Do messages attributed to three Mexican underworld organizations portend war or peace? Retrieved by Mexican soldiers, three so-called narco-banners displayed last week in the southern state of Guerrero and purportedly signed by three groups — the Gulf cartel, La Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar — announced not only a truce among the signatories, but also a new “brotherhood” against the rival Los Zetas organization.
In the message, which had the same content written on the professionally printed banners recovered in the municipalities of Tlalchapa and Tlapehuala in the conflict-ridden Tierra Caliente region of Guerrero, the signing troika appealed for peace in Mexico but vowed to act against the Zetas, Zeta leader Miguel Angel Trevino and “all those who support him.”
The narco-banners also contained a parting shot at President Felipe Calderon, who leaves office on Dec. 1. Accusing Calderon of being responsible for the deaths of “almost 60,000 innocent” people, the unknown authors blasted the outgoing Mexican leader for being “the worst (killer) of any delinquent group” in the country.
In downtown Morelia, Michoacan, the three-headed, anti-Zetas “brotherhood” left another sarcastic message for Calderon last week, recognizing losses suffered by their organizations but also boasting of casualties inflicted on the Federal Police.
“With all with your power and reach, it would have been a good plan for Michoacan if you could have treated your people with love and true justice,” the Morelia narco-banner read in part. “But given everything excuse us and since we are not going to have you as our ruler in December, we wish you, your family and your cabinet, as ( popular singer) Vicente Fernandez said, a beautiful farewell.”
The Guerrero narco-banners recalled similar statements that were posted across Mexico in February 2010 and largely missed by the international press at the time. Announcing the formation of the United Cartels alliance against the Zetas, the messages were soon followed by a tremendous explosion of violence in the northern border state of Tamaulipas and other regions of the country.
If authentic, the latest narco-banners could be significant for other reasons. First, the joint statement implies the patching over of differences between La Familia and the Knights Templar, which were once part of the same organization but later at odds after the death of La Familia co-founder Nazario “El Loco” Moreno in December 2010 in a fiery gun-battle with the government.
In particular, the Knights Templar group has been very active on the public propaganda front, posting anti-Zetas banners in at least seven states this month including the state of Mexico, long considered the stomping ground of La Familia, and Coahuila and San Luis Potosi, both strongholds of the Zetas.
Second, the apparent willingness of three organizations supposedly hard-pressed by government arrests and killings of top and mid-level leaders, to come together and contemplate a new fight against the Zetas, implies a certain degree of resilience as well as an ability to reorganize and re-focus in spite of major blows claimed by government officials.
Third, the content of the newest narco-banners promises the continuation of violent rivalries honed during the past six years into the period of incoming President Enrique Peña Nieto unless, of course, some sort of behind-the-scenes peace agreement or accommodation is reached.
Additional sources: El Sur, November 22, 2012. Article by Israel Flores. Proceso/Apro, November 21 and 22, 2012. Articles by Jorge Carrasco Araizaga and Veronica Espinosa.
Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico