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Mexico captures one of country's biggest cartel leaders

July 17, 2013

Miguel Angel Trevino Morales is alleged to be one of Mexico's most prominent - and brutal - drug cartel leaders. Since 2010, he purportedly turned a squad of mercenaries he was affiliated with into one of the country's biggest illicit drug, extortion and human trafficking organizations. However, Mexican law enforcement officials and military dealt the cartel, known as the Zetas, a considerable blow by capturing Morales in a coordinated interdiction on July 15, according to The Associated Press. Given the gravity of the drug trade issues in Mexico, many are likely to discuss this police success in phone conversations conducted using prepaid calling cards.

The news source reported that Morales, who went by the street name "Z-40," is charged with hundreds of counts of murder, specifically relating to two incidents in 2010 and 2011. Both of these involved ordering the deaths of migrant workers, with 72 killed in the former year and 193 in the latter. He also faces indictments for torture, kidnapping and other offenses.

Mexican Marines tracked down and caught Morales, his bodyguard and his accountant on the outskirts of Nuevo Laredo. Approximately $2 million in cash and eight guns were seized during the arrest.

NBC News reported that opinions vary regarding how effective Morales' capture will be in terms of combating the overall problem of drug trafficking and the resultant violence in Mexico. George Grayson, professor at William & Mary and author of the Zetas-focused book "The Executioner's Men," called it a "resounding blow to a diabolical organization" and referred to Morales as "the most sadistic capo at least in the Americas."

Conversely, Roman Catholic priest and activist Rev. Alejandro Solande, who runs a shelter for migrants and remains an active target of the Zetas for his outreach efforts, is skeptical. "This was a blow, but it's only skin-deep," he said, according to the source. "The Zetas operate in almost 20 states of Mexico. They have a lot of public servants on their payroll, a lot of police." 

Many believe that Trevino Morales' brother, Alejandro "Omar" Morales, will step in as leader of the cartel. Alejandro is thought of as weak by comparison to Miguel Trevino, which may prove problematic given the Zetas' ongoing conflict with Joaquin Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel. 

From a political and social perspective, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his administration treated Trevino Morales' capture as a significant success, as did the United States Embassy to Mexico.


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