Crime and Violence

Zetas undergo alleged change in leadership

El Z-40 has allegedly assumed leadership of the Zetas, resulting in internal strife within the organization and prompting criticism and concern from rival drug cartels. Photo: Animal Politico

08/28/12–Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, or “Z-40,” a notorious and feared assassin for the Zetas drug cartel, has allegedly surpassedZetas’ founder Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano and assumed control of the organization, according to law enforcement agents in Mexico.  Treviño had been steadily gaining authority and ascending the ranks within the organization over the past few years.  While he is reportedly held in high regard among Zetas henchman and assassins, other figures within the cartel’s leadership have been resistant to his ambitions and ascendance.

As reported in the Huffington Post, the Zetas’ leader in the state of Zacatecas, Ivan Velazquez Caballero, or “El Taliban,” disapproved of Treviño’s power grab and openly challenged not only his leadership claim, but his presence in the adjacent state of San Luis Potosí.  On August 9, the internal power struggle publicly manifested itself in a very violent fashion on the streets of San Luis Potosí’s capital city–which has typically been void of organized criminal violence–when 14 bodies were discovered in an abandoned vehicle along the highway connecting the two states.  As reported by Animal Politico, a fifteenth man who survived the attack explained to authorities that he and the deceased were elements of the Zetas under Velazquez Caballero’s command and attributed the deaths of his comrades to Treviño and his men.

The rise of “Z-40” has elicited a mix of panic and outrage from leaders of other criminal groups.  Servando Gómez, the leader of the Knights Templar drug cartel (Los Caballeros Templarios), issued a plea via YouTube to other criminal organizations, civic groups, and even state authorities to join together and form a “common front” against the Zetas and “especially against Z-40 and his unbridled ambitions.”  He argues in his address that they must collectively combat this group that has caused “great terror and social confusion in the country.”

Treviño, a man with a 30 million peso ($2.28 million USD) bounty on his head, now heads one of the most prominent and notoriously brutal drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico.


“Los Zetas se dividen y se disputan SLP.” Tabasco Hoy. August 13, 2012.

Stevenson, Mark and E. Eduardo Castillo. “Miguel Angel Trevino, Mexico Assassin, Rises In Zetas Cartel.” Huffington Post. August 23, 2012.

“El ‘Z-40’ arrebata el liderazgo de Los Zetas a ‘El Lazca’: AP.” Animal Politico. August 27, 2012.

“Arrecia división interna de ‘Los Zetas.’” El Diario de Coahuila. August 28, 2012.

4 thoughts on “Zetas undergo alleged change in leadership”

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