Here is an excerpt from Tim Johnson's article in McClatchy Newspapers:
"President Felipe Calderon on Friday accused the gunmen who killed 72 illegal migrants in northern Mexico this week of "incalculable savagery" as his government attempted to depict the major drug gang implicated in the slaughter as weakened and desperate. The discovery of the grisly massacre Tuesday night at a ranch near San Fernando, about 45 miles southwest of Brownsville, Texas, put the spotlight on Los Zetas, a crime syndicate based along the Gulf Coast of Mexico that has international tentacles. The massacre — and its murky motives — continued to shake Mexico on Friday... Calderon himself also confirmed that two state criminal investigators who'd been assigned to probe the slayings had vanished... Alejandro Poire of the National Security Council said the gunmen had captured the migrants and given them a choice: Work for Los Zetas as gunslingers and peons, or face death. When the 58 male and 14 female migrants resisted, they were killed... However, an Austin, Texas-based strategic intelligence research group, Stratfor, said in a report Friday that Los Zetas, sometimes called simply the 'Z's,' indeed are hurting... Another analyst of Mexico's security situation, Edgardo Buscaglia, cast doubt on official accounts of the massacre and criticized Calderon's handling of it... 'The president, unfortunately, looks at all of this as a media war,' Buscaglia said. The portrayal of Los Zetas as weakened 'is a marketing story' to deal with the international black eye Mexico has suffered with the massacre,' he said." Link to Full Article
Analysis: So unfortunately, it looks like there's still a lot of doubt surrounding this incident, despite the extensive media coverage over the last few days. Was it really Los Zetas who committed this heinous act? If so, are they weakened or stronger than ever? And did they kill the migrants because they needed the manpower, or simply because they couldn't pay ransom?
The reason that the Mexican government believes it was Los Zetas is because the one man who survived the mass killing told authorities that the shooters identified themselves as such. I know of several instances where Los Zetas have had no problems taking credit for things or advertising themselves, so that's not out of the ordinary. However, this also sets them up to be framed, as it were, by rivals. The area where the massacre occurred has been Gulf cartel territory for some time, but Borderland Beat reported in mid-June that gunmen belonging to Los Zetas had attacked other cities and towns under the control of the Gulf cartel in the previous two weeks, including Mier, Reynosa, Tampico and Valle Hermoso. It's likely the killers were Zetas, but keep in mind the possibility that men from the Gulf cartel could be setting up their former partners. And who better to take the bait than non-Mexican migrants who aren't as familiar with the workings of the different Mexican DTOs? I know it's a stretch, and such a plan would have been useless if that one migrant hadn't gotten away from them.
As for Los Zetas losing strength, that's also possible. They had gotten strong enough that the Sinaloa Federation, La Familia, and the Gulf cartel felt the need to (temporarily, of course) join forces in order to put Los Zetas out of business. Considering how much bad blood there is between the Federation and the CDG, that alliance speaks volumes to the capabilities Los Zetas had achieved. So does this mean that the alliance was doing its job, and the massacre was an act of desperation? I'm not so sure. Remember, Los Zetas share a special bond and have a whole truckload of special forces training. This is what makes them some of the best and most efficient killers in Mexico. Heck, they were recruiting the Guatemalan Kaibiles to help them. Why all of a sudden would they want to forcibly recruit a group of 72 non-Mexican migrants into their organization (as slaves or otherwise) who aren't trained or vetted? They probably have a line of former cops and soldiers a mile long wanting to work for them and make the money they do. They'd also be better off just subcontracting to a Mexican gang.
We know that the methods of killing have become increasingly brutal over the years because, in a way, they have to. Just like TV or video games, we become insensitive to certain things over time, so DTOs have to get creative or just do something over-the-top to get a rival's--or the government's--attention. This could be a "simple" case of an opportunity for some Zetas to extort a large group of unfortunate immigrants from other countries. Maybe they felt less sympathy for them because they weren't their countrymen. Who knows? When the migrants couldn't pay up, the killers might have seen that as a chance to teach them a lesson, earn some street cred, and send a message at the same time.
These are just a few of the possibilities that have crossed my mind, and the truth is often far stranger than anything I can come up with on my own. Considering that investigators of the killings are now starting to disappear, we may never get to the bottom of the story.