Washington, D.C., November 6, 2013
Four months before the feared Zetas drug cartel kidnapped and murdered 72 migrants in northeastern Mexico, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said that narcotrafficking organizations in that region operated with “near total impunity
in the face of compromised local security forces.” As the date of the massacre drew nearer, another U.S. agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), reported new evidence
linking the Zetas to soldiers from the Kaibiles, an elite Guatemalan special forces known for spectacular acts of cruelty and brutality during that country’s civil war.
These records are among a set of U.S. documents declassified under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and published today by the National Security Archive
, providing a glimpse of what U.S. diplomats and intelligence analysts were saying about the extreme violence that has engulfed Mexico’s northern border state of Tamaulipas in recent years and the apparent complicity of Mexican officials. Just this week, a new round of violence in Tamaulipas
took the lives of 13 more people, as drug-related violence flared yet again.
Some of these documents are featured in this week’s edition of Proceso
magazine, in an article by award-winning investigative journalist Marcela Turati
. Her report highlights the unchecked power of the Zetas in the region and the inability or unwillingness of federal, state and local officials in Mexico to provide security for citizens and migrants traveling in the region.
The turf war between the Zetas, the Gulf Cartel and other criminal organizations for control of drug trafficking, human smuggling and other illicit enterprises in northern Mexico produced unimaginable scenes of carnage, including the August 2010 massacre of 72 migrants in San Fernando and the discovery, the following year, of graves containing the remains of hundreds more.
Another DEA cable from 2009 traces the “evolution and expansion” of the Zetas organization, many of whom were recruited from an elite Mexican Army unit known as the Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFE). The group was “no longer solely operating as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel,” according to the report, and had “established a methodology to move into new territory and assert control over that geography.” The “strength” of the Zetas, according to the DEA
, “is their ability to corrupt, kill and intimidate and these factors have given the Zetas the power to conduct activities throughout Mexico.”
The Zetas had also stepped up attacks on public officials and other prominent figures, which the DEA said was a reaction to President Felipe Calderón’s “counter-cartel initiatives.” Intelligence gathered
by the U.S. State Department also led to the assessment that Calderón’s anti-crime strategy had “unintended consequences” and had contributed to a “spike in drug-related murders.”
The documents were released in response to a strategic freedom of information effort led by the Archive in coordination with partner organizations in Mexico and the U.S. The campaign is part of a larger joint effort to push for greater transparency in security and migration policy and on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Documents and other information obtained by the Archive and its partners is routinely published on our Migration Declassified
As the violence has escalated in recent years, the presumed role of Mexican officials at the federal, state and local levels in this shocking campaign of atrocities and counter-atrocities has remained shrouded in secrecy. While a number of people have been arrested in relation to the crimes, there has been little information available on the cases against them. The presumed authors of the violence, Édgar Huerta Montiel (“El Wache”) and Martín Omar Estrada Luna (“El Kilo”) remain in detention. Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, the top leader of the Zetas, was arrested by Mexican authorities in July 2013. Just two days ago, Mexico reported
the arrest of an alleged human smuggler (pollero
) said to be linked to the case.
In August, we published the first set of cables on the San Fernando massacres
, including one in which U.S. diplomats say that Mexican authorities wanted to minimize “the state’s responsibility” for the massacres in the region. Government authorities sought to cover up information on the violence, according to U.S. officials, and jeopardized investigations into the killings by splitting up corpses of the victims “to make the total number less obvious and thus less alarming.”
The same document notes possible links between government security forces and criminal organizations, reporting on the arrest of 16 police officers
from San Fernando, on charges of “protecting Los Zetas TCO [Transnational Criminal Organizations] members responsible for the kidnapping and murder of bus passengers in the San Fernando Area”. Mexico’s Attorney General’s office claims that there are still certain individuals under investigations for the massacre, but has not released any information about the charges underway or whether the 16 police officers arrested in April 2011 have ever been sanctioned.
The collection of documents includes a number of reports from U.S. consulate officials in Matamoros, a town in Tamaulipas located just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, which provide detailed summaries of the extreme acts of violence experienced in the region leading up to the San Fernando massacres. Consulate officials warned in March 2010 of the expanding conflict between the Zetas and rival gulf Cartel over lucrative drug routes, predicting that Matamoros would be the scene of confrontation in the near future
. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City echoed the assessments, and warned in April 2010 that the Mexican government had failed to predict the Zetas offensive and was unprepared to deal with the violence that was sure to come. The report said drug trafficking organizations had been operating with “near total impunity” in Tamaulipas, “in the face of compromisedlocal security forces
The files expose U.S. concerns that high-level corruption had complicated the ability of the government to properly investigate the massacres and maintain security over the region. In one cable, the U.S. Embassy notes reports that three successive governors of Tamaulipas were under investigation by the Attorney General’s office for suspected links to organized crime. The Embassy said the arrests reportedly stemmed from the capture of Zeta founder Miguel Ángel Soto Parra
For its part, the Mexican government has stonewalled requests
for information on the San Fernando investigations. The Mexico office of Article 19
, an international pro-transparency organization, has led the effort to unlock records on the Mexican attorney general’s investigations into the 2010 San Fernando massacre. The groups argues that the state has an obligation to release the case files on San Fernando in compliance with Article 14 of Mexico’s transparency law, which says that information on severe violations of fundamental rights or crimes against humanity must be released in all cases. On September 4, 2013, however, Mexico’s Federal Institute for Access to Information (IFAI) confirmed that the investigative files on the massacre of 72 migrants carried out in San Fernando in 2010 would remain secret
“IFAI had the opportunity in their hands to open the archives and interpret the transparency law in the interest of full disclosure and uphold the right to truth,” says Ana Cristina Ruelas of Article 19. “This was an occasion to demonstrate their strength and capacity to protect the right to truth as a fundamental human right; nevertheless, they failed to live up to the occasion.” Ana Cristina also poses the question: “How can we place trust in an institution that is supposed to guarantee access to information when it does not claim to know basic human rights principles?”
