Mexican police announced on Tuesday the capture of Flavio Mendez Santiago, alias “El Amarillo,” a top leader of the feared Zetas criminal syndicate, in the town of Villa Etla, in the southern state of Oaxaca.
Authorities say Santiago is one of the Zetas founders and top leaders, in charge of drug and human trafficking in a region full of both, Mexico’s El Universal newspaper reports.
The capture comes as the Zetas rev up the violence and mayhem in the region. The Associated Press reports that the group, which began operating independently in 2007 and split from their progenitors the Gulf Cartel last year, has taken over the area along the Guatemalan border and could be responsible for the disappearance of up to 40 illegal immigrants who were traveling through the region on their way north.
The Zetas, whose core remains ex-military from Mexico and Guatemala, are known for their violent and intractable positions concerning rivals. They have spread their presence geographically and have expanded their criminal portfolio beyond drug trafficking to include human trafficking, contraband, and pirated goods. The Guatemalan government cited their presence in December when it announced a 30-day state of siege in the Alta Verapaz province in central Guatemala.