Mexican security officials have captured and arrested one of the country’s most wanted drugs traffickers.
The navy said late on Wednesday it had caught the man it believed to be Zetas boss Ivan Velazquez, also known as “El Taliban” or “Z-50,” in central Mexico, boosting outgoing President Felipe Calderon’s efforts to crack down on the violent cartels.
Velazquez is on a Mexican government list of the most wanted kingpins and one of the Zetas most senior second-tier leaders.
The arrest comes days after it was reported that Velazquez had split from the Zetas and joined the rival Gulf Cartel.
Mexico has offered a reward of up to $2.34 million for information leading to his arrest.
The navy paraded Velazquez, 42, before the media on Thursday morning, cuffed and flanked by masked soldiers carrying assault rifles, bundles of money, weapons and seized drugs were laid out on a table in front of him for a customary photo opportunity.
Wearing a black, cream and red checked shirt, his hair brushed to the side, Velazquez stood stern-faced as the navy accused him of controlling swathes of territory for the Zetas, of money-laundering and acting as the group’s financial chief.
Police say Velazquez, 42, was the Zetas’ main leader in the states of Zacatecas, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi.
The Zetas have perpetrated some of the most sickening acts of Mexico’s drug war and continued to expand even as rival gangs joined forces against them.
However, longstanding rivalry between the Zetas’ top leader,Heriberto Lazcano, and his deputy Miguel Trevino alias “Z-40,” has exploded into violence in recent weeks, raising fears the hostilities could bring a fresh wave of violence.
“They are splitting,” Javier Oliva, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said after the capture of Velazquez. More bloodshed would likely follow, he added.