Los Zetas (pronounced [los ˈsetas], Spanish for “The Zs”) is a Mexican criminal syndicate. Considered by the US government to be “the most technologically advanced, sophisticated, efficient, violent, ruthless and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico”, the organization has expanded beyond the traditional purview of drug trafficking and also runs profitable sex trafficking and gun running rackets. The origins of Los Zetas date back to the late 1990s when commandos of the Mexican Army deserted their ranks and began working as the enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel. In February 2010, Los Zetas broke away from their former employer and formed their own criminal organization. Their brutal tactics, which include beheadings to terrorize their rivals and intimidate them, torture, and indiscriminate slaughter, show that they often prefer brutality over bribery. Los Zetas are Mexico’s largest drug cartel in terms of geographical presence, overtaking their rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel. Los Zetas also operate through protection rackets, assassinations, extortion, kidnappings and other activities. The organization is based in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, directly across the border from Laredo, Texas. As of December 2016 Los Zetas Group (Groupo Bravo) & Zetas Vieja Escuela (Old School Zetas) formed an alliance with the Gulf cartel to fight against Cartel Del Noreste (Cartel of the Northeast). Los Zetas was named after its first commander, Arturo Guzmán Decena, whose Federal Judicial Police radio code was “Z-1”, a code given to high-ranking officers. The radio code for Commanding Federal Judicial Police Officers in México was “Y” and are nicknamed Yankees, for Federal Judicial Police in charge of a city the radio code was “Z”, and thus they were nicknamed as the letter in Spanish, “Zetas”. After Osiel Cárdenas Guillén took full control of the Gulf Cartel in 1999, he became involved in a violent turf war. In order to keep his organization and leadership, Cárdenas sought out Arturo Guzman Decena alias el Z-1, a retired Army lieutenant who lured more than 30 army deserters of the Mexican Army’s elite Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFE) to become his personal bodyguards, and later, as his mercenary wing. These Army deserters were enticed with salaries much higher than those of the Mexican Army. Cárdenas’ goal was to protect himself from rival drug cartels and from the Mexican military. Some of the original members, who had come from the GAFE unit, had during the 1990s reportedly received training in commando and urban warfare from Israeli Special Forces Units and American Special Forces units, which included training in rapid deployment, marksmanship, ambushes, counter-surveillance and intimidation. Once Osiel Cárdenas Guillen consolidated his position and supremacy, he expanded the responsibilities of Los Zetas, and as years passed, they became much more important for the Gulf Cartel. The Zetas began to organize kidnappings, protection rackets, extortion, securing cocaine supply and trafficking routes known as plazas (zones) and executing its foes, often with barbaric savagery. Guzmán Decena (Z-1) was killed by members of the Mexican military on November 2002 in a restaurant in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, allowing Heriberto Lazcano (Z-3) to take control of the paramilitary group. In response to the rising power of the Gulf Cartel, the rival Sinaloa Cartel established a heavily armed, well-trained enforcer group known as Los Negros. The group operated similarly to Los Zetas, but with less complexity and success. Upon the arrest of the Gulf Cartel boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillen in March 2003 and his extradition in 2007, the Zetas took a more active leadership role within the Gulf Cartel and their influence grew greater within the organization. In 2010, however, Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel broke apart. Their membership ranges from corrupt federal, state, and local police officers, and former US Army personnel, to ex-Kaibiles, the Special Forces of the Guatemalan military. Some of the original members are: Arturo Guzmán Decena (Z-1), Heriberto Lazcano (Z-3), Carlos Vera Calva (El Vera), Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar (Z-7 or El Mamito), Galdino Mellado Cruz (El Mellado or Z-9), Flavio Méndez Santiago (El Amarillo or Z-10), Jaime González Durán (El Hummer), Rogelio González Pizaña (Z-2 or El Kelín), Efraín Teodoro Torres (El Efra, La Chispa or Z-14), Raúl Hernandez Barrón (El Flander), Víctor Nazario Castrejón Peña, Gustavo González Castro (El Erótico), Óscar Guerrero Silva (El Winnie Pooh), Alberto Trejo Benavides (El Alvin), Luís Alberto Guerrero Reyes (El Guerrero), Mateo Díaz López (Comandante Mateo), Daniel Peréz Rojas (El Cachetes), Luis Reyes Enríquez (El Rex), Nabor Vargas García (El Débora), Isidro Lara Flores (El Colchón), Alfonso Lechuga Licona (El Cañas), Ernesto Zatarín Beliz (El Traca), Prisciliano Ibarra Yepis, Rogelio Guerra Ramírez (El Guerra), Miguel Ángel Soto Parra (El Parra)

PROFILE: Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar

Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar.jpg
Born June 9, 1976 (age 42)

Other names Z-7
El Mamito
Occupation A former leader of Los Zetas
Criminal status In prison
Criminal charge Organized crimemurderdrug traffickingmercenary

Jesús Enrique Rejón Aguilar (a.k.a. Z-7El Mamito)[1] is a former leader of the Mexican criminal organization known as Los Zetas.[2][3] He was wanted by the governments of Mexico and USA until his capture on July 4, 2011 in Atizapán de Zaragoza, a Mexico City suburb.[4]


Rejón Aguilar was born in Campeche, Mexico in 1976.[5] On April 3, 1993, Rejón Aguilar entered the Mexican Army in his home state of Campeche and in 1996 was assigned to Special Forces Airmobile Group (GAFE). In 1997, he was assigned to the Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) in the cities of Reynosa and Miguel Alemán in Tamaulipas. In 1998 he was assigned to Saltillo, Coahuila. He deserted the army in February 1999 and in March the same year, at the invitation of Arturo Guzmán Decena, known as “The Z1” was integrated into the group of 14 former soldiers who founded Los Zetas as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel.[6][7]

Rejón Aguilar oversaw the paramilitary training of new recruits[8] and then oversaw Gulf Cartel trafficking activities in the state of Coahuila along with Alejandro Treviño Morales. Rejón Aguilar is responsible for multi-ton shipments of marijuana and multi-kilogram shipments of cocaine from Mexico to the United States.[2][9] In 2004, Rejón Aguilar coordinated a failed raid on the maximum security prison ‘El Altiplano’, as he attempted to liberate his boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillén.[10] According to government documents, his plan consisted of using 3 helicopters and over 50 Zeta members to liberate Cárdenas Guillén.[11] In 2007 Rejón Aguilar was assigned to the streets of Nuevo Laredo and Miguel Alemán under the command of Miguel Treviño Morales, where he remained until early 2009.

After the split between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas in 2010, Rejón Aguilar was assigned as the regional coordinator in the states of central and northern Mexico.

Kingpin Act sanction

On 24 March 2010, the United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned Rejón Aguilar under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (sometimes referred to simply as the “Kingpin Act”), for his involvement in drug trafficking along with fifty-three other international criminals and ten foreign entities.[12] The act prohibited U.S. citizens and companies from doing any kind of business activity with him, and virtually froze all his assets in the U.S.[13]


Mexican authorities had posted a $30 million peso ($2.3 million USD) bounty for Rejón Aguilar,[14] while the United States posted in July 2009 a $5 million USD bounty.[2][3][15]On July 4, 2011, police captured Rejón in a Mexico City suburb without firing a shot.[4][16]

Rejón Aguilar was extradited to the United States on 11 September 2012 for drug trafficking and organized crime charges,[17][18] pleading guilty for conspiracy to traffic large sums of narcotics to the U.S. on February 2013. He faces a mandatory 10-year sentence and a maximum sentence of life in prison.[19]