Humberto, left, and Rubén Moreira. Humberto, left, and Rubén Moreira.

In state of Coahuila, Los Zetas in control

Report reveals extent of cartel's hold based on analysis of trial witness testimonies

The powerful drug cartel Los Zetas gained near complete control over the state of Coahuila between 2007 and 2013 through the use of violence and by bribing state authorities — including consecutive governors — with millions of dollars, according to a binational report released yesterday.


Completed by the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas (UT) and the Fray Juan de Lario Human Rights Center in Coahuila, the report called “Control . . . Over the Entire State of Coahuila” is based on an analysis of witness testimonies at federal criminal trials against Zetas members between 2013 and 2016 in three Texas cities.

Both former governor Humberto Moreira Valdés and his brother and current Governor Rubén Moreira Valdés received large cash payments from the notorious criminal organization in exchange for ceding control of the northern border state to it, the report says.

In one testimony, Piedras Negras accountant Rodrigo Uribe Tapia, who worked for Los Zetas, said that he personally delivered two cash payments for the current state governor of US $2 million. One was made via the governor’s secretary, Vicente Chaires, and the other via state Attorney General Jesús Torres Charles.

Suitcases full of cash were used to transport similar payments made during the administration of Humberto Moreira, who held office from 2005 to 2011.

Rubén Moreira, who took office for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 2011 and is nearing the end of his term, denies any involvement with the cartel.

The cartel’s bribery payments were not just aimed at the upper echelons of the state’s government, the report concluded.


The director of the UT Human Rights Clinic said that analysis of the court documents found that its corruption was endemic across all areas of the state’s governance apparatus.

“We found connections and collusion between the Zetas and authorities of Coahuila at all levels of government, from municipalities and police chiefs up to the current and previous governors of the state,” Ariel Dulitzky said.

The cartel’s broad penetration of the power structure allowed it to operate freely across the state and there is evidence that police officers were not just paid to look the other way but to actively engage in cartel activities such as fighting its rivals, the report concluded.

The organization particularly focused on municipalities that border the United States, presumably to facilitate the flow of drugs and other contraband including high-caliber firearms at the most critical point.

The only authority that reportedly obstructed its otherwise free rein was the Navy, but the cartel’s use of helicopters belonging to official law enforcement agencies in the state helped it to avoid their patrols, Uribe Tapia said.

Other witnesses recounted that Los Zetas controlled many of the state’s correctional facilities including the Piedras Negras Prison, which it used as an extermination camp between December 2009 and January 2012. At least 150 people were incinerated at the penitentiary and a massive prison break also occurred there in January 2012.

The report also concluded that human rights abuses became common during the cartel’s reign and that authorities were complicit in both the execution of the crimes and the impunity they enjoyed.

Adolescents were forcibly recruited to become sicarios — hired assassins or hitmen — for the cartel, and rates for both homicide and forced disappearance surged, making it one of Coahuila’s most violent periods on record.

Three hundred people were murdered in the town of Allende alone between March and April 2011, homicides that were allegedly revenge attacks on former cartel members who had begun to collaborate with other cartels or the U.S. government. Authorities didn’t start investigating the cases until 2014.

The murders were particularly gruesome with reports of victims being dismembered while still alive before being incinerated or dissolved in acid.

A member of an organization seeking justice for the victims and their families says that the effects of the bloody period are still felt today.

“It was hell, but we’re still suffering from it, day by day, night by night,” María Elena Salazar told BBC Mundo.

Her son disappeared eight years ago during the wave of violence and she hasn’t heard anything about him since.

But according to Ariel Dulitzky, details that emerged in the criminal trials held in Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio could help to solve some of the missing persons cases.

“The United States government has information that it should share with the Mexican government and independent civil society organizations,” he said.

All of the Zetas members who faced trial were found guilty and received sentences for their crimes, which included homicides, the trafficking of drugs and weapons and money laundering.