THE DOCUMENTS Declassified Documents on the San Fernando Massacre & Violence against Migrants in Northeastern Mexican States
Click on blue hyperlink to view document.
Document 1 August 25, 2007 Shutdown Slows but Doesn’t Stop Central Americans Headed North U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, sensitive, 3 pp.
The perilous path Central American migrants take while traveling through Mexico to reach the U.S. border has been an area of concern for human rights groups and U.S. and Mexican officials for years. This U.S. Embassy cable reports on a conversation in 2007 that addresses the vulnerability of migrant groups, involving a U.S. political officer and officials from Mexico’s migration agency — the National Migration Institute ( Instituto Nacional de Migración — INM). During the conversation, U.S. officials raise concerns over recent media reports on the deployment of Mexican army units to migrant regions and allegations of troop involvement in assaults and thefts against migrants. In response to these concerns, INM officials refute the allegations and deny reports that federal forces have been used to disperse migrants.
Document 2 c. July 2009 Assessment of “Los Zetas” Evolution and Expansion (2001-2009 ) U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), cable, sensitive, 9 pp.
The DEA provides an assessment on the evolution and expansion of the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel from their inception around the year 2000 to the time of the report, in 2009. In addition to the DEA stations in the U.S. and Mexico, the assessment was also sent to the U.S. embassies in Mexico City, Guatemala City, as well as to officials at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and the National Security Agency (NSA).
Based on internal discussions and intelligence briefings, the assessment highlights important details about the composition of, growing threat posed by, the Zetas, and provides details on the links to Guatemalan Kaibiles, elite special operations forces tied to massacres carried out during Guatemala’s internal armed conflict. According to the assessment, in 2005 an arrested Zeta member said his organization had recruited “former Guatemalan Kaibiles to work with the Zetas, and that the Kaibiles were procuring firearms and grenades from Guatemala on behalf of the Gulf Cartel.”
The document warns, “The Zetas are no longer solely operating as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel. The strength of the Zeta force is their ability to corrupt, kill, and intimidate and these factors have given the Zetas the power to conduct activities throughout Mexico, and they have established a methodology to move into new territory and assert control over that geography. Zeta activities have evolved from drug trafficking to traditional organized crime as well…While still closely allied with the Gulf Cartel, the Zetas have evolved into a separate drug trafficking organization that is independently transporting cocaine from Colombia to Mexico.”
Document 3 c. February 2010 Los Zetas Fact Sheet U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Huston Field Division, report, classification unknown, 2 pp.
The DEA’s Houston Field Division provides a fact sheet on the Zetas, again highlighting their growth and independence as a “highly sophisticated organized crime syndicate.” The fact sheet notes that “They include Mexican military deserters, former police officers and family members of Zetas as well as Kaibiles (former Guatemalan Army Special Forces Soldiers).” Once the Zetas become entrenched in an area, they engage in organized crime that includes “…extortion, kidnapping, murder-for-hire, money laundering, human-smuggling” among other criminal activities.
Document 4 March 23, 2010 Nuevo Leon: Citizens Wonder Who’s Winning in the Fight Against Organized Crime U.S. Consulate Monterrey, cable, confidential, 5 pp.
With violence spinning out of control, the U.S. Consulate paints a grim picture of the security situation in and around Monterrey, describing a number of violent crimes committed in the recent days by cartels and state officials. In Santa Catarina, a routine arrest resulted in a mob attack on the police chief. One suspect in the attack who was detained and delivered to the military “was found dead (and bearing signs of torture) shortly thereafter” according to the consulate. State officials also “admitted misidentifying as gangsters two students who were killed” during the gunfight at Monterrey Tec.
The governor of Nuevo Leon suspended 81 police officials after admitting “that the Zeta drug trafficking organization (DTO) had co-opted some state and police officials” in setting up roadblocks around the city. The Mexican marines have been “aggressively targeting cartel figures, leading to shootouts during military attempts to arrest high-ranking cartel members and during chance encounters with cartel motorcades.” Violence has now reached “beyond Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon” to include Ciudad Valles in the state of San Luis Potosi. The consulate adds that, “The struggle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas has clearly shifted from the border to the outlying towns in Nuevo Leon state.”
Document 5 March 24, 2010 Matamoros Emergency Action Committee; 03/24/2010 U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 2 pp.
Amid a wave of violence in the region, the U.S. consulate in Matamoros reports that the consular district has U.S. diplomatic staff on special security status. The cable highlights the growth of narcotics violence throughout the state of Tamaulipas and the widespread and mobile nature of the conflict and warns of the “high likelihood that Matamoros may be the scene of confrontation in the near future.” It adds, “Matamoros remains the accepted headquarters of the Gulf Cartel, and a high-value target for any future Los Zetas offensive.”
