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.