The joint binational report also concluded that there is clear evidence that Los Zetas are operating across Texas as well as other U.S. cities including Chicago and Atlanta as well as in the states of California, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Source: Houston Chronicle (en), BBC Mundo (sp)

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  • Güerito

    This is why I’ve been saying for a while that both Humberto and Rubén Moreira (PRI) must face charges of Crimes Against Humanity in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

    The same is true of the two recent governors of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera Beltrán and Javier Duarte (PRI), both of whom presided over the Zeta reign of terror in that state that resulted in hundreds of bodies found in mass graves and thousands of Central American immigrants kidnapped and extorted, with many later being murdered.

  • Mike S

    As long as there is a $50 billion a year demand for hard drugs by US addicts, nothing will change. Money and guns will flow south, drugs will flow North. Americans are slowly destroying Mexican society. We can not expect Mexico to solve this problem by themselves. We need to start mandatory drug education classes in all schools on both sides of the border and we need to replace incarceration with rehabilitation. Those who can not succeed in kicking their habits should be given prescription medication to take the profit and petty dealing out of the problem. After 30 years and a trillion dollars of fighting the “War on Drugs”, hard drugs are cheaper and more plentiful than ever. What is the definition of insanity….

    • Güerito

      It’s unlikely hard drugs (cocaine, heroin, meth) will ever be legalized in either country, but the US is further along the path to marijuana legalization than is Mexico. Paradoxically, this is probably causing an increase in violence in Mexico, as cartels (or former cartels) try to make up for the decrease in revenue once brought in by pot. They’re losing billions a year to legal pot in the US.

      Criminal groups in Mexico have responded by increasing local sales of pot and meth in Mexico. Much of the sharp rise in violence in Mexico in the last couple years is related to disputes for the control of this local retail drug trade.

      Mexico has lost 12% of the marijuana market to legal sales. Pot production is down in Mexico, but drug use (pot and meth) is up nearly 50% in the last five years. Mexico is developing its own addiction problem for the first time in history:

      Mexican criminal groups now rely more on extracting income from the local Mexican population through kidnapping, extortion, pipeline theft, illegal logging, truck cargo theft, train robberies, etc. I’ve posted this many times here, but I’m just reporting what the evidence and the experts are saying:

      ‘Los Zetas Inc.’ Author on Why Mexico’s Drug War Isn’t About Drugs

      “Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, spent seven years researching and conducting interviews for the book in some of the most dangerous regions of the country, including Tamaulipas and Veracruz. Correa-Cabrera looks at organized crime from an economic perspective and argues that the term “drug cartel” is outmoded: The Zetas and groups like them have morphed into transnational corporations with interests in everything from coal mining and the extraction of oil and gas to cornering the market on avocados.

      ‘Groups like the Zetas are not even drug cartels anymore in the traditional sense. They are more like a transnational company with many branches, including the politicians, the migrant smugglers, the sicarios [hitmen] and the money launderers,’ according to Correo-Cabrera.

      ‘My father had a lumber mill in the state of Michoacan. In 2006, the Zetas arrived. My father and many other business owners received a phone call demanding that they pay the Zetas money for protection. My father ignored the first call. Then he received another call threatening my brother, who was helping run the lumber mill. My father made the decision not to pay. And he and my brother were forced to abandon the lumber mill and leave Michoacan.’

      At the heart of her book is the idea that the drug war isn’t really about drugs, it’s about controlling territory and resources.

      ‘I started mapping the different conflicts in Tamaulipas. And when I looked at the GIS maps, it showed me a different kind of pattern than I expected — an expansion into places that weren’t really necessary for drug trafficking but where there were natural resources. A lot of the violence coincided with the Cuenca de Burgos [the southernmost reach of the Eagle Ford shale that extends into northern Mexico]. In 2010, there were media reports of the Zetas stealing oil and selling it to companies in the United States. I also found conflicts in other regions of Mexico, where there is coal, copper, water and gold.

      When I was doing my research in Tamaulipas and speaking to citizens there, no one ever talked about drugs. What they talked about was the military, about natural resources and about extortion.

      For instance, in the state of Coahuila, you see connections between [former governor] Humberto Moreira and the Zetas. There’s a lot of documentation about the state-owned electric company buying coal from the Zetas, then turning around and selling energy to the federally owned power company. Obviously, a lot of these criminal organizations have grown thanks to the support of the Mexican authorities. Federal, state and local authorities have been involved in criminal activities and have facilitated the operation and expansion of these paramilitary groups.’

