Mexico Says Gulf Cartel Boss Arrested


(CNN) -- Mexico's military has notched an important success for President Felipe Calderon with the arrest of Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, boss of the powerful Gulf drug cartel.

Costilla, nicknamed "El Coss," was captured without a fight in the coastal city of Tampico, in the border state of Tamaulipas, Navy spokesman Jose Luis Vergara said Thursday.

Wednesday's arrest -- together with the seizure of weapons, vehicles and jewels -- is a much needed achievement for Calderon, whose offensive against drug cartels has done little to stem drug-related violence or the volume of drugs transported through Mexico.

The mustachioed Costilla, handcuffed and wearing a checkered long-sleeve shirt under a bulletproof vest, was presented before reporters.

Five of his bodyguards were arrested after a shootout in a separate city, Vergara said. Some of them wore camouflage uniforms when they were presented next to Costilla.

There are multimillion-dollar rewards in Mexico and the United States for the arrest of Costilla.

Costilla has been indicted in the United States, accused of drug trafficking and threatening U.S. law enforcement officials in November 1999.

In that incident, according to the U.S. State Department, Costilla and other Gulf Cartel leaders stopped FBI and DEA agents and pointed AK-47 rifles at them. The agents were allowed to leave after a standoff.

The State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to Costilla's arrest. In Mexico, where Costilla is on the government's list of the 37 most wanted traffickers, officials offered 30 million pesos, or about $2.3 million, for his capture.

While not as powerful as it once was, the Gulf Cartel is one of Mexico's major drug trafficking organizations.

Costilla assumed a top role after the arrest of former Gulf Cartel boss Osiel Cardenas Guillen, and became the top leader after a rift with Cardenas' relatives in the organization.

As Costilla rose in the cartel hierarchy, the group controlled smuggling routes in northeastern Mexico by using its enforcement arm, known as Los Zetas. But Los Zetas later split into its own violent cartel, and for several years has been fighting the Gulf Cartel for the lucrative turf.

"El Coss survived internal divisions and directed violent confrontations in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon against his former allies, Los Zetas," Vergara said.

The arrest is the latest in a series of blows against the Gulf Cartel.

This month, Mario Cardenas Guillen, leader of the Gulf faction loyal to the Cardenas family, was also arrested by the military.

The Gulf Cartel is based in the city of Matamoros, across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

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