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Mexico arrests 'El Gordo,' alleged leader of Gulf Cartel drug gang

Yuri Cortez / AFP - Getty Images

Mario Cardenas Guillen, aka "El M-1" an alleged leader of the Gulf drug cartel, stands during his presentation to the press Tuesday in Mexico City.


Mexican marines have captured Mario Cardenas Guillen, "El Gordo," the leader of the country's Gulf Cartel, Mexico's attorney general told Telemundo.

Cardenas, along with Eduardo Costilla, "El Cos," controlled the criminal organization, Telemundo reported. Cardenas is the brother of Osiel Cardenas Guillen, the Gulf Cartel leader arrested in 2003 and extradited to the United States in 2007.

Mario Cardenas will have his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, Telemundo said.

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Cardenas' is one of the highest-profile arrests in months in President Felipe Calderon's war on drug gangs, a senior Mexican navy source told Reuters on Tuesday.

Wearing a blue flak jacket and flip-flops and flanked by two masked marines wielding semiautomatic rifles, the balding Cardenas, also called "Fatso," stood impassively, looking up occasionally, as officials in Mexico City read out details of the operation to capture him.

An official said he was caught with weapons, ammunition, around $10,000 worth of pesos in cash, and four small envelopes containing a white powder that appeared to be cocaine.

"The capture was carried out following an infantry operation yesterday in Altamira, Tamaulipas, as (Cardenas) brandished a large weapon in the entrance of a building," Navy spokesman Vice Admiral Jose Luis Vergarathe said.

Cardenas, who has run the cartel since his brother, former leader Antonio Cardenas or "Tony Tormenta," was killed in a 2010 gunfight with the Mexican government, was captured in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas on Monday, the source told Reuters.

The Gulf Cartel's power has waned in recent years in a feud with Mexico's most brutal gang, the Zetas, which began life providing protection to the Gulf Cartel's operations in northeastern Mexico.

Cardenas was arrested and convicted on organized crime charges in 1995. He was first incarcerated in a prison in the city of Matamoros, across the U.S.-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas, where he was caught organizing large shipments of cocaine and marijuana from inside the prison walls.

In 2003, he was transferred to the Puente Grande prison in western Mexico, the same facility where Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel and Mexico's most wanted man, escaped in a laundry cart in 2001.

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Osiel Cardenas was sentenced in 2010 to 25 years in prison during a highly secretive hearing closed to the public to protect the lives of everyone involved, The New York Times reported at the time. The Gulf Cartel controlled much of the cocaine traffic across the border in South Texas, and Osiel Cardenas agreed to cooperate with the federal government, according to a hearing transcript.

During Calderon's six-year offensive against cartels, there have been more than 55,000 drug-related killings. More than 3,000 police and soldiers have died, although many were involved with the gangs.

This article includes reporting by Reuters.

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