NR: "This is an LA street gang on steroids, with real training, real expertise. This is the ultimate law enforcement nightmare."
August 08, 2009
Don Lemon showed the piece on "Los Zetas" from Wednesday, followed by a live Q&A with Michael from Mexico City.
DON LEMON: CNN's Michael Ware joins us now from Mexico City.
So, Michael, tell us about these Los Zetas. Where do they come from? Who are they? Is there -- is there a comparable term here in the U.S., maybe like the Green Berets?
MICHAEL WARE: Well, that's it precisely, Don. I mean, essentially, these guys were made of a group of Mexican Green Berets, who deserted the military in the 1990s. So if you can possibly imagine an outfit, a platoon of American Green Berets go rogue and like here with the Zetas, they then offer their services as enforcers to a drug cartel.
Now, that was in the 90s. Since then, Los Zetas have grown. They developed more muscle. They developed an intelligence network that rivals almost any military organization operating in this country. And originally, they were providing security services to one of the major cartels known as the Gulf Cartel.
Well, just a couple of years ago, Los Zetas turned around and said to themselves, hang on, why are we taking orders?
And so what we've seen in the last two or three years is Los Zetas have stepped up themselves and they've become a cartel in their own right. And as the Drug Enforcement Agency says, they're the bloodiest, they're the most sophisticated, they're the most brutal and, by far and away, Los Zetas are the most fearsome cartel in Mexico.
LEMON: Well, that brings us to this question then. What is their relationship, if they have any, with other cartels? Or do they think they're going to take over the entire place there? They're going to take over Mexico and become the only cartel?
WARE: Well, every cartel has that aspiration. They'd certainly love to dominate this business. For that's what it is, Don. This is a multibillion dollar business that operates here in Mexico supplying America with its demand of elicit drugs.
Now, Los Zetas don't have a chance of monopolizing this entire industry. I mean, there's essentially seven large cartels. I mean, there's a whole proliferation and there's alliances within alliances. There's double-dealing. There's betrayals. But by and large, we have these major factions that are constantly brawling and battling it out for control of this business.
And indeed, on average just this year alone, 570 Mexicans have been dying every single month. But by and large, that's cartel on cartel violence. That does not, of course, exclude the possibilities like we see far too often here -- the target may be a cartel member sitting in a restaurant, but when the hit team comes in that restaurant, they just spray it full of bullets and the family sitting next to the target gets killed as well, Don.
LEMON: Oh, boy, that's unfortunate. You said in your story there, Michael, that, you know, the Zetas openly recruit members of the Mexican military. What about the government? What do they have to say? Do they have the power, the will, the resources to fight against the Zetas?
WARE: Listen, Washington doesn't have the power or the will or the resources to fight against Los Zetas. What do you think the Mexican government can do?
As the recruitment openly says in posters and banners, by word of mouth, "we offer better pay, we offer better benefits, you've got much greater chance of promotion, a much greater career."
It's a very appealing option. And let's not forget, they're recruiting not just soldiers and currently serving members of the military, but even teenagers and kids from the barrio. Now, another cartel will just put an M16 in their hand and send them off.
What Los Zetas do is classic Green Beret techniques. You train the trainer. A Green Beret teaches a recruit how to be a Green Beret, and then teaches that recruit how to teach others how to be a Green Beret.
That's why you have the Drug Enforcement Agency, the man in Washington whose directing America's fight here against Los Zetas saying to me, the Los Zetas operate more like an American infantry company walking the streets of Fallujah in Iraq than they do any kind of criminal network.
This is an LA street gang on steroids, with real training, real expertise. This is the ultimate law enforcement nightmare, Don.
LEMON: All right. CNN's Michael Ware. Michael, we're talking about billions and billions of dollars a year with drug cartel money, upwards of $40 billion. We appreciate you joining us, Michael. Stay safe.
WARE: Thank you, Don.