MEXICO CITY - Instead of bringing relief, the recent capture of drug lords in northern Mexico has raised fears of new turf wars in border cities that are major US trafficking routes.
The violence between the Zetas and Gulf cartels has been so great in the state of Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, that newspapers no longer report on drug-related crime and residents are afraid of openly talking about gangs.
Last month, the government detained Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino, alias "Z-40," capturing a man whose cartel is accused of some of the most gruesome crimes in Mexico, including massacres of scores of migrants and beheading of rivals.
Then last weekend, troops nabbed Gulf Cartel boss Mario Ramirez Trevino, dealing a blow to a criminal organisation already severely weakened by major arrests, internal divisions and its violent split with the Zetas, its former paramilitary wing, in 2010.
But residents of Nuevo Laredo, a city considered a Zetas fiefdom, and Reynosa, home to the Gulf cartel, are holding their breath for potential internal wars of succession or incursions by rivals such as the Sinaloa cartel.
The government says it has ramped up security in Tamaulipas to prevent any new violence following the captures. The state's murder rate rose from 10 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 to 46 per 100,000 last year.
"Now we're waiting to see what happens," said Carlos Alberto Renteria, a shop owner in Nuevo Laredo, a city of 370,000 people through which one-third of Mexican land exports travel - along with drugs stashed in vehicles.
Pablo, a teenager who admits working as a lookout for the Zetas, said the gang "says that things will continue as before, that nothing has changed and that Z-42 is now in control."