Most of the Sinaloa Cartel’s gangbangers were from MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha. In other words, they were rough boys from El Salvador and the Honduras. With a reputation for brutal violence, MS-13 gangs were the baddest of the bad asses. Only it turned out the Zetas were badder, making the MS-13 gangbangers look like three-year olds at a church picnic. Using heavy weapons and military tactics, the Zetas chopped MS-13 into bits and pieces.
The leader of the Zetas was Heriberto Lazcano, a twenty-eight year old former GAFE officer whose nickname was “The Executioner.” Lazcano intended to hang onto his territory.
The war was on.
Lazcano, realizing he needed more men, initiated a new recruiting strategy. He advertised. Banners hung from overpasses and bridges got right to the point: “We offer you a good salary, food, and attention for your family.” One advertisement stated: “Join the ranks of the Gulf Cartel. We offer benefits, life insurance, a house for your family and children. Stop living in the slums and riding the bus.”
It worked. Soldiers and ex-soldiers flocked in droves to join up. Lazcano recruited heavily in Guatemala, home of the Kaibil commandos, who really were the baddest of the bad. The motto of the Kaibiles was: “If I retreat, kill me.” Recruiting wasn’t Lazcano’s only talent; he also had a head for business. Zetas troops earned money for the organization through extortion, shaking down anyone and everyone: marijuana growers, dealers, local businesses, restaurants, even car dealerships.