A gun battle in the Mexican border city of Reynosa claimed the life of Galindo “Z-9” Mellado Cruz, one of the founding members of the brutal drug cartel known as Los Zetas. His death was confirmed by the reputable drug war news site Borderland Beat on Monday.
Mellado was one of the 31 original members of the one-time Gulf cartel enforcer group recruited in the late 1990s by former drug lord and Gulf leader Osiel Cárdenas Guillen. The kingpin wanted a private army to defend his territory and operations, so he ordered one of his top lieutenants, Arturo Guzmán Decena, to find these soldiers among the ranks of Mexico’s special forces organization known as GAFES.
According to FOX News Latino, Mellado was cornered by Mexican federal forces in a private residence in Reynosa, where several armed reinforcements arrived in SUVs to help protect him. The ensuing battle left him and four associates dead, along with one Mexican soldier. That raid led to the arrest of four additional members of Los Zetas, along with the seizure of assault rifles, grenades, and 500 rounds of ammunition.
After Cárdenas Guillen was arrested and imprisoned in 2003, Los Zetas slowly started to grow in power, although that growth really expanded after Cárdenas was extradited to the United States in 2007. Los Zetas officially broke off from the Gulf cartel to form their own drug trafficking organization in 2010. At the time of his death, Mellado did not hold a leadership position within the organization, but the US government levied sanctions against him in 2010. According to ABC News, before his death Mellado was robbing banks, stealing cars, and kidnapping people for ransom–a favorite criminal pastime of Los Zetas. His death is not expected to have any serious impact on Zetas operations.
Northern Tamaulipas state, which shares a border with southern Texas, has been a battleground for years between the Gulf cartel, which is headquartered in across the Rio Grande from Brownsville in Matamoros, and Los Zetas. Gun battles can frequently be heard across the border from Texas border communities, and have claimed the lives of dozens of people in just the last few weeks.
Follow Sylvia Longmire on Twitter @DrugWarAnalyst.