The Armed Column, paramilitary bastion in Tamaulipas

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By. Jose C. Serrano

Octavio Leal Moncada79, has been the leader of the armed column, which appeals to patriotism and the autonomous defense of its peoples, which has become a powerful political and military agent in the area, alien to the State. But a history of drug trafficking, political power and blood pursues them.

In some corners of Tamaulipas, the state absence it is such that its inhabitants identify the authority not by a badge, not even a uniform: an R15 rifle. They are people living in Hidalgo, Villagrán, Mainero, San Carlos, Güemes, Padilla and San Nicolás, rural municipalities that embrace the capital (Ciudad Victoria), dedicated to the cultivation of orange groves and livestock. In that region, the only authority is the Armed Column.

To understand the mobilization capacity of the Column it is necessary to go back to 2010. A bloody year in the history of Mexico, but above all in this corner of the Mexican northeast, where the battle against drug traffickers that he waged Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa (from 2006 to 2012) raged against these towns.

In that year a powerful rancher, a cacique from Hidalgo, decided to apply the military maxim: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." And when the Zetas sought to extend their territorial power after separating from the hegemonic Gulf Cartel that year, they harassed entire populations, using ferocious hit men. Leal Moncada founded the group that he described as self-defense groups to “cleanse” his town of Zetas, but dressed it up as a civic organization, although the rifles carried the blood of the Gulf Cartel.

Leal Moncada, also known as El Tarzán or El Profe, and his organization have been associated with political power since its foundation. First, to the federal forces fighting drug trafficking, especially dedicated to dismantling the Zetas, who were also his target. And later, facing the 2016 elections, the civil branch of the group, which holds rallies and de facto governs its towns, supported the then candidate and later governor. Francisco Javier Garcia Cabeza de Vacaof the National Action Party (PAN).

There are images of campaign acts in support of the Column for the politician. An alliance that broke in 2022. Opponents criticize that it has been associated for the last state elections in June with the candidate of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), Americo Villarreal Anayanew governor of the northern entity.

The researcher from the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Jesús Pérez Caballero, who has studied the origins and evolution of this organization, explains how it has known how to oscillate between the military and the public to become a powerful group in the aforementioned municipalities.

“The organization has been able to go from an agglutinating group of violent actions against individuals perceived as enemies, to another of a political nature, of political awareness of their needs in the region, in a period of a decade, which also speaks of what imbricated that is the region where it operates”.

Thus, the Column has also become a political interlocutor for more than ten years. “There are videos of politicians from all parties, giving their support to the organization and vice versa, which speaks to us of a cross-cutting phenomenon (so is caciquism). The organization allows itself to strategically change political affiliations, given the mobilization capacity it has achieved and its links with political and economic networks in the capital Ciudad Victoria and in Nuevo Léón”.

Meanwhile, in Tamaulipas, mainly, the whereabouts of its former governor are unknown. Francisco Javier Garcia Cabeza de Vaca, and there is speculation about the newly sworn in state president's ties to drug traffickers, Americo Villarreal Anaya.

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