Document 6 March 25, 2010 Continuing Violence in Northern Mexico Between Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas U.S. Department of Homeland Security, cable, unclassified, 6 pp.
Based on information provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), this U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) document reports on the worsening security situation in Mexico’s northern states, where fighting between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas has led to escalating violence in the region. The document cites “corroborated and reliable information” on the widespread use of roadblocks along highways in the region. This is the first mention in the declassified documents of roadblocks used by the cartels in Tamaulipas, which was the method used to stop buses carrying passengers and carry out the San Fernando massacres.
The document goes on to describe fierce gun battles between the rival gangs, which in one case left the bodies of “approximately 20 to 25 Gulf Cartel members…scattered in Jiménez [Tamaulipas].” “The Gulf Cartel has been attacking small plazas in Tamaulipas,” according to the CBP report, adding that “[t]he attacks occur simply because the area belongs to the Zetas.” The DHS ominously predicts that “a retaliatory strike by Los Zetas is likely inevitable.”
One section of the document emphasizes the intensity of the violence, relating a gripping tale of a 21-year-old U.S. citizen who arrived at the Paso Del Norte border crossing “shot twice in the chest” with “his left leg amputated as a result of a grenade explosion.” CBP officials on the case received conflicting reports about the cause of his injuries, with one version indicating the grenade was tossed into his vehicle, while another claimed it had accidentally exploded as he “was attempting to toss a grenade into another vehicle.” These report comes amid Operation Knock Down, in which U.S. authorities at the federal, state and local levels targeted Barrio Azteca gang members in El Paso, Texas.
Document 7 April 16, 2010 Narcotics Affairs Section Mexico Monthly Report for March 2010 U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, unclassified, 11 pp.
The U.S. Embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Section provides a monthly summary of internal developments in Mexico, reporting that “March ended as one of the bloodiest months on record, with an estimated 900 killings nationwide.” The cable highlights that Mexican government officials did not anticipate the sharp increase in violence in the northeast that occurred as the Zetas took control the lucrative plazas in the region. U.S. officials report the violence has “cut a swath across north-east Mexico, including key towns in Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon, and even in neighboring Durango.” The document highlights the failure of the Mexican authorities to manage the growing threat, highlighting how “DTO’s [Drug Trafficking Organizations] have operated fairly openly and with freedom of movement and operations…In many cases they operated with near total impunity in the face of compromised local security forces.”
As part of U.S. support provided through the Mérida Initiative, the document also reports on U.S. efforts to implement an initiative to train regional police under the Culture of Lawfulness education initiative, involving officials from the now-defunct Secretariat of Public Security (SSP) in Baja California, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas
Document 8 May 28, 2010 FW: SEARS NBR 6152 for North & Central America case [redacted] Drug Enforcement Administration, cable, classification unknown, 4 pp.
This heavily-redacted DEA cable reports on significant criminal activities taking place in Mexico, including arrests, seized vehicles, and seized weapons. It includes details on an incident that took place just three months before the San Fernando massacre, involving the arrest of four members of the Zetas in Tamaulipas and the subsequent seizure of eight assault rifles and two vehicles on May 19, 2010. A shootout between security forces led to the deaths of four Zetas and capture of four others. While the names of the Zetas are withheld from the document, it notes that “it was determined that some of them were members of the Zetas and the subjects from Guatemala were members of the Fuerzas Especiales de Guatemala (Kaibiles).”
Document 9 c. July 2010 [Summary and Analysis of Significant Events of Violence in Ciudad Juarez] U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, cable, classification unknown, 8 pp.
The DEA provides a summary and analysis of significant events of violence that have taken place in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and surrounding areas. It reports that “Cartel operations against Mexican law enforcement officials have been a major component of the CDJ Plaza battle since its beginning. The primary reason is the heavy reliance Mexican cartels have in the use of corrupt officials.”
Document 10 c. August 2010 State of Cartels U.S. State Department, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, memorandum, Secret/NOFORN/ORCON, 3 pp.
The State Department’s intelligence arm considers President Calderón’s anti-crime strategy, noting his decision to deploy military and federal police forces “to states where weak and often corrupt state and local police units were unable or unwilling to combat powerful cartels.” Calderón’s “crackdown” has put pressure on the cartels but has also “resulted in some unintended consequences…For example, the removal of DTO leadership has allowed less experienced and undisciplined personnel to fill the leadership vacuum, contributing to the spike of drug-related murders.”
Document 11 August 26, 2010 Zetas massacre 72 migrants in Tamaulipas U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 3 pp.
The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros sent this report four days after the San Fernando massacre of August 22, 2010, providing the first in the series of declassified cables on the incident. The Embassy describes how on August 22 approximately 75 migrants “were stopped by an unknown number of organized crime figures and transported under guard to San Fernando.” According to a U.S. consulate source, the hijack point was north of a fixed military highway checkpoint, which the migrants avoided by using small rural roads.
|Sole survivor of Tamaulipas massacre returns home to Ecuador
An Ecuadorian male who survived the massacre described how before the killings some of the victims were offered an opportunity to work for the Zetas as assassins (“sicarios”). After all but one member of the group turned down the offer to work for the Zetas, the survivor stated that 54 men and 15 women were subsequently executed. Mexican Navy officials found the bodies two days after the massacre in an abandoned barn/warehouse. Two days later, on August 26, Mexican authorities reported that the director of the municipal police in San Fernando was found dead with other unidentified bodies, one of which was believed to be the state prosecutor.
