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Column 031615 Wall

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mexico has Captured 'Z-42,' another vicious Zeta Kingpin

By Allan Wall

Just five days after the capture of Servando Gomez Martinez, the leader of southern Michoacan state’s Caballeros Templarios, Mexican authorities captured another big narco boss, Alejandro “Omar” Treviño Morales, known as Z-42, leader of the infamous Zetas cartel.

Treviño was captured by Mexican federal police and Mexican Army soldiers on March 4th, 2015 in San Pedro Garza Garcia, in the Monterrey metroplex of northern Mexico.   

The head Zeta was captured in an early morning raid beginning about 3 a.m., in which no shots were fired.  Simultaneously, authorities captured Zetas finance man Carlos Arturo Jimenez Encinas.  In total, six Zetas were arrested and flown to Mexico City in a military plane. 

The Mexican government had a 30 million peso bounty on Treviño’s head, while the U.S. Drug Enforcement administration (DEA) had a US$5 million bounty.

This leader, Z-42, had been in command of the Zetas since 2013, when he succeeded his brother Miguel Treviño Morales, known as Z-40, who was captured.  (See The Mexican Navy Downs a Cartel Leader but Loses an Admiral.)  Before that, Omar had run the financial side of the Zetas’ operations in the state of Nuevo Leon (Monterrey is the state capital).

The Zetas organization was originally formed as an enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel.  The Zetas’ original operatives were recruited from Mexican Special Forces.  The Zetas later broke with the Gulf Cartel and the two groups are now enemies. 

The Zetas have branched out and have their tentacles in migrant smuggling, kidnapping, extortion, prostitution and product counterfeiting.  In fact, only about 50% of the cartel’s revenue derives from the trafficking of narcotics.

All the drug cartels are violent but the Zetas may be the most ruthless, which is saying a lot.  Torture, beheadings and indiscriminate killings are part of the Zetas’ modus operandi.  They’ve killed politicians and siphoned oil from pipelines.

The Zetas are responsible for the killings of illegal aliens passing through Mexico, including a mass slaughter of 72 Central and South American illegal aliens in 2010.

Mass killings perpetrated by Zetas in the year 2011 included:

• The burning of the Casino Royale in Monterrey, which killed 52.

• The San Fernando Massacres, which killed 193.

• The Allende, Coahuila Massacres, in which 300-500 local people were systematically massacred in reprisal for two men who had betrayed the Zetas.


The Zetas have also engineered some spectacular prison breaks:

• In March of 2010, forty prisoners escaped from a prison in Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

• In April of 2010, gunmen in ten trucks drove into a prison in Reynosa and removed 13 prisoners.

• Six months later, 85 escaped from the same prison.

• In December of 2010, 141 escaped from a prison in Nuevo Laredo.

• In 2012 over 130 Zetas prisoners simply walked out the front of the prison into waiting trucks.


The Zetas’ base is Nuevo Laredo, on the border with Texas. On the Laredo, Texas side, Interstate I-35 begins.  Crossing the American heartland, from south to north, I-35 is a major drug smuggling route.  Thus Nuevo Laredo is very strategic and the Zetas want to maintain their control of the “plaza,” the drug smuggling route.

On March 4th, 2015, Omar Treviño Morales, Z-42, was captured.  So his current residence is in Mexico’s Federal Social Readaptation Center Number 1 “Altiplano,” a maximum security prison at Almoloya, where many other infamous prisoners reside.

So who is now the Zetas chief?  It’s thought to be another Treviño Morales brother –Juan Francisco, who is older than Omar (Z-42) and Miguel (Z-40), and reportedly more low-key.  Francisco lived for years in the Dallas, Texas area, and did prison time in Texas and Colorado.

According to one analysis, even before his capture authority had already passed from Omar to Francisco, with Omar serving more as a figurehead in the organization.

At any rate, the Zetas aren’t as tight-knit and centralized as they once were, with violent internal divisions.  According to Javier Oliva, of Mexico’s UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), "The truth is that this is a group that has been fragmented.  Their influence is now more on a local level.”  Oliva still says a bloody succession struggle could occur among the Zetas, so Juan Francisco is doubtlessly watching his back.


Note: On March 12th I was a guest on Silvio Canto, Jr’s, Canto Talk program.  We discussed various Mexico issues and talked a little about Cuba.  You can listen to the interview here.


Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at

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