Major victory in drugs crackdown as marines capture Gulf Cartel boss
MEXICO has captured one of the country’s most wanted drug bosses, the head of the Gulf Cartel, in a major victory for president Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on organised crime.
Clad in a bulletproof vest, Jorge Costilla, alias “El Coss,” was presented along with ten bodyguards, five with bruised faces and clad in camouflage military fatigues similar to those of the marines who held them captive. The Mexican navy also showed dozens of assault weapons, some pistols that appeared gilded and studded with jewels, and several expensive-looking watches seized in the operation.
The country’s marines are the main armed unit used against the cartel, as its members are considered beyond corruption.
A government security official said former police officer Costilla, 41, was detained on Wednesday in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas, where the cartel is very active, without putting up a fight.
The US State Department had a reward of up to $5 million (£3.88m) for his capture while the Mexican government offered a separate $2.3m reward.
The arrest comes barely a week after Mexico’s navy captured senior Gulf Cartel member Mario Cardenas, alias “Fatso”, also in Tamaulipas.
The Gulf Cartel has been weakened by a violent turf war with the Zetas, a gang formed by army deserters who acted as enforcers for the cartel before breaking away in 2010.
It could also have political implications, because top officials in the cartel’s stronghold of Tamaulipas have been accused of taking money from local drug gangs. “All these politicians who were getting money from the Gulf Cartel ought to be very worried now because this information is going to come to light in Mexico or the United States,” said Alberto Islas, a security expert at consultancy Risk Evaluation, after hearing the reports of Costilla’s capture.
Costilla features on a wanted list of 37 kingpins the Mexican government published in 2009. Well over 20 on that list have now been captured or killed.
Mr Islas said he expected Costilla to be extradited to the US, and that his testimony could prove damaging to officials in Tamaulipas and neighbouring Veracruz state, also dogged by allegations of corruption.
Tomas Yarrington, governor of Tamaulipas between 1999 and 2005, is a fugitive and wanted in Mexico for aiding drug gangs. He governed Tamaulipas for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which will retake the presidency in December after it won a 1 July election. The PRI has suspended Yarrington.
The FBI said Costilla was believed to have taken over the daily operations of the cartel after his former boss, Osiel Cardenas, was jailed in Mexico in 2003.
It said a federal arrest warrant was issued for Costilla in Texas in 2002, and that he was charged with drug offences, threatening to assault and murder federal agents, and money laundering.
With Costilla’s capture, the Gulf cartel is looking increasingly weak, and bloody turf wars for control of the north-eastern border with Texas may now intensify. “There will be an increase in violence there,” Mr Islas said. The stage was set for increased hostilities between the most powerful gangs, Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel and the Zetas, he noted.
There have been more than 55,000 drug-related deaths in the six-year crackdown.
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