Massacre and Government Search Operation Reveals Network Behind the ‘Z’

In early 2014, the Mexican government–state and federal– launched an operation to search for human remains in the northern state of Coahuila. The search was meant  to investigate a massacre, perhaps the largest in recent years, that involved some 300 victims. The operation quickly became a big media story in Mexico. But the operation, as it turns out, leaves us with as many questions as the massacre it ostensibly set out to investigate, including, why did the government wait three years to investigate a 2011 massacre.

I had the great pleasure of working with veteran organized crime reporter Ignacio Alvarado Alvarez on this piece for Al Jazeera America. 


Questions about possible government complicity — directly or indirectly — generally dissipate when violence is branded as Zeta-related. Indeed, as violence in Mexico’s northern region continues unabated, in lieu of investigations and convictions, Zeta is the catchall explanation applied to criminality, one that has the effect of silencing further questions.

But a closer look at the details of the massacre, the government operation, and documented disappearances by human rights groups offers a glimpse at network of corruption, collusion and impunity concealed behind the letter Z.

“It’s more than Zetas against Zetas. It has to do with corruption. It has to do with political power,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, chairwoman of the government department at the University of Texas at Brownsville and author of a forthcoming book about the Zetas. “There exist elements that suggest the use of paramilitary tactics, in which it’s not clear the role of the state in clashes and mass executions.”

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