MONTERREY, Mexico – Eight leaders of Los Zetas drug cartel were captured in 2011 as a result of Operation Northeast, the Mexican Army’s program against narco-trafficking, according to the annual report by the country’s National Defense Ministry (SEDENA).
“The Mexican state’s comprehensive policy of combatting drug trafficking has focused on the dismantling of the operational, logistical, financial and commercial networks of criminal organizations, through the location and capture of the cartel cells and their leaders,” said Guillermo Galván, the secretary of defense.
An assessment of the overall situation, through a variety of scenarios, identified the regions that account for the most complex, violent and threatening problems related to the presence and activities of organized crime, Galván said.
One is an area that includes Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, three states in northeastern Mexico that share a border with the United States, Galván added.
Those states are the country’s most violent, largely because of the ongoing fight among the Sinaloa, Gulf and Zetas cartels for control of lucrative drug routes. Their “narco war” resulted in the deaths of 1,133 people in Nuevo León, 1,108 in Tamaulipas and 572 in Coahuila last year, according to a recent report by Mexico’s Office of the Attorney General.
Operation Northeast’s annual report, published by the Fourth Military Region that’s stationed in these three states, reported the deaths of 22 soldiers and 784 suspected criminals in a total of 436 attacks. Security forces also made 4,787 arrests and rescued 601 who had been abducted, in addition to confiscating an unspecified amount of drugs and cash. Fifty-eight suspects and 71 soldiers were injured in 2011.
“Operation Northeast has improved the performance of the troops, pressuring and complicating the activities of organized crime through intelligence, planning and carrying out precision operations,” the report by the Fourth Military Region stated.
One of the most important Mexican organized crime figures to be apprehended or killed during a police or military raid was Carlos Oliva Castillo, also known as “La Rana,” the suspected mastermind of the attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey.
Oliva Castillo – allegedly one of the main leaders of Los Zetas in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas – was arrested in Saltillo, the capital city of the state of Coahuila.
Meantime, in the state of San Luis Potosí, security forces arrested Julián Zapata Espinosa, the alleged Zetas leader in Santa María del Río and prime suspect in the killing of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime J. Zapata.
Elín Jesús Ortíz – also known as “Commander Lino” and suspected of being the Zetas cartel’s top man in Nuevo León – died during a confrontation with military forces.
Juan Carlos Olvera Acosta, who is suspected of playing a major role in the cartel’s activities in the Nuevo León municipalities of Allende, Santiago, Montemorelos and Linares, also was arrested.
The Zetas leader in Monterrey, Fernando Rodríguez Hernández, died during a confrontation with military forces, as did Nicolás Pérez Alvarado, Zetas leader in the municipalities of Linares and Montemorelos.
The last Zetas leader to be taken into custody in 2011 was José Andrés Mireles, allegedly the cartel’s top man in northern Nuevo León; and the last Zetas leader killed in 2011 was Sergio de la Peña, who headed the cartel’s activities in Nuevo Laredo in the state of Tamaulipas.
Soldiers also confiscated 4,076 handguns, 12,121 larger weapons and 1,607 grenades from criminal groups in 2011.
They also seized 231,246.865 kilograms (508,743.1 pounds) of marijuana, 536,532 kilograms (1,180,370.4 pounds) of cocaine, more than $50 million Mexican pesos (US$3.67 million) and US$3.307 million.
Confiscated vehicles included so-called “Monsters,” armored trucks used to protect narcotics while they are being transported.
“We’ve seized 33, including six of the most important ones. They’re real monsters, capable of carrying 12 shooters,” said Gen. Miguel Ángel González, commander of the Eighth Military Zone, headquartered in Tamaulipas. “The vehicles are used to protect their drug trafficking routes – the China, Méndez, Miguel Alemán routes, and [the area near] the border with Matamoros, which is a city controlled by the Gulf cartel.”