The myth about the emergence of Los Zetas- states that a group of Mexican Army’s elite forces defected and joined the ranks of the Gulf cartel and became its armed wing. The training and military discipline of Los Zetas gave them a degree of hierarchy and competence.
Yet, they are identified as Barbarians; as they kill, maim,mutilate and pillage the Mexican society in general. Los Zetas are responsible for the high majority of all murders committed in Mexico.
However, it is the opinion that Los Zetas have evolved over time due to pressure from government forces and battles with other drug cartels. Despite the continued defections from the government security forces, it is more difficult for Los Zetas to recruit specialists with high levels of training and discipline.
This is where a “franchise” model is useful. A franchise is a mechanism in which different businesses may join under a recognized quality brand name. The McDonald’s corporation operates only about 15% of its restaurants, while the rest are handled by independent contractors who pay fees to the parent company.
In a model of this kind, the more entrepreneurial “Zetas” can “apply” to operate in a particular plaza and pay fees to the lead organization for the use of their name. Or a gang can independently negotiate a franchise with the most relevant Zeta node.
In addition, Los Zetas franchisees typically diversify into activities such as extortion or kidnapping to earn additional profits. In addition to the problems posed by a complex network, the Los Zetas franchise faces additional challenges because of counterfeiters. Given the chaos of criminal competition, virtually anyone can claim to be a Zeta without taking many risks. Unlike the Sicilian Mafia, which is a strong monopoly, the Los Zetas “brand” is easily falsifiable.
Thus, an extortionist can exert additional influence over their victims by claiming to be affiliated with Los Zetas, and also runs a relatively low risk for doing so.
Finally, governments can confront these networks only by adopting the same type of organizations, ie networks. Thus, the key is to create highly mobile and fluid coordinating mechanisms. It is easier said than done.