The document concludes with the assessment of the consular official, noting that, “If the survivor’s account of the murders is accurate, then this represents a new level of violence form the Zetas. It remains unclear how these deaths benefit the Zetas…One theory proposed by [name redacted] is that as the profits from the migrants proposed illegal entry in to the U.S. were destined for the Gulf Cartel, their murders were a way for the Zetas to financially hurt the Gulf Cartel’s interests.”
Document 12 August 27, 2010 Timeline of violent events occurring in Matamoros consular district August 22-27, 2010 U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 2 pp.
The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros provides further details of the timeline of events beginning with the San Fernando killings through to August 27. The events include a shootout between Mexican military officials and cartel members on August 24, grenade attacks the same day, car bombs on August 27, and discovery of decapitated bodies believed to be the state prosecutor and director of municipal police in San Fernando, both of whom disappeared on August 25.
Document 13 August 31, 2010 Tamaulipas Massacre Seizes Front Page in El Salvador U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, cable, Unclassified, 2 pp.
The U.S. Embassy in El Salvador reports on the strong public condemnation of the killings in Tamaulipas, which included at least 13 Salvadorans. While the public sentiment in El Salvador focuses on the failure of Mexico’s government to provide safety for Salvadoran migrants, U.S. officials attempt to frame the issues around the message that illegal migration is dangerous and should therefore be avoided. The Deputy Foreign Minister for Salvadorans Abroad has echoed this U.S. Embassy message.
Document 14 September 3 2010 Timeline of major violent events occurring in Matamoros consular district August 29 through September 3, 2010 U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
U.S. Consulate officials provide a roundup on continuing violence in Matamoros in the wake of the San Fernando massacre. The incidents include a grenade attack against a Mexican Naval hospital where one of the survivors of San Fernando was recovering. Additionally, on September 2, a second survivor of the massacre located federal authorities in Matamoros, was taken in, and reportedly moved to Mexico City for debriefing. The same day officials from Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and open sources reported on military clashes with Zetas in Tamaulipas, near Nuevo Leon. 32 cartel members were reported killed along with two military officials.
Document 15 September 7, 2010 Mexico Presents Migrant Protection Plan U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, unclassified, 2 pages
The U.S. Embassy reports on the Mexican government’s presentation of a five-point plan to address kidnappings and other abuses targeting migrants. The plan included a pledge of cooperation signed by Interior Secretary Francisco Blake Mora and other top officials “in response to pressure on the GOM [government of Mexico] to act in the wake of the August 24 massacre of 72 migrants in Tamaulipas.” The plan reportedly included commitments to protect migrants and combat kidnappings and executions committed by organized criminal groups, including “increased efforts to disband groups of migrant smugglers.” The effort will also involve focusing on increasing the capacity of the INM through “training, increased personnel and cooperation with U.S. counterparts.”
Document 16 September 10 2010 Timeline of major violent events occurring in Matamoros consular district September 4 through 10, 2010 U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
Open sources report that the head of public safety in Tamaulipas resigned because of escalating violence in the state and after confirmation that bodies recently discovered were that of San Fernando’s director of the municipal police and state prosecutor. U.S. contacts in the Attorney General’s office also tell consulate officials that nine cartel members in the San Fernando area were arrested but would not confirm if the individuals were connected with the August 22 killing of 72 migrants.
Document 17 January 31, 2011 A Perilous Road through Mexico for Migrants U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, sensitive, 6 pp.
The U.S. Embassy reports that it was only after the mass killings, subsequent protests from Central American governments, and daily headlines of the ongoing violence, that the Mexican government recently focused attention “on the protection of Central and South American migrants transiting northwards through Mexico.”
The cable highlights the ineffectiveness of Mexico’s National Migration Agency (INM) in allowing migrants to bypass checkpoints, due to “a combination of understaffing, inability, and corruption.” It also brings attention to how the situation for migrants has worsened “due to pervasive TCO [transnational criminal organizations] control of routes and crossings,” where “TCO’s act alternatively as paid facilitators, extortionists, kidnappers and traffickers.” Moreover, according to the cable, “anecdotal evidence suggests that migrant authorities and local police often turn a blind eye or collude in these activities.”
The Embassy comment stresses that a permanent solution to addressing the treatment of migrants transiting through Mexico will require strengthening in the rule of law and increased professionalization of law enforcement agencies. The document notes that these types of programs are underway and are partially financed by the U.S. under the Mérida Initiative.
Document 18 February 5, 2011 Secretary Clinton’s January 24, 2011 Conversation with Mexican Foreign Secretary Espinosa U.S. State Department, cable, confidential, 11 pp.
The U.S. State Department reports on the January 24, 2011 meeting between Hillary Clinton and Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa, in which they discuss President Calderón’s upcoming visit to Washington and ways to develop a “narrative about the depth and breadth of the relationship that goes beyond security matters.” During the meeting, Secretary Clinton apologizes for any embarrassment caused by the WikiLeaks documents, and emphasizes the need to form a unified narrative so both countries can portray the bilateral relationship as reaching “beyond Merida” and involving more than just security assistance. Clinton said the narrative should express the full story of the relationship, and notes that on the U.S. side there has been a need to “explain to Congress why foreign assistance money under ‘Beyond Merida’ should continue.”
