Photo: Fernando Martinez Magaña
A man suspected of running an extensive criminal operation in the border city of Nuevo Laredo was arrested this week for the third time since 2011, Mexican authorities said.
Fernando Martinez Magaña was detained on Wednesday in Monterrey “as the result of investigations begun months ago and of surveillance work by the Mexican navy and other federal forces,” National Security Commission head Monte Alejandro Rubido said.
From his base in Nuevo Laredo - just across the border from Laredo, Texas, the 42-year-old Martinez managed operations for “one of the criminal groups dedicated to drug and weapons smuggling, and to the trafficking of undocumented migrants to the United States,” the official said.
While Rubido declined to identify the organization, media outlets say Martinez was a local boss for the ultraviolent Los Zetas outfit.
Martinez had relocated to Monterrey to avoid arrest, the security commissioner said.
Navy personnel picked up Martinez in Nuevo Laredo nearly three years ago on illegal weapons charges, but a Tamaulipas state court ordered his release, a source in Mexico’s Government Secretariat told Efe.
The same court allowed Martinez to walk again after a subsequent arrest for money laundering, the source said.
An alleged associate of Martinez, Ernesto Villegas, was apprehended Wednesday in the Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia.
Those arrests came a day after Mexico’s second-most-powerful official, Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio, unveiled a “new phase” of the federal security strategy for Tamaulipas state.
A recent surge in drug-related violence in the border state is due “to a large extent to the unraveling of criminal organizations as a result of the Mexican state’s actions,” he said.
Operations by federal and state security forces have led to a “weakening” of the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas, the two largest drug cartels operating in Tamaulipas, Osorio Chong said, while acknowledging that progress “has not been sufficient.”