Zetas Leader's First Task: Hold Nuevo Laredo

Aug 07, 2013
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In this article, Steven Dudley, Director of InSight Crime and a former Wilson Center Fellow, suggests the Zetas dominance over the highly lucrative drug trafficking corridor through Nuevo Laredo will likely be seriously challenged in the wake to Miguel Treviño’s capture.

Even before Zetas' leader Miguel "Z40" Treviño's surprising capture on July 16, Nuevo Laredo was slipping into a chaotic state of nearly constant dispute. Now Treviño's brother, "Omar," alias "Z42," will have the almost impossible task of keeping it firmly under the group's wing if the Zetas are to survive as an organization.

The Zetas consider Nuevo Laredo their home, perhaps now more than ever. They may have spread throughout the country and into foreign nations, most notably Guatemala, but their base remains Nuevo Laredo. It is where their model -- control territory, extract rent, move drugs (in that order) -- has its clearest manifestation. It is also their most important moneymaker, especially since they lost their grip on Mexico's industrial hub, Monterrey, in recent months.

The city has historical significance as well. It is where Treviño and his successor Alejandro "Omar" Treviño, alias Z42, were raised and still have family and a presumed base of support. Turnover from one group to another can be bloody and costly for any Nuevo Laredo resident willingly or unwillingly participating in the Zetas' operations. It is where the Zetas passed their first stern military test by resisting an offensive by the Sinaloa Cartel in 2004 - 2006, and solidified their reputation.

Nuevo Laredo is also where they first took control of a police force, a mayor's office, and a city. It is where they first shut down civil society and the local press, developing a means by which they could control the public message and perception in the areas under their control. And it appears to be where the last of the first generation of Zetas' leaders like Z42 may make their final stand or evolve into something resembling a more gentlemanly criminal group.

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