The capture of the alleged homegrown boss of Mexico’s most feared drug cartel was not discussed publicly by residents of the northern border city of Nuevo Laredo and not a word appeared in local newspapers a day after the arrest of the Zetas’ Miguel Angel Trevino Morales.
Nuevo Laredo is a town where bodies have swung from an overpass — nine on one night last year. Decapitated heads have frequently been dropped along roadsides and grenades tossed in the vicinity of anyone who dared protest, all to secure Trevino Morales’ reign.
Speaking in low voices away from prying eyes, residents on Tuesday said they were anxiously awaiting a violent response.
Trevino Morales was a local thug who fought ferociously to control this valuable route for trafficking drugs and migrants, and residents believe his takedown is unlikely to pass unanswered.
Mexican marines nabbed Trevino Morales and two others on a dirt road southwest of the city on Monday without a shot being fired.
On Tuesday, residents held their tongues and waited. Soldiers stood guard behind stacked sandbags, while marines, state and federal police cruised the city of 350,000 in highly visible armed convoys.
“We’re waiting,” Antonio Ybarra Martinez said.
The 54-year-old meant waiting for bloodshed.
A friend of Martinez’s, who only gave his name as Sergio, said that since Trevino Morales was from Nuevo Laredo and has family that could push for a response.
On Tuesday, four pickup trucks full of Mexican state police armed with assault rifles sat across the street from Nuevo Laredo’s city hall. Not surprisingly, a city spokesman declined to comment and the mayor was unavailable.
City officials also had nothing to say in February after their police chief, Roberto Balmori Garza, disappeared, except that they were waiting for him to come back. They are still waiting.
This is the art of survival in Nuevo Laredo, borne out of the lessons of experience.
In 2011, the Zetas targeted a nascent attempt by residents to share information in an online chat room. At least three apparent users of the Nuevo Laredo en Vivo chat room were killed, including a woman who was decapitated. In case there was any mistake about the message, the head of Maria Elizabeth Macias, or “Laredo Girl,” was left atop a keyboard.
The Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel have been fighting over Nuevo Laredo for years. Five international bridges connect the city with Laredo, Texas, making it the southern border’s busiest commercial port of entry.
One resident, who declined to be named, said the arrest was good news that everyone was aware of, but he did not expect any improvement because there are always others ready to fill the void.
Trevino Morales was his case in point. Z-40, as he was called, was reportedly already running the cartel’s operations when Heriberto Lazcano, one of the Zetas’ founding members and ostensible leader, was killed by the Mexican Navy in Coahuila State last year, clearing the way for Trevino Morales.
Now, Nuevo Laredo residents are watching to see who comes next, fearful the succession could bring on a new wave of violence.
“No one knows who are the good ones or the bad ones,” a convenience store manager said.
Many downtown clubs and discos have closed because no one will go out after dark, he said.
He claimed to not have heard about Trevino Morales’ arrest because he does not have a television in his store and there was nothing about it in the newspaper.
“The truth is, the situation is very difficult. Nobody speaks of this world,” he said.