On March 6th, Juan Gerardo Treviño, leader of Cártel del Noreste (Northeast Cartel) and also known as El Huevo (“The Egg”), was arrested in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. He currently faces U.S. extraditions for money laundering and drug trafficking. In addition to these charges, Treviño faces extortion and criminal association charges in Tamaulipas (the state where Nuevo Laredo is located), and murder and terrorism charges in the nearby state of Coahuila. Following Treviño’s arrest, Cártel del Noreste members committed a series of shootings and violent displays of retaliation in Nuevo Laredo. One such violent assault involved firing shots at the U.S. consulate building.
U.S. response to the shooting was prompt. On March 16th, the federal government authorized the departure of non-emergency government personnel and their families and closed operations until further notice. “As of March 15th, the Department of State is not able to offer routine consular services from the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo,” a department statement announced. “U.S. citizens wishing to depart Nuevo Laredo should monitor local news and announcements and only do so when considered safe during daylight hours.”
The announcement also recommended that U.S. citizens not travel to Tamaulipas, due to crime and safety concerns. At this time, only one “collateral” fatality has been reported as a result of the violence.
The process of deporting Treviño has moved quickly. Indeed, the extradition process would have taken longer if Treviño were a Mexican citizen. However, Ricardo Mejia, Mexico’s assistant secretary of public safety, insisted that there were no record or identification documents to prove Treviño’s Mexican citizenship.
While it is not uncommon for Mexican families near the American border to register their child’s birthplace as the United States, these families usually claim dual citizenship. Further, since Treviño’s deportation on the 15th, social media sites have circulated copies of baptism and birth records in Treviño’s name. These documents suggest that Treviño is a Mexican citizen, but their authenticity could not be verified, and they surfaced after Treviño was deported. Treviño was handed over to U.S. officials at the border in Tijuana, notably far from Nuevo Laredo. This was presumably to avoid any attempt to free him.
Treviño’s arrest represents a “forceful blow” to the cartel’s hold on power in Nuevo Laredo, the Mexican government says. The Egg comes from a legacy of gang leaders, including his uncle Miguel Angel Treviño, the now-imprisoned former leader of the Zetas cartel. This gang had a hand in some of Mexico’s most violent turf battles; in the past, Zetas attacked the opposing Gulf cartel and Mexican law enforcement to sustain its hold on the city. With the leader of the gang which succeeded them, Cártel del Noreste, imprisoned, Mexican officials hope to put this legacy to rest. However, Treviño’s arrest alone will not end gang violence in Nuevo Laredo. Members of Cártel del Noreste have already begun retaliating by hijacking and burning vehicles in city streets. The Mexican army reports 13 street blockades since Treviño’s arrest.
Ultimately, whether this arrest marks a crackdown on gang violence or the beginning of a violent series of retaliation is unclear.