A leader of the notorious Mexican Zeta drug cartel allegedly involved in the killings of hundreds of people went on trial in a Texas court Wednesday. Marciano Millan Vazquez has been charged with drug related crimes and several homicides.
While Vazquez is accused of multiple homicides, Mexican media outlets have calculated that at least 400 people were disappeared in what has become known as the “Coahuila Ovens” case. Vasquez has been accused of directing killings and ordering the incineration of bodies between 2009 and 2015, TeleSur reported.
Vazquez and other Zeta leaders “gave orders to kill persons in the course of the conspiracy; and the defendant himself shot, dismembered and burned bodies in furtherance of the conspiracy,” assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Leachman wrote in a court document, the Houston Chronicle reported. "The evidence will show that the intent of these murders was not only to enforce orders, but also to terrorize those who might resist."
Coahuila, Mexico’s third largest state, fell under the control of the Zeta cartel in recent years taking advantage of the state’s border location with Texas and alleged political corruption that has given the cartel room to operate. The Zeta cartel is known for its brutality as well as aspirations to control as many criminal businesses as possible in the areas under their control.
“We are a people under siege, and it is a region-wide problem,” Raul Vera, the Roman Catholic bishop of Coahuila, told the Los Angeles Times in 2012 describing the drug war and growing Zeta control.
Vasquez was exonerated of charges in Coahuila, however he was arrested in San Antonio last year and the U.S. attorney has argued his crimes were committed as part of conspiracy tied to the U.S. allowing the state side trial to take place.
“The government’s case contains no physical evidence and is based solely on the word of a paid government informant,” said Jaime Cavazos, Vasquez’s attorney, local media reported.
SWAT teams have been present at the courthouse due to the high profile of the case, local media reported. If Vasquez is found guilty, he faces the possibility of a sentence of life in prison.