Mexico City – A Caballeros Templarios drug cartel member suspected of being in charge of operations in Apatzingan, a city in the western state of Michoacan, has been arrested by the Federal Police, the Mexican Public Safety Secretariat said.
Nery Salgado Harrison was arrested on Sunday northwest of Apatzingan, a bastion of Los Caballeros Templarios, the secretariat said.
The Federal Police was aware "of the method of operation, criminal structure and area of operation of Nery Salgado Harrison," who reportedly became a drug trafficker at the age of 18, the secretariat said.
Los Caballeros Templarios is a gang made up of former members of La Familia Michoacana, which mainly smuggles synthetic drugs into the United States.
La Familia has been severely weakened in recent months by infighting and government operations targeting the gang.
The 24-year-old Salgado Harrison was previously a member of La Familia and been in charge since 2009 of operations in Apatzingan, where he controlled the production and distribution of "ice," a type of methamphetamine.
The suspect also collected money from small-time gangs allowed to sell drugs in the area.
Local police provided Salgado Harrison with "information about the movements" of federal forces, the secretariat said.
Salgado Harrison broke with La Familia following the death of cartel boss Nazario Moreno and joined Los Caballeros Templarios.
Moreno, known as "El Chayo" and considered La Familia Michoacana's ideological leader, was killed in a shootout with Federal Police officers in December 2010.
La Familia began unraveling after Moreno's death, officials and analysts say.
The La Familia faction led by Jesus Mendez, who was arrested in June, has been fighting the group led by Servando Gomez and Enrique Plancarte, who formed Los Caballeros Templarios in March.
Salgado Harrison told investigators that Los Caballeros Templarios now control drug sales in the majority of cities in Michoacan, the secretariat said.
Los Caballeros Templarios has formed an alliance with the La Resistencia and Gulf cartels to fight Los Zetas, a criminal organization that is now at war with nearly all of Mexico's drug cartels, Salgado Harrison told investigators.
Federal Police officers seized an assault rifle, a grenade, drugs, communications gear and an SUV from Salgado Harrison.
Another Caballeros Templarios member, Nestor Irepan Ramirez Muñoz, was arrested Sunday in Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, the secretariat said.
The 27-year-old Ramirez Muñoz was in charge of controlling "the main access" points into the city for Los Caballeros Templarios, the secretariat said.
Ramirez Muñoz has been linked to the kidnappings and murders of 21 people in June around the city of Quiroga.
Rene Lopez Anguiano, a 27-year-old former state police officer, was arrested along with Ramirez Muñoz, the secretariat said.
The federal government deployed 1,800 Federal Police officers in early June in Michoacan, President Felipe Calderon's home state.
The Federal Police has arrested 74 suspected La Familia and Los Caballeros Templarios members since June 21.
Los Caballeros Templarios, like La Familia, requires members to adhere to a code of conduct and portrays itself as working for the good of the community despite its criminal activities.
Michoacan is on Mexico's Pacific coast, which is used by smugglers to bring drugs into the country.