The leader of the brutal Mexican drug trafficking organization the Zetas, Alejandro "Omar" Treviño Morales, alias "Z42," was reportedly captured by Mexican federal forces on March 4 in Nuevo Leon state.

Z42 was reportedly arrested in a joint operation between the police and military, according to media reports from Mexico. He was captured in a safe house in the municipality of San Pedro Garza Garcia, which is part of metropolitan Monterrey and is one the wealthiest areas of Nuevo Leon, according to Milenio

San Pedro Garza Garcia is also a traditional stomping ground for big-name Mexican drug traffickers, including legendary Juarez Cartel leader Amado Carrillo, known as the "Lord of the Skies." Criminal group the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) has also used San Pedro as an area for rest, recuperation, and business. But it has not traditionally been a zone where the Zetas have had a strong presence, although they have exerted strong control over the rest of Monterrey. 

SEE ALSO: The Zetas and the Battle for Monterrey

The Drug Enforcement Administration offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction, as did the US State Department. He was indicted in 2008 in the District of Columbia for drug trafficking, meaning it is possible that Mexico could extradite him to the US. 

SEE ALSO: Z42 Profile

Omar Treviño, who had previously been reported killed by assassins in Guatemala last year, kept a low profile in Mexico, especially in comparison to brash gang leader Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, who was arrested on February 27 and was known for his frequent video releases. Z42 was nevertheless among the Mexican cartel leaders who reportedly attended a "narco-summit" in 2014, alongside leaders of the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), and the Juarez Cartel, in order to establish a new alliance and face down the Sinaloa Cartel

Z42 took over leadership of the Zetas after his brother, Miguel Treviño, alias "Z40," was arrested in July 2013 near Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Previously, Z42 was thought to handle the financial side of the Zetas' operations in Nuevo Laredo, the Zetas' traditional base of operations and where the two Treviño brothers were raised. 

SEE ALSO: Zetas News and Profiles

Z42's arrest comes as an additional blow against the Zetas, who have lost much of their top leadership the past several years. Top leader Heriberto Lazcano, alias "Z3," was reported killed in a firefight with security forces in October 2012, but his body then mysteriously disappeared from the morgue, prompting several conspiracy theories over the circumstances of his reported death. 

Additionally, the Zetas had to deal with an internal split in their organization, with the Treviño brothers on one side, and rival groups -- calling themselves "Zeta Blood" (Sangre Zeta) and the Legionaries -- on the other. Another faction, known as the "Zetas Unidos," announced an alliance with former Zeta rivals the Gulf Cartel last year. These divisions have led to violence in the Pacific states that have typically served as the Zetas' stronghold. 

"The last 12, 18 months of fighting in Veracruz and Tamaulipas has shown the extent of the Zetas fragmentation and atomization," Antonio L. Mazzitelli, the UNODC representative to Mexico, told InSight Crime. "This capture will accelerate that process."

Given the reality of these divisions within the Zetas, security analyst Alejandro Hope told InSight Crime that he does not believe this will necessarily trigger a violent struggle over succession in Treviño's faction. 

"It's significant that they captured him," Hope told InSight Crime. "But he was already of secondary importance. In the grand scheme, Omar is a footnote."

Security analyst Eduardo Guerrero Gutierrez told InSight Crime that Z42's principal lieutenants who remain at large are Roman Ricardo Palomo, alias "El Coyote," Maxiley Barahona, alias "El Contador," and Sergio Ricardo Basurto, alias "El Grande." In order to prevent any potential violence, the state should prioritize keeping an eye on Nuevo Laredo and northern Nuevo Leon state, he said.

"In any case, I don't expect that the violence that could surge in a dispute over Nuevo Laredo would reach the levels we saw in Ciudad Juarez or Tijuana, as this involves diminished criminal groups, with limited resources," Guerrero told InSight Crime.

UPDATE: See the 2009 superseding indictment filed in the District of Columbia District Court against Z42, referred to in the document as "Omar" Treviño Morales, and others in the Zetas and Gulf Cartel.

Arron Daugherty contributed to this article.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy. Unlike their paramilitary and drug cartel predecessors, the BACRIM maintain a diversified...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs.