Mexico's Los Zetas: 27 Beheaded Bodies in El Peten Province
If you happen to be in Guatemala on vacation, specifically, in El Peten province, and see banners or graffiti with Z200 in it, you should be on edge. Z200 is the symbol or call word for Mexico's Los Zetas, a drug cartel that is using tricks from al-qaeda and the taliban to control and influence their zones of drug activity within Mexico and now, Guatemala.
With the war on drugs heating up within Mexico between the Federal troops and drug cartels, the latter are looking for other places to expand to and Peten Province, Guatemala is among them. They use the terrorist methods frequently read about in history books from the Vietnam War to now. The first is to win the hearts and minds of the locals. To do this, the Los Zetas, with tons of revenue, build schools and clinics, roads, create businesses, improve infrastructure in the small towns of Tikal and Poptun, both over 200 miles form Guatemala City. For those who resist, they brutally kill them and behead them, like the recently discovered 27 bodies, many without heads in a field on cattle ranch with Z200 branded on the wall.
The Los Zetas like Guatemala because 60% of the cocaine coming to Mexico is via Guatemala. The El Peten province is the size of Maryland and to outsiders resembles the "wild west" where everyone carries a side arm or rifle and signs ask to leave the firearm at the door. The area is jungle and Guatemala has been unable to provide much law enforcement there. To add salt to a sore, many of the 11,000 former soldiers of the Guatemala Army were discharged since 2004, now are employed by Los Zetas. The Los Zetas are the law and order in much of Peten province and in the town of Poptun, where the cartel has posted banners in the town claiming that it has been converted to Los Zetas ownership.
The government of Guatemala does receive over $70 million dollars from the US to fight the war on drugs and claims to have retaken 40,000 acres of ranches formerly owned by Los Zetas. This is more of a PR stunt than reality judging from the latest gruesome beheadings found at the Los Cocos ranch recently.