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In a land torn by decades of bloody battles between law enforcement and drug cartels, few people can imagine a worse scenario than two of the most powerful drug gangs in Central America teaming up against their persecutors – and their rivals. But based on compelling evidence from courtroom data, arrest records, clandestine recordings and criminals-turned-witnesses, this is apparently exactly what has happened; the greatly feared Zetas cartel and the Maras drug gang have gone into business together.
The Zetas cartel originated in Mexico in the late 90’s as part of the powerful Gulf Cartel, but splintered off as an independent organization after a series of turf wars with the more established cartel that left scores of people – including many innocent civilians – missing or dead. In the decade since, Zetas has evolved into one of the most highly organized and technologically advanced cartels in the world, and the largest cartel in Mexico.
South of Mexico in the equally drug-torn nation of Guatemala, the Maras cartel controls much of the country. Historically far less sophisticated than Los Zetas, the Maras drug gang numbers in the thousands of members and is responsible not only for a large majority of the drug trafficking that take places throughout much of Central America, but also carries out extortion, racketeering, kidnapping, murder, theft, rape and many other crimes. The Maras present a significant threat the stability of the region.
And now, the two groups are reportedly merging. Zetas has been providing paramilitary style training to Maras members, and cooperation between the groups has increased significantly in recent months. According to an article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, this deal has provided Maras with weapons and equipment, while Zetas has gained valuable foot soldiers and information. The article quoted the head of a Guatemalan drug task force as saying;
“As a result of this union with the Zetas, the Mara Salvatrucha have more ability to organize, strategize and maneuver,” Velasco said. “The Mara Salvatrucha want to build up their inventory of long-range weapons, grenades and drugs for their own use and for sale … they know the economic benefit is great for them and that the Zetas, as an outside group, need the Maras’ network in order to grow inside Guatemala.” (1)
Authorities in Mexico, Guatemala and the US have stated that cooperation between these two violent drug cartels will likely undermine law enforcement efforts aimed primarily at disruption the flow of drugs to the United States. This is an especially troubling concern considering that an alarmingly small percentage of all drugs transported through Central America are actually consumed there – nearly all of it goes to the US.
Between both Zetas and Maras, the groups are responsible for the murders of hundreds of people – possibly thousands. They’re also thought to be behind a number of high profile prison breaks where dozens of inmates have been freed – including high ranking members of various factions of these and other drug cartels. And because both groups kill their rivals indiscriminately, it’s difficult to determine how many lives have been lost as a result of the actions of these cartels, and how many more will die in the future.
In America, the drug problem is right here at home. Drug related violence and crime is epidemic and results in many of the same consequences seen in Central America. If you or someone you love is caught up in this lifestyle, the time to get help is right now. Call the number at the top of your screen for an immediate consultation about our proven drug rehab programs, and about how we may be able to help you with court issues. There’s a lot we can do, but we can’t do any of it if you don’t call.
(1) Ruiz-Goirena, Romina 2 of Latin American’s Deadliest Gangs Reportedly Join Forces SVG Tribune