Sunday, December 12, 2010

Notes from the Crime Beat: A Message From Los Zetas



Like an image from the Godfather, 'un puerco' left out side the police station with a warning note from the infamous Zetas ended up being a moment of some light relief. Serious, macabre and ominous it certainly is but not such a raw indicator of Mexico's spiraling gang violence as initially expected.

There was much apprehension and stomach churning tension when the radio call came in that there was 'una cabeza' left in the barrio of Bosques de Gana in Mexico City on Thursday night.

Driving through the night time streets, searching block by block as the Nextel relayed details of a potentially grimy crime scene awaiting 'La Nota Roja', the Mexican crime photographers who trawl the city for the aftermath of bloody incidents, the tension only grew, the streets empty, the stores shuttered and the lights off.

Eventually a police officer gave us an indication that 'la cabeza' was waiting on the ground outside the local police station. We drove the final few streets, the photographers preparing their flash guns and long lenses and arrived to find the local police standing in a circle snapping pictures on their mobile phones at the ground. I got out of the car and crossed the street, ready to assess the situation and switch into the mode of making images, taking footage and switching off the reality of the scene that awaited me.

We approached the blanket on the ground, everyone slightly relieved to find not the scene we initially expected.

'Puerco o Puerca?' commented one of the present media by way of a joke, breaking the tension and letting everyone go about their business, documenting this scene, criticizing the grammar of the culprits and chatting with the other police officers and photographers, all night owls for whom these kind of scenes are their daily bread.

The note was a warning for the police and their families to stop interfering with the business of Los Zetas in Mexico City or suffer the dire consequences. Most likely written by young gang members, it's was a reminder that drug cartels appear to be present in all parts of the country now, places previously run and operated by local gangs are being taken over by bigger, more powerful operations.

Ten minutes later we were back in the car, cruising the streets, ignoring the traffic lights and off to wait and see what else the night had in store...

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