During the early hours of Monday, the leader Miguel Treviño Morales, known as “Cuarenta” or “40”, was captured by the Mexican Marines in a municipality about 27 km south west of Nuevo Laredo…..
Setting aside the unproven, sensationalistic accounts, relayed by captured narcos, and perpetuated by the media, legends such as Miguel Treviño boiling babies, one only has to view the photos of 72 migrants slaughtered by Zetas to establish how brutal Zetas are. ..
It was Zetas that crafted a drug business diversification, by expanding into the business of human trafficking. It is big business for Zetas, who charge thousands of dollars to transport economic migrants into the US. But the process is not so precise.
Speaking directly with economic migrants through my work with the Casa Migrantes, I have learned that the journey is prepped by assuming two things will happen. They will be kidnapped, and females will be raped. All migrants prepare for the eventuality of being kidnapped, at the minimum of one time during their 2000 mile journey. Family members prepare and await the call from narcos demanding “ransom” money.
Zetas draw from these huge migrant pools to select recruits they deem best for narco work, or the sex industry. The outcome for those refusing to work for the Zetas, is depicted in the photos of the 72 slaughtered migrants whose bodies were discovered in an abandon ranch in Tamaulipas. (Above)
So yes they are brutal. Yes they kill innocents.
But brutality was a part of drug war apart and long before the formation of the Zetas, and contrary to popular belief they did not initiate the method of decapitation for the purposes of terror, it was La Familia Michoacán who shocked Mexico, in October 2006, when they tossed 5 decapitated heads on to the floor of a Michoacán disco. The heads were accompanied by a “cartulina”(poster board with narco message) that read;
“La Familia does not kill for pay; it does not kill women or innocents. Only those who deserve to die will die. Everybody understand: this is divine justice.” In 2006, such acts were very rare, today decapitations are so common they are not shocking to those that follow the Mexican Drug War. Although previously rare, decapitations were a part of the cartel arsenal of terror and revenge prior to the lobbing of 5 decapitated heads in the Uruapan disco. It was the act of using multiple decapitated heads thrown into a public environment to send a message that was new. Prior to this horrific occurrence, LFM had used decapitation to settle scores and revenge, but not to send a message. The victims were props, either low level narco or innocents, it was never made clear.
The “Hearts and Minds of Citizens” A defining difference between Zetas and other cartels is that Zetas have never cultivated the hearts and minds of the people. They simply, at the most basic level, are uninterested and uncaring what people think of them or their actions. Most cartels have the opposite agenda, with PR machines intact they espouse their work as good, in the sense they are helpers of the poor, and infirm and never would harm innocents. This is a tactical maneuver called “pyops”, that influences the value system of people, in which reality becomes shrouded. Whereas Zetas use fear and terror as a means of control.
When I arrived in Coahuila a decade ago, Zetas were a presence but working as enforcers for the Golfo Cartel (CDG). Zetas were much less overt as enforcers, taking orders from CDG’s premier leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen.
Osiel was one of those leaders who thought it important to capture the hearts and minds of the people, to gain their support. He was fulfilling requests for medical and emergency assistance, throwing lavish parties for citizens with expensive giveaways, and celebrations at Christmas and Children’s Day (photo above).
However, behind the scenes he was ordering brutal murders, extortion and kidnappings. LFM worked for CDG as enforcers in the south. Osiel was captured after a shootout in 2003 and imprisoned in Mexico, although he continued commanding the cartel from behind bars.
The violence, including decapitations by enforcers were conducted on orders given by Osiel and the other CDG leaders. Osiel earned the nickname of “friend killer”, stemming from ordering the execution of his his good friend Salvador Gómez Herrera, aka “el Chava”, then the co-leader of the Golfo Cartel along with Osiel. Osiel wanted to command solo.
Gómez, was selected by Osiel (at left) and given the honor of being his daughters godfather. It was shortly after driving away from the baptism party celebration, with Osiel in the vehicle, when a sicario sitting in the backseat, fired a gunshot into the head of Gomez, blowing his brains out.
To this day many citizens think of Osiel and a kind and generous leader that would never harm innocents, or extort or kidnap. The PR machine could not have done a better job.
His command stopped in 2007 when he was extradited to the US. He pled guilty in a US Federal courtroom where upon the brutal fearless leader broke down and wept. He received a 25 year sentence.
The Treviño Morales Family Clearly, it has been a horrible year for the Treviño Morales family. Then again 2012 wasn’t so great either.