      How can Mexico end this conflict? (pay attention, Mike S.)

      ‘Two things: Mexico needs to change its strategy to fight organized crime, because the militarization strategy has not given the desired results. The second is a fierce battle against corruption with the maximum punishment and penalties against politicians and federal authorities, including members of the armed forces, who have operated hand in hand with the criminal organizations. We need to fight corruption from the top down and imprison those who are responsible for this crisis in Mexico. We need to see them in jail, so it sends a clear message to everyone that the corruption will no longer be tolerated.'”

      And the irony here is that cartels like the Sinaloa (or Pacific) cartel, which have largely stuck to trafficking illegal drugs to the US, do not engage in these other newer activites that affect the Mexican civilian population.

      • Mike S

        I fully understand that once organized crime gets a hold in a society, it will often branch out into other criminal activities such as extortion, protection, kidnapping, industrial theft, gambling, human trafficking, prostitution, bribing police & politicians. etc. Anything for easy money without regards to morals- totally ruthless. Nevertheless, that $50 billion in annul raw drug income is what spawns it and feeds the cancer more than anything else. I personally know a family that refused to pay a cut of their large avocado crop to a cartel 4 years ago and the father and and his 3 sons were abducted and never heard from again. It was tragic. It took the US 40 years to finally root out the mafia that formed during Prohibition. This problem is a lot deeper rooted and brutal. I think the US should help Mexico confront this problem and give them all the vetted aid necessary. Insulting Mexico and a wall will only make matters worse and do nothing about the drug income.

    • Joshua Rodriguez

      Amazingly said couldn’t have said it better!!!!!

    • As long as there is a corrupt Mexican government in place this will continue to be a problem. Your analogy makes as much sense as blaming Chinese opium addicts for Britain’s forced opening of Chinese markets to the opium trade in the 1850s.

      • Mike S

        It is the billions in cash flowing south into a poor country from a rich one that causes the corruption in the first place. Mexico has no control over our addicts that are mostly spawned by Big Pharma and their MD sales representatives AND our emphasis on punishment over rehabilitation.. Can’t you see that? The Chinese/Indian/British-Empire opium dynamic was quite different. British Empire Mercantilism and colonization was laissez faire capitalism run amok without a moral compass. We have to get a handle on our out-of-control hard drug usage. Where there is strong demand and huge profits- that demand will be met and the unread narcissist in the White House hasn’t a clue except scape goating others.

  • David Nichols

    Mexicans are destroying Mexican society…Americans are destroying American society…
    And on both sides of the border this decline is abetted by the Liberal proclivity to tolerate all manner of illegality and immorality… Fix that problem and you may fix the drug problem, but the cartels are not going to go away just because you put a kink in their drug sales—they have expanded far beyond drugs.

    • Mike S

      “And on both sides of the border this decline is abetted by the Liberal proclivity to tolerate all manner of illegality and immorality… Fix that problem and you may fix the drug problem,”

      …is a total jackass statement. Liberal Denmark and conservative Saudi Arabia do not have these kinds of problems. This is not a “conservative” vs “liberal” problem although liberals would probably be better at solving it. Solving this problem is going to require complex solutions and lots of leadership, courage, and perseverance. A white collar gangster like Trump hasn’t a clue.

      • David Nichols

        The “jackass statement” is trying to buttress your pathetic argument by suggesting there is some relevancy to the situation between the USA and Mexico and the internal situations in Denmark and Saudi Arabia…
        Even a superficial acquaintance with a world map would inform you that these countries by and large don’t have any significant border issues… Denmark because of water, Saudi Arabia because they are the big dog in their region and punish even minor transgressions by lopping of the heads of the offenders…
        President Trump is working hard to clean up the mess the incompetent apologist, #44, left behind, with his open border policies, fast and furious gun running into Mexico, and support of sanctuary cities…
        All of these Liberal policies had the effect of exacerbating the drug problem in the USA, and the violence problem in Mexico…
        As to your laughable comment that “liberals would probably be better at solving it” I suggest you then explain why 8 years of liberal control under Obama policies only saw the situation worsen…

        • Mike S

          You missed my whole point that the drug problem is not a result of whether one is ideologically liberal or conservative. So far Trump has done nothing to help solve either the drug problem in the US or the violence in MX. Insults and a wall and terminating NAFTA will not solve this problem. Opiod deaths in the US are at crisis levels mostly mostly caused by US Big Pharma & helped along by Mx drug cartels. Nero tweets while 60,000 die. Dept of Alcohol, Firearms, & Tobacco has been a rogue, corrupt, gestapo organization for 25 years….it didn’t start with Obama. I don’t see Mussolini Trump reigning it in.

