Mexican naval forces announced the arrest Sept. 27 of Iván Velázquez Caballero, AKA “El Taliban” or “Z-50”—said to be a top commander of Los Zetas who had recently defected to the rival Gulf Cartel. El Taliban was said to be in a struggle with his former boss, Zeta commander Miguel Treviño Morales AKA “Z-40” for control of the “plaza” (trafficking theater) in San Luis Potosí, where the arrest took place. From 2007 until his recent break with the Zetas, he had also controlled the plazas in Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Nuevo León and Coahuila. He had a reward of 30 million pesos ($2.3 million) on his head.
El Taliban’s location was determined last month, after a man survived a mass shooting of 14 Zeta operatives near the city of San Luis Potosí by playing dead. After escaping, he went to the authorities and offered information in exchange for protection. According to his testimony, the Zetas have split into two factions—one led Heriberto Lazcano AKA “El Lazca” or “Z-3”; the other Miguel Angel Treviño or Z-40. According the the testimony, which is also backed up by accusations made in “narco-banners,” El Taliban had betrayed them both by joining forces with the Gulf Cartel, from which the Zetas had split in 2005.
Three days before El Taliban’s capture, 35 Veracruz state police officers were arrested by naval troops in operations in the states of both Veracruz and San Luis Potosí, accused of having links to the Zetas. (BBC News, Impacto, Sept. 27; Milenio, Sept. 24)