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 travelers in San Fernando and the discovery, the following year, of graves containing the remains of hundreds more.
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.”
Check out the full report over at the National Security Archive.