With respect to immigration, Secretary Espinosa brings up the San Fernando massacre, and emphasizes the need to address the violence against Central American migrants through bilateral cooperation. Espinosa notes that the recent violence brought a new angle to immigration, which needs to be addressed through cooperation, and that the immigration bill before the Mexican Congress is designed to deal with some of the issues relating to transmigration.
Document 19 February 15, 2011 February 14 : A Day of Violence in Tamaulipas U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros reports on the most violent day in the district since the San Fernando massacre of August 2010. Twenty-six people were killed in the cities of Nuevo Padilla, San Fernando, and Ciudad Victoria in attacks linked to translational criminal organizations (TCO). Bodies were discovered in San Fernando, and assailants killed a police officer in Ciudad Victoria. U.S. officials comment that Mexican military forces are heavily involved in fighting the Zetas in the town of San Fernando.
Document 20 April 6, 2011 Two Mass Graves Containing 48 Bodies Discovered in the San Fernando Area U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 2 pp.
The U.S. Consulate in Matamoros continues to report on the discovery of bodies in the area. On April 2 and again on April 6, mass graves containing 48 bodies, two reportedly wearing police uniforms, were discovered in the community of La Joya near San Fernando. SEDENA, the Mexican defense ministry, is in charge of recovering the bodies, and the Attorney General’s office is investigating the matter. The U.S. Consulate comments that the bodies were likely either members of transnational criminal organizations, victims of kidnappings by criminal organizations, or victims of highway violence.
Document 21 April 8, 2011 More Mass Graves Found in Tamaulipas: Body total Now 81 U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 3 pp.
Kidnappings continue in the state of Tamaulipas on a large-scale, with clashes occurring between Mexican military officials and criminal organizations, and new discoveries of mass graves of victims. More mass graves have been discovered in San Fernando, bringing the body count to 81, across 17 different burial sites. “Federal officials believe that the majority of the bodies belong to people kidnapped from public buses in the San Fernando area by Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) members in recent weeks.” The victims were kidnapped on buses heading north to the border from San Luis Potosi, destined for Reynosa, as well as buses coming from Michoacán, and Guanajuato. SEDENA has deployed its Special Operations Investigation unit in San Fernando to investigate.
SEDENA has also reportedly deployed forces, rescued kidnapped victims, discovered grave sites in the region, and detained presumed TCO members. The document notes that “According to federal officials, the vast majority of the remains appear to have been beaten to death. A small number had bullet wounds. Officials sources say they believe that many individuals taken from buses have not been reported and authorities are continuing to search the area for their remains.” As for the 14 presumed TCO members, they were reportedly brought to Mexico City, and placed in custody of the Office of Special Investigations of Organized Crime (SIEDO) of the Attorney General.
The U.S. Consulate official comments that federal officials believe the Zetas are responsible for the killings, and that the majority of the kidnapping victims discovered were migrants heading to the U.S. “who were intercepted en route and unable to pay what was demanded of them.”
Document 22 April 15, 2011 Tamaulipas’ Mass Graves: Body Count Reaches 145 U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 4 pp.
Summing up information taken from official sources, the U.S. Consulate reports that a total of 36 grave site containing 145 bodies were discovered in the San Fernando area during a SEDENA operation that took place April 1-14, 2011. Seventeen Zetas and 16 members of the San Fernando police have been arrested in connection with the deaths. The police officials are being charged with “protecting the Los Zetas TCO members responsible for the kidnapping and murder of bus passengers in the San Fernando area.”
Off the record, Mexican officials tell Consulate officials that “the bodies are being split up to make the total number less obvious and thus less alarming.” Consulate officers also comment that, “Tamaulipas officials appear to be trying to downplay both the San Fernando discoveries and the state responsibility for them, even though a recent trip to Ciudad Victoria revealed state officials fully cognizant of the hazards of highway travel in this area.”
Document 23 April 20, 2011 Arrest of ZETA DTO Cell Head Martin Omar ESTRADA-Luna and Seizure of Weapons U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Report of Investigation, sensitive, 3 pp.
This DEA report includes details on the arrest of Zeta drug trafficking cell head Martín Omar Estrada Luna. According to the DOJ investigations, Estrada Luna (“El Kilo”) was the leader of a Zeta cell arrested by Mexican Navy (SEMAR) on April 16, 2011 in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, for “alleged participation and involvement in the kidnappings and deaths of numerous innocent victims found in clandestine mass graves in San Fernando, Tamaulipas.”
Document 24 April 29, 2011 Holy Week Vacations Marred by Violence; San Fernando Body Count Reaches 196 U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, sensitive, 4 pp.
The U.S. Consulate reports that Mexican government authorities are covering up information to hide the total number of bodies that have been discovered in mass graves Tamaulipas. “Though not publicized by authorities,” the cable reads, “the number of bodies found in mass graves in the San Fernando area since April 1 has reached 196 and is expected to rise as Mexican Army (SEDENA) and Marine (SEMAR) forces continue to search the area.” Official sources indicate that SEDENA and SEMAR continue to search for new bodies, and the military continues to respond to ongoing gun battles between rival cartels.
