As the drug war continues at Mexico’s northern border, the violence of the south seems to be overlooked. The situation has gotten so bad that a even priest helping shelter Guatemalan migrants is asking police for protection.
In Mexico’s poorest region, which includes the southern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and others, groups claiming to be part of the Zetas drug cartel have set up crime networks, as they did in the north, to control the routing of migrants, drugs, and other contraband. Parts of northern Guatemala have been infiltrated by the group as well, and they’ve have intimidated the local population by gruesomely murdering people to give examples of what happens to anyone considering resisting the groups’ control.
Both street vendors and the wealthy have been kidnapped and subjected to extortion in the capital, Oaxaca City. Last year the organization became the prime suspects in the disappearance of more than 40 Central American migrants in the south, and the massacre of 72 migrants in the north.
The disappearance of the 40 from Central America drew international attention, as the El Salvadoran foreign ministry reported the crime to Mexican officials, who denied the incident ever happened. The travelers were last seen near Ixtepec on December 16th. After being kidnapped, 20 of the travelers escaped, and received shelter from Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, who after learning the kidnappers had ties to the Zetas, sought protection, and now has police patrol outside the shelter.
Mexico’s government says the Zetas operate similar to a franchise in that they send one person to an area to recruit local criminals and/or force people to fight with them. The cartel is different than others, because they don’t settle and fight for specific areas. Instead, they branch out, and fight to take as much as they can, anywhere they can. According to Washington think tank, Grupos Savant, as of 2008, the Zetas had operations going in 28 of Mexico’s major cities.