State Department puts out $5 million reward for U.S.-born Zetas leader

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The U.S. State Department has put out a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of an American citizen who allegedly heads a faction of the ultra-violent Zetas drug cartel in southern Mexico.

José María Guízar Valencia, also known as "El Charly" or "Z-43," is wanted by U.S. authorities for purportedly importing thousands of kilos of cocaine and methamphetamine into the United States along with overseeing the trafficking of cocaine between the borders of Guatemala and Mexico.

“The Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of José María Guízar Valencia, who has assumed complete command and control of his own faction of Los Zetas in the Southern region of Mexico,” a U.S. State Department press release stated.

Guízar Valencia allegedly took over a splinter faction of the Zetas following the death of leader Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano by Mexican marines in 2012 outside a baseball game in the town of Progreso and the subsequent capture of his successor, Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, in July of last year.

The once-ubiquitous and violent drug cartel has gone through a major splintering that has allowed multiple groups affiliated with the Zetas to take control of the lucrative narcotics-trafficking routes through Mexico and Central America. Guízar Valencia is considered by the State Department to be his own entity, working independently from – but also in conjunction with – the Zetas faction of the headed by Treviño Morales’ brother, Omar, a.k.a. “Z-40.”

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“[Former Mexican President Felipe] Calderón’s strategy was to pulverize these groups into little gangs,” Tony Payan, the Mexico center director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, told Fox News Latino. “The Sinaloa Cartel has held together pretty well, but the Zetas have seen a lot of fracturing.”

The 35-year old Guízar Valencia was born in the town of Tulare in California’s Inland Empire, but very little else is known about the cartel boss besides that he was detained in 2012 when he headed to the Mexican state of Tabasco to join the Zetas. It is not known when he was released and when he reincorporated himself into organized crime activities.

Mexican media, however, reports that the Guízar family is heavily involved in drug trafficking in the states of Tabasco and Veracruz as well as the United States. One of the family members, Mauricio Guízar Cardenas, alias "El Amarillo," is suspected to be the head of the Zetas in Guatemala and the intellectual author behind the killing of  27 farmworkers in the northern province of El Petén in one of the county's largest post-civil war massacres.

Besides his drug trafficking operation, as the leader of his own Zetas faction, Guízar Valencia is also suspected of ordering and carrying out an untold number of murders of Guatemalan civilians during a methodical takeover of Mexico's southern border by the cartel. He also faces separate drug-trafficking indictments in the Eastern District of Texas, the Southern District of Texas and the Eastern District of Virginia.