World

Gang Leader Arrested in México

Spanish actress Monica Cruz poses for photographers during the 24th MIPCOM, International Film and Programme Market for TV, Video, Cable and Satellite, in Cannes, southeastern France, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

Spanish actress Monica Cruz poses for photographers during the 24th MIPCOM, International Film and Programme Market for TV, Video, Cable and Satellite, in Cannes, southeastern France, Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

The supposed leader of a notorious drug gang in México has been captured, authorities said Tuesday.

José Alfredo Landa, 37, who officials say ran a sect of the La Familia, was arrested on Monday along with three other suspects, federal police said.

Ramón Pequeño, the anti-narcotics chief, said police surrounded a house in which Landa, who was in charge of the gang's operations in Morelia, the capital of Michoacán, was staying. Police seized AK-47s and other weapons, and said Landa was in possession of more than two dozen property titles and other documents he had been using to extort homeowners.

Landa and La Familia made a bizarre offer to the government recently. It would disband if the government proves it can protect citizens from other criminals in a western state, according to reports.

The government of President Felipe Calderón, who chose Michoacán as the first battleground when he deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to fight cartels in 2006, has ignored the letter and refused to comment on its authenticity. Landa was the second suspected La Familia leader arrested since the cartel made its offer in letters dropped on streets and e-mailed to journalists

La Familia, which officials say is México's main trafficker of methamphetamine, captured nationwide attention in 2006 by rolling severed heads into a disco in the city of Uruapan. Shortly afterward Calderón sent thousands of federal troops and police into Michoacán, his home state.

The cartel has fought back with some of the brashest attacks on security forces, including an ambush that killed 12 federal police officers in June.

The gang, however, has sought to convince the public that it is defending Michoacán against other drug gangs. It has distinguished itself by occasionally making public pronouncements and has issued a set of rules for cartel members that proclaim family values and prohibit consuming — but not trafficking — hard drugs.

Last week, banners were hung from pedestrian bridges in several Michoacán towns and cities complaining that the federal government has ignored the proposal to disband.

The arrest was the second high-profile arrest for Mexican authorities, but also comes as officials discovered 20 bodies in secret graves and a female police chief was killed in other parts of the country.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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