Police have detained a drug cartel operator in northern Mexico suspected of being responsible for the killing of more than 350 people found in 23 clandestine graves, authorities said Thursday.
Mario Nunez Meza, 39, was captured on Wednesday in Ciudad Juarez, which borders Texas, without a shot being fired, federal security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told a news conference.
Sanchez said Nunez is a “close collaborator” of Mexico’s most wanted man, Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Nunez played a key role in the wave of violence that has plagued the northern states of Chihuahua and Durango in recent years and is “likely responsible for the murder of more than 350 people found in 23 clandestine graves,” Sanchez said.
He is also wanted for his alleged role in drug trafficking, kidnapping and money laundering. With his arrest, the authorities have now captured 63 of the country’s 122 most wanted and “most dangerous” criminals, Sanchez said.
When authorities discovered mass graves in Durango last year, authorities linked the violence to battles between rival factions within the Sinaloa crime syndicate and the arrival of the Zetas cartels, a group founded by military deserters.
The states of Durango, Chihuahua and Sinaloa share a region known as “The Gold Triangle” for its extensive fields of marijuana and heroin-producing poppies, drugs that are then shipped to the United States.
Ciudad Juarez was once considered the world’s murder capital as the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels fought for control of the lucrative drug trafficking route, but the homicide rate has been dropping there since hitting a peak of 3,116 deaths in 2010.