For Truth and Justice

The memorial dedicated to the students massacred by detachments of the
Mexican Army on October 2, 1968.
The third stanza of Rosario Castellanos’ mermorial poem is engraved on the monument.

by Raúl Romero*

Under the command of general Antonio Riviello Bazán, Secretary of National Defense between 1988 and 1994, and with the objective of modernizing the Mexican Army, the creation of the Air Mobile Groups of Special Forces (Gafes), elite groups with foreign- trained troops (United States, Israel, France, Guatemala, Chile, etc.) was promoted. Trained to carry out counter-insurgency operations, the Gafes were assigned the mission in the 90’s to deliver a surgical strike against the Zapatistas, a blow to the head of the EZLN. The mission would be later complemented by an all-out strike.

Arturo Guzmán Decena, Arturo Lazcano Lazcano and other members of the Gafes deserted and founded the criminal group Los Zetas. Among the training assignments of the criminal organization, Former members of the Kaibiles1, an elite group of the Guatemalan Army, one of the Central American military units that receive the greatest assistance from the United States, also participated in the training assignments of the criminal organization. 

As is known, Los Zetas is one of the criminal organizations that has sown the most terror in Mexico. Recent investigations of the National Search Commission of the Secretary of the Interior point out that nine killing centers in the northwest of the country are located in what was their zone of influence. 

The transition of Los Zetas from an elite military group to a criminal group did not stop it from continuing to carry out the task for which it was originally conceived: the work of counterinsurgency. Oaxaca was one of its theaters of operation. 

In 2006, in the midst of a popular rebellion headed by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), governor Ulises Ruis ordered a violent repression against actors of the popular movement that involved forced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions and death caravans. In order to carry out said repression, Ulises Ruiz made use of “the entire state apparatus in a ‘legal’ way”, but also of the action of the illegal armed groups, according to the report of the Truth Commission on the crimes against humanity committed against the Oaxacan people in 2006 and 2007 (popular version).

Arturo Peimbert, who was the head of the Oaxaca Office for Defense of Human Rights, is more direct: “a proven equation applied by Ulises Ruiz, in which para-police forces were used in collaboration with and to do the dirty work of the security forces of the three levels of government, and it is the first case in which the participation in these actions  of members organized crime, specifically Los Zetas, is proven, based on testimonies of the victims.”  (

Similar to other organized crime groups, Los Zetas don’t limit themselves to the drug trade, they are also involved in the business of coal, of gas, of extortion and of more than 20 crimes that make up part of transnational organized crime, one of the most brutal expressions of global capitalism today.  (

The history of Los Zetas is a clear example of that world in which all borders between legal and illegal have been erased, where the Army, police, municipal, state and federal governments, as well as businessmen and organized crime have fused into a true war machine against entire peoples, against popular organizations, indigenous peoples, migrants, against men, women, elders, boys and girls….

And how did this happen? How was it that public resources of the Mexican state were authorized to train and finance this group that later became our executioner? Who made the decisions that led to this? Who guaranteed them impunity and who was negligent in the face of their actions?

For the victims of Aldama, for the 72 migrants murdered in San Fernando, for the 300 thousand people murdered and the more than 85 thousand disappeared individuals from 2006 to this day… For Tlateloco, Ayotzinapa, Acteal, Aguas Blancas, Tlatlaya….For all the crimes of the State, for barbarism that made our country a giant clandestine grave. For all of this and much more, it is the time for all of us below to go out and seek Justice, a justice that will not come from above, nor will it just happen. We need to know the Truth, and undertake processes of Memory to dignify all our victims. Because as the EZLN says, there can be no life without truth and justice. 

* Sociólogist

This article was published in La Jornada on July 31st, 2021.
This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.

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  1. The Kaibiles have become notorious for barbaric terrorism and intimidation tactics committed against populations in the course of Guatemala’s Civil War. Past and present support for the training and arming of Kaibiles can be traced to the U.S. and the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly the School of the Americas).
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