Official: Mexico arrests leader of Zetas drug cartel

E. Eduardo Castillo
Associated Press

Mexico City — Mexican police and soldiers on Wednesday captured Omar Trevino Morales, widely considered to be the most important leader of the Zetas drug cartel that once carved a path of brutal bloodshed along the country’s northern border with the U.S., a federal official said.

The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name because of government policy, said the man known as “Z-42” was arrested in a pre-dawn raid in San Pedro Garza Garcia, a wealthy suburb of the northern city of Monterrey.

The Mexican government had offered a 30-million peso ($2 million) reward for his capture on weapons and organized crime charges.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration had offered a $5 million reward for his capture, saying he was wanted on drug-trafficking charges, but listed “Omar” as an alias and his given name as Alejandro. DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed they are the same person, and said “we certainly are excited and congratulate Mexico for another great arrest.”

The suspect is the brother of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, described as the most bloodthirsty leader of Mexico’s most violent cartel.

Miguel Angel was arrested in July 2013, almost a year after marines killed the Zetas’ other biggest leader, Heriberto Lazcano “El Lazca.”

Omar apparently took over leadership of the Zetas — a gang originally formed by deserters from an elite army unit — after his brother’s arrest in 2013.

The Zetas left a trail of brutality, bloodshed and mutilated bodies across northern Mexico during their turf battles with the rival Gulf cartel. But much of the violence along Mexico’s northeast border now is due to internal battles among Gulf cartel factions.

The capture of Omar Trevino Morales follows Friday’s arrest of another big cartel leader, Servando Gomez, known as “La Tuta.” Gomez allegedly led the Knights Templar, a pseudo-religious drug gang that built up control of many sectors of the economy in the western state of Michoacan.

The two arrests provided much-needed good news for the administration of Enrique Pena Nieto, battered by a series of scandals in recent months.

“The government needed to show that some of its policies were successful,” said Raul Benitez, a security expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “And in this case, without doubt the strategy against the drug cartels is going well.”

Like Servando Gomez, Omar Trevino Morales was captured without any shots being fired.

The Trevino Morales brothers took proceeds from their U.S. drug sales and laundered them by purchasing American quarter horses. That scheme was led by Jose Trevino Morales, a third brother. A jury in Texas found Morales guilty in May of investing $16 million of drug money in the buying, training and racing of horses across the Southwest United States.