One of Mexico’s most brutal drug lords, Zetas cartel chief Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, has been captured by Mexican marines in a raid near the U.S. border.
The notorious cartel leader was apprehended in a dramatic dawn raid Monday outside his hometown of Nuevo Laredo on the Mexican-Texan border.
A Marine helicopter intercepted a pickup truck carrying Treviño Morales, a bodyguard and accountant, before bringing them into custody. Inside the vehicle authorities found $2 million in cash, eight weapons and 500 rounds of ammunition, government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez Hernandez told reporters.
Treviño Morales, known for burning people alive in oil barrels in his clan’s infamous “stews,” was a wanted man on both sides of the border. In Mexico he has now charged with orchestrating the abduction and slaughter of 265 migrants believed to be heading to the U.S. to work; he was indicted on drug trafficking and weapons charges in New York in 2009 and Washington in 2010.
The capture of “Z-40” is the highest-profile arrest since Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto came to office last December.
He campaigned on promises to decrease levels of homicide, extortion and kidnapping through local law enforcement rather than specifically targeting big-name suspects.
“This is a big hit,” former U.S. ambassador Tony Garza told The Dallas Morning News. “You can’t underestimate the signal it sends to the Zetas, and to those within other organizations that have chosen to resort to what can only be called ‘narco-terrorism.’”
The seizure of Treviño Morales comes nine months after Mexican security forces said they killed Heriberto Lazcano, the then leader of the Zetas, and captured other high-ranking cartel members.
Who is Treviño Morales?
Treviño Morales started his career as a teenager washing cars for the Los Tejas gang, based in his home town of Nuevo Laredo, but soon graduated to cross-border drug-running. In the mid-1990s, he was recruited into the Gulf cartel, which absorbed Los Tejas when it took over drug dealing in the region. It was there where he gained notoriety for brutal murders – his preferred technique being the “guiso,” or stew, in which enemies would be placed in 55-gallon drums and burned alive.
Treviño Morales sided with the Zetas, a group of Mexican special forces deserters who defected to work as hit men and bodyguards for the Gulf cartel, which split from the Gulf in 2007. He rose to the top of the Zetas in 2012 after its leader Heriberto Lazcano died in a shootout with Mexican marines.