Mexico detains key leader in Gulf Cartel

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Mexico City • A major military operation in northeast Mexico near the Texas border Saturday has netted another major drug trafficker, a leader of the Gulf cartel, the government said.

The army captured Mario Armando Ramírez Treviño, a former drug boss in Reynosa who has been vying for the top leadership since the Mexican government arrested top capo Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, alias "El Coss," last September.

Tamaulipas state government spokesman Rafael Luque said there was a major operation of the Mexican military about 1 p.m. local time with helicopters in the town of Rio Bravo.

Ramírez, who was born in 1962 according to the U.S. government, is one of the top leaders of the once-powerful Gulf Cartel, now plagued by infighting and under attack by its former security arm, the Zetas. The Gulf controls most of the cocaine and marijuana trafficking through the Matamoros corridor across the border from Brownsville, Texas.

In the succession fight, Ramírez and rival Michael Villarreal, also known as "Gringo Mike," have been at odds, according to U.S. law enforcement, and the cartel had split into two major factions of those loyal to Costilla and those loyal to former boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, who is in prison in the U.S.

The split is blamed for much of the violence in the border city of Reynosa across from McAllen, Texas, in the last six months.

The U.S. State Department is offering a reward of $5 million for Ramírez's capture. He is wanted on several federal drug violations.

It is the second major capture of a drug capo since President Enrique Peña Nieto came to office on Dec. 1. On July 15, authorities in northern Mexico capture Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, alias "Z-40," leader of the brutal Zetas cartel.