Mexican authorities have arrested a Zetas boss accused of dumping 49 mutilated bodies in Nuevo Leon earlier this month, suggesting that either the group was carrying out a complicated double bluff by denying the crime, or that there was some kind of communication breakdown.
Daniel de Jesus Elizondo Ramirez, alias "El Loco" was arrested by the armed forces on Friday, and paraded before the press Monday. The authorities say that he is the boss of the Cadereyta "plaza," or drug trafficking territory, where the bodies were found a week previously.
General Edgar Luis Villegas Melendez, deputy head of the Defense Department (Sedena), said that Zetas boss Heriberto Lazcano ordered El Loco to dump the bodies in Cadereyta, reports Milenio. According to the official, El Loco admitted that the massacre was ordered by Lazcano and his second-in-command Miguel Angel Treviño, "Z-40," as well as the Zetas boss in Nuevo Leon Zetas, alias "El Morro." (Watch Villegas' speech, below.)
Villegas said that the Zetas bosses planned the killing in order to incriminate their rivals and destabilize the area. He claimed they also planned in advance that they would place public banners denying their responsibility, in order to confuse the authorities and the public. This would explain why military officials arrested eight alleged members of the Gulf Cartel on May 17, claiming that the men were linked to the massacre.
El Loco was originally instructed to leave the bodies in the town's main square, but decided to place them on the highway instead, fearing the response from the authorities if the bodies were found in his territory.
El Loco was one of those named in a video showing the dumping of the bodies, which was signed "Sincerely, Loco, Z-40 and Comandante Lazcano." The message in the video is thought to be the same text found at the site.
InSight Crime Analysis
According to the government's theory, the Zetas would have had to carry out a complicated double bluff. First, dumping the bodies with a note admitting their guilt, which contained a deliberate stylistic departure from their previous communiques, and then leaving further messages around the country pointing to this error as evidence that the killing was actually carried out by their enemies in order to frame them.
This seems unlikely, even for a group that aims to sow chaos and fear. It is possible that there was some kind of communication or leadership failure within the organization, and that the killing was carried out by the local Zetas cell without the full authorization of the leadership. Another possibility is that the leaders did authorize it, but backed away once they saw the scale of the government's response.
The leadership forced an operative to surrender after the killing of US agent Jaime Zapata last year, fearing reprisals from the US and Mexican governments, according to testimony from a captured member. An InSight Crime source gave a slightly different version of events, saying that Lazcano had simply ordered his forces to stop protecting the man responsible. The gang may have turned in El Loco for similar reasons, perhaps betraying his location to army contacts, though this would not explain why he reportedly told the government that his bosses had ordered the killings.
The fact that El Loco reportedly defied his bosses' instructions, however, placing the bodies on the highway instead of the town square, points to a breakdown in authority structures within the group.