A high-ranking member of Mexico's Gulf drug cartel was arrested Thursday in Costa Rica, the Central American country's top counternarcotics official said.

Juan Manuel Garcia Hernandez organized and supervised overland shipments of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico, Commissioner Mauricio Boraschi told a press conference in San Jose.

"It's quite an important operation at the regional level," he said. "Garcia was sought by the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) and seven countries, but only Costa Rica has managed to amass evidence against him."

"Garcia Hernandez traveled alone constantly in Central America. He was a very slippery, low profile subject, with very advanced techniques of surveillance and counter-surveillance. He didn't attract attention and he didn't stay very long in one place," Boraschi said.

The investigation began in 2010 after Costa Rican authorities intercepted several truckloads of cocaine.

It was not until July 2011, however, that police identified Garcia, described by Boraschi as close to Gulf cartel boss Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez.

Detectives followed Garcia for a year before detaining him Thursday at a San Jose hotel as part of an operation that included searches of buildings in the capital and in southern Costa Rica, near the Panamanian border.

Besides Garcia, the sweep netted eight suspected accomplices - four of them Mexicans - as well as 45 kilos of cocaine, $24,000 in cash, vehicles and weapons.

Intelligence from Colombia, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States was crucial in identifying and apprehending Garcia, Costa Rican Attorney General Jorge Chavarria said.

Under the administration of President Laura Chinchilla, who took office two years ago, Costa Rican authorities have seized more than 13 tons of cocaine and roughly $7.3 million in drug money. EFE