MEXICO CITY – It seems fitting that US-Mexican journalist Alfredo Corchado, author of a book on Mexico’s drug war, would get the scoop on the capture of Zetas drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino.
After all, the author of “Midnight in Mexico” was told that he had been the target of a death threat from the man known as “Z-40,” the result of his reporting.
Corchado, who has written for The Dallas Morning News in Mexico since 1994, claims the US investigator who leaked Trevino’s arrest to him in July had two motives.
“I think he feared two things: That they could eliminate him or that he could buy his release,” the 53-year-old correspondent told AFP in an interview.
“They wanted some proof that he had been captured and the best way was to make it public.”
Marines detained Trevino and two associates on a road in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas on July 15, capturing a kingpin accused of leading a cartel that trafficked drugs, beheaded rivals and massacred migrants.
With nothing in the news about the arrest, Corchado began to receive “continuous calls” from his source on his mobile phone.
“We talk a lot about corruption in Mexico, which obviously there is. But I think that there are people who want to do the right thing,” he said.
“Maybe these people leaked (the arrest) to the US side and it emerged from there.”
A few prominent drug cartel leaders were killed in gunfights with the authorities during the 2006-2012 presidency of Felipe Calderon.
Arturo Beltran Leyva, alias “The Boss of Bosses,” was killed in a clash with the military in the central Mexican city of Cuernavaca in 2009.
Trevino’s predecessor, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed in a shootout with troops in northern Mexico in October 2012, only for his body to be stolen from a funeral home by gunmen hours later.
Since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December, his government has boasted about captures of top capos “without firing a single shot,” including during Trevino’s arrest.
Pena Nieto has vowed to tame drug-linked violence that has claimed more than 70,000 lives since 2006.
In his book, the Durango state native whose family immigrated to the United States when he was six gives a personal account of reporting on the drug war.
Corchado recounts his decision to investigate the threat on his life rather than fleeing his beloved Mexico.
The full title of the book, published this year, is “Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through A Country’s Descent Into Darkness.”
It includes harrowing details like Trevino’s alleged penchant for ripping the heart out of a live victim and taking a bite out of it.
Corchado said the capo’s arrest has weakened the Zetas but the cartel continues to exist, with his brother Omar Trevino at the helm and his sister Ana Isabel “playing a role.”
While some experts warned that Trevino’s capture could prompt rivals to raid Zetas territory, Corchado said no major turf wars have erupted so far.
“Word from different places is that there is an order to reduce violence,” he said. “Where the order comes from? I don’t know.”