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Friday, February 27, 2015

Mexico captures country's most wanted drug lord

ervando Gomez Martinez, aka “La Tuta” in Mexico City in June 2009.
ervando Gomez Martinez, aka “La Tuta” in Mexico City in June 2009.
ervando Gomez Martinez, aka “La Tuta” in Mexico City in June 2009.

Mexico has captured the most wanted drug lord in the country, Servando "La Tuta" Gómez, police said today, delivering a boost to a government battered by gang violence.

The 49-year-old former teacher was the prime target of President Enrique Peña Nieto's effort to regain control of Michoacan, a western state wracked by clashes between Gómez's Knights Templar cartel and heavily armed vigilantes trying to oust them.

The early morning arrest comes as Pena Nieto seeks to quell public outrage in Mexico after the late September abduction and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by corrupt police in league with gang members.

That incident triggered Pena Nieto's deepest crisis. Attorney General Jesus Murillo, under fire for months over his handling of that investigation, will step down, a senior government official said on Friday.

An announcement about the change would probably come later on Friday, a separate official from Murillo's office said.

After months of intelligence work, federal police captured Gómez and some people with him at a house in the Michoacan state capital of Morelia, police said. No shots were fired.

"He will be brought to Mexico City in the coming hours to make a declaration," a police spokesman said.

Last week, police seized many properties in the area and arrested a handful of people connected to Gómez. Local media reported that those busts had led to his arrest.

A father of at least seven, Gómez is wanted by the United States for trafficking methamphetamine and cocaine. The Justice Department said he was also involved in the 2009 murder of 12 Mexican federal police officers.

Mexican authorities had placed a bounty of 30 million pesos ($2 million) on his head.

Since the Mexican government began a military crackdown in 2007 on drug cartels, more than 100,000 people have been killed in gang-related violence.

During the bloodshed, no kingpin sought the limelight as often as Gómez.

Whether railing against political corruption on YouTube or talking to the media from hideouts, Gómez relentlessly baited the government, accusing it of colluding with rival gangs while defending his Knights Templar as a "necessary evil."

"Our only function is to help the people, preserve our state and preserve our country from people causing terror," Gómez said in a video posted online in 2012 as he sat in front of images of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and other revolutionary icons.

Gómez said the cartel followed a strict ethical code. As time passed, though, he became more open about the criminal side of a gang that in 2013 held much of the impoverished, mountainous terrain of Michoacan in a firm grip.

During their ascendancy, the government says, the Knights Templar extorted a broad sweep of businesses, controlled politicians and diversified from drug trafficking into myriad other operations, including the export of iron ore.

Gómez became the front man of the Knights Templar after a split within drug cartel La Familia Michoacana, a pseudo-religious gang in which he was also a leading figure.

Sporting a goatee beard and often wearing a baseball cap, Gómez began smuggling marijuana independently in 2001 or 2002, before later joining La Familia, authorities said.

Gómez's arrest occurred about a year after the capture of Mexico's most notorious drug lord, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman. He was head of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug smuggling gangs in the world.

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Tags:  Mexico  La Tuta  Servando Gómez  drug lord  captured  US  gang  violence  





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