Mexican authorities just nabbed one of their most wanted criminals in an unlikely place.
The Associated Press reported Friday that Jose Maria Guizar Valencia, the head of the notorious Zetas drug cartel, was arrested Thursday in Roma, one of Mexico City's more lush and gastronomically rich neighborhoods. Guizar Valencia's presence in posh Roma is surprising, given that the Zetas are known to operate mostly out of southeastern Mexico, far from the more central Mexico City.
Mexican authorities would not reveal their suspect's exact identity, but an unnamed source confirmed to AP that the suspect in question was the Zetas' leader. Guizar Valencia, who is a dual Mexican-American citizen, has been a person of interest to Mexican and U.S. law enforcement for several years and the U.S government had a $5 million reward out for his arrest, AP says. The U.S. has also reportedly asked for Guizar Valencia's extradition.
Guizar Valencia climbed to power within the Zetas cartel in the last few years, Business Insider reports, and reportedly controlled the majority of their smuggling and trafficking operations in the southern states of Veracruz, Tabasco, and Chiapas. Former Drug Enforcement Administration chief of international operations Mike Vigil predicted to Business Insider that Guizar Valencia's arrest would "probably cripple Zetas' ability to smuggle drugs through southern Mexico."
The Zetas cartel is infamous for carrying out gruesome acts of violence. The high-profile arrest, Al Jazeera explains, is part of ongoing efforts to "fight a recent surge in homicides" in Mexico. Roughly 25,000 people were killed in the country last year — many as casualties of Mexico's war on drug trafficking. Kelly O'Meara Morales