MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican security forces on Wednesday arrested the leader of the bloody Zetas drug cartel, the second high-profile capture of a kingpin in the past week and a boost to President Enrique Pena Nieto’s efforts to battle organized crime.
Omar Trevino, brother of captured ex-Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino, was caught by Mexican soldiers and the federal police in the northern city of Monterrey at around 4 a.m. local time on Wednesday, a senior government official said.
His arrest came just days after the capture of Servando Gomez, leader of the Knights Templar drug gang, who was the most wanted capo still at large in Mexico.
The Zetas have been blamed for many of the bloodiest atrocities carried out by Mexican gangs in a wave of violence that has claimed more than 100,000 lives since 2007.
The gang has been weakened since the killing of former boss Heriberto Lazcano in 2012 and the subsequent capture of Miguel Angel Trevino in 2013.
“Omar Trevino was the heir to all the Zetas who were going down,” said Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
The United States, which alleges that Omar Trevino is responsible for several abductions and murders as well as cocaine smuggling, had offered up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.
His capture bolsters Pena Nieto, who is currently visiting Britain.
Among the most notorious incidents pinned on the Zetas are the massacres of dozens of migrant workers, an arson attack on a Monterrey casino in 2011 that killed 52 and the dumping of 49 decapitated bodies near the same city in 2012.
Once the flashpoint for the worst of the violence, security in northern Mexico has improved considerably, except for the lawless northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, said Benitez, the analyst.
It is in Tamaulipas and in western Mexico, where a power vacuum was created by the break-up of the Knights Templar gang, that the government must focus its efforts now, he added.
Founded by army deserters in the late 1990s, the Zetas initially acted as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, based along the border with Texas and one of the oldest organized crime groups in Mexico. But the group struck out on its own in early 2010, setting off the most violent phase in Mexico’s drug war.
Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Kieran Murray, Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Simao