Alejandro “Omar” Treviño-Morales, code-named “Z42,” who took over the Los Zetas Cartel after the arrest of his brother, Miguel Treviño-Morales, was arrested on March 4. He was captured in the municipality of San Pedro Garza Garcia, part of Monterrey and the richest area of Nuevo Leon—traditionally a hangout for narcos from the Juarez Cartel and Beltran Leyva Organization.

Reportedly, Mexican authorities identified the Zetas’ financial officer, Carlos Arturo Jiménez Encinas, and set surveillance on him. By following him, they were able to get eyes on “Omar” entering a house in San Pedro Garza Garcia. Following positive ID, the operation was put in motion.

At midnight, the joint force of Marines and federal police surrounded the house that Z42 was staying in, as well as the house next door where Encinas was. After establishing a perimeter 200 meters out, the Army arrived and was placed on the cordon. Marines and police made the arrest, storming into the house at about 0400 and pulling Treviño-Morales out without any shots being fired.

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The house where Treviño-Morales was arrested in San Pedro Garza Garcia. (Image courtesy of Milenio)

 

Z42 had headed Los Zetas—which got its start as an enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, formed by deserters from the Mexican Army Special Forces—for only a little over a year. Miguel Treviño-Morales, “Z40,” was arrested by Mexican Marines in Anáhuac in July, 2013. The previous commander of the cartel, Heriberto Lazcano, was reportedly killed in a firefight in 2012, though his body is unaccounted for. (As expected, this has led to numerous conspiracy theories about Lazcano’s death. His body was stolen shortly after the fight, and the government refused to release his DNA to confirm that it was, indeed, him.)

Z42 had generally kept a much lower profile than both his brother and the recently captured Servando “La Tuta” Gomez of the Knights Templar Cartel. Even so, he had a $5 million reward on his head from the U.S. DEA and a 30-million-Peso reward from the Mexican government.

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Interestingly, immediately following the arrest and transfer of Treviño-Morales to Mexico City, the Marines, Army, and federal police pulled off the target site, apparently without securing any further evidence or even securing the site according to standard procedures. According to neighbors, a garage door was left open, and at least one woman was still inside the house when the convoy left with Omar at around 0755.

This arrest counts as number 91 out of the goal of 122 high-profile arrests set by President Peña-Nieto at the beginning of his term in 2012. This purported list of 122 HVTs has not yet been made public.

Even Mexican authorities and analysts are saying openly that the arrests of narco HVTs are increasingly irrelevant. Los Zetas, long known as the most violent and militarily formidable of the cartels, has atomized recently, with the primary Los Zetas which Z42 headed rivaled by Sangre Zeta, The Legionaries, and Zetas Unidos, which allied with the Gulf Cartel last year. The big empires are no longer viable, not against their rivals or the federales or Marines, so the cartels are continuing to atomize. Unfortunately, the Mexican authorities still appear to be focusing on high-profile arrests rather than dealing with all of the smaller groups.

Ultimately, Z42’s arrest will mean little. He will be replaced, just like Z1, Z3, and Z40 before him. Until the cartel networks are completely dismantled (along with the corrupt government structures that enable them) and the regional and tribal grievances that lead so many people to support them and see them as los valientes, the problem will persist, and the violence will likely continue to escalate.

(Featured image courtesy: Tomo News US)