A leader of the drug cartel run by the Beltran Leyva brothers and two of his henchmen were arrested in southern Mexico in an operation staged by the army, the Defense Secretariat said.
Adrian Rivera Garcia is considered a key player in the "Beltran Leyva organization's operational and drug transportation capabilities in the La Montaña region of Guerrero state," the Defense Secretariat said.
Rivera Garcia, known as "El Primo Rivera," was arrested along with Israel Arriaga and Benito Morales in the city of Tlapa de Comonfort on Tuesday.
The Defense Secretariat said Rivera Garcia was suspected of being a member of "Los Primos," a gang involved in "drug trafficking, auto theft, kidnappings and running extortion rackets against businessmen."
The suspects were carrying 2.5 kilos of cocaine, two AK-47 assault rifles, spare ammunition clips, other arms and 122,590 pesos (some $9,150) in cash at the time of their arrest.
The suspects were turned over to the SIEDO organized crime unit of the Attorney General's Office for processing.
Experts say that Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organizations are the Tijuana cartel, which is run by the Arellano Felix brothers, the Gulf cartel and the Sinaloa cartel. Two other large drug trafficking organizations, the Juarez and Milenio cartels, also operate in the country.
The Sinaloa organization is the oldest cartel in Mexico and is led by Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.
Guzman, considered extremely violent, is one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and the United States, where the Drug Enforcement Administration has offered a reward of $5 million for him.
The Mexican press, citing analysts, has reported that Guzman has been waging a battle for control of the Sinaloa cartel with the Beltran Leyva brothers.
Since taking office in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon has deployed more than 30,000 soldiers and federal police to nearly a dozen of Mexico's 31 states in a bid to stem the wave of violence unleashed by drug traffickers.