They call him "The Crazy One" but, judging by the sobering nature of his debut press conference, the suspected cocaine baron Daniel Jesus Elizondo came from a more calculated school of organised criminals.
Police in Mexico paraded Elizondo before the media on Sunday, claiming that the man nicknamed "El Loco" was responsible for the organised killings of 49 men whose decapitated bodies were found on a road outside the northern city of Monterrey earlier this month.
He was arrested in what appears to have been a peaceful raid on Friday in Cadereyta, an industrial town on the outskirts of the city near the US border, where he is believed to have run trafficking operations on behalf of the Zetas gang who – despite stiff competition – are currently regarded as central America's most successful drug cartel.
Police claimed that Elizondo, a strapping, heavily tattooed man in his 30s, had been ordered to carry out the murders by Miguel-Angel Trevino Morales and Heriberto Lazcano, who, as the overall heads of Los Zetas, are two of the world's most-wanted men.
In what appears to have been a confession, Elizondo told police that his original instructions were to leave the 49 dismembered bodies in the town square. But he became nervous about that plan and instead opted to drop the bodies on a semi-rural highway a few miles east. They were left with a message saying the Zeta cartel was responsibility for the massacre. "Gulf cartel, Sinaloa cartel, marines and soldiers, nobody can do anything against us or they will lose," it read.
The heads, hands and feet of each of victim had been removed, making identification tricky. But officers are working on the theory that they were illegal migrants from central America being transported to the US.
In recent years, many drug gangs have diversified from their historic source of income, cocaine smuggling, into human trafficking.
News of the murders caused public outrage, since it was one of the most gruesome attacks since the upsurge in violence that followed President Felipe Calderon's 2006 declaration of a "war" on drugs. In the ensuing six years, an estimated 55,000 people have died.
Although the Zetas had originally appeared to claim responsibility for the Cadereyta slayings, they subsequently left messages in six cities denying they was their handiwork, and suggesting they were part of an effort to undermine the cartel's cosy relationship with some local communities.
Elizondo may shed some light on what really occurred when he comes to trial. He remains in custody and no charges have yet been filed.
Police said that an accomplice, who made and uploaded to the internet a videotape of the decapitated bodies being dumped, was still at large.Reuse content