MEXICO CITY – More blood and more death. Mexico’s drug wars seem to be getting crueler and more sadistic by the year. Of all the players involved, probably no one is more responsible for the increasing violence than Miguel Angel Treviño, a.k.a. ‘Z-40,’ who has just taken over control of the notorious Los Zetas cartel following the killing last week of kingpin Heriberto “El Lazca” Lascano.
Mexican authorities confirmed the leadership change, as have rival cartels, which are urging a unified approach to face Treviño head on.
In a recent Internet video, Servando Gómez, himself leader of the Caballeros Templarios cartel, laid out the brutal state of affairs: “We need to join forces and form a common front to fight against Los Zetas, especially against Z-40," he said. "His unbridled ambition has unleashed terror and confusion on our country,”
Observers say Treviño is behind many of the drug war’s most gruesome atrocities. His rivals have been hanged, decapitated, at times dismembered. One of his supposed specialties is to “cook” his victims in acid and gasoline.
Treviño began his career at a young age, working as runner for a gang called Los Tejas, which controlled the lion’s share of criminal activity in his hometown, Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas.
Treviño climbed the ranks and by 2005 held a key leadership role. One of his responsibilities was to fend off attempts by the Sinaloa cartel to muscle in on Los Tejas’ drug routes. He orchestrated a series of murders in the United States, several of which were carried out by young Americans who gunned down their victims on the streets of Laredo.
“Businessman of the Year”
The gang leader later joined up with Los Zetas, helping turn it from a minor spin-off group – it began as branch of the Cartel de Golfo – into one of Mexico’s two most important cartels in the space of just two years. If “Z-40” worked for a multinational company, rather than a criminal organization, he would likely have earned himself “businessman of the year” honors. Treviño’s only real competition now is the Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Los Zetas have extended their control into Central America, using Honduras as a drop-off point for Colombian cocaine. The drugs then pass overland along the Mexican Gulf Coast en route to their final destination, the United States.
Treviño’s penchant for criminal activity apparently runs in the family. His brother, Omar Treviño Morales , a.k.a. "El Z-42," is also a major player in Los Zetas. In criminal circles, the Treviño brothers have earned a reputation for brutality. They have caught the attention of U.S. authorities as well. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has a standing offer of $5 million for anyone who can provide information leading to their arrest.
Treviño has been implicated as well in the recent murder of José Eduardo Moreira Rodríguez, the 24-year-old son of one of Mexico’s leading politicians. The victim’s father, Humberto Moreira, is an ex-governor of Coahuila state and a leader in the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). State prosecutors suspect it may have been a revenge killing, ordered by Treviño in retaliation for the death of one of his nephews, who died in a standoff with police.