Arcelia Morales, is the 74 year old matriarch, the woman that gave birth to all of the 13 Treviño children. Juan, Arcelia, Irma, Alicia, Rodolfo, María, José, Ana Isabel, Jesús, Miguel, Ángel Óscar Omar, Cristina and Adolfo, born between the years of 1955 to 1980.
Arcelia and Rodolfo, father of the Treviño siblings, migrated to Texas from the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The family settled in a modest Pleasant Grove neighborhood of Dallas Texas.
Where Miguel appears chronologically in the family tree is in dispute, even by the US and Mexican Governments, his year of birth is either 1973 or 1980, although it is certain he was born in Nuveo Laredo where the family has always maintained a home.
Arcelia continues to live in the Dallas area and Nuevo Laredo.
Miguel grew up idolizing his older brother and the first born Treviño child, Juan Francisco. Juan had a landscaping business in Laredo Texas. 40 worked for his brother in the business, which included servicing the properties of well-placed narcos having homes in Laredo. He was recruited by “Los Tejas”of Nuevo Laredo.
Though he began as a go-fer which included tasks such as getting lunches, and running errands he was a fast learner, bilingual and had the ability to move between the US and Mexico freely. With his skills he was able to rise quickly in the ranks fortified by helping his brother Juan, who had by this time gone from pulling weeds to smuggling weed.
In 1995 Juan, he was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle hundreds of pounds of marijuana into Texas through Nuevo Laredo. Both Miguel and José were implicated in the investigation leading to the arrest of Juan; it fell short of enough to overcome the standard of reasonable doubt, so they were not charged in the case.
Juan was sentenced to 20 years in prison; he is in the Florence Federal Prison in Colorado. His original release date was July 2013 but has been delayed for an undisclosed reason to March 2014.
Treviño Clan’s “Años Horribles”2012-2013
In the year of 2012 and the 7 months of 2013 the Treviño family crisis list includes:
Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, 40, leader of the Zetas, was captured
José Treviño Morales, 46 (a naturalized U.S. citizen) was convicted in a Zetas related money laundering/horseracing scheme. He is awaiting sentencing. (with wife and daughter in the photo above)
Zulema Treviño, 39, wife of José also a naturalized U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy in March, she is awaiting sentencing, her whereabouts unknown.
Alexandra García Treviño, daughter of José and Zulema, pleaded guilty to having knowledge of a felony. She’s believed to be living in California with her military husband.
Omar Treviño Morales, indicted in the U.S., has not been arrested.
Alejandro Treviño Chávez nephew of Miguel was shot by forces in Piedras Negras Coahuila in October 2012 sparking a “Nephew for a Nephew” retaliation resulting in the death of Eduardo Lalo Moreira, nephew of the governor of Coahuila.
Juan Francisco Treviño Chavez “El Quico” (above though it may be mislabeled) son of Juan senior, arrested in Monterrey in June 2012. Quico escaped from a Nuevo Laredo prison in 2010.
The future of Los Zetas
The feared leader went down without a shot. That does not surprise this reporter. He is a calculating criminal and leader. Surrender equates to; opportunity.
Powerful cartels are big business. Sinaloa at the top and Zetas are in scores of countries around the globe. They plan for every eventuality, so it is way too soon to write the Zetas epitaph. That said, even the best laid plans fall apart by the unplanned circumstances, or rogue players.
Perhaps a serendipitous advantage, just before and directly after the death of premier leader of the Zetas Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano in October 2012, infighting had resulted in two known splits within the group, those staying with the cartel were deemed as being faithful to 40. Another fracture is possible, but more so if 40’s brother Omar (Z42) is not named the heir to leadership. Or an unknown factor such as a power play by one or more of the members to overthrow the Treviño hold on the cartel.
Splits within groups are deadly to the organization, case in point is CDG. When I moved to Mexico, CDG was arguably the most powerful cartel, and the oldest, having begun as smuggling alcohol to the US during the prohibition. Although they are experiencing a strengthening, they had been weaken through several events; Osiels arrest, death of key players such as Tony Tormenta, inept leadership, the split with Zetas, and a division within the organization. Had they not been so powerful before those events, they would not exist today.
