Published at 12:04 am EST, June 10, 2012
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Mexican soldiers detained a suspected money launderer for the Los Zetas drug cartel in the Gulf Coast states of Veracruz and Tabasco, the Navy Secretariat said.
The secretariat said in a statement that the suspect, who identified himself as Fernando Herrera Zurita, was detained at a checkpoint on the Veracruz-Xalapa federal highway on Thursday, when military personnel instructed the driver of an SUV without a front license plate to stop.
In a routine inspection of the vehicle, they found a handgun, four fragmentation hand grenades, 73 bags of a green herb (apparently marijuana), a grenade launcher and hundreds of rounds of unspent ammunition, the secretariat said.
The soldiers also found communications gear and forged identity documents.
The suspect, who was turned over to the Siedo organized crime unit of the federal Attorney General’s Office in Mexico City, admitted to coordinating weapons and drug shipments from Guatemala to the northeastern Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
Los Zetas, a group founded by deserters from a U.S.-trained special forces unit, started out as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel, but the two criminal organizations had a falling out in 2010 and the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account, gaining control of several lucrative territories.
The cartel - Mexico’s largest in terms of geographical presence at the end of last year, according to security consulting firm Stratfor - has had a firm foothold for years in Guatemala, where in 2011 Zetas gunmen massacred 27 farmworkers at a ranch owned by a rival drug trafficker.
A multi-front conflict pitting rival drug cartels against each other and the security forces has claimed more than 50,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon gave the armed forces the leading role in the struggle with organized crime.