MEXICO CITY – A Gulf cartel leader in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas was captured by marines, National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said.
Juan Manuel Rodriguez Garcia was on the list of top criminal targets identified by the federal government earlier this month as part of the new law enforcement strategy for Tamaulipas, the security official said.
The Gulf cartel boss was arrested in San Pedro Garza Garcia, a city in Nuevo Leon state, where he had fled due to the stepped up federal security operations in Tamaulipas, Rubido said.
The 39-year-old Rodriguez, who was born in Nuevo Leon, was captured outside a hotel without any shots being fired, Rubido said.
The suspect was behind numerous violent acts, including the “wave of violence in the cities of Reynosa, Rio Bravo, Matamoros, Tampico and Vallehermoso,” Rubido said.
“He was responsible for smuggling drugs, money and arms across the border bridges,” Rubido said, adding that the suspect ran extortion rackets targeting other gangs that tried to use the international crossings.
Investigators suspect that the cartel boss was behind the mass kidnappings of Central American migrants, who were forced to work for the criminal organization under threat of death, the national security commissioner said.
Rodriguez took over the Gulf cartel’s leadership following the August 2013 arrest of Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, but “not everyone accepted” being under his command, leading to internal fighting and “a surge in violence in Tamaulipas,” Rubido said.
The federal government said earlier this month it was deploying more security forces units in Tamaulipas and planned to purge the state’s law enforcement agencies in an effort to stop the surge in drug-related violence.
Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong announced the expanded deployment on May 13 in the border city of Reynosa, unveiling a “new phase” of the federal security strategy for Tamaulipas aimed at restoring to residents “the peace and safety they deserve.”
Patrols will be stepped up at ports, airports, customs posts, border crossings and highways, with inspections of prisons and nightspots where criminal activities occur being expanded, Osorio Chong said.
The Gulf and Los Zetas drug cartels have been fighting for control of Tamaulipas and smuggling routes into the United States for years.
After several years as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, Los Zetas went into the drug business on their own account in early 2010 and now control several lucrative territories.
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.
U.S. authorities accuse the Gulf cartel of smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine into the United States.