An alleged local commander of the Zetas paramilitary cartel in the troubled border state of Coahuila has been captured, the Mexican navy announced Thursday, expressing hope that he might lead authorities to the notorious group's remaining top leader. Said Omar Juarez was taken into custody on a prominent street in Saltillo, Coahuila's capital, the navy said in a statement released as the suspect was presented to reporters in Mexico City. In his possession were weapons and packages containing what may be cocaine and marijuana, the statement said.
Juarez was described by the navy as the Zeta operative in charge of Saltillo, who "presumably" has direct ties to Miguel Angel Treviño, the Zetas' top leader. Treviño emerged as the undisputed Zetas capo after Heriberto Lazcano was killed in a shootout with navy special forces last month. Coahuila, which borders Texas and is Mexico's third-largest state, has recently been the subject of increased scrutiny after a series of high-profile events that revealed the extent to which the Zetas had grown to dominate the region.
In addition to Lazcano's killing, the subsequent stealing of his body by armed commandos, and the acknowledgment by officials that he was living freely in Coahuila, there were other events:
The former governor's son was slain in October, allegedly by Zeta operatives working in cahoots with local police, and in September one of the largest mass prison breaks in history took place, in the Coahuila town of Piedras Negras, staged by Zetas to free Zetas. The warden and 16 guards and other officials were detained on suspicion of aiding the escape; eight of the officials were released Thursday. All of that was followed by a stunning series of interviews by the former governor, Humberto Moreira, who accused the state's lucrative mining industry of entering into a devil's pact with the Zetas and helping to finance their murderous ways. Moreira, who is mired in a scandal involving a $3-billion debt that he saddled the state with, offered to supply proof of the complicity but has not yet done so.