          • David Nichols

            No Mike, I didn’t miss your point, I dismissed it as invalid and pointed out that eight years of Liberal policies exacerbated the problems…So it is, and always will be, a Liberal vs Conservative issue. Liberals tend to formulate public policy from their hearts, Conservatives tend to formulate public policy from their brains.
            Your excuse for Democratic failure that “it didn’t start with Obama” is sophistry at best, and ignorance at worst…
            Following that line of “reasoning” you would have to then acknowledge that it didn’t start with Trump, and give him a pass as well…
            BTW. Your sophomoric perjoratives (Nero, Mussolini, gestapo) only serve to reflect poorly on your intelligence, but doubtless garner applause in the echo chamber of the idelogically driven Left…

          • Mike S

            So then a narcissist like Trump who is totally unread and regularly states that he governs from his “gut feelings and instincts” is not a “conservative” according to your definition. Trump has solved nothing except in his mind and the minds of his gullible cult following. Drug addiction and criminality crosses all ideological lines. Things have gotten worse under Trump and his leadership style is counter productive and shallow. Obama reversed the heavy handed incarceration rates for petty drug users and emphasized rehabilitation. Sessions wants to reverse that. Illegal immigration and number of undocumented residents declined under Obama. Fast & Furious was launched under Bush and when its failure came to light, Obama reigned in that whole part of ADF. We are in a SERIOUS opiod crisis and Trump does nothing and tweets like the buffoon he is.

          • David Nichols

            Sure Mike, its Trump’s fault…now take your medicine and relax…

          • Mike S

            We have an opiod crisis in the US and a violent organized crime crisis in Mx. We need intelligent, creative, cooperative, and immediate leadership that may cost money to solve. What we have is a narcissistic, insulting, unread, vindictive buffoon with a gullible cult following who wants to somehow see this in “white nationalist” terms that can be solved by a wall and more incarceration of users. When it was mostly a black problem, nobody cared but now that it is a white problem too, somebody needs to be scapegoated in Trump’s world. This is a serious health and a growing crime problem that has grown exponentially in recent years. We need to look at the whole problem in all its complexity- Big Pharma, punishment vs rehabilitation, education, private prisons, China, Afghanistan, Mexico, and other players and come up with long-term multi pronged simultaneous responses. Put you right-wing ideology aside and forget about your stupid wall and your insults to the Mexican people.

          • Commander Barkfeather

            A moment ago, when I wrote that it was “all Obama’s fault,” I was being snarky. I did not realize that Mr. Nichols actually, sincerely believes his own malarkey. I apologize.

          • David Nichols

            As well you should…
            Malarkey icon, malarkey nom de plume…typical of those who enjoy spouting off as long as they can remain anonymous…
            What you “didn’t realize” is that reading comprehension is not your forte…I’ll try to make it simple enough for you…
            Mike S. chose the excuse that “it didn’t start with Obama” and I pointed out that if Obama gets a pass because the problem didn’t start with him, then Mike would have to give Trump a pass for the same reason…it’s called being consistent and intellectually honest–something you are unfamiliar with…

    • Commander Barkfeather

      That’s right! It’s all Obama’s fault!

  • WestCoastHwy

    Over and over and over again, either Sh*t or get of the pot. Yes Mexico is corrupt; yes Mexico functions with a corrupted government; yes Mexico can not remove this corruption from it’s system because the system administrators are corrupt, so what’s the big deal? Either bark like the Big Dogs or get off the porch.
    As my granddaddy once told me…….if your environment is wet and cold, wear long johns and a mac.