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Are Los Zetas Losing Their Grip?

Mexico's most powerful cartel may be "slipping," but drug trafficking is still on the rise.


End of an era? Photo via

By Ben Feuerherd


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Mexico's Los Zetas drug cartel, considered the country's reigning narco-operation in recent times, may be on the decline. But drug trafficking into the US is still on the rise. According to a report from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), the cartel could be "slipping," due to a string of recent setbacks. The Zetas are reportedly experiencing internal conflict following the death of founder Heriberto Lazcano who was killed by Mexican military in October—leaving even-more-violent drug lord Miguel “Z-40″ Trevino in his place. They also lost another key leader who was arrested last September, and face continuing attacks from the rival Sinaloa Cartel, the country's second most powerful drug operation. Security officials report that heroin and meth busts are up at the US-Mexico border, which could signal that other trafficking groups are gaining power and moving in on routes previously monopolized by the Zetas. But what sounds like bad news for the Zetas still isn't good news for Mexico: Adam Isacson and Maureen Meyer, senior associates at WOLA and the authors of the report, say that the apparent decline of the Zetas doesn't signify an end to the violence—far from it. “This is an ominous bit of news,” they write, “if a vacuum or organized crime control has opened up, violence may flare up again in Northeastern Mexico.”

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