The Leader of One of Mexico’s Largest Drug Cartels Has Been Arrested
Nuevo Laredo is a border city in northeastern Mexico, surrounded by hills and earth burned by the sun. Thousands of trucks ride its main highway, delivering legal and illegal merchandise to the United States. Although not as well-known as Tijuana or Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo is one of the busiest land ports in all of Latin America. Its formal economy is wedded to Texas, although its black market is linked directly to New York City, where most of the cocaine that moves through Nuevo Laredo winds up.
Beyond its main highway and asphalt avenues, Nuevo Laredo is also surrounded by labyrinths of cracked, Western-flick-looking roads that go nowhere, old rancher routes where shadows also roam. In the early hours of Monday morning, according to official accounts, Miguel Angel Treviño traveled on one of these. He was accompanied only by a bodyguard, eight firearms, and $2 million in cash. Something went wrong this time because neither the weapons nor the cash — in a region where both are essential for survival — prevented the arrest of the man known as the leader of the Zetas.
Treviño’s detention at the hands of Mexico’s Navy was immediately heralded by the government as a blow to organized crime in Mexico, and as a ‘win’ notch for President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose government hadn’t nabbed any significant bad guys since it assumed power last December. The arrest was also met with a symbolic pat on the back by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which said in a brief statement posted Tuesday that Treviño, or code-name “Z–40,” was now among the “most significant Mexican cartel leaders to be apprehended in several years.”
The Zetas organization formed in 2000 by 32 soldiers who deserted Mexico’s Army, with the blessing and financing of the then-leader of the Gulf Cartel, Osiel Cardenas Guillen. Between 2004 and 2009, during their rapid ascent in the criminal world, the Zetas surprised observers with their dynamic horizontal structure, the cruelty of their attacks, and their capacity of organized resistance against the Sinaloa Cartel, the oldest and most powerful cartel in Mexico. Their ascent seemed limitless until an alleged deal was struck between the DEA and Cardenas Guillen of the Gulf gang, and by 2010, when a series of official and non-official armed groups began moving into their territory, the Zetas’ hold on power in eastern and northeastern Mexico began to decline.