Mexico City: Mexico`s federal police have arrested a founding member of the brutal Zetas drug cartel, a man who controlled drug smuggling routes and the kidnapping of Central American migrants in southern Mexico.
Flavio Mendez Santiago, 35, was arrested along with a bodyguard outside Oaxaca City. He was in charge of operations in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz, said Federal police anti-drug chief Ramon Pequeno.
Pequeno said Mendez Santiago, known as "El Amarillo" or "The Yellow One," controlled the smuggling of Central and South American migrants and was in charged of moving them to the northern states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, on the border with Texas.
The Zetas are suspected in the disappearance of more than 40 Central American migrants in Oaxaca last month. The travelers were last seen Dec. 16 near the city of Ixtepec along the sun-scorched transit route for thousands who ride northbound freight trains.
The gang is blamed for massacring 72 migrants in August in the northern state of Tamaulipas.
Mendez Santiago also controlled the main overland drug smuggling routes from Central America, Pequeno said.
Mendez Santiago, a former soldier, was recruited in 1993 by the Gulf cartel and years later served as bodyguard for then leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen.
The federal government had offered 15 million pesos, about $1.2 million, for information leading to his arrest.
Formed from a small group of elite soldiers based in Tamaulipas who deserted to work for the Gulf drug cartel, the Zetas earned their notoriety for brutality by becoming the first to publicly display their beheaded rivals.
The Zetas began gaining independence from the Gulf cartel after Cardenas Guillen`s extradition to the U.S. in 2006 and finally split from their former bosses last year. They have since been fighting for control of northeast Mexico, the traditional home base of the Gulf cartel.
That fight raged on Tuesday.
Five mutilated bodies were dumped in the central plaza of the small town of Montemorelos southwest of the industrial city of Monterrey, according to spokesman for Nuevo Leon state Public Safety Department, which oversees police.
The severed head of one was left on top of a message threatening a rival gang, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the events. The text of the message was not revealed.
Seven other people were killed earlier Tuesday in the Monterrey area, including a suspected drug dealer who was shot dead after opening fire on soldiers, the public safety spokesman said. Five others were killed during a gunfight and another was found dead in an apparent cartel hit.
Meanwhile, in southern Guerrero state, four gunmen were killed in a clash with soldiers, the Defense Department said in a news release Tuesday.
Troops where on patrol in the town of Coyuca de Catalan when they were attacked Monday and exchanged fire with the gunmen, it said.
Drug cartel turf battles have left more than 34,000 people dead since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against drug traffickers on December 2006.