MEXICO CITY — Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the notoriously brutal leader of the feared Zetas drug cartel, has been captured in a major blow against organized crime in Mexico, the Associated Press reported Monday, citing an unnamed U.S. federal official.
Several Mexican media outlets reported that Trevino Morales was captured by Mexican Marines in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, which has long served as the Zetas' base of operations. The U.S. official was not authorized to speak to the press and asked not to be identified.
Trevino Morales, who's in his early 40s, is described as one of the two most powerful cartel heads in Mexico, the leader of a group of defectors who left one cartel and formed their own in 2010. The Zetas then spread across Mexico, expanding from drug dealing into extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking.
Along the way, the Zetas committed 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 cartels.
The capture is a public-relations victory for President Enrique Pena Nieto, who came into office promising to drive down levels of homicide, extortion and kidnapping but has struggled to make a credible dent in crime figures. It adds to the long list of Zetas' leaders who have been captured or killed in recent years, including Zeta head Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, who was shot to death last year.
The debilitation of the Zetas has been seen as strengthening the country's most-wanted man, Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who has overseen a turf war with the Zetas.