One of the founders of Mexico’s Zetas cartel has been released from prison, raising the possibility that he could reassume control of the criminal organization, which has suffered a significant loss of leadership in recent years.
On August 30, Rogelio Gonzalez Pizaña, alias “Z-2”, was released from prison after he was absolved of homicide and organized crime charges, reported SUN. His release came after a court in Guadalajara modified a previous ruling — which had sentenced Pizaña to 16 years in prison on drug trafficking charges — and only found him guilty of carrying a weapon and cartridges reserved for military use. The court reduced his sentence to six years and determined that because Pizaña had already spent over nine years behind bars, he could be released.
Pizaña was captured in 2004 during a gun battle with law enforcement officials that killed one federal police officer and injured two others.
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Due to intense pressure from security forces, the Zetas have suffered a major loss of leadership in recent years with many of their founding members either killed or captured. It is possible that Pizaña — the only founding member of the Zetas who was not a defector from Mexico’s armed forces — may be able to strengthen leadership within the weakened cartel.
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The Zetas suffered a series of blows beginning in 2011 with the capture of high-ranking member Carlos Oliva Castillo, which was followed by the killing of Heriberto Lazcano, alias “Z-3”, by marines in 2012. Ivan Velazquez Caballero, alias “El Taliban”, was captured in 2012 amidst reports that Zetas leaders were losing their power to local cells. Shortly after, a faction of the Zetas formed a splinter group dedicated to waging war against their former boss, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, alias “Z-40”, who was captured by marines in July 2013.
Pizaña’s release came two months after the Zetas met with other criminal organizations including the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO), the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), and the Juarez Cartel for a “narco summit.” The criminal organizations reportedly met in order to divvy up Mexico’s drug trade and commit to challenging the Sinaloa Cartel’s dominance. It remains to be seen whether Pizaña’s release will provide some badly needed central leadership to the Zetas as they pursue this new strategy.