The Zetas now Mexico's largest drug gang. Who are they?

According to Mexican authorities, the Zetas have become the biggest drug trafficking organization in Mexico. A recent report from Stratfor, based on data from Mexico's attorney general's office, says the group now operates in 17 states, surpassing the geographical sway of the once-dominant Sinaloa Federation.

1. The origins of the Zetas

Bernardo Montoya/Reuters/File
Suspected members of the 'Zeta Killers' and suspected members of the Zetas drug cartel are presented to the media at the Mexican Navy's airplane hangar in Mexico City October 2011.

The Zetas are former elite military members who deserted the army and began serving as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel in the 1990s. But when those two groups split in early 2010, the Zetas became their own organization, rising today to become one of two dominant players in the drug trade in Mexico. They control much of the east of the country, while their rivals, the Sinaloa Federation, control the west. The Zetas received international attention in Sept. 2011, after 35 corpses were left on a busy roadside during rush hour in the port of Veracruz.  The so-called "Zeta-killers," a group of hooded men who appeared on YouTube claiming that society was fed up with the brutal tactics of the Zetas, claimed responsibility.

1 of 4

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.