Latin America: Week in Review, Mexico, North America

Mexico Arrests Zetas Boss, Latest Kingpin to Fall

March 5, 2015 By Staff

TOP STORY — Mexican authorities on Wednesday arrested the alleged leader of the notorious Zetas drug cartel — the latest high-profile criminal to be targeted by the government’s “kingpin” strategy.

Omar Treviño Morales — alias “Z-42” — was arrested shortly after 3:00 a.m. by police and military troops in a wealthy area of the northern city of Monterrey. Another top Zetas member, who reportedly handled the group’s finances, was also captured in a simultaneous raid.

The arrests early on Wednesday follow the highly publicized capture of Servando Gómez Martínez, or “La Tuta,” leader of the criminal gang Los Caballeros Templarios, on Feb. 27. Gómez Martínez was living in a network of caves and giving orders through underlings at the time of his arrest, in the restive southern state of Michoacan.

The arrests of the two cartel leaders are the latest signs that President Enrique Peña Nieto plans to continue the U.S.-influenced “kingpin” strategy, which calls for the decapitation of criminal organizations. The approach has been credited with forcing the fragmentation of cartels, but its record in bringing down violence levels has been called into question.

Treviño Morales reportedly took over the group when his brother Miguel Angel was arrested in July 2013. His arrest, along with the death a year before of another leader, marked a period of relative decline since the group was named the government’s top enforcement priority in 2011. A military-influenced group founded by former commandos and centered in northeast Mexico, the original Zetas pioneered the diversification of the country’s criminal underworld, using brutal terror tactics to underwrite threats of extortion, which became a lucrative trade.

North America

  • Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s nominee for the country’s Supreme Court, Medina Mora — the current ambassador to the United States — has a controversial track-record, due to his close personal ties to the president and involvement in a series of failed initiatives, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • Mexico has planned an effort to recover a body found buried in the snow on Sunday at the country’s highest peak, the Pico de Orizaba volcano, at 17,388 feet.


  • The Dominican Republic announced Wednesday that it would temporarily close its consular missions in Haiti due to “recurring attacks,” following weeks of heightened tensions between the two neighboring nations, which were posing a danger to diplomats and staff.
  • Paris Hilton has become the latest American celebrity to cause a stir during her visit to Havana, Cuba, heavily chronicling her visit to the island for its annual cigar festival on social media and even snapping a selfie with Fidel Castro’s son.

Central America

  • A phone-call recording obtained by the media in Honduras of an extortion attempt reveals the tactics utilized by gangs amid the country’s ongoing security crisis, providing new insight into a criminal practice that closes thousands of businesses annually.
  • The lush fauna and peaceful atmosphere on Lake Nicaragua, chronicled by CNN, could be destroyed by the proposed construction of the trans-oceanic Nicaragua canal.


  • The main oil workers’ union in Colombia will hold indefinite strikes to protest wage cuts following international drops in oil prices.
  • The former chief of Bolivia’s counter-narcotics force has been placed under investigation on charges of illicit enrichment and ties to drug gangs, just one day after his two children and wife were jailed on money laundering charges.
  • One year after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos sent a special task force to the port city of Buenaventura to deal with a particularly high murder rate, the city continues to see some of the same rates of violence, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Southern Cone

  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met with congressional leaders from her own Workers’ Party on Wednesday after they rejected a presidential decree that sought to balance the country’s budget by raising payroll taxes, signalling discontent with Rousseff’s proposed austerity measures and her handling of a growing corruption scandal involving the partially state-run oil company Petrobras.
  • As a result of severe droughts across Brazil, the country’s mines and energy minister announced on Wednesday that the country is facing shortages across its national electrical system, which relies on hydroelectric dams for around 70 percent of its generating capacity.
  • Argentine prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita on Wednesday challenged a federal judge’s decision to dismiss the case against President Cristina Fernández over her alleged involvement in the cover-up of Iran’s role in a 1994 terrorist attack in the country, a case that has roiled Argentina after the original prosecutor in the case, Alberto Nisman, mysteriously died in his apartment just hours before testifying in Congress against Fernández.

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