Mexican authorities have arrested an alleged trafficker known as "The Tiger" who they say shipped a half-ton of drugs to the U.S. each month and may have been poised to take over for a dead capo in the Sinaloa cartel.
Federal police said Saturday that Margarito Soto Reyes, 44, was detained along with eight alleged accomplices near the western city of Guadalajara, but could not immediately specify when or in what circumstances the capture occurred.
Police said Soto Reyes allegedly traded in synthetic drugs on routes established by former Sinaloa leader Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel, who was killed in a gunbattle with soldiers in July.
"Intelligence reports indicate that amid the reorganization within the Sinaloa cartel after the death of Ignacio Coronel ... 'The Tiger' was able to use the so-called Southern Pacific route" presumably operated by Coronel, a federal police statement said.
It said officers seized drugs, weapons and cash during the arrests of Soto Reyes and his alleged accomplices. Those detained included a man who allegedly posed as a veterinarian to acquire precursor chemicals for synthetics drugs like methamphetamines, and two women who allegedly helped operate a synthetic drug lab.
Also Saturday, police in the northern state of Chihuahua announced they had found the bodies of six men piled in a sport utility vehicle on a roadside in a remote, southern area of the state. The men had all apparently been shot in the head. And in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, unidentified assailants dumped the hacked-up body of a man on a street.
Elsewhere, mourners and officials held a wake for a mayor shot to death Thursday in a small town near the northern city of Monterrey.
Mourners mounted honor guards around the coffins of Mayor Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas and his aide in the town of Doctor Gonzalez, where the two were slain.
The coffins were surrounded by floral wreaths inside a small, heavily guarded community center in the agricultural community about 30 miles east of Monterrey. Soldiers and state and federal police patrolled nearby.
No motive has been identified in the killing, but the town lies on a major highway leading to the border, in an area plagued by drug gangs.
Two other small-town mayors in northeastern Mexico have been killed in the last month and at least seven have been slain in border states this year.
Residents described the dead mayor as a cheerful, helpful official who liked to brighten the mood by playing cumbia music at the town hall. Rodriguez Salinas reportedly spent the last day of his life handing out sheets of roofing material to poor residents.
"My father always helped the poor, he was a hard worker," said the mayor's son Daniel, 21, a computer science student.
Asked who might have wanted to kill his father, he said, "We have no idea."
Also Saturday, an army base near Monterrey reported that soldiers came under fire when they went to look into a tip that a local ranch had been taken over by members of a drug gang Friday. The soldiers fired back, killing two alleged assailants, and then seized 12 rifles and over 2,000 rounds of ammunition, the army said.
Drug gangs have been known to take over ranches in northern Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas states to use them as training grounds or safe houses.