Cartel Violence Flares in Mexico's Zacatecas
On January 6th, 10 bodies were discovered in an abandoned Mazda CX-9 SUV at the Plaza de Armas in the capital of Zacatecas. Among the deceased were eight men, six of whom were between the ages of 21 to 29, and two women, one of whom was 29 years of age. The bodies were first discovered in the early morning after emergency calls were received concerning a gray SUV left in front of the government palace of Zacatecas. In addition to this, an individual was reported exiting the vehicle and heading towards the alley of Las Campanas. Upon investigation, the bodies were found bruised and with their hands and legs tied. Autopsies confirmed that seven out of the ten victims’ cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation. The cause of death for the other three victims has yet to be confirmed.
Within ten hours of the incident, it was reported by multiple news sources that individuals were arrested in connection to the bodies. Reports vary, however, as some state that two individuals were arrested while others report that the number of arrests is unknown at the moment and that the men responsible belonged to Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). After the confirmation of the arrests by the Fiscalía General de Justicia de Zacatecas (FGJ) and the Fiscalía General de la República (FGR), Governor David Monreal released a video to inform the public of the arrests but abstained from revealing any details, claiming he did not wish to hinder the ongoing investigation.
(Mazda CX-9 being taken away to be further investigated)
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador spoke on the incident, claiming it was a clear act of provocation, but that overall, the state of Zacatecas has seen a decrease in violence, with homicides involving organized crime decreasing by 45% in the past 25 days as reported by the Mexican Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), although as for how long that decrease will persist is yet to be seen.
To combat the ever-increasing violence in the state, Operation Zacatecas II was initiated on the 25th of November 2021, deploying a total of 3,848 law enforcement and active military personnel in addition to the 6,101 already operating within Zacatecas (2,114 Military and Airforce personnel, 1,800 National Guard, 930 State Forces, and 1,257 Municipal Police). Of these, 1,940 have been sent towards the center of the state, 804 towards the north, and 1,401 to the south. In addition, 8,214 military members will aid the operation from San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, and Jalisco, with each state sending 90 military members for a total of 360 personnel to secure the outer limits of Zacatecas.
Zacatecas has been added to the ever-growing list of states hosting an active narco-conflict due to its heavily used trafficking routes, along with its proximity to the Triángulo Dorado (Golden Triangle) that has been a main hub of operations for the Sinaloa Cartel covering the states of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua. With its proximity to the Golden Triangle, it's not surprising to see the Cartel de Sinaloa (CDS) Mayo Zambada faction entering the state of Zacatecas to obtain and maintain control, although they are not the only group operating within the state that’s a party to the ongoing conflict.
The current groups known to be active within Zacatecas are as follows:
● Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG)
● Cartel del Noreste (CDN)
● Los Talibanes (aka Los Nortes)
● Cartel de Sinaloa (CDS)
● Cartel del Golfo (CDG)
Regarding the larger groups (CDS, CDN, CJNG, etc.), there exist smaller groups or cells of sicarios that operate under their umbrella and are often sent out to different areas to combat rival groups and claim territory.
Known cells currently operating within the state of Zacatecas:
● Group Guerrero (CJNG)
● Group operating under Comandante Fantasma (CJNG)
● Group Delta (CJNG)
● Group Sierra (CJNG)
● Group under Sapo 090 (CJNG)
● Group under Señor Flores (CJNG)
● Group Flechas (CDS MZ Faction)
● Group Operating Under Comandante Escorpión (CDS MZ Faction)
● Los Cabrera (CDS MZ Faction)
While it is yet to be seen if any improvements have been made with the ongoing Zacatecas II operation, the important matter is maintaining the reduced level of violence after the operation has ended. As for nine municipalities within Zacatecas lacking a police force of any kind (Melchor Campo, Mazapil, Apulco, Loreto, Monte Escobedo, Cuauhtémoc, Tepetongo, Villa García, Villa Hidalgo), which are however sufficiently defended by the recently deployed National Guard, the fact that these municipalities lack any formal law enforcement outside of active military operations helps maintain the fear of groups re-entering or forming after the government forces leave the area.