Tags: Mexican | Drug | Cartels

Mexican Drug Cartels Recruit Soldiers

Wednesday, 07 May 2008 03:09 PM

By Rick Pedraza

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Los Zetas, a notorious Gulf cartel hit squad formed by elite Mexican army deserters, is making an audacious pitch for new recruits by appealing to soldiers and other deserters from the Mexican army.

The bizarre recruiting campaign promises good pay, free food, medical care, cars, and even loans to army soldiers and defectors who join the ruthless drug cartel's elite band of hit men.

The group, which publically taunts the Mexican military with phone numbers for job seekers on large banners, has been instrumental in the nearly 100,000 desertions that have taken place in the past eight years.

Outrageous as it sounds, the cartel’s brash appeal is working. Many defectors who find it almost impossible to get legitimate employment without revealing their status as deserters, along with poorer Mexicans who can’t find work, are taking to the offer.

Cartels have long been known for showy displays designed to gain public support. Along the violence-savaged U.S.-Mexico border, and in other parts of the region where Mexico's fight against traffickers resembles a real war, the message is being received. Just 17 months after President Felipe Calderón ordered the army into drug hotspots, the smugglers have succeeded in traumatized Mexicans by creating confusion among civilians and the authorities.

Employing a form of psychological warfare and fighting the army with machine guns and grenades shows the increasing sophistication of the cartels.

In recent months, at least six military-style training sites have been identified in Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states, the Dallas Morning News reported. It cited written testimony from witnesses that was leaked from the Mexican Justice Department.

A top military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said cartels have succeeded in getting the public on their side because internal rules prevent the army from using paid advertisements to counter the drug cartels' public messages. At the same time, the cartels have seized on human rights allegations against the military to win the hearts of some residents.

Although the Mexican military has long had a problem with desertion, soldiers today are facing more incentive to switch sides because of the decision to use troops against the drug traffickers.

Los Zetas, clearly the biggest, most serious threat to the nation’s security, has emerged as the most dangerous force in the cities of Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas.

In addition to conducting activities along the border, they are visible throughout the Gulf Coast region, in the Southern states of Tabasco, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Chiapas, and in the Pacific Coast states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Michoacán, as well as in Mexico City. They are also active in Texas and, possibly, other U.S. states, as well.

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