A general view of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington February 28, 2013. Positions hardened on Wednesday between U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders over the budget crisis even as they arranged to hold last-ditch talks to prevent harsh automatic spending cuts beginning this week. Looking resigned to the $85 billion in "sequestration" cuts starting on Friday, government agencies began reducing costs and spelling out to employees how furloughs will work. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)

WASHINGTON - The United States on Friday targeted the wife of a jailed Mexican drug lord, freezing her US assets and banning American companies from doing business with her medical supplies firm.

The US Treasury Department said its sanctions against Juanita del Carmen Rios would squeeze the narcotics and money-laundering operations of the Zetas, one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels.

Mexican marines captured Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino, aka Z-40, in an early morning raid last July. Trevino's arrest marked a major victory for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's fight against gang violence.

The Treasury said Rios, which the department identified as Trevino's spouse, owned and operated a Mexican company involved in the importation and sale of medical supplies.

Friday's designation against Rios and her firm was part of a drive “to weaken and ultimately collapse the financial infrastructure of this ruthless cartel,” said Adam Szubin, a Treasury official who helps oversee the department's sanctions programs.

The Zetas have been blamed for many of the worst atrocities carried out by Mexican drug gangs, acts that have sullied the country's name and put fear into tourists and investors alike.

Following a tide of gang-related beheadings, massacres and gunfights that have claimed more than 70 000 lives since the start of 2007, Pena Nieto said his number one priority was to restore stability when he took office in December 2012.