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Los Zetas boss ‘Z-40’ arrested in Nuevo Leon

July 16, 2013


Mexican marines captured Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40,” the head of the notorious and bloodthirsty Zetas cartel, in the town of Anahuac, Nuevo Leon early on Monday.

Treviño was driving with two accomplices on a dirt road 27 kilometers southwest of Nuevo Laredo when their pickup truck was intercepted by a Navy helicopter. The suspects were detained at around 3.45 a.m. and transferred to a secure facility in Mexico City.

They were carrying eight firearms, 500 rounds of ammunition and two million dollars in cash, but not a shot was fired during the operation, revealed Eduardo Sanchez, spokesman for the security cabinet, in a press conference on Monday night.

The arrest was the result of “many months of intelligence work” that began when President Enrique Peña Nieto took up office, Sanchez said, pointedly distinguishing the operation from those led by his predecessor Felipe Calderon. This marks the first major arrest of Peña Nieto’s presidency and represents a major public relations victory for the new administration after many commentators had doubted its commitment to the war on drugs.

The Mexican government had offered a reward of 30 million pesos for information leading to Treviño’s arrest, while the U.S. State Department had also posted a five-million dollar bounty. Sanchez made no mention of U.S. involvement in the arrest and said he was unaware of any extradition request to date.

Treviño, 40, took over as the head of Los Zetas after his predecessor Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano was killed by Marines in a shootout in Coahuila last October – although Lazcano’s body was subsequently stolen, raising doubts over whether he was truly dead.

Founded in 1999 by former members of an elite anti-drug squad, the Zetas started out as the enforcers of the Gulf Cartel but in 2010 they turned on their employers and quickly established themselves as the most feared and violent of all the gangs in Mexico.

Unlike the traditional, family-run drug-trafficking organizations of old, the Zetas are comprised of semi-autonomous groups acting as a franchise that operates from the United States down to Central America. Aside from smuggling cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States, the Zetas also deal in extortion, kidnapping, and people trafficking. Their reputation for extreme violence is unparalleled, with countless beheadings and massacres attributed to the gang over the past decade.

Treviño in particular is infamous for his ruthlessness and brutality. Federal judges in Mexico had issued seven arrest warrants against him and he is involved in at least 12 criminal investigations. He stands accused of the murder of 265 Central American migrants in Tamaulipas, among others, and faces charges of organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, torture and homicide.

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