IXTEPEC, Mexico (AP) — A priest who shelters stranded migrants needs police protection. A chopped-up body turns up with a threatening message. Beheadings are on the rise. The local press is too frightened to write about any of it.
This is not northern Mexico, where drug gangs fight for turf along the U.S. border and the Mexican government wages an open battle against them. This is the south, where the brutal Zetas cartel is quietly spreading a reign of terror virtually unchallenged, all the way to the border with Guatemala — and across it.
Just as they have done in the north, groups claiming to be Zetas have set up criminal networks to control transit routes for drugs, migrants and contraband such as pirated DVDS, intimidating the populace and committing gruesome murders as an example to the uncooperative.
Four years ago they started preying on the south, Mexico's poorest region. They moved into Oaxaca, Chiapas and other southern states and then northern Guatemala, where attacks on townspeople became so commonplace that the government last month sent in 300 troops to regain control of the border province of Alta Verapaz.
In towns on the Oaxacan isthmus and the center of Oaxaca city, the capital, the wealthy as well as street vendors and migrants have been kidnapped and subjected to extortion.
Then last month, the gang blamed for massacring 72 migrants in the summer in the northern state of Tamaulipas became suspects in the disappearance of more than 40 Central American migrants in Oaxaca. The abduction drew international attention when the El Salvadoran foreign ministry reported the crime, but the Mexican government initially denied it happened......