FILE – This undated file image downloaded from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office rewards program website, shows the leader of Zetas drug cartel, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, alias “Z-40”. Mexican media reports and a U.S. federal official confirmed that Trevino Morales has been captured. (AP Photo/Mexican Attorney General’s Office website)
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the notoriously brutal leader of the feared Zetas drug cartel, was captured before dawn Monday in the first major blow against an organized crime leader by a Mexican administration struggling to drive down persistently high levels of violence, officials announced.
Trevino Morales, 40, was captured by Mexican Marines who intercepted a pickup truck with $2 million in cash on a dirt road in the countryside outside the border city of Nuevo Laredo, which has long served as the Zetas’ base of operations. The truck was halted by a Marine helicopter and Trevino Morales was taken into custody along with a bodyguard and an accountant and eight guns, government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told reporters.
Sanchez said the Marines had been watching rural roads between the Texas border states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas for signs of Trevino Morales, who is charged with murder, torture, kidnapping and other crimes.
The Zetas leader and his alleged accomplices were flown to Mexico City, where they are expected to eventually be tried in a closed system that usually takes years to prosecute cases, particularly high-profile ones.
Trevino Morales, known as “Z-40,” is uniformly described as one of the two most powerful cartel heads in Mexico, the leader of a corps of special forces defectors who went to work for drug traffickers, splintered off into their own cartel in 2010 and metastasized across Mexico, expanding from drug dealing into extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking.
Along the way, the Zetas authored some of the worst atrocities of Mexico’s drug war, leaving hundreds of bodies beheaded on roadsides or hanging from bridges, earning a reputation as perhaps the most terrifying of the country’s numerous ruthless cartels.
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