James Bosworth, of Bloggings by Boz, highlights the absence of the Zetas as a major contributor to Nicaragua’s relative peace. The Zetas, who first sprung up as the armed wing of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, have since become independent and moved much of their operations into Guatemala, especially since 2008. (See InSight Crime’s special on the Zetas in Guatemala). Going south brings the group a step closer to South America – the source of drugs – giving them greater control over the supply chain, and a bigger share of the profits. Meanwhile, Guatemala’s weaker government and more permissive environment allows them to operate with greater impunity.
The Zetas have also begun to establish links in El Salvador, prompting President Mauricio Funes to warn last year that the group had sent exploratory missions into the country to seek links with local trafficking groups. The group’s presence is stronger in Honduras, where they have been ramping up operations since 2006, and now control an increasing amount of the cocaine trade through that country, managing the local traffickers, according to a report from the Wilson Center. The Honduran government has said that the Zetas are working with the Honduran branches of Barrio 18.