Despite providing private statements about the insecurity of the region, Mexican government officials have been downplaying the violence, particularly in the lead up to Holy Week, so as to not deter tourism in the area. The cable reads, “Despite stating privately in January that security in general, and highway violence in particular, is their top concern…government officials have avoided publicly drawing attention to the level of violence in Tamaulipas.”
Document 25 May 13, 2011 Mexican Army Seizes Weapons of Local Police in Tamaulipas U.S. Consulate Matamoros, cable, unclassified, 3 pp.
U.S. Consulate officials report that SEDENA has disarmed municipal and transit police in all but one of the 43 Tamaulipas municipalities. The government has not made public comments on the seizure, but initial reports indicate the measure was carried out to determine if the weapons were used in crimes. The seizure comes in the wake of the arrest of 17 San Fernando police officers in connection with the discovery of 196 bodies in mass graves in that city. Sources tell the Consulate officials that the SEDENA forces seized a total of 460 weapons in Matamoros, leaving Matamoros’ 700 police officers without weapons.
Document 26 May 16, 2011 Narcotics Affairs Section Mexico Monthly Report for April 2011 U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, unclassified, 11 pp.
The Embassy reports on internal developments in Mexico, including the discovery of 183 bodies in mass graves in the area of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, and the arrest of 17 of the 25 municipality police officers, including the municipality police chief, in connection with the discovery of the mass grave.
Document 27 June 13, 2011 Narcotics Affairs Section Mexico Monthly Report for May 2011 U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, sensitive, 9 pp.
The document reports on drug violence and the latest developments in U.S.-funded Mérida programs, including the U.S. support for the SSP National Command and Control intelligence center, biometric data collection for INM officials, and other programs. The document also discusses the firing of seven top INM officials “amid allegations that some agents had been involved in the kidnapping of migrants.” It adds that “Immigrants from Central America (namely from El Salvador and Guatemala) accused the immigration agents of pulling them off buses and handing them over to drug gangs in the state of Tamaulipas.”
Document 28 October 7, 2011 Alien and Narcotics Smuggling Along the Southwest Border U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Information Report, confidential, 4 pp.
This DIA intelligence report includes information based on a human source with “both direct and indirect access” to the information “during the course of official duties.” It reports that, “At least four Mexican police officers may have been accepting payment from drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). Although law enforcement officers being involved with DTOs [drug trafficking organizations] and alien smuggling organizations (ASOs) was not new information it was important to note so that it continued to be passed as current practice (sic).”
The document goes on to discuss the harsh treatment of migrants and widespread abuses carried out by human smugglers on migrant populations.
Document 29 February 3, 2012 Mexican Political Highlights January 28-February 3, 2012 U.S. Embassy in Mexico, cable, unclassified, 5 pp.
The U.S. Embassy highlights the problem of corruption at the highest levels of the Tamaulipas state government, reporting that the Attorney General’s office (PGR) has been investigating three former Tamaulipas governors since early 2009 in connection to the arrest of Zeta founding member Miguel Angel Soto Parra. The governors include Manuel Cavazos Lerma (1993-1999), Tomás Yarrington (1999-2004) and Eugenio Hernández Flores (2005-2010). All three were pursuing Senate seats at the time of the investigations and, according to the assessment, “pundits speculate that PRI presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto will only give the nod to Cavazos.” It also comments that “PRI leaders say the investigation reflects a ‘dirty war’ against them, and that GOM [government of Mexico] is exploiting PGR for political purpose,” and notes how “Pena Nieto visited Tamaulipas on February 2 to launch his campaign in the state.”
The cable also reports on the trial of General Jesús Moreno Aviña, charged with human rights violation and corruption stemming from his actions as former head of thermy garrison in Ojinaga, Chihuahua. The charges include accepting bribes from narcotics traffickers, and authorizing extrajudicial killings, among others.
Document 30 May 22, 2012 Sinaloa Cartel Offensive Posture Against Los Zetas and its Implications to Nuevo Laredo Plaza 21 May2012 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), report, secret, 11 pp.
The document discusses the continued clashes between the Zetas and the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels over Tamaulipas Plaza in Nuevo Laredo, “a highly contentious and lucrative corridor known for narcotic and alien trafficking.” It goes on to discuss a number of incidents involving the Zetas, and reports on the discovery in March 2012 of 49 mutilated bodies highlighting the “abhorrent brutality transpiring over the control of the coveted Tamaulipas Plaza.” LUZ PDF
(google translated by Choco)
Secrets of the massacres of Tamaulipas
Based on Freedom of Information Act U.S. National Security Archive organization managed de-classified diplomatic documents that reveal the collusion of federal, state and municipal former governors including Manuel Cavazos, Tomas Yarrington and Eugenio Hernández-with criminal organizations operating in Tamaulipas. Process provides a summary of the manner in which Los Zetas committed their outrages against hundreds of undocumented Central Americans between 2010 and 2012.
They left on bus passengers heading to the border so- Nando in his new life , but returned on board a trai- ler with coolant that deposited cash into a morgue. Most of the 196 bodies found in April 2011 in the graves in San Fernando , Tamaulipas , was of poor migrants beaten to death , his life was not worth even a bullet. The Tamaulipas government was concerned that the bad publicity shooing tourism and investment. When some-one out of the state ordered the bodies to cover up the scandal .
