Los Zetas Cartel Leader Captured, Could Start Uptick in Violence

The head of the Mexican Zetas cartel has been captured, according to the government of Mexico. The arrest was made by the Mexican Navy in the early hours of the morning on July 15. Miguel Angel Treviño’s arrest marks a victory for the new Mexican presidential administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. The Wall Street Journal reported:

A navy helicopter intercepted a pickup truck in which Mr. Treviño and two others were riding on a country road at 3:45 a.m. Monday, Mr. Sanchez said. "Not a shot was fired," he added. Marines also seized $2 million and eight automatic rifles.

The Los Zetas cartel was formed after an elite American, French and Israeli-trained Mexican special forces unit turned bad and became enforcers for the pre-existing Mexican Gulf cartel. The group later broke away from being enforcers for the Gulf cartel and formed their own entity. The cartel then joined with the larger and more powerful Sinaloa cartel to rid Mexico of the newly formed competitors.

Shifts in the balance of power created by the apprehension or killing of cartel leaders has historically led to a short-term increase in violence. This point is illuminated in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2012 threat assessment, titled “Transnational Organized Crime in Central America and the Caribbean.” The UN report states:

In Mexico, a similar vicious circle was developing. As the Mexican Government intensified its law enforcement efforts against the various criminal groups, instability was created both within and in-between them. Succession struggles caused many to fragment, with the various factions fighting against their former colleagues. Weakened groups became targets for others keen to acquire prime smuggling territory.

The UN report goes on to say that violent conflict tends to erupt in Mexico when the "balance of power" is interrupted.


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