Mexican authorities reported Tuesday that one of the top alleged drug leaders in the country is behind bars.
Alleged Tijuana drug kingpin Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental – considered to be one of Mexico’s most violent traffickers – was arrested Tuesday on the Baja California peninsula, U.S. and Mexican officials said.
Garcia was taken into custody at 5 a.m. (8 a.m. EST; 1300 GMT), according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego.
A U.S. official and a Mexican law enforcement official said he was captured in La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur state. He is the second alleged major drug lord to be taken down in less than a month by President Felipe Calderon’s government.
Garcia is thought to be among the country’s most vicious kingpins. According to officials, he was to blame for many of the beheaded bodies found dumped in Tijuana and that he ordered hundreds of bodies to be dissolved in acid.
He is listed among Mexico’s 24 most-wanted drug lords and the government had offered $2.1 million for information leading to his arrest.
Officials say Garcia was a cartel lieutenant who broke away from the Arellano Felix gang after the arrest of its leader, Benjamin Arellano Felix, and the death of his brother, Raul.
Garcia took to forming his own gang, which was zealous in killing street-corner peddlers as he tried to solidify his control of eastern Tijuana. He is believed to be allied with the Sinaloa cartel, run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, according to an army document dated February 2009.
His arrest comes on the heels of another triumph for Calderon’s drug war. Mexican marines killed reputed kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva last month in a raid on an apartment complex in Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City.
Federal officials on Jan. 2 arrested his brother Carlos Beltran Leyva in another blow to the gang.
To date, Calderon’s government has sent more than 45,000 troops to drug hotspots to confront the cartels. Cartels have responded with a vengeance, unleashing unprecedented killings. More than 15,500 people have died from drug violence since 2006. According to the government, most of the dead are smugglers.
Cleaning up the streets of Tijuana is a long-term and dangerous project that apparently moved a step closer to its goal with the arrest of Garcia.