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Cablegate: Setting the Record Straight On Zetas and U.S

VZCZCXRO7753
RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #2473/01 2330319
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 210319Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7982
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/HQ USNORTHCOM
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 002473

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KCRM PINR SNAR MX
SUBJECT: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON ZETAS AND U.S.
MILITARY TRAINING

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Charles Barclay for reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (S/NOFORN) Summary: Since 1996, U.S. Embassy Mexico
City has maintained an electronic database of all Mexican
military trained with U.S. funds. These records show that the
USG has trained nearly of 5,000 Mexican military personnel,
including members of Mexico's Special Forces (GAFEs).
Several prominent members of the Mexican cartel Los ZETAS,
notorious for violent attacks, previously served in the
Mexican military's special forces units. Rumors have long
circulated suggesting that U.S.-trained members of the
Mexican military have become ZETAS. The Embassy actively
vets GOM security officials selected for participation in
U.S.-funded training programs for involvement in human rights
abuses or other criminal activities. The U.S. also sponsors
training activities, exercises, and exchanges that promote
human rights within the Mexican military. Separately, the
Mexican Government has proposed legislation to increase the
penalty for GOM military personnel implicated in organized
crime activities. The Embassy conducted an extensive
cross-check of our database of Mexican military officials who
participated in U.S.-funded training programs against lists
of known members of Los ZETAS. The comparison of databases
did not produce any hits. However, intelligence from other
sources yielded the name of one individual was reportedly
trained by U.S. forces, retired from the Mexican Military,
was forcibly recruited into Los ZETAS, and was later
implicated in a plan to assassinate former Mexican Deputy
Attorney General Jose Luis Vasconceles. End Summary.


The Raw Data

2. (SBU) Since 1996, the Embassy's Office of Defense
Coordination (ODC) has maintained an electronic database of
all Mexican military personnel that receive U.S.-funded
military training. The database categorizes the individuals
by military organization -- SEDENA or SEMAR -- as well as by
the type of training they receive. The numbers below show
Mexican military members trained in the U.S. and Mexico. The
training in Mexico by U.S. personnel involves subject matter
exchanges, seminars, conferences, and mobile training teams.
The training conducted in the U.S. normally is
individual-level training, although some tactical-level
training includes special forces training. According to
ODC's database, since 1996 the U.S. has trained the following
number of Mexican military personnel.

1996 - 440
1997 - 236
1998 - 693
1999 - 1271
2000 - 282
2002 - 225
2003 - 207
2004 - 162
2005 - 185
2006 - 184
2008 - 177
2009 - 517 (to be completed by end of FY 09)

Total: 4952

3. (C) From 1996-1998, the U.S. provided unit-specific
training to 422 GAFEs. After 1998, the U.S. military
discontinued unit level training programs, including GAFE
training, to concentrate on specialized individual military
training. It is possible that the U.S. provided training to
individual GAFEs who participated as members of regular
units.


Cross-checking and Validating

4. (C) The Embassy's DEA office maintains a database of all
ZETAS who have been arrested, killed, or otherwise
identified. The database relies on a variety of sources
including the GOM, informants, and press accounts. Los ZETAS
is a criminal organization that guards the identity of its
members. We cannot know the names of every one of its

MEXICO 00002473 002 OF 002


members. Nevertheless, we have cross-checked the names of
the nearly 5,000 Mexican military personnel that we have
trained since 1996 against the list of known ZETA members
that the DEA compiles and have not found a match. (Note:
Prior to 1996, only hard copies of military orders exist. A
review of these files suggests they are incomplete. Where
paper files exist, we cross checked those names against the
DEA's list and found no matches. End Note.)

5. (S/NOFORN) Separate sensitive collateral reporting
indicates that Rogelio Lopez Villafana, a former Mexican
infantry lieutenant who retired from the Mexican elite
special forces, was forcibly recruited into Los ZETAS. Lopez
was later arrested and implicated in a plan to assassinate
the former Deputy Attorney General for Legal and
International Affairs, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconceles, in
January 2008. The same sensitive collateral reporting
indicates that Lopez received counter-narcotics operations
training at Fort Bragg, but the records do not include the
specific date. In response to Embassy queries, Fort Bragg
advised us that it could not recover any record on this
individual. Fort Bragg noted that its electronic training
records only date back to 1996. The Mexican Army (SEDENA)
reported to the Embassy that Lopez retired in July 2007 after
completing 20 years and 8 months of service in the Mexican
Army. As a result, he could have trained in the U.S. prior
to the inception of the ODC and Fort Bragg electronic
databases.


Vetting and Training Provide Additional Protections

6. (SBU) Since 1998, U.S. law requires Leahy human rights
vetting for any individual participating in U.S.-sponsored
training. Post and ODC administers a robust human rights
vetting program and every Mexican participant in our military
training program is subject to these legal requirements prior
to the training event. By law, we deny training to any
candidate implicated in a human rights abuse.


Raising the Stakes For Soldiers Going Bad

7. (SBU) In April 2009, President Calderon proposed a piece
of legislation that would mandate a 60-year prison sentence
for any member of the military that deserts and subsequently
engages in organized crime activity. Drafters of the
legislation hope that this bill will discourage soldiers from
using their military training for criminal purposes. All
major political parties agree on the bill's content.
Adoption of the bill would represent the first time the
federal government directly mandates a change to the Mexican
Military Code. This point may generate some debate when the
Mexican Congress reconvenes in September and reviews the
bill.

8. (S/NOFORN) Comment: Critics of U.S. military training
and conspiracy theorists have long speculated that members of
the notoriously violent cartel Los ZETAS once received
U.S.-funded special forces training. Since we cannot know
the name of every Mexican soldier who has joined Los ZETAS,
we cannot irrefutably reject this possibility. However, the
Embassy checked all available databases and obtained no
adverse results. Additional records based on informant
sources only yielded one case. Since 1998, the USG has
vetted every candidate for U.S.-funded military training for
human rights abuses. It is impossible to guarantee that
every Mexican soldier who receives our training in the future
will not defect to organized crime. We remain hopeful,
however, that the passage of harsh legislation instituting a
60-year sentence for soldiers who become involved in
organized crime will be a useful deterrent. End Comment


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /

FEELEY

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