Mexican authorities on Saturday confirmed the capture of a leader of the Gulf Cartel, describing him as responsible for much of the violence in the U.S. border city of Reynosa in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
Jose Tiburcio Hernandez Fuentes – known as "El Gafe" (The Jinxed One) –was captured on Friday and transferred to Mexico city, despite a shootout between the Mexican army and police and around 60 of Hernandez's gunmen who tried to rescue him.
Reports on Friday suggested authorities had detained a different leader, Jose Hugo Rodriguez Sanchez, who was arrested last year.
Hernandez worked his way up into the Gulf Cartel's hierarchy as its leaders were imprisoned or killed.
Reynosa has been one of the most violent cities in Mexico over the past year, racked by turf wars among the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, two drug gangs fighting for control of border smuggling routes and crime rackets.
The Gulf Cartel has a solid hold on a swath of the country on the northeast coast (see map here), providing both access to the US and a port for receiving shipments. The emergence of Los Zetas as a competing cartel and sustained government pressure has weakened the Gulf Cartel significantly, and it relies on the Sinaloa Federation’s protection to hold off the Zetas.
The Associated Press reported Saturday that the U.S. consulate in Matamoros issued a message urging U.S. citizens to take precautions because of "several firefights and roadblocks throughout the city of Reynosa." The city government posted a warning on its Twitter site recommending motorists avoid several areas, including the highway leading to the nearby city of Matamoros.
Warring factions of the Gulf cartel in Reynosa and Matamoros, known as the Metros and the Ciclones, have been fighting turf battles around the two cities.
More than 100,000 people have died in gang-related violence in Mexico over the past eight years. President Enrique Pena Nieto pledged to restore order when he took office in 2012, but although the homicide count has fallen, parts of the country remain mired in violence.
Last month, Mexico's president claimed that 92 of the 122 most wanted criminals in the country had been arrested or killed since 2012. And Janes.com reports:
The claim follows a number of recent arrests of high profile criminals, including the head of the Los Zetas crime syndicate, Alejandro Treviño Morales, aka 'Z42', on 4 March; Knights Templar leader Servando Gomez Martinez, aka 'La Tuta' on 27 February; and Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán in February 2014.
The successful arrest of many of the country's most wanted criminals has coincided with a 14% fall in year-on-year murders to 15,653 victims in 2014 according to the government's National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública).