Here is a translated excerpt from the Mexican news magazine Proceso:
"Mexican Federal Security Sources confirm what some narcobanners hung in northern states suggested since early last month: Los Zetas, the extremely violent group of thugs who became a drug cartel, faces a break in the dome. Its two main leaders, [Miguel] El Z-40 [Treviño Morales] and [Heriberto] El Lazca [Lazcano Lazcano] apparently are engaged in a complicated web of betrayals. Experts predict new and more serious bloodshed in the country... [Several narco] messages, [videos on YouTube] and events such as the dismemberment of 49 bodies that were abandoned early on May 13 in Cadereyta, reveal a new division in one of the most powerful and diversified cartels in the country, which could be a prelude to a new spillage of blood... 'El Z-40 has been betrayed and has been moving against El Lazca's people,' say the officials, who add that Lazcano has been moving between Europe and Central America. He was recently spotted in Costa Rica, where he arrived from Germany... El Z-40, who has been located between Piedras Negras, Coahuila, and Aguascalientes, could make an even more violent cartel if he can remain in control. He has distinguished himself as an impulsive operator, say the sources. News of the Zeta division are not new. Since April last year the Texas firm Stratfor intelligence realized versions in this regard." Link to the Full Translation
Analysis: Trying to dissect the potential repercussions of an internal split within the ranks of Los Zetas is a different animal than the same endeavor with the CDG or the Federation. The reason for this is the inherent difference in organization between Los Zetas and the "old school" cartels where fault lines might be more visible.
For example, there have been two relatively recent splits in more traditionally organized TCOs - the Metros and Rojos factions of the CDG, and the split in La Familia Michoacana that resulted in the creation of the Knights Templar. One similarity is that you have two Zetas leaders - Treviño and Lazcano - with whom the various members and cells can choose to align. But Los Zetas are organized very horizontally, sort of in a franchise fashion, whereas the other major TCOs are organized more vertically with a clearer and stricter chain of command.
If the rumors of the split are confirmed - and it certainly seems to be heading in that direction - this will be the most significant shift in the TCO landscape since the La Familia split, or perhaps the defection of the BLO from the Federation. In the last year, we drug war observers believe Los Zetas gained control of more territory in Mexico than the Federation, which is a considerable amount of real estate. Journalist and author Sam Logan theorized not long ago that Los Zetas may have had a long-term strategy in mind to consolidate control over smuggling routes in a roman cross pattern across Mexico. Any major split would completely disrupt any such strategy.
It might be difficult to determine how the split would impact any international arrangements Los Zetas have with cocaine suppliers in South America, route managers and training camp locations in Central America, and arms suppliers in Central America and the US. Kind of like a major corporation that relies heavily on sales and service, Zetas partners may show more loyalty to their local Zetas cell, rather than one or the other head honcho. And individual cells may continue to operate relatively independently, regardless of the personal disputes between Z-40 and El Lazca.
Certainly, some (or many) members may feel more loyalty towards one man or the other, and will follow orders to the death. However, due to the military-style discipline leaders, trainers, and recruiters try to instill in many new members, some Zetas may feel a little lost, like watching the General and the Colonel fighting, and just wait to see who comes out alive to give the new orders.
Also, we have to remember that Los Zetas - probably more than any other TCO - have branched out into a wide variety of other illicit activities, many of which are dependent on local conditions for income. Conflict at the top of the Zetas food chain may not have any major impact on the extortion of businesses or pirated DVD sales in certain parts of Mexico.
But first things first; we need to wait a bit and see if these rumors pan out, meaning we start seeing an increase in violence in parts of Mexico where Los Zetas have total control - meaning a rival TCO can't be held responsible for the killing, like we saw in Tijuana in 2008-2010. So for now, the watching and waiting continues...