By Jim Kouri
Law enforcement sources in the United States claim that recent intelligence reports are providing evidence that a formal alliance exists between the Salvadorian-based Mara Salvatrucha — better known in the U.S. as MS-13 — and the equally dangerous and bloodthirsty Los Zetas, the most feared criminal organization in Mexico.
This latest development throws a curve ball at U.S. law enforcement efforts to assist the Mexicans and other Latin American nations fight the organized crime syndicates who traffic in narcotics that is earmarked for the United States and European nations.
According to a Law Enforcement Examiner source working on intelligence analysis for a federal law enforcement agency, there are signs that MS-13 members are exchanging their most valuable asset — intelligence on governments’ anti-drug operations — for Los Zeta’s military training, some of which was gained when members were part of Mexico’s federal police and military.
Some members were even trained in the United States at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, according to former police detective and intelligence officer Michael Snopes.
Los Zetas was formed about 12 years ago by deserters from the Mexican army’s special forces units, according to Snopes. They have already worked with drug gangs in Guatemala and began to entice members of that nation’s military to join “the darkside,” said Snopes.
While El Salvador’s government officials claim links between MS-13 and Los Zetas are few and far between, American drug enforcement officials believe the alliance is a reality and helps Los Zetas to dominate the other Mexican cartels vying for power.
“Usually armed with only handguns, MS-13 are now carrying military rifles — M-16s or AK-47s — and explosives such as grenades and mortars,” said a Law Enforcement Examiner source who requested anonymity.
The Zetas’ ultimate goal is to integrate the Maras into their network and become the most powerful group in Guatemala — criminal or legitimate, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Organized Crime.
Mexican officials declined to comment on the Guatemalan claims as well as Salvadorian officials.