Dane Schiller, Houston Chronicle, June 13, 2011
The elderly are killed. Young women are raped. And able-bodied men are given hammers, machetes and sticks and forced to fight to the death.
In one of the most chilling revelations yet about the violence in Mexico, a drug cartel-connected trafficker claims fellow gangsters have kidnapped highway bus passengers and forced them into gladiator-like fights to groom fresh assassins.
In an in-person interview arranged by intermediaries on the condition that neither his name nor the location of his Texas visit be published, the trafficker also admitted to helping push cocaine worth $5 million to $10 million a month into the United States.
Law enforcement sources confirm he is a cartel operative but not a fugitive from pending charges.
If what he says is true, gangsters who make commonplace beheadings, hangings and quartering bodies have managed an even crueler twist to their barbarity.
Members of the Zetas cartel, he says, have pushed passengers into an ancient Rome-like blood sport with a modern Mexico twist that they call, “Who is going to be the next hit man?”
“They cut guys to pieces,” he said.
The victims are likely among the hundreds of people found in mass graves in recent months, he said.
In the vicinity of the Mexican city of San Fernando, nearly 200 bodies were unearthed from pits, and authorities said most appeared to have died of blunt force head trauma.
Former and current federal law-enforcement officers in the U.S. said that while they knew Mexican bus passengers had been targeted for violence, they’d never before heard of forcing passengers into death matches.
But given the level of violence in Mexico–nearly 40,000 killed in gangland warfare over the past several years–they didn’t find it tough to believe.
Just on Thursday, authorities in Mexico said they arrested members of the Zetas and seized 201 automatic weapons, 600 camouflage uniforms and 30,000 rounds of ammunition.
“I am not defending the Sinaloa or the Gulf Cartel,” Juan said of the Zetas’ main rivals. “I earn more money with the Zetas, but I know the (crap) they do,” he said. “They brag about it.”
With the recent killing of the ICE agent and perhaps other attacks, the Zetas also are breaking the golden rule for Mexican traffickers: Don’t kill Americans, he said. It brings too much heat.