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Mexican government rejects call for death squads

Mexican vigilante death squad has gone public

The government of Mexico says it is investigating internet videos made by masked men who vow to exterminate the violent Zetas drug cartel, saying it rejects such vigilante methods.

So far  two videos have been released by a group possibly linked to the powerful Sinaloa cartel, which calls itself the “Mata Zetas,” or “Zeta Killers.”  The Zetas, founded by deserters from an elite military unit, are famous for their brutality.

In the latest video, released last weekend, the group declares war on the Zetas because people are tired of kidnappings and extortion.

“We are the armed wing of the people, and for the people,” says a man in a ski mask.  He is seen at a table with four other masked associates, reading from a prepared statement. “We are anonymous warriors, with faces, but proudly Mexican.” The speaker said his group’s code of ethics prohibits them from carrying out kidnappings or extortion.

No group has formally claimed responsibility for that video, but the language and style resemble a video released in July, featuring some two dozen armed men who claimed to be “Mata Zetas” from the Jalisco Nueva Generacion (New Generation) cartel.

The Mexican Attorney General’s office said in a statement Monday night that he  “has opened an investigation into the videos that express the aforementioned ideas and are circulating on the Internet.”

“While it is true that the criminal organization known as the Zetas should be defeated, that must occur by legal means and never by methods outside the law,” the statement said.

Although Mexican websites and blogs frequently feature alleged statements by cartels, the “Mata Zetas” videos are being taken more seriously after a gang dumped 35 bound, tortured bodies on a busy avenue in front of horrified motorists in the Gulf coast city of Veracruz last week.

All 35 dead, including 12 women and two minors, were linked to the Zetas cartel, and the killers were believed to be from the New Generation gang, per an official of the Mexican armed forces who remained anonymous for security reasons.

Local media report that other banners appeared in Veracruz over the weekend, accusing the Mexican Navy of favoring the Sinaloa cartel and kidnapping locals.

Although the Interior Department statement ignored those banners, it stressed that “any group or organization that operates outside the law and with violence, is being combated through (government) institutions, and without any favoritism.”

Security expert Edgardo Basucaglia worried that Mexico may fall into a situation where paramilitary style organizations spring up, favoring one side or another in the war between cartels, with support of some police or military forces.

Such occurred in Colombia in the 1980s and 1990s, when officials allowed illegal far-right militias to fight leftist rebels. Those paramilitary groups subsequently were implicated in murders and drug trafficking.

“In every country that has been studied throughout history, when they have faced this kind of institutional decadence, society has adopted private mechanisms of protection that give rise to paramilitary forces,” Basucaglia stated. “Mexico today finds itself in the initial stage of the situation they went through.”

The Mexican Interior Department, responsible for domestic security, condemned all such vigilante or paramilitary action.

“In Mexico, there is no room for any person, group or organization to violate by word or deed the rule of law, for whatever reason or end,” the statement said. “The federal government rejects any action that would stray from the path of legality.”