Zetas’ power began as enforcers for Gulf Cartel

Testimony is expected to continue Monday in the trial of José Treviño Morales, the brother of Zetas leader Miguel Treviño Morales; Francisco Colorado Cessa, a Mexican businessman who made a fortune contracting for that country’s state-owned oil company; Fernando Solis Garcia, a Rio Grande Valley-born quarter horse expert; Jesus Maldonado Huitron, an Austin-area homebuilder; and his brother, Eusevio Maldonado Huitron, a sought-after horse trainer.

Fernando Solis Garcia arrives for a money laundering trial at the U.S. Federal Court in Austin, Monday, April 15, 2013.

The story of the Gulf Cartel’s territory grab, led by its then-enforcers the Zetas, began in 2001.

The cartel, led at the time by Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, now serving time in a U.S. prison, began expanding from its base in Matamoros, at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexicoaccording to testimony last week at a federal money laundering trial.

Witnesses testified that, over the next six years, they watched as the Zetas, former Mexican special forces soldiers, who worked as Cárdenas Guillén’s enforcers, expanded up the Rio Grande and south along Mexico’s Gulf coast.

They didn’t just get prime real estate. The Zetas and the Gulf Cartel also absorbed the local traffickers, who brought with them knowledge of the region and U.S. contacts.

Jose Carlos Hinojosa, a former accountant for the cartel, testified that in 2001 the gang sent a founding member of the Zetas, Efraín Teodoro “Z-14” Torres, to take over the Miguel Alemán plaza. “Plaza” refers to a region, usually around a town or city, assigned to a certain trafficker or group of traffickers. Miguel Alemán is the border city across the Rio Grande from Roma.

A clerk at the federal prosecutor’s office at the time, Hinojosa said the government controlled drug trafficking in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which borders Texas from Brownsville to Laredo, charging smugglers fees to use the Miguel Alemán plaza.


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