Mexico marines notch new victory with kingpin arrest


McClatchy Newspapers

The arrest of the alleged kingpin of the Gulf Cartel is likely to send a further jolt of instability across Mexico’s violent northeastern border with Texas even as it gives a boost to the nation’s navy over the scandal-ridden army.

A naval spokesman said Thursday that a 30-member team had captured Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, known as “El Coss,” a 41-year-old former police officer who leads the Gulf Cartel, a once-formidable crime group.

The arrest occurred in Tampico, capital of Tamaulipas state, which abuts Texas, said Adm. Jose Luis Vergara. Costilla and five other men surrendered without any shots being fired, he added.

Costilla, sporting a thick black moustache and long sideburns and wearing a blue plaid shirt under a bulletproof vest, looked grim as guards hauled him before television cameras. He shook his head to questions.

Vergara said the arrest decapitated the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico’s oldest drug trafficking groups but one that has been battered in recent years by warfare with Los Zetas, onetime Gulf Cartel enforcers that split off in 2010 to form their own gang.

Even further disarray is likely to engulf Costilla’s crime group, as underlings seek to rise up and factions of Los Zetas try to control the vital smuggling corridors that snake north of Monterrey, an industrial hub, toward the Texas border, analysts said. The area is perhaps the most violent in all of Mexico.

Mexico’s navy has scored a one-two blow against Gulf Cartel mobsters this month.

Its forces captured another cartel leader, Mario Cardenas Guillen, on Sept. 3, effectively taking down the top ranks of the crime group.

“The really big winners are the marines,” said George W. Grayson, an expert on Mexican crime groups at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, speaking of the navy’s amphibious infantry forces. “They’ve had half a dozen major takedowns since 2009.”

Despite being larger and better funded, Mexico’s army has failed to notch up the successes of the navy against gangsters, and it faces a tide of corruption charges.

In May, prosecutors arrested three former army generals and a lieutenant colonel in connection with drug investigations of the Beltran Leyva crime group. One of the generals, Tomas Angeles Dauahare, had been No. 2 in the Defense Ministry and a former attache in Mexico’s embassy in Washington. All four remain in jail.

Clearly upstaged, the army is expected to pull out all stops as 15,000 soldiers prepare to march Sunday in the 202nd anniversary of the start of Mexico’s war of independence.

While U.S. officials view the navy as a more trustworthy ally in the battle against crime syndicates, it, too, suffered a black eye in June when it erroneously claimed to have captured the son of top fugitive drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Within hours of the arrest, it turned out the man captured was Felix Beltran Leon, 23, an employee at a used car dealership.

The State Department had a $5 million reward out for the arrest of Costilla, and U.S. prosecutors in southern Texas indicted him in 2002 on a series of drug and money laundering charges as well as for pointing AK-47 assault rifles at U.S. agents and threatening to kill them in an incident in November 1999.

If Mexico decides to extradite him, and Costilla agrees to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors, new tremors would rock northeastern Mexico, where gangsters are believed to finance scores of municipal and state-level politicians.

Three former governors of Tamaulipas state are currently under criminal probe for ties to narcotics traffickers. One of them, Tomas Yarrington, who was governor from 1999 to 2005, has an Interpol warrant out for his arrest in 150 countries. Before his term as governor, Yarrington was mayor of Matamoros, the stronghold of the Gulf Cartel.

Email:; Twitter: @timjohnson4

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

In this July 28, 2014, photo, In this July 28, 2014 photo, Ven Kimsorn, 47, drives a tuk-tuk for a living. He lost four siblings under the Khmer Rouge, and hopes the trial of their leaders brings home the lesson that evildoers will face punishment. A U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal will deliver a verdict this coming Thursday in the trial of the two top leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge, whose extremist policies in the late 1970s are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians though starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution.

    Justice delayed is pondered in Cambodia

    A U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal will deliver a verdict this coming Thursday in the trial of the two top leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge, whose extremist policies in the late 1970s are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians though starvation, medical neglect, overwork and execution.

This photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency shows the site of an explosion at an eastern Chinese automotive parts factory in Kunshan City, Jiangsu Province Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014.  Dozens of people were killed Saturday by the explosion at the factory that supplies General Motors, state media reported. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Wang Hengzhi) NO SALES

    Car parts plant blast in China kills 65, hurts 100

    Sixty-five people were killed and dozens seriously burned Saturday by an explosion at an eastern Chinese automotive parts factory that supplies General Motors, state media reported.

This undated photo shows Israeli Army 2nd. Lt. Hadar Goldin, 23 from Kfar Saba, central Israel. Israeli army spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Friday, Aug. 1, 2014 that Goldin was apparently captured by Hamas militants who came through a tunnel from the Gaza Strip and another two soldiers were killed. An hour after Friday's cease-fire started, gunmen emerged from one or more Gaza tunnels and opened fire at Israeli soldiers, with at least one of the militants detonating an explosives vest, said Lerner. Goldin was apparently captured during the ensuing mayhem and taken back into Gaza through a tunnel.

    Israel bombards Gaza as it searches for soldier

    Israel bombarded the southern Gaza town of Rafah on Saturday as troops searched for an officer they believe was captured by Hamas in an ambush that shattered a humanitarian cease-fire and set the stage for a major escalation of the 26-day-old war.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category