The Mexican Army and state security forces captured Jose Antonio Yepez, a notorious drug gang leader blamed for helping fuel a surge in violence that has severely tested the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Mexican president.
Widely known as “El Marro” (The Mallet), Yepez was captured early on Sunday morning, according to the federal government and authorities in the central state of Guanajuato, one of the principal flashpoints of gang violence in Mexico.
“This is a tremendously successful blow for the government,” said Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Yepez, boss of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, a Guanajuato-based gang, has been engaged in a bloody struggle for criminal control of the state with the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), one of the country’s most powerful and violent groups.
The capture should deliver a boost to Lopez Obrador, who pledged to bring down record levels of violence plaguing the country when he took office in December 2018. Instead, homicides have further increased during his presidency.
The Guanajuato attorney general’s office said security forces captured Yepez with five other people and rescued a kidnapped local businesswoman during the operation. An “arsenal” of weapons was also secured during the raid.
Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said Yepez would be taken to the Altiplano penitentiary, a maximum-security prison where drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was housed before he escaped through a tunnel in 2015. Guzman was recaptured in 2016.
A hub of the carmaking industry, Guanajuato was once one of the safer regions of Mexico, but the violence of the past few years has pushed national homicide tallies to record levels.
Writing on Twitter, Durazo said Yepez had been arrested for suspected organized crime and fuel theft.