On Wednesday, Mexican police and soldiers arrested Omar Trevino Morales, the public face of the Zetas cartel, giving embattled President Enrique Pena Nieto his second capture of a kingpin in less than a week. Members of the army and the federal police caught the gang boss, known as "Z-42," without firing a shot near the northern city of Monterrey, unnamed senior government officials told news agencies.
Authorities from Mexico and the US blame the Zetas for several atrocities carried out by gangs in a wave of violence that has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2007. Mexico offered a reward of 30 million pesos (1.8 million euros/$2 million) for Trevino's capture on weapons and organized crime charges.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration offered $5 million (4.5 million euros) for Trevino's capture on drug-trafficking charges. The DEA had believed him responsible for several abductions and murders committed in the border city of Nuevo Laredo between 2005 and 2006 and supplying multikilogram loads of cocaine smuggled in the United States.
In 2013, authorities arrested the kingpin's brother, Miguel Angel Trevino, or "Z-40," described as the most brutal Zetas capo. About a year before that, Mexico's military had killed the cartel's other biggest leader, Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano. Z-40's arrest and the gunning down of Lazcano had severely weakened the gang.
Very bloody history
Founded by elite army deserters in 1999, the Zetas initially acted as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, based along the border with Texas and one of the oldest organized crime groups in Mexico. But the group struck out on its own in early 2010, setting off the most violent phase in the country's drug war.
Incidents pinned on the Zetas include the 2010 massacre of 72 migrant workers, an arson attack on a Monterrey casino in 2011 that killed 52 people and the dumping of 49 decapitated bodies near the same city in 2012. Authorities also say that the Zetas melted their enemies in a barrel of "stew."
Trevino's arrest follows the capture in a firefight of Servando "La Tuta" Gomez, a former teacher and the leader of the Knights Templar drug gang - until his arrest in the southwestern state of Michoacan last Friday, the most wanted capo still at large in Mexico. In October, police captured the leader of the Juarez Cartel.
The arrests bring to a total of 91 the number of members of criminal organizations detained or incapacitated since President Pena Nieto announced his objective in December 2012. Thirty-one names remain on the president's to-catch list.
In February, it emerged that a narco gang may have used German-manufactured weapons in the disappearance of more than 40 politically active Mexican university students
mkg/lw (EFE, Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)