A Zetas firefight with police has led to the arrest of the cartel’s leader in Guatemala on May 16. Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla said that Los Zetas kingpin Jairo Orellana Morales was captured in Zacapa province.
The arrested occurred after a shootout with federal forces that killed a police officer and two others. Lopez Bonilla said Orellana Morales was arrested Thursday along with seven of his accomplices. After his arrest, Orellana Morales was flown to Guatemala City where he was shown to the press wearing only pants. His face was bruised.
The U.S. government last year imposed financial sanctions against the 40-year-old alleged drug trafficker under the Kingpin Act, which makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to do business with him and freezes his assets.
The U.S. government described him then as “a violent drug trafficker linked to the Zetas cartel.”
Orellana Morales is the son-in-law of Waldemar Lorenzana Lima, a rancher who was accused of drug trafficking and extradited to the United States in March.
The rancher is alleged to have worked with the Sinaloa cartel to smuggle cocaine from Colombia through Guatemala and on to the United States.
Los Zetas is a powerful and violent criminal syndicate in Mexico, and is considered by the U.S. government to be the “most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous cartel operating in Mexico.”
The origins of the group date back to the late 1990s when commandos of the Mexican Army’s forces deserted their ranks and decided to work as the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, a drug trafficking organization.
In February 2010, the group broke away from their former employer and formed their own criminal organization.
Los Zetas are well armed and equipped, and unlike other traditional criminal organizations in Mexico, drug trafficking makes up at least 50 percent of their revenue, while a large portion of the income comes from other activities directed against both rival drug cartels and civilians; their brutal tactics, which include beheadings, torture and indiscriminate slaughter, show that they often prefer brutality over bribery.