Mexican security forces nab cartel extortionist

MEXICO SECURITY

A Mexican Federal Police officer communicates through a makeshift barricade with a member of a self-defense group in Michoacan state. EFE/File
A Mexican Federal Police officer communicates through a makeshift barricade with a member of a self-defense group in Michoacan state. EFE/File

— Mexican authorities touted the arrest of a drug cartel capo notorious for extorting avocado growers and exporters in the strifetorn western state of Michoacan.

Aquiles Homero Zurita Reyes was detained in possession of an AK47 assault rifle and a quantity of drugs, National Public Safety System Secretary Monte Alejandro Rubido told a press conference in Morelia, the state capital.

Zurita Reyes, 46, is known as the "terror of the avocado growers," according to media accounts.

More than 100 suspects have been apprehended by the army troops and Federal Police deployed in Michoacan to rein in the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel, Rubido said.

The federal offensive began Jan. 13 with an attempt to forcibly disarm militias formed to defend communities from the Templarios, but after four people died in a confrontation with soldiers, the Mexican government shifted its focus to the cartel.

The militias, who get financial backing from business owners tired of paying protection money to the Templarios, say they will hand over their weapons and stand down only after the entire cartel leadership is behind bars.

One person was killed and five others wounded late Thursday in a gunfight between two groups of men in Aguililla, Michoacan, federal security forces said in a statement.

Citing unnamed police sources, media outlets in the state described the incident as a Templarios ambush of militiamen.