HomeNewsAnalysisZeta Testimony Solves Mystery of Mexico Bus Massacres
ANALYSIS

Zeta Testimony Solves Mystery of Mexico Bus Massacres

KIDNAPPING / 27 JUN 2011 BY STEVEN DUDLEY EN

The testimony of a captured member of the Zetas organization seems to have resolved the mystery of why that group decided to pull dozens of people off intermunicipal buses Tamaulipas, north Mexico, earlier this year -- then torture, murder, and bury them in mass graves.

The Zeta member, Edgar Huerta Montiel, alias “El Wache,” told authorities (see video below) that his group targeted the buses because they feared their rivals, the Gulf Cartel, were getting reinforcements from other states.

“They were orders from above, from [Zetas’ maximum commander Heriberto] Lazcano [that] because those guys were going to the enemy ... we had to get them off and investigate them,” he explained.

“Every day a bus came,” he continued, “And the ones who had nothing to do with it were freed. But those that did, they were killed.”

So far, 193 bodies have been found in more than 40 mass graves in Tamaulipas. The murders are blamed on the Zetas, the former armed wing of the Gulf Cartel. The two split definitively in 2010, after Gulf members killed a Zeta commander, then refused turn over the commander’s murderers.

The violent spasm that followed has engulfed two states: Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. There, the groups -- which both owe much of their development and fortitude to the numerous current and former Mexican security forces personnel on their payroll -- have waged a military-style fight, including the implementation of so-called “narco-tanks” (mostly refurbished dump trucks) to move large contingents of troops to battle zones.

mexico_sanfernando_zetasgulfThe Gulf Cartel’s stronghold (as shown in green in the map on the left) is along the northern border from Matamoros through Reynosa to the southern edge of Nuevo Laredo. In its fight against its former protege, it has teamed with the Familia Michoacana and the Sinaloa Cartel.

The Zetas, the core of which are former Mexican Special Forces, have responded by using their stronghold to the south (marked in red) and trying to cut off the Gulf's supply lines, which includes the municipality of San Fernando (next to the orange marker), a large, grassy flatland. Once known for drawing hunters from Texas, San Fernando has now become Mexico's killing field.

How did you know if they were part of the rival group, the official interrogating Huerta asks.

“The places they came from; the telephone, the messages,” the Zeta responds. “There were six buses, more or less.”

Huerta says the Zetas were particularly worried about buses from Michoacan and Durango, from where the Familia and Sinaloa Cartels may have been dispatching the reinforcements.

Huerta’s testimony coincides with others. He says, for example, that he gave orders to Martin Omar Estrada Luna, alias “El Kilo,” a former gang leader who spent part of his formative years in Washington state accumulating a criminal record but seems to have graduated to new level of terror once descending into Mexico.

Estrada was arrested in April, and Mexican intelligence officials told InSight that he took orders from Alejandro Treviño Morales, alias “Z-42,” the brother of the organization’s other top commander Miguel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40.”

The other commander in this equation, Salvador Alfonso Martínez Escobedo, alias “La Ardilla,” who Huerta says was his direct boss and who Mexican authorities say is the head of the Zetas in Tamaulipas, remains at large.

Huerta’s testimony appears credible, logical and seems to resolve the key question surrounding the mass murders that were going on earlier this year: Who targeted the buses and why.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 5 MAY 2014

Authorities in Tijuana, Mexico have seized 44 tons of marijuana, indicating that despite an increased reliance on Caribbean and Pacific…

EL CHAPO / 1 NOV 2011

The myths and rumors about fugitive Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin Guzman, alias 'El Chapo,' have reached the point where it…

KIDNAPPING / 24 JAN 2013

A French national has been freed after after a Mexican court overturned her 60-year sentence for belonging to a kidnapping…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…

THE ORGANIZATION

Coverage of Fallen Paraguay Prosecutor Makes Headlines

20 MAY 2022

The murder of leading anti-crime prosecutor, Marcelo Pecci, while on honeymoon in Colombia, has drawn attention to the evolution of organized crime in Paraguay. While 17 people have been arrested…