Mexico Arrests Suspected Head of Gulf Cartel Wanted by U.S.

Mexican authorities captured the suspected leader of the Gulf Cartel, one of the nation’s most-hunted drug traffickers for whose arrest the U.S. had been offering a $5 million reward.

Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez was detained yesterday in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, Navy spokesman Jose Luis Vergara said today at a press conference in Mexico City. Thirty officers broke into an apartment and surprised Costilla Sanchez, who put up no resistance, Vergara said.

Costilla Sanchez, also known as “El Coss,’ is accused in the U.S. of “the coordination of cocaine and marijuana shipments into the United States, as well as the receipt of bulk currency shipments into Mexico from the United States,” according to a lawsuit filed in the District Court of Columbia in 2009.

“He was the leader of what had been considered the second most powerful criminal organization in the country,” Vergara said. “Cunning, El Coss overcame internal divisions and led violent confrontations.”

The Gulf Cartel has been among the hardest hit by President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on drug traffickers. The cartel created an armed group of former soldiers known as the Zetas to fight rival gangs. Mexican authorities say the Zetas broke away from their former bosses and have gained power even as the Gulf Cartel has been weakened by deaths and arrests.

Reward Money

In addition to the reward money put up by the U.S. State Department, Mexico’s government has offered 30 million pesos ($2.3 million) for information leading to Costilla Sanchez’s capture.

The arrest follows that of Mario Cardenas, one of the cartel’s alleged leaders and a brother of former head Osiel Cardenas, who was captured in 2003 and is now imprisoned in the U.S. The Navy announced Mario Cardenas’s capture on Sept. 4.

Another brother of Osiel Cardenas, Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas, known as “Tony the Storm,” was killed in a clash with Mexican military in 2010.

More than 55,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Calderon assumed the presidency in December of 2006, according to a tally from Mexico City-based daily Milenio. His administration has deployed soldiers in regions where criminal gangs are prevalent, including Mexico’s northern border region and the Pacific states of Guerrero and Michoacan.

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