Mexico apprehends powerful leader of Gulf drug cartel
By Leticia Pineda, AFPMEXICO CITY -- Mexican soldiers on Saturday captured the leader of the Gulf drug cartel, the second major blow in a month to the crime syndicates that have terrorized the country for years.
August 19, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Soldiers captured Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino in a Saturday morning operation, the interior ministry said in a brief statement, describing him only as “the head of a criminal organization that operated in the north of the country.”
This is the second drug kingpin captured by the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto following the July 15 arrest of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, the head of the paramilitary Zetas cartel.
Pena Nieto, who took office in December 2012, has pledged to reduce drug-related violence that has resulted in more than 70,000 deaths since 2006.
Ramirez Trevino, thought to be 51, became head of the once-powerful Gulf cartel after its former leader, Jorge Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla, was arrested in September 2012.
The Gulf cartel first emerged smuggling liquor during the Prohibition era in the 1930s and is one of Mexico's oldest criminal groups. Even though it has lost considerable terrain to rivals since its heyday in the mid 2000s, it retains key smuggling routes in eastern and northeastern Mexico.
Ramirez Trevino was captured in Rio Bravo, near the Texas border, according to a justice source in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. Mexican military helicopters buzzed across the region on Saturday.
The United States had offered a US$5 million reward for information leading to Ramirez Trevino's arrest. The Gulf cartel boss was indicted in a U.S. federal court in 2008 on crimes related to trafficking cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into the United States.
The interior ministry said it would hold a press conference on Sunday to discuss the details of his arrest.
Military checkpoints were set up outside Rio Bravo and the nearby border town of Reynosa, while soldiers and marines patrolled the streets, local media reported. Soldiers also took control of the international airport at Reynosa.
Reportedly a former drug addict, Ramirez Trevino — also known as “El Pelon” (“Baldy”) and “X-20” — rose to lead the Gulf cartel group that controlled criminal activities in the key smuggling town of Reynosa, across the Rio Grande river from McAllen, Texas.
In recent months he reportedly asserted his leadership over the cartel by crushing a rival faction.
Ramirez Trevino earlier worked closely with Osiel Cardenas Guillen, a former powerful cartel leader arrested in 2003 and currently serving a lengthy prison sentence in the United States.