Los Zetas (Zetas, Zs) is a powerful and violent criminal syndicate in Mexico, and is considered by the U.S. government to be the “most technologically advanced,
sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico.” The origins of Los Zetas date back to 1999, when commandos of the Mexican Army’s elite forces deserted
their ranks and decided to work as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, a powerful drug trafficking organization.
In February 2010, Los Zetas broke away from their former employer and formed their own criminal organization.
Los Zetas are well armed and equipped, and unlike other traditional criminal organizations in Mexico,
drug trafficking makes up at least 50% of their revenue, while a large portion of the income comes from other activities directed against both rival drug cartels
and civilians; their brutal tactics, which include beheadings, torture and indiscriminate slaughter,
show that they often prefer brutality over bribery. Los Zetas are also Mexico’s largest drug cartel in terms of geographical presence,
overtaking its bitter rival, the Sinaloa Cartel. Besides drug trafficking, Los Zetas operate through protection rackets, assassinations,
extortion, kidnappings, and other criminal activities. The organization is based in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, directly across the border from Laredo, Texas.
Colonel Bob Killebrew:
In the United States, we often make the mistake of thinking about the cartels as just drug pushers,
when they are actually military terrorist groups. They also deal in kidnapping, murder, extortion, all the crime you can do with a well-organized and ruthless group.
They have no social value, they have no social feeling, they follow no rules and their foot soldiers are young men who have basically decided
they are not going to survive in the world. They have no morals and no scruples.