Photo: Los Zetas
Guatemalan security officials are on alert for increased violence stemming from an alleged split in the leadership of Mexico’s notorious Los Zetas drug cartel, authorities said.
The country’s security forces have “specific plans amid the possibility of clashes” between the two purported factions, Deputy Interior Minister Julio Rivera told local media.
The official gave no details on the “contingency plan” that Guatemala’s National Police and army have devised to respond to possible clashes, but he said the security presence has been bolstered in border areas and in regions where the Zetas are known to have operated for more than four years.
In remarks to Efe, an Interior Ministry spokesperson said the government fears the alleged split will trigger an increase in violence in Guatemala, but gave no details on the security forces’ plans.
The violent Los Zetas mob has been torn in two by a power struggle pitting top bosses Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca,” and Miguel Angel Treviño, alias “Z-40,” Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre reported Tuesday.
Clashes between gunmen from the two factions have left more than 100 dead in recent weeks in Mexico, but thus far the fighting has not spilled over into Guatemala, Rivera said.
More than 100 Zetas members have been captured and at least 42 sentenced to prison terms by Guatemalan courts since 2008, when Zetas cells began operating in the Central American country to control drugs routes running from South America to the United States.
The Zetas, a group founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained Mexican special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but those two criminal organizations had a falling out in 2010 and the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account, gaining control of several lucrative territories.
Even in the violent world of Mexican organized crime, the Zetas stand out for their propensity to dismember the bodies of their victims.
The Zetas and Mexico’s other drug cartels have expanded into kidnapping, extortion, piracy and other criminal enterprises in recent years.