Friday, March 16, 2012

In lush Riviera Maya, Los Zetas tell police: "Join us, or you and your families will die"

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo - Police officers along Mexico's Caribbean coast, the Riviera Maya, are routinely threatened with death if they refuse to join ranks with drug traffickers and organized crime groups, a newspaper here reports today.

In Quintana Roo state, the powerful Los Zetas drug cartel is generally regarded as the dominant player in narcotics trafficking, extortion and the kidnapping-for ransom-industry. But in Cancún, the primary international gateway to Q.R., an upstart murder-for-hire gang which expanded operations to include street drug sales is now giving the Zetas a run for their money. The group is known as Los Pelones.The Sinaloa Cartel of El Chapo Guzmán is also at work here, particularly on the island of Cozumel. And now the dreaded Los Matazetas have arrived.

Today's press report said that in the past decade, 10 Playa area officers resigned their posts and moved out of state. In 2011 that number increased dramatically to 20 officers. But a local police official claims that all of the latter were "just voluntary resignations," and that none of the officers had been threatened prior to submitting their renunciation.

One police officer interviewed said that he had been called numerous times by a man with a northern (Mexico) accent, who invited him to join their group, with the promise that he would be well paid. "But I didn't want to betray the citizens," he said.

The same man told the interviewer that fellow officers sometimes sell critical information to organized crime, including computer access passwords and identification codes which enable the holder to read secure documents and reports about ongoing investigations and police operations.

Another officer said, "They never explicitly threatened me, but they invited me to join a (known) criminal organization, and it frightened me. You understand that when they 'invite' you they're really requiring you, and if you don't sign up they'll kill you and your family."

In September 2011, the Chief of Tourist Police in Playa del Carmen was executed while he sat in his vehicle. In December, a former Playa officer was almost decapitated by unknown assailants (stories and photo below). Last June yet another Playa officer was assassinated, in front of his house (Playa del Carmen police officer executed, after hit men arrive by taxi).

Local police in Mexico are poorly paid by the standards of many nations. An average municipal officer in Mexico earns between $300 and $400 USD monthly. A cornerstone and key component of Felipe Calderón's National Security Strategy, launched in December 2006, has been to turn over the brunt of the increasingly vicious drug war to federal military forces, while local departments are rid of internal corruption and retrained. The wisdom and claimed lack of success of that approach has come into sharp political focus in recent months, as Mexicans prepare to elect their next president on July 1. Two of the three major candidates have suggested that they would de-militarize the 63 month old anti-cartel offensive. A third candidate has said that she'll stick to it.

Police and the Mexican drug war strategy
Local police suffer the most in Mexico's drug war:
Polygraphs await 500,00 Mexican cops:
Federal troops take over police functions in Veracruz - 1,000 local cops fired:
Why the L.A. Times just doesn't get it:
Calderón strategy has been the right one:

Riviera Maya violence:
Chief of Tourist Police executed in Playa del Carmen:
Two women executed in Isla de Mujeres hotel room:
53 year old woman decapitated in Cancún:
Christmas greetings left with bodies:
Another Cancún decapitation:
Former Playa del Carmen police officer executed:
Double AK-47 execution in Cancún:
300 Quintana Roo businesses shut down in 2011 due to narco extortion:
Los Pelones hit man with Mérida connection admits to 30 executions in Cancún:
In Cancún, drugs and death conveniently delivered to your doorstep:
American student nearly killed in brutal Cancún assault tells his story to NBC:
Why are Los Zetas spies hanging out near Cancún hotel zone?:
Drugs float ashore at Playa del Carmen:
Brutalized bodies of two men found in Cancún:
Mexico's Riviera Maya in the hands of drug cartels and extortionists:

Will Yucatán remain safe?:

A former Playa del Carmen policeman executed in Dec. 2011. Authorities say he was a double agent, working for a local gang while he was on the municipal payroll.

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