Gulf cartel leader's arrest may spark more violence

The capture of the Gulf cartel's kingpin may have crippled the once mighty gang, but its downfall could usher in more violence in Mexico as powerful rivals battle for supremacy, analysts said.

The arrest of Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez, alias "El Coss," on Wednesday allows President Felipe Calderon to cross off the 23rd name from his list of Mexico's 37 most wanted criminals.

The capture came a week after the arrest of another top Gulf leader, Mario Cardenas Guillen, who lost one brother to a gun battle with troops in 2010, while another, former kingpin Osiel Cardenas Guillen, is in a US prison.

"This leaves the group completely leaderless," Guadalupe Correa, an expert on Mexican drug trafficking at the University of Texas at Brownsville, told AFP. "It operated for decades. It has clearly been weakened."

The leadership vacuum within the Gulf cartel offers a golden opportunity for their former enforcers, the Zetas, to position themselves as the dominant force in the northeast region bordering Texas.

The Zetas, founded by former elite soldiers, have fought the Gulf cartel for control of lucrative cocaine and marijuana trafficking routes to the United States ever since the two groups broke ties in 2010.

The feud raised the murder rate in the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, which neighbor the United States.

With the Gulf cartel almost out of the way, the Zetas may intensify their battle for national dominance with the Pacific coast's Sinaloa cartel, which is run by fugitive billionaire Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

"This is the beginning of a reconfiguration of organized crime in Mexico, with the strengthening of two important organizations, Sinaloa and the Zetas, and the weakening of the rest," Correa said.

"This means war between the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel," she added.

Despite their historic rivalry, the Gulf cartel had been negotiating a truce with Sinaloa in order to take on the Zetas together.

The Sinaloa cartel, considered the most powerful group in Mexico, has already made its presence felt in Tamaulipas.

In May, 15 decapitated bodies were found in the border town of Nuevo Laredo with a message directed against the Zetas. A few hours later, nine corpses were found hanging from a bridge, presumably left there by the Zetas.

"The Zetas have risen to be the second most important cartel during the six-year term of Calderon," which ends in December, said Ricardo Ravelo, a journalist who has written several books on Mexico's cartels.

"There will be a lot of violence at the end of the six-year term," he added.

Some 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since 2006, when Calderon deployed 50,000 troops across the country to take on the gangs, according to analysts.

While the government can point to a series of high-profile arrests in the last six years, analysts say the captures have fueled violence because gangs fight to the teeth in order to fill the void.

Mexico counted six cartels when Calderon took office in December 2006. Today there are around 14 syndicates, Ravelo said.

The Zetas themselves are believed to be struggling with internal divisions between its two leaders, Miguel Angel Trevino, "Z-40," and Heriberto Lazcano, or "El Lazca."

"It's a complicated map, which indicates a paradox in the drug war: It did not exterminate any gangs. It had the effect of multiplying them," Ravelo said.

  • 2015 Nissan Murano aims for the style-forward crowd 12 hours ago
    2015 Nissan Murano aims for the style-forward crowd

    Nissan says its 2015 Murano crossover, only the second major revamp of the car since it debuted in 2003, draws its design cues from the “age of future space flight.” That’s probably taking it a little far, but the new Murano, based off the 2013 Resonance concept vehicle, is an exceptionally lovely machine, all fluid, curved metal on the outside, and flowing, soft-touch materials on the inside. Certain kinds of comfort and charms that were unheard-of outside of premium vehicles five years ago have definitely trickled down, and reached a kind of design apotheosis with this car.

  • Volkswagen brings new (ish) Jetta to New York along with Golf Sportwagen 15 hours ago
    Volkswagen brings new (ish) Jetta to New York along with Golf Sportwagen

    With its new President and CEO of America, Michael Horn, on stage in New York after just 100 days on the job, Volkswagen debuted its 2015 Jetta. You'd be forgiven for noticing little differences compared to the outgoing model, and in the words of Horn himself, the changes are indeed subtle. The most notable of those subtleties is the all-new 2.0 liter turbo diesel motor, offering 45 mpg highway and a modest increase of 10 hp. For VW, diesel is where it's at.

  • With Vantage GT, Aston Martin races below $100,000 15 hours ago
    With Vantage GT, Aston Martin races below $100,000

    Aston Martin is going downmarket, sort of. The 2015 Vantage GT, a sport-styled variant of Aston’s legendary flagship car, draws style and performance tips from their GT4 race cars, which will be running in North America this year. It’s also priced at $99,900, which shows that the market for these kinds of consumer sports cars has boomed in recent years.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge...

  • StarHub 4G users to be charged from June as promo ends
    StarHub 4G users to be charged from June as promo ends

    Are you on the 4G or LTE mobile data network under StarHub? If so, you’ll have to start paying for the service.

  • Over 280 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes
    Over 280 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

    By Narae Kim JINDO South Korea (Reuters) - More than 280 people, many of them students from the same high school, were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. It was not immediately clear why the Sewol ferry listed heavily on to its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast, but some survivors spoke of a loud noise prior to the disaster.