Mexico Captures Los Zetas' Leader

By Chrisanne Grise 07/16/13

Miguel Angel Trevino Morales is locked up. But will his capture only strengthen rival gangs?

"If you get called to a meeting with him, you're
not going to come out"
Photo via

Mexico has captured Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the leader of Los Zetas, the country's most violent and feared drug cartel. 40-year-old Morales (also known as “Z-40”) was reportedly taken into custody yesterday morning by Mexican Marines in Nuevo Laredo, the border city which serves as the Zetas’ base of operations. The cartel is responsible for some of the drug war's most brutal massacres, and have been known to leave dismembered bodies strewn along major highways or hanging from bridges. As gang leader, Morales was reputed to kill with abandon. "If you get called to a meeting with him, you're not going to come out of that meeting," says a US law-enforcement official. The capture marks a major victory for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who promised during his campaign to decrease crime rates, but has been mostly unsuccessful so far. But some experts worry that eliminating Morales may only boost the power of his rival Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel and one of the most-wanted criminals in the world. "El Chapo is greatly strengthened because he will now have access to the crown jewel of narco-trafficking, Nuevo Laredo," says George Grayson, an expert on the Zetas and professor of government at the College of William and Mary. But Alejandro Hope, a former member of Mexico's domestic intelligence service, calls Morales' capture "another link in the destruction of the Zetas as a coherent, identifiable organization." Morales will likely be succeeded by his brother, Omar, who many consider to be weaker. The previous Zetas leader, Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano was killed in a shootout with Marines last fall.

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices,,, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.