September 29, 2012
Besides being one of the most violent organizations. The ZETAS are increasingly consolidating their dominance throughout the country. In recent years, Los Zetas have imposed their law in most prisons in the north. In those places, co-opted directors and trustees have helped with organized mass escapes, like the one in Piedras Negras, on Monday, September 17, 2012, to free its members and supporters and replenish their organization in their war against the Gulf Cartel and to combat the Mexican military and police.
The Zetas control most of the prisons in the north and for the last four years, in complicity with their managers, have organized mass escapes in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Zacatecas and Coahuila. In their latest prison break, in Piedras Negras, 131 inmates escaped the Social Rehabilitation Center (Cereso) of Piedras Negras through the front doors.
During that time, the group’s criminal evasion, consisted of 546 organized thugs and sympathizers, according to figures from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security, which allowed them to replace their fallen members.
The leakage of Piedras Negras Cereso inmates took to the streets, where two buses were waiting to take them, admitted the state attorney, Homero Ramos Gloria, and the owner of the local Public Security, Jorge Luis Delgado Moran. The tunnels that they dug were only used as a screen to “cover up officials” who helped facilitate the escape.
The ruse did not work, so a Rio Grande judge issued a 40 day warrant against 16 prison officials identified as suspects of the crime of the escapes of the prisoners, including Cereso director, José Miguel Resendiz Perez, the head and Deputy Director of Security and Custody, Héctor Miguel Anguiano Saul Rosales and Francisco Ambriz Jacques and several guards.
According to state officials, several of the inmates were transferred to Tamaulipas and others sent to strengthen the Zetas in their war against the Gulf Cartel (CDG).
Another Zeta prison break was in the morning of February 19, 2012, in the Apodaca Prison, in Nuevo Leon, when 37 inmates climbed the tower and slipped six ropes to the street where gunmen were waiting for them in several trucks.
Previously, guards had taken 44 members of the CDG in ambulances to be beaten to death in the courtyard of the prison while guards gave the Zetas protection.
Nuevo Leon Governor, Rodrigo Medina Cruz, said the next day, that the custodians of ‘tower six’ were questioned. The officers and 29 prison guards, confessed to receiving money from Los Zetas cells to allow them luxuries; the freedom to sell drugs, extort internally and have parties with mariachis and women in the prison.
Jorge Domene, security spokesman for Nuevo Leon, said the prison director, Geronimo Miguel Andrés Martinez, received bribes from the Zetas of about $35,000 pesos per month, while the head of the guards got between $20,000 and $25,000. Shift managers and custodians were given around $10,000.
The fugitives were taken by Los Zetas to a ranch in the town of upstate, Anahuac. Among them were three ‘drug lords’, who were reassigned as regional managers of cells that were formed in the Monterrey metropolitan area and in rural municipalities of the state.
Among the leaders were Oscar Soriano Manuel Bernal, “El Spider”, Rogelio “Chacha” Quintanilla, “El Yeyo” and Jose Ricardo Barajas Lopez, “El Bocinas”. To date, 17 have been recaptured, including “El Yeyo” and two were killed in clashes with the military.
“El Bocinas” remains at large but the Mexican Army has him as the focal point for implementation of 49 people whose bodies were abandoned in Cadereyta, last May. They say he even recorded the execution with his cell phone and then uploaded the video to YouTube, where it was available for only a few hours.
The largest mass escape organized by Los Zetas occurred the morning of December 17, 2010 at the Center of sentencing (Cedes) of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas where two vehicles [a van and a school bus] were used to pick up 151 convicts. Days after, Gov. Eugenio Hernandez Flores, said the escape was carried out in collusion with the trustees: “It was a betrayal of the trust placed in them,” he said.
He reported that the director of the state prisons, Horacio Sepulveda, who was seventh in charge in his administration, and the director of Cedes, Efrain Hernandez [with only two months in office] were both found missing. Forty-one trustees of the Attorney General’s Office were charged with allegations regarding the prison escape.
On May 19, 2009 there was another mass prison escape in Cieneguillas, Zacatecas. This time 53 prisoners fled. The operation was documented in a video that showed the ease to which the Zetas have access to prison system and how easy it is for them to get their accomplices.
The outside cameras recorded the time in which 10 trucks arrived and were allowed inside the prison without showing any documents. The guards of the main entrance alerted, by radio to their superiors about the arrival of the convoy.
The Secretary, Carlos Pinto Nunez, said that the prison guards had facilitated the escape, “The guards didn’t even resist and left the cells unlocked making it easy for the prisoners to escape.”
A colonel who heads the operations of Special Forces in the country’s northeast region, described their identity; the exponential growth of Los Zetas during the administration of Vicente Fox.
At first, he says, the group was consolidated in Nuevo Laredo, where they were sent in 2001 by Osiel Cardenas to defend the city and prevent Edgar Valdez Villarreal “La Barbie” [who worked for the Sinaloa Cartel] and his sicarios, to settle in the area.
From there it spread rapidly to the main cities of that region and Nuevo Leon. The Zetas began recruiting members of the municipal police, who were in charge of caring for the ‘narco-tienditas’ that were reproducing like a fungus”, he says.
During the Fox administration, the CDG-Zetas dispute against their rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel and other smaller groups caused over 10 000 deaths, including police chiefs and other police officers. “At that stage, Los Zetas were within reach of hundreds of trained assassins in the municipal and state police departments.” He mentions that in some municipalities in the metropolitan area of Monterrey, the word “cartel” was synonymous with “law enforcement agencies”.
He began purging the police in Nuevo Leon, in the town of Garcia, where 99% of the police department were dismissed. [In Escobedo, 90%; In Guadeloupe, more than 70%; and in Santa Catarina and Monterrey, more than 60% were fired or prosecuted.]
Los Zetas changed their approach and began to recruit ‘hitmen’ and ‘halcones’ and strengthened their stakes with the street gangs in thousands of marginalized areas. There they found an endless vein of ‘cannon fodder’, but these street soldiers were inexperienced in handling firearms”, added the colonel. “Besides, the Zetas would easily replace these inexperienced gang members by recruiting them with new members from the prisons.”
The organization, Citizens in Support of Human Rights, founded on April 23, 1993 between the Christian based communities of Guadalupe City, Nuevo Leon, worked several years with the inmates in the penal institution.
Its director, Consuelo Morales, says that the members of that organization have left that job because the prisons are controlled by organized crime. Everyone knows, he says, that prison officials are working for the CDG and Los Zetas, either by threats or bribes.
The cartel capos inside the prison control everything in the prisons which includes every aspect of business from the drug trade, which includes trading at expensive prices, to charging for spaces on the floor to sleep. They have imposed a system of terror to the extent that families of prisoners must pay daily to avoid being hit.
In Topo Chico Prison, Zetas members get up to 15 million pesos every month for their illegal activities.
The Diocese of Saltillo, represented by Bishop Raul Vera Lopez, also has been performing pastoral work in the prisons, but in recent months his work has been hampered by the cartels.
“We know that the prisons of our region are in the power of organized crime. In nowhere else, in any other prisons in the world, have there been leaks like this.”
In regards to the prison break on Monday 17, in Piedras Negras, local media reporter, Vera Lopez, said, “Prisons have laws and governments themselves, imposed by organized crime, which causes suffering to the common criminals. There is no order of legality and justice, much less a state of law in which we can trust.”
“To change this situation”, she said “honesty is required in the administration of the prison system from the highest levels.”, She concluded “It is unfortunate the degree of disorder we have reached and it seems that things could go worse, and with the change of Political Administration, it doesn’t seem like the corruption is going to end.”