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Drug lords falling like flies as government ups the pressure

September 13, 2012

With little more than two months left in office, the Felipe Calderon administration is turning up the heat on Mexico’s drug gangs, arresting a number of key figures over the past fortnight.

Most significantly, the Mexican navy detained two powerful rivals vying for control of the Gulf Cartel in the space of just nine days.

Mario Cardenas Guillen, alias “El Gordo,” was arrested in the city of Altamira, Tamaulipas on September 3. Previously imprisoned from 1995 to 2007, he is believed to have sought control of the Gulf Cartel following the respective arrest and death of brothers Osiel and Ezequio Cardenas Guillen in 2007 and 2010.

The latter event led to a split between those loyal to the Cardenas Guillen family and another faction led by Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias “El Coss,” a former agent of the Tamaulipas state police.

The U.S. and Mexican governments offered rewards of five million dollars and 30 million pesos respectively for information leading to Costillla’s capture and on Wednesday he was arrested in Tampico, Tamaulipas.

The Gulf Cartel has been significantly weakened since its one-time enforcers Los Zetas broke off to form their own organization and turned on their former employers.

On Tuesday an alleged founding member of Los Zetas was extradited to face drug-trafficking charges in the United States. With the same bounties on his head as Costilla had, Jesus Enrique Rejon Aguilar, alias “Z-7,” is suspected of involvement in the fatal roadside shooting of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata in February 2011. He was arrested in a Mexico City suburb in July of that year.

Also arrested this week was Zapopan native Ramiro Pozos Gonzalez, alias “El Molca.” Mexican federal police anti-drug chief Ramon Pequeno said Pozo was a former member of the Milenio Cartel who went on to form local drug gang La Resistencia with members of the Gulf Cartel and La Familia Michoacana.

Now allied with Los Zetas, La Resistencia is engaged in a bloody turf war in and around Guadalajara with the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which has also been heavily targeted by authorities in recent weeks and months.

Pozos was detained in Metepec in the State of Mexico on Tuesday, in possession of a gold-plated AK-47. He smiled maniacally and gave two thumbs up when presented to the media the following day.

President Calderon has been widely criticized for his aggressive war on Mexico’s criminal gangs, but the recent spate of arrests may be part of one last offensive before he leaves office. The capture of high-ranking cartel members can often have a knock-on effect, as the detained turn on rivals or former associates, providing information that leads to more arrests in return for more lenient treatment by the authorities.

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