- By Robert Beckhusen
- he violence in the Mexican border state of Nuevo Leon began Tuesday morning and continued into Wednesday. By the end, 30 bodies had turned up around the state with bullet wounds or had been dismembered. The cause was attributed to a seemingly never-ending war between the Zeta drug cartel and their rivals. And that may only be a prelude. Miguel Angel Treviño, or “Z-40,” has seized the leadership of the cartel from longtime chief Heriberto Lazcano, according to the Associated Press, which describes the new boss as a “brutal assassin” who favors cooking his enemiesinside burning oil drums.For those unnerving reasons, the Zetas have come to define the violence of the drug war, and have lead the U.S. and Mexican governments scrambling to fight them. Arguably Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel, the Zetas are now estimated to operate in half of the country, if not more, and have expanded into Guatemala. Aside from unleashing violence, extortion and kidnapping across much of their territory, the Zetas are responsible for the February 2011 death of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon deployed 200 Marines to Guatemala in a sign the U.S. is getting more direct in going after the Zetas. The Pentagon stresses that the Marines will play a secondary role to the Guatemalans and are limited to merely tracking drug traffickers. But still, that’s a lot of Marines now operating in territory shared by the cartel. The U.S. also considers the operation to be only one part of a much larger strategy.
he war on drugs just got a whole lot more warlike. Two hundred U.S. Marines have entered Guatemala, on a mission to chase local operatives of the murderous Zeta drug cartel.
The Marines are now encamped after having deployed to Guatemala earlier this month, and have just “kicked off” their share of Operation Martillo, or Hammer. That operation began earlier in January, and is much larger than just the Marine contingent and involves the Navy, Coast Guard, and federal agents working with the Guatemalans to block drug shipment routes.
It’s a big shift for U.S. forces in the region. For years, the Pentagon has sent troops to Guatemala, but these missions have been pretty limited to exercising “soft power” — training local soldiers, building roads and schools. Operation Martillo is something quite different.
The news comes as two U.S. agents wounded in an attack in Mexico last week were discovered to be likely working for the CIA. The attack appears to be a case of mistaken identity after the agents fled from a Federal Police checkpoint, thinking the plain-clothed Mexican cops were cartel members. Police, seeing the agents’ bulletproof SUV flee their checkpoint, presumably thought the same thing, followed them and shot up their car. The agents have now been discovered as likely working for the CIA, as one of the wounded agents’ false identity was linked to a post office box in Virginia previously tied to CIA rendition flights.