The purpose of violence (Zeta Edition)
I like Borderland Beat, they provide a great round-up in English about the drug violence in Mexico. However, one of their recent posts concerning both a massacre of migrants and the execution of a Monterrey area mayor posits nihilism or boredom as a motivator of violence.
Los Zetas have also been implicated in the kidnapping and murder of Mayor Edelmiro Cavasos Leal (Noticieros Televisa).
What could Los Zetas possibly gain from both tragedies?
The answer is very simple, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an expert criminologist to figure them out: They don’t gain or lose anything and it’s obvious that they couldn’t care less about it.
Mayor Cavasos Leal, from Santiago, Nuevo Leon, was simply doing his job (something most politicians in Mexico don’t do), he chastised local police officers and cut their salary, unfortunately, what the mayor did not know is that these officers were also working for Los Zetas. So they kidnapped an innocent man, who clearly had an enormous amount of potential and whose presence would have contributed to a brighter future for Mexico (given the fact that he refused to get involved with any criminal organization), and executed him.
Let us assume that Mayor Leal was clean and non-corrupt. What would the point of the killing him be? Purely boredom and or nihilism?
Hell no. It is a violent form of messaging aimed at multiple audiences. The first audience is an internal audience of Zeta foot soldiers. The message is simple; the Zetas take care of their own and solve problems that are caused by being a loyal foot soldier. The local cops were operating as look-outs, spotters and low level couriers for the Zetas as well as a rich vein of local intelligence. The mayor was punishing them for that, and the Zetas took care of the problem.
The second and broader audience is the local political and governmental elite. It is a very simple message; Don’t fuck with us. Don’t do your job (at least don’t do it against Zetas.) Don’t be clean, don’t be non-corrupt. The state can not protect you or your family.
Indeed, the state’s guardians were involved in the plot against the mayor so it increases the fear, uncertainty and decision paralysis of other local officials who have to make daily decisions to do their job or to look the other way. The downside risk to this message is that it could provoke a fear reaction from fence-sitters into banding together against the Zetas for their own self-protection, but that is a low probability event over any one assassination.
Violence is being used strategically to isolate and hollow out the state. The Zetas, and other cartels, want a hollow state composed of local officials who are either completely co-opted or who know that they should only do their jobs on certain days against certain factions.