Mexican authorities are bracing for possible violence after the arrest of Zetas drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino, a security spokesman said Tuesday as prosecutors questioned the kingpin.
The arrest of drug lords are often followed by internal power struggles or attempts by rival gangs to seize on the leadership void to raid enemy territory.
Eduardo Sanchez, the interior ministry spokesman, told AFP that authorities "have information about possible repercussions and we are attentive to be able to react."
Trevino, alias "Z-40," was intercepted by marines before dawn on Monday after a helicopter swooped down in front of his pick-up truck as he traveled with two associates on a dirt road near the northeastern city of Nuevo Laredo, which borders Texas.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said the arrest was the product of good coordination between Mexican government agencies, with the use of intelligence and technology, reaffirming his government's "commitment to creating better conditions for security."
The 40-year-old drug lord was being held by the attorney general's office in Mexico City and prosecutors have 72 hours to charge him or hold him longer, Sanchez said.
Trevino is accused of organized crime, homicide, drug trafficking, torture and money laundering.
The marines seized $2 million in cash from his car along with eight rifles. The other two detainees are believed to be a bodyguard and an operative tasked with finances.
In the months before his arrest, Trevino had kept a "very low profile," moving only at dawn for short distances, Sanchez said.
Sanchez refused to speculate about who could succeed Trevino or how his capture could affect turf wars among the drug cartels.
"The way the gangs behave or if one emerges and the other disappears is irrelevant to us," Sanchez said. "We won't stop our work until we have detained all of them."
Capturing Trevino was the biggest anti-cartel victory for the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto since he took office in December with his pledge to reduce a wave of drug-related murders that has left 70,000 people dead since 2006.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration praised Mexican authorities for nabbing one of Mexico's most wanted men.
"His ruthless leadership has now come to an end," the DEA said in a statement.
"Trevino Morales is of one of the most significant Mexican cartel leaders to be apprehended in several years and DEA will continue to support the government of Mexico as it forges ahead in disrupting and dismantling drug trafficking organizations," the statement said.