MEXICO CITY – Authorities said Friday they have arrested dual U.S.-Mexican citizen Jose Maria Guizar Valencia, the alleged leader of the Zetas drug cartel.
Mexican National Security Commissioner Renato Sales identified the suspect only as “Jose Maria,” but a federal official who was not authorized to be quoted by name confirmed Guizar Valencia’s last name.
Guizar Valencia is known by his Zetas code name, “Z 43.”
The United States had offered a $5 million reward for his arrest.
Sales said Guizar Valencia was arrested Thursday in Mexico City’s trendy Roma neighborhood, which is known for its restaurants and cafes.
The commissioner said the leader was one of the main generators of violence and had directed Zetas’ drug trafficking and other activities in southern Mexico.
Under a “Wanted” page online, the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said Guizar Valencia is “responsible for the importation of thousands of kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamine to the United States on a yearly basis” and faces separate U.S. drug trafficking indictments in Texas and Virginia.
It also said he had taken over territory in neighboring Guatemala.
“Los Zetas, under the command of Guizar Valencia, have murdered an untold number of Guatemalan civilians during the systematic overtake of the Guatemalan border region with Mexico during recent years,” the bureau said.
It said Guizar Valencia was born in Tulare, California.
The Zetas’ leadership has been decimated by the arrest and deaths of main capos in recent years, and the once fearsome cartel has splintered into several factions. Even before that, the bureau said Guizar Valencia was “considered his own entity, working in concert but independently” of the main Zetas faction.
Formed by deserters of an elite military unit, the Zetas are known for indiscriminate brutality, filling anonymous graves and roadsides with piles of victims’ bodies.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.