The leader of the brutal Mexican drug trafficking organization the Zetas, Alejandro “Omar” Treviño Morales, alias “Z42,” was reportedly captured by Mexican federal forces on Wedenesday, March 4 in Nuevo Leon state, in Northern Mexico.
Z42 was reportedly arrested in a joint operation between the police and military, according to media reports from Mexico. He was captured at 4:00am in a safe house in the municipality of San Pedro Garza Garcia, which is part of metropolitan Monterrey and is one the wealthiest areas of Nuevo Leon, according to Milenio Newspaper.
The cartel boss who once boasted he had killed 1,000 people was taken into custody by security forces early this morning in Nuevo León.
Treviño Morales took over as leader of the cartel after his brother Miguel Angel was arrested in July 2013.
He was born in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, in 1974 and became involved in stealing cars and extortion at an early age, according to the criminal research organization InSightCrime. He and his brothers joined the Gulf Cartel’s enforcement arm, Los Zetas, which later broke off as a separate organization in 2010.
Treviño Morales was engaged in homicides, drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping, operating in Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo León. Mexican authorities had offered a 30-million-peso reward (almost US $2 million) for information leading to his capture, while north of the border United States authorities had offered $5 million.
Los Zetas was formed in the late 1990s by 31 members of an elite Mexican army force, working as hired assassins, bodyguards and drug runners for the Gulf Cartel. After that gang’s leader was arrested the Zetas went their own way, setting up networks to traffic in drugs, arms and people.
It was successful due to logistical sophistication: state-of-the-art communications technology and weapons — AR-15 assault rifles, grenade launchers and even helicopters — along with military discipline.
The gang is currently fighting the Gulf Cartel for control in the north, but it is dominant on the Gulf coast and in the southern states of Tabasco, Chiapas and the Yucatán Peninsula.
Facing growing opposition from security forces, the cartel has been increasing its operations in Guatemala.
The gang now operates in a more fragmented fashion with semi-independent cells, and reports indicate that Treviño Morales was having difficulties holding things together, in part because he was not seen as an intelligent and capable leader, unlike his brother.
This morning’s arrest was accomplished without any shots being fired and took place in one of Mexico’s wealthiest municipalities.
It came four days after another clean arrest, that of Caballeros Templarios leader Servando “La Tuta” Gómez.
The man presumed to be Los Zetas’ finance chief, Humberto Domínguez Lara, was arrested last month with another gang member in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
Z42 is wanted for numerous crimes in Mexico and the United States, including a case handled by the Western District of Texas, accusing Miguel, Omar, and their brother, Jose, of using front companies in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma to launder profits on behalf of the Zetas. The case, filed in 2012, involved the use of US-based horse breeding companies in order to disguise dirty money. They were found guilty in April and are awaiting sentencing.
Omar was also the head of the organization’s activities in San Fernando when hundreds of migrants, most of them from Central America, were kidnapped and killed between 2010 – and 2012.
Z42 participated in kidnappings, homicides, and drug trafficking on behalf of the Zetas. Narco-banners signed in his name have also appeared across Mexico, including several in Coahuila that threatened the editor of local newspaper Zocalo in 2013.
In the past, Z42 operated in Coahuila, although Nuevo Laredo is the traditional stronghold of the Treviño family and he operated in Nuevo Leon as well.
Allies and Enemies
The Zetas‘ biggest enemies as of 2013 include the Sinaloa and Gulf Cartels, as well as smaller, splinter criminal organizations, such as the Michoacan’s Knights Templar.
Before his arrest Omar faced significant challenges in holding the group together, not least because he was not seen as a capable, intelligent and strong leader. Prior to his brother’s capture, the Zetas faced internal squabbling as some mid-level commanders accused Miguel Treviño of betraying his compatriots to the US.
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