MEXICO CITY – One of the most important leaders of Mexico’s La Familia Michoacana drug organization has been arrested by federal police, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
Arnoldo Rueda Medina, known as “La Minsa” and responsible for the acquisition, transportation and sale of drugs, was arrested on Saturday, the secretariat said.
Rueda and Enrique Plancarte are in the second leadership tier of the criminal organization run by Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas and Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, the secretariat said.
The suspect started his criminal career dealing in stolen vehicles and later joined with Mendez Vargas, Moreno Gonzalez and Carlos Rosales Mendoza to form the La Empresa organization.
In 2000, La Empresa joined forces with the Gulf cartel to expel the Los Valencia criminal organization from Michoacan state.
Rueda led the gunmen who located and killed members of Los Valencia in “operations that helped position him in the criminal organization’s leadership,” the secretariat said.
La Empresa continued to work with “Los Zetas,” the armed wing of the Gulf cartel until 2006, when the gang from Michoacan broke with the Zetas in a turf dispute.
La Empresa became La Familia Michoacana in 2006, with Rueda Medina serving as Moreno Gonzalez’s right-hand man since the organization’s founding, the secretariat said.
Rueda Medina was responsible for manufacturing synthetic drugs, smuggling marijuana and cocaine into the United States, and naming the chiefs of the criminal organization’s operations in Michoacan, Colima, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi and Jalisco states, as well as in sections of Guerrero and Mexico states.
The suspect managed to infiltrate some police departments in areas where La Familia Michoacana operates, the Public Safety Secretariat said.
Rueda Medina was also in charge of legal and financial affairs, and coordinated the criminal organization’s domestic and international strategies with Moreno Gonzalez, the secretariat said.
He developed international contacts for smuggling drugs into Mexico via the ports of Lazaro Cardenas and Manzanillo, and for producing synthetic drugs, the secretariat said.
Rueda Medina and fellow Familia Michoacana leader Servando Gomez Martinez selected the routes for smuggling drugs into the United States via Tijuana and Mexicali, as well as other places in the border states of Sonora and Chihuahua.
Rueda Medina, moreover, managed operations to find and eliminate members of Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva drug cartel who tried to grab La Familia Michoacana’s territory, the secretariat said.
La Familia Michoacana and the Gulf cartel have been fighting for control of Michoacan, a key state on the drug smuggling routes in western Mexico.
Michoacan is strategically located on the Pacific coast, giving drug traffickers access to routes for smuggling drugs into the United States, and it is also one of Mexico’s main producers of marijuana, poppies and synthetic drugs.
After Rueda Medina’s arrest, gunmen working for the criminal organization attacked federal police stations in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, and in the cities of Lazaro Cardenas, Zitacuaro, Huetamo, Apatzingan and Ciudad Altamirano, as well as on the highway to Salamanca, killing three police officers and wounding several others, the secretariat said.
In May, the federal government said it was investigating local and state officials suspected of having ties to La Familia Michoacana.
Federal authorities arrested 10 mayors, a judge and 17 other officials in Michoacan, including an adviser to Gov. Leonel Godoy, on suspicion that they had ties to the drug organization.
The federal Attorney General’s Office is offering a reward of 120 million pesos ($9 million) for Moreno and other leaders of La Familia Michoacana.
In mid-April, a day before President Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico, the United States placed La Familia Michoacana and two other Mexican criminal groups on a list of international drug trafficking organizations.
Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations, according to experts, are the Tijuana cartel, which is run by the Arellano Felix family, and the Gulf, Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.
Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Colima and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.
Los Zetas, a group of army special forces veterans and deserters who initially worked as hitmen for the Gulf organization, may now be operating as a cartel, some experts say.
Mexico’s drug cartels produce and traffic around 500 tons of drugs worth $450 million annually, the Public Safety Secretariat said in a recent report.