The information is contained in the series of declassified cables that American officials sent to Mex-ico to Washington between 2010 and 2012 . In these reports it is clear that the Mexican government was aware of the crimes that they committed the Zetas in San Fernando before the slaughter of the 72 mi -grants August 2010 and the discovery, the following year, of the mass graves.
The reports, obtained by the organization National Security Archive (NSA ) based on the Freedom of Information Act
United States ( FOIA , for its acronym in English ), reveal the collusion of municipal, state and federal Mexican criminals with us ( the suspicion includes former governors Manuel Cavazos Lerma , Tomas Yarrington Ruvalcaba and Eugenio Hernandez Flores) and the presence of Kaibils in the area and the request for assistance to Washington by the Mexican Foreign Ministry to save the popularity of Felipe Calderon , slumped for a strategy of fight against drugs ( co-financed by the United States) that Mexicans , and American officials themselves , regarded as generating deraban violence.
Diplomatic reports – made-up by various agencies from informants , Mexican officials , press releases and analysis show that the cartels – controlled part of Tamaulipas , the suffering of the population, some -ment of the press and the pantomime of a government that pretended to take the reins .
Researcher Michael Evans , NSA , published the first papers on the organization ‘s blog to show the intent of the Mexican State minimize their accountability to the crimes. New leads provided to complete the process lived horror movie
Tamaulipas just the past six years . The classified report with numbers 20100416 (key indicating the year, month and day of the writing of April 16, 2010 ) notes that March , with 900 homicides nationwide , was one of the most san- grientos and Mexican officials did not anticipate the escalation of violence when the Los Zetas Cartel launched control the lucrative northeastern squares . During February and March the Matamoros consular do , a town bordering Brownsville, Texas , said the ruptu – ra of the Gulf Cartel ( CDG ) with an- teriores allies caused the population was punished only by living in areas controlled by rivals. At each stroke he
was a vengeance. (20100325) Panic gripped Victoria – state capital , Matamoros , Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo , and rumors closable forced schools. Matamoros – foresaw the consulate – could be ” confrontation scene in the future” to be barracks CDG and value
future strategic offensive. ” From the May 28, 2010 one of these documents mentions a confrontation , like many, between federal forces and gunmen . Its content was almost totally censored , except one fact:
Four people killed and four arrested on 19 ” it was determined that some of them were members of Los Zetas and Guatemala subjects were members of Guatemala ‘s special forces ( Kaibils ) ” military known for extreme cruelty of his methods of subjugation , among them the beheadings .
The following August , a secret memorandum from the Office of Intelligence and Research of the State Department mentioned : ” Calderon ‘s offensive has put pressure on the cartels, but has also had consequences pre – view : for example, the removal of leaders of drug trafficking organizations has led to people with less experience and discipline to fill these gaps , contributing to a spike in drug-related killings ” ( 20,100,800 ) .
Revelations of the slaughter
On August 22 of that year , 75 mi -grants of Guatemala , Honduras , Brazil, Ecuador and a ” Hindu ” who traveled to the border in three panels trailer were stopped by a separate number
finished criminals and transported under guard to San Fernando .
The kidnapping would have been made north of a stationary seal of the Ministry of National Defense ( Defense Secretariat ) on the road, through small rural roads, according to the cable sent from the consulate in Matamoros , four days after the slaughter ( 20100826 ) .
Among the bodies of 58 men and 14 women lay two by the impact migrants lost consciousness but awoke : it was a Salvadoran and Ecuadoran 18. The latter related the above facts .
The survivors fled in differ-ent directions. The Ecuadorian heard that the Salvadoran chased a truck , then gunshots , and imagined that he was murdered . Meanwhile, sought help in a house or go-ing tried local police ( desta – ca cable that narration differ on this point ) , but did not help .
He walked at night. In the ma – drugada August 23 reached a Navy seal , which gave warning of what happened -do. When trying to locate down the place of slaughter reached sailors ran -cho where they were attacked. Three marine and died a cartel member . One child was apprehended , and then the survivor identified him as one of the hijackers .
On the 24th at six o’clock the Ma – rina found the bodies in an abandoned ranch : 72 appeared to have been stacked against the wall of the bode -ga . “Unconfirmed reports indicate that one or more of the victims were pregnant women . The victims were found without any identification inlet . The three trucks and baggage of migrants were not recovered, “reads the text .
In a final comment, the diplomat who made the report states : ” If the survivor’s story is accurate , this represents a new level of violence of Los Zetas ” . This is because there seems to be a utility of these deaths to them as they did not ask for their rescue kidnap victims as they used to
” One theory posed by – the name of the source is deleted , is that as the profits from the smuggling of Migrants to the United States are destined to the Gulf Cartel , the killings were the way to Los Zetas found I – rir CDG financial interests . “
The following communication, the 27th, is a summary of events of the past four days.
In September, al- Matamoros and its surrounding hinterland seem to live a war. Hidalgo Mayor has been killed, the army and the Zetas face in Ciudad Mier dad , three fragmentation grenades injuring 29 civilians in Reynosa. The attacks occur within three blocks of a funeral service for the 72 migrants near the morgue where were deposited some of their bodies.
Later there was an attack on the Navy hospital where he recovered the Ecuadorian raba was the informant .
