For months, Mexico’s army has gradually moved thousands of troops into territory controlled by the country’s largest and arguably most dangerous drug cartel. The mission: kill or capture the top bosses of the Zetas, right in the heart of their prime terrain. Last week the manhunt started paying dividends, as the army took out a senior cartel leader during a major shootout — although it came at the cost of turning a Mexican city into a warzone.
According to local press reports, the hours-long battle began on Thursday in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, when forces loyal to the boss of a major Zetas drug trafficking operation, Gerardo Guerra-Valdez, attacked military personnel moving on the cartel’s “command structure.” When the military fought back, cartel gunmen began blockading key roads stretching from the city’s downtown, near the World Trade Bridge connecting Nuevo Laredo to Texas. They came prepared: included in their convoy was at least one armored vehicle, rocket and grenade launchers, lots of rifles and, predictably, cocaine.
But that was it for Guerra-Valdez. Along with three Mexican soldiers and 13 cartel gunmen, the Zetas boss, who goes by El Guerra or “The War” — yes, really — didn’t survive the battle. He was the second-in-command to Miguel Angel Trevino, a former army commando turned top Zetas enforcer, according to the Mexican armed forces.