MEXICO CITY: Mexico’s most wanted drug lord Servando Gomez, whose Knights Templar cartel smuggled drugs to the US and iron ore to China, was finally captured on Friday (Saturday in Manila), without a shot fired.
The former teacher nicknamed “La Tuta” was detained by federal police as he left a house in Morelia, capital of western Michoacan state, hiding his face with a scarf and cap, officials said.
Gomez, 49, was taken to Mexico City and frog-marched in front of television cameras, wearing a black sweater and jeans as two masked federal police officers held him down by the neck and led him into a helicopter.
The balding, goateed kingpin had eluded authorities last year despite a massive manhunt in the mountains of Michoacan with help from a “rural defense” force comprised of former vigilantes, who had taken up arms against the Knights Templar.
With his arrest, the authorities have now taken down all the top leaders of the cult-like cartel, dealing a huge blow to a group that once dominated the agricultural and mining state through murder, kidnappings and extortion.
“Today we have achieved the most important objective in the fight against organized crime: the detention of the most wanted criminal in all of Mexico,” Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said before Gomez was presented outside an airport hangar for federal prosecutors.
The capture is a much-needed victory for President Enrique Pena Nieto amid public anger over his handling of violence in the neigh-boring state of Guerrero, where 43 students were allegedly killed by a gang in league with local police.
His much-maligned attorney general, Jesus Murillo Karam, stepped down on Friday to take a more low-key cabinet job.
Pena Nieto said the arrest “strengthens the rule of law and we continue marching toward a peaceful Mexico.”
US Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart applauded “another win for Mexico in the fight against brutal criminal cartels like the Knights Templar.”
But violence has continued to afflict several regions despite the arrests of several kingpins since Pena Nieto took office in 2012.