Leader of brutal Zetas cartel captured in Mexico

Media report that Omar Treviño Morales, leader of the brutal Zetas cartel in Mexico, has been captured

A leader of one of Mexico’s most brutal drug cartels was arrested early Wednesday, Mexican media reported.

Omar Treviño Morales, head of the Zetas paramilitary cartel, was captured by federal authorities in a wealthy suburb of Monterrey, capital of the northern state of Nuevo Leon. Both Mexico and the United States had offered multimillion-dollar rewards for Treviño’s arrest.

The Zetas are considered the most savage of Mexico’s many criminal organizations, having distinguished themselves with beheadings of victims, mass slayings of immigrants and deadly kidnappings and extortion. They control large chunks of territory, especially in northeastern Mexico, and have been involved in bloody power struggles with their former masters, the Gulf Cartel.

Key leaders of the Zetas have been taken down in recent years, though that has not stopped the group’s activities. Treviño, alias Z-42, took over about a year and a half ago, after the capture of his brother and then-commander, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias Z-40. A year before that, Mexican troops killed the top Zetas commander, Heriberto Lazcano -- whose body was famously then stolen.

The organization was originally formed from deserting soldiers to serve as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, but broke away and became its rival.

Just five days ago, Mexican police captured the longtime head of another cartel, the Knights Templar. Servando “La Tuta” Gomez had been a fugitive for years in the western agricultural state of Michoacan.

Both captures are wins for the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, which has been criticized for failing to address the violence sweeping many parts of Mexico.

Ricardo Ravelo, an expert on drug cartels who has written extensively about the Zetas, said in a radio interview that Wednesday’s capture will have a short-term impact on the group’s territorial operations but will not hurt its money-laundering and other financial businesses.

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