09/27/12 – On Wednesday, September 26, the Mexican Navy (Secretaría de Marina Armada de México, SEMAR) captured Iván Velázquez Cabellero (42), also known as “Z-50” and “El Talibán,” who was considered to be the third in command of the Zetas Cartel. Mexican authorities offered a 30 million peso reward ($2.34 million USD) for any information regarding the capture of Velázquez, as he was one of the most wanted criminals in Mexico. SEMAR arrested Z-50 along with two of his partners in a residence in the city San Luis Potosí. Reports indicate that during the apprehension, the criminals used high-powered weapons of U.S. origin; no injuries were reported. SEMAR presented Z-50 to the media on Thursday along with the confiscated weapons and drugs.
To make the arrest, Mexican authorities collaborated with U.S. officials through the exchange of intelligence. Lawrence Payne, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), called it a success of great importance. Payne said that it is premature to discuss extradition, but Velázquez is wanted for crimes in Texas as well.
According to SEMAR spokesperson José Luis Vergara, Z-50 directed the Zetas’ operation in the states of Aguascalientes, Coahuila, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, and Zacatecas. The Zetas experienced friction recently as cartel leadership shifted with Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, also known as “Z-40,” usurping control from founder and former leader Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as “El Lazca.” Z-50 disapproved of Treviño’s power grab and openly challenged his leadership claim. This power struggle publicly manifested itself when 14 bodies were discovered in a vehicle in San Luis Potosí on August 9, 2012. A survivor of the brutal attack claimed that he and the 14 men were followers of Z-50, and that Treviño was responsible for the murders.
Through videos on the internet and narcomantas (narco-banners) displayed in northeastern Mexican cities, Z-50 publicly accused Treviño of betraying his lieutenants and delivering them to the authorities. Following the disagreement with Treviño, SEMAR spokesman Vergara believes that Z-50 was seeking an alliance with the Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo, CDG). The CDG recently experienced blows to their leadership, as bosses Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez (“El Coss”) and Mario Cárdenas Guillén (“M-1”) were apprehended were both captured this month. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, much of the recent violence in the region can be attributed to the Zetas infighting, as well as the ongoing rivalry between the Zetas and the CDG.