Jul 2009
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Los Angeles Times
Author: Richard Marosi
Bookmark:  (Mexico Under Siege (Series))

Mexico Under Siege


Among those on the list is the 'triumvirate' of the drug trafficking
enterprise and its enforcement arm, the Zetas. They are accused of
funneling cocaine and marijuana from South America into Texas.

Federal authorities announced indictments Monday against the reputed
leaders of Mexico's Gulf cartel and its paramilitary force, the Zetas,
accusing them of trafficking tons of cocaine and marijuana from South
America through the Texas-Mexico border.

Three of the men are identified as the "triumvirate" that manages the
far-flung enterprise, dividing its territories among themselves.
Another reputed leader, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, allegedly
controls the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo, where the cartel is
believed to funnel large amounts of drugs through the busy truck
crossing into Laredo, Texas.

Fifteen more alleged cartel lieutenants were charged in the pair of
indictments filed in New York and Washington, D.C. The Washington
indictment was filed in June but not announced until Monday.

Federal authorities said the actions should help deal a blow to one of
Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations. "We have
learned that the most effective way to disrupt and dismantle criminal
organizations is to prosecute their leaders and seize their funding,"
U.S. Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny A. Breuer said in a prepared statement.

Trevino and the triumvirate of Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen,
Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez and Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano also were
designated "narcotics kingpins" by the U.S. Treasury Department, which
allows the government to freeze their assets.

The moves added significantly to the list of Mexicans wanted by the
U.S. Although the Mexican government has extradited more suspects in
recent years, it has a mixed record in capturing alleged drug lords.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, believed to lead the Sinaloa drug cartel,
remains a fugitive 16 years after he was first indicted and eight
years after he escaped from prison.

The Mexican government has offered rewards of up to $2.4 million for
tips leading to the capture of the Gulf suspects. The U.S. is offering
$50 million in reward money.

With its stronghold in the Mexican border states of Tamaulipas and
Nuevo Leon, the Gulf cartel has long dominated drug trafficking
through eastern Mexico, bringing cocaine shipments through ports on
the Gulf of Mexico. In the 1990s, the cartel enlisted the Zetas, a
group of military defectors, as its enforcement arm.

U.S. authorities now refer to the Gulf cartel and Zetas as the

The partnership smuggles the drugs into Mexico from Colombia and
Venezuela, using Panama and Guatemala as transshipment points,
according to the indictments. Among the area identified as key
trafficking corridors for the organization are the states of
Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Veracruz.

Hundreds of miles of Mexican territory along the border is controlled
by the Company, which has carried out a violent campaign against
Mexican law enforcement officers and rival drug traffickers, the
indictment alleges.

Wiretap evidence apparently captures the suspects talking about drug
shipments, the pricing of cocaine and marijuana, bribe amounts and
threat against rivals, according to federal authorities. Records of
shipments, bribes and debts owed were allegedly kept on laptop
computers and flash drives, the indictments allege. Trevino claimed to
control the ministerial police in the state of Veracruz and once
discussed a $2-million bribe to Mexican government officials,
according to U.S. authorities.

The indictments represent the latest actions by the U.S. and Mexican
government against the Gulf cartel. The one-time leader of the
organization, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, was captured in 2003. He was
extradited to the U.S. in 2007.