Mexico (MNN) ― 35 bodies were dumped near a hotel in Veracruz, Mexico last week. The Wall Street Journal reported the dead to be Zetas, members of Mexico's most-violent drug cartel, and also the group that claimed responsibility for last month's casino arson.
The murders were owned by an emerging group known as the "Mata Zetas," or "Zeta killers," who claimed their "only objective" is the Zetas for their immoral tactics of extorting and kidnapping citizens.
Essentially, a drug-trafficking group has taken justice into their own hands rather than leaving it to the police.
The Mexican government has stated that it won't stand for the vigilante efforts and will hunt down any group seeking to take justice upon themselves. This could be increasingly difficult, however, as vigilante cartels gain the support of disillusioned Mexican communities.
"People don't know who to trust at any level in the current governmental groups," explains Todd Szalkowski with E3 Partners. "The people are unsure of who is their friend, and who is their enemy. So that allows for any group to step up with a little bit of power and say, ‘I'm here to protect you. I'm here to act in your best interest.'"
And that is precisely what the Mata Zetas, and similar groups, are doing. After the Mata Zetas claimed the responsibility for the 35 Zeta murders, they informed the public that they had Mexico's best interest at heart and were "proudly Mexican," working for the benefit of their nation.
Although many detest the cartels, not everyone does. The government has been unable to stop some 40,000 deaths of cartel members and ordinary citizens alike over the last five years. Entire police forces have been shut down due to corruption within them. Plus, vigilante groups like the Mata Zetas are getting results, and people may well be interested in supporting a group they feel protects them.
Szalkowski likens society's relationship to the cartels as American society's relationship once was to the mafia in the U.S. "The drug cartels are not viewed negatively by all. They're kind of like the old style mafia in the U.S. They protected certain individuals. They befriended certain individuals, including the organized church by giving large donations."
And it's not just citizens who may begin to put their trust in cartels. Some speculate the government may even look the other way, and that some politicos and military officials may even support the groups.
Szalkowski says if that happens, "It's the Wild West. At that point, you're in a situation where you start to move toward anarchy." Many fear that the country would then follow the same dark road Colombia took years ago.
Where are people to turn, though, if they don't want to turn to a government they feel has abandoned them, or cartels they know to be corrupt? Szalkowski says increasingly, people are ready to look to Christ.
"The desperation level is reflecting the fact that there is not going to be a human answer to this problem. So we look to the Creator God of the universe as the only possibility for hope in the region."
E3 Partners has been training believers as "I Am Second" small group leaders, essentially with the hope that small church groups will pop up all across the U.S.-Mexico border. More and more people are being trained or joining the Bible-centered groups. As the Word transforms hearts, Mexico could be changed as well.
"The Gospel will be the only transforming power that's able to overcome the evil that we see there." Pray for the peace and Truth of Christ to wash over the country.