Wearing khaki pants and a khaki-colored T-shirt, Ivan Velazquez Caballero “El Taliban,” shuffled his shackled feet as he made his way into the courtroom for his hearing before U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez.
Velazquez was expected to plead guilty to a drug trafficking conspiracy or say he wanted to go to trial; Neither happened.
The once imposing figure of one of Mexico’s most powerful drug lords was replaced by a frail looking man. During Thursday’s hearing, Velasquez’s tall frame showed the signs of a man who had lost several pounds with a stubbly beard on his face. He cracked a brief smile that was rapidly replaced by a saddened grimace when he turned to the audience and saw his relatives.
A woman in the audience broke into tears and choked back sobs when she locked eyes with Velasquez, who turned back to face the court and kept his hands crossed in front of him.
Once Alvarez entered the courtroom, Velasquez’s attorney, Douglas Mulder, asked to speak with the judge and with Assistant U.S. Attorney Angel Moreno in private at the judge’s bench.
After the 20-minute off-the-record conversation, Alvarez ordered the case be reset for April 7 and dismissed Velázquez and the attorneys. The man also known as “Z-50” and “L-50” gave one last look to his relatives before walking back to into federal custody.
Velazquez has been behind bars since Sept. 26, 2012, when Mexican marines acting on intelligence from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration caught up with the drug lord in the state of San Luis Potosi. He was extradited to Laredo just before his initial hearing in November.
Velazquez began his criminal career as a car thief in Nuevo Laredo and soon joined the Zetas at the age of 22 where he started off as an errand boy for Zeta boss Heriberto Lazcano, said Jose Luis Vergara, a spokesman for the Mexican navy, following his arrest in 2012.
Eventually Velazquez worked as a local foot soldier for the then armed wing of the Gulf Cartel with the call sign L50, which referred to his affiliation with the Lobos or the guard for Nuevo Laredo, a Tamaulipas law enforcement official told TheMonitor in 2012.
The Zetas started more than a decade ago as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel, but set themselves apart by their acts of cruelty and brazen attacks towards their rivals. In 2010, the Gulf Cartel joined forces with the Sinaloa Cartel and the Familia Michoacana to take out the Zetas, which had grown into its own crime syndicate that had turned against its former bosses, Monitor archives show.
Over time Velazquez, climbed his way to the highest echelons of the Zetas. But in late 2011, he had a falling out with the organization’s top enforcer and eventual leader Miguel Angel “L40 or Z40” Trevino Morales. In 2012 Velazquez took a faction of the Zetas and joined forces with their former employer the Gulf Cartel to combat Treviño, Mexican court records state.
From The Monitor and posted by Friendly Girl on BB forum