A trademark of Los Zetas. A trademark of Los Zetas.

Los Zetas cartel boss Z42 arrested in NL

Alejandro Treviño Morales was captured early this morning

A cartel boss who once boasted he had killed 1,000 people was taken into custody by security forces early this morning in Nuevo León.

The leader of Los Zetas, Alejandro “Omar” Treviño Morales, also known as Z42, was arrested at a safe house in San Pedro Garza García at 4:00am in a joint operation by Federal Police and the Mexican army.

Treviño Morales took over as leader of the cartel after his brother Miguel Angel was arrested in July 2013.

He was born in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, in 1974 and became involved in stealing cars and extortion at an early age, according to the criminal research organization InSightCrime. He and his brothers joined the Gulf Cartel’s enforcement arm, Los Zetas, which later broke off as a separate organization in 2010.

Treviño Morales was engaged in homicides, drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping, operating in Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo León. Mexican authorities had offered a 30-million-peso reward (almost US $2 million) for information leading to his capture, while north of the border United States authorities had offered $5 million.

Los Zetas was formed in the late 1990s by 31 members of an elite Mexican army force, working as hired assassins, bodyguards and drug runners for the Gulf Cartel. After that gang’s leader was arrested the Zetas went their own way, setting up networks to traffic in drugs, arms and people.

It was successful due to logistical sophistication: state-of-the-art communications technology and weapons — AR-15 assault rifles, grenade launchers and even helicopters — along with military discipline.

The gang is currently fighting the Gulf Cartel for control in the north, but it is dominant on the Gulf coast and in the southern states of Tabasco, Chiapas and Yucatán.

Perhaps the most vicious of Mexico’s criminal organizations, Los Zetas have been famous for torturing and beheading their victims, and stringing them up after in public places.

Facing growing opposition from security forces, the cartel has been increasing its operations in Guatemala.

The gang now operates in a more fragmented fashion with semi-independent cells, and reports indicate that Treviño Morales was having difficulties holding things together, in part because he was not seen as an intelligent and capable leader, unlike his brother.

This morning’s arrest was accomplished without any shots being fired and took place in one of Mexico’s wealthiest municipalities.

It came four days after another clean arrest, that of Caballeros Templarios leader Servando “La Tuta” Gómez.

The man presumed to be Los Zetas’ finance chief, Humberto Domínguez Lara, was arrested last month with another gang member in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

Sources: Milenio (sp), InSightCrime (en)

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