The leader of the most brutal of Mexico’s drug cartels has been arrested less than 20 miles from the Texas border, according to officials.
Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, head of the Los Zetas cartel, was captured before dawn Monday without a shot being fired, said Eduardo Sanchez Hernandez, spokesman for Mexico’s interior secretary.
Trevino Morales was intercepted outside the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo while driving in a pickup truck with his accountant, bodyguard and $2 million cash, Mr. Hernandez said.
Los Zetas originally was founded by renegade Mexican military personnel, including many with special forces training. They began as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel — guarding shipments of drugs and cash, and killing rivals — before going into the drug business for themselves.
In recent years, Los Zetas has branched out into extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, U.S. officials have said.
The group is notorious for pioneering the grisly public displays that are now commonplace in Mexico’s ultraviolent drug wars — hanging the decapitated bodies of their victims from bridges or leaving them in public squares.
Trevino Morales, who has long-standing ties to the Dallas area, first became involved with gangs in a U.S. prison, according to the Dallas Morning News.
His arrest is the first major blow against organized crime by the administration of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has pledged to focus on citizen safety and throttle back on the high-profile “war against the cartels” waged by his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the arrest is likely to quiet critics, including some U.S. officials, who have fretted that Mr. Pena Nieto’s focus would end efforts to arrest the country’s notorious drug lords.
But the paper adds it is unclear whether the arrest will decrease violence in the volatile border region. Indeed, analysts say that arrest or killing of cartel leader often sparks more violence, as leaderless lieutenants fight it out to succeed the boss.