Reporting from Mexico City — Mexican authorities Wednesday announced they had arrested the new leader of the drug gang formerly run by suspected kingpin Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal.
The arrest late Tuesday of Carlos Montemayor marked a fresh blow against the remnants of the once-formidable Beltran Leyva gang, battered by arrests, deaths and vicious internal fighting.
Mexican federal police said Montemayor took over the faction once led by Valdez, a U.S. citizen arrested in August. The in-fighting has stoked months of killings and beheadings across the states of Morelos and Guerrero, home to the resort city of Acapulco.
Ramon Eduardo Pequeno, head of the anti-drug division of the federal police, told reporters that Montemayor had said that 20 Mexican men who disappeared in Acapulco in late September were seized and killed in a case of mistaken identity.
Montemayor, 38, said hit men who broke from his command confused the tourists, from nearby Michoacan state, for members of La Familia, a rival trafficking group from the same state, Pequeno said. He spoke as the suspect was paraded before news cameras.
That account appears to confirm the comments of two men who appeared in a video last month saying the Michoacan men had been killed to strike at La Familia. The men in the video turned up dead near a mass grave in Guerrero containing 18 bodies of the missing tourists.
Police said Montemayor's capture, in an upscale section of Mexico City, was helped by information from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and leads developed after Valdez was jailed Aug. 30.
Authorities said Valdez tapped Montemayor, his father-in-law, to take over his faction.
The Beltran Leyva group has been embroiled in violent feuding since the January 2008 capture of one of its leaders, Alfredo Beltran Leyva, sparked a break with traffickers led by Joaquin Guzman. Then the December 2009 killing of another Beltran Leyva brother, Arturo, plunged the group into a bloody succession fight that has continued.
In other developments Wednesday, the United States delivered three Black Hawk UH-60M helicopters, valued at $64 million, to help Mexico's federal police fight drug cartels under the multiyear security aid plan known as the Merida Initiative.