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Velazquez Caballero (right), known as 'El Taliban,' is the alleged leader of a faction of the brutal Zetas cartel.
Eduardo Verdugo/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 9/28/2012
MEXICO CITY--Mexican marines acting on U.S. intelligence seized the leader of a breakaway faction of the hyper-violent Zetas cartel, officials said Thursday, proclaiming the third such arrest in a month as a victory for a bi-national strategy focused on removing the leadership of Mexico's powerful organized crime groups.
Ivan Velazquez Caballero, known as "El Taliban," was seized by a team of marines in the northern city of San Luis Potosi, the Mexican navy said. He becomes the 24th of Mexico's 37 most-wanted alleged cartel leaders to be killed or captured under President Felipe Calderon, who escalated Mexico's war on drug gangs days after taking office and who ends his term in two months.
Calderon has been praised by the U.S. for his assault on the cartels, but heatedly criticized inside and outside Mexico for an excessive focus on using armed force and arresting gang leaders.
Critics say Calderon's approach splintered cartels into dozens of smaller factions, increasing the competition among them and fueling a brutal war for control of smuggling routes before Mexico had an adequate law-enforcement and justice system in place.
The government said at least 47,500 people had been killed in drug-related violence during Calderon's term before it stopped releasing figures last year. Independent observers say the death toll could be many thousands higher.
Velazquez Caballero allegedly has been fighting a bloody internal battle with top Zetas' leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, and officials have said the split was behind a recent surge in massacres and shootouts, particularly in northern Mexico.