On day 2 of the month do you receive the second survivor of the slaughter , who , according to the Center for Investigation and National Security ( Cisen ) to estadu – nidenses , had moved only Ma – tamoros and ” supposedly was taken to DF to declare ” ( 20100903 ) .
Meanwhile, Mexico tried to clean her international reputation .
The February 14, 2011 was the most violent day slow since the slaughter of August last year : 26 people are killed . A grenade in a shopping center in Mata- moros injures nine civilians , according to the re -port 20110215 – “an attempt to Los Zetas to heat the square to the dominant group .”
Findings begin cal- sored cars on the roads, the killings of bus passengers reached by crossfire and mass arrests like the one between Victoria and Matamoros – ros , where 23 passengers were forced off and stripped them of their belongings .
Two months later, in April , begin- zan to discover narcofo – sas calls . First there were 48 bodies, two of them dressed in police uniforms , in the community of La Joya , near San Fernando . Some in advanced state of decomposition , others died in a span of less than 10 days .
The first information received by the Mexican Consulate officials is that the bodies are probably drug , kidnapped or road violence victims . The ter- na report with a comment : “According to official sources at least 224 people have been kidnapped in Tamaulipas roads in recent weeks , including a group -do forced down a long distance truck on March 23 ” ( 20110406 ) .
That same week and were 81 corpses found at 17 sites . 20110408 The document reveals a hidden history :
On March 19, members of organized crime kidnapped 24 people from a public bus from San Luis Potosi traveling to Reynosa. On March 24 kidnapped 12 people from Michoacán truck . Also on 24 , kidnapped the 48 passengers of a truck that was going to Reynosa Guanajuato . The three near San Fernando .
As of April 1 , with information from detainees and their ex-hostages , the Army graves located in La Joya, north of San Fernando . First there were 11 bodies , then 145.
From the beginning the responsibility awarded to Los Zetas. ” This is consistent with the local press coverage , as Los Zetas controlled villages have been covered by the findings,” the report indicates .
In connection with these killings , 17 of the 25 members of the police of San Fernando were arrested on charges of ” protect ” the perpetrators.
The search for mass is interrupted on April 13 , it notes the co – diplomats , and officials expressed their intention to continue it later.
From the April 6 , when the discovery was announced , the Semefo of Matamoros was crowded with people seeking in- formation about missing relatives.
“San Fernando findings have attracted many family -bian has not wanted to report the disappearances earlier because of fear or threats from organized crime ,” the report mentioned once that as the excuse this – such officials to inaction, ” the lack of normal denunciations before the discovery of the mass prevented the state prosecutor investigate the problems were suspected in the San Fernando” .
Highlight another fact: ” None of the bus companies has filed a formal complaint about the attacks from members of organized crime on buses or passengers despite the fact that the kidnapping had been widespread ( … ) The authorities only had received two official reports are not two of the passenger mass kidnappings March 24 . Although private sectors authorities recognized that kidnappings are common. “
By then the press mentioned that nine buses were kidnap victims at that point , to terminals came only pack.
On April 13 , the PGR sent to the capital of the country and argued that 105 bodies have more equipment there and families from Guanajuato and Michoacán have more facilities . The rest is that-mended in Matamoros , the most decomposed cough would be sent to Victoria .
Off the record, officials di -jeron Mexican consulate officials that ” the bodies are being separated (in groups ) so that the total is less obvious and thus less alarming ” .
The diplomatic type -reporting states: ” The transfer of 105 bodies from the supersaturated enough Matamoros to Mexico City morgue , is understandable from a practical point of view , but also helps to downplay the tragedy.”
It also reveals that the state authorities knew what was happening , ” apparently Tamaulipas authorities are trying to minimize discoveries of San Fernando and state responsibility , although on a recent trip to Victoria was revealed officials were aware of the danger of traveling by road through this area. “
By the end of the month were 196 bodies and ” is expected to increase because the Department of Defense and Semar continue the search ” , 74 people were arrested in connection with the crimes. After The Kilo would be arrested Martin Estrada , lo- cal chief of Los Zetas.
State officials , meanwhile, ma -niobran to hide the facts. “Despite government claims to the incremental security during the period of the Easter holidays ( April 16-24 ) were several violent incidents , including attacks on three trucks transiting -ban by Victoria -Monterrey highway at the height of Ciudad Hidalgo , in which there was a casualty of shootings in each ” .
In April another cable indicates that the federal governments and the state are awarded each other ‘s responsibility. In private sectors , as indicated , officials have said that security in general, and violence on the roads in particular is their biggest concern , but evi -so in public on the issue of violence . A sample of the nonsense is the announcement of Governor Egidio Torre Cantú that the state is a good place to invest and secure exaggeration on beach conditions ‘ heavily patrolled.’ “
Officials also have said that you can ensure the security of any business from investors without explaining how they plan to ” ( 20110429 ) .
By May, the Department of Defense had 700 unarmed policemen do . In June it was reported the dismissal of seven top officials of the National Institute of Migration “amid allegations that were involved in the kidnapping of migrants ” , because ” immigrants from Central America ( specifically in El Salvador and Guatemala ) the accused them out of the bus made months and deliver them to the bands of drug traffickers in the state of Tamaulipas ” ( 20110613 ) . Those months both Fed-eral Police and the Department of Defense is engaged in freeing hostages safe houses .
Source: National Security Archive and Señor Joe of Forum