CANCUN, Mexico – The suspected Gulf drug cartel boss in the Mexican Caribbean state of Quintana Roo was arrested by police in the resort city of Cancun, officials said.
Miguel Angel Villarreal Barajas, who was allegedly involved in 10 murders, was arrested early Tuesday, the Quintana Roo Attorney General’s Office said.
“Miguel Angel Villarreal Barajas has been linked to at least six open cases of executions related to the settling of scores between rival organized crime groups,” Quintana Roo Attorney General Gaspar Armando Garcia Torres said.
Villarreal Barajas faces charges in the murder of a high-level police commander, the AG said.
The Gulf cartel boss was arrested by municipal police officers along with four other people as they drove around a poor neighborhood in a vehicle that did not have tags, Garcia said.
Officers found powder cocaine and crack cocaine in the vehicle in packages that were ready for sale.
Villarreal Barajas tried to flee but was detained, Garcia said.
The suspect initially identified himself as Guillermo Martinez, but officers checked a database and determined that he was really Villarreal Barajas, who ran the Gulf cartel’s operations in Quintana Roo, the AG said.
The Gulf cartel is no longer as powerful as it was in the past, partly because of its break with Los Zetas, the criminal organization’s former armed wing, which severed ties with the cartel in 2010 and now runs its own narcotics trafficking business.
The Gulf organization, which mainly deals in cocaine, synthetic drugs and marijuana, mostly operates in northern Mexico and the country’s eastern coastal areas.
The cartel, like other Mexican criminal organizations, has branched out into kidnappings and running extortion rackets, targeting businesses.
Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, the Gulf cartel’s leader, was captured by army troops during an operation in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on Aug. 17.
Ramirez Treviño took over the Gulf cartel’s leadership in 2012.
The Gulf cartel, one of Mexico’s oldest drug trafficking organizations, was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s and was later led by Juan Garcia Abrego, who was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the United States.