Z-40 Arrest a Test of Mexico’s Kingpin Strategy

Z-40 Arrest a Test of Mexico’s Kingpin Strategy

The first major development in Mexico’s fight against drug organizations under the Enrique Pena Nieto administration came early yesterday morning when Mexican marines arrested Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, known as Z-40, the head of the ultraviolent Zetas organization. While lauding the arrest, analysts are largely united in the assessment that Z-40’s arrest will result in more violence in the near term, as the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the arrest unfolds.

The arrest also throws into relief the issue of the so-called kingpin strategy of targeting top leaders of Mexico’s drug organizations, which the Pena Nieto administration had indicated it wanted to move away from. A recent Congressional Research Service report raised worries that targeting kingpins “has contributed to violent succession struggles, shifting alliances among the [drug trafficking organizations], a proliferation of new gangs and small DTOs, and the replacement of existing leaders and criminal groups by ones who are even more violent.”

Reacting to Trevino’s arrest, James Bosworth states bluntly, “This is going to be a clear case where the kingpin strategy won’t work.”At Insight Crime, Stephen Dudley stakes out a similar position, noting, “Miguel Trevino may have been the final stitch that held what was left of this disparate federation together. What comes next could be a spasm of violence as the group balkanizes.”

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