PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Coahuila — Several key figures within the Coahuila Attorney General’s Office (PGJE) turned a blind eye as Los Zetas cartel kidnapped, murdered, and incinerated hundreds of victims in the northern part of this border state. High-ranking officials turned away the relatives of the taken in an apparent attempt to keep the case under wraps. Not until years after the investigation was transferred to other officials did the horrors come to light.
One of the main massacres took place in rural Allende in early 2011. Los Zetas began a fierce extermination campaign and cartel gunmen roamed the community hunting down any friend, relative, or acquaintance of several individuals who turned on the criminal organization. As Breitbart Texas reported in early 2016 after a three-month investigation, those victims, including women and children, were killed with their remains incinerated in ovens and 55-gallon drums. In a three year span, the organization is believed to have killed more than 300 from Allende and the surrounding communities. Subsequent reports point to Los Zetas also dumping hundreds of bodies into Texas border area lakes shared with Mexico.
Of the more than 300 kidnapped, at least 150 are believed to have been taken to the Piedras Negras prison, which was under the control of Los Zetas. The victims were subsequently incinerated. Since bodies have not been found, most continue to be listed as missing persons cases–not murders. Breitbart Texas reported on numerous episodes where state authorities arrested and prosecuted various cartel gunmen tied to the prison incinerations; however, Coahuila authorities have not prosecuted the officials who protected Los Zetas during their so-called “Reign of Terror.”
Breitbart Texas confirmed that the first investigations into the mass disappearances did not start until 2014, three years after the massacre in Allende began. At the time that the first complaint began to be documented, Los Zetas were in decline after a specialized cartel hunting police unit called GATES (Spanish acronym for SWAT) began a frontal assault, pushing the criminal organization underground.
During the Allende massacre, the PGJE for northern Coahuila was run by Santos Vasquez. He left the agency and went into private practice in 2013–leaving his post to Patricia Rivera Barrera. During her time as Delegate for Region 1, Rivera was the person ultimately responsible for ordering investigations and prosecutions into the mass disappearances and other atrocities carried out by Los Zetas. As the top ranking individual, Barrera had ultimate prosecutorial control in her region of the state. Barrera was eventually moved out of her position after failing a federal internal affairs investigation. Rather than having her fired, Coahuila officials moved Rivera to oversee a PGJE Storage facility. Breitbart Texas confirmed that some of the 55-gallon drums cartel gunmen used to incinerate their victims were not properly kept as evidence and were used as trash dumpsters in the various PGJE buildings.
During her time as the head of the agency, Barrera led a team of ministerial investigators tasked with documenting and prosecuting crimes in the state. Agent Francisco “Balin” Carrasco Rodriguez and his partner, Jaime Garcia de la Peña, were close to Barrera and were in a position to handle the investigations into the mass disappearances. Breitbart Texas confirmed with multiple sources that both agents not only discouraged any complaints from the families of missing persons, but actually discouraged potential witnesses by telling them that they could become targets as a result of their cooperation. Information obtained by Breitbart Texas revealed that some of the victims were actually threatened by the agents telling them to “stop poking around” or “no le muevas”–or else. Both agents continue to work with the PGJE in Coahuila in relocated capacities. Breitbart Texas was able to document that both agents purchased buildings in the border city of Piedras Negras immediately adjacent to Eagle Pass, Texas, for prices too steep for Coahuila officials’ salaries alone.
Two other agents singled out as having turned back missing person complaints are Alejandro de Leon and Olga Lidia Juarez who, according to information obtained by this outlet, refused to interview individuals with knowledge of Los Zetas’ victims. The agents are believed to have yielded to pressure from superior officers to keep the scandal contained.
While time has passed and the communities have begun the healing process, many families in Coahuila still live with the uncertainty of what happened to their loved ones. Some still cling to hopes of finding them alive. Many of the officials who allowed the massacre to occur or who turned a blind eye to the plight of these victims continue to be employed by the State of Coahuila.
Editor’s Note: Breitbart Texas traveled to the Mexican States of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Nuevo León to recruit citizen journalists willing to risk their lives and expose the cartels silencing their communities. The writers would face certain death at the hands of the various cartels that operate in those areas including the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas if a pseudonym were not used. Breitbart Texas’ Cartel Chronicles are published in both English and in their original Spanish. This article was written by “J.M. Martinez” from Coahuila.