HomeNewsAnalysisWhat Z40’s Arrest Tells Us about Mexico’s Security Policy
ANALYSIS

What Z40's Arrest Tells Us about Mexico's Security Policy

MEXICO / 22 JUL 2013 BY PATRICK CORCORAN EN

The arrest of Zetas boss Miguel Angel Treviño, alias Z40, continues to roil Mexico, shifting the dynamic not only within the world of organized crime but also affecting the political climate and the relationship with the US.

Shortly after press reports of the arrest of Treviño began to emerge on July 15, attention quickly began to shift toward the secondary effects of his arrest. As InSight Crime pointed out, this arrest could spark violence throughout the numerous territories in which the Zetas are dominant, as there is no logical successor to match Treviño’s stature within the organization. (Most initial reports pointed to Alejandro "Omar" Treviño, alias Z42, Miguel Angel’s brother, as a likely heir.) As a consequence, both internal adversaries and external enemies will be encouraged to take a shot at their rivals. 

But the meaning of Treviño’s arrest is not limited to its impact on Mexico’s criminal underworld. It also offers insight into the state of Peña Nieto’s security policy, the agencies charged with implementing it, and the role of the US in Mexico. In some ways, Treviño’s arrest marks the beginning of a new era in Mexico crime policy, but in others, the landscape looks strikingly similar to the way Felipe Calderon left it eight months ago.

Treviño’s arrest provides a boost for Mexico’s security agencies at a time when Peña Nieto continues to use his presidential pulpit to shine the spotlight on other elements of his agenda. It also comes as many in Mexico are growing impatient for the promised reductions in violence; the homicide statistics from his first six months in office show only a marginal improvement from the final stretch of the Calderon presidency.

However, despite whatever popularity bump Peña Nieto might receive from the arrest, he made little effort to celebrate the event other than a perfunctory statement. This relative distance from what appears to be a major success is likely a reaction to the consequences of Calderon’s trumpeting his security triumphs essentially from the moment he took office in 2006. Doing so indelibly linked his political fortunes to perceptions of security policy, and when bad news began to overwhelm the good, public security turned into a political millstone for Calderon, limiting his achievements in all realms. Peña Nieto seems intent on avoiding that pitfall.

The detention also demonstrates that the armed forces, and particularly Mexico’s marines, continue to play a significant role in security policy. This comes despite vague promises to phase out the use of the army and the marines, replacing them with a revamped Federal Police and Peña Nieto’s pet project, the gendarmerie. However, at this early stage of his presidency, the armed forces, especially the marines, remain the most reliable option. Furthermore, his attempts to revamp federal police forces around a gendarmerie have been bogged down in the legislative process. Whether that remains the case for five years will go a long way to determining whether Peña Nieto's early ambitions result in any meaningful changes.

Finally, Treviño’s arrest comes at a time in which cooperation between the US and Mexico on security matters has ostensibly been reduced. Peña Nieto and his team have made frequent references to loosening the ties linking the US to Mexico’s security policy, and during a recent visit by Barack Obama, the Mexican president reiterated his government’s intentions. Instead of countless points of contact between the various agencies of the two nations, Peña Nieto and his team said that all communication with the US would be channeled through the Secretary of the Interior, which is controlled by Peña Nieto loyalist Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. In theory, this would allow the federal government to more closely monitor the US officials, but would also effectively limit American agencies’ activities within Mexico. 

In reality, it’s not clear that the reduced US role has come to fruition. As noted, Treviño was arrested by Mexican Marines, the agency that has trained most closely with US forces in recent years. According to US Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), the intelligence tip that led to his capture came from US officials. And the Marines caught up to Treviño while flying in a Black Hawk helicopter, which have been provided to the Mexican government as part of the Merida Initiative. President Obama, while celebrating the news, said that the arrest helps answer the questions he had about Peña Nieto's seriousness in combating organized crime.

In short, this arrest has American footprints all over it, and, in the Treviño case at least, Peña Nieto’s reduced cooperation is almost indistinguishable from Calderon’s heavy reliance on the US.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

MEXICO / 18 SEP 2014

A survivor of a gun battle that left 22 civilians dead earlier this year stated that the Mexican military killed…

COLOMBIA / 28 SEP 2018

Authorities in the United States dismantled a transnational drug trafficking organization that utilized the US Postal Service to purchase and…

EL CHAPO / 13 JAN 2016

The capture of Mexico's most wanted fugitive, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, raises the question if the Sinaloa Cartel's criminal operations…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.