The Dallas Morning News reports that Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the head of the violent and ruthless Zeta cartel in Mexico, has been captured by Mexican authorities near the border town of Nuevo Laredo. The raid, which occurred at 3:45am local time, was conducted without any shots fired and netted Trevino, two associates, weapons and $2 million in cash.
The Zetas, widely considered the most feared extrajudicial power in Mexico, were originally formed by a group of ex-military who set up the group as a band of enforcers and hitmen for hire by other cartels. Beginning some time in the 1990s, the Zetas began working with the Gulf cartel out of Matamoros, helping them in their fight against the Sinaloa syndicate of northwest Mexico. Around 2007, the Zetas broke their ties with the Gulf cartel to set up their own distribution network and has since developed a reputation for ruthlessness which has set them apart even in the company of some of the world’s most violent organizations. Trevino himself has been linked to the deaths of at least 265 people. After the death of Zetas founder Heriberto Lazcano in a gun battle with Mexican Marines last October, Trevino took over.
Now the question arises of who will rise up to take Trevino’s place, as there is no realistic possibility that the cartels will give up on the hugely lucrative illicit trade between Central America and the United States just because a top leader has been captured. Further, there is no guarantee that a captured cartel leader will remain long in custody; the infamous Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa cartel, escaped one of Mexico’s maximum security prisons following his arrest in Guatemala.