Narco-message Volley Focused Upon Los Zetas Leadership Succession

Omar Treviño, alias Z42

There has been a crisis of leadership succession following the arrest of Miguel Treviño (alias Z40), leader of Los Zetas.

Naturally, there are ambitious individuals within the Zetas who may be willing to compete violently to control Mexico’s most infamous cartel. Also, it is uncertain whether an arrested leader has really lost control of power; unless extradited to the U.S. or killed, an imprisoned leader with Z40’s power could escape or wield power from within prison. While some elements of this crisis could occur in any given Mexican cartel following a leader’s capture, there are certain factors specific to the Zetas’ organizational culture that increase the likelihood of leadership succession difficulties beyond the immediate future.

It appears that the most likely candidate to assume the Zetas leadership is Omar Treviño (alias Z42, images above), who is the brother of Z40. Mexican cartels are typically nepotistic, but the Zetas were somewhat distinctive in that regard. Their organization began with 31 airborne troops who were bribed to desert the Mexican state as the Gulf Cartel’s elite guard. Although none of those individuals still lead the Zetas, the organization retained a military model of leadership succession that is more merit-based, and less nepotistic, than most other organizations from that society. Leadership succession from Miguel to Omar is therefore problematic in at least three ways. Most importantly, it represents a dynastic succession that is contrary to the militaristic, merit-based culture of that organization. Secondly, because Miguel and Omar do not have military backgrounds (unlike the founding Zetas), Omar’s leadership consolidates this cultural drift away from the military model, which many believe has been instrumental to their success in the drug war. Third, Z40 had a great deal of external enemies due to a reputation for ultra-violence, and internal enemies related to allegations of betraying subordinates to eliminate them as rivals. These enemies will now focus their animosities upon Omar because of their familial relationship and because Omar is expected to use a leadership style similar to that of his brother. In the immediate term, Omar will be especially vulnerable to other Zetas who might kill him in an effort to flush the organization’s leadership cache.

These problems might have been overlooked within Los Zetas if Omar were perceived as positioned to lead the organization purely on the basis of his talents, and not merely his familial connections. It is widely believed he is as ruthless as his brother, Miguel, but it is also believed his job was secured by Miguel. Some are unsure whether Omar is as intelligent as his brother, or whether he has enough experience to be as effective. This vulnerability has been the focus of a recent volley of propaganda, whereby Los Zetas have aimed to protect group morale and cohesion, while others have attempted to damage it further.

 

manta 3 MANTA 2  APARENTEMENTE DE V HERMOSO VALORTAMAULIPAS Manta 1 l

Narco-messages that appeared on July 23, 2013 in Veracruz and Tamaulipas (territories disputed between Los Zetas and several other groups), ostensibly signed by Los Zetas, alluded to this problem. They claim the Zetas remain unified, which is not a surprising statement. More interesting, however, are statements that Miguel Treviño (Z40) remains alive, still leads Los Zetas, and no leadership succession has occurred[1]:

 

“A TODOS LOS GRUPOS AMIGO Y ENEMIGO, 40 SIGUE VIVO, ESTO NO SE ACABA HASTA QUE SE ACABA, ESTO ESTÁ ESTRUCTURADO Y BIEN HECHO MUI N PASO, NO REACOMODOS, EL SR 40 SIGUE VIVO, AY GRUPO PARA RATO, SOMOS UN GRUPO SOLIDO, BIEN DIRIGIDO Y UNIDO, QUE EL CDG, CHAPOS Y MICHOACANOS NO NOS ASUSTAN.
EL R 40 SIGUE VIVO
RECUERDE ESO
ATTE DM [illegible] NAY V.H.

Z”

 

Notably, the message claims the Zetas are not afraid of the Sinaloa Cartel, Gulf Cartel, or the Knights Templar. These organizations are collaborating as “Los Carteles Unidos Contra Los Zetas” (the United Cartels against the Zetas). The United Cartels posted narco-messages in Zeta territory immediately following Z40’s capture, stating their presence in the area and claiming it as their own.[2] It was probably the United Cartels who publically displayed messages on July 27, 2013 that appearedintended to instigate strife within Los Zetas[3]:

 

“NO SE DEJEN ENGANAR POR MANTAS DE DIZQUE ZETAS UNIDOS. PUES NUESTRA INCONFORMIDAD PERSISTE, QUE PINCHE ESTRUCTURADOS NI QUE LA CHINGADA, ESTAMOS INCONFORMES EN MUCHOS LUGARES Y CELEBRAMOS QUE Z-40 ESTE VIVO, PARA QUE SUFRA LO QUE SUFRIMOS CUANDO ESTABA EN EL PODER. NO TENEMOS MANDO, NI A QUIEN MANDAR, SEPAN QUE OMAR TREVINO EL Z-42 TAMBIEN ESTA DETENIDO POR EL GOBIERNO, PURO PEDO QUE ES EL NUEVO JEFE, ESTA ES LA VERDAD. HAY UNA DESBANDADA TREMENDA, TODA LA ESTRUCTURA ESTA DESERTANDO, QUE NO MAMEN CON MANTAS DE QUE ESTAMOS UNIDOS, ESTAMOS PERO HUNDIDOS.

 

ATTE INCONFORMIDAD ZETA”

 

The message, which is ostensibly signed by “Zeta non-conformity”, warns the public not to be fooled by other messages claiming the Zetas are unified following Z40’s capture. It exhibits a few details that make it appear likely to be a disinformation effort on the part of the United Cartels in an effort to attack Zeta morale. First, the claim that Omar Treviño (alias Z42) also is detained by authorities. While the statement may be interpreted more figuratively (i.e., that his leadership is greatly constrained by those authorities), the desired effect is the same: to publicize a power vacuum at the pinnacle of Los Zetas. Any violent attempt to secure that vacuum within the organization (real or not) could result in infighting that would probably continue long after it’s discovered whether Omar has been captured. The second detail indicating this message to originate from the United Cartels is the last sentence, which concludes with a pessimistic observation akin to saying “We’re finished” (“estamos pero hundidos”). From the view of this analyst, genuine Zetas who publicize grievances would do so only after consolidating into a faction that would identify itself in the message. Though they may threaten or insult a leadership succession rival, a real Zeta faction would not be likely to claim the entire Zetas organization is finished, for to do so would jeopardize morale within their own group as well. The United Cartels would benefit most directly from increased strife within Los Zetas without clear delineation of factions vying against Z42 for leadership.

 


[1] Accessed 7-28-2013: http://www.notinfomex.info/2013/07/los-zetas-cuelgan-narcomantas-nuestro-z.html

[2] Accessed 7-23-2013: http://www.tierradelnarco.com/2013/07/carteles-unidos-limpian-la-plaza-de-la.html

[3] Accessed 7-27-2013: http://www.notinfomex.info/2013/07/los-zetas-rebeldes-cuelgan-nueva.html

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