Drug Cartel Gets Generous on Three Kings Day

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They've killed thousands of people in cold blood. But Mexico's infamous Los Zetas cartel seems to enjoy the occasional act of charity.


Early on Monday, dozens of gifts attributed to the cartel appeared in several neighborhoods of Oaxaca city, along with signs saying that the Zetas, "support sincere people."

The gifts were apparently left in low income parts of town to celebrate Epiphany, a christian festivity in which Mexican kids generally receive candy and presents "from" the Three Kings, a set of biblical characters who enjoy Santa Claus like status in Mexico. In English, these turban-claded kings who ride camels are also called the Three Magi, or the Three Wise Men.

In this case, there is still no proof that the Zetas were actually taking on the magi's job of gift giving.

But it would not be too surprising to see the Zetas giving out toys to local kids.

Pablo Escobar, the most well known drug trafficker in history, was famous for giving out free homes to the poor and for building sports facilities in order to secure the peoples' support.


In Mexico, several cartels have conducted smaller charitable acts in an effort to win the good will and support of local populations, and also as a way to let people know who's in charge.

Here are some recent examples of cartel charity:

Gulf Cartel Gives Christmas Dinners

Mexican news sites reported that on December 24th, members of the gulf cartel parked a vehicle outside a hospital in the city of Tampico, and handed out bags with warm christmas meals and toys, to local residents. Cartel members apparently made a video of this charitable event.


Zetas Host Parties for Kids

In May of 2013, the zetas allegedly hired clowns and music groups to host "childrens' day" parties for poor kids in the northeastern city of Victoria. An organization that claimed to be a childrens' rights NGO summoned kids to the parties, but the following day a poster claiming that the parties had been organized by the Zetas appeared in town.


Gulf Cartel Provides Disaster Relief

In September, shortly after Hurricane Ingrid swept through Tamaulipas state, members of the Gulf Cartel allegedly visited the most hard hit towns in that part of Mexico, to distribute food and liquids. The cartel published a video of their actions on social media sites, which included memes that said things like "they take care of the people without asking for anything in return." "They have a heart…they are people just like you and me."


Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.