Federal authorities arrested 16 presumed drug cartel members and two allegedly complicit police officials yesterday in connection with the kidnapping and murder of two federal agents in Nayarit last month.
Among the detainees is Colombian national Mauricio Varela Reyes, who the federal government identified as an operative of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) in Puerto Vallarta and alleged was the mastermind of the crime.
At a press conference yesterday, acting Attorney General Alberto Elías Beltrán said the arrests were the result of the simultaneous execution of 10 search warrants at addresses in Nayarit and Jalisco.
The murdered agents were investigators with the federal Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC).
AIC director Omar García Harfuch explained that navy personnel played a crucial role in the arrest of Varela Reyes at the Las Ceibas residential development in Bahía de Banderas, Nayarit.
The Colombian, known by the alias “El Manotas” (Big Hands), was wounded in gunfire during the operation and is in hospital.
Evidence gathered as part of several investigations related to the case indicate that Varela Reyes was the author of the kidnapping plot and also took part in its execution.
Octavio Martínez Quiroz and Alfonso Hernández Villavicencio were off duty when they were kidnapped February 5 on a road located in the vicinity of the border between the states of Jalisco and Nayarit. Both agents belonged to the AIC anti-kidnapping unit.
Five days after their abduction, the two men appeared in a video uploaded to YouTube in which they are kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs while four armed men with their faces covered stand behind them.
In the video, Hernández reads a message that claims they were deployed to the state by the Interior Secretariat with orders to carry out arbitrary arrests and make drug traffickers disappear.
The bodies of the two men were found almost two weeks after their disappearance in the trunk of an abandoned vehicle in the municipality of Xalisco, Nayarit.
A second raid at an address in the Parque Universidad neighborhood of Puerto Vallarta yesterday resulted in the arrest of the man authorities allege oversaw the production of the video and uploaded it to the internet.
Luis Manuel Cruz Gómez was also allegedly responsible for providing telecommunications support to the CJNG and was known within the cartel as El Ingeniero (The Engineer).
A raid at a third address in the Vallarta neighborhood of Los Mojoneras secured the arrest of Ubaldo Cruz Cárdenas, a deputy public security director in the city. Two other unidentified men were arrested at the same address.
At a fourth property in Loma Bonita, Puerto Vallarta, security authorities arrested a municipal police officer identified as Carlos Rogelio Pérez Espinoza, alias “El Pollo” (The Chicken). Again, two other presumed CJNG members were also taken into custody.
García Harfuch said the security official and police officer allegedly provided institutional protection to the cartel and are suspected of intercepting the two federal agents and handing them over to the CJNG.
At a fifth address in the Vallarta neighborhood of Versalles, two Colombian women and two Mexican women were arrested.
Authorities allege that they participated in the cartel’s criminal activities by luring other victims to safe houses where they were subsequently held against their will.
At a sixth property in La Vena, four more unidentified people were arrested and at a seventh address in the Vallarta neighborhood of Tijereta Paloma, a man and a woman also presumed to be CJNG members were detained.
Authorities also seized several firearms as well as drugs and evidence relating to the kidnapping and homicide of the two AIC agents.