As of January 29, 2013, 12 bodies of Kombo Kolombia band members and crew have been pulled from a well in Mina, Nuevo León, Mexico. Is a Mexican drug cartel behind the kidnapping murders of Kombo Kolombia?
According to BillboardBiz, “El Poderoso Kombo Kolombia was a young band that over the past three years had made their name known around Monterrey, Mexico, and the surrounding state of Nuevo León. Possessing a seemingly endless wardrobe of band t-shirts, proclaiming themselves alternatively as El Vallenato y el Poderoso Kombo Kolombia, or just Kombo Kolombia, the group’s twelve members got their name out. While the scope of Kombo Kolombia’s activity seemed to give the most literal meaning to the name Regional Mexican music, the band, which as its name suggests was influenced by Colombian cumbia and vallenato, had potential to grow. There were already a handful of fan club pages devoted to the group on Facebook.”
Time via The Associated Press reported that the band played a private party on Thursday, January 24, 2013 that was attended by about 50 people. The party was held at a ranch called La Carreta, or The Wagon, in the town of Hidalgo, Nuevo León,north of Monterrey. According to press reports, a group of armed men in fourteen trucks pulled up to the ranch and forced the band members and those with them into the vehicles. An unidentified survivor of the attack told authorities at least 10 gunmen entered the warehouse where the private party was being held and forced the band members and several crew members into waiting vehicles. According to reports, Nuevo León state security spokesman Jorge Domene said the survivor told police the 18 were blindfolded and driven on dirt roads until they stopped. He then heard the assailants ask fellow band members if they belonged to a drug cartel, shots were fired and the bodies were dumped into a well.
Domene said the survivor, who is being protected by soldiers, was able to reach a nearby ranch and get help. He wouldn’t give details on how the man was able to escape (though another source indicates the man “ran and jumped in a hole” without being detected by the assailants. Like the others, he had been severely beaten). The man later led authorities to the well where searchers found several bodies.
Domene said four bodies first pulled from the well on Sunday have been identified by their relatives, including Colombian keyboardist Heimer Ivan Cuellar Perez. Three of them were wearing matching T-shirt with the name of the band. Investigators also identified the bodies of a vocalist, a saxophone player and a member of the band’s road crew, all of them Mexican citizens.
“The search will continue … to see how many more bodies may be hidden there,” Domene said. By Monday afternoon, searchers had pulled 12 bodies from the well along a dirt road in the town of Mina, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Laredo, Texas. Yahoo Music via the AP reported that a forensic official speaking on condition on anonymity stated that recovered bodies showed signs of torture. It was hard to determine how many more bodies were submersed in the water, he said.
The party guests are being questioned and police have yet to determine a motive in the killings, Domene said. People living near the ranch in Hidalgo reported hearing gunshots at about 4 a.m. Friday, followed by the sound of vehicles speeding away, said a separate source with the Nuevo León State Investigative Agency. He also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be quoted by the news media.
The Cartel Connection?
It was Mexico’s largest single kidnapping since 20 tourists from the western state of Michoacan were abducted in Acapulco in 2010. Most of their bodies were found a month later in a mass grave. Authorities said the tourists were “mistaken” for cartel members. More than 70,000 people are estimated to have died in drug-related violence in Mexico over the past six years. Nuevo León state, on the border with Texas, has been the scene of a turf battle between members of the Gulf drug cartel and the Zetas drug gang. The Zetas were hit men for the Gulf cartel until they split in 2010, unleashing their bloody war.
Members of other musical groups have been murdered in Mexico in recent years, usually groups that perform “narcocorridos” that celebrate the exploits of drug traffickers. But Kombo Kolombia did not play that type of music, and its lyrics were about love and heartbreak and did not deal with violence or drug trafficking. But singers of drug exploits are not the only musicians targeted, said Elijah Wald, author of the book, “Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas.”
“There is really not correlation. Drug guys hire people to play for their parties and they hire whatever is happening,” he said.
Sergio Gomez, the founder and lead vocalist of the group K-Paz de la Sierra, was kidnapped and found strangled and tortured in 2007 in the western state of Michoacan, a day after Zayda Pena of the group Zayda and the Guilty Ones was shot in a hospital while recovering from a separate bullet wound in the border town of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas. Early evidence suggested that the murder might have been premeditated as Sergio had been warned not to play in the city of Morelia, a stronghold for drug related gangs. Zayda’s murder struck fear into Mexican musicians, as she had no known ties to any cartel. Valentin Elizalde, “El Gallo de Oro,” was shot to death along with his manager and driver in 2006 following a performance in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas. He was allegedly murdered by a member of the Los Zetas drug-trafficking gang which was the armed wing of the Gulf cartel at that time. Norteno singer Sergio Vega was shot dead in a northern state of Sinaloa in 2010 after a car chase.
“A lot of people are being killed because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and musicians are some of the people on that list,” Wald said.
Anonymous comments on a website specializing in “reporting the Mexican Cartel Drug War” imply that Kombo Kolombia has been attacked by the Gulf cartel before, though no corroborating information can be found. Another anonymous comment states,”They might not play “narco corridos”, but apparently they have no problem accepting money from, and playing for, cartel capo’s at “private parties.” If they performed for a legitimate business man or something it would have been reported, but we all know who hires these bands for these parties. It’s not always people who sing “corridos” that play for cartels. Jenni Rivera was known to perform for narcos and take thier money as well, even tho she said she had no idea who the parties were for, only a complete retard would not know they are working for the cartels at that point. Anytime you f*** with these guys on ANY level, you could be victimized. Play with fire, get burned.” Yet another comment reveals, “It was cdg (authors note: Cártel del Golfo of Gulf cartel) because the band members were well aware and even friends with some of this zetas or private party organizers.” And perhaps the most interesting comment: “Id hate to start rumors but theyre was talk of someone really important being theyre and when the band.found out who they were playing for they tried to leave. Atte la cabeza”
Methodology used in the kidnapping and murders of Kombo Kolombia band members and crew is similar to that used in much of the reported cartel violence. As mentioned, Los Zetas severed their association with Cártel del Golfo in 2010, sparking a violent turf war that continues to rage. Several anonymous statements corroborate an attack by the Gulf cartel on the Kombo Kolombia band in the past , which doesn’t appear to have been reported in the mainstream. It seems possible that there is a cartel behind the kidnapping murders of Kombo Kolombia, though there is no corroborating evidence or information available at this time.