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Gulf Cartel leader arrested in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican police on Thursday arrested a former officer believed to be a regional leader of the criminal group Gulf Cartel, the National Security Commission said Friday.

Victor Manuel Perez, alias “Pantera 16” (Panther 16) or “Comandante Viento” (Commander Wind), was arrested without incident in the Pacific coast resort of Puerto Vallarta in western Mexico.

Police followed Perez’s trail for six months through various states after he was identified as a key figure behind violence in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, home to Gulf Cartel, national security commissioner Renato Sales said in a statement.

During the manhunt for Perez, police discovered he had established his headquarters in central Leon, Guanajuato and directed his criminal operations from there, including drug trafficking across the U.S. border, Sales said.

“He is suspected of crimes ranging from organized crime to drug trafficking, homicide, kidnapping, extortion, oil theft and cattle rustling,” Sales said.

Federal and Tamaulipas state authorities have identified “Pantera 16” as the head of Gulf Cartel in the cities of Aldama, Soto la Marina and Abasolo in northeastern and central Mexico.

The Tamaulipas attorney general offered a reward of 107,700 U.S. dollars for information leading to Perez’s capture.

Sales said “Pantera 16” got involved in the drug trade after deserting a municipal police department, but did not specify which.

Police handed Perez over to judicial authorities in Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, where three arrest warrants had been issued for him.

Gulf Cartel, one of the oldest criminal organizations in Mexico, has an ongoing rivalry with Los Zetas, a drug cartel, for the control of trafficking routes and other illegal interests in Tamaulipas.