Mexico's brutal drug kingpin caught
Army captures cartel boss known as 'Death'
Published 17/07/2013 | 05:00
Even by the gruesome standards of the Mexican drug war, the name of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales will go down in history for the viciousness of his crimes.
The leader of the Zetas cartel did not just behead, dismember and hang his victims' bodies from bridges, he revelled in torturing them and dreaming up ever more painful ways for them to die.
One of his favourite methods was the guiso, or stew, in which enemies would be placed in a large drum filled with petrol and burned alive.
Trevino Morales, a former policeman, had always said that he would never be taken alive. In the end, his reign of terror was brought to a close yesterday without a shot being fired.
Helicopter-borne Mexican marines swooped on his pick-up truck on a dirt road near his home town of Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Texas.
He had come out of hiding to visit his newborn child. With him in the truck were his accountant and bodyguard, $2m in cash, nine guns and 500 rounds of ammunition.
Known in Mexico by the nickname Z-40, or simply Death, he was the country's second most wanted cartel head and its most notoriously violent.
He enjoyed hijacking buses and forcing passengers into gladiatorial fights to the death, with the survivor being allowed to join his gang of killers.
Other unfortunates had their hearts cut out and the letter Z carved into their stomachs. Sometimes, he just beat people to death with wooden planks.
Trevino Morales took over the Zetas when its previous leader, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed in a gun battle with marines in October.
He spent many of his early years in Dallas, Texas, where his mother and sister live, and the US had offered $5m (€3.8m) for his capture.
The Zetas cartel, which he commanded, had originated as a group of former Mexican special forces commandos who acted as a death squad for the Gulf cartel from the late Nineties.
They split away in 2010, leading to a violent turf war and a wave of beheadings and massacres as they battled for control of cocaine and crystal meth routes into the US. The Zetas also diversified into human trafficking, extortion, prostitution, piracy and stealing oil from pipelines.
His demise was the biggest success for the Mexican government since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December. The country has seen 70,000 drug-related murders since the start of 2007.
Trevino Morales has been flown to Mexico City where he will be tried. (© Daily Telegraph, London)