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 soldiers and federal police in the northern city of Monterrey before dawn on Wednesday, National Security Commission Director Monte Alejandro Rubido told reporters at Mexico City’s airport.
Trevino, looking overweight and in a light blue shirt, and four other men were paraded in front of the news media, their heads shoved down by soldiers and police, and escorted into camouflaged army vehicles.
“For the past few years, he’s been one of the country’s most-wanted delinquents, with an extremely violent profile,” Rubido said.
Trevino’s arrest came just days after the capture of Servando Gomez, leader of the Knights Templar drug gang, who was the most-wanted crime boss 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 capture of Miguel Angel Trevino in 2013.
Rubido said the operation to catch Trevino began immediately after his brother’s capture. By February, federal forces had begun closing in on him.
On Wednesday morning, they caught Trevino and four other men in two separate operations, Rubido said. No shots were fired.
Trevino’s capture bolsters Pena Nieto, who has seen his security record questioned following the likely murder of 43 trainee students in southwestern Mexico last year. The Mexican leader is currently on a visit to Britain.
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.
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.
Founded by army deserters in the late 1990s, the Zetas initially acted as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel. But the group struck out on its own in early 2010.
Additional reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Kieran Murray, Jeffrey Benkoe, Paul Simao and Jonathan Oatis