A top lieutenant of the Gulf Cartel as well as his right-hand man and five other members of one of the organization’s strike teams have been captured, Mexican authorities have announced.
Abiel “R-2” Gonzalez Briones, 28, was arrested over the weekend near the town of Camargo, at the El Azucar dam, according to information released by Mexico’s federal police. Camargo lies across the border from Rio Grande City.
Gonzalez Briones’ right-hand man, 27-year-old Jorge Bryan “R-24” Aguilar Hinojosa, was captured, too.
Other captured gunmen include:
>> Santos Otolio “El Stitch” Benito Gonzalez, 22
>> Damian “El Pajarillo” Santes Santiago, 28
>> Jorge Luis Esteban “El Colofox” Gonzalez, 35
>> Luis Gerardo “El Flaco” Rosas Ibanez, 30
>> Chito Leal Olguin, 40
The capture took place after aerial patrols spotted a group of gunmen who tried to elude capture. After Mexican authorities gave chase, Gonzalez Briones and his men were captured.
During the operation, authorities also seized eight assault rifles, two pistols, four grenades, more than $60,000 and an unknown amount of ammunition and communication devices.
Authorities described Gonzalez Briones as one of the main financial operators of the Gulf Cartel as well as the regional boss for Miguel Aleman, which lies across the Rio Grande from Roma.
Aguilar was in charge of the smuggling of narcotics into the U.S. and commanded a cartel strike team trained to fight members of rival cartels — primarily the Zetas.
Gonzalez Briones and his men are also believed to be responsible for the street-level distribution of narcotics in Matamoros and Camargo.
All the men were flown to Mexico City and turned over to the Organized Crime Division of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office.
Gonzalez Briones and Aguilar were members of the Gulf Cartel’s Rojos strike team, which was an off-shoot of the Zetas and received similar tactical training, according to a source outside law enforcement with direct knowledge of criminal activity in Mexico.
The original members of the Zetas were former Mexican military and federal police officers who joined the Gulf Cartel with the primary task of protecting its leader at the time, Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, the source said. Some of the Zetas were members of Mexican special forces; some were not.
When the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas split in early 2010, some of the members of the Rojos stayed with the Gulf Cartel, and others went with the Zetas, the source said. The Gulf Cartel now has a similar group called the Erres — or the R’s — a new version of the Rojos.