By Alberto Cabezas.


The Los Zetas criminal organization has become "a mercenary enterprise" that turned to extreme violence to become one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels, closing in on Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman's Sinaloa cartel, journalist Diego Enrique Osorno told Efe.

"Los Zetas are the modern narcos. It's a group that decided to break with the national pacts, that decided that it did not have to come to Mexico City or go to Sinaloa to organize drug trafficking on its turf," the journalist, who was born in the northern industrial city of Monterrey in 1980, said.

Osorno, author of "La guerra de Los Zetas. Viaje por la frontera de la necropolitica" (Grijalbo, 2012), said the criminal organization run by Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Treviño Morales has turned the northeastern region into the "epicenter" of horror in Mexico.

The author's recently published book describes "the transformation of these cities and towns in the Mexican northeast, starting with the bursting of Los Zetas onto the reality" and "into the imaginations" of people.

"I structured it like a trip. You start in Monterrey, travel around the periphery of the city, Guadalupe, San Pedro Garza Garcia, Santiago, you keeping going in until you reach the border. End it in Fort Worth (Texas) at a gun show," Osorno said.

The work is written "on the ground, talking with people" in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, analyzing the context of what they are caught up in, the war being fought by the authorities against the cartels, and by the cartels with each other, the author said.

The region "is really a collapsed state, where a humanitarian tragedy is lived" on a daily basis, Osorno said.

"We have a minimum of 20,000 disappeared as counted by international organizations, the displacement of nearly 50,000 people," and massacres, such as the August 2010 killings of 72 migrants in San Fernando, the author said.

A large portion of the book is dedicated to examining the situation in Tamaulipas, the northeastern state where the Zetas organization was born at the start of the last decade.

The gang "has used extreme violence as a way to position itself," a strategy that set it apart from the traditional drug cartels, Osorno said.

"They control territory that is used to move cocaine from Colombia, people from Central America or any other thing," turning them into "an illegal Mexican version of (U.S. security contractor) Blackwater (now known as Academi)," the journalist said.

Osorno criticized President Felipe Calderon for using the word "war" starting in 2007 to justify all-out combat with Mexico's drug cartels.

A decision that initially "gave a certain heroism, certain gallantry" to the government's actions has come to be identified over time with death and destruction by the people, especially in northeast Mexico, Osorno said.

If people talked about "narcopolitics" while the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was in power, the catchword under "the Calderon administration is 'necropolitics,'" the journalist said.

The term is an allusion to how "all of the industry that fights, that makes war, earns huge profits" in Mexico and, in addition to enriching themselves politically with the war on drugs, there are also economic returns for certain officials and government secretariats, which benefit from budgets that are the "biggest in the history" of the country, Osorno said.

"I believe that above all else in the past three years, the issue of death and the war became a matter of political gain at different levels," the journalist said.

Diego Enrique Osorno, a reporter for Gatopardo and contributor to newspapers such as Reforma and El Universal, among others, has published several books, including "Oaxaca sitiada" (2007), "El cartel de Sinaloa" (2009) and "Nosotros somos los culpables" (2010). EFE