The fall of the most dangerous drug cartel in Mexico

Police has apprehended José Maria Guizar Valencia, the boss of the Los Zetas cartel. This drug dealer, who was living in Mexico City for the last six months, was arrested in one of the fancy restaurants in the Roma district. Valencia was one of the most wanted men in Mexico – the United States offered a reward of 5 million dollars for information about his whereabouts.

Lived in the capital and liked horse racing

José Maria Guizar Valencia, also known as Z-43, was the last founder of the cartel called Los Zetas. According to the investigation carried out by the Milenio newspaper, the man for the last half a year was living in the district of Rome in Mexico City. He paid around 1,000 US dollars for renting a room. He stayed there by himself, moved freely around the city, unaccompanied neither by security or any shady individuals. He directed all the criminal activities in the whole country from its capital. Valencia liked tattoos – last year he tattooed his chest with an image of a crucified Christ. He was also a frequent visitor to the horse racing events which made it easier for the military and police to find his whereabouts.

The preparation for his arrest was not easy as the district is densely built-up and restaurants are crammed with people since early morning. Hence – it is hard not to arouse suspicion. The spokesman for the National Security, Renato Sales Heredia reported, however, that José Maria did not resist his arrest and he was informed about his laws.

He had dual citizenship

The Los Zetas cartel was founded by the end of 1990s by Arturo Guzman Decena who left the military after five years of service and started working as a security guard for a criminal group El Golfo. At the request of the head of the cartel, he created a gang made of the former military men which was executing the enemies of Los Zetas, mainly the members of the Juárez gang. When Guzman was killed in battles against the army in 2002, “El Lazca” became the ringleader. During this time, Los Zetas have expanded their operations and began to terrorize the local residents, extorting money from them, kidnapping people for ransom or trading weapons. “In 2010, the Guzman’s group became independent and began working on their own. “Z-43” was identified in 1998, when he took charge of smuggling drugs in the state of Michoacán”, says Renato Sales Heredia. “In 2001, Z-43 expanded the gang’s activity to Tamaulipas and established new contacts with suppliers in Central and South America”, he adds.

Two years later, José Maria Guizar Valencia moved to Palenque in the state of Chiapas. Then, in 2005, he relocated to Veracruz. It was the time when Los Zetas were expanding their territory. In 2007 Z-43 started smuggling drugs from Colombia to Mexico, transporting them by land through Guatemala. Due to that, violence broke out in the neighboring country.

José Maria became the head of the Los Zetas cartel, after the last head of the gang, Omar Treviño Morales, also known as “Z-42”, was arrested. Most likely he decided to move to the city of Mexico City, because he became recognizable in the city he used to work. The Mexicans, however, are concerned about the fact that a criminal could easily hide in the part of the capital where many of the security services patrol the streets. “So far Mexico City was one of the safest places in the country and we watched the war with drug cartels from afar”, says Gabriel Juarez, one of the residents. “However, if one of the criminals managed to hide, other cartels may also start their activity here”, he says. Although the government denies it, in the last couple of years more than 10 wanted drug dealers have been arrested in the city.

Los Zetas and the drug war

Guizar Valencia was born in the United States and currently holds dual citizenship – American and Mexican. He was on the list of 122 most wanted people in Mexico that was published by the government in 2012. So far the military and police managed to arrest 109 listed individuals. Valencia, now captured, will be most likely extradited to the US which filed such request 3 years ago. Both countries released an arrest warrant for endangering people’s health, manslaughters, kidnappings, trading arms and organised crime. Other than that, the Americans also accuse him of smuggling drugs to Texas and Virginia.

Mexican government, in turn, is now investigating whether the politicians and clerks from the states of Michoacán, Veracruz, Tabasco i Chiapas had earlier helped the criminal in hiding, as claims the report published by the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas. According to testimonies of various people in an American court, Los Zetas in its heyday was paying monthly salaries to governors, had spies installed in various military units, knew about the planned actions of the military and had access to their reports. Gerald Washington, former mayor of Huimanguillo in Tabasco State, is one of the people suspected of working with the drug dealers. During his election campaign, a gangster’s cousin gave Washington a few cars in exchange for the “favours”.

New cartels are taking over

In 2006 Felipe Calderón, the then Mexico’s President, declared a war on drug cartels. Four years ago, ten most important member of Los Zetas cartel met at a wedding of a gang member’s relative. In the photo, discovered by the Mexican press, all of them are standing next to each other, embraced. Right now, three of the depicted men are dead and seven are in prison. The Mexican government declared a victory over the group which was deprived of its leadership but the cartel’s place was quickly filled by other groups which are taking over the territory and are just as cruel. Currently on the rise is the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel, which was previously executing the orders of the Sinaloa crime group. It is believed that this cartel is responsible for the increase of violence in Mexico in the recent years, because of a routine of organizing purges when it appears in a new region. Only last year in Mexico 29,000 people died in battles between the drug gangs and the military.

The stake of the game is high – the United States is the biggest drug market in the world. It is estimated that more than 24 million Americans use these illegal substances.

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