Mexico: Zetas Leader Arrested in Massacre of 49

The Mexican Army arrested Zetas cartel leader Daniel “The Madman” Elizondo, the suspected perpetrator of last week’s mass beheading of 49 people. Elizondo was arrested in the northern state of Nuevo Leon, an army spokesman said.

According to the Mexican authorities, Elizondo ran the Zetas trafficking operations in the northeast town of Cadereyta where the bodies were discovered, Reuters reported. Graffiti depicting symbols of the Zetas were found near the corpses.

On May 13, 49 decapitated and mutilated bodies were discovered by a highway 18 miles outside of Monterey, Mexico. Last week’s massacre is one of the most gruesome since 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a nation-wide operation against drug cartels. Since 2006, 55,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence, while more than 5,000 have gone missing.

Each corpse’s head, hands and feet were removed so Mexican police must rely on DNA analysis to identify the victims. The authorities noted that there has been no indication of recent mass disappearances in the northeast region. Therefore, it is likely that the victims were migrants to the United States crossing through Mexico from Central and South America. Migrants frequently fall into the hands of drug cartels, and those who cannot afford to pay ransom are killed.

The Zetas drug cartel was formed by members of the special forces who left the Mexican army in 1998 forgoing public service to work as hitmen for drug traffickers. Over time, they split off to form the their own group. In addition to drug trafficking, they also engage in extortion, kidnapping, robbery, and theft of crude oil. The Zetas are considered the most violent of the narco cartels and operate throughout Mexico.

Several parts of Mexico witnessed an intensified turf war between rival drug cartels over the past few weeks. In addition to the May 13 massacre, some of the recent atrocities include the decapitation of 18 victims near the southwestern city of Guadalajara, and the hanging of nine people from a bridge near the city Nuevo Laredo, near the border with Texas.