Friday, June 14, 2024

Gulf Cartel leader ‘La Kena’ arrested in Monterrey

An alleged cartel leader linked to the kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in Tamaulipas last year was arrested Thursday in the metropolitan area of Monterrey, Nuevo León.

José Alberto García Vilano, presumed leader of the Los Ciclones faction of the Gulf Cartel, was detained by navy personnel and state police in San Pedro Garza García, described by the El País newspaper as “the richest municipality in Latin America.”

García, also known as “La Kena” and “Ciclón 19,” was arrested while shopping at a mall in the affluent municipality.

The navy said in a statement that the suspect, who it didn’t name, “served as one of the key leaders” of a criminal organization with a strong presence in Tamaulipas, and noted that the Attorney General’s Office of that state had offered a large reward — 2.5 million pesos (US $146,000) — for information that led to his capture.

The navy also noted that the alleged criminal leader was a “main target” of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. His arrest was possible due to “timely information” provided by the Ministry of the Navy, the statement said.

The Gulf Cartel is accused of kidnapping four U.S. citizens in the border city of Matamoros last March. Two of the victims were killed.

Witnesses of the arrest shared their videos on social media. (El Nuevo Gráfico de Hidalgo/X)

The U.S. citizens came under fire shortly after they crossed the border into Matamoros, where one of them had an appointment for a tummy tuck procedure. They were subsequently abducted. A Mexican woman was killed in the initial attack.

The newspaper El Universal reported that García directed the abduction of the four Americans.

The Los Escorpiones faction of the Gulf Cartel, rather than Los Ciclones, was previously linked to the kidnapping and murder.

The Associated Press obtained a letter from a Tamaulipas law enforcement official last March in which Los Escorpiones apologized to residents of Matamoros as well as the Mexican woman who was killed and the four U.S. citizens and their families.

Van of four Americans who were kidnapped in Matamoros.
The group of four American friends were driving in this van with U.S. plates when, according to victim Latavia McGee’s family, criminals struck them from behind and kidnapped them. (Juan Alberto Cedillo/Cuartoscuro)

“We have decided to turn over those who were directly involved and responsible in the events, who at all times acted under their own decision-making and lack of discipline,” said the letter, whose contents were published after the Tamaulipas Attorney General’s Office announced the arrest of five men in connection with the kidnapping.

One theory regarding the motive for the crime was that cartel henchmen mistook the U.S. citizens, African Americans, for Haitian drug smugglers.

A day after the attack, the United States government vowed to be “relentless” in its pursuit of justice for the four Americans, who traveled to Matamoros from South Carolina.

The incident triggered calls from some Republican Party lawmakers for the U.S. military to be deployed to combat cartels in Mexico.

With reports from El Universal, El País and El Financiero 

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