When you cut off a snake’s head, does it die? Or does it grow a new head?
Trevino was captured around 3:45 a.m. Monday near Nuevo Laredo by a special operations team of Mexican marines, the government says. Also arrested were two others. The photo of Treviño handed out by the Interior Secretariat shows a man who looks like he’s been through some scrapes.
So what will happen to Los Zetas, a crime group that appeared to be on an inexorable upward trajectory until recently? The last leader, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed last October by Mexican marines.
Most analysts agree that rather than calm the waters, the short-term fallout of the arrest of Treviño, who was known by the nickname Z-40, may be greater violence. InsightCrime, a website on organized crime in the Americas, says Treviño’s capture may open the door for a fullscale turf war between Los Zetas and their rivals:
“What comes next could be a spasm of violence as the group balkanizes. In many ways, the Zetas are following a larger trend in Mexico, and indeed the region, of fragmentation. Large scale, vertically integrated organizations are going the way of the dinosaur.”
The strategic forecasting firm Stratfor offered a different twist. It noted that Los Zetas is not a family based crime group but one centered on military style discipline:
“One reason behind Los Zetas' success is the group's ability to replace its leadership, even its senior-most leaders, relatively easily. … Because ex-military personnel formed Los Zetas, members tend to move up in the group's hierarchy through merit rather than through familial connections.”
Alejandro Hope, a former intelligence official in Mexico who is now an independent analyst, was quoted in an Associated Press story arguing that removing the snake’s head would devastate Los Zetas:
“It’s another link in the destruction of the Zetas as a coherent, identifiable organization … There will still be people who call themselves Zetas, bands of individuals who maintain the same modus operandi. There will be fights over illegal networks,” Hope told the AP.
As analysts offered fairly iron-clad predictions, one law enforcement source quoted in Alfredo Corchado’s story in the Dallas Morning News voiced some uncertainty about what would happen next:
“Unclear, hard to say. But things may worsen before they get better. I expect a lot of rivals jockeying for position, which may make the situation more violent,” the source told the Morning News.