Mexico City – Mexican authorities announced Friday the arrest of the Los Zetas drug cartel's reputed chief enforcer in the Gulf state coast of Veracruz on suspicion he masterminded last month's brutal murders of four navy personnel and a civilian.
Marcos Jesus Hernandez Rodriguez was apprehended Wednesday in Xalapa, capital of Veracruz state, Navy Department spokesman Jose Luis Vergara told a press conference here.
The suspect is accused of "intellectual and material authorship of the kidnapping, torture and murder of at least four elements of the Navy Department," Vergara said.
The naval personnel, who worked as drivers, were attending a two-week course in motorcycle repair at the Veracruz State Police Academy in Xalapa at the time of their April 18 abduction.
Linked to at least seven other homicides, Hernandez Rodriguez was nabbed thanks to intelligence work and to information provided by the Zetas local boss in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, who was arrested April 23.
Romeo Dominguez Velez confessed to having participated in the murder of the navy men and a female civilian and implicated Hernandez Rodriguez and several other people in the crime, Vergara said.
Agents seized two rifles, a handgun and 250 rounds of ammunition from Hernandez Rodriguez, as well as drugs, communications gear and a computer, among other items.
The perpetrators shot video and still photos of the torture, murder and dismemberment of the four navy personnel and civilian woman capital daily Milenio said Wednesday.
The material appeared on a Blackberry confiscated from Dominguez Velez, the newspaper said.
The smart phone contained 40 photographs and a 1-minute video, Milenio said, without disclosing how it obtained access to the material.
In the video, a badly beaten man asks one of the criminals to untie him and give him "a chance" to save his life, while one of the photos shows a teenage boy with a power saw in his hand next to a body whose legs are severed at the knee.
Another photo depicts a teen laughing as he holds one of the female victim's severed fingers in his mouth, Milenio said.
Veracruz has been plagued by a turf war between rival drug cartels that has sent the state's murder rate skyrocketing.
Residents of Veracruz city were stunned last Sept. 20 by the discovery of 35 bodies dumped on a busy thoroughfare. A week later, 32 bodies were found at three drug-gang "safe houses" in the Veracruz-Boca del Rio metro area.
The Gulf, Los Zetas and relatively new Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartels, as well as breakaway members of the once-powerful La Familia Michoacana organization, are fueling the violence in Veracruz, which is Mexico's third-most populous state and a key drug-trafficking corridor to the United States, officials say.