Perhaps the most dangerous group of narco-assassins in Mexico looks to be reeling a bit from recent setbacks. One of the ironies of the poor health of the Zetas? Drug trafficking across the border is going up.
A DC-based human rights group, the Washington Office on Latin America, describes the Zetas' control as "slipping a bit" — but they're not celebrating. "This is an ominous bit of news," write Adam Isacson and Maureen Meyer, "if a vacuum or organized crime control has opened up, violence may flare up again in Northeastern Mexico." Not only is U.S. border security "not deterring traffickers," heroin busts are up — and police are seeing an increased flow of potent liquid methamphetamine, a reportedly more efficient way to transport the drug.
The Zetas' kingpin, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed by the Mexican military in October. The reportedly more violent drug lord Miguel "Z-40? Trevino has since taken Lazcano's place, and the cartel has experienced a violent internal conflict along with attacks by their rivals: the Sinaloa Cartel. Isacson and Meyer also suggest that a sign of the turmoil is how drug smuggling routes previously "locked down" by the cartel have opened up, giving other criminal groups an opportunity to sneak drugs into the U.S. while slipping past the Zetas.