Mexico captures notorious Zetas leader

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
July 16, 2013

Mexico apprehends brutal cartel kingpin, Syrian rebels fight for strategic Damascus suburb, and violence erupts again in Egypt. Today is Tuesday, July 16, the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A handout photograph released during a news conference by the Mexican government on July 15, 2013, shows a series of photographs of Miguel Angel Trevino. REUTERS/Secretaria de Gobernacion/Handout via Reuters

Kingpin capture a blessing for Mexican president. Mexico nabbed the notorious leader of the Zetas drug cartel in a morning raid. The arrest is a major victory for President Enrique Pena Nieto, who made stability in Mexico his goal when he took office in December.

The Zetas have been blamed for many of the worst atrocities carried out by Mexican drug gangs, acts that have sullied the country’s name and put fear into tourists and investors alike. Following a tide of gang-related beheadings, massacres and gunfights that have claimed more than 70,000 lives since the start of 2007, Pena Nieto said his number one priority was to restore stability when he took office in December. Murders have fallen slightly, according to official statistics, but violent crime is still rampant in parts of Mexico and, until now, the new government had few outstanding successes to celebrate in its campaign to pacify the country.

Miguel Angel Trevino, who took control of the Zetas after the cartel’s previous leader Heriberto Lazcano died during a shootout with the Mexican navy  in October, was wanted for murder, torture, money laundering, and ordering the kidnapping and execution of 265 migrant workers. Known as “Z-40,” Trevino was notorious for his particularly brutal tactics. Political scientist and Zetas expert George W. Grays told Reuters that Trevino “really gets off on inflicting diabolical pain on people.” Authorities found and caught Trevino, along with two associates, $2 million in cash and a cache of arms, following a months-long operation. Although his arrest is a political win for Pena Nieto, the removal of the Zetas leader could create a bloody battle for succession and strengthen the Sinaloa cartel’s leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Free Syrian Army fighters prepare a mortar after what activists said were clashes between government forces and the Free Syrian Army in Damascus, July 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah

Battle for the capital. Syrian rebels ramped up the fight for a key suburb of Damascus in order to fend off government forces who entered the rebel-held district on Monday:

In Damascus, the latest fighting comes almost a year after one of the rebels’ most spectacular attacks in the capital – a bomb attack last July 18 which killed several of Assad’s most senior security officials.

In an example of the difficulties of mediating the increasingly sectarian conflict, pro-Assad gunmen killed at least six state-sanctioned mediators on Monday night. Most locals thought the militiamen were tacitly encouraged by the government to open fire, even though the mediators were sent by a state-sanctioned reconciliation group.

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi run from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes at Ramses Square in Cairo, July 15, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Egypt descends back into violence. Last week’s relative peace fell apart yesterday as clashes between pro-Mursi demonstrators and anti-government protesters left seven people dead and more than 260 injured:

Egyptian authorities rounded up more than 400 people over the fighting which raged though the night into Tuesday, nearly two weeks after the army removed Mursi in response to mass demonstrations against him. Interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi is forming a government to lead Egypt through a “road map” to restore full civilian rule and to tackle a chaotic economy. A spokesman for the interim president said Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood had been offered cabinet posts and would participate in the transition. The Brotherhood, Egypt’s leading Islamist movement, dismissed the remarks as lies, saying it would never yield its demand for Mursi’s return.

The violence broke out on the second and final day of a visit by senior U.S. State Department official William Burns, who received a cool welcome from both sides when he arrived in Egypt.

Nota Bene: Panama detains North Korean-flagged ship with undeclared weapons.

Standouts:

Sarin sweepstakes - The U.S. government may be crowdsourcing ways to destroy sarin stores. (Foreign Policy)

Faux treasures - A Chinese museum shuts down after authorities find fake artifacts. (BBC)

Auto austerity throwback - European car sales dropped to their lowest levels since 1996. (Quartz)

Media migration - Syrian TV stars have relocated to Lebanon. (Al Jazeera)

“Talking through her fanny” - Irish politician apologizes for remark against female senator.  (The Guardian)

From the File:

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