Here is an excerpt from Dudley Althaus' article in The Houston Chronicle:
"Mexican marines have captured a renegade leader of the Zetas known as El Taliban in the latest blow by the US-backed commando campaign against the violent gang operating south of the Texas border. Ivan Velázquez Caballero, 42, was dragged Wednesday evening from a safe house in a middle class neighborhood in the city of San Luis Potosi. Though accompanied by two bodyguards, Velázquez apparently was seized without a shot being fired... Formerly a senior Zetas lieutenant, Velázquez had broken with the gang's top bosses in recent months, allying himself with remnants of the rival Gulf Cartel and Knights Templar gangs to vie for control of key border cities and smuggling routes... His fall, combined with the Navy's capture this month of two Gulf Cartel leaders, could bolster efforts by Zetas kingpins Miguel Angel Trevíño, known as Z-40, and Heriberto Lazcano to consolidate underworld control along the entire south Texas border... The split between Velázquez and his former Zetas bosses became public in mid-August with the discovery of the bodies of 14 Velázquez gunmen stuffed into a van parked outside San Luis Potosi. Scores also have been killed this month in Nuevo Laredo as the factions battle it out." Link to Full Article
Analysis: The fallout from this arrest can be summed up in three words: What. A. Mess. It's always a good thing when a major TCO kingpin gets arrested - and hopefully extradited - by Mexican authorities, and particularly without a shot being fired in the process. Currently, former CDG kingpin Rafael Cárdenas Vela (nephew of former CDG boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillen) is spilling everything he knows to US authorities during the trial of Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon, and you'd better believe he'll have something huge to gain from that. I have no doubt Velázquez will be a gold mine of information, probably for both Los Zetas and the CDG.
While that's the good news, the bad news is that his arrest plunges northeast Mexico into even more chaos, if that's even possible. In case you haven't been closely following developments there in the last few months, both Los Zetas and the CDG are undergoing major upheavals. The CDG split into two factions, Los Metros and Los Rojos, over a year ago, and the leaders of both of those factions have recently been arrested. No one really knows who's running the CDG show right now, although some names have been tossed around as likely candidates.
Los Zetas underwent their own split, possibly as far back as April, with one faction falling under Miguel "Z-40" Treviño Morales - who has sort of wrested control of Los Zetas from absent leader Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano - and the breakaway group falling under Velázquez. Last week, the news was that "El Taliban/Z-50" had forged an alliance with the CDG, Los Zetas' former employer pre-2010, to do battle against Treviño. But the ink was barely dry on that agreement when Velázquez was picked up a couple of days ago. It's not clear if his faction was strong or organized enough to have a set hierarchy, meaning a designated replacement for Velázquez.
Unfortunately, this means there are more questions than answers: Who is in control of the CDG? Have the two factions reunited? What is the status of the Zetas split now that Z-50 is gone? What is the status of the alliance between Z-50's people and the CDG? All of those issues are kind of unknowns right now.
Just to make things more interesting, let's throw the Sinaloa Federation and Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán into the mix. I told Agence France Presse in an interview yesterday that I think Guzmán is probably laughing his head off at this whole mess right now because he's the only one who can potentially stand to gain from it. Many of us analysts/observers had theorized that the Federation could sweep in to prop up the CDG after the arrest of Jorge "El Coss" Costilla Sánchez in order to fight off Los Zetas - and gain a bigger piece of the lucrative Matamoros plaza. But El Chapo might have even bigger fish to fry if he perceives a major weakness in Los Zetas subsequent to El Taliban's arrest. The CDG still needs his help, without a doubt, but Guzmán may be calculating if his organization is capable of eliminating both Los Zetas and the CDG from large swaths of Tamaulipas in one fell swoop. This would be a herculean task, of course, but he can't complain about the good timing.
Sadly, most of us know by know that uncertainty and instability in the drug war inevitably lead to increased levels of violence. With not just one, but two power vacuums going on, plus possibly three major TCOs fighting for control of the same area of NE Mexico, things are going to get even uglier than they already are. The only things that could alleviate that are if Los Zetas and the CDG decide who is in charge VERY quickly, and/or if El Chapo can take control, either with or without the CDG's help, of Tamaulipas in short order. Stay tuned...