Skip to main content

Mexico captures major drug lord

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
July 16, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Miguel Angel Treviño Morales has been captured
  • Mexican official: The Zetas leader had $2 million and two other people with him
  • Known as Z-40, he headed the ruthless Zetas cartel
  • Senior U.S. State Department official: "It is a very big get"

Lea este artículo en español en CNNMéxico.com.

(CNN) -- A Mexican military helicopter hovered south of the border in the early morning darkness.

Below it, one of the country's most wanted drug lords was riding in a pickup truck.

Mexican authorities say they'd been tracking Zetas cartel boss Miguel Angel Treviño Morales for months. Early Monday morning, their moment came to swoop in.

The helicopter stopped the pickup Treviño was riding in 27 kilometers (about 16 miles) southwest of the border city of Nuevo Laredo, said Eduardo Sanchez Hernandez, the Mexican government's security spokesman.

Mexico nabs suspected drug cartel boss
Alleged drug kingpin arrested in Mexico
Smugglers shoot marijuana across border
See inside a Tijuana drug tunnel

Treviño, known as Z-40, had $2 million, eight weapons and hundreds of ammunition cartridges with him when he was captured around 3:45 a.m., Sanchez said.

The Zetas leader was in the pickup truck with two others, who were also arrested.

"It seems like one of them was in charge of financial operations of this gang and the other was a bodyguard," Sanchez said, adding that authorities would have more information after speaking with the suspects.

No shots were fired in the operation, said Sanchez, who didn't explain how the helicopter managed to stop the pickup.

"It made a maneuver that resulted in the truck stopping, and three people in the truck were apprehended by personnel on the ground who came to support the navy, which had made the detention using the helicopter," he said.

Treviño, 40, faces charges of organized crime, homicide, torture and money laundering, Sanchez said. There are at least seven arrest warrants for his capture.

Treviño is accused ordering the kidnapping and killing of hundreds of migrants in the border state of Tamaulipas, Sanchez said.

His arrest is the most significant blow to drug trafficking in Mexico since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office in December.

Mexican authorities had been offering a reward of 30 million pesos (about $2.4 million) and the U.S. State Department had been offering an award of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture.

In a news conference describing the dramatic military operation late Monday night, Sanchez said Treviño was known for "cruelty" and "the fury with which he attacked his victims."

The Zetas started out as the enforcement arm of Mexico's Gulf cartel, but later split off and formed their own drug trafficking organization.

They have since branched out into extortion, kidnapping and human smuggling.

The Zetas are accused of smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs annually to the United States, generating many millions of dollars.

Mexican navy: One of Zetas top leaders captured in September

The name of the cartel conjures up some of the most violent images of the drug war: a casino fire that killed 52 people, the deaths of 72 migrants and tortured bodies hanging from bridges.

It's unclear how Treviño's arrest could affect the cartel.

Mexico's state-run Notimex news agency described Treviño as the head of the Zetas. But Sanchez did not mention the cartel's name during Monday night's news conference and did not describe Treviño as its leader.

Asked by a reporter Monday night who would head the organization after his capture, and whether Treviño's brother played a role in leading the cartel, Sanchez declined to comment.

Last year, Mexican authorities announced that they had killed Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, who had been the cartel's leader.

The high-profile arrest of Treviño came the same day that Mexico's defense secretary and the head of Mexico's navy met with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

A senior U.S. State Department official praised Mexican authorities for Monday's arrest.

"Credit goes to the Mexican government for this," the official said. "It is a very big get."

It is unclear whether the arrest will qualify for the U.S. government's reward program, the official said.

"We work well with these guys and congratulate them," the official said.

Mexico confirms death of feared Zetas cartel leader

CNN's Elise Labott, Mariano Castillo, Ariel Crespo, Michael Roa and Chandler Friedman contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 0544 GMT (1344 HKT)
The missing AirAsia jet probably crashed into the sea, Indonesia's top rescue official said Monday, citing radar data from the plane's last contact.
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 0726 GMT (1526 HKT)
Here are four ways the two incidents appear to differ.
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 0748 GMT (1548 HKT)
Hundreds of passengers have endured a freezing night on a ferry, more than 24 hours after a fire broke out on the vessel in the Adriatic Sea.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT