Gulf Cartel Boss Arrested in Southeast Mexico

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CANCUN, Mexico – The suspected leader of the Gulf cartel in the resort cities of Cancun and Playa del Carmen was arrested by police and Mexican army troops, the Quintana Roo state Attorney General’s Office said Thursday.

Jose Roberto Diaz Cornelio was captured Wednesday in Merida and taken to Cancun, Quintana Roo Attorney General Gaspar Armando Garcia said.

Diaz Cornelio was moved early Thursday to the municipal jail in Playa del Carmen, where he will be tried on murder and extortion charges.

Officers from the police department in Merida, the capital of Yucatan state, and soldiers participated in the operation to arrest Diaz Cornelio.

The suspected Gulf cartel boss is being investigated in connection with the murders of Jose Salvador Delgado Estrada and Marlin bar DJ Jose Israel Lopez Morales, whose bodies were found in Xcalacoco, an area in the Riviera Maya.

“He is also being investigated for running extortion rackets targeting discos, bars and stores,” and for extortion “that harms a businessman … linked to a tax inspector in the city of Solidaridad,” the attorney general said.

The gang led by Diaz Cornelio attacked the businessman’s house with a fire bomb, Garcia said.

“Roberto Diaz Cornelio acknowledged that he handed over 120,000 pesos (about $9,000) monthly to his immediate boss, Miguel Angel Villalobos,” who ran the Gulf cartel’s business in the northern zone, the AG said.

Villalobos ordered the killing of Cancun police sector commander Gumersindo Martinez Gomez last month, Diaz Cornelio told investigators.

The Gulf cartel is no longer as powerful as it was in the past, partly because of its break with Los Zetas, the criminal organization’s former armed wing, which severed ties with the cartel in 2010 and now runs its own narcotics trafficking business.

The Gulf organization, which mainly deals in cocaine, synthetic drugs and marijuana, mostly operates in northern Mexico and the country’s eastern coastal areas.

The cartel, like other Mexican criminal organizations, has branched out into kidnappings and running extortion rackets, targeting businesses.

Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, the Gulf cartel’s leader, was captured by army troops during an operation in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on Aug. 17.

Ramirez Treviño took over the Gulf cartel’s leadership about a year ago.

The cartel’s two previous top bosses, Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, known as “El Coss,” and Mario Cardenas Guillen, who went by the alias “El Gordo,” were arrested last year.

The Gulf cartel, one of Mexico’s oldest drug trafficking organizations, was founded by Juan Nepomuceno Guerra in the 1970s and was later led by Juan Garcia Abrego, who was arrested in 1996 and extradited to the United States.

Osiel Cardenas Guillen took over the cartel’s leadership in July 1999, but he was arrested in 2003. He continued running the Gulf cartel, one of the most violent criminal organizations in Mexico, until his extradition to the United States on Jan. 20, 2007.

He was succeeded by his brother, Antonio Ezequiel, known as “Tony Tormenta.”

Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen was killed in a shootout with marines on Nov. 5, 2010, and Costilla Sanchez took over the leadership.

Cardenas Guillen was the leader of one of the two branches of the criminal organization. EFE

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