One of the founding members of Mexico’s notorious Zetas Cartel is believed to have been among six people killed during a gunbattle in a Mexican border town, a Tamaulipas state security official said Sunday.
The official said authorities confirmed that Galindo Mellado Cruz was one of five gunmen who died Friday in a hail of gunfire that also killed a Mexican soldier in Reynosa, a small Mexican village located right across the border from McAllen, Texas. The official was not permitted to be quoted by name for security reasons.
Galindo ‘El Mellado’ or ‘Z-9’ Mellado Cruz is thought to have died during the daring raid on his hidden compound, located in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas. The official said that Mellado Cruz was one of the 30 ex-special forces soldiers who deserted their posts in order to create the Zetas Cartel.
According to US officials, after leaving the military, Mellado joined the Gulf Cartel as one of the first members of a new enforcement wing that would evolve into the Zetas. Originally made up of former military, special forces ops, and federal police, the Zetas earned a name for their ferocity, ruthlessness, and tactical proficiency. In the next few years, the Zetas became infamous for their ability to carry out executions, sometimes in broad daylight, all along the desert wastelands between Northern Mexico and South Texas.
In 2010, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas split up, igniting an explosive war that has lasted for more than four years.
According to US LEO representatives, during that split, Mellado Cruz sided with the Gulf Cartel despite his connection to the Zetas. Still, he has been a key figure in controlling the area just south of Starr County, commonly known as La Ribereña.
In recent days, Reynosa has seen the return of regular firefights between the Zetas and Gulf Cartel. Both are vying for control of the border town at all costs.
The Zetas cartel is among Mexico’s most violent drug organizations, notorious for civilian killings and beheadings. In 2010, Zetas orchestrated what is now known as the San Fernando massacre, in which 72 undocumented immigrant workers were rounded up and butchered. In May of 2013, the Mexican army said the Zeta bosses ordered their foot soldiers to leave the remains of 49 mutilated bodies in the center of the Cadereyta town square, in the border state of Nuevo Leontown. The dumping of the cadavers occurred unopposed, in broad daylight.
It is unclear how the death of Galindo Mellado Cruz will affect the current power struggle among the warring gangs. Los Zetas is one of eight major, rival drug cartels entrenched in the ongoing battle for control of Tamaulipas.