Mexico captures top Zetas drug lord, in major blow to cartel


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MEXICO CITY -- Mexico’s navy has captured ‘Zeta-50,’ a top leader of a faction of the recently divided Zetas drug cartel, in an operation in the city of San Luis Potosi, news reports said late Wednesday.

‘A person who is presumed to be, and acknowledges being, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, was captured,’ the navy said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.


The capture of Velazquez, also known by the alias ‘El Taliban,’ would deal a major blow to the fractious Zetas group and raise new doubts about the future of the criminal power dynamic in Mexico’s violent northeast region.

Authorities indicated that they would provide more information Thursday on Velasquez’s arrest, as he was being transferred to Mexico City, reports said.

In recent months, analysts say, Velazquez had split with Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, a.k.a. ‘Zeta-40’ -- a division within the Zetas structure that led to more high-impact violence in the area, including the August dumping of 14 bodies on a road in San Luis Potosi.

The split in the Zetas has brought new levels of violence to the previously peaceful state. Trevino Morales is accused, along with his brother Jose Trevino Morales, of laundering drug trafficking profits through horse breeding in the United States.

Velazquez’s capture leaves Trevino Morales still at large and an obvious target for Mexico’s special marine forces as the term of President Felipe Calderon approaches its end in December. The president has championed the work of the marines in his struggle against organized crime.

In recent weeks, the navy has captured top leaders of the Zetas’ chief rival and former employers, the Gulf cartel, in crippling blows to that organization.



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-- Daniel Hernandez

Ivan Velazquez Caballero in an image provided by the U.S. officials. Credit: U.S. Treasury Department