Leader of Mexican drug cartel arrested

Senior figure captured in military operation near US border with Texas

Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino aka ‘The Bald One’

Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino aka ‘The Bald One’

 

A top leader of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel has been captured in a military operation near the US border with Texas.

Mexico’s government said the army caught Mario Armando Ramirez Trevino, a drug boss in Reynosa who has been vying to take over the cartel since the arrest of the Gulf’s top drug lord, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias “El Coss”, last September.

The US State Department is offering a reward of $5 million for his capture. Ramirez, known as X-20 or “The Bald One”, is wanted on several federal drug violations.

Tamaulipas state government spokesman Rafael Luque said there was a major operation of the Mexican military at about 1pm local time yesterday, with helicopters in the town of Rio Bravo.

The once-powerful Gulf Cartel still controls most of the cocaine and cannabis trafficking through the Matamoros corridor across the border from Brownsville, Texas, and has an international reach into Central America and beyond.

But the cartel has been plagued by infighting since Costilla’s arrest, while also being under attack in its home territory by its former security arm, the Zetas.

In the Gulf succession fight, Ramirez and rival Michael Villarreal - known as “Gringo Mike” - have been at odds, according to US law enforcement, and the cartel divided into two major factions of those loyal to Costilla and those loyal to former boss Osiel Cardenas Guillen.

He was arrested in 2003 and extradited to the US in 2007, where he is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

The split is blamed for much of the violence in the border city of Reynosa across from McAllen, Texas, where there have been regular, public shootouts between Gulf factions and authorities in the last six months.

In recent years, the Mexican government has made major hits on the leadership of both the Gulf and Zetas, who were aligned until 2010. Their falling out also caused an unprecedented spike in violence in the border state of Tamaulipas.

More than 70,000 people were killed during former president Felipe Calderon’s six-year offensive against drug cartels and over 6,000 have died since Pena Nieto took office in December.

Agencies