Mexico: Zetas’ ‘El Taliban’ busted by federals

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 PotosĂ­, 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 LeĂłn 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 PotosĂ­ 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 PotosĂ­, accused of having links to the Zetas. (BBC News, Impacto, Sept. 27; Milenio, Sept. 24)

  1. PRI-Zetas war behind Mexican politico slayings?
    Amid a recent wave of slayings of figures linked to PRI, Mexico’s once-supreme political machine that is set to return to power in December, another such killing is reported from Coahuila, where JosĂ© Eduardo Moreira, 25-year-old nephew of state governor Ruben Moreira, was found dead with two bullets to the head in his vehicle near the border town of Ciudad Acuña. Police from the city are being questioned by federal authorities in connection with the murder. 

    The victim’s father, Humberto Moreira, was Coahuila’s previous governor and also served as national head of the PRI. He was pushed out of the party’s leadership last year amid accusations of mismanaging Coahuila’s finances.

    Revenge is seen as a possible motive in the slaying—which came just hours after a confrontation in the border city of Piedras Negras between state police and suspected cartel members left five suspects dead—including the nephew of Zetas leader Miguel Angel Treviño. (AP, Oct. 6; AP, Oct. 5)