Another factor in their survival can be attributed to the alliance with CDS (Sinaloa), teaming against the Zetas. CDS made the alliance to attain a path in the northeast. It is no secret Chapo has wanted the NE border plazas and none more than the lucrative Nuevo Laredo Plaza, if CDS acquires the Nuevo Laredo plaza, they will control every major plaza along the frontera. . Many felt if the Zetas were eliminated in the NE region, at that time CDS would break ties with CDG and control the NE.
If Omar (42) gains premier leadership, it is likely that 40 will govern the organization from behind bars. As far as franchising plazas or “leasing” for a price the use of routes, similar to CAF in Tijuana, that is also a possibility, it would be smart of Zetas to concede their position of black and white and attempt agreements.
As Osiel did, until extradited to the US, it will be probable that 40 would continue in control Zetas behind bars .
It was disturbing to see that he was taken into custody sans handcuffs. It could be the style of Mexico’s new president Enrique Peña, or it could be an indication of a lax treatment that lies ahead for the capo once he is incarcerated. Capos have a comparative luxurious life behind bars. Two room cells with kitchens, electronics, liquor, and just about any amenity they want.
The other “opportunity” for the fallen leader is escape. Though the days of Chapo’s laundry basket escape are said to be a thing of the past, Zetas are known for daring escapes, involving scores of inmates, and in Piedras Negras an escape of over 100 inmates were facilitated by a tunnel. However, how feasible that would be in the more secure federal prison system remains to be seen. Money has been known to buy freedom, not a likely scenario, but not impossibility.
When Osiel was apprehended, Zeta enforcer “Mamito”, the former GAFE member, headed an extravagant, but failed attempt to free the incarcerated leader. The ambitious plan used air support of three helicopters and over 60 Zetas as the group moved in on maximum security prison ‘El Altiplano’.
The best course would be if Mexico would allow 40 to be extradited to the United States. Given the strained US relationship with the new administration of EPN, that is unlikely. EPN has detached his administration from US agencies and cutoff the previous privileges enjoyed by US agencies under the Calderon administration, such as open access to information and data.
It would not be surprising to learn the US provided the information to the Mexican Navy to execute the capture of 40. The Mexican Navy is the sole hold out in the sea of Mexican agencies having cut off open relationships with the US. The Mexican Navy is the most respected Mexican agency, highly regarded by US agencies.
The US recently was instrumental in the capture of the father in law of Chapo Guzman. The capture was called a “gift”from the DEA to EPN. Some think the capture of Z40 was another gift from the US. Mexican officials ignored the direct question when proposed in the press conference conducted to announce the capture.
Others are in the belief that the capture was perhaps a gift from the EPN administration to Chapo Guzman.
Top contenders as the new leader of Zetas
Appointing 42 as the Zetas new leader would likely be the most desirable scenario for the fallen leader. The bond of trust between the brothers is paramount to the organization continuing, at least for now, under the direction of Miguel Treviño behind bars.
However the list of possible replacement can be shortened to four standouts.
Omar Treviño Morales ” Z-42 “, brother and strongman” Z-40 “, who is identifies by Mexican agencies by being responsible for the same degree of violence as his brother Miguel. People on the ground in Coahuila, where Omar resides, consider him a person with potential of even greater violence and brutality.
Maxiley Barahona Nadales, “El Contador” or “El Maxiley”, if it’s a leader with the potential for high brutality that gets the nod, this is the Zeta. The Mexican agency PGR Labels him as “Extremely Dangerous”. He is the second in line in the Zeta hierarchy, if Omar is not the leader, it will be this man.
He is in charge of the plazas of Veracruz, Tabasco and Chiapas. Under his direction a mass of murders, and kidnappings have been conducted in the regions that he is responsible for. He is also suspected of detonating grenades at the offices of the Attorney General Justice of the state of Chiapas .
Román Ricardo Palomo Rincones, “El Coyote”, This Zeta is one of the leaders in charge of the kidnappings and massacres of Central American migrants, including those in the municipality of San Fernando, Tamaulipas.
The PGR identifies him as being involved in the murder of 145 people who were abducted when” traveling on ‘Omnibus de Mexico’ and ‘Commercial Orient’ bus lines, travelling north from various states to Tamaulipas, through the city of San Fernando, to Reynosa, from there hoping to cross into the US.
Sergio Ricardo Basurto Peña “el Grande “, The Trusted and close friend of Miguel Treviño is in control of the narcotiendas, in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.
There are other contenders, but these are known to be at the top, trusted and respected by Miguel Treviño, making it likely one or more will be appointed to fill the position vacated by the arrest of 40.