Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, the leader of one of Mexico’s most violent drug-trafficking cartels, was taken into custody Monday by Mexican officials — a capture made possible with the help of U.S. intelligence.
Trevino Morales was better known – and feared – by his nickname, “Z-40,” a play on police radio code for a commander, was the head of the Zetas drug cartel, a group renowned for torturing and killing anyone who stood in its way. He was captured in a dawn raid this morning when a helicopter carrying Mexican Marines dropped in front of his pick-up truck on a country road near Nuevo Laredo, a city bordering Texas.
Inside Trevino Morales’ car, authorities found $2 million in cash and eight rifles, according to Eduardo Sanchez Hernandez, spokesman for Mexico’s interior secretary.
The Zetas have run their enormous turf with almost unbelievable brutality since the founders, a corps of Special Forces defectors who went to work for drug traffickers, splintered off into their own cartel in 2010 and spread across Mexico.
Since the beginning, the Zetas have been responsible for some of the most horrific cruelty in the Mexican drug wars, including forced recruitment, human trafficking, kidnappings, and more.
In 2011, woman who angered the Zetas by blogging about crime and violence on a Nuevo Laredo website was found decapitated, her head placed atop a computer keyboard, with a message warning fellow bloggers about speaking out.
That same year, federal officials discovered 193 bodied buried in San Fernando. Most of the victims were migrants kidnapped off buses and killed by the Zetas, in some cases for refusing to become drug mules. Morales is charged with ordering those murders.
The Zetas are renowned for their violence, but Morales had a taste for killing that set him apart.
Some of Morales’ more horrific crimes include:
Killing those who betrayed him in a barbaric human barbecue known as a “cook-out”.
Ordering enemies to be scalped alive and whole villages of men, women and children butchered.
Promoting the sick phenomenon of “Mexigore” – making phone videos of beheadings, hangings, human spit-roasts and hacksaw dismemberment to be used as underworld propaganda.
The arrest is particularly satisfying for the United States, since many of Morales’ allegedly orchestrated several homicides within US borders. His gang was also believed to be responsible for the slayings of U.S. ICE Agent Jaime Zapata in 2011 and American citizen David Hartley in 2010 on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as coordinating a slaughtering carried out by US citizens on the streets of Laredo.
In an interview with Univision Tuesday, President Barack Obama praised the Mexican government and promised to continue supporting the fight against drug traffickers.
“We have to continue doing our part here in the United States to reduce demand, reduce the flow of guns and cash down south,” Obama said. “That’s the kind of cooperation that I think President Pena Nieto is looking for.”
For the group most terrorized by Trevino Morales, Central American migrants who were kidnapped, beaten and extorted by the tens of thousands, the arrest “will certainly be a relief,” said the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde.
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