Mexican authorities arrested local officials who they accused of aiding a criminal group's assassination of state investigators in the "Red Triangle," an area of the Puebla state that has become a battleground for control of the lucrative oil theft business.
Authorities discovered the bodies of three investigators from the anti-kidnapping unit of the Puebla state prosecutor's office on March 9, reported Animal Político. The officials working on a kidnapping case were attacked in the Atzitzintla municipality, Puebla, and their corpses were dumped in the neighboring state of Veracruz.
The incident sparked a massive operation, as the government dispatched 500 security personnel, which led to a string of arrests, including that of Atzitzintla's mayor and five municipal police officers. Authorities believe that the officials arrested the three state investigators before delivering them to a Zetas-linked criminal group called "Los Bucanans," which executed the victims, according to Central de Puebla.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Oil Theft
The Bucanans structure was reportedly involved in the oil theft business and operated in the Red Triangle, an area comprised of nearly 30 Puebla municipalities with a high concentration of attacks on oil pipelines. According to Animal Político, Puebla was the state with the greatest number of oil theft incidents during the first semester of 2016.
This lucrative illicit activity appears to have spurred a war between the Zetas operating in Veracruz and the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco - Nueva Generación - CJNG) who controls the oil theft in Puebla, according to Central de Puebla.
The conflict caused the death of 30 people in the Red Triangle this year and led to similar violence in Veracruz, as both criminal organizations vied for control over territory.
Reports indicate that the conflict began in August 2016, when Jesús Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán, a.k.a "El Mochomito," the now-incarcerated leader of the Beltrán Leyva Organization (BLO), ruptured an alliance previously held with elements of the CJNG in the area.
InSight Crime Analysis
There are two major takeaways from this incident. One, that oil theft may generate much more revenue than any other local illegal activity for criminal organizations. The most recent estimates are that oil theft in Mexico generated an astounding $1.5 billion in profits in 2016.
Two, corrupt officials continue to play a crucial role for organized crime.
SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles
In addition, the reported rupture of the alliance between the BLO and the CJNG could have further degraded an already volatile situation. Shifting criminal alliances and the subsequent evolution in power status between rival groups are potent drivers of violence, providing for opportunistic criminal expansion or retaliation.