MEXICO CITY — Mexican marines acting on US intelligence seized the leader of a breakaway faction of the hyperviolent Zetas cartel, officials said Thursday, proclaiming the third such arrest in a month as a victory for a binational strategy focused on removing the leadership of Mexico’s powerful organized crime groups.
Ivan Velazquez Caballero, known as ‘‘El Taliban,’’ was seized in the northern city of San Luis Potosi, the Mexican navy said. He is the 24th of Mexico’s 37 most-wanted alleged cartel leaders to be killed or captured under President Felipe Calderon, who escalated the war on drug gangs days after taking office and who ends his term in two months.
Calderon has been praised by the United States but heatedly criticized inside Mexico for an excessive focus on using armed force and arresting gang leaders.
Critics say his 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.