NVONews.Com News Desk,
Casualty-wise the bloodiest war in the world is going on just under the nose of the United States of America. Yet it is not making any big news in the global media.
Bloodletting between government forces and the drug cartels and among the cartels themselves in Mexico, has claimed about 55,000 lives in the past five years, including more than 3,000 police officers and soldiers. Last year alone 13,000 were killed.
This figure is much more than the casualties suffered in war-torn Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia yet the world attention did not get attracted towards it.
Curiously, Mexico is the southern neighbour of the United States and most of the bloody clashes have taken place not far away from its border.
The Zetas, a drug cartel formed in 1998 by 14 former Mexican soldiers, have grown to command more than 10,000 gunmen from the Rio Grande, on the border with Texas, to deep into Central America. They have displaced Mexico’s older cartels in many areas, giving them a dominant position in the multi-billion-dollar cross-border drug trade. At present it poses a bigger challenge to the government.
After the recovery of 49 headliess bodies recently the Mexican government forces, equipped with armoured Humvees and helicopters, have launched a crackdown against them.
The outlaws responded with a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault-rifle fire on federal police vehicle and soldiers.
In all 22 members of the Zetas drug cartel, two police officers and a soldier were dead, and 20 Zetas were in custody. Dozens more escaped to fight another day.
This battle flared up only 70 km south of the Texas border. It was only one of dozens like it in northeastern Mexico in recent months.
Zetas are involved in some of the worst atrocities in Mexico’s drug war, including the murders of hundreds of people whose bodies have been found in mass graves with alarming frequency, the massacre of 72 foreign migrant workers headed to the United States, and the burning of a casino that claimed 52 lives.
On Sunday last, Mexican soldiers said they had arrested Daniel Elizondo, a Zetas leader known as “The Madman,” as the alleged perpetrator of the massacre of 49 people.
Zetas were alleged to be behind the killing of US customs agent Jaime Zapata in Mexico in 2011. He was the first American agent to be murdered on duty here since the 1980s. The US government is offering a $5 million reward for the capture of the Zetas supreme commander, 37-year-old Heriberto Lazcano, alias “The Executioner”.
In the last month, the Zetas have also been linked to the decapitation of 18 people near Guadalajara and the hanging of nine in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. In those two cases, messages left at the scenes, signed by the Zetas, said the victims were rival traffickers.
The Zetas pose a bigger challenge to the government than older cartels because of the intensity of their attacks against security forces, their disregard for civilian life and the murderous habits that break the unspoken codes of older traffickers. The brutality has made their heartland in northeastern Mexico a no-go area for many businessmen and tourists.
Sources say the Zetas have more in common with insurgents than traditional gangs.
They now control more territory than the oldest and wealthiest trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman. They are creeping into the United States, too.