REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities say they are investigating a group that announced a campaign to wipe out the feared Zetas gang in the coastal state of Veracruz.
In a statement issued late Monday, the federal attorney general’s office warned that it would crack down on “any criminal group or organization that acts outside the law and creates violence.”
The agency said the battle against organized crime belongs to Mexican authorities alone. “The only way to achieve lasting security and tranquility is by enforcing the law and strengthening our institutions,” it said.
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora acknowledged weaknesses in Mexico's police forces but said they were being fixed, if slowly. He said groups seeking to carry out justice on their own "will confront the force of the state."
The warnings came after a group calling itself the “Zeta killers” posted a video during the weekend announcing plans to crush the Zetas, which have sown fear in Veracruz with killings, kidnappings and extortion.
Last week, a group calling itself the New Generation claimed responsibility for killing 35 people whose bodies were dumped near the port city of Veracruz, saying those killed were members of the Zetas.The same group is believed to have posted the video warning, which surfaced on a website devoted to the drug trade.
In the 5-minute clip, a masked spokesman, clad in black and flanked by four colleagues wearing balaclavas, says the group intended no harm to ordinary residents. The men sit at a cloth-covered table, bottles of water in a neat row before them, as if arrayed for a press conference.
“We are asking public officials and authorities who support the Zetas to stop doing so, and let the armed forces know that our only objective is to finish the Zetas,” the spokesman says. “If with our actions we have offended society, the Mexican people and federal agencies, we apologize.”
He calls Zetas a “scourge,” but does not claim responsibility for last week’s slayings.
Violence has skyrocketed across Mexico since President Felipe Calderon mobilized the army to go after drug cartels nearly five years ago, with more than 40,000 people dead. In Veracruz, residents have watched helplessly as the Zetas, who once served as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, have solidified their grip through brazen violence and, it is widely assumed, with the help of corrupt state and local officials.
But the Zetas are also at war with their former Gulf allies and the powerful Sinaloa cartel, with which the New Generation group is thought to be linked.
--by Ken Ellingwood
Video: Masked men calling themselves "Zeta killers" announce a campaign to wipe out the Zetas gang. Credit: YouTube